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

FEBRUARY 19, 2018:

KENTUCKY:

Murder suspect wants statements excluded

A Butler County man accused of killing 2 people is seeking to keep 2 of his interviews with police and any statements or testimony by his 3 co-defendants from being admitted at trial.

Charles Wayne Lindsey, 34, of Roundhill, is charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count each of 1st-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence.

He is accused of causing the deaths of Cory Hampton, 28, and Britany Tomes, 17, whose bodies were found Nov. 9, 2016, along Region-Reedyville Road in a burning Ford Crown Victoria registered to Hampton.

Lindsey could face the death penalty if convicted as charged.

A motion filed by Lindsey's attorney, Sam Lowe of the Department of Public Advocacy, requests to suppress any statements and testimony from Lindsey's co-defendants, Helen Rone, 23, of Roundhill; Kayla Ford, 28, of Edmonton; and Arlexis Kawai, 23, of Bowling Green.

Ford, Kawai and Rone are each charged with 2 counts of complicity to murder, 2 counts of facilitation of murder and 1 count each of 1st-degree complicity to arson, 1st-degree facilitation of arson and tampering with physical evidence.

According to court records, Ford, Kawai and Rone followed Lindsey to the site of the crime and picked him up from the scene, but told police they did not see him commit the killings and did not see Hampton's car on fire.

The co-defendants gave statements to police in which they said Lindsey admitted to the killings as they traveled away from the scene.

Lowe argues Lindsey was implicated by his co-defendants after police informed them they could be convicted of murder simply by picking him up from the scene, regardless of whether they knew what he did.

Those police statements should be considered involuntary and the credibility of the witnesses is in question, Lowe argued, because police implied the co-defendants were at risk of being convicted of murder for their alleged actions.

"The fear of receiving a punishment for murder, including but not limited to the death penalty, creates a probability that they will say anything to avoid that consequence regardless of truthfulness," Lowe said in his motion.

Butler County Commonwealth's Attorney Blake Chambers filed a response arguing Ford, Kawai and Rone gave voluntary statements to Kentucky State Police, noting Kawai reached out to police for a 2nd interview and Rone gave a statement almost a year after she was indicted that included information corroborating the charges.

"From phone records, a tip to a location where clothes would be found belonging to (Lindsey) that have been DNA-tested to confirm the presence of blood from the victim Hampton, Facebook records, other witness statements, video footage from a car lot, hotel records and (Lindsey's) own statements to law enforcement, the statements of the witnesses have continually been corroborated by the evidence gathered," Chambers said in his response. "If (Lindsey) wishes to address the credibility of Rone, Kawai or Ford ..., he will have ample opportunity to do so at trial on cross-examination."

Another pending motion from Lowe seeks the suppression of 2 of Lindsey's KSP interviews, given Nov. 20, 2016, and Dec. 1, 2016, after he was arrested.

During the course of those interviews, Lindsey had a pending theft charge in Allen County that was unrelated to the Butler County case in which he was represented by a different attorney.

Lowe claims there was no evidence that Lindsey and the other attorney had a "meaningful discussion ... concerning the consequences of waiving his right to remain silent" regarding the 2 interviews, meaning Lindsey's right to effective legal counsel was violated.

Chambers countered in his response that KSP detectives informed Lindsey in the November interview that the attorney in the Allen County case would not represent him in the homicide investigation, and that Lindsey agreed to speak with detectives without a lawyer present.

"He clearly understood his rights, as he had unambiguously asked to speak to his attorney days before (during a separate interview)," Chambers said in his response.

The December interview came about at Lindsey's request, according to Chambers.

Lindsey, either on his own or through family members, requested detectives from KSP Post 3 and Drug Enforcement/Special Investigations West Branch interview him at the Butler County Courthouse "because he had information for them he wished to share," according to Chambers.

No trial date has been set for any co-defendant. Lindsey, Ford and Kawai are set to return to court April 13.

Special Judge John Grise is presiding over the case.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)

CALIFORNIA:

From the Archives -- Death penalty declared unconstitutional

The San Diego Union-Tribune will mark its 150th anniversary in 2018 by presenting a significant front page from the archives each day throughout the year.

Saturday, February 19, 1972

In 1972, the California Supreme Court found that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the state constitution; 107 condemned inmates were resentenced to life with the possibility of parole. 4 San Diego men were included in the reprieve: Robert Page Anderson, Joseph Bernard Morse, Nathan Elmont Eli, and John David Hayes.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the story:

State Supreme Court Bans Death Penalty----Life Terms Ordered for 107

The California Supreme Court declared yesterday that capital punishment is unconstitutional, and ordered the death sentences of 102 men and 5 women reduced to life imprisonment.

The state's highest court, in a 6-1 decision, said execution is "incompatible with the dignity of man and the judicial process."

It held that the death penalty is cruel or unusual punishment, violating the state constitution.

Among those removed from the shadow of death sentences were Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; Charles Manson, convicted in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and 6 others, and 3 of Manson's women followers.

ASSAILED BY REAGAN

In Sacramento, Gov. Reagan said the Supreme Court had put itself above the will of the people and made "a mockery of the constitutional process."

The governor, a Republican, said his administration will seek an immediate rehearing. If the court refuses to reconsider, Reagan said in a statement issued by his press office, then the people should decide the issue through a constitutional amendment.

"This decision makes a mockery of the constitutional process involved in establishing laws in California," Reagan said. "If it goes unchallenged, the judicial philosophy inherent in this ruling could be an almost lethal blow to society's right to protect law-abiding citizens and their families against violence and crime."

INVOLVES SAN DIEGAN

The legal attack against the death penalty specifically involved the case of Robert Page Anderson, who was sentenced to death for the killing of a San Diego shopkeeper in 1965. The arguments also covered the case of John Britton Miller, who was condemned for the slaying of a deputy sheriff in Modesto in 1967.

At San Quentin Penitentiary, where men under death sentence are held, Associate Warden James W. Park said "most of the men are pretty happy" about the ruling. "There are no demonstrations or anything like that. Most of them are in a wait-and-see attitude."

An attorney for Angela Davis, the self-described communist scheduled for trial Feb. 28 on murder-kidnap charges in connection with a 1970 San Rafael courthouse shooting, said she would ask immediately that Miss Davis be freed on bail in view of the court's decision.

(source: San Diego Union-Tribune)

USA----3 impending executions

The US Is Set to Execute 3 People in a Single Day----1 has terminal cancer.

After its 1996 high, when 315 people were executed in the United States, the death penalty has been steadily on the decline. Just 23 people were executed last year in 8 states - the 2nd fewest executions in the last 25 years. And while 31 states have the death penalty on the books, only a handful actually carries them out.

There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that capital punishment has been rapidly falling out of favor with prosecutors - last year also had the 2nd fewest new death sentences since 1976. So it's remarkable that this month, 3 people are scheduled to die in a single day. The last time this happened in the US was April 28, 1999, when Texas, Missouri, and Virginia each put a man to death. But barring any intervention from the courts, February 22 could tie that record with executions scheduled in Florida, Alabama, and Texas.

The 1st person scheduled to die is Florida inmate, Eric Branch, whose execution is set to begin at 6:00 pm. He's been on death row since 1994 for the 1993 sexual battery and murder of Susan Morris, who was walking to her car on the University of West Florida's campus.

Last year, lawyers attempted to use a new law to vacate his death sentence. Florida law now requires a unanimous jury in order to sentence someone to death, but Branch was sentenced to death by a vote of 10 to 2. The year he was sentenced became more significant in determining his fate than the non-unanimous jury. His death sentence was handed down in 1994, but only inmates sentenced after 2002 - which was the same year the US Supreme Court ruled that a jury not a judge must decide if a defendant is eligible for the death penalty - are eligible to have their sentences commuted. Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed his death warrant on January 19, 2018.

When those efforts failed, Branch's lawyers tried to use the fact that he was 21 at the time of the offense to get him off death row. In 2005, the US Supreme Court ruled that executing an individual under the age of 18 is a violation of the Eighth Amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. But, as Branch's lawyers said in court documents last month, there is an emerging consensus that individuals in their late teens and early 20s are cognitively comparable to juveniles. Branch turned 22 a few weeks after the murder.

Just 1 hour after Branch is scheduled to die, Alabama prison officials will be preparing to execute Doyle Hamm who has been on death row since 1987 for the murder of Patrick Cunningham, a motel clerk. He is now 61 years old, having spent more than 1/2 of his life in prison. Hamm is also suffering from cranial and lymphatic cancers. According to court documents, the cancer was discovered in 2014, and he underwent treatment. But in early 2017, the cancer returned, and a doctor ordered surgery.

In September 2017, a doctor examined Hamm for "accessible veins" which prison staff could use to inject him with the lethal drug cocktail. After an extensive examination, the doctor concluded that because of his illness and previous intravenous drug use, finding a suitable vein would be unlikely. Difficult to access veins can lead to a botched execution, such as when Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack after staffers struggled to find a vein to insert the IV with the drug cocktail. Because of his compromised veins, Hamm's lawyers say his execution could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Hamm was scheduled to have surgery 3 months after he was examined; instead, the Alabama Department of Corrections canceled it and issued a death warrant.

Hamm's case took a surprising turn on February 6, when a judge issued a stay of execution. But Alabamaís attorney general quickly filed an emergency appeal challenging the stay and the 11th circuit vacated it, after ordering a medical examination and requesting that the findings be presented at a hearing no later than 5:00 pm Central Standard Time on February 20. "I am confident that the emergency medical examination and emergency hearing will vindicate our position," Hamm's lawyer Bernard Harcourt said in a statement.

If the intervention is unsuccessful however, at the same time Hamm's execution is scheduled to begin, a few hundred miles west in Texas, prison officials will be preparing to put 38-year-old Thomas Whitaker to death. In 2007, he was convicted of arranging the murder of his family in order to obtain $1 million in inheritance.

In December 2003, Whitaker, his brother, and his parents entered their home in Sugar Land, Texas, after a dinner celebrating his graduation from college. (Records show that Whitaker never actually graduated.) Upon entering the home, each member of the Whitaker family was shot by Christopher Brashear, the gunman Whitaker had hired to give the appearance of an interrupted burglary. In order to avoid suspicion, Whitaker wrestled with the attacker and got shot in the arm. The inmate's mother Patricia and his brother Kevin died. Whitaker's father Kent survived.

The police began investigating the crime but could find no leads. In July 2004, Whitaker fled to Mexico and lived there for a year under the name Rudy Rios. But in August 2005, Steven Champagne, who had given the gunman a ride to the house, confessed to police that he was involved and described all the circumstances.

Whitaker was arrested in Mexico and returned to the United States to stand trial. Brashear was given a life sentence, and Champagne was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But after negotiations for a life sentence failed, Thomas Whitaker was sentenced to death.

And now his father is fighting to save his remaining child's life.

In the clemency petition for the inmate submitted in January, his lawyer wrote:

"There is no reason for this particular execution to take place. No one close to the people involved in this case want it to happen. Some passionately oppose it. Others simply wish their lives could be restored to the time before the crime. It is only the State of Texas, through its employees and representatives, that mechanically marches forward onto the date of death."

Whitaker's relationship with his father has changed after he arrived on death row. "They have actually grown closer," Keith Hampton, Whitaker's lawyer says. "If the parole board recommends clemency and the governor commutes his sentence to life in prison, a dark cloud will be removed from their lives."

On February 13, Kent Whitaker met with the parole board in an effort to spare his sons life. "I'm going to be thrown into a deeper grief at the hands of the state of Texas," he said to the media after the meeting. "We're not asking them to forgive him or let him go, we just want them to let him live."

(source: Mother Jones)

GLOBAL:

Which countries have the death penalty and how many people are executed in the world each year?----A handful of countries still carry out a vast number of killings

In the past decades many countries have abolished the death penalty - but some nations still execute people.

Human rights group Amnesty International, which has been campaigning on the issue since 1977, says 141 countries have abolished the death sentence in law or practice.

A total of 57 countries retain the death penalty in law, according to Amnesty, while executions were recorded in 23 nations in their statistics for 2016.

A variety of methods are used, including hanging, shooting, lethal injection and beheading.

Because of the ongoing conflicts, Amnesty was unable to confirm whether executions were carried out in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

The Middle East and North Africa region accounted for the vast majority of all recorded executions, thanks largely to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

How many people were executed?

Amnesty International found that at least 3,117 people were sentenced to death in 2016 across 55 countries - the highest number ever recorded in a single year.

At least 18,848 people were known to be under a sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2016.

But the actual numbers of recorded executions carried out - 1,032 - dropped by 37 % compared to 2015, when 1,634 were killed.

Nearly 90 % of these happened in just four countries: Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - but these figures exclude China and North Korea, where numbers remain a state secret.

Amnesty names China as the world's top executioner but the true extent of the use of the death penalty there is unknown as the stats are a state secret. Campaigners protest against the death sentence

Iraq more than tripled its executions as it continued to battle ISIS, while Egypt and Bangladesh more than doubled the numbers of people they killed.

On the other hand, the number of executions carried out in the US his its lowest number for 25 years.

The country failed to make the world's top 5 executioners for the 1st time since 2006.

But this has been put down to drug shortages and legal challenges against the death penalty.

What states in America still have the death penalty? There are currently 31 states in the US that still use capital punishment, compared to 19 where it has been abolished or overturned.

Almost 3,000 inmates are currently on death row in the US, according to the latest statistics, with each spending an average of 15 years waiting to be executed.

There have been 1,467 executions in America since 1976.

Which US states DO have the death penalty?

Alabama

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Washington

Wyoming

When was it abolished in the UK?

The last person to be sentenced to death in the Britain were Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans - real name John Robson Walby - in 1964.

They had knifed a friend to death for money. The executions taking place simultaneously at 8am on August 13.

Public anger led to the suspension of executions in 1965 and they were abolished in 1969.

Technically, the death penalty could still be imposed for offences including treason, violent piracy or certain military crimes until 1998, but no executions took place.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall has previously said he would have a referendum on bringing back the death penalty.

(source: The Sun)

JAPAN:

Death penalty sought for Peruvian man charged with string of 6 slayings in Saitama

Prosecutors on Monday demanded the death penalty for a 32-year-old Peruvian man accused of killing 6 people, including 2 girls, after breaking into their suburban homes north of Tokyo in 2015.

Lawyers defending Vayron Jonathan Nakada Ludena at the Saitama District Court argue he is not mentally fit to stand trial.

Nakada Ludena broke into 3 homes in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, in September 2015 to steal money and valuable items and killed the occupants, according to the indictment.

The victims were Minoru Tasaki, 55, his wife, Misae, 53, Kazuyo Shiraishi, 84, and 41-year-old Miwako Kato and her 2 daughters, 10-year-old Misaki and 7-year-old Haruka.

Nakada Ludena was arrested on Oct. 8 the same year in connection with the deaths of the Tasakis, after being hospitalized following his plunge from a 2nd-floor window at Kato's home on Sept. 16. Police subsequently served him with further arrest warrants related to the other victims.

Prosecutors said his actions were "extremely cruel and merciless" and "it can be rationally surmised that he broke into the houses to steal money and goods and killed to eliminate obstacles."

"The defendant hasn't shown regret or even the least sense of propriety. This makes me furious," Kato's 45-year-old husband said at the trial.

(source: Japan Times)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan's growing obsession for public executions

Lawyers, government officials, lawmakers and parents of the victim by and large demand public execution for the convict Imran Ali in rape and murder case of 7-year-old Zainab. But isn't it enough to hand over 4 separate death sentences for conviction in kidnapping, rape, murder and terrorism charges?

From the grieving mother of Zainab to Senate, there is a rising consent to publicly execute the convict. The national narrative in mainstream media too suggests it is the only way to stop crimes of child abuse.

Pakistan had lifted a 7-year moratorium on capital punishments after the tragic terrorist attack on a Peshawar school that claimed the lives of 132 children. Executions were resumed for all death penalty offences, not for terror convicts alone.

The call for public hangings, introduced by Gen Ziaul Haq, is primarily raised to make it serve as deterrence for future crimes. But research tells otherwise. In 2016 study titled "The Fall of Capital Punishment and the Rise of Prisons: How Punishment Severity Affects Jury Verdicts", authors Bindler and Hjalmarsson argued that there is no or only little evidence of a deterrence effect of capital punishment. David Phillips studied the deterrent effect of publicized London executions in the latter half of the 19th century to find it has no long-term impact to stop the homicides.

Christopher Kudlac noted in his book "Public executions: The death penalty and the media" that media coverage also influences the demand for executions to be made public, in view of the rising sentiments of hatred against certain cases of crime as happened in Zainab's case. In newsworthy crimes, public sentiments and attitudes change overtime, he wrote.

Despite Pakistan's law not allowing executions to be made publicly, the provincial prosecution in Punjab has suggested to the government that it is possible. The Punjab Assembly is being pressurised by several legislators to pass amendment in the law to make space for the populist demand.

Muhammad Ahmad Pansota, a legal expert, had opined that justice will not be served when the very nature of the punishment is both barbaric and ineffective. Pansota argued that victim's families will be less likely to report crimes related to child sex abuse when the perpetrators are either family members or known to the victim, which happens in a significant number of cases.

Witnessing public executions can have adverse effects on the psycho-social well-being of people, especially children. In 2013, bloggers and civil society in Iran had criticized public hangings when there were reports of children being traumatized psychologically after watching such violence. Symptoms of dissociative disorder emerged in journalists when they witnessed executions, according to American Journal of Psychiatry study.

A study published in Criminal Justice and Behavior concluded that people are likely to reverse their support for death penalty itself after watching the executions, leading to the demand for changes in death penalty policy.

Jimmy Carter writes in his book that execution desensitizes the people to violence and immorality of killing, increasing the probability that some people will be motivated to kill others.

According to Amnesty International report of 2016, public executions were only carried out in 2 countries: Iran and North Korea. It is widely believed that sex education is the only way to curb violent crimes against children. Child sexual abuse is extremely under-reported due to lack of awareness. If Pakistan is to clamp down on such crimes against children, the authorities have to spread awareness about human sexuality, reproduction and adolescence.

(source: dunyanews.tv)

GAMBIA:

Gambia announces 'moratorium' on death penalty

Gambian President Adama Barrow announced on Sunday a suspension of the death penalty in his country, in a break from the former regime of the dictator Yahya Jammeh.

Barrow, a onetime security guard in London who was elected president in December 2016, signed a UN treaty on the abolition of capital punishment last year.

"I will use this opportunity to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the Gambia, as a 1st step towards abolition," Barrow said in a speech marking the 53rd anniversary of independence from Britain.

Jammeh ruled Gambia, a small English-speaking country surrounded by Senegal and a narrow Atlantic coastline, with an iron fist for 22 years.

The death penalty was last used under Jammeh in 2012, when nine soldiers were executed by firing squad.

Jammeh later threatened to expand a list of capital crimes in response to what he said was a rising crime rate.

Barrow said Sunday: "We have won the war against dictatorship, which is the easy part. Maintaining the peace for our democracy to thrive will be our utmost challenge."

He added that "mistakes will be made, but we will correct them as we work towards perfecting the New Gambia."

Francophone west African nations such as Benin, the Republic of Congo and Guinea have all taken steps to end the death penalty in recent years, but English-speaking countries in the region have lagged behind.

Activists hope more states will follow Gambia's example.

(source: Daily mail)

CHINA:

Urgent Action

DEATH SENTENCE OF VETERAN ACTIVIST UPHELD

Xu Youchen is facing imminent execution after the Henan Provincial Higher Peopleís Court rejected his appeal and upheld his conviction and death sentence. The Supreme People's Court will review the case and if it approves the lower courtís decision he will be executed. In his appeal, Xu Youchen has testified to being tortured to "confess" to the crime.

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

* Immediately halt plans to carry out Xu Youchen's execution;

* Grant Xu Youchen a retrial in proceedings that fully comply with international standards for a fair trial and without recourse to the death penalty and ensure that Xu Youchen is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment;

* Immediately establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with six UN General Assembly resolution adopted since 2007, and commute all existing death sentences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 28 March, 2018:

Secretary of the Central Politics and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China

Guo Shengkun Shuji

Zhonggong Zhongyang Zhengfawei

14 Dengshikou Xijie, Dongcheng Qu

Beijing Shi 100006

People's Republic of China

Salutation: Dear Secretary

Ambassador Cui Tiankai

Embassy of the People's Republic of China

3505 International Place NW

Washington DC 20008

Phone: 1 202 495 2266 -- Fax: 1 202 495 2138

Email: chinaembpress_us@mfa.gov.cn

(If you receive an error message, please try calling instead!)

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty Internatnional USA)

FEBRUARY 18, 2018:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty to be sought in murder of university student

Prosecutors have announced their intention to seek the death penalty in the case of a man charged with killing a University of Pittsburgh student in her off-campus apartment last year.

21-year-old Matthew Darby is accused of having used a claw hammer and 2 knives in October to kill 20-year-old Alina Sheykhet, his ex-girlfriend. He fled and was captured in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Allegheny County prosecutors said capital punishment would be warranted if Darby is convicted of 1st-degree murder because the murder occurred during commission of other felonies.

They also cited the defendant's criminal history and the fact that the victim had a protection-from-abuse order against him stemming from an earlier break-in at her apartment.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed a moratorium on use of the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Ohio AG appealing decision that would keep child killer off death row

The Ohio Attorney General is appealing a decision by the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals that would keep a convicted child killer off of death row.

The A.G.'s Office filed the appeal Friday, seeking a review of the ruling by the 3-judge panel that determined that Danny Lee Hill was too mentally deficient to face the death penalty.

"I am very grateful to Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins for asking for the appeal and to our Attorney General Mike DeWine for filing the appeal," said Miriam Fife, the mother of Hill's victim.

Raymond Fife was 12 years old when he was killed in Warren. His mother last saw him alive on Sept. 10, 1985 when he left on his bike and headed to a Boy Scout meeting.

Prosecutors and police say Danny Lee Hill, who was 18 at the time, and Timothy Combs, who was 17, attacked, raped, tortured and murdered Fife.

Both were convicted of aggravated murder and several other charges.

Since Combs was a juvenile he was sentenced to life in prison. Hill was sent to death row.

Hill's attorneys, however, have filed numerous motions saying his IQ is low and he is too intellectually disabled to be executed. A federal appeals court agreed with them earlier this month.

But Watkins has told Fox 8 the state courts have already heard Lee's claims and upheld the death sentence.

(source: Fox News)

ARKANSAS:

Life and Death Row: the Mass Execution - a valiant, important attempt to tell an astonishing story

The state of Arkansas' attempt to execute 8 men in 10 days is put under the spotlight by BB3's award-winning documentary strand

The Life and Death Row strand is hard to pin down - part true crime, part thought-provoking, almost campaigning documentary, previous series have focused on particular crimes, and the individuals (both victims and perpetrators) involved.

The latest instalment, Arkansas - a run of 4 films - takes a look at the legal mechanics of capital punishment in the USA, focusing on the unprecedented move by the state of Arkansas in 2017 to schedule 8 executions in 10 days in order to beat an expiry date on Midazolam, 1 of the drugs used in lethal injections.

It's as compelling as ever - there's real power in its intimate, on-the-ground approach, as the programme-makers gain access to various interested parties: the Arkansas governor, the prisoners, their lawyers and families, relatives of the victims. They also intercut views from ordinary Arkansas residents, who each have their own idea of justice, and whether it is currently being done in their state.

And the film-makers do ask difficult questions. When Susan Khani - whose mother, Jane Daniel, was killed in 1992 - discusses the upcoming execution of the man who was convicted of her mother's murder, she says she hopes that, after 25 years, the man's death will "give the family peace". "Do you think you will get that?" asks a voice off-camera. "Oh yeah!" comes the enthusiastic reply.

There's an intense frustration, though, inherent in the events this series is covering. Many people are up in arms, it tells us, because these executions are being rushed through in order to beat an arbitrary deadline, and will involve a drug that may inflict unnecessary suffering. There are also suggestions that the scheduling is political grandstanding, a statement of intent by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. And of course this is something to decry.

But as the series unfolds you realise that this is not the US justice system malfunctioning. This is the US justice system at work. I will freely admit to a bias here, but it is hard to understand how the particular circumstance of these executions is a scandal, but the usual application of capital punishment is not.

Because the programme is rooted in personal testimony and experience, it is light on facts, so here are some: there are currently 2,816 people (99% are men) on death row, but in 2017, only 23 were executed. On average, those 23 people spent 19 years waiting to be killed.

It's important to know this to know that the experience of the prisoners and the families of their victims shown in the series ' many of whom have waited decades with the promise of an execution hanging over them - is not a blip, a one-off; this is the reality of capital punishment in America.

In the series we see some of the convoluted process that lawyers must go through to get stays of execution; judgements are handed down, challenged, overturned, challenged again, all by different courts or panels. But the glimpses we do get just beg more glaring questions: if there is enough evidence that someone should be granted a stay of execution, does that not undermine the whole legal system that handed down that execution? How was that person condemned to death in the first place? Why would it be OK to kill them in a few months' time, but not now? If the conditions under which a death sentence is given are so fickle, so malleable, then how can anyone ever be sure that it is the right, just, legal thing?

Somehow this - the programme's use of an individual story to gesture to wider issues - manages to be both a strength and a limitation. There is something unsatisfying in the way threads are picked at but never unravelled, even if you know it's because this is a subject that is too big, too morally muddy for 1 programme to be able to cover it in a satisfactory way.

The Life and Death Row strand as a whole makes a valiant, important attempt, and the Arkansas series in particular does a lot well: it conveys both the sheer chaos that seems to govern this most solemn of responsibilities and the inadequacy of the current system, which is certainly not working for prisoners, but also, crucially, not for victims and their families, either.

As the attorney of 1 of the condemned men puts it, "There's nothing about having 10 days to plead for a man's life that's fair." He's right, except I'd go further - there's nothing here that's fair at all.

Life and Death Row: the Mass Execution is available on Sunday 18th February from 10am on BBC3 with episode one broadcasting at 9pm on BBC2

(source: Hannah Shaddock, radiotimes.com)

PAKISTAN:

Death awarded to 2 in murder cases

A sessions court awarded death sentence to 2 accused in separate murder cases. According to the prosecution, Raza Abad police had booked Zahid Iqbal and his female accomplice on the charge of killing his wife in 2014 over a domestic dispute.

Additional Sessions Judge Azfar Sultan Abrar awarded death sentence to Zahid Iqbal under Section 302-B of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) while his female accomplice was acquitted by giving her benefit of doubt.

The convict was also directed to pay Rs 400,000 as compensation to legal heirs of the deceased. Otherwise, he would have to undergo an additional imprisonment of 6 months if he fails to pay compensation.

Similarly, Additional Sessions Judge Yasir Hayat also awarded capital punishment to accused Muhammad Ejaz of Chak No 153-RB under Section 302-B of PPC. According to prosecution, Sahianwala police had booked Muhammad Ejaz on charge of killing his real brother Fida Hussain over a property dispute in 2013.

The convict was also directed to pay Rs 4 lakh as compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased.

(source: Pakistan Point News)

SWEDEN:

Sweden grants citizenship to scientist sentenced to death in Iran Sweden has granted citizenship to a Stockholm-based scientist being held in Iran under sentence of death, the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday.

Ahmadreza Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in the Swedish capital, was arrested in Iran in April 2016 and later convicted of espionage, having been accused of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists.

Iran's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in December and Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Djalali had confessed to meeting agents of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to deliver information on Iran's nuclear and defence plans and personnel.

"We know that he has been granted citizenship by the Migration Board. We continue in our consular work for Djalali and request consular access to our citizen," a Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

"We have been in regular contact with Iranian representatives, requested access to Djalali and presented Sweden's view of the death penalty, which we condemn in all its forms. Our demand is that the death penalty is not carried out,Ē the spokeswoman said.

Djalali had been on a business trip to Iran when he was arrested and sent to Evin prison. He was held in solitary confinement for 3 months and tortured, campaigning group Amnesty International has said.

Amnesty said Djalali wrote a letter from inside prison in August stating he was being held for refusing to spy for Iran.

75 Nobel prize laureates petitioned Iranian authorities last year to release Djalali so he could "continue his scholarly work for the benefit of mankind".

(source: Reuters)

SUDAN:

Abolish law on death penalty, body tells S. Sudan MPs

The Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ), a South Sudanese human rights body, has urged lawmakers the raise a motion calling for abolition of the death penalty from the country's transitional constitution.

In a statement, CPJís executive director, Tito Anthony said lawmakers needed to be pushed to ensure the death penalty is scrapped off.

"Rights to life are one of inalienable and inherent rights that cannot be terminate or restricted, at any time and place or for any reasons," said Tito.

"People will not learn the lesson from what they have done if you just sentence them to death, you need to punish someone for at least years in jail so that the jailed person will be able to transform himself [or herself] to a better person once released," he added.

According to Tito, a jail sentence is not to punish individuals, but meant to transform any arrested person to a better person in society.

A South Sudan court on Monday sentenced the former spokesman of the rebel leader, Riek Machar to death, citing multiple provisions in the constitution as the basis upon which the verdict was reached.

Dak was facing several charges, including accusations of treason, several months after was unlawfully transferred from Kenya to South Sudan in November 2016. He spent over 7 months in solitary confinement before finally being charged with abetment, treason, publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to South Sudan, and undermining the authority of or insulting President Salva Kiir.

The lead-defence lawyer in the case, Monyluak Alor Kuol described the verdict as a political decision.

"I do call on president kiir not to sign the death warrant of James Gatdet, for it a political case that can be handle with the peace Revitalization, in fact Gatdet should be release be now as to show government commitment to Cession of Hostilities Agreement," said CPJ's executive director.

(source: Sudan tribune)

EGYPT:

Egypt's House refutes European Parliament's decision on death penalty

The House of Representatives on Saturday refuted a decision taken by the European Parliament on death penalty in Egypt.

"The decision reveals ignorance of the reality of the situation in Egypt," a statement by the head of the parliament's Committee of Foreign Relations Tarek Radwan read.

"It also overlooked lengthy discussions with EU lawmakers, the European Commission and the EU member states on various issues of common concern," Radwan said.

"The decision, which includes fabricated data that undermines the credibility of one of Europe's most prominent institutions, represents an impenetrable interference in Egypt's internal affairs", said the senior lawmaker.

In view of the death penalty's gravity, the Egyptian laws have provided several guarantees to those facing such punishment in a fair trial offering them an opportunity to defend themselves in accordance with international standards, the statement said.

The Egyptian law limits the death penalty to the most serious crimes, and states that such sentence requires the unanimous opinion of all judges of the criminal court that hears the case, it added.

The Egyptian law affirms that all death penalties have to be issued in the defendant's' presence and to be heard by the Court of Cassation, Radwan said.

The law also provides that a person who has not attained the age of 18 at the time of crime will not be sentenced to death, the statement read.

It also allows the President of the Republic to consider a pardon or replace the sentence within 14 days, it added.

The provisions of Egyptian law on the death penalty are consistent with the international standards and controls embodied in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Egypt, he added.

(source: Egypt Today)

FEBRUARY 17, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Sugar Land man scheduled for execution after killing his family loses appeal

With barely a week to go before Texas death row inmate Thomas "Bart" Whitaker's scheduled execution, a state appeals court on Thursday denied the Sugar Land man's latest bid to avoid the state's harshest sentence.

Citing his record of good behavior on death row, attorneys argued that the condemned man who had his mother and brother killed no longer qualifies as a future danger, a key factor in death sentencing in Texas.

"Whitaker is not only not a future danger," his attorneys wrote, "he is not a present danger."

Houston-based defense team David Dow and Jeffrey Newberry argued that either he was never a danger to anyone outside his immediate family and thus not really a future danger or had experienced such a personal transformation that he was no longer a future danger.

"There can be no doubt but that Thomas Bartlett Whitaker's jurors were wrong when they found that he likely would commit acts of violence in the future," they wrote.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday turned down the appeal and request for a stay.

The 38-year-old was sent to death row in 2007 after a Ford Bend jury found him guilty of masterminding a plot to kill his family in hopes of snagging a $1 million inheritance. Though Whitaker's mother Patricia and brother Kevin died in the 2003 attack, his father Kent survived and has since fervently argued against his son's death sentence.

"I have seen enough death - I don't want to see any more," he told the Chronicle earlier this week. "I'm going to have the last living member of my direct family taken from me by the State of Texas in the name of justice, and I just don't want that."

Currently a clemency petition bolstered by letters from teachers, friends, family and fellow death row inmates is pending before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Whitaker is also involved in litigation over the state's lethal injection practices, though the Supreme Court is not scheduled to tackle the matter until Feb. 23 - 1 day after the scheduled execution.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

3 SC brothers and cousin charged in double homicide, death penalty in play

4 South Carolina men, all related, have been arrested and charged for their roles in a double homicide.

3 brothers, and their cousin, were arrested by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents in connection to the Nov. 24, 2017 shooting deaths of cousins Joel Turner Jr., 44, and Steven A. Banks, 34, outside a bar in McCormick County.

Jesse Cashawn Freeman III, 22, of McCormick and Travis Rashad Freeman, 27, of Spartanburg and were arrested and charged with murder, according to SLED.

If convicted, each will face the maximum penalty of death, or a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years to life in prison, SLED reported.

Shiquan Marquez Freeman, 25, and Devin Tyrone Crapps, 22, both of Spartanburg, were each charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

If convicted of the felony charge, each will face the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Travis Freeman and Jesse Freeman fatally shot Banks and Turner during a physical altercation in the parking lot of Sapp's Bar and Grill, according to an affidavit.

Shiquan Freeman and Crapps are charged with accessory because they fled the scene in the same vehicle as Travis and Jesse Freeman and failed to notify law enforcement about the crime, according to an affidavit.

SLED investigated the case at the request of the McCormick County Sheriff's Office.

(source: thestate.com)

FLORIDA:

Florida school shooting suspect will plead guilty if death penalty is not an option----If prosecutors agree to take the death penalty off the table, the suspect's attorney says he will plead guilty.

The suspect in the south Florida high school shooting will plead guilty in the massacre if the death penalty is taken off the table, the public defender's office said Friday.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, admitted he was behind the the 17 killings inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. His lawyers at the public defender's office say he is deeply troubled and remorseful over the shooting.

"I am overwhelmingly saddened that every system failed. The school system, the mental health system, DCF, law enforcement and the FBI," said Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz.

"Because we failed to stop it, and we could have, we should not kill the person who behaved as we feared but ignored."

Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Finkelstein said he is unsure if prosecutors will agree to the idea of pulling the death penalty off the table.

"I hope" they will, he said. "No road map here."

The State Attorney's Office for Broward County told the Miami Herald "it is way too early in the investigation to talk about the death penalty,"

Indeed, it would be highly unusual for a deal to form just 2 days after the shooting happened.

At Cruz's 1st appearance, Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes told a judge the 19 year old was a "broken child" who "has endured a lot of emotional trauma in a short period of time."

She added the downward spiral started with this death of his mother in November.

Finkelstein said whatever happens with Cruz's future 1 thing remains clear: this tragedy has left an irreparable wound on his community.

"In the 40 years I have been in this courthouse, I have seen a lot of murder and mayhem but nothing is even in the same universe as this," he said. "This devastation has caused a permanent wound in the victims family's and the community. All of us will be forever changed."

(source: WTSP news)

MISSISSIPPI----new death sentence

Wilbanks sentenced to death for 2013 shooting

Wilbanks admitted his guilt to law enforcement during an interview in December 2013; however, he decided to continue with a trial rather than change his plea and move directly to the sentencing phase.

Wilbanks showed little emotion as the verdict for the death penalty was read in court.

The murder took place on Dec. 17, 2013, in McClendon's apartment at 20B County Road 140 just off of College Hill Road in Oxford.

According to the state, Wilbanks, Joseph Lyons and Derrick Boone entered McClendon's apartment and Wilbanks shot him in the back of the head with a 16-gauge shotgun while McClendon was doing dishes.

His body was found by Lafayette County Sheriff's Deputy Will Tidwell at 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2013, after McClendon's mother, Paula, called the sheriff's department and requested someone check on her son after he didn't arrive at his home in Gulfport. McClendon was expected to arrive home for the holidays on Dec. 17.

According to testimony given by several law enforcement officers from the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department, after Wilbanks shot McClendon, the 3 men stole his 2004 Nissan along with clothing, electronics and textbooks.

Boone and Lyons previously pleaded guilty in exchange to have the death penalty taken off the table and are both serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Wilbanks was not offered a plea deal.

Jury selection was held on Monday and the trial began and ended Tuesday with the jury finding Wilbanks guilty after deliberating for about 2 hours.

Law enforcement officials recounted the crime, but it was Wilbanks own testimony via a taped interview hours following the shooting that cinched the verdict.

Wilbanks admitted to shooting McClendon and that Lyons and Boone knew he was going to shoot him and "were OK with it." The 3 men then divvied up the items they stole from McClendon.

"I'm sorry I lied to you yesterday," Wilbanks told the investigators in the recording. "But now you got me, I'm telling you everything."

Wilbanks told investigators that the shotgun belonged to him and that he purchased it for $8 at a gun show in Hattiesburg where he lived before moving to Oxford.

Wilbanks said the plan was to kill McClendon so they could steal his money, credit cards and other belongings. He said he needed money for rent and bills but then later told investigators he had thought about killing "someone" a year before shooting McClendon.

Wilbanks testified that the 3 men walked over to McClendon's apartment and that he set the shotgun down outside McClendon's door.

After talking to McClendon for about 45 minutes, Wilbanks said Lyons went outside and brought the gun inside and handed it to Wilbanks, who then shot McClendon in the back of the head.

"He never saw it coming," Wilbanks said. "I didn't want him to suffer. I'm not bloodthirsty or anything."

The 3 stole McClendon's vehicle, which was found a few hours after the shooting, parked at the Chevron gas station on Highway 6. The car wouldn't start, so the 3 drove Boone's car to Walmart to buy a battery and to purchase items for their getaway trip. However, before they could return, the police had located the vehicle.

On Wednesday, 3 ministers who visit with Wilbanks once a week on different days testified that Wilbanks was now "saved" and held Bible studies at the Lafayette County Detention Center where he has been held awaiting trial since his arrest in 2013.

Because Wilbanks was sentenced to the death penalty, an appeal will be automatically filed by the circuit court on his behalf.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore said his office never has an expectation of what a jury might decide but is thankful that the jurors carefully examined the evidence and collectively came to an agreement on the verdict of guilty and in handing down the sentence.

"We feel we put on the proof that would justify a death penalty verdict," Creekmore said Thursday afternoon.

Creekmore said the conclusion of all 3 defendants' trials is a "relief" to McClendon's parents, Percy and Paula McClendon.

"We will continue to cherish the memory of Zach and forget the horrible way that he was treated by these men," Creekmore said. "Zach was a bright, young man who loved life and was a neighbor to everyone he met."

McClendon, a 1st-year graduate student from Gulfport, was pursuing a Master's of Business Administration at Ole Miss. Prior to attending Ole Miss, McClendon graduated from Williams College in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry.

He was an apprentice for an orthopedic surgeon at Tulane University while in college.

(source: The Oxford Eagle)

OHIO:

Ohio man could face death penalty in rape, murder case

An Ohio man charged with raping, torturing and killing a 24-year-old woman could face the death penalty if convicted.

A prosecutor announced a capital indictment Thursday against 53-year-old Anthony Pardon. He faces charges including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of Rachael Anderson.

Anderson was found dead inside a closet at her Columbus home on Jan. 29, the day after her 24th birthday. Police have declined to release details of the attack but described it as torture.

Investigators say Pardon's DNA was found at the crime scene.

Pardon previously served 24 years in prison for a 1982 rape and attempted murder conviction. He is a registered sex offender.

Court records don't list an attorney for Pardon.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Governor Bill Haslam: Don't Resume Executions in Tennessee

see: https://www.change.org/p/governor-bill-haslam-don-t-resume-executions-in-tennessee/share?utm_medium=email&utm_source=aa_sign_aaa&utm_campaign=255749&utm_content=&sfmc_tk=aOZbX8piP2%2fQfV4%2f6b%2fm8UuCfTbMCKWOujJnv4YM8vTiAiZSL3KLfOeaHmeW9Zkc&j=255749&sfmc_sub=10611289&l=32_HTML&u =46622553&mid=7233053&jb=281

The state of Tennessee is now planning to resume executions after almost a decade without one--despite the nearly deadly mistakes of sending 4 wrongfully convicted individuals to death row on 4 different occasions. These men spent decades fighting for their freedom and were finally released from prison. To date, over 160 people have been freed from death rows across the country when evidence of their innocence emerged - including me.

My name is Paul House. For 22 years, I sat on Tennessee's death row where I developed an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis for which I received no care. By the time of my release, I was bound to a wheelchair, experiencing significant challenges to my speech and movement. I remain in a wheelchair today and am cared for by my mother, Joyce.

The more we execute, the more likely it is that we will execute an innocent person. When a human life is at stake, there is simply no room for error. Sign this petition today†to urge Tennessee not to resume executions in the state.

After being released from prison in 2007 and with all charges against me finally dropped in 2009, my mother and I continue to work to prevent this from happening to anyone else, sharing my story with anyone who will listen.

The death penalty system is failing as it consistently proves to be ineffective, unfair, and inaccurate, while the public's approval of it as a means of achieving justice continues to decline. Even in cases of guilt, growing evidence suggests that the death penalty can prolong victims' families' pain and delay healing while appeals and reversals force them to relive their trauma again and again.

As someone who faced execution for a crime I didn't commit, I ask you to sign this petition, urging the state of Tennessee not to resume executions in order to prevent wrongful executions.

(source: change.org)

ARKANSAS:

Death Drug --What is midazolam? Lethal injection drug used for sedation on death row and in 2017 Arkansas executions----It has been the source of some controversy as several prisoners have taken some time to die and appeared to be in pain when midazolam was used

It is a drug that is used for people who have trouble sleeping and it can decrease anxiety.

But midazolam is also used to kill people on death row.

What is midazolam?

It is a drug that has been used in executions by lethal injection in certain states, combined with other drugs.

It has been used as part of a 3-drug cocktail.

The drug acts as a sedative to make the prisoner unconscious.

The other drugs then stop the lungs and heart working.

It has been the source of some controversy as several prisoners have taken some time to die and appeared to be in pain when midazolam was used.

Death penalty critics have argued midazolam is a sedative - not an anaesthetic - and the condemned would feel pain from the drugs that come next.

What happened in Arkansas in 2017?

The state of Arkansas wanted to carry out 8 executions in 10 days.

This was due to the supply of midazolam being due to expire.

4 of the prisoners were granted a stay of execution, but 4 were given the lethal injection.

Marcel Willilams, Lendell Lee, Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams all died in 2017.

How many states still have the death penalty?

The death penalty is still legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 states.

The United States is the only Western country still applying the death penalty.

It was the 1st to develop lethal injections as a method of execution.

More than 2,900 are still on death row, with more than 1,400 having been executed.

What is Life and Death Row: The Mass Execution?

It is a documentary series about the historic number of executions scheduled in Arkansas of 8 men in 10 days.

The reason for this is to use up the state's supply of a lethal injection drug called midazolam before it expires.

The BBC speaks to the families of victims and those on death row in the lead up to the execution.

In the 1st episode we meet Johnson and his wife and stepdaughter.

They are doing all they can to stop the execution from taking place.

It airs on BBC2 on Sunday.

(source: The Sun)

UTAH:

Lawmaker to try to repeal the death penalty in Utah

A new bill in the Utah State Legislature seeks to end capital punishment in Utah.

House Bill 379, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, would put a moratorium on the death penalty.

"I think the proper time the proper path forward at this time, is to do away with the death penalty," he said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.

It would not impact the nine men currently on death row in Utah. Rep. Froerer said they had already had their crimes adjudicated, but he wanted a bill that was proactive.

HB379 is the 4th bill in the Utah State Legislature that deals with capital punishment. Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, has a bill to expand it to include first responders; Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has a bill to add a police officer dying in a chase as an aggravator; and Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, has a bill to study the cost of the death penalty.

Recently, Utah's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice produced its own study that found the state spent $40 million over the past 20 years on court and incarceration costs to execute 2 people.

"We really need to make the decision from a policy standpoint, is this a good use of taxpayer dollars?" Rep. Froerer asked.

Supporters of his bill are already coming forward.

"The death penalty does not promote justice, it promotes violence. As people of faith, we believe that justice and mercy walk hand-in-hand. Throughout religious teachings, we learn that mercy is the only true way to overcome evil," said Jean Hill, a government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Rep. Ray said he believes capital punishment in Utah is still necessary. He supported more study of the death penalty's cost, and said it may be more expensive to keep someone alive without parole. He said past efforts to repeal the death penalty have not fared well in the House.

"2 years ago, when the death penalty bill came over, it was dead on arrival in the House," he said.

(source: fox13now.com)

ARIZONA:

Arizona prosecutor drops death penalty in 2 murder cases

A prosecutor in northwest Arizona is abandoning pursuit of the death penalty against the suspects in 2 high-profile murder cases, citing cost.

Staff attorneys will instead seek convictions and life prison sentences for Justin Rector, 29, of Bullhead City and Darrell Ketchner, 59, of Kingman, said Mohave County attorney Matt Smith.

Ketchner faces 1st-degree murder, attempted murder and other charges for the July 4, 2009, stabbing death of 18 year-old Ariel Allison and the attempted murder of her mother, Jennifer Allison. The teen was stabbed to death, while her mom, mother of 3 of Ketchner's children, survived being shot in the head and stabbed.

Rector is charged in the September 2014 death of his former girlfriend's daughter, 8 year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella. The girl's body was found in a makeshift grave about a half-mile from her home.

County officials said more than $2.2 million has been spent on defense teams representing Ketchner and Rector. Neither case is even close to trial and it will be less expensive to prosecute them because mitigation and expert testimony will be limited if the death penalty is off the table.

"Everybody's looking to save money and these death penalty cases are extremely expensive," Smith said.

Bob Allison, grandfather of Ariel, said he and his family approved Smith's decision.

"We're OK with it because we want to protect the kids," Allison said, adding that his other grandchildren get teased and bullied at school because of publicity.

"It's a waste of money in my opinion and the end results are going to be the same."

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Prosecutors Will Seek Capital Punishment Against Felon Charged in Death of Whittier Police Officer, Relative

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a felon and alleged gang member accused in the deaths of his own cousin and a Whittier police officer.

Michael Christopher Mejia, 27, smiled and appeared to blow a kiss as he walked into the Norwalk courtroom where the decision was read Friday by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron.

Mejia previously pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of murder and 1 count each of attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon on Aug. 14, 2017.

Friday's decision to seek capital punishment comes nearly a year after Whittier Police Department Officer Keith Boyer and Mejia's cousin Roy Torres lost their lives hours apart on Feb. 20, 2017.

Mejia is accused of fatally shooting his 47-year-old cousin in East Los Angeles early that morning. He then allegedly stole Torres' car and, about 3 hours later, crashed it into 2 other vehicles in Whittier.

When police responded to the crash, Mejia allegedly exited the car with a handgun and proceeded to shoot and kill 53-year-old Boyer and wound his partner, Patrick Hazell.

Boyer was a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department, and the chief there described him as a "hero."

Mejia was on probation at the time of the shooting and had been released from Pelican Bay State Prison less than a year before.

Days before the incident, he was released from a 10-day jail sentence for violating the terms of his release, 1 of 5 such jail stays for the same violation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He was sentenced to 2 years for grand theft auto in 2014 and 4 years for 2nd-degree robbery in 2010.

At the time of his most recent arrest, authorities described him as a "known gang member," and prosecutors have filed a gang allegation against him. His 2010 conviction included a sentencing enhancement for gang involvement.

The last entry Boyer scribbled in his police notebook while responding to the crash was "Michael Mejia, 1191, Winter Gardens," a reference to Mejia's gang, according to testimony presented last June during a preliminary hearing in the case, according to the Whittier Daily News.

Mejia is scheduled to return to court for pre-trial hearing on April 6, and prosecutors indicated a trial could begin in July.

(source: KTLA news)

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

Former death row inmate headed back to prison for life in 1984 killing of Redondo Beach woman

A 53-year-old man who has spent more than 3 decades in prison - including 2 on death row - for robbing and killing a Redondo Beach wife and mother during her shift at a Los Angeles International Airport cafeteria apparently will remain behind bars for the rest of his life following a Torrance jury's decision Friday.

Henry Earl Duncan stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as a Torrance Superior Court clerk announced that his jury found "true" a special circumstances allegation that alleged Duncan intended to kill 28-year-old Eileen De Baun during the 1984 robbery. It marked the 3rd time a jury had reached that conclusion. Judges, however, overturned the 2 previous decisions following appeals.

As a result, Duncan will be sentenced April 30 to spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole, although his attorney said he again will file an appeal.

Derik De Baun, who was just 20 months old when Duncan murdered his mother, also showed no emotion as he sat in court to hear the verdict. Throughout his life, the killing has weighed heavily on his family members as the court and appeals process seemingly never ended.

"I felt a lot of relief," De Baun said. "I know it's not something my dad wants to hear. He wanted the death sentence to be carried out a long time ago. It's a consolation. I can take a consolation. It will be great to tell the rest of my family that he's never going to get out."

Friday's verdict was the latest development in a case that initially put Duncan on the state's death row in 1986 when a jury found him guilty of the robbery and murder. But twice since, appellate judges overturned parts of his conviction that resulted in his sentence. This time, De Baun said he hopes the courts will reject any more of Duncan's appeals.

"I can't say to the defense, 'Let's give it up and stop appealing,' but I hope that maybe I could say to any judge that would handle this that this has been dealt with three times already and, in each case, he has lost."

The long quest for justice began Nov. 13, 1984, when Duncan, a cashier at the Host cafeteria in the LAX Pan American Airlines terminal, stabbed Eileen De Baun - his boss - to death during a robbery that netted $2,400 from the night's receipts. The 28-year-old wife and mother of 20-month-old twin sons was found the next morning.

Police later tied the crime to Duncan, matching the patterns from the soles of shoes found under his bed to the bloody footprints left at the crime scene. His hands matched the bloody handprints, and a key to the cash box was discovered in his car.

Following a lengthy trial in Torrance Superior Court in 1986, Duncan was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and robbery. A special circumstances allegation that the crime was committed during a robbery made Duncan eligible for either a life prison term without the chance of parole or the death penalty. Jurors recommended the death penalty and a judge agreed.

The California Supreme Court upheld Duncan's conviction and sentence in 1991, but in 2008 the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Duncan's lawyer, John Cheroske, did a poor job representing him. The federal court said that Cheroske, now a Compton Superior Court judge, had failed to argue before the jury that blood found on a cloth discovered under a first-aid kit in the restaurant office suggested an accomplice committed the actual killing.

The judges upheld Duncan's murder conviction, but ordered that the special circumstances allegation be retried. In 2010, another Torrance jury found the special circumstances allegation to be true, and Duncan was sent away to prison for life without parole. The District Attorney's Office, at the time, decided not to pursue the death penalty.

Duncan again appealed the sentence to the state 2nd District Court of Appeal in California, which again overturned the conviction for the special circumstance, prompting the need for another trial. Over the past 5 weeks, Deputy District Attorney Allyson Ostrowski presented the murder case to a new jury that was so grisly, Judge Edmund Clarke Jr. on Friday encouraged the panel to talk to friends to cope with it.

During the case, Deputy Public Defender Sam Leonard countered with the blood evidence in an effort to show somebody else had killed De Baun.

The jury took just a few hours to side with the prosecution, meaning Duncan will get a term of life without parole. Had the jury decided otherwise, Duncan would have been sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars. With all the time he has served in prison, that might have given him a chance at parole. A law signed 2 years ago by California Gov. Jerry Brown made it possible for thousands of inmates convicted of serious crimes committed when they were 18 to 22 years old to earn a chance for release. Duncan was 22 when he killed De Baun.

Derik De Baun feared that outcome. His father, Don, his mother's sisters and other family members would have been devastated, he said.

"It's not about his fate, it's about how it affected everyone else," De Baun said. "I probably would have been very disappointed and it would have been very somber. I would have felt cheated."

De Baun stood in a court hallway Friday afternoon, preparing to call his family to tell them the news. De Baun said he plans to attend the sentencing in April, but might not speak about the affect the murder has had on his family as he has done before. He said he just wants Duncan to stop.

"He's (appealed) 3 times and it's not gone in his favor any time," De Baun said. "I want him to stop trying."

(source: Daily Breeze)

EUROPEAN UNION/CARIBBEAN:

EU join forces to end death penalty

The European Union wants to see the death penalty abolished in Barbados and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean.

It is therefore putting its money behind the work of civil society organisations in the region that are working towards this goal, as well as supporting those seeking to protect the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities.

Head of the EU delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Daniela Tramacere, said yesterday "the EU views capital punishment as inhumane, degrading and unnecessary" and had therefore made the universal abolition of the death penalty one of the two priorities in its external policy.

Speaking during disbursement of EU Human Rights and Civil Society Grants to 6 civil society projects in the region, Tramacere said contrary to the belief held by some, there was no link between the EU's position on these human rights issues and a cut in EU aid.

Rather, she said the EU was "putting our money where our mouths are" by allocating grants worth approximately 5 million euros, allocated for a 4-year cycle, "to help the region build resilient societies and protect values and principles".

"The EU is a stable partner of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and will remain such" Tramacere stressed, adding: "we do not want to impose our model; it is up to your society to decide how you want to respect the universality of human rights."

However, she contended there was no valid scientific evidence to support claims that the death penalty deterred crime more effectively than other punishments. "Neither can there be an economic argument that detention costs the state a lot," Tramacere contended. She also suggested that the possibility of miscarriage of justice by the "intentional killing of innocent persons by the state" ought to be a higher consideration in any argument regarding the death penalty.

Tramacere noted Barbados and most of the countries of the Eastern Caribbean had not carried out executions in over 2 decades and observed that, in essence, a de facto moratorium on the death penalty already existed.

"Why not just abolish the practice altogether?" Tramacere asked.

(source: nationnews.com)

SINGAPORE:

Indian-origin man in Singapore gets death penalty for murder of fellow worker----Saravanan Arimuram, 31, faces death penalty for the alleged murder of Sivakumar Perumal, 43, who suffered injuries to his face and chest on Thursday, and died later.

An Indian-origin man in Singapore was on Saturday charged in a court with the murder of a fellow worker at a construction site, according to a media report. Saravanan Arimuram, 31, faces death penalty for the alleged murder of Sivakumar Perumal, 43, who suffered injuries to his face and chest on Thursday, and died later, The Straits Times reported. Arimuram allegedly got into a fight with Perumal, who was then driving a prime mover and he was a passenger.

Apart from the 2, an 18-year-old man was also travelling on the prime mover which crashed along Jurong Town Hall Road in the Singapore's suburb industrial estate.

The 3 men were taken to the National University Hospital, it said, citing a police statement. "Preliminary investigations revealed that the accident was believed to have occurred following a dispute between the deceased and the suspect," the report said quoting the police statement.

According to the court papers, it was not clear that if Perumal's injuries were caused by the accident or they were inflicted before the crash. He was remanded to police custody and will be produced in the court on February 23. If convicted of murder, Perumal will face the death penalty, the report said. Arimuram, who was dressed in a bright yellow tank-top with the words "Yellow Ribbon Project", kept his eyes closed in the dock as the charge was read out to him.

The Yellow Ribbon Project, started as a community initiative in Singapore in 2004, aims to create awareness about the need to give a 2nd chance to ex-offenders released from prison.

(source: indianexpress.com)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

Did Equatorial Guinea request death penalty for opposition activists?

The Equatorial Guinea prosecutor has reportedly requested the capital punishment for 147 main opposition activists.

AFP reports that the trial of the activists started early last week in the high court of Mongomo, the stronghold of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. The prosecutor's death penalty request was tabled on Wednesday (February 14th).

The activists were being tried for: "sedition, attack on authority and public disorder," according to their lawyer. "The prosecutor has demanded the death penalty against all opponents," lawyer Fabian Nsue told the AFP.

The government which claim to have foiled an attempted coup in late December 2017, have yet to respond to a request for information.

The 147 activists, include leaders of the Citizens for Innovation (CI) party, who have been rounded up since the parliamentary elections of November 2017.

According to a statement from their party, some 30 defendants could not stand during the trial, "because of torture" during their detention in Guantanamo, the nickname given to the central police station of the capital, Malabo.

(source: africanews.com)

SOUTH SUDAN:

South African Faces Death Penalty in South Sudan Espionage Case

A South African man is facing a possible death sentence in South Sudan, after none of the key defense witnesses showed up at his trial on espionage charges and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

William John Endley was a security contractor for former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, now the leader of a rebel faction fighting the government of President Salva Kiir. Endley was arrested in August 2016, shortly after deadly fighting flared up between government forces and Machar's bodyguards in Juba.

Endley, a retired South African army colonel, appeared in court Thursday in Juba, but six of his defense witnesses, including First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, Petroleum Minister Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth and Higher Education Minister Yien Oral Lam have been absent since the proceedings began.

Lam told VOA's South Sudan In Focus he had no knowledge of the case.

"This is what I don't know. Even none of the defense [lawyers] met myself. How could I be a witness to a person I don't know and in a case that I am not aware of the circumstances?" he said.

Agel Machar, spokesman for Taban Deng Gai, says the vice president is traveling overseas. He added that he is not in a position to comment on the case.

"I'm not aware of this case. I don't know about it. I'm hearing it for the first time from you. I will have to ask before I can make a comment on it," said Machar, who is not related to Riek Machar.

Endley's defense lawyer, Gar Adel, told the court Thursday that all key witnesses have traveled out of the country. He pleaded for more time to produce them in court at a later date.

Presiding High Court Judge Ladu Armenio rejected the defense's pleas, saying he will announce his final verdict next week.

Adel listed the charges against his client.

"The conspiracy to overthrow the government which is under the National Security Service Act 2014, espionage also contrary to section 57 of the National Security Act, supplying weaponry to insurgents, saboteur or terrorist under the Penal Code, subverting a constitutional government under the Penal Code and illegal entry to South Sudan under the Passport and Immigration Act 2011," Adel told VOA.

Endley first appeared in court last October with co-defendant James Gatdet Dak, Riek Machar's spokesman. The court sentenced Gatdet this week to a 21-year prison sentence to be followed by death by hanging.

Journalists were not allowed to record Thursday's proceedings, and Endley's lawyer had little to say after the court session.

"Today the defense and proceedings closed its case and today the court also closed the defense case, so that means we have come to a closure of the case," he said.

Previous action

Chief prosecutor Deng Acuil told South Sudan in Focus that he has not been authorized to speak to the media about the case.

Adel says if Endley is found guilty, his client could be sentenced to life imprisonment and possibly the death penalty.

He says Endley was performing his duties as a security contractor to help Machar's forces integrate into the South Sudanese Army prior to being arrested. At the time, Kiir and Machar were attempting to implement a 2015 peace agreement.

Endley's first defense team withdrew from the case more than three weeks ago, citing the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that the government and Machar's group signed in December. The agreement requires South Sudan's warring parties to release all prisoners of war and political detainees.

Endley's daughter, Gweneth Endley, told South Sudan in Focus last year that she had not been able to learn much about the case against her father.

Mawien Makol, spokesman for South Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said last year that Endley violated South Sudan's visa rules. He did not elaborate. At that time, Makol said Endley would be released once the government completed its investigation.

(source: voanews.com)

IRAN:

6 prisoners, Including a Juvenile Offender, Facing Execution In Days

At least 6 prisoners from different wards were transferred to solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr Prison to be executed. Omid Rostami, a juvenile offender, is one of the prisoners.

According to a close source, on the morning of Monday, February 12, at least 6 prisoners from different wards were transferred to solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr Prison to be executed. Most of them were sentenced to death on murder charges.

Some of them are identified as: Masoud Taghipour from ward 6, Mohammad Saleh Dolatabadi from ward 10, Morteza Shafiq from ward 10, Saeed Ranjbar from ward 10, and Omid Rostami from ward 5.

Omid Rostami is reportedly sentenced to death on the charge of murder before the age of 18. However, Iran Human Rights (IHR) has not been able to access his documents so far.

The prisoners will be certainly executed on Wednesday if they fail to gain the consent of the plaintiffs.

It is worth mentioning that at least 3 juvenile offenders were hanged at Rajai Shahr, Noshahr, and Bushehr prisons in January. These sentences prove that the Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code (2013), as well as other articles related to protection of children at risk of retaliation, cannot effectively protect juvenile-offenders from execution.

"European nations, especially those who have good political and economic relations with Iranian government should not be silent about the execution of juveniles," Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for IHR says, "We urge European Union and other nations to immediately force Iranian authorities to annul these executions and stop the execution of juveniles."

Iran has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which bans the execution of juveniles. Moreover, based on Article 37 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, execution and life imprisonment of juveniles is banned.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan Sentences Serial Killer To Death

A court in Pakistan on February 17 sentenced a serial killer to death after finding him guilty of killing 8 children, including a 7-year-old girl whose rape and murder sparked national outrage.

Police found Zainab Ansari's body in a garbage dumpster in Kasur district near the eastern city of Lahore in mid-January, 4 days after she was reported missing.

Police investigators said later that they had matched DNA from 8 girls' bodies, including Zainab's, with the convicted killer, Imran Ali, 24.

Hundreds of residents protested after Zainab's body was found, and 2 were killed when police fired shots to disperse them.

There have been complaints of a number of missing children in the same district of Kasur since 2015 when authorities uncovered what they said was a pedophile ring linked to a prominent local family.

(source: rferl/org)

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Pakistani minor Zainab's murderer handed 4 counts of death sentence

The verdict was announced at Lahore's Central Jail.

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) found the prime accused for the rape and murder of a minor Pakistani girl guilty according to latest reports.

According to Dawn, Imran Ali has been handed 4 counts of death penalty, 1 life time and Rs3.2m (Dh106,000 approx) in fines. The death penalties were for the kidnap, rape, murder of Zainab; and 1 for committing an act of terrorism. The life sentence was for sodomy and another penalty was imposed for hiding the body in a trash heap.

The verdict was announced at Lahore's Central Jail on Saturday.

Earlier, Judge Sajjad Ahmad indicted Imran Ali in the murder case of Zainab, who was kidnapped near her aunt's house in Kasur city on January 4 and found dead in a garbage heap 5 days later.

Ali, during court proceedings, admitted to the rape and murder of the minor girl.

The Lahore High Court directed the ATC to wrap up the trial within 7 days of the suspect's indictment, Geo News reported.

Ali was arrested on January 23. His DNA also matched samples taken from seven other minor girls who were abused and murdered earlier in Kasur.

(source: Khaleej Times)

FEBRUARY 16, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Urgent Action

FATHER APPEALS FOR SON'S LIFE TO BE SPARED

Thomas Whitaker, aged 38, is due to be executed in Texas on 22 February. He was convicted in 2007 of the murder of his mother and brother in a shooting in which his father was badly wounded but survived. The father is appealing for clemency for his son.

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

* Calling on the Texas authorities to commute the death sentence of Thomas Whitaker;

† * Noting support for clemency from inmates, guards, and the prisoner's father, also a victim of the crime;

* Noting that the actual gunman received a life sentence and the very troubling claims surrounding the prosecution's alleged solicitation of the defendant's confession and its use in arguing for a death sentence.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 22 February, 2018:

Clemency Section, Board of Pardons and Paroles

8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Austin, Texas 78757-6814, USA

Fax: +1 512 467 0945

Email: bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us

Salutation: Dear Board members

Governor Greg Abbott

Office of the Governor

P.O. Box 12428

Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA

Fax: +1 512 463 1849

Contact Form: https://gov.texas.gov/apps/contact/opinion.aspx

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)

PENNSYLVANIA:

DA to seek death penalty against man accused of killing ex-girlfriend

The Allegheny County district attorney plans to seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend.

Matthew Darby is charged with criminal homicide, burglary, theft by unlawful taking and avoiding apprehension charges in connection with the death of Alina .

The University of Pittsburgh student was killed inside her Oakland home on Oct. 8.

Darby was served with a PFA that Sheykhet took out against him just 2 days before her murder.

The former Pitt-Greensburg basketball player was on the run for several days until his capture in Myrtle Beach S.C.

Sheyhet's parents released a statement on the DA's decision:

"The Sheykhet family was asked for their input relative to DA Zappala's decision to seek the death penalty against Matthew Darby and they are in support of his decision."

(source: WPXI news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC prosecutors to seek death penalty in Mariah Woods case

The state intends to seek the death penalty in the case against Earl Kimrey, the boyfriend of Mariah Woods' mother.

That's according to District Attorney Ernie Lee. He said the state also intends to declare the 1st-degree murder case as capital.

Kimrey is facing charges of 1st-degree murder, felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, felony common law obstruction of justice, felony concealment of death, 2nd degree burglary, felony larceny, and felony possession of stolen property.

Kimrey, whose full name is Adolphus Earl Kimrey II, was initially charged on December 2 with obstruction of justice, concealing an unattended death, possession of stolen goods, 2nd-degree burglary and larceny after breaking and entering.

Kimrey's court date was set for February 14 but he did not appear in court. Still, a small crowd gathered outside Wednesday morning to make sure all who passed by would know Mariah Woods is not forgotten.

Each of the community members who stood outside held balloons in various shades of pink. It's a color that's become synonymous with the toddler.

It's been nearly 3 months since Mariah went missing, and mothers like Heather Stevens gathered to show their love for her.

"She should be here celebrating with her family and with her brothers," Stevens said. "She should be here for every day and every occasion."

Also out front, Mariah's paternal grandmother, Debra Woods. She says the family is holding up, and wouldn't comment on Kristy Woods, except to say that she hadn't spoken with her.

"People are helping with the cause and it means a lot to know she's touched so many people without even knowing them," Debra Woods said.

Justice is all they want and Woods says she will continue to organize these peaceful demonstrations until it is served.

Kimrey has been in custody in the Onslow County Detention Center with no bond.

Kimrey's next court appearance in Onslow County Superior Court is scheduled for February 26.

(source: WAVY TV news)

GEORGIA:

State seeks death penalty in Foster re-trial

The state is seeking the death penalty in the re-trial of a man whose 1987 murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.

Preliminary hearings began Thursday in the trial of 50-year-old Timothy Tyrone Foster, who entered a not guilty plea to charges of murder and burglary. A date in mid-June has been set as the deadline for both sides to file motions in Floyd County Superior Court. Additional hearings could be held before that time.

Foster was sentenced to death for the murder of retired school teacher Queen Madge White during a 1986 burglary at her home at Highland Circle - he was 18 at the time.

The 79-year-old White was first found by her sister the morning after the incident. She had a broken jaw and a gash on top of her head, and had been molested before being strangled to death.

In May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Foster's conviction on the grounds of black jurors being excluded from his original trial. Then-district attorney Steve Lanier struck off all 4 black jurors before the trial. By filing an open records request for the prosecutors' trial notes, Foster's lawyers had discovered the exclusion.

"The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

The Georgia Supreme Court had backed a 1987 ruling in Floyd County Superior Court that found Lanier had race-neutral reasons for striking the jurors.

This exclusion offered Foster a path for an appeal, despite him confessing to the crime when police found stolen items from White's house at his own residence.

On Thursday, Judge Billy Sparks read over the unified appeal, hitting each point on a checklist. The defense, led by Christian Lamar of the Georgia Public Defender Council, left its options open for challenges.

Sparks reminded lawyers that even with the re-arraignment of Foster, the case does not begin anew. With both sides still in the discovery stage, Sparks said, "I do realize this is a 30-year-old case and no one has been on this case," as they answered his questions.

Foster is currently being held without bond in Floyd County Jail, which he was moved to from the state's death row in Jackson in March 2017.

(source: Rome News-Tribune)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Supreme Court denies Eric Branch's appeal; execution to take place next week

A final state appeal by death row inmate Eric Branch to stay his execution was denied by the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, paving the way for the execution to take place Feb. 22.

Branch, who is convicted of killing University of West Florida student Susan Morris in 1993, has been on death row since his conviction in 1994.

Circuit Judge Edward P. Nickinson, who also oversaw Branch's jury trial, denied his appeal earlier this month, and Branch then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The basis of the argument was the same in both courts: that Branch's nearly 25 years on death row constituted cruel and unusual punishment and that when he committed the crime at age 21, his cognitive development was still at the level of a juvenile offender and he should have been treated as such.

The state Supreme Court denied both of those claims.

A State Attorney's Office news release issued Wednesday states Branch will most likely appeal that decision to the federal courts, but Wednesday's state Supreme Court opinion concludes the state court appeal process.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

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Former death row inmate seeks release for 1981 double murder in Glades

Nearly 40 years after newlyweds from Miami were fatally shot while on a hunting trip in western Palm Beach County, their anguished family returned to a county courtroom on Thursday to beg a judge not to let the couple's killer go free.

For more than 2 hours, the families of John and Gail Hardeman relived their initial pain of finding out the couple had been murdered and then described the agony that still grips their lives.

"We all have PTSD and we will always have PTSD," Lisa Hardeman Dunn, the youngest of John Hardemanís three siblings, told Circuit Judge Laura Johnson. "The fact that we are here today is unfathomable."

"I'm so broken by this," said Vicki Autorino, the younger sister of Gail Hardeman. "There's no coping. Here I sit all these years later in a prison of my own. I'm tired of coming back to this, coming back to this and coming back to this. It feels like we're being molested."

What brought the family back to court is the couple's killer, Cleo LeCroy. After spending 37 years behind bars, including nearly 2 decades on Florida's death row, LeCroy is trying to take advantage of back-to-back U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down as unconstitutional sentencing juveniles to life with no chance for parole.

While LeCroy is now 54 with glasses and graying hair, he was 17 in January 1981 when he shot John Hardeman, 27, in the head and then shot 24-year-old Gail Hardeman in the head, neck and chest when he met them while his family was on a hunting trip at what was then known as Brown's Farm, about 12 miles south of Belle Glade.

Sexually abused as a child, LeCroy is a poster child for the high court's 2010 and 2012 decisions, said West Palm Beach attorney James Eisenberg, who has been representing LeCroy since 1981.

In its rulings - first outlawing life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who commit crimes other than murder, and later for those who commit murder - the high court said juveniles must be given special consideration because their brains aren't fully developed, which makes them impetuous and unable to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

Most important, Eisenberg said, the court ruled that because their brains are developing, juveniles are amenable to rehabilitation. In state laws passed in response to the high court's decisions, juveniles are entitled to have their sentences reviewed after 25 years to determine whether they are fit to return to society.

Since entering the state prison system in 1986, LeCroy has received only 1 disciplinary reports and none in the past 11 years. Ron McAndrew, a former state prison warden who now works as a consultant, called LeCroy's clean record "extraordinary."

"I may have seen a record this good once before in the last 35 to 36 years," he told Johnson.

Further, LeCroy has worked to better himself, Eisenberg said. He earned his high school diploma and dozens of certificates for completing programs ranging from Bible study to character-building to health classes. "It was a sincere desire to better himself," Eisenberg said, explaining that, unlike other inmates, those serving life sentences don't earn gain time for taking self-improvement classes.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater, like members of the Hardeman couple's family, bristled at the notion that LeCroy should be lauded for taking classes.

"He's already received more breaks than anyone could receive," Slater said. But for a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, LeCroy would likely be dead, he said.

Gov. Bob Martinez in 1990 signed a death warrant for LeCroy. As his appeals made their way through state and federal courts, the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for juveniles. LeCroy's death sentence was immediately commuted to 2 life sentences.

Matthew Hardeman, who was 3 1/2 when his father and stepmother were murdered, could barely speak through sobs as he tried to describe the effect the loss has had on his life. His older brother, Charles, couldn't bear to attend the hearing.

"I hope the court does the right thing and never releases this evil human being back into society," he said in a letter read by his mother, Kathy Nichols, Hardeman's 1st wife.

Struggling to maintain his composure, Hardeman's younger brother, David, echoed his nephew's words. "A lot of people talk about 2nd chances," he said. "Well, he got a 2nd chance. He was supposed to be executed. ... He needs to rot in hell - and that's jail - and never get out."

Johnson said she will schedule another hearing next month to hear legal arguments from the attorneys. Then she will make her decision.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

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Suspects in botched murder-for-hire plot will face death penalty----3 suspects charged with 1st-degree murder

The Orange-Osceola state attorney's office will seek the death penalty against the 3 people accused of being involved in an alleged murder-for-hire plot, according to court records obtained by News 6.

All of the notices have 5 aggravating factors including the capital felony being "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel."

Prosecutor Christopher Smith filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty Wednesday against Glorianmarie Quinones Montes, Alexis Ramos-Rivera and Ishnar Lopez-Ramos.

Investigators say Lopez-Ramos viewed another woman as a romantic rival, so she hired Ramos-Rivera, and his girlfriend Montes to kill the woman.

However, they mistook Janice Zengotita-Torres, 42, of Kissimmee, for the intended victim and killed her instead, according to Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson.

Gibson said the suspects followed Zengotita-Torres after she left work at Ross the night of Jan. 7 and accosted her when she got home. They forced her into the trunk of her own vehicle, officials said.

From there, they went to an apartment near the Mall at Millennia. Deputies said Montes went inside the apartment while Lopez-Ramos and Ramos-Rivera stayed in the vehicle with Zengotita-Torres.

Gibson said that's when Lopez-Ramos and Ramos-Rivera realized they had abducted the wrong person, but decided to continue with their plan.

The suspects tied Zengotita-Torres with zip ties, covered her head with a garbage bag then Ramos-Rivera beat her until she was unconscious, according to authorities.

"The suspects showed no regard for this victim, causing her to die from suffocation because the garbage bags were wrapped around her head," Gibson said.

The suspects drove Zengotita-Torres' vehicle, with her body in it, to Ormond Beach and left her body near the intersection on Bennett Lane where she was found shortly before 9 a.m. Jan. 8 by a Spectrum employee who was doing work in the area, according to officials.

Zengotita-Torres' vehicle was later found in Orange County, Gibson said.

"The heinous murder of one of our own citizens will not be tolerated in Osceola County," Gibson said.

Lopez-Ramos was arrested while using Zengotita-Torres' card to withdraw cash from an ATM in the area, according to authorities. Gibson said she was wearing Zengotita-Torres' clothing when she was arrested.

She confessed and implicated Montes and Ramos-Rivera, who were arrested at a hotel in Orange County.

"All three confirmed that this was a murder-for-hire and that the victim was mistakenly -- again, mistakenly -- targeted and murdered as being the person they thought was the intended victim," Gibson said.

He described Zengotita-Torres as a truly innocent victim who had no involvement with the three suspects. He said she moved to Osceola County from Puerto Rico a year ago and lived with her husband, her 14-year-old son and her mother.

Gibson became emotional when discussing the case with reporters Friday evening. He described it as one of the most bizarre and heinous crimes he's investigated during his time in law enforcement.

"It was just a mistaken identity, I don't say that lightly, that this woman lost her life for no reason. This mother, this wife, this daughter -- for no reason, at all," Gibson said.

Montes, Ramos and Rivera are charged with 1st-degree murder.

The woman who was the intended target of the murder-for-hire plot has been notified about the scheme against her but has denied protective services, deputies said.

All of the defendants had arraignments Thursday.

(source: clickorlando.com)

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Supreme Court upholds death sentence in Leesburg murder

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering a security guard in Leesburg in 2001.

A jury in 2004 unanimously recommended the death penalty for Quawn Franklin, now 40. Franklin was convicted of murdering security guard Jerry Lawley in December 2001. He also confessed to carjacking and murdering a pizza delivery man, John Horan.

Franklin had already been sentenced to 10 years in prison for a robbery in 1993 and was on conditional release when he committed the murders, records show.

"I got scared - paranoid - and I pulled the trigger" on Horan, Franklin told the Orlando Sentinel in a 2002 jailhouse interview. "I never expected it. I was surprised that I did that."

During Franklin's trial, Florida law did not require jurors to be unanimous when recommending a death sentence - a method the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2016. Florida courts have since overturned many non-unanimous death sentences, but the state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Franklin's sentence can stand because his jury was unanimous.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO:

Death penalty indictment filed for suspect in kidnapping, rape, and murder of Rachael Anderson

The Franklin County Prosecutor says a death penalty indictment has been filed against 53-year-old Anthony Pardon, who is suspected of raping and killing 24-year-old Rachael Anderson.

Pardon, a registered sex offender, faces charges including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and rape. The indictment also includes a combination of several specifications, according to the prosecutor's office: Felony murder (death penalty specifications), repeat attempted murder, sexually violent predator, and repeat violent offender specifications.

The repeat violent offender specifications in the indictment are based on a prior aggravated robbery, rape and attempted murder conviction from 1982, according to the prosecutor's office.

Anderson, an aspiring funeral director, was found dead in the closet of her apartment the day after her 24th birthday.

She was nearing the end of her apprenticeship at the Shaw-Davis Funeral Homes at the time of her death. She was also on the verge of becoming the business' 1st funeral director not from the Shaw family.

(source: WCMH news)

INDIANA:

Court rules against death row inmate Roy Lee Ward

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion Tuesday upholding a lower court's dismissal of a complaint filed by death row inmate Roy Lee Ward.

Ward had challenged procedures followed by the Indiana Department of Correction when they announced a change to the lethal injection protocol. Ward, who was from the Perry County town of Leopold, was 29 when he raped and murdered 15-year-old Stacy Payne at her Dale-area home.

In May 2014, the Department of Correction announced it would alter the 3-drug combination used for executions, replacing sodium thiopental with Brevital - a barbituate anesthetic in the same class.

On Dec. 22, 2015, Roy Lee Ward filed a complaint in the LaPorte Circuit Court against the Department of Correction alleging that the change to the lethal injection protocol violated his rights under the Indiana Administrative Rules and Procedures Act, among other rights. The trial court in LaPorte County granted the state's request to dismiss the complaint, a decision that was later reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals before winding up in the Indiana Supreme Court.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Christopher Goff, the Court held that the Department of Correction's lethal injection procedures do not constitute rules and are exempt from the rule-making restrictions of the ARPA. Since the Department's lethal injection protocol does not require Ward to alter his conduct in any way, it does not have the effect of law, the court wrote.

Ward, 45, remains on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City where he has been since 2007.

He was first convicted and sentenced to death in 2002, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 2004 because of pretrial publicity. Ward was retried, convicted and again sentenced to death in 2007. His convictions and sentence have thus far been affirmed on appeal in courts.

Spencer County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Wilkinson said he was pleased with the latest ruling.

"There is bitter irony in Roy Ward arguing against the method to be used in his execution," Wilkinson said. "Having been involved in the 1st trial and serving as co-counsel in the re-trial, I will never be able to forget the horrific images of what he did to Stacy Payne nor the innocent life he so coldly and brutally took away from her in July 2001.

"During the 2nd trial, Ward's own psychological expert testified that he was a psychopath incapable of feeling empathy or remorse. I am pleased that this particular hurdle to imposition of Ward's sentence has now been removed."

Having exhausted all of the normal appeals, Wilkinson said, it is his understanding is that the Department of Correction will proceed developing their new lethal injection protocol at which time the Indiana Supreme Court will set Ward's execution date.

"If there is only 1 case or 1 defendant where the death penalty is called for," Wilkinson said, "this is that case."

(source: duboiscountyherald.com)

TENNESSEE:

Attorney general: Tennessee should set 8 executions before June 1, when drug availability becomes 'uncertain'

The Tennessee attorney general wants the state Supreme Court to schedule 8 death sentences before June 1, when the availability of lethal injection drugs would become "uncertain."

The proposed ramp up in Tennessee executions signals a potentially massive shift for a state that hasn't put someone to death since 2009.

"Years of delay between sentencing and execution undermines confidence in our criminal justice system," Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in a court document filed Thursday.

"Because there is no legal basis to deny or further delay the setting of new execution dates in these cases, the State of Tennessee requests that the court set the executions in these cases for dates before June 1, 2018."

In 2017, the general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Correction said the state did not have the drugs needed to carry out an execution but could get them if they were needed.

"The state, through the Department of Correction, is required by law to carry out executions by lethal injection; however, its ability to do so after June 1, 2018 is uncertain due to the ongoing difficulty in obtaining the necessary lethal injection chemicals," reads the statement from the office of the attorney general.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Barbara Peck confirmed the high court received Slatery's filing.

"In all of these cases, previous execution dates have been set and the defendants have completed the 3-tier appeals process: direct appeal, post-conviction relief, and federal habeas corpus. The motion will be reviewed and the court will issue an order with its decision," Peck said Thursday afternoon.

Controversies around the country show a three-drug combination Tennessee is prepared to use may leave witnesses scarred and death row offenders in pain - and alive.

Documents obtained in January by the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee show the state has a new protocol for what drugs it will use to put inmates to death. A supplier of those drugs also warned the state they may not actually stop inmates from feeling pain before they die, according to emails also obtained.

The issues already prompted a legal challenge and will likely spur death penalty critics to characterize the use of the drugs as unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Lethal injection is the primary means of carrying out the death penalty in Tennessee, although the electric chair is also legal. The state had used pentobarbital, a barbituate, but manufacturers have largely stopped selling the drug to anyone using it for executions.

In January, the Supreme Court and Tennessee Department of Correction confirmed 3 execution dates had been set for 2018.

2 of the inmates have additional avenues for appeal, while the 3rd - a Knox County man who has spent more than 3 decades on death row - has fewer remaining paths to avert execution this year.

That man - Billy Ray Irick, a 59-year-old convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl - is set to be executed Aug. 9.

The 8 inmates referenced in Slatery's court request are:

Donnie Johnson, Shelby County: Convicted in 1985 of killing his wife.

Stephen Michael West, Union County: Convicted in 1987 of kidnapping, rape and murder.

Edmund Zagorski, Robertson County: Convicted in 1984 of murdering 2 people.

Leroy Hall, Hamilton County: Convicted in 1992 of murder and aggravated arson.

Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, Davidson County: Convicted in 1987 of murder.

Charles Walton Wright, Davidson County: Convicted in 1985 of 2 murders.

Nicholas Todd Sutton, Morgan County: Convicted in 1986 of murder.

David Earl Miller, Knox County: Convicted in 1982 of murder.

There are 60 people on death row in Tennessee.

(source: The Tennessean)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma Court Overturns Death Sentence for Convicted Killer

An appeals court has overturned the death sentence given to a 30-year-old man convicted of hiring someone to kill his estranged, pregnant wife.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals handed down the decision Thursday to Fabion Brown, who represented himself during a trial in Oklahoma County where he was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 2012 killings of his wife, Jessica Brown, and her fetus.

The court upheld the convictions but set aside the death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. The court ruled Brown wasn't aware of his rights when he refused to be represented by an attorney during the penalty phase of his trial.

Brown's appellate attorneys, Bobby Lewis and Jamie Pybas, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

(source: Associated Press)

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Jurors choose death penalty for Bethany man who fatally beat his ex-girlfriend's 2-year-old son

Jurors Thursday chose death as punishment for a remorseless Bethany man who fatally beat his ex-girlfriend's 2-year-old son while babysitting in 2015.

The Oklahoma County jurors reached their decision in only 1 hour.

Dustin Melvin Davison, 25, showed no reaction as District Judge Cindy Truong announced the verdict. Davison hung his head as deputies handcuffed him and escorted him from the courtroom.

Afterward, relatives of the victim, Kreedin Paul Brooks, cried and embraced outside the courtroom. With tears in her eyes, the child's mother, Jennifer Young, also gave long hugs to the prosecutors.

"It's just a tragic, tragic case. This child suffered an indescribably painful and horrific death. And justice was done today," Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger told The Oklahoman.

Gieger said Davison has shown no remorse.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the jury made note of that and that factored into their decision," the prosecutor said.

Jurors also learned that Davison, while in jail awaiting trial, had the victim's name and the word "autopsy" tattooed on his right arm.

On Monday, the jury found Davison guilty of 1st-degree murder in the fatal beating. On Thursday, jurors chose the death sentence on grounds that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, and that Davison would be a continuing threat to society.

"On May 18, 2015, Dustin Davison made the choice to brutally beat a 2-year-old child to death," Assistant District Attorney Kelly Collins told the jury during closing arguments Thursday.

Collins then said she'll never know how many times Davison punched or beat the boy that day.

"But what we do know is the extent of Kreedin Brooks' injuries," the prosecutor said.

The child had a skull fracture, brain bleeding, a broken jawbone and 49 bruises below the neck.

After his arrest, Davison gave a dozen different accounts to investigators of how the child became injured in his care. Jurors were shown those recorded interrogations during the trial.

In one story, he said the boy was injured during a pillow fight. In another, he said the child fell off a 2nd-story balcony while he was sleeping. At one point, Davison even confesses to slamming the child's head to the floor.

Davison also testified during the trial, telling a 13th story about what happened. He testified a friend he sold drugs to beat the boy to death inside a Bethany apartment he shared with his ex-girlfriend. He claimed the friend killed the boy while he was high on meth in the bathroom.

There was no evidence of meth, a drug transaction or the friend at the apartment that day, according to prosecutors.

Even though the couple had broken up, Davison agreed to babysit Kreedin while Young was at work. Prosecutors alleged Davison may have beaten the child because he was angry Young was dating again.

During closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Melanie Freeman-Johnson told the jury that Davison's actions that day were "out of the blue." She also said Davison wasn't in his right mind.

"No one saw anything like this coming," Freeman-Johnson said. "It's not who he is. There was something going on with him. Something was infecting him."

The defense attorney urged the jury not to choose the death penalty, calling the punishment "inappropriate" for the case.

(source: The Oklahoman)

ARIZONA:

Death Penalty Not Sought in Trial of Arizona Girl's Murder----State prosecutors say they're no longer seeking the death penalty for a man charged with killing an 8-year-old girl in Bullhead City in 2014.

The death penalty is no longer being sought for a man charged with killing an 8-year-old girl in Bullhead City, state prosecutors said Thursday.

In a motion filed in Mohave County Superior Court, prosecutors withdrew the state's notice to seek the death penalty for Justin James Rector but said they still intend to seek a 1st-degree murder conviction whenever his long-delayed trial is held.

Rector, of Bullhead City, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body in the September 2014 death of Isabella Grogan-Cannella.

Authorities say he strangled the girl. Her partially clothed body was found in a shallow grave near her Bullhead City home.

A police detective testified in a 2016 court hearing for Rector that there also was evidence the girl was sexually assaulted.

Prosecutors said last year that case has been stalled because the defense failed to provide Rector's mental health records and its completed witness interviews.

Rector's former lead defense attorney also withdrew from the case in July 2017 after becoming aware of an ethical conflict of interest.

Prosecutors, who filed their intent to seek the death penalty against Rector in November 2014, said there were many reasons for their decision to withdraw it.

"The anticipated soonest trial date in this case will be 10 years after the events charged," County Attorney Matthew Smith wrote, adding there was "no realistic speedy resolution" for the families of the victim or the tight-knit community.

Smith said that even if the state was successful in the death penalty phase, "there is no reasonable likelihood of the death penalty actually being imposed in a realistic and efficient timeframe given the current state of affairs surrounding persons sentenced to death."

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Man gets death penalty in California homeless camp murders

A gang member has been sentenced to death for murdering 5 people at a Southern California homeless camp in 2008 and a separate killing.

City News Service says the penalty imposed Thursday on 37-year-old David Cruz Ponce was recommended by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in October.

2 women and 3 men were found shot to death in November 2008 at a homeless camp in Long Beach. The killings remained unsolved until police announced arrests in 2012 and said the motive was drug debts owed by 1 victim to Ponce.

Co-defendant Max Eliseo Rafael was also convicted in the camp killings and was sentenced earlier this year to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Ponce was also convicted of murdering a man in Lancaster in 2009.

(source: Associated Press)

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Gang member sentenced to death for mass killing at Long Beach homeless camp, Lancaster execution

A Watts gang member was sentenced to death Thursday morning for murdering 6 people, including 5 victims at a Long Beach homeless encampment more than 9 years ago in what became one of the city's worst mass killings.

David Ponce, 38, stayed silent during his hearing, only looking over at his family and saying "Love you guys," as he was led into the courtroom.

As she handed down the sentence, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo said Ponce's embrace of a gang lifestyle led him down a perilous, and ultimately deadly, path.

"All the people you murdered, regardless of their station in life, had hopes, dreams, loves and family," she said.

During trial, Olmedo heard Ponce describe the killings in his own words when prosecutors played recordings of him and a co-defendant bragging about the murders behind bars.

On Thursday, Olmedo referenced those tapes, telling Ponce that his crimes were horrific.

"And your glee in the number and manner of each victim's demise is distorted and shocking," Olmedo said.

In September, jurors convicted Ponce and 32-year-old Max Rafael of murdering 44-year-old Lorenzo Villicana, 24-year-old Katherine Verdun, 34-year-old Vanessa Malaepule, 53-year-old Frederick Neumeier and 41-year-old Hamid "Sammy" Shraifat in Long Beach on Nov. 1, 2008.

On that night, Ponce and Rafael, who were both members of the Nuthood Watts gang, were looking specifically for Villicana at the encampment, which was tucked into the brush near Santa Fe Avenue and the 405 Freeway, authorities said.

After executing Villicana, the gang members killed the 4 others simply because they witnessed what happened, Deputy District Attorney Cyndi Barnes said.

Ponce was also convicted of a 6th murder.

"Because 5 was not enough he decided he needed to kill again," Barnes said as trial began in September.

Jurors found him guilty of executing 18-year-old Tony Bledsoe around the Lancaster area in March 2009.

Prosecutors said Bledsoe had been selling marijuana for Ponce but when he missed a payment, Ponce kidnapped him and shot him in the desert where he left his body.

The recordings of Ponce and Rafael behind bars ended up being key evidence at their trial.

Investigators had a jailhouse informant begin making the recordings after the 2 men were arrested in 2010 on charges unrelated to the killings, authorities said.

In 1 of the tapes, Ponce says they went to the homeless encampment in 2008 because Villicana had "turned state's evidence against his homie," according to prosecutors.

In another recording, 1 of the defendants describes how he shot someone that night.

"I hit his ass like 6 times, fool," a voice on the tape says. "I emptied a whole clip out. I had an 18-shot clip, 17 shot."

At trial, Ponce's attorney argued he was lying in the recordings. Ponce was falsely bragging to try to gain status behind bars, according to defense attorney Robert Schwartz.

The informant also plied Ponce with pruno, a jailhouse-brewed alcohol, Schwartz argued.

Prosecutors countered this by saying Ponce described the killings accurately and in detail.

In Bledsoe's case, Ponce said he made the 18-year-old get into a praying position before shooting him in the back of the head, prosecutors said.

The damage authorities found in Bledsoe's skull matched Ponce's description of the wounds, according to Barnes.

After hearing the evidence and convicting both men, a jury recommended Ponce receive the death penalty.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty for Rafael, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in January.

There are only 2 other times in Long Beach's history that as many as 5 people have been killed during a single crime, according to police:

-- On Dec. 4, 1985, 5 people died in a blaze set at an apartment complex in the 1300 block of Peterson Avenue. Police determined it was arson, but who started the fire remains unsolved.

-- On Oct. 28, 1993, 5 people were shot and killed during a robbery at a home in the 200 block of E. 68th Street, according to police. Police took the suspected gunman into custody the next year.

(source: Press-Telegram)

WASHINGTON:

Proposal to eliminate the death penalty passes the state Senate

A bill to eliminate the death penalty in Washington state is a step closer to being signed into law.

SB 6052 passed by a slim majority vote 26-22 that came just before the cutoff deadline, Wednesday, Feb. 14 at midnight to move bills out of their legislative chamber of origin.

"I have no sympathy for people who kill people, that is not why I'm doing this," said Senator Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, one of the bill's sponsors during floor debate. "My motivation is simply that this is flawed policy."

As justification for the bill, Walsh pointed to inequality between large and small counties in their ability to pursue death penalty cases and instances where innocent people who were wrongly sentenced have been put to death. She also argued that some families of victims do not receive vindication from capital punishment.

Before the final vote, the bill went through dramatic procedural gymnastics.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane introduced an amendment that would have allowed the voters to decide whether or not the death penalty should be repealed. Senators ultimately voted against this amendment.

2 other amendments by Padden and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-Battle Ground, were rejected during the bill's discussion.

Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Cyrus Habib ruled that the amendments weren't relevant to the bill, and therefore couldn't be voted on.

One amendment brought by Padden would have made an exception to keep the death penalty for those who kill a law enforcement officer. Another amendment brought by Rivers would have allowed the person, once found guilty of aggravated 1st-degree murder, to choose whether or not they want to die.

Several Republicans argued that maintaining the death penalty for those who kill police officers is necessary to maintain the rule of law.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, cited 4 officers who were killed in a shooting in Lakewood in November, 2009, while Sen. Randi Becker, R-Enumclaw, said that officers are increasingly at risk in rural counties. "It's open season on officers," she said.

Sen. O'Ban argued that with eliminating the death penalty there would be a "loss of order and respect for the rule of law."

The decision garnered bitter reactions from some Republicans. Senator Mark Schoesler, R-Spokane, objected to Habib's ruling to not hold a vote on the latter 2 amendments.

"I'm disappointed our debate on this issue was stifled today," he said.

Schoesler also raised concerns over the judiciary's ability to maintain sentences. "I have no trust in the judiciary that life without parole means life without parole."

Lt. Gov. Habib and Senator Mark Miloscia, R-Auburn, both wore a cross on their foreheads to mark Ash Wednesday, the 1st day of Lent in Catholicism.

"Coincidentally this is Ash Wednesday when we are supposed to reflect on our sins," Miloscia said. "I firmly believe that despite the evils people commit to each other, we must forgive them."

Bills to eliminate the death penalty have been introduced in the Legislature over recent years, but have never made it far.

In 2014, Governor Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on capital punishment, sparing 8 people.

"There has been growing, bipartisan support for ending Washington's death penalty, and the Senate today voted to do just that," Inslee wrote in a press release. "I hope Washington joins the growing number of states that are choosing to end the death penalty."

"It is unfairly administered; expensive; and unavailable in wide swaths of our state," Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said of capital punishment in a press release.

"Those convicted of aggravated 1st-degree murder should die in prison with no hope of parole. The taxpayers do not need to spend millions of dollars to hasten that death."

As former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Pedersen held the 1st hearing on a death penalty elimination bill in the House of Representatives in 2013, according to the release.

The bill now moves over to the state House, where it has until Feb. 23 to get passed out of committee.

One of the legislation's sponsors, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said after the vote that he is optimistic that it will be approved by the House. "I think there's substantial support," he said. "Many Republicans are openly advocating this position and I think the votes are there ... I'm optimistic that it's going to floor."

(source: Bainbridge Island Review)

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Washington State Takes Crucial Step Toward Abolishing the Death Penalty

The Washington state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban the death penalty, leading the state one step closer to ending the practice for good.

As the Seattle Times reports, the bill passed the Democratic-led Senate with bipartisan support. The measure would strike the death penalty from being considered as a sentencing option for aggravated murder. If the bill passes, the harshest sentence in the state would instead be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The measure now heads to the Statehouse, which has a 2-person Democratic majority.

Thanks to Gov. Jay Inslee, there has been a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington since 2014.

Lawmakers cited the cost of maintaining the death penalty and incidences of wrongful convictions as reasons to abolish capital punishment. According to the Times, one Seattle University study from 2015 found that death-penalty cases in Washington "cost $1 million more than similar cases where capital punishment [was] not sought."

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, said the vote was a reflection of the publicís evolution on capital punishment.

"You cannot read a front-page story about DNA mistakes that has someone in jail for 35 years and not be jolted to the core," Carlyle said, according to the Times. "That has transformed the public's view of this issue."

In Washington, as in other parts of the country, capital punishment disproportionately affects black defendants.

One 2015 study found that jurors in Washington state were 3 times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than a white one - despite the fact that prosecutors were slightly more likely to seek the death penalty against white defendants. This unequal application of the punishment was among the reasons Gov. Inslee instilled the moratorium.

If the bill passes in the Statehouse, Washington will join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in ridding themselves of the death penalty. 3 other states aside from Washington - Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania - currently have moratoriums on the practice.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

New bill would give federal prosecutors a do-over for the death penalty

During the latest budget debate in Congress, 4 Republican senators - Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas - introduced a bill that is intended to give federal prosecutors who fail to convince a jury to impose a death sentence the legal equivalent of a do-over.

The bill would "require the impaneling of a new jury if a jury fails to recommend by unanimous vote a sentence for conviction of a crime punishable by death." Current federal law requires that a jury verdict of death in a capital trial be unanimous. If 12 jurors cannot agree on a sentence, the defendant is automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The bill is called Eric's Law for Eric Williams, a corrections officer savagely murdered by an inmate at the federal prison in Canaan, Penn., in 2013. Williams' killer (already sentenced to life on state charges) was tried and convicted of capital murder. When the jury could not agree, he was sentenced by the court to life without parole, sometimes called "pine box life" in courthouses because that's how the inmate will leave prison. Williams' murderer is currently serving his sentence in a 7-by-12 foot concrete cell at the federal supermax facility outside Florence, Colo., where he is confined 23 hours a day, and where he will die.

Appreciating the folly of this bill requires an understanding of how juries are selected for capital trials. In order to be seated, each juror must be "death qualified." That means that several hundred people complete an exhaustive questionnaire and are then examined in court by the prosecution and defense. To be "death qualified," the court must find that the juror would give fair consideration to a death sentence or life without parole. That process rarely takes less than 2 weeks and often much longer. In 2015 the federal capital trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (1 of the Boston Marathon bombers), jury selection took nearly 2 months and involved an initial pool of 1,373 registered voters to select 18 death-qualified jurors and alternates before the trial could begin.

Cruz said in a press release that the bill will "prevent further miscarriages of justice" and equated the life-without-parole sentence with "allowing [Williams'] murderer to essentially go unpunished for his crime." If enacted into law, the Senate bill will face serious constitutional hurdles while raising stark questions of fundamental fairness and due process. But those who believe Eric's Law will lead to more frequent executions for federal capital convictions will be disappointed. Giving prosecutors a 2nd chance to convince 12 jurors to impose a death sentence will only make a broken federal death penalty system substantially more expensive.

The statistics tell the real story. The current federal death penalty statute was signed into law in 1988. As of the 1st quarter of 2017, the Department of Justice sought death in 233 jury trials, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. These trials resulted in a total of 76 defendants sentenced to death. But the most notable number that should be considered by the Senators is 3. That number - 3 - is the total federal executions in the past 30 years and includes Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who effectively volunteered for execution by dropping his appeals. The last federal execution took place in March 2003.

Legal scholars offer no clear reason, despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars over 30 years, why federal death sentences are almost never executed. But the cost of a federal capital prosecution is extraordinary. A 2010 report to the Judicial Conference of the U.S. concluded that the average cost of the trial defense alone in a federal death case is $620,932, or about 8 times the $76,665 expended in federal murder cases in which death is not sought. The judge in Timothy McVeigh's case calculated the trial cost to be more than $13.8 million - in 1997 dollars. Just the expense of security for the 2015 Tsarnaev trial in Boston generated more than $750,000 in police overtime. By comparison, the annual cost of incarceration of a federal inmate is less than $32,000 per year.

Giving prosecutors the opportunity to double-down for death - when they cannot convince a jury on their 1st try - will only add to the cost of a system that can never really work. The truth, as the federal budget deficit is pushed ever higher, is the bill will do what its sponsors would vigorously oppose in any other context: Expand another failed government program.

(source: Commentary: Mark MacDougall is a partner in Washington D.C. with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and a former federal prosecutor. Abigail Kohlman is an associate with Akin Gump in Washington----Dallas Morning News)

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New charges to be announced in MS-13 gang case; death penalty could come into play

A 2nd superseding indictment returned Thursday charges 23 individuals alleged to be members and associates of the Columbus clique of MS-13 in a racketeering conspiracy.

The most recent indictment includes crimes that could make some of the defendants eligible for the death penalty.

The Department of Justice in Columbus will hold a press conference to announce the charges at 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In January the 1st superseding indictment was released, charging a total of 23 defendants.

(source: 10TV.com)

UNITED ARAB EMIRARES:

Man accused of killing wife with acid sentenced to death in UAE----He poured acid on her body in front of three of their children.

A husband, who was accused of killing his wife by throwing acid on her because the woman wanted to divorce him, has been sentenced to death.

The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance handed down the verdict to the Emirati man after the woman's family refused to pardon the killer in exchange for blood money and insisted that the man be given the death penalty.

According to court documents, the Emirati mother of 6 filed for divorce after discovering the man had married for the 2nd time.

The divorce was not finalised as he was in prison at that time for drug-related crime and for issuing bad cheques.

Upon his release in February 2016, the man went to the home of his 1st wife and confronted her, accusing her of adultery.

The man allegedly checked his wife's phone for proofs for her extramarital relation, but when he could not find anything, he poured acid on her body in front of three of their children.

The couple's eldest son, now 17, and his younger brother also suffered burns while trying to rescue their mother. However, they managed to call the ambulance that took her to hospital.

The woman was admitted to Al Mafraq hospital before being flown to Germany to be treated by a burns expert but later died of her injuries.

She suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70 % of her body.

Her family had also filed a temporary civil compensation suit against the man, demanding Dh200,000 in damages suffered because of the death of their relative and burns to the children.

Authorities said that while at the Al Wathba jail, the man had attempted to commit suicide twice by hanging himself, using clothes of other inmates.

The death sentence can be appealed within 14 days after the issuance of the ruling.

(source: Khaleej Times)

IRAN----executions

Mass Execution of 10 Prisoners and Mock Execution of 3 Others

In a situation where the waves of nationwide uprising and the wave of social protests shake, the foundations of the mullahs' regime, and the Iranian people unanimously demand overthrown of this criminal and ominous system, Khamenei is trying to delay his doomed regime by intensifying killings and executions.

On Wednesday morning, February 14th, the regime's executioners hanged 10 prisoners collectively in a gruesome crime in Gohardasht Prison. The prisoners had been transferred to solitary confinement cells the day before awaiting their death sentence. One of the executed was an Afghan citizen.

The executioners laid 13 prisoners on the execution platform and put nooses around their neck. However, after observing the execution of 10 of their cell-mates, 3 of them were brought down and taken to their cells while they were not even able to talk after watching such a disturbing scene.

While expressing its deep disgust at this terrible crime and sympathizing with the executed families, the Iranian Resistance calls on the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to take immediate and effective action to stop executions in Iran. Trade with this savage regime should be conditional on the improvement of the human rights situation, and the leaders of this regime should face justice for crimes against humanity.

Iranian Resistance urges all people, especially the youth, to protest against the executions and support the families of the victims. These terrible crimes will not cure any problem for this falling regime, and it only adds to the anger of the people and their determination to overthrow this criminal system.

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

ZAMBIA:

Reinstatement of the death penalty attracts public support---- Move on death penalty rages on.

After an Alex News article Move to revive death penalty in Week ending 12 January was published, the local community radio station was inundated with calls from victims which sparked a debate.

According to activist and convener, Mike Beea, the debate on the reinstatement of the death penalty attracted a lot of public support.

Beea said public debates on the topic also launched in Diepsloot, Tembisa and Rabie Ridge, and will soon go countrywide and will result in a petition to the government.

"The death penalty is the only deterrent to a crime culture that has normalised in our society - particularly violent killings which subject the victims to an 'official death penalty'. This also causes the public to lose trust in the rule of law," he said.

"It's an effective deterrent in neighbouring countries and elsewhere where murder is rare."

He claimed that criminal cases fizzle out before getting to court, victims were intimidated into not reporting the crimes, and witnesses were discouraged because people believe criminals are not apprehended or they receive lenient sentences.

He said the dependents of murder victims were left traumatised for life and not compensated, leaving them impoverished while the perpetrators were released to roam the streets and intimidate them.

"The petition is society demanding the protection of their constitutional right to life, freedom of expression and movement, against criminals who know they will be treated well in prison," Beea added.

"Also, it will be the public's contribution to a Constitution ratified by political parties without a referendum, where essential aspects like a harsh penalty for violent crimes would have been considered."

He attributed crime to the many guns in circulation, saying they were introduced in black communities by the previous regime to incite black on black violence to protect that regime's interests.

He added that the current government has no clue on how to control the glut of guns, even among children.

"Criminals from countries with death penalties flock to the country knowing they will be treated well with taxpayers' money and won't be extradited nor will their governments be asked to care for them while in local prisons."

Beea also blamed poor investigations, saying this led to hardcore criminals being released to continue terrorising victims' dependents, even when there were protection orders against them.

He said the correctional services' rehabilitation programme failed young offenders by placing them with hardened criminals, resulting in them re-offending. He added that they also find out how to access heavy weapons and explosives, which destroy the economy, leaving many unemployed.

He urged for more stringent regulations on ownership of both guns and knives; and for public awareness programmes on the constitutional right to life, freedom and movement.

Shirley Mathaga of Alex FM, said the debate aired after the article attracted responses from orphans and widows of crime who called in and complained about struggling with trauma and poverty and living in fear of the perpetrators being released back into society without their knowledge or protection by the state.

Parents are also worried about escalating gangsterism in schools.

Activist Bhekumuzi Mathonsi urged for the revival of discipline in families, educating children on their constitutional rights and responsibilities; and he called for the right to life to include anti-abortion, with a drive for those seeking abortions to rather be encouraged to opt for foster care and adoption.

(source: alexnews.co.za)

FEBRUARY 15, 2018:

TEXAS----new execution date and impending execution

San Antonio lovers' lane killer gets 4th execution date in less than a year

A San Antonio killer this month was handed his 4th execution date in less than a year.

Juan Castillo, who was sent to death row for his role in a 2003 lovers' lane slaying, is now slated to die by lethal injection on May 16, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Last year, his string of death dates were called off for everything from Hurricane Harvey to a witness who recanted.

But before the setting of the most recent date, defense attorneys say they never got to weigh in.

Instead, when the appeals court bounced the case back to the trial court in November to examine false testimony claims, prosecutors filed a brief - and the judge decided against Castillo one day later, according to court filings.

"It's really unusual and strange," said Amanda Marzullo, executive director of Texas Defender Services, which is representing Castillo. "It's a clear due process violation."

The Bexar County District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 36-year-old condemned man was originally convicted in 2005 of killing teenage rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. during a botched robbery.

Castillo's then-girlfriend lured the targeted man to a secluded spot with the promise of sex and drugs. But while the 2 were making out in his Camaro, Castillo and another man attacked.

Wearing ski masks and carrying weapons, they dragged Garcia from the car - and Castillo shot him 7 times in the process.

Castillo was 1 of 4 people convicted in the crime, but the only one hit with a capital sentence. During the punishment phase, he represented himself.

He was found guilty on what would have been his victim's 21st birthday.

Last May, he was scheduled for execution, but saw the date cancelled after prosecutors failed to give 90 days notice to the defense. In September, he was scheduled to die, but the date was pushed back again, this time in light of the impacts of Hurricane Harvey.

Then in November, his December execution date was canceled and his case remanded to the trial court in light of claims of false testimony from a jailhouse snitch.

"I described what Juan Castillo supposedly told me about the capital murder," former Bexar County inmate Gerardo Gutierrez wrote in 2013, according to court records. "Juan Castillo never told me this information about this capital murder case. This testimony was untrue about Juan Castillo. I made up this testimony to try to help myself."

Although prosecutors argued that appeals based on the 2013 revelation were procedurally barred and not credible, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals looked to a 2009 decision mandating that - whether or not it's intentional - the use of false testimony violates due process. Accordingly, on Nov. 28, the appeals court sent the case back to Bexar County.

There, the trial court on Dec. 1 decided that Gutierrez's testimony wasn't what made the difference in Castillo's conviction, as everything he testified to matched statements from other witnesses. The decision came one day after the judge voluntarily recused himself and was replaced.

Although the prosecution was able to file its recommended findings before the court ruled, the defense was not able to do the same.

Now, Castillo's defense has plans to file a motion for reconsideration, Marzullo said.

The next scheduled execution in Texas is Thomas "Bart" Whitaker, a Sugar Land man convicted in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his own family. If his appeals fail, the 38-year-old will be the fourth Texas man executed this year.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----30

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----548

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

31----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------549

32----------Mar. 27----------------Rosendo Rodriguez III--550

33----------Apr. 25----------------Erick Davila-----------551

34----------May 16-----------------Juan Castillo----------552

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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Death Watch: Justice for Whom?----Kent Whitaker never wanted execution for his son

Thomas Whitaker is up for execution next Thursday, Feb. 22. Whitaker, 38, was convicted of capital murder for conspiring to kill his brother and parents in December of 2003. He had arranged for his family to go out to dinner. When they returned home, a gunman was set up in their house. Chris Brashear shot and killed Whitaker's mother and brother; his father, Kent, was shot in the chest but survived. Fort Bend County prosecutors secured a life sentence for Brashear but sought the death penalty for Whitaker, who they said concocted the plan to collect on a 7-figure inheritance - a figure Kent Whitaker maintains was sharply exaggerated and beside the point; his son had been suffering from mental illness.

Whitaker has lived a relatively consequential life in the last 5 years on death row. In 2013, he filed a joint lawsuit with Michael Yowell and Perry Williams that questioned the purity of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's then-current stock of pentobarbital (the state's execution drug of choice). The case was originally dismissed for Whitaker and Williams because neither had been issued an execution warrant at the time. (Yowell was also unsuccessful, and executed with the state's 1st known dosage of compounded pentobarbital.) But in 2015, the Attorney General's Office agreed the state should retest Whitaker and Williams' doses shortly before their executions. The next summer, Williams saw his execution date withdrawn after the state failed to procure test results on his dosage (or that's what the TDCJ told the general public). Meanwhile, Whitaker's case is currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices are set to conference on Feb. 23, 1 day after his scheduled execution. Whitaker will request a stay to allow the justices time to conference.

Whitaker is currently represented in those efforts by Maurie Levin, and on clemency by James Rytting and Austin attorney Keith Hampton. In January, Hampton and Rytting filed a request with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on the specific grounds that Kent Whitaker never wanted his son to be executed (indeed, he lobbied for a life sentence at trial) and would not be brought any form of closure, healing, or justice through his surviving son's execution.

Texas has already killed 3 people this year, including William Rayford and John Battaglia over the past 3 weeks. Whitaker would be the 4th. There are 2 more inmates on the Huntsville calendar at this time: Rosendo Rodriguez III on March 27 and Erick Davila on April 25.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

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Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions----Earlier this month, defense lawyers claimed Texas was botching its executions with old drugs. Now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire.

The cloud of secrecy surrounding Texas executions has grown a little darker lately.

After death penalty defense lawyers claimed the state's first 2 executions of the year were botched because of old lethal injection drugs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of public information regarding the state's supply of lethal doses. Without providing a reason, the department told a Texas Tribune reporter last week that it would take an estimated 20 business days - until the day before the state's next scheduled execution - to provide information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire.

In the past, the records have been provided in 1/2 the time, and even that could be unlawful. The Texas Attorney General's Office handbook on the state's public information law says that a governmental body must produce public information promptly, without delay. The handbook says it is a "common misconception" that agencies can wait 10 business days before releasing the information, as the Department of Criminal Justice has regularly done in the past regarding execution drugs.

"There's absolutely no excuse," said Joe Larsen, a lawyer who serves on the board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. "The only reason they're doing it is to cause problems ... to delay the story."

Asked for comment about the prolonged waiting period, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said Wednesday that the department fully complies with the Texas Public Information Act and that inventory logs of execution drugs are expected to be released this week, instead of the previously estimated date of Feb. 21. The Tribune requested the information Jan. 23.

9 days later, lawyers for death row inmate John Battaglia filed a last-minute appeal before his execution claiming that the state's previous 2 executions used old, relabeled drugs for the lethal injection that likely caused 1 inmate to say he felt burning and the other to jerk on the gurney. Clark denied the executions were botched, saying both men lost consciousness almost immediately and were pronounced dead 13 minutes after being injected with pentobarbital, the drug Texas currently uses in executions.

Battaglia lost the appeal, and during his execution he sighed and said, "Oh, here, I feel it," according to The Dallas Morning News.

The defense lawyers said in the appeal that the drugs used this year were more than a year past their "beyond-use date," similar to an expiration date. (The lawyers also claim the beyond-use dates set by the state are "unscientific" and not viable). One batch of drugs was previously set to expire on Jan. 22, but more than a month ago, the drugs were re-tested and given a new expiration date of November, according to the Battaglia appeal. The TDCJ has said it doesn't discuss specifics on the current inventory of its execution drugs, but this testing has happened at least one other time in the past year, since it last reported a purchase of pentobarbital.

According to TDCJ records received by the Tribune last year, drugs set to expire in July were removed from stock, and, on the same day, the same number of vials were added back to the inventory with an expiration date set for exactly one year in the future.

"They haven't gotten any new drugs, and they just appear to keep extending the beyond-use date," said Maurie Levin, one of the lawyers on the Battaglia filing who is involved in multiple lawsuits regarding Texas execution drugs. "The thinking is they're only getting older; it's only going to get worse."

Now, the public release of information on the drugs has been stalled. For a year, the prison system provided inventory logs and expiration dates to the Tribune regularly, releasing the information exactly 10 business days after it was requested, often just before 5 p.m.

Justin Gordon, head of the attorney general's office's open records division, said government bodies can't wait out the clock to release public information. Agencies must release the information "promptly," which in most cases is sooner than 10 days, he said. He said the most common reasons agencies give for a delay is because a large request requires a lot of time and compilation or because the department is handling requests chronologically and has not yet gotten to a request yet, even if it's straightforward.

Gordon said his division hammers home to those who repeatedly wait until the last minute to provide records that they aren't giving good customer service and can't expect requesters to cooperate with them. He said an unnecessary delay "just ends up backfiring, in our experience."

The Tribune filed a complaint to the Attorney General's Office against TDCJ's repeated delays Monday.

State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the chamber's Criminal Justice Committee, said through his chief of staff that he has questioned TDCJ about delays in execution information in the past and that the department has cited security reasons.

The chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee, state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, said he has no reason to believe the department would delay the release out of hostility or without legal advice.

"I don't see any reason why they would purposefully wait until the 11th hour or withhold this unless they have a lawful reason to do it," White said.

A precedent of secrecy

The Tribune has tracked Texas' execution drug supply for about a year while states around the country struggle to find lethal doses to carry out executions. Though there has not been a shortage of drugs reported in Texas in several years, the state is always looking for new doses. The prison system is currently embroiled in a legal fight with the federal government over the attempted overseas import of another drug used in executions.

In 2015, state legislators passed a law to cement an existing practice of shielding the identities of all people involved in executions, from the drug supplier to the one who inserts the needle. In lobbying for the law, the attorney general's office said suppliers reported being threatened by death penalty opponents and wouldn't sell to the state anymore unless their identities were kept confidential. The existence of any such threats has been disputed.

White opposed the new secrecy law, 1 of only 2 Republicans to do so during the 2015 session. He said Tuesday that he wasn't known as a cheerleader for the press, but transparency in government is important. In a statement in the House Journal explaining the reason for his 2015 vote, he said potential threats against drug suppliers do not mean the government can butcher accountability and transparency.

"What if there is an abortion provider or someone connected to an abortion provider doing indigent women's health services that receives threats?" he wrote. "Could they also ask for anonymity?"

The state is now appealing to the Texas Supreme Court lower court decisions that called for the release of supplier information before the secrecy law was enacted. Texas' most recent order of compounded pentobarbital came from an unknown supplier last February, and it's unknown how long the same supplier had been providing drugs to the department.

The most recent records on Texas' inventory came from legal filings from lawyers with clients facing imminent execution. If the drugs set to expire in January were all given a new beyond-use date, there would likely be 12 lethal doses in the state's supply, more than enough for the 4 executions scheduled through May. But that number can't be confirmed because the department has yet to provide the inventory logs.

(source: Texas Tribune)

DELAWARE:

Kathy Jennings running for attorney general----Democrat joins growing field for soon-to-be-vacant seat

As state prosecutor, in 2013, Kathy Jennings helped then-Attorney General Beau Biden craft the 1st draft of a piece of gun legislation that limits access to firearms for those who present a danger to themselves or others.

5 years later, Jennings is now 1 of 3 Democrats who have announced their candidacy for attorney general and Gov. John Carney is supporting the most recent version of the legislation.

"There's no question it's the right bill," Jennings said Jan. 17.

It's still early in the 2018 election cycle, but the race for attorney general is shaping up to be the most interesting statewide competition. Attorney General Matt Denn, a Democrat, announced in August he would not run for re-election in 2018. He has held the position since 2015.

In addition to Jennings, Democrats Timothy Mullaney of Dover and LaKresha Roberts and Chris Johnson, both of Wilmington all say they may seek the seat.

Mullaney is a former U.S. marshal and the Department of Justice chief of staff.

Roberts was Delaware chief deputy attorney general before resigning from her position a couple of days after Jennings to pursue the soon-to-be vacant seat. Johnson is an attorney and voting rights advocate who is running on a platform of justice-based reform.

Wilmington Republican Thomas Neuberger has also expressed interest in the seat.

Neuberger is an attorney and is currently representing the widow of Lt. Steven Floyd Sr. and 5 other prison staff held hostage during a prisoner siege at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in February 2017. Floyd was killed during the siege.

As of Feb. 8, Mullaney was the only person to file election paperwork, which he did Jan. 29.

Jennings, who also served as chief deputy attorney general under former Attorney General Charles Oberly, said she welcomes the field of candidates. It gives everyone an opportunity to focus on the issues, she said.

Jennings said she is in favor of bail reform, because the current cash-based system unfairly targets the poor. She said she's supports House Bill 204, modernizes pretrial detention and bail by reducing reliance on monetary conditions.

Jennings also said people who are sent to prison need to be equipped to make an honest living after their sentence is up.

Jennings said she is not a proponent of the death penalty, but as attorney general she would be required to enforce the law if it were reinstated in Delaware.

In August 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled Delaware's capital punishment law is unenforceable because the law, without a unanimous jury's consent, allows a judge to rule a crime's aggravating circumstance justifies a death sentence.

In May 2017, a bill reinstating the death penalty passed through the House. House Bill 125 would require that a jury must determine unanimously that at least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists before the death penalty can be imposed.

If the General Assembly chooses to reinstate the death penalty, Jennings said she would recommend narrowly defining what crimes would trigger its use.

"The worst of the worst," she said.

The deadline for candidates to file for a statewide office and all other offices is noon, Tuesday, July 10.

The statewide primary election is Thursday, Sept. 6. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is Saturday, Aug. 11.

The statewide general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Saturday, Oct. 13.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Allen hearing focuses on his psychological state

A hearing for death-row inmate Scott Allen continued Tuesday with testimony by expert psychologists.

The defense hopes to get Allen's death sentence reduced to life in prison by showing that mitigating circumstances presented in the original trial in 2003, when he was sentenced by a jury to the death penalty, were inadequate.

Allen was convicted of the July 1999 murder of Chris Gailey on a secluded trail in the Uwharrie National Forest. Smith's 1-time girlfriend, Vanessa Smith, had been arrested along with Allen, but she testified against him under an agreement with the prosecution in exchange for her own murder charge to be dropped.

Monday's defense witnesses had attempted to throw doubt on Smith's credibility, portraying her as abusive toward Allen, becoming vindictively jealous when he began dating another women.

Taking the stand Tuesday during the hearing, presided over by Superior Court Judge Brad Long, were Dr. John Warren, an examining psychologist, and Dr. Kris Herfkens, a neuropsychologist. Both said their evaluations of Allen showed a man with no major mental disorders but who had used poor judgment in some of his life decisions.

Warren told Nick Vlahos, assistant N.C. attorney general who heads the prosecution in the hearing, that he "didn't have information (on Allen) for a nexus between a personality disorder and capital murder." He also described Allen as "an average 30-year-old male with no problems with major mental disorders. He used poor judgment ... suggested by his history ... (such as) drug abuse with cannabis by his history that was in remission by incarceration." Warren also ruled out any personality disorder.

Herfkens testified that she found Allen to have ADD (attention deficit disorder), which, she said, "can interfere with relationships" and prevent a person from achieving his potential. "There was evidence of problems all the way through school, developmental problems," she said.

When asked by defense attorney Margaret Lumsden if the factors in Allen's history were mitigating factors in sentencing, she said, "Yes."

Lumsden presented Herfkens with affidavits by family and friends of Allen that were used as mitigating factors. After each affidavit was read, Lumsden asked Herfkens if she thought they were mitigating factors and Herfkens said "yes" to almost every one. Then Lumsden asked what the jury had checked beside each affidavit and Herfkens said each time, "No."

"Do you see these materials supporting mitigating factors?" Lumsden asked.

"Absolutely," replied Herfkens.

"How did the jury mark them?"

"No."

Lumsden told Long that she had new material to address with Herfkens that would be lengthy. So Long decided to adjourn a few minutes early before beginning again Wednesday morning.

(source: The Courier-Tribune)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Here is how firing squads work in the only state to use them in modern history

On June 18, 2010, convicted double-killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was strapped into a chair in a special room on the grounds of a Utah state prison with his head held by a halo brace while a prison employee pinned a white, circular target over his heart.

Minutes later, a firing squad of law-enforcement volunteers let loose a volley of .30-caliber Winchester rifle shots from 25 feet away, killing Gardner quickly.

He was the last person in the nation to be executed by a firing squad. No other state has employed a firing squad in at least 4 decades.

But some lawmakers in South Carolina and elsewhere want to use firing squads again. They're determined to bypass the legal and practical logjams that have cut off the supply of lethal-injection drugs as well as controversy over botched executions.

"At this point, the firing-squad bills seem to be more of an expression of frustration by death-penalty proponents at the inability to carry out executions," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which collects data on executions but takes no position on capital punishment.

He said firing squads is a "false issue" in this state "because there is nobody imminently facing execution."

Yet Rep. Joshua Putnam, an Anderson County Republican, disagrees with that notion.

Putnam last week filed a bill to allow the use of a firing squad in South Carolina executions, which are currently to be carried out using lethal-injection unless an inmate chooses the electric chair.

A bill pending in the Senate would allow the state to use the electric chair if lethal injection is not available regardless of the inmates' choice. Another pending bill would make secret the source of the drugs used in lethal injection, though a judge could open that identity to legal discovery upon a finding of good cause.

South Carolina has not executed anyone since 2011 - because of ongoing appeals. Officials say the state's supply of lethal-injection drugs have expired and they cannot get any more because drug companies have refused to sell them if they are to be used in executions.

"A firing squad sounds barbaric - it sounds inhumane, I'm guessing," Putnam told The Greenville News last week, "but if you look at the data, it paints a whole different picture."

Dunham said firing squads have fewer botched executions than other means but they also have been used less in recent decades.

Only 3 states use them as an alternative to lethal injection, according to his organization: Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi. The vast majority of those executed in Utah since the 1850s have died from firing squads.

Their initial use in Utah has been traced to a past Mormon belief in blood atonement, the spilling of blood to atone for certain heinous crimes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints no longer accepts such beliefs.

Utah inmates can select a firing squad as their means of execution, though it was stopped in 2004 then brought back as an alternative in 2015.

A state manual unearthed by MuckRock.com and confirmed by the state's prisons agency lays out the details of how firing squads work there.

A month before the execution, the prison system assembles a planning team and selects the 5 firing-squad volunteers plus 2 alternates. Each are law-enforcement officers, and each must pass a proficiency test at the rifle range, firing at a target of the same size as the one used in executions from a minimum of 21 feet. To qualify, the officer must hit the target at least once.

The manual calls for the use of Winchester .30-caliber rifles.

At the time of execution, the condemned inmate is led to a sturdy steel chair in a special execution chamber. The chair sits on an elevated platform. Large sandbags are piled high on each side of the chair to catch any ricocheting bullets. Every part of the platform, including the sandbags, is colored a charcoal gray.

The inmate is strapped to the chair, a black hood placed over his face. A halo brace holds his head in place. He is asked for any final words and is limited to 2 minutes. If he goes over that time or uses foul language, according to the manual, the execution proceeds.

Once the warden receives word that any final appeals have been exhausted and there are no stays, he directs a supervisor to proceed and a countdown begins.

The firing squad is assembled behind a wall with rifle ports about 25 feet away from the chair. Each is given a rifle with 2 rounds. One is given non-lethal wax bullets but none of the officers, whose identities are kept secret, knows who has the dummy rounds.

A target is pinned over the inmate's heart.

At the end of the countdown, the officers fire.

Officials look for signs of consciousness. If there are some when the medical examiner checks for a pulse, a 2nd firing volley can be ordered. If the inmate is unconscious but still has a pulse, officials wait for 10 minutes and check again. If there still is a pulse, a 2nd volley can be ordered.

Just how lethal a firing squad is has been explained by Gardner's brother, Randy, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade Utah lawmakers in 2015 not to bring it back as an alternative.

He said he could stick 4 fingers into the hole in his brother's chest where the shots went, saying he believed the heart was blown out through his back.

Witnesses to Garner's execution said when an official asked Gardner if he had any last words, he said, "No, I do not."

After the volley at 12:15 am, witnesses said they saw his hand clench and then loosen. He was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

Gardner was sentenced to death after a 1985 failed courthouse escape attempt during which he killed a lawyer. He was in court at the time facing another murder charge over a killing at a bar.

"May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said at the time of his execution.

Putnam believes the reliability of a firing squad's work and the speed with which the inmate is killed make the method more humane than the current lethal-injection process.

But in 2015, YouGov, an international internet-based market research firm, conducted a poll asking respondents which execution methods they found to be cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the poll, 18 % found lethal-injection cruel and unusual while 53 % found a firing squad cruel and unusual. Of other forms, the poll found 54 % classified the electric chair as cruel while 67 % used that classification for hanging, 52 % for the gas chamber and 81 % for beheading.

"The problem with other methods is the public just doesn't like them," Dunham said.

He said what has happened with execution methods in the nation is both a paradox and an irony.

"States moved away from methods of execution, especially the electric chair, because of the growing public perception that, when done properly, an execution in the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment," he said.

It became worse, he said, after botched executions in Florida. Afterward, state supreme courts in Georgia and Nebraska declared electrocution unconstitutional under their state constitutions, Dunham said.

"It is likely that any attempt to bring back the electric chair will face very substantial constitutional challenges," he said.

There are fewer constitutional challenges to a firing squad, he said.

"The difficulty with a firing squad is one of public perception and public taste," Dunham said.

Alternatives to lethal injection are seen as too gruesome by the public, he said. Lethal injection had an appearance of peacefulness and civility until botched executions.

He said, however, that the image of peacefulness was made possible by drugs which caused the body to be sedated and paralyzed, preventing any indication of pain. Now that states are using other drug combinations, witnesses are reporting indications of pain, and those images are upsetting people, Dunham said.

"I think it's paradoxical and ironic that the method of execution that states moved to to try and make executions more humane and to try and make them less overtly violent is now under attack for being inhumane and tortuous," he said.

(source: Greenville News)

GEORGIA:

Sister Helen Prejean speaks at death penalty event in Atlanta

Sister Helen Prejean will join other faith leaders on Thursday for a forum on the death penalty in the United States.

Prejean is the author of "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States," which was developed into a movie starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate.

The forum will be followed by a reception and book signing of "A Case for Life: Justice, Mercy, and the Death Penalty."

This event will be held at Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church, 805 Mount Vernon Highway, N.W.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for registration and book sales.

The event begins at 7 p.m. with Prejean speaking at 7:30 p.m. The panel discussion starts at 8:10 p.m.

Panelists include Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta; Susan Casey, appeals attorney for Kelly Gissendaner; and Justice Norman S. Fletcher, retired chief justice, Supreme Court of Georgia.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz could face death penalty for 17 counts of premeditated murder

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the mass shooting at a Florida high school on Wednesday, could face the death penalty after being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Sheriffs in Broward County, Florida, posted custody records online the morning after they arrested Cruz. They listed 17 separate counts of premeditated murder, matching the latest casualty figures from officials.

Cruz, at 19, will stand trial as an adult. If found guilty, his alleged attack on Majory Stoneman Douglas high school could qualify as a capital crime, as he may have knowingly created a great risk of death to many people.

In Florida, if a sentencing jury unanimously recommends the death penalty, the judge can impose it.

Between 1973 and 2016, the state of Florida executed 95 individuals, sometimes after they had spent decades on death row.

Cruz's lawyer told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel that the AR-15 allegedly used in the shooting was possessed by Cruz legally.

(source: businessinsider.com)

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Donald Smith Trial----In his own words: Why Donald Smith wants the death penalty; Smith fears he'll be 'raped and murdered' in prison, police report shows

From almost the moment he was arrested, Donald Smith saw his conviction coming and feared what might follow.

Smith, 61, wants the death penalty, not a life sentence. He told his mother as much when she visited him in jail in July 2013.

He said he couldn't go to prison because he would be "raped and murdered there," according to a police report. death row, on the other hand, meant his death would be "simple, happy and peaceful."

The decision is not Smith's to make. It will be up to the jurors who found him guilty Wednesday of 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery in the death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

Smith astonished his defense attorneys with instructions not to cross examine Cherish's mother, Rayne. His defense stunned observers when they did not call any witnesses and skipped closing arguments.

But while those decisions surprised some courtroom observers, details contained within a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office informational report indicate that may have been part of Smithís plan all along.

The report shows Smith waffled over whether to hire a high-powered defense attorney June 27, 2013, less than a week after his arrest. At first, he told police to ask his mother to retain Ann Finnell.

But later the same day, he changed his mind. "Tell my mother don't call Ann Finnell. They're going to kill me anyway. There's no sense in spending the money," Smith told an officer, according to the report.

(Finnell, who currently represents high-profile murder suspect Ronnie Hyde, is widely known in Jacksonville circles for being one of the best criminal defense attorneys money can buy.)

Smith made his intentions known to his mother during a July 19, 2013, visitation. He said he needed a book -- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- to find out if he qualified for treatment.

"It's a 1-shot deal," he told his mother. "I need to know what I have."

Beyond that, Smith made one thing clear: Death row was the best outcome. The jury will return to court on Tuesday to decide if they agree.

(source: news4jax.com)

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'Walmart Monster' facing death penalty

Harrowing images of the battered body of an 8-year-old girl who was raped and brutally killed have left an entire jury traumatised and in tears.

Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Florida Walmart before being sexually assaulted and strangled until her eyes bled by a man who convinced her he was just a 'good Samaritan', reports The Sun.

Donald Smith, 61, has appeared in court charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and rape of the 8-year-old girl in June 2013. He denies the charges. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

At his trial, the court was shown video of the moment Smith led the child away from her family while out shopping.

The court was also shown graphic images of the state of the child's body, leading jury members to gasp in horror and break down in tears.

The images were so disturbing that the medical examiner giving evidence about the injuries sustained looked so traumatised that she needed a break in proceedings.

Jacksonville chief medical examiner Dr Valerie Rao stopped her testimony as images of the child were displayed in the Florida courtroom, saying: "She had so much trauma, the anatomy was totally distorted by the injury she suffered.

"She died after she sustained tremendous force on her neck such that she could not breathe."

Dr Rao, visibly shaken, then asked the court for a 5-minute break.

Sources from the courtroom claim the man accused of the child's horrific murder "turned his back when autopsy pictures were shown". Smith had been released from prison just 21 days before he allegedly abducted and murdered the little girl and had been on the sex offenders register since 1993. He is seen luring the child away from her mother, reportedly offering to take her to McDonald's.

The CCTV footage documents the last time the child was seen alive.

Post-mortem reports found severe injuries and contusions all over her body, and concluded that the eight-year-old had been strangled with a piece of clothing after being tortured and raped.

Smith was arrested 10 hours after the child was abducted after his vehicle was spotted by a police officer.

The little girl's half-naked body was found outside a church the following day.

(source: The Bulletin)

ALABAMA----stay of impending execution lifter; execution re-set

Execution back on for Alabama death row inmate, convicted of killing Cullman motel clerk in 1987

The execution for Alabama death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm is back on after an appeals court vacated a lower court's stay. Records show the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state of Alabama's emergency motion to vacate Hamm's stay, which was issued earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Karon O Bowdre.

"We conclude the district court abused its discretion by staying Hamm's execution without making sufficient findings to establish a significant possibility of success on the merits," the court wrote in its order issued Tuesday afternoon.

The court wrote that the Supreme Court requires a "significant possibility of success on the merits" for a stay to be issued; however, the district court only stated Hamm showed a "substantial likelihood of success," which isn't sufficient.

The 11th Circuit Court also ordered the lower court to immediately appoint an independent medical examiner to evaluate Hamm-- whose lawyer says he suffers from lymphatic cancer-- and announce the findings no later than February 20 by 5 p.m. central time.

Hamm's execution is set for Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at Holman Prison in Atmore.

"Since the district court's findings establish only the existence of genuine factual disputes concerning whether, as applied to Hamm, Alabama's method of execution carries a significant risk of being ineffective and painful, we conclude that the court abused its discretion in granting a stay," the order stated.

Hamm, 60, has been on death row since 1987 after being convicted of killing Patrick Cunningham-- a Cullman motel clerk.

According to information revealed in court and through records, Hamm was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and underwent treatment. The Alabama Department of Corrections said Hamm's cancer went into remission in March 2016, and no scans from an oncologist have been performed since. In the spring of 2017, Hamm complained of having lumps on his chest and abdomen area. An X-ray was preformed, but no PET scans or biopsies were completed. Earlier this month, doctors said there was no evidence of cancer in his clavicle, but did not have a definitive answer about the other lumps.

In Bowdre's 25-page order granting the stay, she states: "If his current medical condition includes compromised peripheral veins, lymphoma untreated for 3 years, and lymphadenopathy... the injection of fluid could 'blow out' his veins with infiltration of drugs into the surrounding tissue; and efforts to place a central line could be hindered by enlarged lymph nodes creating a higher risk of puncturing a central artery--all resulting in severe and unnecessary pain." She also called the scenario "gruesome."

(source: al.com)

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

Court: Execution OK for Inmate Claiming Damaged Veins----A federal appeals court overturns stay of lethal injection for Alabama murder convict who says his veins are damaged.

A federal appeals court says Alabama, at least for now, can proceed toward the execution of an inmate who argues that a lethal injection would be cruel because lymphoma and hepatitis C have damaged his veins.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a federal judge's stay of execution for Doyle Lee Hamm, who is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 22 for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

The appellate court ruled that a judge prematurely stayed the execution, but agreed there are unsettled questions about Hamm's health.

The 3-judge panel said an independent medical expert should review Hamm's condition immediately.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Bill to allow execution by nitrogen hypoxia clears committee

A bill to create a 3rd method of execution for death penalty inmates in Alabama won approval today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, by Sen. Trip Pittman, would allow death row inmates to choose execution by nitrogen hypoxia.

Current law requires that executions in Alabama be carried out by lethal injection unless the condemned inmate chooses electrocution.

Pittman said he believes the death penalty is appropriate for some heinous crimes and that nitrogen hypoxia would be a more humane method.

Pittman said Oklahoma has already made nitrogen hypoxia one option for execution.

The committee approved the bill by a vote of 11-1, moving it to the Senate floor.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, said she opposed the death penalty but said she believed nitrogen hypoxia would be a more humane method.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, voted against the bill.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Ohio Supreme Court won't reopen Anthony Sowell appeal

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request by condemned Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell to reopen his appeal of his 2011 conviction and death sentence.

The move is the latest procedural step as Sowell moves closer to being executed for killing 11 women and hiding their bodies in his home on Cleveland's East Side.

The bodies were discovered in 2009. Sowell is currently on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. His execution date has not been set.

Wednesday's decision by the state's high court came after Sowell's lawyers in May filed an application asking the court to take a second look at the direct appeal of his conviction.

The application argued that Sowell's lawyers were ineffective during his 1st appeal, which was denied.

Sowell's lawyers, who are in the State public defender's office, did not raise the issue of a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling that found Florida's process for imposing the death penalty -- in which a jury makes a recommendation to a judge, who has the final say -- is unconstitutional, the application said.

"Frankly, we blew it," the lawyers told the court during oral argument.

But Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's office said that the Florida ruling does not apply to Ohio's process, which is similar to Florida's but has one major difference. In Ohio, judges can either accept the jury's recommendation or drop a death recommendation to life in prison. Judges here cannot impose death if a jury recommends life in prison.

The Supreme Court tossed Florida's process because a judge imposed death when a jury recommended life.

Sowell's application also asked the court to reconsider its December 2016 decision that, although Common Pleas Court Judge Dick Ambrose did not properly document his findings to justify closing to the public a hearing on whether certain evidence should be allowed to be submitted at trial, that error did not warrant a new trial.

Ohio's Supreme Court justices rejected that argument.

(source: cleveland.com)

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Yes, we used to hang people on Fifth Street: A brief history of Cincinnati executions

Cincinnati's 1st hangman went to work on a patch of land that's known today as Government Square.

This was a frontier town then, with enough trouble to keep the gallows busy. Drunken soldiers. Carousing young men. Shawnee raiders. No one was too good for the rope.

A straight line runs from those hangings of the 18th Century to the electric chair of the 20th Century to the table where the condemned today are injected with enough poison to stop a human heart.

Hamilton County's long, complicated history with capital punishment is filled with stories. Here are 5 of them.

'Shoot him and bring his head'

The 1st known executions in the territory that would become Hamilton County took place a few years before the gallows went up.

2 Army deserters, Mathew Ratmore and John Ayres, were captured in 1789 and brought back to Fort Washington, where a small garrison watched over the frontier. Desertion was a serious offense and the punishment was swift.

According to the "Centennial History of Cincinnati," the men were shot where they stood in the southeast corner of the fort.

The fort's commander, John Wilkinson, later declared shooting might not be punishment enough. "It will be well for the scout to shoot him and bring his head to you," he wrote of deserters.

A hanging draws a crowd

Lawlessness outside the fort was a problem, too. The solution was to build the gallows on Fifth Street, at present-day Government Square.

The 1st to hang there - and the 1st civilian executed in Hamilton County - was a man named Mays. His 1st name was either John or James, according to the "Centennial History," but all that mattered to Sheriff John Ludlow was his crime.

Witness accounts say Mays had been "drinking and carousing" with an old friend named Sullivan, when they got into a fight. Sullivan got the best of Mays, who vowed to kill him the next time he saw him.

Sometime later, the 2 men bumped into each other at a friend's log cabin and Sullivan extended his hand, hoping to let bygones be bygones. Mays plunged his hunting knife into Sullivan's heart.

A crowd gathered to see Mays hang, with some traveling as far as 50 miles.

Electricity provides 'perfect' execution

The electric chair replaced the noose in Ohio in 1897, and the 1st to die were from Hamilton County.

William Haas assaulted and killed a woman whose husband he'd befriended. William Wiley shot and killed his wife in a jealous rage.

Because the chair had broken down on the day Haas originally was supposed to die, both men were scheduled for execution the same day. Some said the men flipped a coin to determine the order.

Haas lost, apparently, because he went 1st. Minutes later, Wiley got the same 1,750 volts of electricity, according to the Sacramento Daily Union.

"Both executions were eminently successful," the paper reported. "Physicians and experts pronounced the executions as perfect as it was possible to make them."

'God knows what came over me'

Anna Marie Hahn begged for her life before she became the 1st woman to die in Ohio's electric chair. It did her no good.

She'd been convicted of killing an elderly man in Cincinnati for his money. She'd also been suspected of poisoning as many as 4 others, 3 of them fatally. Gov. Martin Davey initially expressed reservations about executing a woman, but he got over it.

"The crimes committed by Mrs. Hahn were so cold blooded," he told the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Before she was strapped to the chair in 1938, Hahn confessed her crimes in a letter published in The Enquirer. "I don't know how I could have done the thing I did in my life," she wrote. "Only God knows what came over me."

Serial killer faced death in 3 states

Alton Coleman and his companion, Debra Brown, went on a multi-state rampage in the early 1980s, killing, raping and robbing along the way. He was on death row in 3 states by the time he died by lethal injection in 2002.

Several of Coleman's victims were teenagers and children. One was a 15-year-old girl in Cincinnati.

Coleman became a follower of a televangelist before he died and was baptized days before his execution. His last words were from Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leadeth me to green pastures."

When Coleman was pronounced dead, the father of one of his victims broke the silence in the room.

"Thank you, Jesus," he said. "Thank you, Lord."

(source: cincinnati.com)

KENTUCKY:

Could Kentucky resume executing inmates? New death-penalty rules proposed.

There has been a moratorium on executions in Kentucky for years, but that could change under rules the Department of Corrections has proposed that, if approved, would let the state resume carrying out the death penalty.

The department filed draft protocols spelling out how the state would execute condemned inmates by lethal injection or by electrocution.

The protocols are sure to be challenged. That means it is unclear whether they will be approved as proposed, and how long it will take to resolve that fight.

What is clear is that there are several inmates on Kentucky's death row who have finished the ordinary appeals process and could face execution orders as soon as there are protocols in place.

There are 32 men and 1 woman under a death sentence in Kentucky, according to the Department of Corrections site.

The state's last execution was in November 2008, when Marco Allen Chapman was put to death by lethal injection. Chapman stabbed and raped a woman and killed 2 of her children in Gallatin County in August 2002.

Chapman voluntarily ended his appeals and asked to be executed.

Frankling Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued an injunction in 2010, citing concerns about how the state would determine if a condemned inmate was mentally disabled, and whether the drugs used then would cause pain or suffering sufficient to violate the Constitution.

Several inmates joined a challenge to the rules. The state has worked since to draw up new protocols that could be used in seeking to lift the injunction.

James Erwin, acting commissioner of the Department of Corrections, signed new draft protocols last month.

The documents spell out everything from the clothing allowed to a condemned inmate to the type of drugs used in an execution, as well as the amount and where to insert catheters to inject the drugs, with the arms as the first preference, followed by hands, ankles or feet.

The protocols include an estimate on the fiscal impact of carrying out an execution - $97,453, covering security, prison expenses and the cost of defense attorneys working to block the execution.

That does not take into account the costs of prosecuting and defending a death-penalty case before an execution is scheduled.

The latest protocols call for using one drug to execute an inmate - either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental.

Under the protocols, the warden at the Kentucky State Penitentiery near Eddyville would order a 2nd dose of whichever drug was used if a monitor showed continued electrical activity in the inmate's heart 20 minutes after the 1st dose.

The state used a combination of 3 drugs to execute Chapman, and later proposed using a 2-drug combination.

In another change, the draft protocols would give members of the execution team up to 3 hours to insert 2 catheters into the condemned inmate.

Inmates sentenced to death before March 31, 1998 could choose to die either by lethal injection or in the electric chair, but lethal injection is the only option for those sentenced later.

Attorney General Andy Beshear's office would be called on to defend the proposed protocols in any challenge.

"The Attorney General's Office has reviewed the proposed new regulations and believes they comply with the current restrictions imposed by the Constitution," said deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown.

However, opponents of the death penalty argue the proposed rules are deficient on many fronts.

David Barron, an attorney with the state Department of Public Advocacy, said the problems include no detail on choosing and disclosing which drug to use in an execution; limits on defense attorneys' contact with a client facing execution; and rules that would not allow defense attorneys or media witnesses to view efforts to insert needles into inmates.

Defense attorneys and the media have a right to watch that procedure because if there is a problem, the public has a right to know, and it could prompt an emergency legal challenge to the execution, said Barron, who represents several death row inmates.

Limiting an inmate's contact with attorneys would be a problem because clients could need access to legal help if something happened in the hours before an execution that required a challenge, Barron said.

"The client has a right to access the courts if anything goes wrong right up to the time of death," Barron said.

Death-penalty opponents also will likely argue that allowing 3 hours to insert catheters would be excessive and cruel.

Barron said specifying use of one drug is inadequate, and that the state would have trouble finding the drugs it listed in the protocols.

Chapman is 1 of 3 inmates Kentucky has executed since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a moratorium on capital punishment in 1976.

The others were Harold McQueen, 44, who was put to death in the electric chair in July 1997 for killing convenience-store clerk Rebecca O'Hearn during a 1980 robbery in Richmond, and Eddie Lee Harper, 50, who was executed by lethal injection in May 1999 for killing his adoptive parents in Louisville.

The state has scheduled to hearing on the draft protocols Feb. 22 at 9 a..m at the Transportion Cabinet office on Mero Street in Frankfort. People who want to speak need to send written notice no later than 5 working days before the hearing to:

Amy V. Barker, Assistant General Counsel, Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, 125 Holmes Street, Frankfort, KY 40601, Justice.RegsContact@ky.gov, telephone (502) 564-3279, fax (502) 564-6686.

People can submit written comments until Feb. 28.

(source: kentucky.com)

ARIZONA:

Death penalty pulled in Ketchner case by county attorney

Darrell Bryant Ketchner, convicted of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, has been spared the death penalty with a motion filed Tuesday by prosecuting attorney Megan McCoy.

Ketchner, 59, was convicted of stabbing to death Ariel Allison, 18, on July 4, 2009, and attempting to kill her mother, Jennifer Allison.

He was sentenced to death in 2013. However, an appellate court reversed the murder conviction in 2014, based on prejudicial testimony from a domestic violence expert, and sent the case back to Mohave County Superior Court.

Defense attorneys have focused on avoiding the death penalty as the case dragged on.

Ketchner has an extensive criminal history with 35 court filings going back to 1983.

(source: Kingman Daily Miner)

UTAH:

Utah lawmakers once again consider ending death penalty

Utah lawmakers are once again considering getting rid of the death penalty, 2 years after legislators came close to making the move.

A bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Gage Froerer of Huntsville would prohibit Utah prosecutors from seeking the death penalty starting May 8, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

The 9 men currently on death row would still be executed.

Utah legislators came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session. The issue was not considered during last year's session.

Froerer said he will elaborate on the legislation later this week.

If passed, Utah would join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in outlawing capital punishment.

Groups such as American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Libertas Institute and Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty have voiced support for abolishing Utah's death penalty.

Lawmakers also are considering another death penalty-related bill which would request that legislative auditors study the costs of capital punishment versus a life-without-parole sentence.

Since 2010, Utah prosecutors have filed 119 aggravated murder cases, according to Utah court data. Such cases can result in punishments of 25 years to life, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death. Only 1 of those cases - a retrial of a 1993 case - resulted in a death sentence.

The last execution in Utah was carried out in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by firing squad for the 1984 murder of attorney Michael Burdell during Gardner's failed escape attempt from Salt Lake City's 3rd District courthouse.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

State Senate passes bill to eliminate death penalty----Capital punishment would be replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A divided state Senate voted Wednesday to eliminate the death penalty, a policy voters overwhelmingly backed and lawmakers put on the books 4 decades ago.

Under Senate Bill 6052, capital punishment is replaced with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The death penalty has been state law since 1981. Of the 33 people sentenced to death since then, 5 have been executed, 2 from Snohomish County.

8 people now are sentenced to die for crimes in Washington. 1 of them is Byron Scherf, an inmate who received a death sentence for the 2011 strangling of Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl. Scherf already was serving a life sentence when he attacked Biendl.

Gov. Jay Inslee supports getting rid of the death penalty and in 2014 put a moratorium on executions.

The bill passed 26-22 as 5 Republicans joined 21 members of the Democratic caucus to send the bill to the House for consideration.

The legislative session is slated to end March 8.

(source: The Herald)

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

Death penalty possible for accused deputy killer

Prosecutors believe they know who fired the shot that killed a Pierce County Sheriff Department deputy in Frederickson last month, and the accused may have to pay with his own life.

Forensic testing indicated that the bullet recovered from deputy Daniel McCartney's body came from the gun that was found approximately 175 feet away from him along the path taken by Jeremy Pawul as he fled a shooting that followed a break-in and attempted robbery at a house on Jan. 7, according to authorities. They said a shell casing believed to come from the same weapon was found near McCartney's body.

As a result, the county prosecutor's office filed a charge of aggravated murder last week against Pawul - the only charge in Washington law that is punishable by death or a sentence of life in prison with no chance of release. A decision on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty is pending.

Pawul, 32, was previously charged with 1st-degree murder.

The higher charge filed against him Feb. 6 was also prompted in part by text messages recovered by investigators from Pawul's cell phone that showed he was in possession of 2 .45-caliber handguns in the days leading up to the deputy's murder. That was the type of 2 handguns found at the scene, authorities said.

"I promised that we would hold fully accountable everyone involved in the murder of deputy McCartney. (Last week's new charge) was another step toward fulfilling that promise," said Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.

Authorities say Pawul and another man forced their way into a home on 45th Avenue Court East shortly before 11:30 p.m. and demanded money. One of the 3 adults who were inside the home with 2 children called 9-1-1 and said the suspects were wearing masks and armed with handguns and knives.

According to investigators, McCartney, the first deputy who arrived at the scene, chased Pawul and a 2nd suspect, Henry Cardsen, on foot when they jumped out of windows and ran. A brief gun battle ended with McCartney and Carden dead.

Pawul was captured the next day. 2 more arrests and charges in connection with the murder followed. Brenda Kaye Troyer, 52, and Samantha Dawn Jones, 29, are accused of going with Pawul and Carden to the house where the attempted robbery and shooting happened. Troyer drove, and Jones had an ongoing dispute over drugs with 1 of the people living there, authorities said.

Evidence against the suspects includes cell phone records. Cell tower and GPS coordinates placed Jones' phone with Carden, Pawul and Troyer the night of the incident. Pawul's, Troyer's and Jones' phones were registering off the same cell towers as the vehicle traveling to the home where the break-in and shooting happened, authorities claim.

As with Troyer's phone, Jones' phone remained at the scene before 9-1-1 was called by residents of the house. Jones' phone then traveled to the same location as Troyer's after McCartney arrived. Both phones also traveled to a nearby grocery store, where surveillance video showed Troyer and a woman who matched the description of Jones in the store together.

Detectives retrieved messages between Jones and Pawul after the murder in which Jones asked where he was and whether he was hiding. Her phone then traveled back to the location of the incident.

(source: The Dispatch)

US MILITARY:

Military judge wants civilian attorneys arrested for quitting USS Cole case

The judge in the USS Cole terrorism case ordered prosecutors Tuesday to draft warrants instructing U.S. Marshals to seize 2 civilian defense attorneys who have quit the case and ignored his orders and a subpoena to appear at the war court by video link.

Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge, said he would sign the "writs of attachment" on Wednesday and cautioned from the bench that the lawyer for Pentagon-paid attorneys Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears should hustle to federal court, if the lawyer wants to stop what are essentially arrest warrants.

Eliades and Spears quit the case in October, along with death-penalty lawyer Rick Kammen, over an ethics issue involving intrusion of attorney-client confidentiality, which the judge does not recognize. The 3 were released from the case by the chief defense counsel, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker. When Baker refused to rescind that permission on Nov. 1, the judge found Baker in contempt of court and sentenced him to 21 days confinement in his quarters.

Unlike Kammen, who was a defense attorney by contract, Eliades and Spears are full-time employees in Bakerís military commissions defense office. Spears has been acting general counsel and Eliades is on an unspecified special project. In addition, Kammen in November had obtained a federal court restraining order protecting him from a forced appearance at the war court.

Spath had U.S. Marshals seize a no-show witness before, in October 2016, and brought to a video site in Washington, D.C. Marshals seized a man named Stephen Gill from Gillís home in Massachusetts, held him overnight in a Virginia jail, and delivered him to war court headquarters. Spath also forbade anyone from telling Gill until after he testified that a federal public defender had offered to represent him.

The judge had earlier Tuesday expressed a reluctance to have the women seized. He said in court that their arrests could cause them to lose their security clearances and jobs with the Department of Defense and thwart his goal of having them return to the defense team of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.

The Saudi, a former CIA prisoner, is awaiting a death-penalty trial as the alleged mastermind of al-Qaida's Oct. 12, 2000, USS Cole bombing. 17 sailors died in the attack.

The resignations have left Nashiri without a defense attorney with expertise in capital punishment cases, a learned counsel. Spath has alternately said that, since he didn't approve Kammen's resignation, the learned counsel is still on the case but refusing to appear - or that a Navy lieutenant with no death-penalty defense experience is qualified to handle the case.

That lawyer, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, has sat in court through a series of hearings refusing to participate until a learned counsel arrives. In court Tuesday, case prosecutor Mark Miller called a series of FBI agents to describe how they gathered trial evidence in Yemen in the aftermath of the 2000 bombing: They arrived at suspected safe houses that had been searched by Yemeni forces, who took pictures, seized evidence and then, on 2nd thought, returned items to the buildings.

Former FBI agent Steven Krueger described that search as unusual. It began, he said, with a Yemeni brigadier general introducing himself, taking the agent by the hand, leading him inside and pointing to a blue tissue paper with a substance on it and declaring, "there's your evidence."

For this week's hearing, the judge had prosecutors swear out subpoenas for Eliades and Spears to come to Military Commissions headquarters in Virginia on Tuesday and explain their positions by a video link to Camp Justice here. Their lawyer, Brandon Fox, filed a motion with the court to quash the appearance orders because the 2 women have been released from the case. Spath refused to accept the filing on Monday, and then denied an earlier effort to quash the subpoenas.

The 2 women did not show up at the headquarters on Tuesday.

Spath has declared Baker's decision to release them "null and void" and said at the conclusion of court Tuesday that he was compelling their attendance to "assist them in getting to the commissions so they can tell what their good cause is" for quitting.

On Monday, the judge said he was weighing his options and still hoping that someone else at the Department of Defense would order the civilian lawyers to appear, for example their supervising attorney, Army Col. Wayne Aaron.

"There's a number of employment-related legal issues that greatly complicate the simplistic approach that I can simply order them to be here," Aaron told the judge, "and the concept that my order would have any significance, whatsoever, on their intention of what to do."

Spath said he had been studying the court-martial case of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan as he considered his way forward on what he considers to be renegade resignations. The Army psychiatrist in 2009 went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding dozens of others.

Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death. But first the original judge was removed from the case because, as Spath noted, he chose to "take on a battle that was not his" - ordering the Army to shave off the major's beard for trial.

"The court must remain neutral, detached and objective," a case prosecutor, Army Col. John Wells, counseled the judge on Monday, suggesting there was a process that could be pursued to deal with the absence of the 2 attorneys through Pentagon channels.

On Tuesday, when Spath ordered the prosecution to draft the warrants, Wells replied: "We will move forward."

(source: miamiherald.com)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

147 activists face death penalty in E Guinea: lawyer

Equatorial Guinea's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty in the trial of 147 opposition activists accused of "rebellion," their lawyer said on Wednesday.

The activists, including senior officials of the main opposition party, the Citizens for Innovation (CI), were arrested following elections in November.

"The prosecutor is requesting the death penalty against all the opponents," said lawyer Fabian Nsue.

Earlier this month, the European Union condemned what it described as "a sharp decline" in human rights in Equatorial Guinea following the election and said trials should be fair and in line with international norms.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who seized power in the oil-rich former Spanish colony in 1979, has repeatedly been accused of brutal repression as well as electoral fraud and corruption.

The defendants are being tried at the High Court in the president's home town of Mongomo on charges of "rebellion, attacks against authority, public disorder and serious injury and damage," according to Nsue.

Diplomatic sources confirmed the trial was taking place but authorities did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

The CI said about 30 defendants could not stand up at the trial on Tuesday because they had been "tortured" while in detention at police headquarters in the capital Malabo, nicknamed "Guantanamo".

The prosecutor "wants to hide or to silence the atrocities and the brutality of the crimes of torture... we shall go to the international courts and the ICC (International Criminal Court) for crimes against humanity," said CI in a statement.

The CI warned that if nothing is done to help the 147 on trial then "all of them will die like Santiago Ebee Ela".

Ela, a 41-year-old activist, died last month in Malabo's police headquarters after being tortured, the party says.

Nguema has said his death was not due to ill-treatment and promised an investigation. The EU has also called for an inquiry.

The ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea maintained its grip on power in last November's vote, which was widely criticised by the opposition as fraudulent.

The ruling party won 99 of the parliament's 100 seats, while CI won the remaining seat.

On January 3, Malabo announced that security forces had foiled an attempted coup on December 24, after the arrest of about 30 foreign armed men just inside Cameroon at the junction with Gabonese and Equatorial Guinean territory.

In the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea became one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producers. But little of the wealth has trickled down - about 2/3 of its 1.2 million people live below the poverty line.

In 2015, Nguema announced a referendum would be held on the death penalty but the vote has never taken place.

(source: news24.com)

YEMEN:

Huthi court sentences 3 to death after enforced disappearance and alleged torture

A woman and 2 men were forcibly disappeared, ill-treated and given a patently unfair trial before being sentenced to death by a court in the Huthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sana'a for allegedly aiding an enemy country, Amnesty International's research has found.

The organization said the case was the latest example of the Huthis using the judiciary to settle political scores amid the ongoing armed conflict with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting the UN-recognized government of Yemen.

On 30 January, the Huthi-aligned Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Sana'a, which handles 'terrorism' and 'state security' cases, sentenced Asmaa al-Omeissy, Saeed al-Ruwaished, and Ahmed Bawazeer to death. A 4th defendant, Asmaa's father Matir al-Omeissy, was handed a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of an 'indecent act' charge related to the case.

"As Yemen's armed conflict rages on, the grossly unfair trial of Asmaa al-Omeissy and the 3 other defendants is part of a wider pattern of the Huthis using the judiciary to settle political scores," said Rawya Rageh, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Advisor.

"The trial followed a catalogue of grave violations and crimes under international law, some of which may also amount to war crimes.

"The defendants initially were subjected to enforced disappearance, cut off from the outside world, and secretly moved from one facility to the other. They were held in squalor in pre-trial detention for months, extorted for money, subjected to continuous humiliation and extreme physical abuse, and denied basic rights including legal counsel and family visits."

'A psychological war' and a 'hidden prison'

3 of the defendants had been visiting from the southern part of the country when they were arrested at a checkpoint in Sana'a in October 2016. Things took a turn for the worse after authorities started interrogating them over accusations that Asmaa al-Omeissy's husband is linked to al-Qa'ida.

2 of the defendants, speaking from areas of Yemen outside Huthi control, told Amnesty International they were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment at all the facilities where they were held since their arrest, including while in the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). They were denied contact with anyone for a period ranging between 2 and 3 months.

Matir al-Omeissy likened the interrogation process to "a psychological war" where police "were accusing us of all sorts of things, of being a terrorist group and a sleeper cell in the capital Sana'a."

The 3 men were kept at part of the CID known as al-Makhfi, or 'the hidden prison,' for nearly 8 months. Asmaa al-Omeissy was held there for 2 months before she was moved to the Central Prison.

Family members who went looking for 1 of the detainees at several prisons, including the CID, were told he was not there. The family of another detainee, deprived of any news about him for 3 months, held a wake for him, believing he had died.

'Only God knows the torment we were subjected to'

Asmaa al-Omeissy's 50-year-old father Matir, who was in detention with her at the CID, told Amnesty International how they were tortured: "They would bring the other 2 [Saeed al-Ruwaished and Ahmed Bawazeer] to our room blindfolded and handcuffed and beat them in front of us, making us watch. They would beat them, asking them to confess as they kept denying any wrongdoing. We [Asmaa and Matir al-Omeissy] would remain silent in fear of being shot. ... Only God knows the torment we were subjected to."

Saeed al-Ruwaished, 34, said: "They wouldn't let us sleep, they would keep on beating us. ... They would interrogate me from three in the afternoon until 4 or 5 in the afternoon the following day. This would go on for several days in a row. Every interrogation involved torture and beating. They would ask 'Are you with the Arab coalition? Are you recruiting fighters for the coalition? Are you part of an espionage network?'"

Saeed al-Ruwaished described to Amnesty International how he and Ahmed Bawazeer were chained by their wrists and were hung from the ceiling for hours at a time, sometimes overnight. They were kicked and punched, including in their genitals, hit with shoes, threatened with rape, and verbally abused. Amnesty International viewed medical records confirming at least 1 of the acute injuries resulting from the beatings.

Asmaa al-Omeissy was also subjected to beatings, including being punched and beaten with a cane by a policewoman, her father told Amnesty International.

When the defendants' families were allowed to contact them, they were requested to send money to cover their prison expenses, including food. However, Huthi prison guards and middle-men repeatedly extorted the detainees, pocketing half of the money sent by their families. Family members were prevented from bringing items such as blankets and clothes. 1 defendant remained in the same underwear for 8 months.

Ahmed Bawazeer fell seriously ill with liver disease, despite being healthy and fit before his arrest. After 8 months, his family finally got up the courage to travel from the south to visit him, and forked out a small fortune for his treatment and medication, including even having to pay for the car that took him to the hospital, where he received medical care flanked by up to 6 guards.

Ahmed Bawazeer and Matir al-Omeissy, who also fell ill in detention, were ultimately released on bail in June 2017 on medical grounds. Saeed al-Ruwaished paid a large amount of money in bail to secure his release the same month and all 3 men subsequently travelled to areas of Yemen outside Huthi control.

The 30 January verdict against the 3 men was handed down in absentia. Asmaa al-Omeissy, who remains in custody, was the only defendant present at the court. The 22-year-old mother of 2 also faces a separate sentence of 100 lashes on an "indecent act" charge for travelling in a car with the male defendants, her father's 15-year sentence is for allegedly facilitating that.

A lawyer has filed an appeal request on Asmaa al-Omeissy's behalf.

"It is not the 1st time that Yemen's Specialized Criminal Court, which falls short of necessary guarantees of independence and due process, has handed out death sentences after grossly unfair trials. We consistently oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel punishment," said Rawya Rageh.

"Sentencing anyone to death after such deeply flawed proceedings is a clear violation of international law. These sentences must be quashed without delay."

Activists and family members are concerned about Asmaa al-Omeissy's conditions in jail. The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties has reported that hundreds of female detainees in Huthi prisons are subjected to torture and humiliation, including forced labour.

Background

Yemeni activists and lawyers say they believe this is the 1st death sentence against a woman in a 'state security' case. The charges include "aiding a foreign country in a state of war with Yemen," a reference to the United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition involved in the conflict.

Amnesty International interviewed 2 of the defendants, as well as lawyers and human rights advocates following the case. The organization also reviewed prosecution documents and medical records.

In January, Hamid Haydara, who belongs to Yemen's Baha'i minority community, was sentenced to death by the SCC in Sana'a following a grossly unfair trial. He is a prisoner of conscience who has been tried on account of his conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities as a member of the Baha'i community.

The Huthi armed group has controlled large parts of Yemen since late 2014. In conjunction with forces loyal to the late, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and state security and intelligence agencies, the group has carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions of its opponents, as well as enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. The Huthis' clampdown intensified after the start of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition's aerial bombardment campaign in March 2015.

As the de facto government in control of the capital city and other parts of the country and its institutions, the Huthis should respect the human rights of individuals under their power. All parties to a conflict, including non-state armed groups, must observe the rules of international humanitarian law.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Yemen mother awaits death penalty in Huthi-held capital

A Yemeni mother in Huthi rebel custody is waiting to be put to death over allegations she spied for the United Arab Emirates, rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday.

A court in rebel-held capital Sanaa handed down the death penalty to 22-year-old Asmaa al-Omeissy and two men on charges of "aiding an enemy country" after their enforced disappearance and months of torture, Amnesty said.

Yemeni activists and lawyers say they believe this is the 1st time a woman has been sentenced to death in a "state security" case, according to Amnesty.

The rebel-run Saba News Agency said the Specialised Criminal Court sentenced Omeissy, Saeed al-Ruwaished and Ahmed Bawazeer to death on January 30.

They were found guilty of "communication and aiding the Arab alliance, which resulted in facilitating the targeting and seizure of strategic sites in Yemen".

They were also found guilty of "establishing an espionage network and recruiting agents to work on behalf of the United Arab Emirates", Saba said.

Omeissy's 50-year-old father Matir received a 15-year prison sentence for an "indecent act" -- allowing his daughter to be in the same car as the male defendants.

Asmaa, who has 2 children, is the only 1 of the 3 still in custody.

The men were able to pay bail and flee to parts of Yemen not controlled by the rebels, Amnesty said, accusing the Huthis of engaging in "extortion".

The UAE, for which the defendants are accused of spying, is a pillar of the Arab-led military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 with the aim of rolling back rebel gains and restoring the ousted government.

But the Iran-backed Huthis have consolidated their control of Sanaa in recent months, gunning down one-time ally Ali Abdullah Saleh and cracking down on opponents.

Journalists and activists have previously been sentenced to death by Huthi-run courts on charges of spying for coalition leader Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty said the latest sentencing was "part of a wider pattern of the Huthis using the judiciary to settle political scores".

It said the defendants were subjected to "enforced disappearance, cut off from the outside world, and secretly moved from one facility to the other.

"They were held in squalor in pre-trial detention for months, extorted for money, subjected to continuous humiliation and extreme physical abuse, and denied basic rights including legal counsel and family visits."

Amnesty has called for the sentences to be "quashed without delay".

More than 9,200 people have been killed since the Arab alliance intervened in Yemen, triggering what the United Nations has called the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

(source: Daily Mail)

IRAN----executions

Execution of at Least 6 Prisoners in Karaj

Wednesday morning, Feb. 14, 2018, at least 6 prisoners were executed in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj.

The names of 2 of them are Farnam Farinam and Morteza Shafaghi. 1 of the executed was an Afghan citizen.

3 prisoners who were taken to solitary confinement for execution were again temporarily returned to their cells after being tortured and witness the execution. The names of the returnees are as follows:

Saeed Ranjbar, Mohammad Omrani, Mohammad Saleh Dolatabadi.

It is noteworthy that all returnees were also collectively placed on the execution platform with hanging ropes around their necks waiting for the consent of the families, so they remove the rings from their necks if they want.

The 3 prisoners came back to the prison with their faint color and disturbed from the scene of death, not even able to speak. The anti-human clerical regime, with its inhumane laws and its dirty tricks intend to blame responsibility on other victims.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

A Prisoner Executed in Zanjan----The prisoner, identified as Majid Keykavusi from Marand, was sentenced to death on murder charges.

A prisoner was hanged at Zanjan Central Prison on murder charges.

According to a close source, on the morning of Tuesday, February 13, a prisoner was hanged at Zanjan Central Prison. The prisoner, identified as Majid Keykavusi from Marand, was sentenced to death on murder charges.

An anonymous source told Iran Human Rights, "In 2012, Majid Keykavusi got into a fight with someone who owed him 9 million Tomans and he accidentally kills the debtor."

The prisoner was transferred to Zanjan Central Prison 20 days ago to be executed.

The execution of this prisoner has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of any classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for all types of the murder, regardless of intensity and intent.

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

Karim Zargar, the Head of a Spiritual Institution, Was Hanged

Karim Zargar, the former general manager of IRIB's international section, Iran TV's channel one broadcast manager, head of the Faculty of Radio and Television, and owner and managing director of Film Reports magazine (Gozaresh-e-Film), was hanged at Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to a report by Rokna, a man who has established a "fake spiritual institution" was executed. The report does not mention the name of the defendant or the date of execution. However, evidence suggests that the defendant was Karim Zargar who had been arrested along with his wife, Marjan Davari, in October 2015. Both of the defendants had been sentenced to death on the charge of Moharebeh by hardliner Judge Salavati at branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.

Karim Zargar's lawyer, Vahid Moshkani Farahani, confirmed the execution of his client at Rajai Shahr Prison and told Iran Human Rights (IHR), "I wasn't informed of the execution, even though, the law emphasizes the presence of the lawyer at the time of the execution."

Aside from his Moharebeh sentence, Karim Zargar was also sentenced to death on the charge of rape by branch 6 of the Criminal Court of Tehran, but according to his lawyer, the execution was carried out for his Moharebe charge.

According to a report by HRANA, Karim Zargar was executed on Tuesday, January 30. However, most executions at Rajai Shahr Prison are carried out on Wednesdays.

Well-informed sources told Iran Human Rights (IHR) that the Supreme Court has rejected Marjan Davari's execution sentence and has sent her case to a parallel court for review.

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

Prisoner Saved From Execution By A Sunni Cleric's Mediation

A Shia prisoner from Tehran who on the death row, was saved from execution by the mediation of Molana Gorgij, the Sunni Imam of Friday prayers in Azad Shahr.

According to the office of Molana Gorgij, the Imam saved a young man, named Seyyed Hasan Hosseinipour, from the execution. The efforts which finally saved the man's life had been started 3 years ago.

The young man is the 2nd-row defendant. He committed an armed bank robbery with the help of another person in 2005 during which a Turkmen soldier named Mohammad Tatar was killed.

It should be noted that in a meeting held at Molana Gorgij's home where the representatives of both parties were present, the late soldier's representative, who was the victim's brother, said that the reason for their forgiveness was God's satisfaction and Molana Gorgij's intervention.

Therefore, the number of the death-row prisoners who have been saved from death by Molana Gorgij has risen to 41.

According to a close source, Seyyed Hasan Hosseinipour is currently held at Rajai Shahr Prison waiting for his trial and official verdict.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Australian held on spying charge in United Arab Emirates could face firing squad, family fears

The family of a Sydney man accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates fears he may have been tortured in prison and could soon face the death penalty.

Relatives of Naim Aziz Abbas have made an emotional plea to be able to see the 63-year-old who was arrested in Dubai in October 2017, after being questioned by an intelligence officer during a series of meetings in a coffee shop.

"I ask you Australia, please help my brother", a tearful Adil Aziz Abbas told the ABC from his Sydney home.

"The case is fabricated and he's being accused of espionage for Qatar against Dubai, and this is ridiculous."

Iraqi-born Naim Aziz Abbas, who is an Australian citizen, moved to Dubai in 2009 to work for the UAE Roads and Transport Authority.

According to a Department of Foreign Affairs report seen by the ABC, an Australian diplomat met with the UAE's State Security Prosecutor on February 8 to discuss the case and to seek consular access to Mr Abbas.

The DFAT report said the prosecutor confirmed Mr Abbas's mobile phone was, "currently undergoing forensic testing and the investigators were still speaking to witnesses".

Adil Abbas insisted his older brother was innocent and was being made a "scapegoat" because of his friendships with people from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

"He's a law-abiding Australian citizen, he has a very kind heart, he never broke the law and he never caused harm to anyone," he said.

Worried for his health

Mr Abbas said his sibling is a diabetic who requires constant medication and care, and he fears Naim has been tortured while in detention.

"The Emirates told the [Australian] embassy he's in good health but I doubt that, he's a diabetic," Mr Abbas said.

In the UAE, multiple crimes including espionage are punishable by death, usually by firing squad.

DFAT has confirmed its officials are trying to get access to Naim Abbas in prison, but have not yet been successful.

A DFAT spokesperson said it was, "providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian man detained in the United Arab Emirates".

"As per the consular charter, we are seeking permission to visit the man in detention," the spokesman added.

(source: abc.net.au)

EGYPT:

Jailed presidential hopeful Sami Anan 'could face death penalty' for possession of military documents

A legal expert has claimed that Sami Anan could face the death penalty for possessing military documents he threatened to use as blackmail, which allegedly contain information implicating Egyptian leaders.

A leading professor of international law said that imprisoned Egyptian presidential hopeful Sami Anan could face the death penalty, after his aide threatened to divulge military secrets from documents Anan was in possession of, should he be mistreated in detention.

Ayman Salameh told TV channel MBC Egypt during an interview on Tuesday evening that if Hisham Geneina's claims are true, the fact that Anan was in possession of such documents without army authorisation, even if he did not show them to any foreign agents, could warrant the death penalty.

Geneina was arrested by the Egyptian authorities in his Cairo home on Tuesday, after announcing the damning material, purported to implicate current Egyptian leaders in crimes committed by the military regime since the January 25 revolution, was being held in a "secure" place abroad, and could be released if any harm came to Anan.

"[Anan] has documents and evidence regarding all the major events in the country... they of course would change the course and condemn many," he said.

The documents Anan is claimed to have possessed "revolve around political events and crises Egyptian society has passed through" since the January 2011 uprising, Geneina said.

The Egyptian army announced on Monday it was investigating Anan and Geneina over their claims of being in possession of such documents. Anan, who was originally detained after announcing his bid for the Egyptian presidency, is currently being held at a military prison in Hikestep and has been subject to 4 hearings, military sources told The New Arab, adding that he had recently been transferred to solidarity confinement.

(source: alaraby.co.uk)

INDONESIA:

Radical Indonesian Islamic cleric indicted for Jakarta bombing, faces death penalty----The prosecutor told the court that Aman Abdurrahman had pledged allegiance to Isis.

A radical Indonesian Islamic cleric faces the death penalty as a court indicted him for allegedly masterminding the Jakarta bombing in 2016 which killed 4 people. Aman Abdurrahman's trial began on Thursday, 15 February, after he was formally charged with terrorism-related offences.

A series of attacks took place in Indonesia in 2016 including a coordinated gun and suicide bomb assault. 4 militants died in the attack as they were either shot or detonated themselves. This was the 1st major terror attack in Muslim-majority Indonesia since the 2009 twin bombings.

Prosecutor Anita Dewayani told the court that Aman, 46, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (Isis) in 2014 and revealed there were also several terror plots. According to the indictment document, Aman "deliberately used violence or threats to create terror among the general public and caused mass casualties [...] or caused damage".

She told the court that Aman had frequently preached that democracy is anti-Islamic and as sinful as idolatry in Islam urging his Muslim followers to "rectify" the system. Dewayani read out the names of those who were killed in the January 2016 attack in the Indonesian capital. The Jakarta bombing was the 1st-ever attack carried out by the Isis in Southeast Asia.

Dressed in orange clothes, Aman arrived in the court handcuffed and he showed little emotion during the proceedings. He refused to hire a lawyer forcing the court to appoint one. Cell phone records showed that Aman was in close contact with the Jakarta attackers.

"The defendant incited others to commit various terror acts," Dewayani told reporters following the courtroom proceedings. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on 23 February and Aman faces the death penalty if convicted. Indonesia has been struggling to handle rising Islamic radicalism in the last decade, which has witnessed terror attacks and plots by extremists.

(source: ibtimes.co.uk)

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

Life-sentenced prisoner gets death penalty for controlling drug trade

Judges at Medan District Court in North Sumatra handed down on Wednesday the death penalty to Udo Tohar for controlling the distribution of drugs from behind bars at Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan.

The death sentence imposed on Tohar was in line with the sentence demand by the team from the North Sumatra Prosecutor's Office.

Presiding Judge S. Batubara said in his ruling that Tohar had been proven to have directed the distribution of 17 kilograms of narcotics from inside the prison.

He further said the convicted had violated Article 114 (2) of Law No.35/2009 on narcotics.

"We sentence defendant Udo Tohar to death," said Batubara in his ruling. He said there was no aspect that could mitigate the sentence for the defendant. One factor that had made his sentence heavier was the fact that he did not support the governmentís program to eradicate drug crimes. His crime had the potential to destroy the future of Indonesia's younger generations.

Prosecutor Sindu Hutomo said the prosecution team accepted the ruling while Tohar said he would consider appealing it.

Tohar, of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, was arrested after National Narcotics Agency (BNN) officials arrested his 3 accomplices, namely Dedi Guntari Panjaitan, Sofyan Dalimunthe and Saiful Amri. They were arrested for possessing 17,445 grams of crystal methamphetamine during an operation on Jl. Dr.Mansyur, Medan, on Dec. 18, 2015.

(source: Jakarta Post)

CHINA:

Urgent Action Update: Death Sentence of Veteran Activist Upheld (China: UA 3.17)

Xu Youchen is facing imminent execution after the Henan Provincial Higher People's Court rejected his appeal and upheld his conviction and death sentence. The Supreme People's Court will review the case and if it approves the lower court's decision he will be executed. In his appeal, Xu Youchen has testified to being tortured to "confess" to the crime.

Xu Youchen is facing imminent execution after the Henan Provincial Higher People's Court rejected his appeal and upheld his conviction and death sentence. The Supreme People's Court will review the case and if it approves the lower court's decision he will be executed. In his appeal, Xu Youchen has testified to being tortured to "confess" to the crime.

TAKE ACTION

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

Immediately halt plans to carry out Xu Youchen's execution;

Grant Xu Youchen a retrial in proceedings that fully comply with international standards for a fair trial and without recourse to the death penalty and ensure that Xu Youchen is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment;

Immediately establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with 6 UN General Assembly resolution adopted since 2007, and commute all existing death sentences.

Contact these 2 officials by 28 March, 2018:

Secretary of the Central Politics and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China

Guo Shengkun Shuji

Zhonggong Zhongyang Zhengfawei

14 Dengshikou Xijie, Dongcheng Qu

Beijing Shi 100006

People's Republic of China

Salutation: Dear Secretary

Ambassador Tiankai Cui, Embassy of the People's Republic of China

3505 International Place NW

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 495 2138 -- Phone: 1 202 495 2000

Email: chinaembpress_us@mfa.gov.cn

(If you receive an error message, please try calling instead!)

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

PAKISTAN:

Acquittal of 26 men in Mashal's murder case challenged in PHC

Anti-Terrorism Court's (ATC) decision to exonerate 26 suspects in the Mashal Khan lynching case has been challenged in Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday, urging the court to set aside the judgment and award capital punishment to all the accused as Mashal's murder at the university campus was their common intention.

"Take them into custody," Aimal Iqbal Khan, brother of late Mashal Khan appealed the PHC "Their acquittal will not only encourage all of the 26 accused but will also convey wrong impression of the society as the crime, they have committed is not only heinous and brutal in nature but also against the humanity and norms Islam."

The case has been filed through legal panel comprising of Barrister Amirullah Khan, Shahab Khattak, Fazal Khan and Muhammad Ayaz. They asked the court to punish the accused in accordance to the charges leveled against them.

Lawyers told in appeal that besides the sufficient evidences available with the prosecution but they were not appreciated. "The trial court has miserably failed to appreciate the ocular and circumstantial evidences provided," said the appeal submitted to the court.

They added that after their acquittal by the ATC judge, the accused were warmly welcomed by public gathered at Rashakai interchange, where the accused once again admitted charges against them and announced that they will also commit such crimes in future and challenged the writ of state.

In appeal to the court, the lawyers said that all the evidence including the photographs and videos that are also exhibited during the trial have been accepted for the conviction of the accused and the judge also rely on the same evidences while convicting other accused but 26 were released despite the fact that they were also the part of the same illegal mob that lynched Mashal Khan.

"The trial court has admitted it in the judgment that prosecution has proved charges levelled against accused facing trail without any Shadow of doubt but no logical reasons were given by the court while acquitting the 26 accused in the case."

There are sufficient ocular and medical evidences to connect the acquitted accused for the charges leveled against them. Hence, the judgment is liable to be set aside and all of them shall be awarded capital punishment and take them into custody.

"The charges have also been proved against acquitted accused, during the trial," claimed the petitioners in their petition. "Criminal conspiracy has been proved beyond shadow of any reasonable doubt, as such an acquittal under section 120-B is unwarranted both in law and facts."

They added that it is also against the principle of Qisas and such offences must be restricted by capital punishment to set example for future, therefore a law cannot be allowed to take a lenient view.

Common intention

"There was a common intention for which the illegal mob has gathered at the campus and that was kill Mashal," said Advocate Muhammad Ayaz Khan. "It was pre-planned conspiracy of murder of Mashal and finally they had achieved their purpose and thus all those involved in the mob, deserve the capital punishment."

Khan added that all the accused, acquitted by the ATC judge can be seen in the videos each one with a role in murder and so they cannot be let free. "Hence, the judgment of the ATC is not sustainable in the eyes of law and liable to be set aside."

Aimal Iqbal Khan, brother of Mashal Khan said while talking to media outside the court that that people of such mindset shouldn't be allowed free in society, otherwise other Mashals' lives will be in danger.

Aimal said that a separate case should be registered against them as after their release, they openly challenged the writ of state.

(source: The Express Tribune)

FEBRUARY 14, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas father makes personal plea to spare condemned son's life

With his son's execution 9 days away, Kent Whitaker met Tuesday in Austin with the chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to personally request mercy for the child responsible for ripping his life apart.

Thomas "Bart" Whitaker was sentenced to death for arranging the 2003 ambush that killed his mother and brother and severely wounded his father in their Sugar Land home. Even so, Kent Whitaker has forgiven his son - and he desperately wants Texas officials to honor his request to spare the life of "the last surviving member of my natural family."

"Nobody in my family wants to see him executed, and I'm going to be thrown into a deeper grief at the hands of the state of Texas and in the name of justice, and I just feel there is a more appropriate sentence than execution," Kent Whitaker said after a half-hour meeting with David Gutierrez, chairman of the 7-member parole board.

"Texas prides itself on being a victims' rights state," he said. "But being a victims' rights state should mean something ... even when the victim, as in this case, is asking for mercy and not just revenge."

Whitaker said Gutierrez did not ask questions or react to his message or statements made by his brother, Keith Whitaker, and his 2nd wife, Tanya Whitaker.

"It's extremely rare that a board member will meet with a victim, and we're very grateful that Chairman Gutierrez gave us the time out of his schedule to actually hear our heart and what this coming execution is going to mean to our family and the chaos it's going to put us in," Kent Whitaker said.

"I can't tell you how it went; I don't know," he said. "I have been told that it will be a week from today before the votes are collected, so we're going to be in limbo for at least another week as to what they are going to choose to do."

Last month, lawyers for Kent Whitaker filed a clemency petition asking the parole board to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott reduce Thomas Whitaker's sentence to life in prison, and they presented an affidavit signed by the inmate that waives parole should his sentence be commuted.

The petition argued that commutation would spare additional grief for Kent Whitaker, the crime's chief living victim, and that Thomas Whitaker's exemplary conduct on death row earned him the right to seek mercy - earning a college degree by mail, encouraging other condemned inmates to get their high school GED certificates and talking an inmate out of attacking a guard.

The petition included affidavits from 4 former and current death row guards who called him a "model inmate" who follows orders, is respectful and easy going, and has been a positive influence on other inmates.

The petition also noted that the shooter, Chris Brashear, was given a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder, while the getaway driver, Steve Champagne, agreed to a 15-year plea deal and testified against Whitaker.

Prosecutors in the Fort Bend County district attorneys office oppose clemency, saying jurors chose to assess the death penalty even after hearing from Thomas Whitaker's father and learning that his accomplices had received lighter sentences.

Knowing he faces long odds in reversing his son's punishment, Kent Whitaker said he hoped that Abbott would see an opportunity for a "win-win situation."

"I know he doesn't want to appear to be soft on crime, and he never has been," Kent Whitaker said. "But some would argue that spending life in prison for the rest of your natural life is a harder punishment than being placed on death row for a short period of time. He could still be tough on crime by inflicting that very hard penalty ... and at the same time honor my rights, as a victim, to mercy in this case. "We're not asking them to forgive him or let him go, we just want them to let him live."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty sought against man charged in Homewood fire that killed 3

The District Attorney will seek the death penalty against a man accused of starting a deadly house fire last year in Pittsburgh's Homewood section that killed 2 adults and a child.

Martell Smith, 41, is charged with 3 counts of homicide for the deaths of Shamira Staten, 21, her 4-year-old daughter Ch'yenne Manning and Sandra Carter Douglas, 58, all of whom died in the fire at their Bennett Street home.

Smith is accused of starting the fire at 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 20 after a bar fight earlier that night in Penn Hills. The altercation was allegedly with someone else who lived in the home. None of those killed were involved in the fight.

"Yep, yep, I did it, they shouldn't (expletive) with me," a witness heard Smith say at the scene while the house burned, according to the criminal complaint filed the day after the fire.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. cited 6 aggravating factors in his decision to pursue the death penalty against Smith, including: the defendant committed a killing during a felony; the defendant has significant criminal history; and the victim was under 12 years old.

In addition to homicide, Smith faces 9 arson-related charges. All charges were held for court late last month.

At least 2 witnesses heard Smith admit to the arson at the scene while the home burned. One reported hearing Smith say, "I heard Sandra was in there ... she's dead ... oh, well, that's life ... they made me do it," according to the complaint.

Tiasa Malloy, 26, was also arrested in relation to the arson, charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The death penalty announcement was unrelated to her case.

(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Lawmaker wants to bring back death by firing squad

A South Carolina state representative has proposed bringing back death by firing squad.

Rep. Joshua Putnam says death row inmates are spending life in prison because the state doesn't have enough drugs to carry out lethal injections, since drug companies aren't selling lethal injections due to public backlash.

Bobby Wayne Stone, who was convicted of killing a deputy in 1996, was supposed to be executed in December. The penalty has been delayed indefinitely.

"When you hear the term 'firing squad,' you think, 'That's barbaric, that's crazy, we're moving back to the 20th century,'" Putnam says. "If you actually look at the data, the research and the court cases, it is actually the most humane way of putting anyone to rest."

South Carolina lets inmates choose between lethal injection and the electric chair.

"Our bill gives 3 options," Putnam explains. "They get to pick lethal injection, electric chair or firing squad."

If an option is unavailable, the inmate must pick from the other 2.

Failing to execute criminals denies victims the justice they deserve, Putnam says.

"We made a promise to the victims' families to carry out that type of justice," he said. "We've got to honor that promise."

Death by firing squad is currently legal in Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

(source: WDSU news)

FLORIDA:

Handyman could face death for elderly couple's murders

The murders of a retired couple were particularly heinous and cruel. Police say their handyman did it. Now, Michael Herald is charged with 2 counts of murder and could face the death penalty.

John and Nancy Englehart's final moments were violent, according to court documents released in the case.

"They were bludgeoned to death, tortured to death," Rickman explained. "You see them bound. You don't bound someone who's already dead."

The Engleharts were found brutally murdered inside their backyard shed.

Documents show John was found hogtied with severe blows to the head and a cut to his neck.

His wife had suffered head trauma before a plastic bag was placed over it.

Prosecutors say the Engleharts' handyman did it.

Michael Anthony Herald is charged with 2 counts of murder.

Investigators say back in April of 2016, Herald who was hired by the Engleharts to do handy work around their house. They also say he brutally killed the retired couple.

And some of the crime was apparently caught on tape.

The Engleharts' surveilance cameras caught Herald leaving the shed, putting him at the crime scene at the time of the murders.

"One of the other things we have is defensive wounds on the defendant. One of the witnesses say they observed cuts on his hands," said Rickman.

A neighbor reported hearing loud noises coming from the shed that sounded like a metal object, possibly a hammer or pipe.

After the murders, prosecutors say Herald took off in the victims' SUV. He was eventually caught in Kentucky and brought back to Tampa to face murder charges and possibly the death penalty.

No trial date has been set.

(source: Fox News)

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

Jurors return life verdict in Jefty Joseph death case

Jefty Joseph was sentenced to 3 consecutive life sentences for the murder, robbery and kidnapping of Gustavo Falsetti Cabral.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes passed the sentence after a brief sentencing hearing immediately after a jury recommended a life sentence over a possible death penalty in the case.

Before he was sentenced, Joseph reiterated his claims that Kastrenakes was biased against him in a trial that began last month.

The quick verdict came at the end of a day-long penalty phase in the 1st-degree murder trial for Joseph, who jurors last month convicted as charged on the murder, kidnapping and robbery charges tied to Cabral's shooting death. In order for Joseph to have received a death sentence, all 12 jurors would have had to agree that it was an appropriate sentence.

With their verdict, jurors decided that Joseph committed the crime while engaged in a felony, but declined to find that the crime was committed in a heinous, atrocious or cruel manner or that Joseph acted with cold, calculated premeditation.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys declined Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes' offer to poll the jury to see if there was a split in the verdict.

Kastrenakes will likely sentence Joseph immediately.

Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts, who prosecuted Joseph along with Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles, reminded jurors before they began deliberating about hours Cabral spent in terror begging for Joseph, Ilmart Christophe and Koral Ben Shimon to spare his life after they lured him to a Pompano Beach hotel with the promise of sex from an ad Ben Shimon placed on Backpage.com.

Cabral's widow, Christiane Rezende, gave tearful testimony earlier in the da about how devastating the loss of Cabral was.

Jurors announced they had reached a verdict in the penalty phase in about 15 minutes.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

OHIO:

Juror's 2nd thoughts 19 years later shouldn't thwart justice in Raymond Tibbetts case

At about 8 p.m. on Nov. 5, 1997, Judith "Sue" Crawford Tibbetts called her sister, Roseann, to tell her she was kicking her husband of five weeks out of her home in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine.

Raymond Tibbetts had been smoking crack cocaine in the apartment that she rented from Fred Hicks, 67, a retired electrician suffering from emphysema. Sue, who also served as Hicks' caregiver, told her sister she wanted Raymond out, and promised to call back later that evening.

When Roseann Crawford became worried and telephoned a couple of hours later, Raymond answered and said his wife couldn't come to the phone.

The following day Crawford found out why. Tibbetts had taken a baseball bat and beaten Sue with it in their upstairs bedroom, then stabbed her 21 times, leaving a knife in her neck. She had been clubbed in the head four times, breaking open her skull, and suffered numerous broken bones, including her left arm -- likely as she tried to fend off the blows from the bat.

Raymond Tibbetts then went downstairs, where Hicks was lying in a recliner, and stabbed the ailing man 12 times, leaving 4 knives sticking out of his body.

Within days, he was arrested for the brutal attacks, and in August 1998, he was convicted of aggravated murder. Fittingly, the judge sentenced him to die on the 1-year anniversary of the killings.

That was 19 anniversaries ago.

Meanwhile, Tibbetts has languished on death row, as the state has agonized over how to painlessly and humanely dispatch a man who beat his wife to death with a baseball bat and stabbed the life out of a helpless man as he lay in a recliner.

The original verdict was appealed, and unanimously affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2001. Last May, the Ohio Parole Board denied clemency in an 11-1 vote, and, at long last, the state scheduled Feb. 13 for Tibbetts' date with the hereafter.

Then, last week, Ross Geiger and Gov. John Kasich stepped in.

Geiger had been part of the jury that found Tibbetts guilty and recommended the death penalty way back in 1998. But over the intervening years, he came to believe that when he cast his vote to put Tibbetts to death, he did not have enough information regarding the man's rough childhood and drug addiction, and would have voted differently if he had.

So, after learning that a date had been set for the execution, the Cincinnati man composed a passionate op-ed column, imploring Kasich to commute Tibbetts' death sentence to life imprisonment. The column appeared Feb. 5 in the opinion section of Cleveland.com, and was published in last Wednesday's Plain Dealer Forum section.

Gov. John Kasich should commute Ray Tibbetts' death sentence and stay his Feb. 13 execution since mitigating information was withheld at trial that would have caused me to vote against death, writes Tibbetts juror Ross Allen Geiger.

And on Thursday Kasich ordered a stay of Tibbetts' execution until Oct. 17 - eight months from now - instructing the parole board to consider the juror's concerns. That would be the same parole board that less than a year ago considered the elements of Tibbetts' difficult background as part of his plea for mercy, and almost unanimously found them unpersuasive.

Geiger, however, has been persuaded.

"I had faith in the system in which I made my vote for death, but Ohio's criminal justice system failed me and Mr. Tibbetts," wrote Geiger. "The system failed to provide me with the information I needed to make an accurate and fair determination."

"Mr." Tibbetts, eh?

I'd say if the justice system has failed anyone, it's been Sue Tibbetts and Fred Hicks, because it has kept the animal who clubbed and stabbed them to death safe and warm and fed for the last 20 years, long after he should have gone to whatever reward he has waiting for him.

Geiger's sympathy is with Tibbetts, however.

"Imagine my shock," he wrote, "when I recently read the now publicly available clemency report as well as supporting documentation. I saw pages of relevant information concerning details of the abandonment, foster abuse, and reabandonment, and that it began before Ray Tibbetts was even two years old and continued throughout his childhood."

I read the report and was shocked too, but not for the same reason Geiger was. Go ahead and read it yourself. You'll see a long accounting of the disdain for the law and other people's possessions that marked Tibbetts' life. You'll see grisly details of his attack on his wife and landlord. And you'll see a note from one of Fred Hicks' nephews, who himself was brought up in foster home squalor but somehow managed to not become a drug addict and murder 2 people.

In the end, it shouldn't matter what circumstances led Tibbetts to that fateful night in 1997. It matters only that he killed two people, and should have been long in the grave himself as a result.

It is an outrage that Raymond Tibbetts has been allowed to live in relative comfort two decades longer than his victims.

It is equally outrageous that Kasich has allowed a juror, 19 years after the fact, to goad him into pulling the plug on Tibbetts' richly deserved punishment.

Gov. John Kasich has pushed back the execution date for Raymond Tibbetts so the Ohio Parole Board can consider a juror's concerns about Tibbetts' trial.

If Geiger has had a crisis of conscience, that's his business. Kasich shouldn't allow it to thwart justice.

(source: Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer)

INDIANA:

Indiana Supreme Court rules against death row inmate

Indiana's Supreme Court has ruled against death row inmate Roy Ward, stating that the process used to choose the state's new three-drug lethal injection cocktail complies with constitutional law.

Ward challenged the state's lethal injection process, arguing there is a lack of oversight in who picks what is in the "drug cocktail" that would be used to execute him.

The court ruled Tuesday that the Indiana Department of Correction can alter its lethal injection protocols without oversight because the internal procedures are "without the effect of law."

In a unanimous 9-page decision written by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff, the court held that Ward's "constitutional claims necessarily fail."

Goff was named to the court last June, replacing former Justice Robert Rucker.

Ward's Fort Wayne attorney, David Frank, was not immediately available for comment.

Goff pointed out that Ward did not raise an Eighth Amendment cruel-and-unusual punishment argument to the court.

"His Indiana and federal constitutional claims cited only due process violations, which hinged upon whether the Departmentís lethal injection protocol amounted to a rule subject to ARPA (Indiana's Administrative Rules and Procedures Act.)"

In 2014, the Department of Correction chose a 3-drug cocktail - including a drug called Brevital - that has not been used in any state or federal execution.

The other two drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

During oral arguments in October, Indiana Attorney General Chief Counsel Stephen Creason told the court that the DOC would not be using Brevital to execute prisoners.

However, "the question going forward," Creason posed to the justices, "is what will the department need to do whenever it identifies a new execution procedure?"

Ward, who was convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County, is 1 of 11 people on death row in Indiana. And of those 11, none has a scheduled execution date.

The Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Ward in June, when the court ruled that the death penalty protocol adopted in May 2014 was unconstitutional and thus "void and without effect."

The Supreme Court unanimously decided in September 2017 to weigh in on the appeal.

Supreme Court Justices Steven H. David and Geoffrey Slaughter were skeptical of Ward's claim.

"The majority of states have not sided with your position," said Justice David to attorney David, referring to Ward's challenge to the process.

Justice Slaughter questioned whether it was appropriate for the court to even hear the case when there is no set date for Ward to be executed by the state.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush, however, said she wanted to look at legal precedent on the issue.

"I look at Court of Appeals opinions and (rulings in) other states," she said, subsequently questioning why there is no set rules on choosing death penalty methods.

She specifically wondered why the Department of Correction would have specific rules on such "mundane topics" as washing bed sheets, but not on the way it chooses a lethal injection drug.

But the issue clearly is not going away, nor is the desire for prosecutors to seek the ultimate punishment.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry seeks the death penalty against Jason Dane Brown.

Police say 28-year-old Brown was in an overturned vehicle in the 6600 block of South Madison Avenue in Homecroft on July 27 when he fired at Southport Police Officer Aaron Allan.

Brown fired more than a dozen shots at the 38-year-old Allan, striking him 11 times as he tried to crawl away, court documents say.

(source: Indianapolis Star)

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

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Indiana Death Penalty Protocol----Unanimous ruling removes 1 roadblock to 1st execution since 2009, but state still needs a supplier for necessary chemicals

A legal roadblock to carrying out the death penalty in Indiana has been removed. But it's still not clear when any executions will take place.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in June that Indiana can't execute anyone by lethal injection, because a change in the 3-drug cocktail didn't go through the hearings and public comments required for new state regulations. A unanimous Supreme Court says the change is an internal policy that affects only department employees, so that process doesn't apply.

All but one of Indiana's 9 death row inmates are still pursuing appeals. The execution of the lone exception, Steuben County quadruple murderer Joseph Corcoran, was in limbo even before the Court of Appeals ruling. Corcoran exhausted his appeals nearly two years ago, but Attorney General Curtis Hill's office said last fall the state hasn't been able to acquire the necessary chemicals, even after legislators passed a law ensuring confidentiality for suppliers.

Indiana hasn't carried out an execution since 2009.

(source: WIBC news)

IOWA:

Capital punishment bill won't advance in Iowa Senate

An Iowa Senate bill to reinstate capital punishment in Iowa won't advance in the Legislature's 2018 session.

Senate Study Bill 3134 had been approved Monday by a Senate subcommittee on a 3-2 vote with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. But Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday the bill won't be debated again this week, which means it will fail to meet a key legislative deadline.

"I am going to go on record here on the death penalty: It is not going to be run; I am putting this to rest, " Zaun said. "I don't want to say more than that. I have decided it is not going to be on the agenda on Wednesday or Thursday, so it will not be eligible to move on unless someone wants to vote on it and do an amendment, which I can't control. But in Judiciary, it will not be run."

The Senate subcommittee had supported the reinstatement of capital punishment on Monday after an emotional debate. Supporters had argued for justice after heinous crimes, and opponents warned that executions have historically been racially biased and sometimes sent innocent people to their deaths.

The legislation would have applied to the murder of a law enforcement officer or to cases in which a child is the victim of multiple offenses of kidnap, rape and murder.

But even if the Iowa Senate had passed the death penalty bill this session, it's uncertain whether it could win approval in the House. House Public Safety Committee Chairman Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, recently said there is not enough support to advance expansive capital punishment legislation under House Study Bill 569.

Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965. Except for a passionate debate in the 1990s that followed the brutal killing of 2 workers at the Drake Diner in Des Moines, lawmakers have since generally accepted the idea that Iowa will not execute inmates. That's also meant that people convicted of 1st-degree murder and given life sentences in recent decades have rarely been granted clemency by the state's governors.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Monday showed continued strong support for capital punishment in Iowa, with 58 % in favor and 36 % opposed. The death penalty is especially supported by Republicans, with 72 % in favor. In contrast, Democratic support is less than 1/2, at 43 %, while independents are 58 % in favor.

(source: Des Moines Register)

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

Iowa death penalty debate laid to rest----Senate leader signals end

The 2018 legislative debate over reinstating the death penalty in Iowa proved to be short-lived.

One day after a sometimes-emotionally charged subcommittee discussion on a bill designed to provide a limited deterrent in situations where someone aged 18 or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor or separately kills a peace officer in the line of duty, a key senator pulled the plug on the topic.

"It's not going to be run. I'm putting it to rest," Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters after Tuesday's committee meeting.

"I don't want to say any more than that. I've decided that it's not going to go on the (Judiciary Committee) agenda either Wednesday or Thursday, so it will not be eligible to move on unless someone wants to do an amendment, which I can't control. But in Judiciary, it will not be run."

A 5-member subcommittee had voted 3-2 on Monday to advance Senate Study Bill 3134 to full committee but opponents wondered then if there would be enough votes to pass it in committee or on the Senate floor, especially in light of the fact that a death-penalty bill in the Iowa House had failed to clear the subcommittee level.

Friday marks the arrival of a self-imposed legislative deadline for non-money bills to clear a standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration this session. Zaun's decision to withhold SSB 3134 from committee consideration means it will fall victim to the "funnel" system and will be tabled for the 2018 session.

Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, who has introduced a limited death penalty bill since in each General Assembly since 1997, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome.

"That's too bad. I'll just keep reintroducing it and we'll see what happens. I still think it's appropriate. I think it's the right thing to do and that's the way the process works," Behn said. "Look, I've been doing this for years and you can't get mad, you just have to say if that's the current situation then the best I can do is bring it up again next year."

(source: The Gazette)

MISSOURI:

Prosecutors intend to seek death penalty in case of murdered Clinton officer

Missouri state prosecutors have announced that they intend to seek the death penalty for the man suspected of shooting and killing a Clinton police officer in August 2017.

Ian McCarthy is charged with 1 count of 1st-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action after Clinton police officer Gary Michael was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

Prosecutors say they intend to prove 5 statutory aggravating circumstances of the incident.

(source: KCTV news)

OKLAHOMA:

Death penalty trial may be delayed in slaying of 19-year-old Tulsa woman

The capital trial for a man charged in the March strangulation death of a 19-year-old woman in southeast Tulsa could be moved back while both sides continue to gather evidence.

Gregory Jerome Epperson, 42, could face the death penalty in the homicide of Kelsey Tennant, which occurred March 20 inside an apartment Tennant shared with her boyfriend, Riley Allen. Epperson also is charged with felony assault and battery related to allegations he tried to kill Allen during a physical struggle.

The case marks the 1st time the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office has asked for consideration of capital punishment since filing charges in the 2012 Good Friday shootings.

In a status hearing Monday afternoon, District Judge Doug Drummond said he wasn't yet going to officially move Epperson's trial, currently set for mid-May, to another date but wanted to set aside the 2 weeks beginning Aug. 27 as an alternative.

Drummond said he did not believe it would be realistic to start the trial in May due to outstanding evidence exchange obligations and also the need for both sides to argue over dozens of pretrial motions the defense filed Friday.

Lead defense attorney Shena Burgess said she intends to file additional motions leading up to the trial and noted she is still in need of several items of evidence related to prior criminal action against her client. Epperson was charged with murder in 2015, but the case was later dismissed, and prosecutors said Monday they will provide evidence in that case to the defense in anticipation of using it in the current case.

Drummond ordered the state to respond to the already-filed defense motions by March 22, and a hearing is set for March 29.

(source: Tulsa World)

NEBRASKA:

Judge dismisses ACLU lawsuit filed over referendum on behalf of Nebraska death-row inmates

A Lancaster County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of death-row inmates challenging the referendum that reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska.

In a 14-page decision Monday, District Judge John Colborn agreed with attorneys for the state who argued that there was an equally serviceable remedy available to those inmates: post-conviction motions in their criminal cases.

The ACLU had filed the lawsuit in December, asking the court to block the state from carrying out executions for those whose death sentences were temporarily eliminated when lawmakers repealed Nebraska's death penalty in 2015.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson applauded Colborn's decision, saying the opinion did a thorough analysis of important case law supporting the dismissal of the ACLU's claims.

He said the lawsuit had asked the court to "override the will of the people expressed in the referendum." But those who have committed brutal murders were legally sentenced to death, and the Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld their sentences.

"This office is committed to our legal duty to enforce the death sentences ordered by Nebraska's Courts," Peterson said.

The Department of Correctional Services already has notified 2 of the men - Jose Sandoval and Carey Dean Moore - of the drugs that would be used to carry out the punishment given to them for their crimes, a necessary precursor to asking for a death warrant.

ACLU attorneys had alleged the ballot initiative violated the state constitution's separation of powers and should be invalidated because Ricketts was a driving force behind it.

They argued that state lawmakers effectively commuted the sentences of those on death row by repealing the death penalty and that Ricketts violated the separation of powers act when he used the referendum power reserved for the people of the state to reinstate it.

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office countered that the time to raise procedural questions about the referendum was before votes were cast, that death-row inmates could file more proper motions for post-conviction relief in their criminal cases, and that seven of the 10 men on death row already had pending proceedings in state court or open appeals to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

UTAH:

Lawmakers will consider - again - whether to abolish the death penalty in Utah

After a push to end Utah's death penalty system failed two years ago, lawmakers will again consider whether to abolish capital punishment.

HB379 would prohibit Utah prosecutors from seeking the death penalty after May 8. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, still would allow for the nine men currently on death row to be executed. It also would allow prosecutors to continue to seek executions in current cases - so long as they file their intent to do so before the May deadline.

Utah legislators came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session. The issue was not considered during last year's session.

When asked for comment about the bill Tuesday, Froerer said he would hold a news conference about the legislation later this week.

Groups such as American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Libertas Institute and Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty have voiced support for abolishing Utah's death penalty.

If legislators pass the bill, Utah would join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in outlawing capital punishment.

Lawmakers also are considering another death penalty-related bill, HB70, which would request that legislative auditors study the costs of capital punishment versus a life-without-parole sentence.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimated in 2012 that over a 20-year period, it costs an additional $1.6 million to handle appeals and costs of a death sentence.

But bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said that legislative study was "very brief" and did not include many of the costs incurred by state and county personnel.

Since 2010, Utah prosecutors have filed 119 aggravated murder cases, according to Utah court data. Such cases can result in punishments of 25 years to life, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.

Utah lawmaker wants extensive study of death penalty costs vs. life without parole sentence Utah lawmaker wants extensive study of death penalty costs vs. life without parole sentence

Another push to end Utah's death penalty is likely for the 2018 legislative session

2 death row inmates need new attorneys - but will anyone sign up? 2 death row inmates need new attorneys - but will anyone sign up?

Only 1 of those cases - a retrial of a 1993 case - resulted in a death sentence.

Of the 9 currently on Utah's death row, 2 were originally convicted as long ago as 1985. All but 1 of the rest were convicted before 1999, although 1 case was retried in 2015 and resulted in a 2nd death sentence. All 9 have ongoing appeals in state or federal court.

The last execution in Utah was carried out in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by firing squad for the 1984 murder of attorney Michael Burdell during Gardner's failed escape attempt from Salt Lake City's 3rd District courthouse.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

WASHINGTON:

What one daughter of a Green River Killer victim says about death penalty

As the daughter of a murder victim, I urge Washington legislators to repeal the death penalty this month. Washington should join Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Mexico, which have all repealed the death penalty since 2007.

In 1990, when I was 16, my mother's body was discovered in a field along Highway 410 near Enumclaw months after her disappearance.

Her case languished as a cold case until 2003, when a suspect was finally named: Gary Ridgway.

As many residents of the Pacific Northwest know, Ridgway was dubbed the Green River Killer, and in 2003 was already in custody for several other murders in the greater Seattle area after being at large for 20 years.

Ridgway agreed to plead guilty to 48 counts of 1st-degree murder in exchange for providing information to law enforcement about the murders. As a result, he received a sentence of life without possibility of parole, which means he will die in prison. He is being held at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The Green River Task Force and the King County Prosecutor's Office were faced with a gargantuan amount of evidence in the murders Ridgway committed.

Their decision to offer Ridgway life without parole released my family from the painful lack of closure - of not knowing who killed our mother, 36-year-old Marti Reeves, and from the decades of appeals and uncertainty that go along with the death penalty.

Many family members of the victims of murder live with the reality that their case might never be solved.

Despite what Ridgway did to my mother, and the pain he wreaked on me, my family and our community, I have never, not even for a minute, wanted him to receive the death penalty. Retribution in the case of murder does absolutely nothing to undo the act.

Punishing my mother's murderer has absolutely nothing to do with her death; Ridgway's fate is separate from hers. His execution would never bring her back or take away the suffering.

If family members of murder victims want retribution, what is harder for the criminal: death or lifelong accountability? Execution is arguably an easier fate.

If Washington joins those in other states who have abolished the death penalty, the sentences of Washington's 8 death row inmates will be converted to life without parole, and they will die in prison.

One recent study by Seattle University found we would save millions of tax dollars by replacing the death penalty with life without parole - money we could spend improving the quality of life for victims and communities and solving more murders.

Each year in Washington, far too many homicides go unsolved due to a lack of resources. Having waited months before my mother's body was found, then over a decade for the killer to be identified, I know how difficult it is to wait for justice.

No family should ever have to go without it.

Law enforcement officials are faced with an immense challenge and they need more resources and training to solve more homicides, more quickly. Murder victims' families also have needs, including financial assistance for burials, grief counseling and medical care.

Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on carrying out the death penalty, we should improve victims' services and direct resources toward unsolved murder investigations and prisoner rehabilitation.

Victims deserve better than the hollow promise of another death. It's time for Washington to join the states working for solutions to violent crime, not perpetuating it with the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Nova Reeves, a San Francisco Bay Area resident, has been involved with California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the Northern California ACLU's campaign to end the death penalty----thenewstribune.com)

AUSTRALIA:

How the hanging of Queensland's doomed lovers changed our history

A doomed love affair that ended with twin hangings and burials in unmarked graves charts the horrid, bloody story to end capital punishment in the British Commonwealth.

The fatal relationship began on a farm near Mossman, in far north Queensland, where an Irish woman met a British Navy deserter and fell in love.

Ellen Thomson was the only woman ever hanged in a Queensland prison, despite a last-minute confession from her lover, John Harrison, who on the night before their execution told authorities she had nothing to do with shooting her husband.

In April 1887, Thomson was 41 and Harrison 25 when they were convicted of murdering the woman's second husband, 66-year-old William Thomson.

They were both hanged 1 months later in Boggo Road Gaol at Dutton Park, in Brisbane's south, 35 years before Queensland led the nation in abolishing capital punishment.

The 66-year-old owned a farm on the Mossman River and Ellen Thomson left her work as a washerwoman on the Cooktown goldfields to become his housekeeper, and eventually his wife in November 1880.

Historian Chris Dawson said life was hard on Cooktown's goldfields for the young woman, who shifted from New South Wales to Queensland in search of the precious metal.

The widowed then mother-of-5's 1st husband, William Wood, had died near Cooktown in the mid-1860s.

"For her this was a chance to settle down with her family," Mr Dawson said.

"...It seemed to have been a marriage of convenience for both of them.

"She could look after him and she had a house - and she had a daughter (young Ellen) with him."

But in 1886, Thomson's new man drove away the eldest children from her first marriage and was "frequently mean" to her, Mr Dawson said.

Harrison was "on the run" after deserting the English Royal Navy, working on farms around Port Douglas and Mossman.

"He obviously caught her eye and they had an affair," Mr Dawson said.

William Thomson was shot dead on October 1886. By April 1887 the lovers were both tried and convicted of his murder and by May they were locked up at Boggo Road.

Early in the morning of Monday June 13, 1887, Thomson was hanged at Boggo Road Gaol.

The night before the hanging, Harrison confessed to shooting William Thomson and said Ellen had nothing to do with the shooting, to no avail.

He was hanged immediately after his lover and both were buried in unmarked graves in the huge South Brisbane Cemetery, just down the road from the prison.

The Brisbane Telegraph reported her final words: "Goodbye everybody. I forgive everybody. I never shot my husband. I never did anybody any harm. I will die like an injured angel."

The death was an ugly sight. The rope had severed Ellen Thomson's jugular vein.

"Blood trickling down her body and patterning in large drops on the hard cement floor. It increases in quantity and (soon) the whole floor is covered with a woman's blood," the newspaper reported.

Mr Dawson said the horrible image of Thomson's death began a social push to end hangings.

"There was a real feeling that hanging a woman was morally wrong, by the sensitivities of the time," he said.

"It was a particularly barbaric thing to hang a woman."

By 1899, a powerful community mood had grown to abolish capital punishment and by 1922 Queensland became the 1st place in the British Commonwealth to end the practice.

Tracey Olivieri is the president of Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery, where the unmarked graves of the 42 prisoners executed at Boggo Road Gaol sit down by the Brisbane River.

She said few people realised the sunshine state was the 1st colony to scrap capital punishment.

"I think it's a great thing for Queensland," she said.

"It really was the 1st place to stop executions.

"A lot of people will probably think differently, but hanging back then was a horrid way to kill people."

In May 2005, the Boggo Road Historical Society placed a plaque in Portion 6B to recognise the executed convicts.

"So it doesn't mark a physical grave, but it marks the area - the portion - where the executed prisoners are buried," Ms Olivieri said.

On the plaque you can read: "Ellen Thomson, Ireland" and directly below "John Harrison, England".

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysia Set to Execute More People for Drug Offenses----The United Nations opposes the use of the death penalty for drug law violations,but too many countries won't listen.

Last month, 6 people were sentenced to death for drug trafficking by a Malaysian court. 2 are Malaysian and the rest are Indian nationals - another country that maintains the death penalty for drug offenses. While Malaysia has taken steps to make the death penalty for certain drug offenses non-mandatory, slow implementation of the law and the retention of the death penalty means that many more will executed in the name of the war on drugs.

The 6 people are among hundreds facing capital punishment for drug law violations in Malaysia. And among hundreds more in the region. Less than 2 months ago, China executed seven people for drug offenses, in front of thousands of onlookers. And just a few years ago, Indonesia executed 8 people for drug offenses, despite repeated pleas for mercy from family members, citizens, human rights organizations, the United Nations and governments from around the world.

Even here in the U.S., where the death penalty isn't applied for drug offenses, the current opioid overdose crisis has led to more criminalization of people who sell drugs. The Governor of the state of Florida recently signed a bill which would expand the definition of 1st degree murder - a crime for which the death penalty can be applied in the state - to include selling a lethal dose of the opioid, fentanyl.

The United Nations opposes the use of the death penalty for drug law violations, and has repeatedly upheld that using the death penalty to enforce drug laws violates international law. International law limits the application of the death penalty to the "most serious crimes" which does not include drug use, sales, or trafficking.

Despite this, 33 countries still use this ineffective and draconian measure to deal with drug offenses. In some countries, there have been signs of reform. Iran, which has sentenced thousands to death for drugs, recently amended its penal code, indicating that even countries that have long relied on capital punishment for drug offenses are realizing how ineffective it is.

While the death penalty represents an extreme example of the perverse ways in which governments punish people suspected of involvement with illegal drugs, many more countries around the world of are also guilty of heinous crimes in this misguided global drug war.

(source: alternet.org)

INDIA:

Chouhan urges HM to pass bill on capital punishment for accused in minor rape cases

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.

Earlier, the chief minister also met Home Minister Rajnath Singh requesting him to pass pending bills sent by the state government, especially taking in accord death penalty for those who are accused in rape cases of girls below 12 years of age.

Earlier in the day, Chouhan also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here and demanded Rs. 2,800 crores of the drought relief amount pending with the Centre.

Chouhan also discussed National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) refinance with Jaitley.

This comes after Chouhan on Sunday announced that farmers will be given compensation for the losses incurred by them in wake of the hail storm, which recently hit many parts of the state.

(source: ANI news)

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

Maliwal launches 'Rape Roko' movement, calls for death penalty for child rapists

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson Swati Maliwal on Tuesday launched a 'Rape Roko' movement against sexual violence and announced holding of mass demonstrations across the country on March 8 -- the day marked as International Women's Day.

She led a march from Vishwavidyalaya Metro station to the Delhi University Arts Faculty where she addressed a gathering of students and exhorted them to express outrage on crimes against women and infants.

The Commission, she said, will send 100,000 letters containing commission's demands signed by one lakh individuals to the prime minister and work towards turning the 'Rape Roko' into a true people's movement.

"I can't tell you how horrified, how terrified, how troubled I am... there's no conversation, there's no public anger, there's no outrage," she said on the rape of an 8-month-old some days ago.

"We've done whatever we could. We have gone to courts, spoken to leaders, tried writing letters to the government but it has not worked till now," she added.

That's why, she said, the Rape Roko movement had been launched. "I really want that this movement should become a people's movement, and I feel that people will come down on the streets and they will express their anger in a peaceful manner," she said.

As a means of deterrence to such crimes against infants, Maliwal advocated the death penalty within 6 months of the crime for the perpetrator.

She also said trials of crimes against women should also be completed within 6 months.

"There's a lack of deterrence. And that is what we are targeting," she said.

"On March 8, people of India will throng the streets of Delhi as well as other cities and we are hoping that the government will then listen. We will be reaching out to everyone," she said.

(source: business-standard.com)

MYANMAR:

Yangon women demand death penalty for rapists

A group of women protested outside the North Dagon Township court on Feb. 8 to demand the death penalty for anyone convicted of rape in Myanmar, including those who were convicted in the past.

The protest was organized by the Myanmar Women's Safeguarding Team to coincide with the second court appearance of taxi driver Myo Zaw Oo, who is suspected of raping and murdering 26-year-old Food and Drug Administration staffer Shwe Yee Win on Jan. 20.

The case has raised security concerns among Yangon women and rights groups, who say the city needs more police patrols, CCTV systems, street lights, and relocations of bus stops.

In addition to these deterrence schemes, some women going a few steps further, saying rapists must die.

"We aim to enact a new law giving death sentences to rapists instead of prison punishment. We request the government gives the death sentence to any rapists without granting amnesty," Myanmar Women's Safeguarding Team secretary Khin Thandar told Eleven.

"There is no rule of law in our country, and there is no safety for the women. All Myanmar women want to give the death sentence to rapists. We request the government gives the death sentence to rapists, including those previously convicted," she added.

During the hearing, protesters distributed pamphlets titled "Any rape case must be given the death sentence" to passersby.

Under Myanmar's current law (Penal Code, Section 376), men who are convicted of rape can be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison, unless the victim is his wife, in which case the prison sentence cannot be longer than 2 years.

Shwe Yee Win was declared missing on Jan. 20 after she failed to return from Hledan Center to her parents' home in Dagon Township by 8pm. Her body was discovered near the Ngamoyake Creek Bridge in North Dagon Township the following day.

Police arrested Myo Zaw Oo after a phone services shop reported that he had come in with the victim's phone. During an interrogation, the suspect said he had picked up Shwe Yee Win near Hledan Center before quarrelling over the taxi fare near her home. He then allegedly stopped the car, strangled her until she passed out, stabbed her in the neck with a screwdriver, drove to North Dagon Township, and raped her while she was unconscious.

A police photo of the suspect shows him posing with Shwe Yee Win's belongings, including jewelry, a purse, and a phone.

Shwe Yee Win was buried during a well-attended funeral on Jan. 23 at Yangon's Yay Way Cemetery.

Rape is believed to be on the rise in Yangon, as it has accounted for accounted for 229 of 469 major crimes recorded in 2016 and for 270 of 478 major crimes in 2017.

One online petition is calling on Myanmar authorities to ensure justice for Shwe Yee Win by imposing harsher punishments for convicted rapists, but it does not mention the death penalty.

(soruce: coconuts.co)

SOUTH SUDAN:

James Dak's death penality is absolute miscarriage of justice

The death sentence and 20 years life imprisonment against James Gatdet Dak is illegal and politically motivated. The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan (TCSS), 2011 is the supreme law of the land and the guiding principle of distinct laws that exist in South Sudan. The general principle of the common law is that, "any law that is inconsistent with the constitution is habitually considered null and void." On that note, article 3 (1) (2) (3) of the transitional constitution of South Sudan, 2011 stipulated that, the constitution derives its authority from the will of the people and shall be the supreme law of the land. It shall have a binding force on all persons, institutions, organs and agencies of government throughout the country. (2) The authority of government at all levels shall derive from the constitution and the law. (3) The States' constitutions and all laws shall conform to the constitution.

Nonetheless, James Gatdet was charged with treason and sentenced to death and 20 years life imprisonment according to section 64 read together with sections 75 and 76 of the South Sudan Penal code, 2008.

However, these provisions of the Penal Code, 2008 contradicts the provisions of the supreme law of the land under article 21 (1) of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011. This article restricted death penalty and stated that "No death penalty shall be imposed, save as punishment for extremely serious offences in accordance with the law."

On top of that, according to article 11 of the TCSS, 2011, "every person has the inherent right to life, dignity and the integrity of his or her person which shall be protected by law; no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life."

On a separate note, an accused person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt is proved according to the law. Therefore, if the court proved beyond reasonable doubt that Gatdet was perhaps guilty of treason, then he should solely be charged of 20 years life imprisonment, but not death penalty, owing to the fact that, death penalty is prohibited by the supreme law of the land (transitional constitution of South Sudan, 2011).

Ultimately, it's incontrovertible that I am a staunch die-hard supporter of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU), but truth must be told, with the view that, no one is above the law and as a concerned citizen of South Sudan, it is my constitutional right and an obligation to defend the constitution as provided for under article 4 (3) of the transitional constitution of South Sudan, 2011.

This is my sincere appeal on behalf of Cde. James Gatdet Dak.

Deng Gai Gatluak is a law lecturer at Starford International University (SIU), (teaching constitution and administrative law). he is also a member of National Dialogue Steering Committee (Secretariat).

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

Quash death sentence, Amnesty International tells S. Sudan

The campaign group, Amnesty International on Tuesday called or the immediate squashing of the death penalty against former rebel spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak.

A South Sudan court on Monday sentenced the former spokesman of the rebel leader, Riek Machar to death, citing multiple provisions in the constitution as the basis upon which the verdict was reached.

Dak was facing several charges, including accusations of treason.

The lead-defence lawyer in the case, Monyluak Alor Kuol described the verdict as a political decision

"Gatdet's sentence is completely unacceptable and must be quashed immediately. The death penalty is an abhorrent punishment and should never be used in any circumstances," said Sarah Jackon, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

She described the sentence as "completely unacceptable" and must be quashed immediately by the South Sudanese government.

"Gatdet received his death sentence at a time when he had had no legal representation for more than a month. In any case, the death penalty has no place in the modern era," Jackon further stated.

"Instead of sentencing people to death, the South Sudanese government should immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing this cruel and inhuman penalty, as have 105 other countries around the globe," she added.

The campaign group said it opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner, describing death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Dak was unlawfully transferred from Kenya to South Sudan in November 2016. He spent over 7 months in solitary confinement before finally being charged with abetment, treason, publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to South Sudan, and undermining the authority of or insulting President Salva Kiir.

(source for both: Sudan Tribune)

NIGERIA:

Rivers House of Assembly to relax death penalty in anti-cultism, anti-kidnapping bills

The Rivers State House of Assembly may relax death penalty in the anti-cultism and anti-kidnapping bills.This is sequel to the outcome of reports of the ad-hoc committee on three different bills currently being considered by the House.The plan came after a public hearing was held last weekend with recommendations to relax some of the penalties.

The bills: the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) Amendment No. 1 Bill, 2018; Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Amendment No. 2 Bill, 2018 and the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, 2018, are all executive bills.

Chairman of the ad-hoc committee and Majority Leader, Martin Amaewhule, while presenting report on the outcome of the public hearing for the 3 bills during plenary yesterday, said that there were divergent views on the proposed penalties both for the anti-cultism and anti-kinapping bills.

He said after due consideration, the committee recommends that the death penalty should be relaxed in the anti-cultism and anti-kidnapping bills.On the Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, Amaewhule stated that there was no provision for secretary to the board in the bill, adding that the committee recommended a secretary with 3-year tenure.

Also, on corporate bodies found to be sponsoring cult activities, he said the proposed N50 million penalty remains, adding that the committee also recommends that state government will confiscate any property where cult activities are being carried out with the knowledge of the owner instead of demolishing.

Amaewhule, who stated that the committee adopted the provisions of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps Law on the issue of pre-action notice, disclosed that the stakeholders hailed the state government for coming up with such amendments and a bill that will help improve security of lives and property in the state. The House later deferred debate on the 3 bills and adjourned to Monday, February 19, 2018. The Speaker, Ikunyi Owaji-Ibani, said the deferment is to allow members study the reports and debate adequately.

(source: guardian.ng)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Abu Dhabi boy rape-murder case: Court to hear appeal on March 7

The 33-year-old man was sentenced to death last November after he was found guilty of rape and murder.

The Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal will reconvene for the second time to consider the appeal of the death penalty verdict issued last year to a 33-year-old Pakistani man.

The 33-year-old man was sentenced to death last November after he was found guilty of rape and murder. A defence lawyer will be appointed for his case which will be heard on March 7.

The child's parents attended the hearing which lasted all of 2 minutes, reported Al Ittihad.

A defence lawyer was not present at the first hearing and the state had not appointed one for the suspect.

The law requires that all capital offenders be represented by a lawyer for a fair hearing.

The murder happened last Ramadan when the body of the 11-year-old Pakistani child was found on the terrace of the building where he lived with his father and stepmother.

The child had gone out to a nearby mosque to pray when he went missing and was found the next morning on the rooftop with signs of strangulation and abuse on his body.

The Juvenile and Family Prosecution division at Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution launched an investigation to ascertain the identity of the attacker.

A photographic examination was conducted at the scene of the crime.

The suspect was confronted with the evidence that had been gathered, including the forensic report confirming the appearance of bruises and injuries on the child's body.

The Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance had issued a death sentence to the 33-year-old Pakistani man for the rape and premeditated murder of the child.

He was also charged with paying Dh200,000 in blood money to the heirs, crossdressing, and violating a traffic law.

(source: Khaleej Times)

IRAN:

MP Speaks Out Against Scholar's Death Sentence

Iranian MP Mahmoud Sadeghi has said that an Iranian scholar from Sweden who was sentenced to death was denied sufficient opportunity to defend himself during his trial.

Ahmadreza Jalali (or Djalali), a resident of Sweden since 2009, is a physician and researcher affiliated with the Karolinska Institute near Stockholm. While on an official academic visit hosted by Tehran University, Jalali was accused of collaboration with a hostile government and arrested in April 2016.

Since then, he has received the death penalty and his request for an appeal has been denied.

Sadeghi tweeted on February 14 that he had received a complaint from Jalali and his initial review shows the convicted scholar was not given sufficient opportunity to defend himself throughout the various phases of the trial.

An Iranian Revolutionary Court, headed by the notorious judge Abolqassem Salavati, condemned Jalali to death in October 2017 on charges of spying for Israel. The authorities also extracted a confession from Jalali on national television that he had spied for Israel.

In his tweet, Sadeghi also wrote that in the complaint he received Jalali says he confessed under duress.

In the past, Jalali had rejected all accusations, saying it was his unwillingness to spy for Iran that had landed him in jail.

Sweden, the United Nations, international human rights organizations, and several European universities have asked Iran to rescind the death sentence and review Jalali's case.

(source: radiofarda.com)

FEBRUARY 13, 2018:

TEXAS:

DA's office to mull death penalty in 2006 Donna murder

The Hidalgo County District Attorney's Office requested more time Monday to decide whether they will again seek the death penalty against a man who won a new punishment trial on appeal.

Douglas Armstrong was sentenced to death in 2007 for the previous year's murder of Rafael Castelan in Donna.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Armstrong, 47, a retrial for the punishment phase in November 2017, and the assistant district attorneys trying the case were expected to announce their decision Monday.

District Judge Noe Gonzalez granted the state's request for additional time, telling Armstrong the state has "a very complex decision to make."

Gonzalez gave the DA's office until March 19 to determine whether to seek the death penalty, and thus go to trial, or have Armstrong re-sentenced to life in prison without parole, the automatic sentence for a capital felony in Texas.

Both parties will return to court for a pre-trial hearing that day.

(source: Brownsville Herald)

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

Inmate Awaits His Punishment Next Month

The punishment phase for a death row inmate accused of killing a Donna man in 2006 is underway.

In 2007 a jury decided on the death sentence for 47-year-old Douglas Armstrong for the death of 60-year-old Rafael Castelan. In November 2017 Armstrong won a new punishment trial.

Today a judge granted state prosecutors in the case more time to decide if they'll seek the death penalty.

If they choose not to Armstrong will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Douglas Armstrong is scheduled to return to court on March 19 for his sentencing.

(soruce: rgvproud.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Shooter outside O'Halloran's could face death penalty, DA says; 2nd person of interest identified

What started out as a simple disagreement in a Lancaster city bar turned deadly when the 4 men involved were asked to leave the premises.

Once outside, according to police, Marcus McCain, 29, and his brother Travis, 20, started walking away.

That's when 34-year-old Alexander Cruz pulled a handgun and fired "multiple shots," killing Marcus and wounding Travis, acting city police Chief Jarrad P. Berkihiser said at a press conference Monday morning.

Cruz, he said, was apparently the only person with a gun at the shooting, which occurred outside O'Halloran's Irish Pub & Eatery, in the 100 block of Fairview Avenue, shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.

"This wasn't a shootout," Berkihiser said. "It was a senseless act of violence."

Police recovered 11 .380 caliber shell casings at the scene, according to the affidavit.

Marcus McCain "sustained multiple gunshot wounds to his torso" and was pronounced dead at Lancaster General Hospital, the affidavit says.

His death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy Monday by Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. McCain died of multiple gunshot wounds to his body, Diamantoni said.

Travis McCain "sustained multiple gunshot wounds to this legs" and "underwent emergency life saving medical treatment" for his injuries, according to the affidavit. He remains in stable condition, Berkihiser said Monday.

Police identify victim, arrest Lancaster man for fatal shooting Saturday morning outside O'Halloran's Pub

Death penalty an option

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman joined Berkihiser in lauding investigators, who "worked nonstop" since the shooting to identify and locate 2 persons of interest - both of whom were captured on video inside the bar.

Cruz was identified after media circulated video footage, which Berkihiser said led to numerous calls from the public within minutes of its release.

Cruz, whose last known address is in the 700 block of South Lime Street, was located early Sunday morning at an Ephrata Township home and arrested.

He was charged Sunday with 1 count of criminal homicide, 1 count of attempted homicide and 2 firearms violations before District Judge Adam Witkonis.

He is being held in Lancaster County Prison. He was denied bail due to the homicide charge, according to court documents.

Cruz, according to the affidavit, is prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a robbery conviction in 1999. According to court and newspaper records, he pleaded guilty that year to participating in the armed robbery of a city grocery store.

The district attorney's office may pursue the death penalty in this case, Stedman said, although it's still too early to say for sure.

Investigators have not uncovered any history between the shooter and the victims prior to the disagreement at O'Halloran's, Stedman added.

2nd person identified

The 2nd person of interest in the video has been "identified and located," Berkihiser said. "He has been spoken to."

The 2nd man is not being identified by police because he has not been charged with a crime, the acting chief said.

Charges are still a possibility, he said. The investigation is ongoing.

"I'm quite confident we're going to have justice in this case," Stedman said. "It was really, truly senseless."

Berkihiser said O'Halloran's is "not what we consider a problem establishment in the city." It's a quiet neighborhood, he said, and police have been called for occasional noise complaints.

Police noticed some issues that will be investigated, however; Berkihiser confirmed that Travis McCain, who is only 20, was in the bar prior to the shooting, and he said liquor control will look into the violation.

Although police circulated video from inside the bar, Berkihiser said the shooting outside was not captured by Lancaster Safety Coalition cameras.

This is the county's 1st homicide of 2018. There were 15 last year - up 50 % from 2016's total.

(source: lancasteronline.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Jury selection begins in Raleigh murder trial

Jury selection began Monday for a man charged with killing a Raleigh partygoer in 2016. Chad Copley, 39, faces 1st degree murder charges in the shooting death of 20-year-old Kouren-Rodney Thomas.

The case caught national attention as some believe the shooting was racially motivated.

When Copley called 911 that night in August 2016, he told dispatchers there were "hoodlums" outside of his house and that he was going to secure the neighborhood.

In a 2nd 911 call that night, Copley told dispatchers he was trying to protect his family and "fired a warning shot as required by law."

Copley's lawyer said he fired 1 shot from a shotgun through his garage along Singleleaf Lane.

Police say that bullet hit Thomas who was leaving a party 2 doors down.

If Copley is found guilty of 1st degree murder, there's a possibility he could face the death penalty.

(source: spectrumlocalnews.com)

FLORIDA:

Florida lawmakers looking for leniency in capital punishment cases

Florida lawmakers usually criticize judges for being too lenient, but when it comes to hundreds of death cases, a legislative committee thinks the state's Supreme Court Justices are being too harsh.

Just over a year ago, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that about 1/2 of the people on death row were entitled to be re-sentenced, but the other 1/2 - sentenced before 2002 - were stuck with the sentence they received.

2002 is the cut off, because that's when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled juries must be unanimous in sentencing death.

"These legal distinctions are, while excepted and appropriate, are from a fundamental fairness perspective, spurious," said Mark Schlakman Human Rights Attorney.

In 2001, Jacksonville killer David Miller was sent to death row by a vote of 7 to 5. His case is 1 of 80 opinions released over the past few weeks, telling inmates convicted before that 2002 date that it doesn't matter if their sentence was less than unanimous.

"I think that date of 2002 is arbitrary," said Senator Ronald Bracy (D-Orlando). "And I don't think it's fair."

The court's majority, said in part, litigation must, at some point, come to an end.

2 of the 7 justices think the cutoff date isn't fair, and have repeatedly said so in dissenting opinions.

Now, a State Senate Committee is telling the court the same thing.

"A should equal A when it comes to justice," said Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). "Setting an arbitrary date doesn't equal justice. I think we need to go back in time and say all of these cases that are similarly situated should be treated the same."

Even if the measure doesn't go anywhere else this year, the fact a legislative committee sought to intervene is a message to the courts that lawmakers are watching.

If the admonition passes the Senate, it will likely die in the house, which has always wanted a 10-2 jury verdict.

The fact a legislative committee sought to intervene is a message to the court that lawmakers are watching.

(source: WCTV TV news)

OHIO:

Sierah Joughin murder trial on schedule for March

When James Worley next appears in court, prosecutors and defense attorneys will begin the lengthy process of selecting a jury to hear his trial on capital murder charges.

Worley, 58, of rural Delta is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder - both with death penalty specifications - for the July, 2016, slaying of Sierah Joughin, 20, of Metamora.

The University of Toledo student disappeared while riding her bicycle home, and her body was later found in a shallow grave in a cornfield. An autopsy revealed she had been asphyxiated.

At a final pretrial hearing Monday, Fulton County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Robinson confirmed the trial will begin March 5 with interviews of prospective jurors. Testimony in the case is to begin March 12.

"I fully expect when the 5th gets here, we'll be ready to go forward," the judge said.

Previously, defense attorney Mark Berling said the prosecutor had presented a potential plea agreement that called for dismissal of the death penalty specifications, but there was no mention of a possible plea at Monday's hearing.

Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman did ask the court to dismiss 2 counts of aggravated robbery, which Judge Robinson did. Mr. Haselman did not give an explanation for dropping those charges in court and declined to comment afterward.

The attorneys and judge went over a number of issues during the 20-minute hearing. From an original pool of more than 300 prospective jurors, several more were excused because of medical issues, vacations, or age.

The judge also asked each side to let the court know how many family members would be attending the trial.

Mr. Haselman said 24 representatives of Ms. Joughin's family planned to attend. Merle Dech, co-counsel for Worley, said he would advise the court at a later date of how many relatives would be there for his client.

In addition to the aggravated murder charges, Worley is charged with four counts of kidnapping, 2 counts each of murder, abduction, felonious assault, and having weapons while under disability, and 1 count each of possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

(source: Toleldo Blaze)

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

The death penalty: Is it cheaper? Why does it take so long from sentencing to execution?

With the recent slaying of 1 Westerville police officers, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he would pursue the death penalty against the suspect, Quentin Smith. The USA TODAY Network's Bethany Bruner answers some questions about how the death penalty works in Ohio.

Q: What does a death penalty indictment mean?

A: A death penalty indictment means a person who is charged with aggravated murder could possibly be sentenced to die by lethal injection if found guilty. Ohio law has seven "aggravating factors," at least one of which must be present for a death penalty indictment to be filed. Those factors include the killing of a law enforcement officer, killing someone during another felony crime like arson, rape or aggravated robbery or committing terrorism. Such an indictment had not been filed against Smith as of Monday morning. Quentin Smith

Q: Will the court process be different in a death penalty case?

A: The short answer is yes. If the case were to go to trial, there are essentially two separate trials that happen in that same case. The first phase determines if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of aggravated murder.

If the defendant is found guilty, the case will then go to a penalty phase, where lawyers from both sides will present evidence as to why or why not the death penalty should be imposed.

Q: A death sentence means the case will be cheaper because the defendant dies, right?

A: Wrong.

Death penalty cases are often much more expensive than a "regular" murder case. Ohio law requires defendants in capital cases to have 2 attorneys, both of whom are specially qualified to handle these types of cases. If the attorney is court-appointed, that means taxpayers are paying twice the amount of legal bills.

Death penalty cases also involve lots of experts, hired at public expense. These include experts in death penalty arguments to try and save a defendant's life, experts to examine evidence and testify in court and investigators.

Also, the law requires a number of appeals to be filed at the local, state and federal levels in death penalty cases. All of those appeals require attorneys to work on the case, hearings and lots of hours.

The costs for a death penalty case have been estimated to be 2 to 3 times that of other murder cases.

Q: How long after a death sentence being imposed will a person be executed?

A: Because Ohio requires a variety of appeals, it is usually decades before a person is executed. The Ohio Supreme Court only schedules a small number of executions a year and some of the executions scheduled in the last few years have not happened because of disputes and lawsuits over the type of drugs used in the lethal injection.

With more than 160 people on Ohio's death row right now, it could be 2040 or later before a person sentenced to death in 2018 is executed.

Q: Does the jury or the judge decide if a person gets a death sentence?

A: A defendant has the option of having a jury trial or a trial before a panel of 3 judges. If they pick a jury trial, the selection of jurors is handled differently than in any other case.

Only jurors who would be willing to sentence a person to death can serve. This does not mean they will impose the death penalty, just that they would be willing to if they feel the death sentence is appropriate.

If the jury were to determine a death sentence is appropriate, the judge for the case will typically follow that recommendation, however, they could impose a sentence of some other type.

If a jury determines a death sentence is not appropriate, the judge is not able to sentence them to anything more than life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: Bethany Bruner, Newark Advocate)

LOUISIANA:

Justices lean toward death row inmate in dispute with lawyer

The Supreme Court appeared to be in broad agreement Wednesday that a lawyer for a criminal defendant cannot override his client's wish and concede his guilt at trial, even if the lawyer's aim is to avoid a death sentence.

"People can walk themselves into jail. They can walk themselves, regrettably, into the gas chamber. But they have a right to tell their story," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the high court member with the most experience as a trial lawyer and trial judge.

Sotomayor seemed to reflect a consensus view of the justices in the case of Louisiana death row inmate Robert McCoy. He repeatedly objected to his lawyer's decision to acknowledge that McCoy killed the son, mother and step-father of his estranged wife in 2008.

Larry English, McCoy's trial lawyer, has said the evidence against McCoy was overwhelming and that the only way to keep McCoy off death row was to beg for mercy. In the end, the strategy failed and a jury sentenced McCoy to death. If he wins at the Supreme Court, he could get a new trial.

The high court is weighing who is ultimately in charge of the case, the lawyer or his client, and whether the right to a lawyer that's guaranteed by the Constitution is meaningful if, even with the best intentions, he can ignore his client's wishes.

The court has previously held that the defendant typically is in charge, but that he cedes some control to his lawyer.

Seth Waxman, McCoy's Supreme Court lawyer, said the decision to admit guilt rests with the defendant.

"If the defendant says I did not do X, I did not kill my parents, my family members, defense counsel may not affirmatively tell the jury that he did and ask that he be required to spend the rest of his life in prison," Waxman said.

Justice Neil Gorsuch described English's concession as a grave error requiring a new trial. "A total denial of assistance of counsel, absence of an assistance of counsel," Gorsuch said.

Defending the Louisiana Supreme Court decision that rejected McCoy's claims, Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill urged the justices to decide that there are some death penalty cases where a lawyer can override his client's wishes "when the strategy that the client wants counsel to pursue is a futile charade."

McCoy's case is one such example, Murrill said. Court records point to considerable evidence against McCoy, including a gun found in the vehicle in which he was riding at the time of his arrest in Idaho that was linked to cartridge casings found at the scene of the killings in Louisiana.

McCoy testified in his own defense, saying he was innocent and suggesting that a drug trafficking ring led by law enforcement officers had framed him for the killings. He tried to recruit witnesses he said would vouch for him, including then-Sen. David Vitter. Vitter said he did not know McCoy.

The trial court found McCoy was competent to stand trial, but Justice Samuel Alito wondered whether that decision was correct. "If somebody like McCoy really sincerely believes that he did not commit these physical acts, but it was all done as part of an elaborate conspiracy, is he capable of assisting in his own defense?" Alito asked.

English, the trial lawyer, argued consistently that McCoy was in a fragile emotional state and that he lacked the intent to kill that is necessary for a jury to impose the death penalty.

English's view of McCoy's chances led him to concede in his opening argument that McCoy "committed these crimes."

Justice Elena Kagan said she understood English's dilemma, but questioned whether a lawyer had any choice when a client says his "paramount goal is to insist until my last breath that I didn't kill my family members."

A decision in McCoy v. Louisiana, 16-8255, is expected by late June.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Why Indiana should abolish the death penalty

The 11 men are just sitting there, waiting to die.

Frederick Baer, Alton Coleman, Joseph Corcoran, William Gibson, Kevin Isom, Wayne Kubsch, Michael Overstreet, Benjamin Ritchie, John Stephenson, Jeffrey Weisheit and Roy Lee Ward make up the sordid roster of Indiana's death row.

Cumulatively, they're responsible for 24 deaths. All the cases are heinous, but some are just unspeakably awful.

Weisheit duct-taped 2 Vanderburgh County children to chairs and set their house on fire, burning them alive. Ritchie killed a policeman and during his trial, when Officer William Toney's wife spoke in court, he laughed and called her a bitch.

Then there's Roy Lee Ward: a horrific monster who raped and murdered Dale teenager Stacy Payne while her little sister hid upstairs.

These men have exhausted any reasonable expectation for human empathy. I would have no problem seeing Weisheit and Ward killed by the state. They're monsters and deserve to be treated as such.

But that's not going to happen. The state Supreme Court is still weighing a Court of Appeals decision to ban the use of Brevital in lethal injections. And after Brevital, there aren't many options left. Several pharmaceutical companies have refused to allow their drugs to be used in executions.

Right now, there doesn't seem to be any legal way for Indiana to continue on this path. It may be time for the state to do what 18 other states have already done: abolish the death penalty.

2 tales of UFOs invading the Tri-State

It's an unwieldly, expensive, morally dubious albatross that's fading in favor and may soon have to be hurled out altogether.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, executions peaked in 1999, when nationwide 98 prisoners were put to death. That number shriveled to 23 last year and dropped to 20 in 2016, which marked the fewest executions since 1991.

There have been 3 executions already this year. All of them, unsurprisingly, took place in Texas.

But Indiana hasn't put anyone to death since Eric Wrinkles in 2009. Aside from the drug shortage, there are several other reasons for that.

For one, death penalty cases are ridiculously expensive. In 2015, the Legislative Services Agency did a study for the Indiana legislature. It found that the average cost for a death penalty trial and its subsequent appeals was $385,458 -- almost 10 times the bill for a life-without-parole trial ($39,414).

Life without parole is basically what Indiana's death row prisoners are enduring right now. Hell, Ward was supposed to die 10 years ago.

Plus, the death penalty process exposes deeply racist tendencies in juries.

The majority of death row inmates are white. But a study out of Louisiana found that juries were 97 % more likely to recommend a death sentence if a victim was white than if a victim was black.

And in Washington, California and North Carolina, jurors were 3 times as likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant.

None of this addresses the biggest concern - that some death row prisoners are innocent. The Death Penalty Information Center counts 161 exonerations since 1973.

But some aren't. And people such as Weisheit and Ward, who commit the worst crimes imaginable, deserve something more than sitting in a jail cell for the rest of their lives.

At your basest instinct, it makes you roots for people like Randall Margraves, the aggrieved father who begged Judge Janice Cunningham for five minutes alone with Larry Nassar - the monster who abused countless women, including Margraves' daughters, during his years as team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

But we're stuck with the system we have. The death penalty isnít working and we'll likely never find a constitutional way to carry out executions.

We may as well drop all pretense. End the parades of appeals that keep people like Ward alive, and turn death sentences to life without parole.

Those 11 men are waiting to die. We may as well admit that they're going to be waiting for awhile.

(source: Jon Webb; Evansville Courier & Press)

IOWA:

Death penalty bill advances out of Iowa Senate subcomittee----Senate subcommittee voices support

A Senate subcommittee voted 3-2 Monday to support reinstating a limited death penalty in Iowa after an hour-long debate of Biblical proportions. And there were indications the debate would become even more expansive if the issue progresses to the Senate floor.

Proponents and opponents alike used references from the Bible and religious doctrine to argue in favor of and against Senate Study Bill 3134, a measure designed to provide a limited deterrent in situations in which someone aged 18 or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor or kills a peace officer in the line of duty.

Under current Iowa law, criminals convicted of a Class A offense is sentenced to life in prison without parole, which Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller argued is "a de facto death sentence" in a statement read by a spokesman.

"Defendants convicted of 1st-degree murder in Iowa die in prison," Miller said.

But Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, said "there has to be a higher penalty" for perpetrators who commit heinous crimes for which they show no remorse and who continue to be a threat while they're held in custody or prison.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, who chaired the 5-member subcommittee, said he is bothered that - without the threat of capital punishment - there is nothing to deter a perpetrator who kidnaps and rapes a minor from killing the victim to cover the crime and the absence of a death penalty almost is an incentive for murder.

"There needs to be something more," Garrett said.

However, Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, who also served on the 5-member subcommittee and managed a death penalty bill in 1992 that failed to gain Senate approval, said the issue is too important to be rushed through the process during "funnel week" and will undergo considerable work if Republicans choose to move it forward this session.

"This is not the bill to rush," Bisignano said in an interview. "I will do everything I can to slow the bill down so that people truly have the opportunity to understand what they're voting for."

If the bill does advance, Bisignano, an opponent of the legislation, said he would attempt to broaden it into a full-blown death penalty that would be fairer rather than a limited option.

He also would push for a requirement that the governor be present when a convicted person is executed, saying "if they're the person signing the death warrant, then they're the person who should witness the death, and if you don't have the courage to do that, then that's like hiring a hit man and then it becomes a political document."

The bill calls for a 2-tiered process whereby an accused perpetrator deemed mentally competent is tried before a jury or judge. If convicted of a capital offense eligible for the death penalty, a 2nd, separate review would be conducted to determine if the person should be put to death via a lethal injection.

The bill has enough votes to advance in the Senate. The overall fate of the death-penalty issue, however, is uncertain given that a broader reinstatement bill has stalled in the House.

"I was hoping that we would wait for House action, which looks like there's not going to be and, if not, I don't understand why the Senate would want to waste the time and the energy that comes with that type of a bill," Bisignano said.

Garrett said he expected the full Senate Judiciary Committee would take up the bill yet this week, given the Friday deadline for non-money bills to clear at least 1 standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration for session.

"We'll see where it goes from here," he said.

(source: The Gazette)

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

Segebart: Bring back death penalty, execute Iowa's drug lords----More than 70 people attend Carroll Chamber's legislative forum at DMACC

State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, said Saturday he would vote yes to restoring the death penalty in Iowa but also wants to add on another capital offense charge - drug dealing.

At a Carroll Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum Saturday at Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll, Segebart responded yes to the idea of voting for the death penalty if it makes it to the legislative 2018 session, he said.

Talks of restoring capital punishment in Iowa's legislative 2018 session have been debated by politicians such as State Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, who wants to re-instate the death penalty for offenses in which a minor is kidnapped, raped and murdered. Behn formerly represented Carroll County. Greene County is in his current sweeping central Iowa district.

Current law in Iowa allows life-sentence convictions to those found guilty of 1st-degree murder and the most serious cases of rape and kidnapping.

Segebart doesn't just want murderers sentenced to death row but drug lords, he said.

"I believe the bill is specific to certain crimes," Segebart said. "I am not sure of the specific crimes. One of those is murder, so under those circumstances I might be in a favor of it. In fact, I might add another category to it, and that's drug kingpins. There's nothing causing more trouble in the state of Iowa and our whole country than the drug problem that we currently have, and for that to go on and continue the way it is, is breaking up families and ruining the whole fabric of the country, so I think we need to send a message. While I don't know how far it will get. If it gets to the floor - I will probably vote for it."

It has been 53 years since capital punishment was last used in Iowa.

Between the years 1834 and 1965, 46 men were executed in Iowa; 43 were executed for murder and three for rape, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Gov. Harold Hughes signed an abolition bill in 1965 to end the death penalty.

In 2016, Iowa's murder rate was 2.3 per 100,000 people. That is less than 1/2 the national average of 5.3 people, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Contrary to Segebart's yes, State Rep. Brian Best, R-Glidden, said he does not agree with the death penalty.

"I would not vote for the death penalty," Best said. "A couple reasons: It's final. You could never correct a mistake. I think that happens very seldom, but if it happens once - that's bad. I think it's pretty much common knowledge that it costs much more to execute somebody than it does to keep them in prison for the rest of their natural life. For various reasons, I would not vote for the death penalty."

For Segebart, the problem isn't the drug transporters or the people in charge of the drug cartels - it's the people selling the drugs to Iowans.

"You know we had a methamphetamine problem," Segebart said." We've had it for a long time. We slowed it down significantly when we passed the law that you can only buy so much pseudoephedrine at Wal-Mart at a time. That has lowered the amount of methamphetamine that has been made in Iowa significantly. Only the drug cartel from Mexico has picked up the slack and is coming with a much more potent product that was produced by the pseudoephedrine type of cooking of methamphetamine. The transporter here is not the problem. It's the person that's supplying it on the other end."

Segebart answered a follow-up question from Bethany Sweeney, a DMACC in Carroll English and history instructor, who asked if the senator also thinks those addicted to methamphetamine should be charged with capital punishment.

"No, but I would support help to get them off methamphetamine," Segebart said. "That's the most important issue here. Meth and its run through Iowa was a drug that could have you so addicted to it that you couldn't get yourself off of it. The only place you could go to find help for that was go to jail. Unfortunately, that's still the case."

Segebart said that someone who is addicted to meth has a worthless life.

"Where you end up if you get caught for possession is in jail, and at that point, there should be some remedy to get you back off of it because if you're hooked for life on this stuff. Your life is worthless, literally," Segebart said.

More than 70 people attended the hour-long forum, which covered other topics such as a recent question of legality for Carroll store owners.

Recently, local stores Nature Ammil and Healing Arts Center in Carroll were raided by the Carroll City Police Department.

Both stores were caught selling CBD oil or Cannabidiol.

Carrie Bluml, the owner of Nature Ammil, asked at the forum what the state senators would do to clarify what the police department calls "the gray area" in the law. Both senators were unsure of the specifics of the law regarding hemp-derived CBD oil and medical CBD oil, which contains THC.

Best said he thinks CBD oils and creams should be legal, but said he would look into the incident further by talking with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"I would be in favor of trying to find a way to allow this to be sold," Best said. "Unless I find out there's a down side. I just don't see how anybody is going to take a cream, and if you've got arthritis and you're rubbing it on your wrist or something - I don't see how you would be able to get high from it."

(source: Daily Times Herald)

ARIZONA----death row inmate dies

Mohave County man on death row dies of natural causes

1 of 7 Mohave County inmates sitting on Arizona's death row died Friday of natural causes.

Graham Saunders Henry, 71, was convicted and sentenced in February 1995 on charges of 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, theft and robbery for kidnapping and killing an elderly Las Vegas man in a remote desert about 40 miles north of Kingman in June 1986, according to the state department of corrections.

Henry was assigned to the state prison in Florence. All inmate deaths are investigated with the county's medical examiner's office.

Mohave County has 2 death penalty cases currently pending in Superior Court.

Justin James Rector, 28, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Sept. 2, 2014, death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella and leaving her body near her Bullhead City home. His next hearing is set for June 2.

Darrell Bryant Ketchner, 59, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted a 2nd time for the July 4, 2009, murder of Ariel Allison, 18, in Kingman. His 1st conviction for 1st-degree murder was overturned in December 2014.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)

CALIFORNIA:

District attorney to seek death penalty for Michael Mejia, the gang member accused of killing Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer

The Los Angeles man accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another in a shootout on Colima Road last February is scheduled to appear in court Friday, where a deputy district attorney said prosecutors will announce they're seeking the death penalty in the case.

Michael Christopher Mejia faces 2 counts of murder, 1 count of attempted murder and 1 count of carjacking in connection with the shootings in East Los Angeles and Whittier, said Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron.

In an email, Dameron said there would be "no chance" of a plea deal for Mejia.

Officials believe the 27-year-old Mejia is responsible for a pair of deadly shootings on Feb. 20, 2017. Police said the man first shot his cousin, 47-year-old Roy Torres, to death in an East Los Angeles converted garage, before stealing the victim's car.

Hours later, police said Mejia crashed that car at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street. After 2 Whittier officers responded, police said Mejia shot them both. Officer Keith Boyer was killed, while Officer Patrick Hazell was wounded.

Mejia was also wounded in the brief shootout.

His Friday appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Norwalk Superior Court. Mejia pleaded not guilty in May 2017.

Mejia previously testified that he told two detectives that he was high on marijuana and other drugs at the time of the shooting. He also told the detectives he blacked out after being shot, and only remembered the incident later after watching news reports about it on television.

Investigators have not released any information indicating whether Mejia had drugs in his system the day of the shooting.

In June 2017, a pair of witnesses to the shooting who were riding in the car Mejia is suspected of crashing testified that the suspect asked how they were after colliding with them. One helped push Mejia's cousin's disabled car from southbound Colima to eastbound Mar Vista.

"He told me that he didn't own the car, and he didn't have any insurance," said Ching Ta Chin through a court interpreter. "He told me to come closer to get information, but I said, 'OK, but we can wait for the officers.'"

After he returned to his car, Chin said he heard shots coming from where the silver car had stopped.

The same month, prosecutors released audio of an interview with Mejia conducted the same day as the shooting, in which he laid out the timeline for the gun battle.

"I know I smoked this one," Mejia said to the investigators, apparently referring to Boyer. "Yet the 2nd one. Could not get him."

Police said Mejia was a known gang member with a history of cycling in an out of prison. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for an auto theft conviction in 2016. The shooting led to local elected officials calling for changes to several prison reform laws, like A.B. 109 and the voter-initiated Propositions 47 and 57.

Boyer's killing almost 1 year ago - only the 3rd in the history of the Whittier police, and the 1st since 1979 - led to an outpouring of support from the community for the fallen officer's family. About 4,000 people, many fellow members of law enforcement, attend his March 2017 funeral.

(source: Whittier Daily News)

**********

Illegal alien cop killer found guilty in slayings; now faces death penalty

Luis Enriquez Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant accused of killing 2 California deputies in 2014, was found guilty of their killings on Friday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, shot and killed Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Davis Jr. in 2014.

Bracamontes, who was deported from the U.S. multiple times on drug-related charges, carjacked several people during a day of mayhem in October 2014 and killed 2 officers during his attempt to flee.

When Oliver approached Bracamontes' suspect vehicle - which was parked in the parking lot of a Motel 6 - Bracamontes fired a round into Oliver's head, killing him. During his flight from authority, Bracamontes ran over Oliver's lifeless body in an attempt to get away.

Bracamontes and his wife fled to a nearby neighborhood and attempted to carjack a man. When the man resisted, Bracamontes reportedly shot the man 5 times, 3 of which were in the face. The man miraculously survived his injuries.

After carjacking several more vehicles, Bracamontes and his wife faced off with authorities, injuring several of them and killing Davis.

Bracamontes fled once again, barricading himself in a nearby home and opening up the stove's gas valves in what appeared to be a suicide bid.

Before he could follow through with killing himself, Bracamontes surrendered to law enforcement, pleading with them not to kill him.

What happened in court?

After about 5 hours of deliberation, a jury on Friday found Bracamontes guilty in the officers' murders.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Bracamontes was found guilty on what would have been Oliver's 51st birthday.

Bracamontes quietly said, "Yay," as the verdict was read, and later blew kisses to the victims' families.

As he was being ushered out of the courtroom, Bracamontes promised that he would kill more law enforcement officers in coming days.

"I'm going to kill more cops soon," he said.

What else?

This isn't the 1st time Bracamontes has acted erratically inside the courtroom.

Bracamontes, in a January court appearance, laughed about slaying the officers, noting that he'd wished he'd killed more of them during his crime spree.

"I don't regret that s**t," Bracamontes laughed, grinning at the jury. "Only thing that I f***ing regret is that I just killed 2. I wish I had killed more of the motherf***ers.Ē

Bracamontes warned the court that he'd break out of jail soon, and kill more officers.

"I will break out soon and I will kill more, kill whoever f***ing gets in front of me," he added. "There's no need for a f***ing trial."

Fox News on Saturday reported that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Bracamontes' crimes.

Bracamontes was found guilty on 15 different charges, which, aside from the murder charges, include attempted murder, gun charges, and carjacking.

The sentencing portion of Bracamontes' trial begins March 5.

(source: theblaze.com)

USA:

How IQ tests are used to justify the death penalty

As a concept, IQ is terrible. The idea that we can reduce intelligence to a simple number, quantifiable in a test, exacerbates inequality in numerous racist, classist, sexist, and ableist ways. Not only do people have worth beyond their measurable cognitive ability, but IQ also routinely awards higher numbers to abled middle- and upper-class white males, reinforcing pre-existing ideologies in the name of "science." Over the last many decades, scholars and activists have pushed back against the regime of IQ testing in all contexts, often successfully.

Now, prosecutors in at least 8 states have been hiring experts to testify about the racist use of IQ in order to kill more black and brown men.

The Supreme Court has slowly been carving out exemptions to the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that people with intellectual disabilities could not be executed, but left it up to the states to determine who is or is not eligible for that protection. In 2014, in Hall v. Florida, the court ruled that a state can't use a simple IQ cut-off. Then, in last year's Moore v. Texas, the court ruled that states must consider the best psychiatric and medical information about disability when determining disabled status. Still, IQ testing continues to play a major role, with a threshold of around 70 serving as the cutoff score, below which a person cannot legally be executed.

Here's where "ethnic adjustments" come in. The practice, as documented by attorney Robert Sanger in a 2015 article in the American University Law Review, adjusts IQ scores upward for people of color convicted of capital crimes. According to Sanger, prosecutors in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have all used ethnic adjustments to successfully impose the death penalty on people who otherwise might have been deemed exempt. In his article, Sanger works methodically through case after case, noting in particular the role played by expert witnesses for the prosecution, who testify to the racial biases of IQ testing. In most cases, these experts have never met the person convicted of the capital crime or assessed that person for disability, even as their testimony clears the way for execution.

At the end of his article, Sanger writes, "The idea of racially classifying a person and then using 'ethnic adjustments' to increase his or her IQ score, thereby qualifying that person for execution, is logically, clinically, and constitutionally unsound. In fact, when looked at more closely, it is a wonder how the practice has gone largely unchallenged over the last few years." When I spoke to him over the phone, Sanger confirmed to me that no clear constitutional challenge to the practice has emerged to his knowledge, and certainly not at the United States Supreme Court, or in California, where he practices law.

As I wrote last year, most people on death row are disabled. In reporting the story, I found that this fact presents a challenge to people trying to save lives: Do they fight for total abolition of the death penalty, or do they try to carve out ever-increasing exemptions? Everyone who ends up on death row has experienced a complex panoply of mitigating factors - intersecting disabilities, traumas, and inequities - that led them to be convicted of a capital crime. So anti-death-penalty lawyers look for narrow legal strategies to protect their specific clients, which of course is just what they should do, while slowly pushing new exemptions up through the court process to seek new exculpatory precedents. Atkins, Hall, and Moore - the big 3 Supreme Court decisions protecting people from intellectual disabilities - are the result of these Herculean efforts.

It's not enough. As Sanger writes, "A more profound conclusion of this article may be that the project of attempting to determine who should live and die is an endeavor lost from the beginning. Perhaps there is no way to devise a just means to implement an unjust result. If the state's executing prisoners is wrong, there can be no right way to do it." He's correct. Racism, ableism, and classism are too deeply held for incremental efforts to effect true change. Even the anti-racist work against the tyranny of the IQ test is being used to perpetuate the state's killing of people of color. Abolition is the only answer.

(source: David Perry; theweek.com)

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

Christensen trial pushed to April 2019

The trial for accused kidnapper and killer Brendt Christensen has been pushed back to April 2, 2019.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce set the date at a scheduling hearing Monday that lasted about 20 minutes.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin April 3, 2019, with the actual trial scheduled to begin April 9.

Neither the prosecutors nor Christensen's attorneys objected to the new schedule.

Christensen, who attended the hearing but did not speak at it, was arrested June 30, 2017, 3 weeks after visiting University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, 26, of China, was last seen. He was indicted on a single charge of kidnapping, which was upgraded in October to kidnapping resulting in death and lying to federal agents.

On Jan. 19, the government filed notice that it would seek the death penalty, leading both sides to agree that a delay to the trial previously scheduled for Feb. 27 would be necessary.

Capital cases require more work for both sides, but especially the defense lawyers, who have to prepare for the penalty phase at the same time they are building a defense to Christensenís alleged crimes.

Prosecutors had asked that the trial be delayed until October, while Christensen's attorneys sought a delay until June 2019.

While leaving the federal courthouse in Urbana, Christensen's lawyers declined to talk with reporters.

(source: The News-Gazette)

IRAN:

Iran Executions: Another Juvenile Offender on Death Row

Pouria Tabaei, who is sentenced to death on the charge of murdering his step-father, is scheduled to be executed at Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to a close source, Pouria Tabaei who was only 16 at the time of committing the crime, is currently on the death row at Rajai Shahr Prison.

He was born on July 17, 1992, and committed the crime on July 17, 2009.

Neither Branch 113 of the Criminal Court of Tehran -which issued Tabaei's sentence, nor the Supreme Court, agreed to send the juvenile offender to the forensics to estimate his full mental development. The mental development estimation is possible under Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code and can potentially save a juvenile offender's life.

It should be noted that two other juvenile offenders, Ali Kazemi and Mahbubeh Mofidi, who were executed in the last month, were not sent to the forensics to establish their full mental development either.

Iran has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which bans the execution of juveniles. Moreover, based on Article 37 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, execution and life imprisonment of juveniles is banned.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for IHR, says, "It seems that Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code regarding the prosecution of juvenile offenders, has not been successful at reducing the number of executions of juveniles and some of the courts' judges still issue sentences as they please. Iranian authorities must stop death sentence for juveniles unconditionally.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

THAILAND:

Parting words to the condemned It is easier if death row inmates accept fate, says monk who counsels them

'No one is born evil or bad to the bone. There are just people making mistakes. I strongly believe that all people can change for the better, no matter who they are -- drug kingpins, notorious hitmen, thieves," says Phra Kru Srinonthawat, abbot of Wat Bang Phreak Tai, who has taught dharma to death row inmates for 27 years.

Since 1991, the 53-year-old monk has been invited by the Department of Corrections to preach sermons and teach meditation to Buddhist inmates awaiting execution in Bang Kwang Central Prison.

On many occasions, he was also the last man to provide spiritual support to prisoners in the final moments of their lives before they faced a firing squad or lethal injection.

"Normally, death row convicts are happy when they see me. They would talk to me and ask questions about Buddhist doctrine because they all need someone to give them comfort and guidance. It's not easy to stay sane if you are waiting to be executed," the abbot said.

Phra Kru Srinonthawat said what he usually suggests to inmates is to practice meditation as this can help them find calmness and reflect on their crimes and accept the law of karma.

However, the atmosphere is quite different if the abbot shows up at prison at 4pm as it is a sign that the execution has already been scheduled and some inmates will not live to see tomorrow.

(source: Bangkok Post)

PAKISTAN:

Fate of 5 death row prisoners hangs in the balance as nation bids farewell to Asma

As the nation bid farewell to Asma Jahangir, hopes of many awaiting justice will be buried alongside the human rights lawyer.

The human rights lawyer, known to stand by the underdogs and assuming cases free of cost, was the petitioner counsel in five cases challenging capital punishment handed out by military courts. The fate of whom now hangs in balance.

Asma was a death penalty opponent on principle, she always raised voice for democracy and civilian supremacy.

The review petitions filed by Asma were scheduled to be taken up by a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on February 15.

However, Advocate Chaudhry Akhtar Ali, who has been filing cases on her behalf in the Supreme Court for last 4 decades, has moved an application to the SC, requesting to adjourn the case the petitioners' counsel has passed away.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Akhtar revealed that Asma was arguing their case without charging fees. "She contested almost 1/2 of her cases without charging a single penny, but very few know this aspect of her career because she never wanted to publicise her efforts for needy and deserving clients."

He added that the human rights champion had challenged military courts orders on different grounds.

Unlike many others, Asma was unafraid of going against the tide of popular sentiment although she largely avoided 'traditional' high profile cases.

According to Akhtar, Asma had filed dozens of missing persons cases in the recent past and did not charge anything for them. "We were under instruction that if the families of enforced disappearance victims cannot pay our (AOR) fees, then she will cover the cost," Akhtar further revealed.

Asma Jahangir censures SC

"We referred a number of poor litigants to her. She was not only willing to argue their cases but also made arrangements to house them," he added.

In a country "where people think twice before speaking for marginalised groups, and often they don't speak out at all, she risked her life and liberty and that of those near and dear to her to speak out for victims of domestic violence, religious persecution, political oppression and draconian laws. And it was never for personal gain," top jurist Makhdoom Ali Khan, who had known Jahangir since 1983, told The Express Tribune. "Always to keep the flame of liberty burning and further the cause of freedom."

(source: The Express Tribune)

BANGLADESH:

Blind Welfare Association Secretary Killing----2 sentenced to death, four jailed for life

A tribunal in Dhaka yesterday sentenced 2 people to death and 4 others to life imprisonment for killing Khalilur Rahman, secretary of Bangladesh National Blind Welfare Association, in 2011.

Khalilur was shot dead at Janata Housing in the capital's Shah Ali Bagh on January 1 night in 2011 over a dispute over the association's fund.

Meantime, the tribunal directed the inspector general of police (IGP) to take legal action against Nibaron Chandra Barman, inspector of the Detective Branch of police and also the investigation officer (IO) of the case, for submitting defective charge sheet.

The convicts who received death penalty are: Md Ramzan Ali alias Ramzan and Tipu alias Hira, both members of the association.

The other 4 are: Md Minhaz, Hasanur Rahman Rubel, Md Shahid Mostafa and Zahidul Islam alias Zahid, also the association members.

Of them, Ramzan and Rubel are absconding while the others were present at the court yesterday.

The Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 also acquitted Ayub Ali, Nurul Alam Siddique, Md Sohag Hossain Howlader and Yakub Ali of the murder.

Punishment of the fugitives will be effective from the day of their arrest or surrender. The convicts can file appeal with the High Court within 30 days, Judge Abdur Rahman Sarder said.

Khalilur's wife Hasina Parvin filed the murder case against 10 people with Mirpur Model Police Station on January 2, 2011.

The tribunal directed IGP to take legal action against the IO for his negligence in investigation as he did not include Md Sagor, another member of the association, in the charge sheet even though his involvement in the killing was found.

It also directed the IGP for taking a necessary step to carry out re-investigation against Sagor as early as possible.

(source: The Daily Star)

SOUTH SUDAN:

South Sudan's Dak draws death penalty despite refugee status

In South Sudan, the SPLM-IO has called shameful the decision to condemn James Gatdet Dak, a former spokesman for exiled opposition leader Riek Machar, to death by hanging on charges of treason.

"When the regime should be working to create a conducive environment for negotiations, they are instead handing down a bogus death penalty," said chief SPLM-IO spokesman Mabior Garang Mabior.

The decision violates the current cessation of hostilities agreement, he added, while appealing to CTSAMM monitors as well as the African Union, United Nations, European Union and the troika nations - Norway, the United States and UK - to "intervene in this blatant violation of human rights."

Dak's case first drew international attention in November 2016 when he was deported by Kenyan authorities from Nairobi and handed into the custody of South Sudan's National Security Service and South Sudanese officials, despite the fact that he had valid refugee status.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sent attorneys to act on his behalf but they were blocked by immigration officials at the Nairobi airport. OHCHR called Dak's return to South Sudan a violation of a "cornerstone of international refugee law."

Other organizations including Amnesty International have appealed for Dak's safety and release, and warned that Kenya's actions demonstrated a "chilling assault on refugee rights."

Machar maintained that the deportation was a violation of the Geneva Convention that put Dak's life in jeopardy. Dak's arrest followed a Facebook post press release approving of the 2016 UN decision to remove Kenyan Lt. General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, the former head of UNMISS, following a report on the Juba attacks in July. The UNMISS decision touched off a diplomatic storm in the region.

2 other South Sudanese leaders, Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Idri Ezibon, disappeared from Nairobi more than a year ago. They remain missing, Amnesty said last month.

(source: Africa Times)

INDIA:

Death penalty for child rape-murder

A local court on Monday sent a 30-year-old Gumla native to the gallows for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the state capital 4 years ago.

This is the 2nd time a court in Jharkhand has awarded capital punishment for rape and murder under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, said counsel Ashok Kumar Roy who argued the case on behalf of the prosecution.

The court of additional district judge Shivpal Singh had, on January 31, held Gandhi Oraon guilty under Sections 376 (rape), 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC, besides various sections of the Pocso Act.

"The child was brutally raped and killed on March 19, 2014. It is a rarest of rare crime. The guilty man was an acquaintance of the victim's family," said counsel Roy, adding that the convict had been forwarded to Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar.

Oraon, a native of Khora in Gumla, worked as a cleaner with a private bus service at Khadgarha here and was a colleague of the child's father. "He (Oraon) often visited their house at Bhuiyantoli near the bus terminus. On the fateful day, he took the child out for lunch, but raped and killed her in a graveyard," Roy said.

The body was discovered a day later. The child's face was battered with a boulder to delay identification, but police launched a manhunt and detained Oraon on March 21, 2014, based on suspicions. He managed to flee from thana lock-up on March 22 the same year only to be arrested on his way to Bengal 4 days later.

"On being grilled, he confessed. Police recovered his bloodstained clothes that also yielded sperm samples. Medical examination and forensic tests further confirmed his involvement," Roy said.

Police submitted a chargesheet on June 18, 2014, and produced 14 witnesses against Oraon who was finally convicted this year.

The victim's parents were not present in court when the death sentence was awarded on Monday. "After recording their statements in court and cross-examination, the bereaved parents never came to court. They are also natives of Gumla district," Roy said.

In 2016, a Giridih district court had similarly awarded a death sentence to one Mathura Mahto for the rape and murder of a minor girl.

(source: telegraphindia.com)

SINGAPORE:

Indian-origin Malaysian avoids death penalty after acquitting from drug charges

Gopu Jaya Raman, a 32-year-old Malaysian man of Indian origin escaped the death row in Singapore for possessing drugs as he was acquitted by the country's Apex Court. The judgment released yesterday stated that Gopu Jayaraman was not aware of the hidden illicit drugs in the motorcycle which he rode into Singapore.

The incident associated with the case happened on March 24, 2014, when Gopu Jaya Raman entered Singapore through the Woodlands Checkpoint with three black bundles of diamorphine hidden in his motorcycle. Upon routine checkup, Police officials found the illicit substance, and Gopu Jaya Raman was soon arrested.

Upon questioning, Gopu said that he entered Singapore to visit his girlfriend and another friend to celebrate his birthday. Gopu continuously denied the ownership of diamorphine and claimed that it might have hidden in his motorcycle without his knowledge.

The alleged convict also claimed that he has stopped on his way to fill the fuel in the motorcycle, and at that time drugs were not there in his vehicle.

Later when questioned by officers of the Central Narcotics Bureau, Gopu admitted that he has carried drugs two times in the past, but on March 24, 2014, he was not aware of the illicit substances in his motorcycle.

Gopu even justified the act of transporting drugs on 2 past occasions stating that he was on debt during those times, and a man has compelled him to deliver drugs, and if not the man reportedly threatened Gopu's family if he did not comply with the smuggling operation.

After recording Gopu's statement, Police instructed him to contact his associates aiming to arrest them too. Unfortunately, the operation was called off as nobody turned up at the scheduled meeting. During the follow-up operation, Gopu asked one of his associates why he placed the drugs without his knowledge, and interestingly, the associate did not deny it.

While reading the judgment, the Apex Court stated that there were no material pieces of evidence to connect Gopu with the drugs he possessed, and thus he was acquitted from the case.

(source: ibtimes.cg)

FEBRUARY 12, 2018:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Solitary confinement for death row inmates debated amid lawsuit

In Harrisburg, Pa. at Graterford and Greene state prisons, 5 inmates on death row have sued, challenging the policy of solitary confinement. They were assisted by the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, the Pittsburgh-based Abolitionist Studies Project and 3 law firms. The inmates involved in the suit are Ronald Gibson (49), Jermont Cox (46), Anthony Reid (50), Ricardo Natividad (49) and Mark Newton Spotz (46). All of the aformentioned inmates have spent between 15 and 27 years on death row. The lawsuit requests the prisons terminate mandatory solitary confinement. This ruling could affect the 156 men currently on death row at the prisons.

Only 3 people have been executed by Pennsylvania since 1976, and these 3 individuals gave up their appeals voluntarily.

As of now, according to the lawsuit and prisoner testimony detail, death row inmates are kept in cells the size of a parking space for 22 to 24 hours a day. They change cells roughly every 3 months. The Morning Call's Mark Scolforo notes, "The men may not participate in prison vocational, recreational or educational programs, nor can they join in any communal worship." Additionally, outdoor exercise is permitted for no more than 2 hours.

The case argues that the current conditions of solitary confinement for death row inmates violates the 8th and 14th amendments. The 8th amendment concerns cruel and unusual punishment. The 14th concerns equal protection under the law.

The lawsuit says the following about the current policy: "The devastating effects of such prolonged isolation are well known among mental health experts, physicians and human rights experts in the United States and around the world. It is established beyond dispute that solitary confinement puts prisoners at risk of substantial physical, mental and emotional harm."

Scolforo says the Corrections Department spokesperson "said officials have begun making changes that will let death row inmates have more time outside of their cells. She said all death row inmates with serious mental illnesses are currently permitted time out of their cells to receive therapeutic treatment services."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that the lawsuit says the following: "These restrictions, taken in [total], deprive death-sentenced prisoners of virtually all meaningful human contact. Indeed, on weekdays when no exercise is permitted and on most weekends, a few words exchanged with an officer as a food tray is delivered or removed may be the only human contact that a death-sentenced prisoner experiences - if he experiences even that."

Governor Tom Wolf (D) has placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the state of Pennsylvania 3 years ago. He said he felt Pennsylvania had "a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust and expensive." This moratorium will remain until a study of capital punishment commissioned by the state senate is finished. The Philly Inquirer staff writer Samantha Melamed feels that the future of the death penalty will be a factor in the governor's race, citing that York County's Scott Wagner (R) has promised, "within 48 hours," to reverse the moratorium. The Abolitionist Law Center's Bret Grote said, "They didn't begin their time in solitary with mental health issues, but now are on the mental health roster. It's a trajectory of despair and hopelessness."

Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Witold "Vic" Walczak said, "These folks have been sentenced to death. They haven't been sentenced to a lifetime of psychological torture."

Walczak continues, "We stand by the description of conditions in the complaint. Whatever the [Department of Corrections] may be doing is either in the planning or not-yet-operational stage. Any lessening of restrictions is welcome, but this is one of the most severe systems of isolation in the country so they've got a long way to go."

(aouexw: Halle Nelson is a 4th-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in deaf studies and English literature----The Quad)

FLORIDA:

Donald Smith trial Monday: What to expect

The Donald Smith trial begins in earnest Monday. After a long week of jury selection, a panel of 12 jurors and 4 alternates will hear opening statements in the death penalty case. It is the start of what they have repeatedly been warned is a horrific, "gut-wrenching" parade of facts.

Smith is charged with 1st-degree murder, sexual battery and kidnapping in the June 2103 death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. He has pleaded not guilty.

The 1st phase of the trial, called the guilt phase, is expected to take about 4 days. If the jury finds Smith guilty, the trial will move to a penalty phase, which would take another 3 days.

Under Florida's new death penalty law, it is up to jurors alone to decide whether he deserves life in prison or a sentence of death. A death verdict must be unanimous.

So who are the jurors? They are predominately minority and overwhelmingly female. First Coast News is electing not indicate which panelists are actual jurors, and which are alternates since they themselves do not know, but here are some general notes on the panel of 12:

6 have children -- mostly adult children, but 2 have children under the age of 10.

They range in age from 30 to early 60s

They are largely working class

Several have heard about the case, but none followed it. Most say they don't watch local news.

Asked to rank their support of the death penalty on a scale of 1-5, most gave it a 2.5 or 3. One described the death penalty as "unfortunate but necessary," another as "a necessary evil." All 12 said they could issue a death verdict, if warranted.

1 woman said the jury selection process alone had caused her thinking to evolve, and that she believed she could determine a just punishment for Smith.

"At first I didn't think I could, but during this process, I've found in myself that I could. I have a different take just being here. I was able to see him as a human being."

(source: First Coast News)

OHIO:

Prosecutor will seek the death penalty if Westerville shooting suspect survives

The man identified by police as the suspect in the killing of 2 veteran law enforcement officers was prohibited from having a weapon by law, records show.

Incident reports released by the Westerville Police Department show 30-year-old Quentin Smith's wife, Candace, 33, had told police in November her husband carried a "gun all of the time."

Officers Anthony Morelli, 54, and Eric Joering, 39 arrived at the Smith residence on Crosswind Drive at 12:10 p.m. and were "immediately met with gunfire," Westerville police Chief Joe Morbitzer said at news conference Saturday.

Joering, a 17-year police veteran, was pronounced dead at the scene. Morelli was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Smith was formally charged in Franklin County Municipal Court with 2 counts of aggravated murder on Sunday.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he would pursue the death penalty for Quentin Smith if he survives his injuries.

"It would be a death penalty case," he said. Smith was convicted of burglary in 2008 and spent time in prison. This conviction barred him from legally being able to carry a gun.

In a report from Nov. 29, Smith's wife reportedly told officers she knew her husband was not allowed to have a gun.

"He gave money to a friend of his and the friend purchased (the gun) for him," she told police, according to the report.

When police located Smith a short time later, they searched both him and his vehicle and found no gun.

Smith's criminal history is concentrated in his home county of Cuyahoga, near Cleveland.

Records show Smith lived in a suburb of Cleveland and was arrested in 2007 and charged with felonious assault, however, that case was later dismissed.

In 2008, Smith was charged with aggravated burglary and felonious assault. He ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and domestic violence.

Smith had also been charged on at least 2 other occasions with domestic violence, however, both of those cases were dismissed, according to records.

Smith and his wife also filed for bankruptcy in 2017, listing more than $100,000 in debts. In the filing, a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun is listed as being owned by the couple.

Police have not said what type of gun was used in the fatal shooting.

Piecing together what happened

Chief Morbitzer during a Sunday morning news conference told residents to expect cruisers from other departments "all patrolling our streets to give our folks a break and time to process."

"The Columbus team that's investigating this murder of 2 officers, they were diligent in their investigation to ensure we get a prosecution," Morbitzer said.

In police radio traffic released to the media Saturday, dispatchers say 3 officers responded to the scene, knocked on the door, then heard shots fired that resulted in two officers down.

Charles Sellevaag, a neighbor of the Smiths, on Sunday told The Enquirer he saw an officer drag his colleague out of an apartment building.

"He ripped open his shirt and started screaming officer down," said Sellevaag, 49.

In 911 audio, Candace Smith told a dispatcher she was hiding in bushes outside the residence and her daughter was still inside with Quentin Smith. Police radio traffic indicated officers found the child on a couch while holding Quentin Smith at gunpoint.

Quentin Smith's status and location remain unclear. Officials at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center first said he wasn't a patient, then said he was at nearby Mount Carmel Saint Ann's. Saint Ann's referred reporters back to OSU.

As of Sunday afternoon, Quentin Smith was not booked in the Franklin County Correction Center.

(source: cincinnati.com)

WASHINGTON:

Ending death penalty could help solve cold cases----The money saved on death penalty trials is better spent to investigate unsolved murders and rapes.

When I heard that a Senate committee in Washington's Legislature voted to end the death penalty recently, I felt a sense of hope mixed with cautious optimism.

I have been an unlikely supporter of an end to capital punishment in Washington for nearly 15 years. My brother, Robert Kerr, was found brutally murdered in Snohomish County in 2003, and his murder remains unsolved to this day. My hope is that the money the state saves by ending the death penalty can be re-directed to work on unsolved violent crimes.

When I first learned of my brother's death, I expected justice to be swift and certain. His body was found on the side of the road by a Sunday paper delivery truck driver. He had been severely beaten and strangled. His wallet was missing; his credit cards were stolen, his bank accounts emptied.

For the next few years, I was in regular contact with the Snohomish County Sheriff's detective assigned to the investigation of his murder. Most of that time we simply waited, while the crime lab worked its way through a backlog of evidence. Work on the evidence in Bob's murder and other pending cases was subject to interminable delays.

I couldn't understand why the process was taking so long. Bob's killer was out on the streets, and there seemed to be no justice in sight. When I inquired about the delays, I was told there was not enough funding to support another crime lab, so evidence in many cases was delayed or simply not processed at all, while high profile capital cases took precedent.

Today, I still stay in contact with and have great respect for the detectives in Everett. My family still waits for Bob's killer to be identified, prosecuted, and sentenced, but I don't have much hope. Several years ago, I heard that the King County Sherriff's Office's would shut down its cold-case squad indefinitely because of a lack of resources. At the time, there were 228 cold cases in that county waiting to be solved. This kind of news brings only sadness to families in my position, and should outrage all citizens.

This is why I have consistently supported ending the death penalty in Washington state. While the state continues to waste millions of dollars each year prosecuting a few high-profile killers, hundreds of cold cases go unsolved, and perpetrators walk the streets.

One recent study by Seattle University found that death penalty cases cost at least $1 million more than murder cases in which life without parole is sought instead. All of that extra money is spent to execute someone who is already safely behind bars. Yet, there is no realistic way to make the death penalty process cheaper due to the risk of wrongful conviction and execution.

In Washington state, there have been at least 47 wrongful convictions for serious crimes, including one man who was wrongfully sentenced to death. This makes it clear that human error will never be eliminated; wrongful execution is not an option at any price. The only way to prevent an execution of an innocent person is to eliminate the death penalty altogether.

My desire for swift justice in Bob's case evaporated many years ago, but repealing the death penalty and re-directing the resources to Washington's unsolved rapes and murders may bring justice for many other families that have suffered like mine.

Ending the death penalty can make the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs of victims and survivors of violent crime. I hope the Legislature finally takes this opportunity to end the death penalty once and for all.

(source: Commentary; Judy Kerr is a retired nurse----heraldnet.com)

USA:

Charges expected that could tie MS-13 gang to Columbus killings

More indictments are expected in a case targeting a violent international street gang, MS-13, that could connect members to local homicides, sources confirmed to The Dispatch.

Those indictments could open the door for the U.S. attorney general's office to request the death penalty for members of the notorious Salvadoran gang who have been active in central Ohio for more than a decade and continue to aggressively recruit young members.

"It is a group that wants to grow, and is growing, in Columbus and elsewhere," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Martinez, who is prosecuting the case in the Southern District of Ohio.

The investigation is advancing as President Donald Trump cites the gang as "one of the most violent and vicious gangs anywhere in the world," and as an example of the need for immigration reform.

"We've really never seen anything quite like this - the level of ferocity, the level of violence, and the reforms we need from Congress to defeat it," Trump said at a roundtable discussion at the White House with law-enforcement officials last week.

The 1st series of indictments of MS-13 members in the Southern District were issued in July, charging them with extorting money from businesses and people to launder back to the gang's headquarters in the Central American nation of El Salvador. Additional indictments followed in December containing counts of money laundering and extortion, plus weapons- and drug-related charges, bringing the total number of members and associates charged to 14. The members are part of the organization's East Coast program.

2 defendants face charges of illegally re-entering the country, according to an indictment.

The 14 people indicted are from either El Salvador or neighboring Honduras, and only 1 entered the country legally, according to prosecutors. Trump announced plans last month to end the humanitarian program for Salvadorans who were allowed to come to the United States after earthquakes in 2001. Before that, the status was granted decades earlier during a civil war in the country.

"At least 1 of the individuals in there has had temporary protective status," Martinez said. "That's sort of in flux, too."

John Cronan, who is the acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, said at the roundtable: "The Department of Justice will be surging," and "hundreds of federal prosecutors (will be sent) to the field, with specific directions to focus on violent crime and immigration."

Despite the strong rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, the MS-13 investigation in the Southern District began in 2015 during former President Barack Obama's administration, according to prosecutors.

"I think the current administration is more vocal about this particular gang, but the level of support has been the same," Martinez said. "People are very supportive of this case, and it's an important one to do."

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of the Southern District of Ohio said prosecutors are "not allowed to say what we're recommending" regarding seeking the death penalty.

60 crimes, including murder and narcotics offenses, qualify for the death penalty.

"MS-13 members and associates in Ohio and elsewhere engage in a wide range of criminal activity, including but not limited to racketeering, murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, assault, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, weapons offenses and immigration-related violations," according to an indictment.

The last gang that federal prosecutors in the district identified and prosecuted was the Short North Posse. 20 members were indicted, and of those, 1 died awaiting trial, 13 pleaded guilty and the other 6 went to trial and were sentenced to life in prison.

"We showed we can do it, and that's knowledge we can use moving forward," Glassman said.

Some local slayings have the hallmarks of MS-13's brutal style: Machetes or similar bladed weapons were used to stab or hack the victims. Prosecutors declined to discuss the number, or specific homicide cases, when asked.

The Dispatch reported at least 2:

- In 2015, the body of a 17-year-old male was found in a shallow grave in Innis Park. The body had been chopped 69 times in the head, neck and torso, and the upper left arm was severed. On the youth's lower back were tattoos reading "North Side" and "Hecho en El Salvador."

- The body of a 38-year-old male was found nearby in a shallow grave and had stab wounds in the torso. The level of decomposition required Ohio State University's anthropology department to examine the remains, according to a coroner's report.

MS-13 is the only gang that has been dubbed by federal authorities as a "transnational criminal organization." More than 10,000 members and associates are in the United States, and they operate in at least 39 other states in addition to Ohio. Federal officials said about 3,000 members are in the Washington, D.C., metro area and elsewhere in northern Virginia.

To provide context, Martinez said that's 20 to 30 cliques, or smaller organized cells. In Columbus, 1 clique has been identified. Prosecutors declined to say how many documented members and associates are in central Ohio.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

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

Some US Senators Want 2nd Chance at Death Penalty Cases----Senators want to give federal prosecutors a 2nd shot at the death penalty in capital cases.

In 2013 Officer Eric Williams was brutally murdered by an inmate at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Jessie Con Ui was convicted of the crime, and at the trial 11 of the 12 jurors voted to give Con Ui the death penalty for the crime. The hold out spared his life, and instead he received a life sentence without parole.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR.) stated: "I think its a complete miscarriage of justice and it essentially declares open hunting season on prison guards and prison employees." He points out that Con Ui was already serving a life sentence for another killing, and because of these says that William's murder essentially went unpunished.

On Wednesday, Cotton and other Republican Senators Filed a bill they're calling "Eric's Law" that would give prosecutors the option of picking a 2nd jury if the 1st cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.

Attorney Mark Macdougall, who has defended 7 death penalty cases, questions the bills fairness, stating, ""What the prosecutors are seeking is lets get a do over, lets try again and i think that would be viewed by many people as being inconsistent with our system of justice."

Advocates against the death penalty also say that the bill won't make federal executions more likely, but say it could prolong cases and make them more costly.

(source: arkansasmatters.com)

BANGLADESH:

4 transport workers to die for rape and murder of law student Rupa----Another sentenced to 7yrs imprisonment

4 transport workers were awarded death penalty in a case filed for raping and killing law student Rupa Khatun in a moving bus in Tangail.

The death row convicts are bus driver Habibur and three helpers Shamim, Akram and Jahangir were present in the court when Abul Mansur Miah, acting judge of Tangail Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal delivered the verdict.

The court in Tangail also sentenced the supervisor of the bus, Safar alias Gendu, to seven years rigorous imprisonment and fined Tk 1 lakh, our Tangail correspondent reports.

The fine paid by Gendu has been directed to be handed over to Rupa's family.

Rupa Khatun rape murder killer

Meanwhile, Rupa's family expressed their satisfaction with the verdict, reports our correspondent.

On August 25 last year, police recovered an unidentified body of a woman near Tangail-Mymensingh road in Tangail's Madhupur upazila. Following an autopsy, the body was buried at the Tangail central graveyard the next day. A murder case was filed with Madhupur Police Station the same day.

Seeing the news in the media, Rupa's family members went to Madhupur Police Station on August 28 and identified her from photographs.

The next day, law enforcers picked up five employees of the bus at Madhupur. The arrestees during interrogation admitted their involvement in the crime.

All the convicts -- a driver, a supervisor and 3 bus helpers who were in jail -- were present in the court when the verdict was delivered by Abul Mansur Miah, acting judge of Tangail Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal.

The court also gave directions to concerned authorities to seize the bus in which the incident occurred and hand over its ownership to Rupa's family after changing the name of the vehicle.

The Senior Judicial Magistrate's Court in Tangail on August 29 and 30 recorded confessional statements of the arrestees and sent them to jail.

Following a court order, police on August 31 exhumed Rupa's body.

(source" The Daily Star)

TAIWAN:

Taiwan aiming to ultimately abolish death penalty: justice minister

The Taiwan government is hoping to one day abolish capital punishment, but until then, death penalties must be carried out in accordance with the proper legal procedure, according to Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san.

In an interview with CNA earlier this month, Chiu said President Tsai Ing-wen, like her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou, sees abolition of the death penalty in Taiwan as a long-term goal.

However, extensive public discussion of the controversial issue would be required before that goal can be achieved and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has not set any timeframe for it, Chiu said.

While human rights groups such as the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty have been calling for an end to capital punishment, it will take time to obtain public consensus on the issue, he said.

In the meantime, capital punishment will continue to be carried out in Taiwan in accordance with the legal procedure, Chiu said.

Although Taiwan has ratified two international conventions that are seen as legal foundations for ending the death penalty, they are not binding on that issue, he said.

Chiu said that since he took office in May 2016 as minister of justice, the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office has not sent him any orders for the execution of death row prisoners, who now number 43.

Explaining the legal procedure in Taiwan, he said if the death penalty is handed down in the lower courts, the case must go all the way to the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict, the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office then reviews the matter and decides if to carry out the sentence, after which an execution order is sent to the MOJ for the justice minister's signature, Chiu said.

Even at that point, the MOJ has the right to assess the case and decide whether to sign the execution order, he added.

The death penalty remains a controversial issue in Taiwan, years after its Legislature in 2009 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, the 2 conventions that Chiu referred to as the legal foundations for the abolition of capital punishment.

Meanwhile, Chiu said his ministry is working to improve prison conditions in Taiwan by providing more beds so that inmates can each have 1.

Currently, Taiwan's prison population is 62,000, while the number of prison beds is 23,000, which indicates that about 40,000 prisoners are sleeping on the floor.

"Frankly, such conditions are inhumane," Chiu said. He said three new prisons are under construction, each with a capacity of 4,000 inmates, while existing facilities are being expanded.

Chiu said he is also hoping to implement a prison rehabilitation program that would provide training for inmates to learn new skills and increase their chances of entering the job market after their release.

(source: focustaiwan.tw)

YEMEN:

Coveney urges Yemen to release man sentenced to death over Baha'i faith----Minister says State condemns use of death penalty 'in all circumstances'

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has called on the Yemeni authorities to release a 52-year-old man sentenced to death for his religious beliefs following an appeal by a number of TDs and the Baha'i community in Ireland.

Mr Coveney, also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said: "Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief and is unequivocal in its stance on the death penalty."

Hamed Bin Haydara, one of 2,000 members of the Baha'i community in Yemen, was sentenced to death on January 2nd.

The Tanaiste said the State opposes and condemns the use of the death penalty "in all circumstances, and in particular in cases where there are allegations of unfair trials preceding its implementation. The abolition of the death penalty is one of Ireland's international priorities, and my department regularly conveys our stance on this issue to all countries where the death penalty is still in use."

Patricia Rainsford, co-ordinator of the Irish Baha'i Office of Public Affairs, said when Mr Haydara was sentenced the local judge also called for the dissolution of all elected Baha'i institutions, placing the entire Baha'i community in imminent danger.

State of war

Yemen has been in a state of war for 3 years and Ms Rainsford said that since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sana'a, "a cultural campaign of 'antagonism towards others' has been promoted. This campaign is directed against Baha'is, Jews and other religious followers."

Ms Rainsford said Amnesty International had also highlighted Mr Haydara's case as a "prisoner of conscience who has been tried on account of his conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities as a member of the Baha'i community".

Ms Rainsford said: "We are asking the Government, EU representatives and everyone who values justice to add their voices to the international efforts to save this man's life."

The Baha'i religion originated in Iran in the 1860s, spreading mainly through the Middle East. It has between 5 and 7 million followers globally. Followers believe God is revealed through the ages by prophets including Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and that all religions are fundamentally unified in purpose.

Parliamentary questions

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Fianna Fail foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien and Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan have raised Mr Haydara's case in a number of parliamentary questions.

They asked the Tanaiste what action he and the Department of Foreign Affairs had taken to assist Mr Haydara and if the Yemeni's case had been raised with the EU's external action service.

Mr Coveney said that last year Ireland joined the small core group at the UN Human Rights Council that initiated the adoption of a resolution on Yemen, establishing a group of international experts "to investigate the facts in relation to violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the ground. This group will report back to the human rights council, as an important step towards accountability in Yemen."

(source: Irish Times)

EGYPT:

Egypt's House of Reps contests EU Parliament's statement on death penalty

Egypt's House of Representatives has been drafting a memorandum that shall respond to the European Parliament's (EP) latest statement requiring the end of the death penalty implementation against terrorists by Egyptian authorities.

The Egyptian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) rejected in a statement the EP's interference in Egypt's domestic affairs. "The death penalty is applied in more than 1/3 of the world's countries," the statement read.

The statement stressed that Egypt has not signed the international agreement to prevent the death penalty implementation; the United Nations recognizes Egypt's right to implement this penalty.

Egypt has the right to choose and set its legal and judiciary systems according to the constitution approved in 1923 and in accordance with judiciary independence constitutional articles 94/2014.

Egypt's official response to EPís report

"The Parliament will take an official detailed response to the EPís statement within a few days," said Tarek Radwan to Egypt Today on Sunday.

Radwan, who chairs the parliament's FAC, stressed that any foreign intervention into Egypt's domestic affairs is categorically rejected. "The European Parliament should have issued statements to support Egypt's anti-terror war. End of the death penalty against terrorists, who have been proved guilty, does not seem a logical move, while several military, security and civilian lives have been taken."

Egypt rejects foreign interference in domestic affairs

Tarek el-Kholy, the FAC's secretary, asserted that the EP's statement demanding Egypt to abolish death penalties against terrorists is an "insistence to interfere into the Egyptian domestic affairs."

He revealed that 3 international institutions have continued this interference; U.S. Congress, House of Commons of the United Kingdom and the European Union. "Some members affiliated to those 3 parties provoked topics related to human rights activities and attempted to draft bill laws against Egypt, but they failed," Kholy added to Egypt Today.

Kholy manifested that the Egyptian Parliament has sent a report to the UK House of Commons about the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, following the report that the Britons had released over the MB. "The Parliament's FAC also has successfully dealt with the U.S. Congress's reports over alleged data about Copts in Egypt."

Regarding the EP's report related to the death penalty against terrorists, Kholy affirmed that many parliamentarian tours have been made to Europe to tackle this matter.

Kholy stressed that Egypt rejects any foreign attempt to interfere in its domestic affairs, adding, "These Parties do not pay attention to Egypt's war against terrorism. They neither care about our martyrs nor about the violent and terrorist acts that the Egyptian street has witnessed."

"Since toppling the MB-affiliated Mohamed Morsi from president post in 2013, Egypt has suffered dozens of terrorist and violent acts conducted by the Muslim Brotherhood group and its associated movements," Kholy added.

As a concerned committee, FAC is fully aware of the responsibility that it bears to take responsive reactions to similar reports, according to Kholy who also stressed that those international parties are not conspiring against Egypt, but some of their members, in coordination with Qatar and Turkey, have negative stances towards Egypt.

EP's report relies on unreliable sources

"The EP's report's data mainly counted on suspicious human rights centers' reports," revealed member of the Egyptian-EP Friendship Association and FAC's member Ahmed Ali.

Ali added to Egypt Today on Sunday that a visit to the European Parliament was paid nine months ago; the Egyptian parliamentarians attended a hearing session where they were shocked to listen to untrue data about the detainees in Egyptian prisons and the enforced disappearance phenomenon. The Egyptian security senior officials have affirmed many times that this phenomenon is limited.

"The Egyptian expatriates should play an influential role in responding to similar rumors which only seek to defame the Egyptian state's reputation," Ali added.

Partisan condemnation of EP's report

Free Egyptians Party condemned the report released by the European Parliament on Thursday. "The EP looks unaware of Egypt's judiciary system as the announced death penalties are not the final verdicts and are submitted to many constitutional and legal articles," said Free Egyptians Party's Chairman Essam Khalil in a statement on Friday.

Khalil added that the EP does not care about the death penalty as a punishment, but it only becomes interested in this topic when it comes to Egypt. "Can the EP interfere in any European country's judiciary system?" Khalil wondered.

He called on the European Parliament to show support to the Egyptian people's battle against terrorism and their right to save the lives of the innocent, adding, "The European Parliament should revise and double-check reports and data that it receives from unbiased organizations on the Egyptian domestic affairs, including the human rights file."

EP session addressed Russia, Egypt and Haiti

On Thursday during the EP plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament called for the "immediate release of Oyub Titiev in Russia", condemned the "death penalty in Egypt" and urged Haitian government to end child slavery.

The EP called for reviewing all pending death sentences and reconsidering the Egyptian criminal codes. It also urged Egypt to "halt all planned executions."

(source: Egypt Today)

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

Christian cleric's killer sentenced to death----The convict fatally stabbed the victim in Cairo suburb last October

An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced a Muslim man to death by hanging after convicting him of murdering a Coptic Christian cleric last October.

The Cairo Criminal Court issued the sentence against Ahmad Saeed, a suspected militant, after the verdict was approved by the country's top Islamic official, the Grand Mufti - a routine procedure in Egypt in cases involving the death penalty.

The ruling can be appealed.

On October 12, the convict was arrested after he fatally stabbed Coptic priest Samaan Shehata in the Cairo suburb of Al Salam City.

Saeed attacked the cleric with a long knife as the latter was leaving his car, witnesses said. He also injured another Coptic clergyman, who was accompanying the victim.

Footage of a surveillance camera in a nearby store showed the suspect chasing Shehata as he was attempting to escape and stabbed him in the stomach and the head.

The 40-year-old victim was a priest at a Coptic church in Egypt's southern province of Beni Suef. He was in Cairo raising donations for the church when he was assaulted.

In May last year, 28 people were killed in an attack, claimed by Daesh, on a bus transporting Coptic Christians to a monastery in the southern province of Minya.

A month earlier, 47 people were killed in suicide attacks, also claimed by Daesh, on 2 churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Delta province of Tanta.

The attacks prompted Egypt to declare a nationwide state of emergency that is still in effect.

Christians are among staunch supporters of Egypt's President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, who is pursuing a relentless campaign against radical Islamists.

Christians make up around 10 % of Egypt's population of nearly 95 million.

(source: Gulf News)

MALAYSIA:

Man charged with murdering 9-year-old daughter

A 35-year-old man has been charged at the magistrate's court here with murdering his 9-year-old daughter.

The accused, Mohammad Abdullah Mohamed, allegedly caused Nur Aina Nabihah's death at their home in Taman Vista Jaya in Lukut near here between 8.30pm and 11.30pm on Jan 31.

No plea was recorded from the suspect, who is a sergeant in the armed forces.

He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Magistrate Siti Khairiah Abd Razak then fixed March 15 for re-mention.

Police detained the suspect and the victim's stepmother on Feb 1 after a post-mortem conducted on Nur Aina Nabihah showed serious injuries caused by a blunt object.

(source: thestar.com.my)

INDONESIA:

Aussie drug accused to learn if he will face death penalty in Bali

Australian accountant Isaac Emmanuel Roberts is set learn today whether he could still face the death penalty when he goes to trial in Bali.

The accused drug smuggler will for the 1st time have his charges formally read to him in court, the most significant step yet in bringing him to trial.

The one time Liberal Democrats candidate is facing drug possession or drug importation charges, which carry the maximum penalty of death, after customs officials at Denpasar airport allegedly found 20.54 grams of the drug ice and 14 ecstasy tablets in his luggage on December 4 last year.

Mr Roberts maintains he is a drug addict who was set up by customs officials, and the drugs were for his personal use.

If a judge agrees today to charge Mr Roberts with the lesser offence of "personal use" it will see the death penalty taken off the table.

The maximum penalty would be reduced to 4 years in prison.

(source: 9news.com.au)

NORTH KOREA:

North Korean athletes face FIRING SQUAD on Winter Olympics return

Bombastic leader Kim Jong-un has allowed 22 athletes to cross the border to arch rival South Korea for the Pyeongchang Games on Thursday.

They will even march with athletes from the South under a "unified" Korea flag, marking a significant thaw in relations between the 2 countries.

It follows a string of ICBM tests by the North that have riled world rival leaders, especially US President Donald Trump.

But lurking behind Kim's veil of animosity lies a horror threat to have the athletes killed.

(source: dailystar.co.uk)

AUSTRALIA:

Morant execution fundamentally flawed: MPs

MPs have acknowledged fundamental flaws leading to the execution of Harry 'Breaker' Morant.

Harry 'Breaker' Morant and Peter Handcock are the only Australians executed for war crimes but the process which condemned them to death was fundamentally flawed, MPs say more than a century later.

With George Witton, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, the lieutenants were convicted during the Boer War of killing 12 prisoners, believing they were doing so on the order of British superiors.

Prosecutors had 3 months to prepare for their trial, but the defence was given just 1 day.

2 days after they were convicted, Morant and Handcock were executed on February 27, 1902, without the opportunity for an appeal.

"The process used to try these men was fundamentally flawed," coalition MP Scott Buchholz told parliament on Monday, moving a motion to acknowledge serious deficiencies in the legal case and offer sympathy to descendants.

If parliament supports Mr Buchholz's motion it could be used to call for posthumous pardons.

Labor MP Michael Danby supported his Liberal colleague's motion saying it was commendable the issue keeps being raised with the British, under whose military law the executions occurred.

"I don't think any justice will be done until the capital punishment suffered by those 2 poor men is overturned," he said.

Lt Witton was released from prison after intervention by the Australian government.

Labor's Mike Kelly, himself a former Australian Army lawyer, said the executions were a "deep scar" on the Australian experience, but some good came out of it.

"If there's anything that we can say came out of this positive, it's that ... we were never going to be subject to (British) military justice again," he said.

(source: bunburymail.com.au)

MYANMAR:

Suspected U Ko Ni killers to face death

The Yangon Region North District Court has allowed the prosecution of 3 accused killers of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni for the charge of murder, a prosecution lawyer said.

The judge decided last Friday to try the accused Kyi Lin, the suspected gunman, and 2 of his accomplices - Aung Zaw Win and Zayar Phyo - for violations that carries a maximum penalty of death under penal code 302(1)(b), according to lawyer U Khin Maung Htay.

Aside from the charge of murder, Kyi Lin and Aung Win Zaw are also charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

"I didn't bring it [the gun]. I didn't carry one. It was given to me by the one who asked me to do (it)," Kyi Lin protested at last Fridayís court hearing

A 4th accused man, Aung Win Tun, who served as the suspects' driver, will be prosecuted for aiding a crime, which carries a penalty of up to 5 years' imprisonment, he added.

The judge also issued an arrest warrant for the suspected mastermind of the killing - identified as former Lieutenant Colonel Aung Win Khaing - who remains at large and is also charged with murder.

The judge has given the court one month to arrest the suspected mastermind.

"Aung Win Khaing can now be arrested by anyone," U Khin Maung Htay said.

U Ko Ni was shot dead on January 29, 2017, shortly after arriving at Yangon International Airport. He was the legal adviser of the ruling National League for Democracy and a Muslim.

A taxi driver was also killed in the attack after he tried to stop the suspected killer Kyi Lin.

"I think, based on the evidence and preliminary facts, the court made the right decision in accordance with the law," plaintiff's lawyer U Khin Maung Htay said.

The next trial will be on February 16 and it will hear recalled witnesses.

(source: Myanmar Times)

FEBRUARY 11, 2018:

TEXAS:

Willacy to seek ultimate penalty

Nearly 1 century has passed since a person convicted and sentenced to death in Willacy County has been executed by the state of Texas.

This week, 1 of 2 men accused of shooting and killing an off-duty Border Patrol agent and injuring the man's father in rural Willacy County will stand trial in the 197th state District Court.

The Willacy County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for both men, who are being tried separately and have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, a La Villa man, is charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder for allegedly shooting and killing Javier Vega Jr. of Kingsville and injuring the agent's father, Javier Vega Sr. of La Feria, in August 2014. Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo of Weslaco faces the same charges.

Authorities have said the murder took place while the suspects robbed the Vegas, who were on a fishing excursion with their family.

While 86 years have gone by since the last convicted murderer in Willacy County was executed, another 8 decades have passed since the Willacy County District Attorney's Office has secured a death sentence after a murder conviction.

According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice online death row records, which date back to 1923, just 2 people from Willacy County have been sentenced to die in Huntsville. Both of those cases date back to the 1930s.

Those stories have largely been forgotten, until now.

HISTORY UNCOVERED

The 3rd floor of the Willacy County Courthouse, which was built in 1922, used to be a jail. Nowadays, the physical memories of that jail remain. There are bars and jail doors, and memories of inmates told through jailhouse graffiti. But these days, instead of prisoners, the jail cells hold court records.

In one of those cells, off in a corner of the jail, is a large black file cabinet. That's where staff from the Willacy County District Clerk's Office found the case files for Estanislado Lopez and Pio Quesada. Lopez and Quesada were held on the very same floor and sentenced to death in the courthouse that holds the only records of the cases against the men.

Lopez pleaded guilty to murdering Jesus Villareal on Aug. 24, 1931, and was electrocuted less than 1 year later on June 10, 1932. Quesada pleaded guilty Jan. 22, 1937, to killing Fernando Ramirez on Nov. 27, 1936. Unlike Lopez, Quesada's sentence was commuted and he was never executed. Efforts to discover why Quesada's sentence was commuted were not successful.

Unlike modern day death penalty cases that can take years to work their way through the courts, Lopez and Quesada were charged, tried and sentenced within 1 week of their arrests. The appeals process was just months-long. And for Lopez, his sentence was carried out less than one year after he pleaded guilty.

However, the case files for the men still contain all of the documentation and are in excellent condition. There are indictments, arrest warrants, handwritten notes, Western Union receipts, and even appeals and notices of court-appointed attorneys; all neatly folded handbills reminiscent of the shape and size of a warrant that a proverbial western lawman would pull out of the pocket of their duster.

AXE MURDER

In July of 1930, Lopez, a San Antonio man who lived at a residence just northeast of downtown in the Alamo City for 8 years, traveled to Raymondville to pick cotton.

The details of what transpired next are held in handwritten notes taken by authorities at the Harris County jail from an account given to them by a man named Francisco Moreno and a confession they took from Lopez, which still bears the manís signature.

In a coincidence, Moreno was arrested in Houston and placed in a cell with Lopez. Unfortunately for Lopez, Moreno was 1 of the 7 farm workers staying in a house about 4 miles east of Raymondville, along with Lopez, when the murder occurred.

"When I was put in the cell ... Lopez covered up his face and would not let me see him. I told Lopez to take his hands down from his face I want to see who you are," Moreno told authorities in Houston according to the records.

Moreno stated that he never saw the murder because they were all asleep, but when they woke up to a dog barking at sunrise and discovered the body, Lopez was long gone. While sharing a cell, Moreno asked Lopez where he went after the killing.

"Lopez said he stayed in the brush 3 or 4 days and then went some place around Ft. Worth and then to Waco and then to Bryan, then Lopez said to me not to tell any one about the killing at Raymondville Texas for they will put me in the electric chair, he did not tell me how he killed this man," Moreno said, according to the records.

Lopez killed the man by striking him with an axe while he slept. Lopez gave his account of the murder and signed it in the handwritten letter.

The night of the murder was July 15, 1930, and everyone in the house had been drinking. Lopez said he was scared of the victim, so he chopped him in the head 1 time while he was sleeping. According to Lopez, the victim had urinated in his face and, along with several other men, had tried to have sex with him. It's hard to tell from the document whether Lopez is alleging the men tried to rape him or proposition him for sex, and the wording in the document is profane.

"After I hit him in the head he did not have a chance to say a word," Lopez is accounted as saying.

After the sentence, Lopez appealed it. His attorneys argued that the death penalty should not have been assigned because Willacy County prosecutors failed to show he murdered the man with malice. A little more than 6 months after his appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his sentence.

Just shy of 3 months later, Lopez was taken to the electric chair.

"In accordance with the judgment of the District Court of Willacy County, the said Estanislado Lopez was duly executed on the 10th day of June, A.D. 1932, at the hour of 12:03 A.M., by Warden W.W. Waid, by causing to pass through his body a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause his death. And the said Estanislado Lopez was pronounced dead by Dr. V.G. Isvekov, eight (8) minutes after the application of the electric current," the warden's return after execution states.

That document also shows that Lopez stayed in the Willacy County Courthouse jail up until May 11, 1932, one month before his execution. Lopez is buried in the prison cemetery.

MOTIVE UNKNOWN

On Nov. 27, 1936, Pio Quesada freely admitted to Texas Rangers and U.S. Customs officers that he murdered Fernando Ramirez. He even led the authorities to the shotgun he used but, according to the documentation, he never provided authorities with a motive.

The indictment states that Quesada stabbed Ramirez multiple times and then shot him to death.

Quesada pleaded guilty Jan. 20, 1937, and 2 days later he was sentenced to death. Quesada immediately appealed. His attorneys argued that the 197th state District Court should not have allowed his confession because it was not voluntary.

According to appeals documentation, the court allowed testimony from Texas Ranger Power Fenner; U.S. Customs Patrol officers Bland Durham and Capt. Kilbourn; Texas Ranger Joe Bridges and Willacy County Deputy Sheriff Larry Gomez.

The law enforcement officers apparently told him, '"You must go and show us these things,' meaning a gun and a knife. And further, 'Why do you want to fool around about showing us this gun? You might as well go on and show it to us and not lose so much time.' Such testimony that such confession, if made by defendant, was made under the force and threats of the said officers, and not voluntarily made, as required by the law, reduced to writing and signed by the defendant, after having been previously duly warned."

Transcripts of that testimony are included in the case file and paint a picture of what happened Nov. 27, 1936 in Raymondville.

Fenner testified that when the Texas Rangers received notice of the killing, they proceeded to the scene of the crime, which is where Quesada lived. Fenner said the body had 9 or 10 knife wounds and a shotgun wound.

"Pio told us of sitting in the car with Fernando and going in the house and getting water with Fernando, and the last time he entered the house with him to get the water, he took the shot gun out and then he drove up to where he shot Fernando," Fenner testified. "He said Fernando drove the car. He went with us to this point where the car was. He told us that after they got out to where the car was, he pulled Fernando out of the car and shot him."

Durham, the U.S. Customs Patrol officer, testified he personally knew Quesada and asked him to take them to where the gun was, which he did. Durham's testimony, however, is different than that of Fenner.

"Pio said when they got out of the car, Fernando had the gun in his hand, and he took it from his hand and walked him ahead of the car 50 feet and stood him up and killed him," Durham testified. "He did not say anything about what Fernando said to him."

Joe Bridges, a Texas Ranger from Hebbronville, who came to Raymondville with Fenner to investigate the killing, also testified that Quesada agreed to show them where the gun was and admitted to killing the man.

"And he said he was ready to go. He spoke Spanish. I can't say it as he said it, but I can repeat the substance of it. (which the witness does, in English.) 'I don't deny it. I am the one that did it. There is nothing further to do about it,'" Bridges said during testimony.

On June 4, 1937, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out the appeal. Quesada was scheduled to be executed an hour before sunrise July 23, 1937.

However, the governor at the time commuted his death sentence to life in prison.

MODERN DAY DEATH PENALTY

Unlike the 1930s, when Quesada and Lopez were arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced in less than 2 weeks, death penalty trials can take years.

Tijerina-Sandoval and Hernandez-Vallejo have been in jail since 2014. Their lawyers have filed numerous motions in preparing for the trial and earlier this month announced that both suspects are ready for trial.

Tijerina-Sandoval is expected to go to trial 1st, followed by Hernandez-Vallejo. If convicted and sentenced to death, it will be the 1st time that has happened in Willacy County in 81 years.

The 1st trial is scheduled for Tuesday in the 197th state District Court.

(source: valleymorningstar.com)

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

How US death penalty capital changed its mind

Texas remains the strictest applicant of the US death penalty but its increasing reluctance to put criminals to death reflects a national trend.

Kent Whitaker supported the death penalty until his son, who arranged for a gunman to kill Mr Whitaker and the rest of his family, landed on death row in Texas.

Now Mr Whitaker, the sole survivor of the attack, is desperately seeking clemency for Thomas Whitaker before his execution scheduled on 22 February.

"The petition is based on a legal overstep that shouldn't have happened," says Mr Whitaker. "The district attorney chose to pursue the death penalty despite every victim involved, myself, the relatives of my wife, begging him not to do it."

Shot in the upper chest in the 2003 attack, Mr Whitaker barely survived the ambush after hearing the sound of the bullets that killed his youngest, Kevin, a college sophomore, and his wife Tricia.

Mr Whitaker has asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend to Texas Governor Greg Abbott to commute his son's sentence to life in prison.

"I'm not asking them to forgive him as that's not their business," he says.

"But I don't want on 22 February to have to relive what happened to Tricia and Kevin, and lose the last member of my direct family in the name of justice that I think is wrong."

Despite Mr Whitaker's predicament, both executions and the awarding of death sentences are actually decreasing in Texas, reflecting a nationwide trend.

"The culture now is different," says Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). "There isn't the same appetite for it from either the public or elected officials."

Since 1976 and the US Supreme Court upholding capital punishment, 1,468 people have been executed in the US - 548 in Texas.

Harris County became known as the execution capital of America when it was executing the highest number of people in all of Texas' counties.

But for the last 3 years, it has not imposed any death sentences, while 2017 was the 1st year since 1985 it did not execute anyone.

Executions in Texas peaked in 2000 when there were 40. Last year there were 7, matching 2016 for the lowest number of executions in two decades, amid a national total of 23.

"Whatever happens in Texas does have a ripple effect because it has been so notorious for its death penalty practices," says Ms Houle. "So any move away has a significant impact on the rest of the country."

The shift in opinion - increasingly in conservative circles, too - follows decades of death penalty use during which it has proven exorbitantly expensive compared to putting someone in prison for life, ineffective in making society safer, while open to manipulation from ambitious prosecutors and old-fashioned human error, observers say.

"More people know about the risks of innocent people being executed after TV programmes like 60 Minutes," says Heather Beaudoin, of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. "They're thinking: 'Wow, this can happen - are we willing to risk it?'"

Other concerns include: drug shortages for lethal injections adding to the bureaucratic maelstrom and expense; increased mistrust of government; and botched executions leaving victims and relatives of the condemned and prison guards traumatised.

"The death penalty wouldn't have survived in America if it weren't for evangelical Christians," notes Shane Claiborne, a prominent Christian activist and best-selling author. "Where evangelical Christians are most concentrated is where the death penalty survives."

But, Mr Claiborne notes, younger evangelicals in states like Texas are increasingly embracing a pro-life interpretation that goes beyond the confines of the abortion debate to also include the likes of the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration and those on death row.

Meanwhile, the 2005 introduction in Texas courts of life without parole as a sentencing option in capital cases has helped decrease the number of death sentences and executions.

"When you sit with a victim's family and say it could take 10 years for an execution or they can be done with it now [through a life sentence without parole], they say they want to move on with their lives," says Texas criminal defence lawyer Keith Hampton, who is representing the Whitaker clemency case.

Another change in the Texas criminal justice landscape that's had an impact is increasing scepticism about gauging the "future dangerousness" a felon poses to society, which plays a critical role in the awarding of death sentences in only Texas and Oregon.

"When it comes to so-called lethal prediction you might as well gaze into a crystal ball, the predictions are that unreliable," Mr Hampton says. "Studies show, and prison staff report, that those serving life sentences are the best behaved."

As a result, Mr Hampton explains, prosecutors know juries are less willing to tolerate the pursuit of a death sentence and the additional expense and time it involves.

Big drop in global executions - Amnesty

Those who support the death penalty point out the decreasing trend also reflects a nationwide drop in murder rates, and that the death penalty continues playing an effective role, and retains public support, with the small percentage of eligible homicides.

"Watching an execution is the most mentally draining experience, but it should be utilised for those who commit the most heinous, diabolical, despicable crimes known to man that cry out for the ultimate punishment," says Andy Kahan, a crime victim advocate for the City of Houston, who has accompanied victims to witness 8 executions.

"Everyone has a right to disagree. I wouldn't be surprised if the death penalty eventually goes. The law is subject to change. Everything comes in cycles."

Both sides in the debate cite studies supporting respective claims about the death penalty achieving or not achieving deterrence - currently studies supporting the latter appear to have the upper hand.

"Anyone who says the death penalty has no deterrent effect either doesn't know what they are talking about or are lying," says Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which has supported death penalty cases throughout the country.

"The debate over studies supporting its deterrent effect is whether they have sufficiently shown it."

Despite Texas' punitive reputation, Ms Houle notes it was the 1st state to pass legislation giving defendants access to the courts if the science behind a conviction changed or was debunked, and had led the way nationally at compensating those wrongfully incarcerated.

At the same time, however, trends such as racial bias in the Texas courts remain a concern.

----

Capital punishment in the US

The death penalty is a legal punishment in 31 US states

Since 1976 Texas has carried out the most executions (548), followed by Virginia (113) and Oklahoma (112)

There are 2,817 inmates on death row in the US

California has the most prisoners on death row, 746, but has carried out only 13 executions since 1976

[source: Death Penalty Information Center]

----

Over the last 5 years, 70% of death sentences have been imposed on people of colour - more than 1/2 of these sentences were for African-American defendants, according to TCADP.

Also, though less than 13% of Texas's population is African American, they constitute 43.8% of death row inmates, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Death penalty critics also highlight how arbitrarily it is applied based on factors such as a crime's location or the whim of a district attorney.

Mr Whitaker's petition noted how the gunman was given a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder, while the getaway driver agreed to a 15-year plea deal and testified against Whitaker.

Comprising seven individuals who neither meet publicly nor have to physically confer with each other, the board can give its decision at any moment up to the day of execution.

The execution of Thomas Whitaker would be the 4th this year in America - all carried out by Texas.

"Texas claims to be a victims' rights state," My Whitaker says. "What I am asking is that this means something even when the victim wants mercy and not vengeance."

(source: BBC News)

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

Ex-Texas death row inmate now questions prosecutors

A man who was exonerated after spending 12 years on Texas' death row is getting the chance to question lawyers who are running to become Dallas' top prosecutor.

Anthony Graves on Saturday moderated a panel of candidates for Dallas County district attorney. He called the event an opportunity to push forward changes in the criminal justice system in the nation's most active death penalty state.

Convicted in 1994 of murder, Graves was cleared in 2010 after an alleged accomplice recanted his testimony that Graves was involved and an investigation found misconduct by the district attorney in the case. That prosecutor was later disbarred.

Graves now serves as the smart justice initiatives manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

He says he understands a top prosecutor's power "better than most."

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

A call to conscience on march to death

"A miscarriage of justice."

That's what the Florida Senate's Criminal Justice Committee says about the death march taking place at the Florida Supreme Court.

By a 3-2 vote this week, the Senate committee approved legislation (SB 870) that calls on the court to abandon its arbitrary distinction between death row inmates who do or donít deserve new sentencing hearings since Florida's old sentencing law was found unconstitutional in January 2016.

The description is correct. The court's apparent indifference to fair play is staggering. It reflects poorly on the court and on the character of the state.

The Florida court refuses to make the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 ruling retroactive to inmates - an estimated 163 of them - whose death sentences were considered "final" before June 24, 2002. That's when a ruling in an Arizona case put Florida on notice that its death sentencing law would likely be thrown out. But it took 14 more years for that shoe to fall in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, which says a jury, not a judge, must determine if the facts warrant execution.

For prisoners whose sentences became "final" during that interval, the Florida court has been granting new hearings, for the most part, to those whose juries didn't vote unanimously for death.

In a series of identical orders over the past 2 weeks, the court rejected all 80 petitions for new hearings. In only 15 of those cases did the jury unanimously recommend the death penalty. In 47 cases, at least 2 jurors voted against death. 11 juries were split by votes of 7 to 5.

All would be affected by SB 870, which says the court's decision to deny them a new sentencing hearing "will result in a miscarriage of justice for those inmates." It is "the intent of the legislature" that they should be covered by the precedent set by the Hurst decision.

Still, on Tuesday, the court continued its march for death. It unanimously denied a stay of execution for Eric Scott Branch, who is scheduled to be put to death Feb. 22 for the 1993 rape-murder of Susan Morris, a University of West Florida student.

Branch is among the 80 inmates who have lost their bids for new sentencing hearings. The jury vote in his case was 10-2. He also has a separate appeal on other issues pending before the court.

Branch's attorneys urged the court to consider that "a wave" of petitions from Florida's death row "is set to flood that United States Supreme Court's docket" shortly after Branch's execution date. If the court rules against Florida in those cases, they said, "the injustice in (Branch's) case will be irreparable."

The Florida court did not explain why it denied the stay, which the U.S. Supreme Court could still grant. But the Florida court's usual practice is to leave that sort of decision to the high court, often at the 11th hour.

SB 870 is sponsored by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, chair of the criminal justice committee. In a legal sense, the legislation would not overrule the court. Such an attempt would probably be unconstitutional.

But the declaration of legislative intent would "send a powerful message to the U.S. Supreme Court," according to Karen Gottlieb of the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University.

The bill is, of course, a long way from passage, a prospect that must be rated unlikely given the Legislature's history of embracing the death penalty. But the committee's bipartisan vote is a welcome note of conscience on an issue that cries out for it.

(source: decaturdaily.com)

ALABAMA:

Alabama Court Lets 2 Capital Convictions Stand

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is refusing challenges filed by 2 death row inmates convicted of murder.

The judges on Friday upheld the conviction and death sentence of Jordaan Stanly Creque. He was convicted of killing Jeffrey Mark Graff and Jessie Jose Aguilar during the robbery of a Krystal restaurant in Decatur in 2011.

The court rejected claims including one that Creque was interrogated in violation of his constitutional rights.

The appellate court also upheld a lower court decision refusing a challenge by David Dewayne Riley. He was convicted of capital murder in Lauderdale County in the 2007 killing of store clerk Scott Michael Kirtley during a robbery.

The judges rejected Riley's claim that a court improperly used a proposed order by prosecutors in refusing his appeal.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

Seminar on capital punishment held in Srinagar

People from every nook and corner of the valley, hailing from different walks of life participated in a daylong seminar organized by Awami Ittihaad Party (AIP) in Srinagar on Saturday. Breaking all traditions the seminar was presided by a 90 year brave heart namely Sabaz Ali who had lost his 3 sons and is feeding nearly a dozen orphans.

All the speakers mostly heirs of martyrs and victims of violence took the pledge that Kashmiris will never succumb to pressure tactics and use of brutal force by New Delhi as they are seeking resolution to Kashmir dispute through Right to self determination for the larger interests of people of the sub continent.

Tears were rolling down from the eyes of the participants when dozens of the parents and others spoke how army and security agencies butchered their near and dear ones during last 30 years but New Delhi not only denied the justice but did everything to prove innocent unarmed civilians as terrorists. Justice Hasnain through his speech send in writing and was readout at the seminar said that death penalty once executed leaves no room for correction of error and undue mistrial.

He said severe punishment like death penalty presupposes fair trial. Referring to Afzal Guru's and Maqbool Bhat's hangings Justice Masoodi said "In case of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat and Mohammad Afzal Guru the principles of fair trial are fair execution were never followed.

In case of Maqbool Bhat the sentence was imposed in 1968 and executed in 1984 after 16 long years. The Supreme Court has time and again laid down that where for one or the other reason the execution of death penalty gets delayed, it should not be executed as the prisoner in the prison cell dies almost daily.

While awaiting the execution and the long delays itself dehu≠manizing even long pendency of the punishment and the death sentence should have been commuted. In case of Afzal Guru the execution of death sentence was hurried and though far behind in the queue the sentence was executed that too without information to his family.

In both the cases it is highly doubtful whether adequate legal assistance was provided during the trial. None from the legal luminaries came forward to defend them and it was left to the trial court to appoint an amicus curie".

Speaking on the occasion Er. Rasheed reiterated that Kashmiris are not enemies of India and they will be the biggest beneficiaries of peace between India and Pakistan. He said "Had hanging been a solution, no one would have dared to take up to arms after Maqbool Bhat's hanging and after Afzal Gurus hanging what happened in Kashmir is ample reason to conclude that death punishment should be abolished"

. Er. Rasheed added that while Hurriyat represents sentiments and sacrifices of People of J&K, the need of the hour is that Hurriyat Leadership should earn well wishers for the movement and not count everyone on the other side. He said the fight is much much bigger as New Delhi is doing everything to divide Kashmiris, creating confusions and avoids a resolution. If Kashmiris are not united and lack a proper workable strategy, masses will just go on sacrificing and leaders will continue to wait for searching opportunities to propagate their agenda whatsoever".

Er. Rasheed added that whatsoever valid questions Afal Guru's wife has raised from time to time we all need to introspect and find the answers.

Er. Rasheed condemned behavior of the police and civil adminis≠tration for cancelling the permission granted for holding seminar in Hotel Lala Rukh and said that party was informed at 11:00 PM in the night about the decision and the act was just yet one more evidence of frustration on part of the Govt. He thanked people from all walks of life for making their presence to the seminar and listening around 35 speakers during the day. Prominent lawyers, political activists and scholars explained in detail how was the capital punishment a disaster throughout the world and a barrier in establishing peace.

(source: Kashmir Observer)

IRAN:

UN Rights Experts Urge Iran to Annul Death Sentence Against Ahmadreza Djalali

United Nations human rights experts* have repeated their urgent call to Iran to annul the death sentence against Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali amid reports that his latest legal attempt to challenge the sentence has been rejected.

"We urgently call on Iran to lift the death sentence imposed on Dr. Djalali, as the State has apparently not complied with its international obligations to give him a fair trial and the right to appeal," the experts said in a joint statement released in Geneva.

"We are deeply disturbed by reports from Dr. Djalali's legal team that his application for judicial review of the death sentence has been dismissed by the Supreme Court, apparently without any review process or explanation. This contravenes Iran's obligations under international law and we strongly condemn it.

"We also profoundly regret that the authorities have disregarded our earlier call to bring this trial into line with international standards," they added.

"We urge the authorities to annul the death sentence against Dr. Djalali and to release him."

The death penalty violates human dignity, they added, and may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Dr. Djalali, a lecturer, medical doctor and researcher in disaster medicine who is a resident of Sweden, was detained in April 2016. The UN experts believe the violations of his rights to due process and a fair trial have included incommunicado detention, denial of access to a lawyer, and forced confession. Dr. Djalali was sentenced to death on 21 October 2017. Information received indicates that he was not given a meaningful opportunity to appeal against his conviction.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has previously called for Dr. Djalali's immediate release and for him to be accorded the right to compensation and other reparations, after finding his deprivation of liberty was arbitrary and breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including his rights to effectively challenge the legality of detention, to a fair trial and to an effective defence.

UN experts have previously raised their concerns about Dr. Djalali's case directly with the Iranian authorities, including in a communication issued in February 2017. At the time the Government responded noting that Dr. Djalali had been charged with "corruption on the earth" and had been allowed meetings with his lawyers and phone calls with his family. In November 2017, experts expressed grave concern at the death sentence handed down to Dr. Djalali. On that occasion, the Government chose not to respond.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

FEBRUARY 10, 2018:

MARYLAND:

Shoemaker proposes death penalty bill for cop-killers, mass murderers

Almost 5 years after former Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation repealing the state's death penalty, one Carroll County delegate is trying bring the option back in certain cases.

Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, and Del. Jason Buckel, R-District 1B, are primary sponsors on House Bill 887, which would make the death penalty an option when someone is convicted of 1st-degree murder of a police officer, a correctional officer or a first responder, or in the case of a mass murder of 3 of more people. The death penalty was repealed in Maryland in 2013.

Shoemaker said punishment is supposed to be a deterrent and rehabilitative, but those who kill law enforcement or are mass killers are "irredeemable."

"I think that they should be slipped the juice," Shoemaker said. "There are numerous safeguards that are in place to make sure the wrong person is not executed."

The U.S. broke records in 2016 with 19 separate flooding events - the most in recorded history, according to USA Today [ and this year's wildfires continue to threaten homes in the West.

With DNA, witnesses and technology, he added, there is barely a chance someone who is wrongfully convicted or accused would be sentenced to death.

"Given the fact that we're seeing basically police officers walk around with targets on their back, something has to be done," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said he knows of a lot of other lawmakers who want to sponsor the bill, and also said he has support from local leaders in Carroll. Both State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and Sheriff Jim DeWees are in support.

"They've indicated that they'd both be willing to come down and testify at the bill hearing," he said.

DeWees said "obviously I support it," adding that he was never in support of repealing the death penalty in the first place. He said he believes the death penalty is a deterrent.

If someone is "brazen enough" to take a law enforcement officer's life, he said, and is convicted, the state should be able to seek the death penalty.

"I appreciate Haven Shoemaker putting the bill in on behalf of law enforcement," DeWees said.

DeLeonardo said the death penalty is called for when someone has killed a law enforcement officer or a number of people. When someone kills a police officer, he said "it really is an attack on law and order."

There should be a clear line, he said, to save the most serious punishment for those most serious crimes. If someone is already serving a life sentence and kills a corrections officer, DeLeonardo said, the death penalty is appropriate.

"Giving them another life without parole is doing nothing," he said.

The bill was introduced Feb. 5 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Carroll County Dels. Susan Krebs and April Rose, R-District 5, as well as Del. Kathy Afzali, who represents Carroll and Frederick counties in District 4, have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

Wesley Eugene Baker was the last person executed in Maryland prior to the 2013 repeal of the death penalty. Baker was killed by lethal injection Dec. 5, 2005, after his 1992 conviction for killing a 49-year-old grandmother in the parking lot of Catonsville's Westview Mall after a holdup in June 1991.

(source: Carroll County Times)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

SC Statehouse: Debate over more death penalty options

South Carolina lawmakers want to make sure the state is able to carry out the death penalty. And right now, there are already 3 bills being considered this year that would make sure that happens.

The 1st bill would keep the name of the companies that make lethal injection drugs a secret.

Senator Eddie Tallon, (R) Spartanburg - "We've been unable to purchase drugs. The drug companies and compounders do not want to be known as furnishing drugs that take lives."

Right now inmates on death row can choose death by electrocution or lethal injection, but if the drugs aren't available, a separate bill would default the inmate to the electric chair.

But an Upstate lawmaker wants to add another option. Representative Joshua Putnam from Anderson filed a bill that would add a firing squad. Some say this, if it became law, would help teach a lesson to would be killers, others say the option is inhumane.

So far only one of the bills, requiring an inmate to be electrocuted if lethal injection drugs are not available, has made it to the Statehouse floor. That bill will be up for a 2nd statewide reading later this month.

The firing squad bill has been referred to a Judiciary committee.

(source: counton2.com)

FLORIDA:

Stubborn about death sentences

"A miscarriage of justice." That's what the Florida Senate's Criminal Justice Committee says about the death march taking place at the Florida Supreme Court.

By a 3-2 vote this week, the Senate committee approved legislation that calls on the court to abandon its arbitrary distinction between death row inmates who do or don't deserve new sentencing hearings since Florida's old sentencing law was found unconstitutional.

The Florida court refuses to make the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 ruling retroactive to 163 inmates whose death sentences were considered "final" before June 24, 2002. That's when a ruling in an Arizona case put Florida on notice that its death sentencing law would likely be thrown out. But it took 14 more years for that shoe to fall. For prisoners whose sentences became "final" during that interval, the Florida court has been granting new hearings, for the most part, to those whose juries didn't vote unanimously for death.

In a series of identical orders over the past 2 weeks, the court rejected all 80 petitions for new hearings. In only 15 of those cases did the jury unanimously recommend the death penalty.

The bill is, of course, a long way from passage, a prospect that must be rated unlikely given the Legislature's history of embracing the death penalty. But the committee's bipartisan vote is a welcome note of conscience on an issue that cries out for it.

Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Kearney Hub)

ALABAMA:

Court affirms death penalty for convicted Krystal killer

Final Court of Appeals upheld the capital murder conviction and death penalty for a man who shot and killed 2 employees of a North Alabama restaurant.

Jordaan Creque admitted to killing Jeff Graff and Jessie Aguilar while they worked the overnight shift at the Decatur Krystal in August 2011. Creque was scheduled to work the overnight shift on the night of the murder, but did not show up.

Ezekiel Gholston and Cassandra Eldred helped him commit the murder. Creque knocked on the drive-through window to get the attention of the employees. Graff opened a side door to let him in the restaurant. Creque and Gholston rushed into the Krystal while Eldred waited in the car.

Police found cash from the restaurant at Eldred's home and Creque's apartment. Gholston led investigators to the gun used in the crime.

A jury convicted Creque in 2013 and voted 11-1 in favor of the death penalty.

Creque appealed, stating his statements were not legally obtained and should be banned from trial. The judge disagreed and allowed the statements to be presented to the jury.

Creque also argued a juror was biased and initiated contact with the lead investigator at a department store during a weekend break during the trial. The investigator and juror were questioned by the judge. The judge did not declare a mistrial. According to testimony, the juror worked at the store and recognized the detective. The detective testified he did not immediately recognize the juror and the facts of the case were not discussed. The judge allowed the trial to continue based on the testimony.

The Appeals Court upheld that decision, stating nothing in the juror or investigator's testimony supports Creque's argument the juror was biased.

Creque's 3rd argument states the court should have allowed him to present testimony from a forensic expert who would tell jurors Creque shot Graff accidentally. The appeals court states the record refutes that argument and noted testimony from the expert during trial.

In his appeal Creque also challenged the jury selection process, arguments by the prosecutor, and jury instructions.

The appeals court ruled against each claim in Creque's appeal. He remains on death row at Holman Prison. Gholston and Eldred are both serving prison sentences for murder.

(source: WAFF news)

OHIO:

Prosecutor urges Ohio attorney general to appeal Danny Hill ruling

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has sent a letter urging Ohio Attorney Mike DeWine to appeal the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ordered a judge to resentence Danny Lee Hill to something other than the death penalty.

Hill, 51, was sentenced to death in 1986 in the 1985 murder of Raymond Fife, 12. The sentence was upheld through numerous appeals and also when visiting Judge Thomas Curran considered whether Hill was too mentally disabled to qualify for the death penalty.

But 3 judges on the 6th Circuit recently disagreed with whether Hill is too mentally disabled to be executed.

In the letter, Watkins called that "an improper substitution of the Sixth Circuit's view of the law and facts."

Watkins said Fife's murder was "1 of the worst murders in Trumbull County history. Everyone in the Mahoning Valley who remembers 1985 will will never forget the smiling face of Little Raymond."

Miriam Fife, Raymond's mother, "has been at every court proceeding since her son Raymond was kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered on Sept. 12, 1985," including the hearings before the 6th Circuit, Watkins said.

Watkins, who has spoken with several representatives of the attorney general's office about the case since the ruling, quoted statistics showing the number of times the 6th Circuit has been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, including cases in which the death penalty was reinstated.

He said the 6th Circuit wrongly reversed state court rulings in 19 of 24 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court between 2012 and 2016.

"The victim's family and the citizens of Trumbull County should not at this time be faced with Danny Lee Hill being brought back to a Trumbull County courtroom for resentencing when it is unnecessary and for the wrong reason," Watkins wrote.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)

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Death sentence for Craigslist killer upheld by Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of Richard Beasley, who posted fake job offers on Craigslist to lure men for him to rob and kill.

Beasley, 58, teamed up with a teenager to use the free classified ad website to put up postings promising jobs on a southeastern Ohio farm. He killed Ralph Geiger, David Pauley and Timothy Kern. He also shot Scott Davis, who survived.

A Summit County judge sentenced him to death in 2013.

The Ohio Supreme Court voted 7-0 that the evidence presented at trial was enough for a jury to convict him and that any errors he alleged either were not errors or were harmless.

The justices also voted 6-1 that the death sentence was appropriate. Then-Justice Bill O'Neill was the lone dissenter, relying on a dissent he wrote in a previous case that said the death penalty is unconstitutional.

"Without question, the aggravating circumstances in this case, Beasley's murder of 3 individuals as part of a single course of conduct, outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt," Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote for the majority.

Despite his death sentences being upheld, the Ohio Supreme Court sent Beasley's case back to Summit County, ruling the judge did not take the proper steps when sentencing Beasley for his noncapital convictions.

Donald Gallick, Beasley's attorney, acknowledged that fighting death penalty cases in Ohio is difficult. Even designating the re-sentencing as a small victory would be "a bit of an overstatement," he said.

He said Beasley will likely ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

Brogan Rafferty, Beasley's co-defendant who was 16 years old at the time of the killings, is serving life in prison.

(source: cleveland.com)

KANSAS:

Kansas Supreme Court upholds Kahler death sentence

The Supreme Court affirms Kahler's Osage County District Court jury trial convictions of aggravated burglary and capital murder for fatally shooting his wife, his wife's grandmother, and his 2 daughters.

Kahler raised 10 issues on appeal, including allegations of misconduct by the prosecutor and trial judge, challenges to the instructions given to the jury, and an argument the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to a person who has a severe mental illness at the time he or she committed a crime.

None of Kahler's arguments convinced the majority of the court to overturn his convictions or death sentence.

The majority held that the prosecutor did not commit an error by raising an objection during Kahler's attorney's closing argument. Although the majority found that the trial judge committed errors during the trial, the majority held that none of the errors affected the trial's outcome and, therefore, the errors did not justify reversing either the guilty verdict or the death sentence.

Furthermore, the majority reaffirmed the constitutionality of a Kansas statute that eliminated the insanity defense, and instead permits a jury to consider evidence of a person's mental disease or defect solely to determine whether the person possessed the requisite mental state for the crime.

The majority also reaffirmed its prior decision that the Eighth Amendment does not categorically prohibit the execution of persons who were severely mentally ill when the person committed the murder.

Lastly, the majority concluded there was sufficient evidence that Kahler's crime was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner to justify a death sentence.

Justice Dan Biles wrote a concurring opinion, agreeing that Kahler's conviction and sentence should be affirmed, but disagreeing with the majority that certain comments by the trial judge to the jury should be characterized as judicial misconduct.

Justice Lee Johnson wrote a dissenting opinion, contending that the majority inadequately analyzed whether the statute removing mental disease or defect as a defense is constitutional in a death penalty case.

Furthermore, the dissent agreed that the trial judge's errors did not require reversal of Kahler's guilty verdict, but they did warrant giving Kahler a new sentencing trial.

Additionally, the dissent rejected the majority's conclusion that the Eighth Amendment allows for the execution of the mentally ill.

Lastly, the dissent argued the death penalty violates the Kansas Constitution's prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment.

(source: wibwnewsnow.com)

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

Death penalty bill still alive

State Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, was the lead sponsor of a bill introduced last year to abolish the death penalty in Kansas.

Sometimes such bills don't get a committee hearing. House Bill 2167, however, received a hearing 1 year ago this week before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Proponents of the bill spoke out, but no opponents testified, Becker noted.

However, the committee did not "work the bill" - debate, discuss and alter the bill's wording - after the hearing. The bill did not advance to the House floor for a vote.

Becker's bill remains alive in the committee because the Legislature has 2-year sessions. It would not require another hearing.

Becker said he's "optimistic" the bill will be worked in the committee and move to the floor this year.

(source: Hutchinson News)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Man Charged in Sioux Falls Killings Could Face Death Penalty

A man accused in a double homicide in Sioux Falls could face the death penalty.

The Argus Leader reports that 34-year-old Manuel Frias was charged Thursday with 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder and 4 counts of manslaughter.

2 other people were arrested for the Jan. 5 shooting deaths of 28-year-old Samuel Crockett and 30-year-old Corey Zephier. Maria LeClaire is charged with 1st-degree robbery and Crystal Habben is charged with misprision of a felony.

Police say the drug-related incident happened outside an apartment building. Crockett was allegedly being held up by Zephier when Crockett grabbed his gun from his waistband and shot Zephier. Police say Frias then shot Crockett.

Authorities arrested Frias on Jan. 16, after a 3-hour standoff in Nebraska involving 2 police departments, 2 sheriff's offices and federal law enforcement.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

New study of Utah's use of the death penalty suggests life without parole costs less, prompts another call to abolish capital punishment

A group of Utah attorneys, advocates and state staff have spent the last year studying the state's death penalty. The working group, created by Utah's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, examined several areas, including costs, aggravating factors and public attitude.

The CCJJ report, released Friday, noted there were "fundamental difficulties inherent in analyzing death penalty policy." The group did not make any recommendations or proposed changes to Utah's current capital punishment system.

But a group called Utah Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty said the report shows that a significant amount of money has been spent seeking death sentences without much in return. They called on lawmakers to abolish capital punishment in Utah.

"This report should give pause to anyone who thought that because capital punishment is so rarely used in Utah that the cost of maintaining a death penalty would be negligible," director Kevin Greene said in a statement. "... The millions of dollars that we have been wasting on the death penalty should either be returned to the taxpayers in the form of a tax cut or used for crime prevention or to help victims of crime."

Here's what the study found:

Costs

Cost estimates for the price of the death penalty in Utah are limited, the group noted. Legislative analysts in 2012 estimated that a death sentence and decades of appeals costs $1.6 million more than a life-without-parole sentence.

Another more recent report estimated that Utah and its counties have spent almost $40 million to prosecute the 165 death-penalty eligible cases that have been filed in the last 2 decades. Only 2 cases in that time have resulted in a death sentence.

The CCJJ group also looked at studies in 15 other states - where costs ranged from a $136,000 estimate in Arizona in 2001 to a $1.5 million estimate in Nebraska in 2017 - and noted that Utah's estimates are "consistent with national findings." All of those estimates, the CCJJ report says, concluded that a life-without-parole sentence costs less than a death sentence.

Legislators are currently considering a bill requesting that legislative auditors conduct a more in-depth study of death penalty costs in Utah to determine whether it's cheaper to instead give a prisoner a life sentence.

Aggravating factors

Utah currently has over 60 aggravating factors in the homicide law that allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty - and state lawmakers are contemplating adding even more. At a recent legislative hearing, some expressed concern that Utah may have too many crimes that qualify for the death penalty, and that an appeals court could torpedo the capital punishment law for being too broad.

In the CCJJ report, the group noted that they could not come to an agreement about whether the number of aggravating factors should be limited. They noted that most states rarely remove aggravating factors - and instead have been adding more through the years.

The public's attitude

The working group looked at several polls about Utahnsí attitude toward the death penalty, noting that there have been conflicting results. 2 polls showed Utahns support the death penalty, while two others showed less support for execution in favor of life-without-parole sentences. The group concluded it was "probably reasonable to suggest simply that public support for the death penalty in Utah is declining over previous highs."

Utah legislators came close to outlawing the death penalty in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session.

Criminal justice reforms groups have said another push to end capital punishment in Utah is likely during this legislative session - though a bill to abolish it has not yet been public.

Since 2010, Utah prosecutors have filed 119 aggravated murder cases, according to Utah court data. Such cases can result in punishments of 25 years to life, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.

Only 1 of those cases - a retrial of a 1993 case - resulted in a death sentence.

Of the 9 men currently on Utah's death row, 2 were originally convicted as long ago as 1985. All but 1 of the rest were convicted before 1999, although 1 case was retried in 2015 and resulted in a 2nd capital murder conviction. All 9 have ongoing appeals underway in state or federal court.

The last execution was carried out in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad for the 1984 murder of Michael Burdell, a Salt Lake City lawyer, during Gardner's failed escape attempt from the 3rd District courthouse.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

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

Support for the death penalty waning in Utah, study says

A new study about the costs and public opinions concerning the death penalty in Utah suggests support for capital punishment may be waning in the state.

But perhaps more than anything, the study released Friday by the state's Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice highlights the complexities of trying to evaluate the expense and impact of the death penalty.

From June 2016 to July 2017, the 13-person working group considered the costs and public opinions associated with the death penalty, as well as the aggravating factors that push a crime to a capital level, victims' rights and practices in other states.

In most of the areas it focused on, the working group came up inconclusive.

While Utahns have traditionally viewed the death penalty favorably, the study notes, 5 polls about the issue over the past 3 years yielded somewhat inconsistent results.

Three polls by Dan Jones & Associates, an in-state pollster, showed half to two-thirds of Utahns surveyed favor the death penalty, the study states. However, 2 polls by Public Policy Polling, an out-of-state company, showed less support for the death penalty, with more than 1/2 of respondents supporting replacing it.

Based on those findings, the working group concluded, "It is probably reasonable to suggest simply that public support for the death penalty in Utah is declining over previous highs, based on national data and consistently lower support from younger respondents in the Utah polls."

Regarding the costs of death penalty cases in Utah, the study pointed to 2 previous evaluations. The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers found last year that over 20 years, the state spent nearly $40 million prosecuting 165 death-penalty eligible cases, 2 of which ended in executions.

That translates to an extra $237,900 spent on each case as compared to a murder case, the study states.

A 2012 evaluation by the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimated that from trial to execution, a death penalty case in Utah costs nearly $1.7 million more than a case ending instead in life in prison without parole, the commission's study notes.

The findings prompted Utah Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty to call Friday for lawmakers to take a closer look at the costs of capital punishment in the state.

"This report should give pause to anyone who thought that because capital punishment is so rarely used in Utah that the cost of maintaining a death penalty would be negligible," said Kevin Greene, the organization's state director. "We have been spending tons of money without much in return and we hope lawmakers will closely examine the report and agree that the death penalty is anything but fiscally conservative."

The Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice study did not reach any conclusions regarding limiting or expanding aggravating factors that would make a case eligible for the death penalty. It also did not make any findings about the impacts on the rights of victims in capital cases, and noted without further conclusion that states across the nation are moving away from the death penalty.

(source: Deseret News)

ARIZONA:

Vail man could face death penalty in deaths of wife, daughter

A Vail man accused of killing his wife and daughter last week could face the death penalty in the case.

Hernando Enriquez, 44, was charged with 1st-degree murder when he appeared in court Friday morning. He was booked into the Pima County Jail on Thursday night.

Enriquez is accused of killing his wife, Sandra Enriquez, 44, and daughter, Isabelle Enriquez, 15.

He is being held without bond, and is forbidden contact with his 17-year-old son, whom he also attacked, police said. Enriquez also faces attempted murder charges in the case.

His next court appearance will be Feb. 20.

(source: KVOA news)

NIGERIA:

170 Imo indigenes on death row

Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has disclosed that 170 indigenes of the state in prison custody are on death row.

He added that he would put some factors into consideration, including the culture of the people of the state before knowing whether to sign the death penalty of the individual culprits or not.

Okorocha gave the hint when the Attorney-General of the federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison Decongestion, Justice U.I. Bello visited him at the Government House, Owerri with other members of the committee on Friday.

He however, stated that he would carefully look at the cases of those concerned to know whether signing for their death would serve any good purpose.

"170 Imo people have been condemned to death. We shall take a decision. Whoever takes life should be ready for the consequences, but we shall look at the issues especially from our cultural perspectives before taking action. Where forgiveness should be the case, we shall also know. It is going to be a holistic approach," the governor said.

(source: punchng.com)

INDIA:

Calcutta HC acquits 2 death row convicts in youth murder case

The Calcutta High Court today acquitted 2 death row inmates and commuted the capital sentence of 6 others to jail terms in connection with the murder of a youth in North 24 Parganas district in 2014.

Rejecting the prosecutions plea to uphold the capital sentence, awarded by a trial court in 2016, a division bench comprising Justice Nadira Patherya and Justice D P Dey acquitted Suman Sarkar and Amal Barui.

The bench also commuted the death sentence of Shyamal Karmakar to 30 years in prison and that of Ratan Samaddar, Tarak Das, Tapas Biswas, Somnath Sardar and Suman Das to life imprisonment.

The court, however, upheld the lower courts decision to award 5-year prison term of 2 others, who were found guilty of harbouring the 8 accused in the case.

A resident of Bamangachi in North 24 Parganas district, Sourav Chowdury (21), was abducted and murdered on July 5, 2014, after he protested against liquor consumption in public places.

All 10 accused were arrested by the district police and tried before the Barasat Sessions Court in April 2016.

The sessions court ordered death penalty for 8 of them and 5 years imprisonment for the other 2.

The 10 convicts had moved appeals before the high court in 2016. Following extensive hearings in the case, the order was passed by the division bench today.

(source: indiatoday.in)

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Afzal Guru's execution - a travesty of justice----The more one studies it, the more the attack on the Indian parliament seems like an Indian false flag operation to justify punitive action against Pakistan

5 years ago, Muhammad Afzal Guru was executed in secrecy, without being allowed to meet his loved ones and buried quietly in Delhi's Tihar jail on February 9, 2013. Afzal Guru had been accused of aiding and abetting the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.

Afzal Guru was born in Sopore in the Baramulla District of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) in 1969. As a medical student at Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar, Guru was motivated by a friend to join the Kashmir liberation jihad. He later surrendered to security forces and after graduation, took up a job with a pharmaceutical firm in New Delhi and became its area manager.

On December 13, 2001, a deadly attack took place on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. 14 people were killed and at least 22 were injured.

The 2 most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellular phone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. They were not sealed, as evidence is required to be

In the ensuing aftermath, India blamed Pakistan for sponsoring the attack and amassed its troops on the Pakistani border in a belligerent manner. Swift deployment of its counter offensive ground, sea and air forces by Pakistan deterred the bellicose Indians from attacking. The two forces remained in an eyeball to eyeball position for 10 months. Even a tiny spark could have pushed the 2 nuclear armed nations into mutually assured destruction. India blinked first since the mobilisation was costing it more than it had anticipated and decided to withdraw.

Indian police arrested Afzal Guru within 24 hours of the attack on the parliament, claiming that he was the mastermind of the assault. An Arabic Professor at New Delhi, SAR Gilani, Afzal's cousin Shaukat and his wife Afshan were also detained.

The quartet was tried in a fast track court and despite flimsy proof, the verdict declared them guilty. Renowned human rights activist Arundhati Roy, in her opinion piece on the subject titled The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India's democracy published in The Guardian on February 10, 2013, 2 days after Afzal Guru was furtively sent to the gallows, writes that the Indian Supreme Court judgment acknowledged the evidence was circumstantial: 'As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.' But then, shockingly, it went on to say: 'The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.'

The 2 most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellular phone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. They were not sealed, as evidence is required to be. During the trial it emerged that the hard disk of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the 'terrorists' used to access parliament - and a Zee TV video clip of parliament house. So according to the police, Guru had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits. The police witness said he sold the crucial SIM card that connected all the accused in the case to one another to Guru on December 4, 2001. But the prosecution's own call records showed the SIM was actually operational from November 6, 2001.

The more one studies it, the more the attack on the Indian parliament seems like an Indian false flag operation to justify punitive action against Pakistan. Following the 9/11 attacks, India was certain that Pakistan would also be targeted by the US and NATO for supporting terrorism. Pakistan thwarted the move by allying itself to the US. Believing that the US was preoccupied with its military operations in Afghanistan, India could get away with a swift assault on Pakistan, it conjured an excuse to do so. It was Pakistan's swift military manoeuvring and positioning of its forces that foiled the Indian plot.

Afzal Guru was a prisoner of conscience. After having surrendered to security forces in 1993, he was constantly being harassed by security agencies and tortured every time an attack took place.

In an interview granted to Vinod K. Jose, Executive Editor of The Caravan magazine on February 1, 2006, Afzal Guru disclosed that after being tortured on numerous occasions and threatened with dire consequences for his family members, he was tasked by DSP Davinder Singh to take 'someone' to Delhi. Afzal was to find a rented house for him in Delhi. This 'someone' was identified as 1 of the 5 gunmen who attacked Parliament. During the stay, the would-be assailant was in constant touch with DSP Davinder Singh.

If this is not travesty of justice then what is?

(source: Op-Ed, S M Hali, Daily Times)

PAKISTAN:

Army condemns 7 'hardcore' militants to death

Pakistan military courts have sentenced 7 "hardcore" militants to death over various attacks on security forces that left dozens dead, including civilians, the country's army chief said Friday.

A statement issued by the military's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) gave few details of the assaults each suspect was convicted of, but said that in total the attacks caused the deaths of 85 people and injured 109 others.

Referring to the detainees as "hardcore terrorists", the statement said they were "involved in heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing of innocent civilians, attacking Law Enforcement Agencies and Armed Forces of Pakistan".

It did not specify which organisations the suspects were thought to belong to.

Pakistan's military courts allow the army to try civilians on terror charges in secret, despite strong criticism from rights groups.

They were established in the wake of a December 2014 Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar that killed over 150 people, mostly school children.

Following that attack the government lifted the moratorium on the death penalty. Scores of militants have since been condemned to death.

(source: The Nation)

IRAN:

UN experts urge Iran to lift academic's death sentence

The death sentence for university professor Ahmadreza Djalali in Iran has been widely condemned by rights groups

4 United Nations human rights experts launched a fresh appeal Friday for Iran to annul the death sentence given to university professor Ahmadreza Djalali, accused of passing information to Israel.

The renewed call came days after Iran's Supreme Court reportedly rejected a request to review the sentence. "We urgently call on Iran to lift the death sentence imposed on Dr. Djalali, as the state has apparently not complied with its international obligations to give him a fair trial and the right to appeal," the experts said in a joint statement.

Djalali, a specialist in emergency medicine resident in Sweden, was detained in April 2016 after a brief visit to Iran.

He was found guilty in October of passing information about 2 Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency that led to their assassinations.

His death sentence has been widely condemned by rights groups including Amnesty International. The 4 experts include Jose Antonio Guevara Bermudez, who heads the UN working group on arbitrary detention and Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture. Agnes Callamard, an expert on summary executions and Asma Jahangir, the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, also co-signed the statement. They renewed a call first issued in December for Djalali's immediately release. A total of 5 Iranian scientists -- 4 of them involved in the country's nuclear programme -- were killed in bomb and gun attacks in Tehran between 2010 and 2012 at the height of tensions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Iran has accused Mossad and the CIA of ordering the killings.

(source: al-monitor.com)

FEBRUARY 9, 2018:

TEXAS----death sentence thrown out

College Station Man Resentenced For Murder After Appeals Court Throws Out Death Penalty

In September 2012, a Brazos County district court jury gave a College Station man the death penalty, a decision that was thrown out 2 years ago by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Another jury took an hour and a half Thursday to re-sentence 52 year old Stanley Griffin to life in prison for the strangulation murder of Jennifer Hailey in her home almost 7 1/2 years ago.

Griffin will have to serve 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole.

(source: WTAW news)

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Father And Victim Kent Whitaker Calls For Son Thomas Whitaker To Be Spared Death Penalty

Texas death row inmate Thomas Whitaker's father, Kent Whitaker, is pleading for his son to not face the death penalty on Feb. 22 for arranging the murder of Kent Whitaker's wife and other son in 2003.

Thomas Whitaker took his family out to dinner and let a friend into the house to murder them. Kent Whitaker himself almost didn't survive. Thomas was motivated by his dad's $1 million insurance policy.

Thomas was a suspect for several months after the attack, during which he lived with Kent. Thomas was convicted of orchestrating the murders in 2007, and a jury sentenced him to death.

Kent is now calling on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemency for his son after already trying and failing to have the prosecution advocate for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, citing his Christian faith.

"We're not asking them to set him free," Kent told My Statesman. "We're not asking them to forgive him. I mean, that's not their business, but what we are asking them to do is to correct a legal overstep that never should've happened in the first place."

In a petition for the board to resentence his son to life in prison, which was published in the Austin American-Statesman, Kent called on the board to make a moral decision in light of the suffering and grief he would suffer further if Thomas were to face the death penalty.

"There is only 1 person on Earth who is intimate with the murderous attack, the lives and deaths of the other victims, and the life of Thomas Whitaker - Mr. Whitaker's father, Kent," the petition read. "Kent was there. He speaks to clemency with a moral force and detail of experience that no district attorney or judge or anyone else can possess. For the rest of us, the case against commutation to a life sentence seems clear. We can't forgive; we have no sympathy. But clemency is not about something so simple as sympathy or as formidable as forgiveness. Clemency is about lenity, and it is a moral question rendered far more complex by the unique circumstances of this case."

The petition also said there is no advocate for Thomas's execution.

"No one close to the people involved in this case want it to happen," the petition reads. "Some passionately oppose it. Other simply wish their lives could be restored to the time before the crime. It is only the State of Texas, through its employees and representatives, that mechanically marches forward onto the date of death."

The petition also included multiple letters from Thomas's fellow inmates, some of whom said they were thankful to meet him, that he had worked the hardest out of other inmates on the farm to rehabilitate himself and that he inspired inmates to become better people.

(source: uinterview.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

The only death row inmate should be the death penalty itself

One year ago, I spent five weeks in a Raleigh courtroom listening to Wake County residents talk about the death penalty. As a defense attorney for Nathan Holden, who was facing the death penalty for killing his mother- and father-in-law and shooting his wife, I had the fascinating opportunity to talk to potential jurors and hear dozens of them respond to probing questions about their views on capital punishment.

Mr. Holden's jury voted unanimously for life. And when another Wake County jury recently rejected the death penalty for Donovan Richardson, the ninth life verdict in a row, I wasn't surprised. My conversations with jurors in the Holden case had already convinced me that the death penalty is effectively over in Wake County.

I grew up in Raleigh, and have spent the past 14 years working as a capital defense lawyer in my home state. I've learned a lot about the past and the present of the N.C. death penalty. In addition to recent cases like Mr. Holden's, I represent defendants who were sentenced to death in the 1990s, when N.C. juries returned 25 or 35 death verdicts a year.

Since then, new death sentences across the state, as in Wake, have dropped to near zero. There are many likely reasons for this decline: better legal representation, open file discovery, prosecutors being granted greater discretion over which cases to try capitally. But sitting in that Raleigh courtroom for nearly 2 months last year convinced me that the biggest factor driving the decline of the death penalty is the attitudes of the ordinary citizens sitting on juries. Quite simply, the culture has shifted away from death.

In the '90s, most jurors thought the death penalty was necessary for public safety. They doubted that a life sentence, with or without parole, was sufficient, and they were skeptical of mitigating evidence of mental illness or child abuse. Most presumed that execution was the fairest punishment for murder - death was the default; life required exceptional circumstances.

Many people in Wake County still support the death penalty in theory, but aside from that, their beliefs are the opposite of what we used to see. Almost all the jurors we talked to for the Holden trial accepted without question that life without parole is a brutal price to pay. In fact, several worried it was too severe. Most said they wanted to hear evidence about the defendant's mental health and childhood trauma. Many expressed concerns about the fairness of the death penalty, from questions of innocence to racial disparities. Almost nobody said they thought the death penalty was necessary.

From what we've seen in Wake over the past decade, my observations were not an anomaly. Wake citizens have had nine opportunities to vote for death for defendants convicted of some shocking crimes: Samuel Cooper killed 5 men in 5 separate incidents; Jason Williford raped and bludgeoned state Board of Education member Kathy Taft; Nathan Holden shot three family members while his children cowered in a closet. All received life.

20 years ago, juries may well have sent these men to death row. I'm not sure what has changed jurors' minds. I know that in Nathan Holden's case, we worked hard to show the jury he was more than just a person who had committed murder. For many years, he was a loving father and a devoted husband. Growing up in a broken home, he made it his life's goal to keep his family together. When that dream fell apart, he reacted in a way that was completely out-of-character.

More and more, juries seem willing to listen to stories like these, willing to see the defendant sitting in front of them as fully human. And I suspect that makes it very hard to vote for death - even if they believe in the death penalty in principle. Maybe there are no "worst of the worst," just flawed human beings.

To get a death sentence, the prosecution must convince all 12 jurors to vote for death instead of life. Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is the one making the choice to continue seeking the death penalty despite repeated unanimous verdicts for life. But she's not the one picking the juries. My guess is if she talked to Wake County residents about the death penalty, she'd realize that her office will probably never again find 12 jurors willing to sentence someone to death.

(source: Op-Ed; Elizabeth Hambourger is a staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation----News & Observer)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Firing squads in South Carolina? Some say new bill complicates execution debate

A bill to allow executions by firing squad in South Carolina could complicate already divisive debate on the issue of executions, some lawmakers say.

Rep. Joshua Putnam, a Piedmont Republican, has filed a bill to allow the use of firing squads just as the Senate placed a pair of execution bills on its calendar that had been approved by the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee.

The Senate bill most likely to go forward, senators say, would require the use of the electric chair if lethal injection is not available. The other Senate bill would be designed to shield the identity of the source of lethal-injection drugs, though it could allow that identity to be disclosed if judges order that.

South Carolina has not executed anyone since 2011. Though officials say the reason is because of appeals, the state's prison system is currently unable to carry out an execution by lethal injection because its drugs have expired and drug companies have refused to sell more.

The state's primary method of execution is lethal injection though prisoners can choose the electric chair, also available.

Putnam told The Greenville News that he thinks his bill for firing squads, filed this week, is more humane and that he doesn't think the shield law will work because drug companies still refuse to sell their products for executions to other states that have such protections.

"A firing squad sounds barbaric - it sounds inhumane, I'm guessing," he said, "but if you look at the data, it paints a whole different picture."

No firing squads have botched the job, he said, unlike lethal injection or even electrocution. In fact, he said, the executed inmates do not suffer pain from firing squads.

"Even when lethal injection or electrocution go right, it takes a long time for that person to pass," he said. "With a firing squad, it's over in seconds. So I think if we want to be logical about it, I think you end up with the firing squad."

Others disagree, including Sen. William Timmons of Greenville, the author of the Senate's 2 bills.

"I think the methods of execution in South Carolina is a challenging discussion to have," he said. "And I think it's going to be challenging to have that in a timely manner."

Timmons said he is "highly confident" that his bill requiring the electric chair "would fix the problem" and that his shield law would fix "the loophole."

Sen. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg Democrat and a member of the corrections committee, said he does not believe the firing squad bill will pass this year.

"Right now we're trying to carry out a bill that is on the books," he said. "If we get too far afield from that, it goes into a wider debate, which then engenders opposition which jeopardizes the bills we've got now."

While he said he is not necessarily an advocate of the death penalty, he believes lawmakers should focus on the two methods of execution already in the law.

"Given that it is the 2nd year of a 2-year session, I think it is unlikely (Putnam's bill) is going to find any traction," Hutto said.

According to the national Death Penalty Information Center, 3 states have firing squads on their books: Utah, Mississippi and Oklahoma, though none of the states uses it as a primary method of execution.

The last person executed by firing squad was killed in 2010 in Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Putnam said he is not certain his bill will pass this year, given that it is the second of a two-year session. He said legislation concerning the failure of the nuclear-reactor project by Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Company "is sucking the air out of the room" for other legislation to be approved before lawmakers adjourn in May.

"I'm hoping we'll get some traction," he said. "I think adding more dialogue to this discussion will help get the other bills through. If you're going to have capital punishment, I think this is the best solution."

(source: Greenville News)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court denies death row inmate's gender dysphoria incompetency appeal

The Florida Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a death row inmate who claimed the mental health effects of undiagnosed gender dysphoria led to a series of major decisions in his trial.

Jeremiah Rodgers, 40, and his co-defendant, Jonathan Lawrence, 42, killed Julie Robinson in Santa Rosa County in 1998, cutting off and saving the victim's calf muscle. Rodgers was sentenced to death in 2000 and has remained on death row since.

In his appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, Rodgers claimed a new law that requires juries to unanimously recommend the death sentence should be applied retroactively to him. He further argued his gender dysphoria, which has for years gone undiagnosed, should lead to a review of his competency throughout his case's proceedings.

The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as "a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify."

The Supreme Court ruled the new law doesn't apply to Rodgers' case because he waived his right to a penalty phase jury during resentencing, which means he didn't have a jury death sentence recommendation. The court said because the gender dysphoria wasn't introduced as a new piece of evidence but rather a reasoning to undermine his former actions, it didn't warrant a successful appeal.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said the case is important because the ruling sets the precedent that if a defendant waives the penalty phase jury, then they are not entitled to resentencing under the new law.

"We're pleased that the Florida Supreme Court has made that ruling and finalized this issue," he said.

Eddins said Rodgers didn't use an insanity defense, despite suffering several mental illnesses, and he said it's the state's opinion that the psychological testing done on Rodgers at the time of his court proceedings would've identified the gender dysphoria condition.

The Supreme Court opinion shows Rodgers has a long history of mental illness and lived through an abusive upbringing. The Supreme Court opinion documents sexual abuse from his mother beginning at age 3 and continuing through age 14.

Rodgers went through school in classrooms for severely emotionally disturbed children and had attempted suicide 5 times by age 13. He attempted self-castration at ages 14 and 18, the document states.

He had all 6 risk factors for mental illness and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, disassociative disorder, substance abuse in remission and borderline personality disorder. He spent much of his teenage years incarcerated with mental illness, according to court documents.

He met his co-defendant in a mental hospital in Chattahoochee, and Rodgers had previously testified that his co-defendant "appealed to (his) angry side," the opinion states.

Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente issued her own opinion following the primary ruling, saying she intended to "emphasize the troubling history of Rodgers' mental illness."

"The recent specific diagnosis of gender dysphoria, not raised as a newly discovered evidence claim, does not invalidate Rodgers' waivers. Therefore, I agree with the majority that Rodgers is not entitled to have his waivers set aside," Pariente wrote, and she went on to note the impact undiagnosed gender dysphoria could have on a person.

A psychologist's opinion, quoted in the Supreme Court opinion, argues that Rodgers' plea may have been influenced by his mental illness and his wish to die. Further, the American Civil Liberties Union suggested in the document that Rodgers may have waived the penalty phase in an effort to commit suicide by execution to treat the pain of the untreated condition.

Rodgers initially pleaded guilty as a principal to the first-degree murder, but then tried to withdraw that plea. He again pleaded guilty and waived his right to a guilt phase jury trial, and was sentenced to death on a vote of 9-3.

He was resentenced years later when the Florida Supreme Court remanded the case back to local court on the ruling that several factors about Rodgers' abusive childhood that may have swayed a jury's death penalty decision were excluded from testimony.

During that resentencing, Rodgers waived his right to a penalty phase jury, and didn't allow his attorneys to present mitigating evidence, other than his own testimony, and the court again imposed a sentence of death.

He sent letters to the defense counsel stating that his gender identity disorder was the driving force behind his desire to die, and he said he waived the right to a penalty phase jury while struggling with the effects of that untreated disorder.

Eddins said with the Supreme Court's ruling, every state court claim has now been ruled on and ruled against Rodgers, which means he should have no further matters in the local court.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

ALABAMA:

Jury recommends death penalty for Young

A Colbert County jury today recommended Benjamin Young be put to death by lethal injection.

The jury on Wednesday convicted Young, 30, 502 Staunton Ave., Florence, of capital murder, as well as 1st-degree assault and shooting into an occupied vehicle.

He was convicted in the March 1, 2016, shooting death of Ki-Jana Freeman, 19, of Tuscumbia. Tyler Blythe, who was 17 at the time, was injured in the shooting.

The shooting took place while Freeman and Blythe were sitting in Freeman's car in the parking lot of Spring Creek Apartments in Tuscumbia.

If someone is found guilty of capital murder in Alabama, the jury recommends the sentence but the ultimate decision remains with the judge - in this case Presiding Colbert County Circuit Court Judge Hal Hughston Jr.

The 2 possible sentences for someone convicted of capital murder are the death penalty, or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: timesdaily.com)

OHIO----stay of impending execution

Clemency appropriately applied by the governor

Ross Geiger took the extraordinary step of writing to the governor last week. On Thursday, John Kasich responded in a considered and appropriate way. The governor issued a temporary reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts, who was scheduled for execution by lethal injection next Tuesday. Now the Ohio Parole Board will revisit the Tibbetts case.

In his 4-page letter, Geiger offered a unique viewpoint. He served on the jury that convicted Tibbetts for 2 killings and sentenced him to death 2 decades ago. Geiger explained to the governor that the jurors had no doubt about Tibbetts' guilt. He and another juror did have concerns about a death sentence, yet they eventually joined their colleagues in the required unanimity.

What spurred him to write was his look at the documentation accompanying the most recent clemency hearing. Geiger told the governor that he learned things for the 1st time, so much that he concluded: "Based on what I know today I would not have recommended the death penalty. ..."

A trial involving the death penalty has 2 phases, the first deciding whether the defendant is guilty, and the 2nd, if needed, to weigh whether a death sentence fits according to the law. A defendant has the opportunity to present mitigating evidence. What Geiger discovered is how little of the available mitigating evidence reached the jury.

Tibbetts didn't just have a tough childhood. It was filled with trauma almost from the start, including repeated abandonment, abuse that continued in foster homes, drug and alcohol addiction. Yet his trial attorneys brought just 1 witness, a psychiatrist, before jurors to discuss these circumstances. Geiger told the governor he was shocked to learn that Tibbetts' sister was available to testify, but she wasn't called to the witness stand.

That left 2 impressions: No one cared enough about Tibbetts to prevent his execution and that prosecutors must be right, the Tibbetts siblings, in contrast, leading normal lives. Now Geiger knows differently, the siblings with their own troubled lives.

The point Geiger makes about these and other failings in the trial process isn't to excuse somehow the awful crime committed by Tibbetts. Rather, his concern goes to whether Ohio should execute Tibbetts. He reasonably asks the governor: "... if we are going to have a legal process that can send criminals to death that includes a special phase for mitigation shouldn't we get it right?"

One of the virtues of giving the governor the power of clemency is that it provides a backstop for justice, in particular, when information emerges after a conviction and avenues to the courthouse essentially are closed. The governor ends up as the one authority in position to assess all that is known.

In this instance, John Kasich has exercised that power just as it should be done. Now the parole board must do its part, giving the Ross Geiger letter the weight it deserves, Ray Tibbetts spared execution for life without parole.

(source: Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial board----ohio.com)

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

Ohio Delays Execution After Ex-Juror Seeks Reprieve for Death Row Inmate

Ohio Governor John Kasich on Thursday postponed next week's scheduled execution of a convicted double murderer in light of a letter from a juror in the man's trial asking that he not be put to death because the jury was not given information pertinent to his sentencing about his troubled childhood.

Kasich, a Republican, issued a temporary reprieve to Raymond Tibbetts, moving the execution date from Feb. 13 to Oct. 17 and asking the state's Parole Board to hold a hearing in the meantime to consider the letter's contents, the governor's office said in a statement.

In the letter sent to the governor on Jan. 30, former juror Ross Geiger said there was no question Tibbetts committed the murders but that factors about the defendant's upbringing were omitted or distorted by prosecutors in the trial's sentencing phase.

Tibbetts was convicted of fatally beating and stabbing his wife, Judith Crawford, and fatally stabbing Fred Hicks, a man for whom she provided care.

Geiger said the defense presented only one witness in the sentencing phase, a psychiatrist who testified Tibbetts had a tough upbringing related to inattentive parents and poor foster care.

Prosecutors then told jurors many people with tough childhoods turn out fine, including Tibbetts' four siblings, and that placing the convicted murderer in foster care as a child was the best thing for him, the letter said.

Geiger said several years later he read a publicly available clemency report from 2017 that showed a history of abandonment for Tibbetts starting at age 2 and that of the 4 siblings, 1 committed suicide, another spent time in prison and another is essentially homeless.

He faulted the defense team for not calling the one sibling of Tibbetts who is leading a stable life and was willing to testify during sentencing about the difficult childhood they all shared.

Geiger said Tibbetts deserves to be in prison but based on what he knows today, "I would not have recommended the death penalty."

Erin Barnhart, an attorney for Tibbetts, lauded Kasich, saying the governor had acted "in the interests of fairness and justice."

"Because a juror from the original trial recently revealed flaws in the proceedings, there is now incontrovertible proof that Mr. Tibbetts never would have ended up on death row had the system functioned properly," Barnhart said in a statement.

(source: US News & World Report)

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

Governor John Kasich announced he will grant a reprieve until October 17, 2018 to Ray Tibbetts, who had been scheduled for execution on†Tuesday, February 13, 2018. The purpose of this temporary reprieve is to allow the Ohio Parole Board convene a hearing to consider new evidence bearing on Ray's clemency request.†

Following is a statement from Erin Barnhart, attorney for Ray Tibbetts:

"Governor Kasich acted in the interests of fairness and justice by recognizing new information provided by a juror from Mr. Tibbetts' trial merits careful additional consideration. Because a juror from the original trial recently revealed flaws in the proceedings, there is now incontrovertible proof that Mr. Tibbetts never would have ended up on death row had the system functioned properly. This juror - whose single vote for life would have made Mr. Tibbetts ineligible for the death penalty under Ohio law - was shocked when he saw evidence that Mr. Tibbetts' abuse and abandonment continued throughout his childhood, even once the State placed him in foster care. The juror also learned that this horrible environment had devastating consequences for all of the Tibbetts children. Even more, Tibbetts' severe addiction problems were not fully addressed, particularly in regard to the dangers of prescribing opioids to people with a history of addiction. Mr. Tibbetts' attorneys failed to present this evidence at trial and the prosecutor misstated the facts. Juror Geiger's view of the case provides compelling reasons for the exercise of the Governor's reprieve power to allow the Ohio Parole Board to convene a hearing to consider this new information. We are confident that after doing so, the Board and the Governor will agree that clemency is appropriate to correct the failures in the legal process in this case. Governor Kasich has done our State a great service today by ensuring that careful consideration is given to this new information."

-Erin Barnhart, Attorney for Ray Tibbetts and Assistant Federal Public Defender, CapitalHabeas Unit, Federal Public Defender's Office for the Southern District of Ohio

Warrant of Reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts: http://bit.ly/2nMheUo

Letter from Gov. Kasich to Chairman of Ohio Parole Board: http://bit.ly/2EbROcZ

(source: Ohioans to Stop Executions)

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

Death sentence in murders of Sandusky family upheld

The conviction and death sentence will stand in the 2012 murders of a 23-year-old Sandusky woman and her 2 young children.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected arguments from Curtis L. Clinton that prosecutors should not have been able to combine the trials for the strangulation murders with that of a separate rape of a 17-year-old girl he committed a week earlier.

The court noted the similarities in the choking and rape between the prior rape victim and the 3 murder victims.

Clinton faces lethal injection for killing Heather Jackson and her 2 children, Celina, 3, and Wayne, Jr., 20 months, on Sept. 8, 2012 in the hours following a party celebrating their move into a new home. He was convicted of the 3 murders, 2 rapes, and aggravated burglary.

Evidence from the prior crime helped connect him to the murders.

"The rapes of the (prior rape victim) and the murder of the Jacksons occurred less than a week apart in Sandusky and involved an assailant driving a white Cadillac," Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote. "Although the crimes differed in some respects, '(a)dmissibility is not adversely affected simply because the other (crimes) differed in some details'."

The court was unanimous in its upholding of the convictions, but now resigned Justice William O'Neill dissented when it came to the death sentence. He offered no explanation beyond pointing to prior opinions in which he opined that Ohio's death penalty is unconstitutional.

The court found that aggravating circumstances favoring imposition of the death penalty outweighed mitigating circumstances arguing against death. At trial, Clinton had refused to allow his lawyers to formally present mitigating evidence, but his lawyers urged the high court to consider his abusive and violent childhood, his stay in a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

"We conclude that the aggravating circumstances as to each aggravated-murder count clearly outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt," Chief Justice O'Connor wrote. "With respect to Jackson's murder, the course-of-conduct and the aggravated-murder-during-rape (related to the rape of C.J.) specifications strongly outweigh the mitigating factors.

"The 3 specifications that apply to C.J.'s and W.J.'s murders - course of conduct, murder during a rape, and child murder - overwhelm the mitigating factors," she wrote, referring to the deaths of Celina and Wayne, Jr.

(source: Toledo Blade)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas justices seek $135,000 to pay defense team in suit filed by judge barred from hearing death penalty cases

Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp is asking the Legislature for more than $135,000 to pay a team of lawyers defending the state's top justices in a federal lawsuit brought by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Griffen, an outspoken judge, blogger and preacher, sued the Arkansas Supreme Court's 7 justices in October -- several months after the high court stripped Griffen of his ability to hear cases involving the death penalty.

The punishment came after Griffen made a public display of his opposition to the death penalty by laying prostrate on a cot in front of the Governor's Mansion, on the same day he issued an order that temporarily halted the state's ability to carry out a series of planned executions. Griffen says the justices violated state and federal laws by stripping him of cases.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose office typically represents state officials in lawsuits, is also the lead attorney in the state's push to carry out executions. She recused from the case last year, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed the justices to seek outside counsel.

Those debts associated with paying the justices' lawyers -- who hail from around Arkansas, Colorado, New York and Washington, D.C. -- now add up to $135,744.62, according to a letter Kemp sent Tuesday to the leaders of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

That amount is what's left after the court spent all of the $25,000 appropriated to the Supreme Court's Professional Services Appropriation in the current fiscal year. The Legislature is sent to convene in a fiscal session starting next week to approve a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Kemp also said in his letter that he will ask that the Professional Services Appropriation be increased by $250,000 this fiscal year and next.

The chief justice did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

One of the co-chairmen of the Joint Budget Committee, Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, said he was "a little frustrated" by the cost and the number of attorneys the justices had hired. But he did not expect the committee to refuse to appropriate the money.

Conservative lawmakers, irate at Griffen's outspokenness off the bench, called for his resignation last year.

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, repeated his call for impeachment on Twitter on Tuesday, saying it is "unbelievable that the tax payers of Arkansas have to front the bill for Judge Griffen's attention-seeking frivolous lawsuit."

Griffen's attorney said justices had alternatives.

"The Court says that Judge Griffen's lawsuit is baseless and yet it has retained 10 or so expensive attorneys, some from Washington DC, New York City and Denver, CO, for its defense," said Griffen's attorney, Michael Laux, in an email. "Each of these defense attorneys does his own legal work and further presumably bills for review of each other's work, and so on and so on. So, for instance, one pleading from Judge Griffen equals ten attorney's bills for review. This is what has caused the costs of which Chief Justice Kemp complains. As we have previously stated, Judge Griffen's lawsuit does not seek monetary damages. The Court could have reinstated Judge Griffen, which would have cost literally zero."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Garner said he thought the legal fees were in line with what an ongoing federal case should cost and that the appropriation should pass easily in the Republican-majority Legislature.

"It's on Judge Griffen," Garner said.

According to records, 11 attorneys represent the justices in the case before U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr.

All of the justices, and the Supreme Court as a whole, are represented by Robert S. Peck, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Litigation in New York City.

4 justices -- Courtney Goodson, Josephine Hart, Karen Baker and Rhonda Wood -- also have their own private attorneys. It's unclear if Kemp's request for funds would pay those attorneys as well.

According to online records, Goodson is being represented by Michael W. Kirk, David Thompson and William C. Marra of the Washington, D.C.-firm Cooper & Kirk; and D. Matt Keil of her husband's Texarkana firm, Keil & Goodson.

Hart is being represented by Alfred F. Thompson III and Kenneth P. Castleberry of the Batesville firm Murphy, Thompson, Arnold, Skinner & Castleberry; and Robert L. Henry III of Little Rock's Barber Law Firm.

Wood is being represented by David Brandon Meschke and Christopher O. Murray of the Denver firm Brownstein Hyatt Ferber Schreck.

Baker is being represented by the Little Rock attorney Timothy O. Dudley.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Frias could face death penalty if convicted in double homicide

A man charged with murder in connection to the Jan. 5 double homicide in Sioux Falls made his initial court appearance Thursday.

Manuel Jesus Frias, 34, was charged with 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder and 4 counts of manslaughter.

The Sioux Falls man faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of the charges he faces in Minnehaha County.

Frias is accused of killing one person in a "drug rip gone bad," police say.

His bond is set at $1 million, cash only. A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 23.

Authorities arrested Frias on Jan. 16, after a 3-hour standoff in Nebraska involving 2 police departments, 2 sheriff's offices and the U.S. Marshals.

2 others wanted in connection with the double homicide were arrested in January as well. Maria Shantel LeClaire was arrested by local law enforcement in Red Wing, Minn., after someone tipped off police to her location. She arrived at the Minnehaha County Jail on Jan. 13 on charges of 1st-degree robbery.

Crystal Habben was booked into the jail on Jan. 9 on charges of misprision of a felony - failing to report knowledge of a felony to authorities.

Police say Samuel Louis Crockett, 28, died at a hospital and Corey James Zephier, 30, died on the scene after being shot outside an apartment building in the 700 block of West Rice Street.

Court documents say a cell phone located near the victim's bodies that belonged to Crockett contained text messages discussing a meth deal with Habben, who said she knew someone who could sell it to them.

Documents say Zephier, LeClaire and Frias then left to case the location where they planned to rob Crockett.

At some point, documents say, the robbery went wrong, and police were told Crockett was being held up by Zephier when Crockett grabbed his gun from his waistband and shot Zephier. Frias then shot Crockett.

(source: Argus Leader)

CALIFORNIA:

Judge rules prosecutors can seek death penalty in 1987 Chico killings

A Butte County judge ruled Thursday that prosecutors can again seek the death penalty against a man facing retrial in the 1987 killings of a Chico doctor and his wife.

Superior Court Judge Tamara Mosbarger made the ruling after defense attorneys for the man, Steven Crittenden, 50, filed a motion seeking to preclude prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in the case.

Mosbarger also denied a separate motion by defense attorneys seeking to bar the local District Attorney's Office from participating in Crittenden's retrial.

Crittenden, a former Chico State University football player, was convicted in 1989 of murder and sentenced to death in the stabbing and beating deaths of Dr. William Chiapella, 68, and his wife Katherine Chiapella, 67, in Chico.

Crittenden's conviction was later overturned by a federal district court that found the original prosecutor at Crittenden's trial, Gerald Flanagan, was motivated by race when he excluded the only prospective black juror at Crittenden's trial.

Crittenden is black.

Crittenden's attorneys, Jeffrey Thoma and Jodea Foster, argued that removing local prosecutors from the case would be appropriate after the federal district court ruling.

Foster argued in court Thursday that Flanagan's conduct amounted to "prosecutorial misconduct," adding that removing the District Attorney's Office from the case and/or keeping it from seeking the death penalty would be an appropriate legal solution for the harm Crittenden suffered by having lost his right to a fairly chosen jury.

Thoma further argued that the likelihood of prejudice in Crittenden's case is "severe," adding that prosecutors have broad discretion in seeking the death penalty, which leaves room for racial prejudice.

"Although African-Americans make up only 12 percent of the total population of the United States, they have been victims in about 1/2 of total homicides in this country in the last 35 years," Thoma said. "Yet 85 % of the cases in which the death penalty has been carried out have involved white victims."

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said in court that accusations that Flanagan, the original prosecutor, was racially prejudiced "is insulting to Mr. Flanagan, it's insulting to the Butte County District Attorney's Office, it's personally insulting to me."

Ramsey added that it is false to claim that the death penalty was sought against Crittenden because of racial bias.

"The death penalty was sought because two elderly victims ... were found tortured and brutally murdered," the district attorney said. "And after his arrest and during his prosecution, Mr. Crittenden escaped from his cell no less than 2 times in Butte County, and 1 attempt in Placer County."

It was for those reasons, Ramsey said, that prosecutors sought the death penalty against Crittenden.

Lawyers are due back in court March 22, when a judge will consider a motion by prosecutors seeking to hold Crittenden's retrial in Butte County.

Crittenden's original trial was held in Placer County instead of Butte County in part because of extensive pretrial publicity. But prosecutors say enough time has passed for Crittenden to receive a fair trial locally.

Crittenden remains in custody at San Quentin State Prison.

(source: orovillemr.com)

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

'Nothing but hate.' Prosecutors aim to get death penalty for admitted cop killer

With confessed cop killer Luis Bracamontes watching quietly from the defense table, prosecutors began a methodical closing argument Thursday designed to send him to the death chamber at San Quentin.

"By the time Luis Bracamontes and his wife had made it to Sacramento, he had thought about killing...," Placer County prosecutor Dave Tellman told the jury. "He had nothing but hate."

The closing arguments are expected to last through Thursday morning, and there appears to be little suspense about how the jury may respond.

Bracamontes has blurted out repeatedly that he killed 2 Sacramento-area deputies on Oct. 24, 2014, and his own lawyers have conceded he is responsible for their deaths.

But prosecutors are intent on showing that Bracamontes acted in a decisive and intentional manner during the crime spree that stretched from an Arden Way Motel 6 to a remote cul de sac in Auburn.

"This is nothing but willful conduct from start to finish," Tellman said.

The 1st killing - in which Sacramento sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver was shot in the head in the motel parking lot as he approached Bracamontes' car - was premeditated and intentional, Tellman argued.

"The defendant fired that gun that killed Danny Oliver," Tellman said. "When he did so, he had the intent to kill."

Bracamontes and his wife, Janelle Monroy, are charged in the crime spree that left a motorist and another deputy gravely wounded.

Monroy, who faces murder and other charges in the slaying of Placer Detective Michael Davis Jr., is awaiting a verdict from a jury that began deliberations late Wednesday.

Her attorney, Pete Kmeto, has argued she was a victim of Bracamontes' violent rages and helped carry a rifle that Bracamontes used to kill Davis only because she feared for her life.

Prosecutors dispute that, saying she was a willing participant and "the CEO" of the couple as they traveled from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.

Tellman and Sacramento prosecutor Rod Norgaard are intent on convincing the jurors that Bracamontes had long talked of killing police officers.

They also are trying to stave off the inevitable appeals that Bracamontes' lawyers are expected to pursue with claims that their client is mentally ill. The defense has tried repeatedly in the past to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but Bracamontes has refused to allow it and the judge has found Bracamontes competent to stand trial.

The defense presentation Thursday is expected to be brief; Bracamontes' public defenders, Norm Dawson and Jeffrey Barbour, offered no defense witnesses during the trial, and the defendant himself has made no effort conceal his guilt.

He has loudly proclaimed through court hearings for years that he killed the deputies, has threatened to kill more, and has threatened the deputies' families and jurors.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White banished Bracamontes from the courtroom for a few days, ordering him to watch the proceedings from a cell with a video feed.

But he has allowed Bracamontes back into court this week, and the defendant is no longer making any effort to wear street clothes, as he did at the start of trial.

On Thursday, he appeared in a white t-shirt and striped jail trousers. Bracamontes sat chained to a chair at the defense table with 2 deputies seated directly behind him, while Tellman stood with his back to him as he addressed jurors.

"We have done our best to leave you with absolutely no doubt as to what happened," Tellman told jurors, noting that Bracamontes, has repeatedly threatened his jailers as he awaited trial.

He recounted Bracamontes' profane outbursts at deputies in the jails he has been housed in and his written threats that the Sinaloa cartel is watching them.

"This is unadulterated hate," Tellman said. (source: sacbee.com)

USA:

How Prosecutors are Making Intellectually-Disabled African-Americans on Death Row Smart Enough to Kill

IQ tests have long been plagued by claims of cultural and racial bias. Critics from a wide range of arenas, including academia, psychology, psychiatry and activism have characterized these controversial assessments as ineffective, inappropriate and skewed toward a normative white standard. Still, the tests have endured in many fields, including criminal justice, where they act as a criterion for determining if a person convicted of a capital offense is intellectually competent enough to receive the death penalty given these assessments are commonly acknowledged to offer value in establishing a basic competency. In Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court codified this upon ruling that executing the intellectually disabled violated the Eighth Amendment and qualified as cruel and unusual punishment.

However, in a cruel and unusual legal twist, it is this charge of racial bias in IQ testing that is now being used by a growing number of American prosecutors to ensure more African-American and Latinx capital inmates are put to death.

Referred to as "ethnic adjustments," this practice automatically boosts IQ scores, often by 5 to 15 points, for African-American and Latinx inmates convicted of capital crimes. To win a death sentence against an accused, prosecutors in at least eight states - Alabama, California, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas - have increasingly resorted to the summoning of expert witnesses who testify to the racial biases of IQ testing. Though these health experts commonly have no interaction with the defendants at any point, they generally argue that such racial bias accounts for the sub-competent performance on previous IQ tests for African-American and Latinx defendants and, therefore, their scores would have likely been higher if not for the bias. Such ethnic adjustments enable the capital sentencing of those who'd otherwise be deemed intellectually unfit.

"In my opinion, ethnic adjustments are outrageous," said Robert M. Sanger, a prominent trial lawyer and professor of law and forensic science at Santa Barbara College of Law in California. His 2015 article in the American University Law Review was largely responsible for drawing attention to the prosecutorial use of ethnic adjustments. "What these so-called experts do is say that, because people of color are not as likely to score as well on IQ tests, you should, therefore, increase their IQ scores from 5 to 15 points to make up for some unknown or undescribed problem in the test," explained Sanger, noting there is no scientific, "legal or intellectual basis for this."

Scientific or not, Sanger has documented numerous cases where such adjustments were employed including Hodges v. State, where the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the legal significance of an African-American defendant's low IQ score could be discounted after a prosecution expert testified, "IQ tests tend to underestimate particularly the intelligence of African-Americans." While this claim, in itself, may certainly have merit, Sanger is more concerned with its selective legal interpretation and application.

He cited a number of cases where the Supreme Court consistently rejected the adjusting of test scores on the basis of race, the most prominent being Washington v. Davis, where District of Columbia police officer candidates claimed a skills test was racially discriminatory, as African-Americans were 4 times less likely to pass than white candidates. The high court ultimately concluded that, despite a Fifth Amendment equal protection component "prohibiting the government from invidious discrimination, it does not follow that a law or other official act is unconstitutional solely because it has a racially disproportionate impact regardless of whether it reflects a racially discriminatory purpose."

The African-American candidates, recounted Sanger, felt "their scores should be adjusted upward so they could get a job, but the Supreme Court said, 'No, we can't do that.' So it's sort of outrageous that you can adjust scores upward so you can be killed, but not so you can get a job."

In America, the racially discriminatory impact of capital punishment policy has been an ongoing source of outrage as well. The nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center reported that despite constituting only 13 % of the population, in 2016 41.8 % of the 2905 prisoners on death row in the United States - and more than a third of those executed since 1977 - were Black.

In Georgia, American Bar Association (ABA) data revealed that among all homicides with known suspects, those suspected of killing whites are almost five times as likely to be sentenced to death as those suspected of killing African-Americans. Similarly, in Alabama, over 82 % of those executed since 1976 were convicted of killing white people even though more than 65 % of all murders each year in Alabama involve Black victims. And 80 % of the state's current death row population was convicted of murdering white people.

"The race-conscious use of the death penalty in Alabama has always been a widespread problem," said Angie Setzer, senior attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based nonprofit providing legal representation to individuals and communities impacted by poverty and unequal treatment. Setzer detailed ongoing racial disparities and inequitable practices in the state's administration of criminal justice. "We see this playing out in the way people are charged and convicted, and we see this in the process of discriminatory jury selection," she acknowledged. "So it's occurring at all of these different levels in the context of a criminal case," stressed Setzer, noting the Alabama court system's tolerance and use of "racially biased experts is a clear example of this larger problem."

It is a problem compounded by the wide variety of disabilities across a range of categories including, but not limited to, physical, intellectual and mental, that capital inmates commonly suffer from. While no comprehensive accounting has been attempted, the Fair Punishment Project (FPP) did reveal that at least 40 % of the death row inmates in the 16 American counties with the most executions suffered from intellectual disabilities, severe mental illness or brain damage.

Additionally, 2/3 of those on death row in the state of Oregon exhibited "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." FPP further noted the "U.S. Supreme Court has held that regardless of the severity of the crime, imposition of the death penalty upon a juvenile or an intellectually disabled person, both classes of individuals who suffer from impaired mental and emotional capacity relative to typically developed adults, would be so disproportionate as to violate his or her 'inherent dignity as a human being.'"

Consistently, the 2002 Atkins ruling and its interpretive evolution a dozen years later in Hall v. Florida produced a more structured and clinical framework for both defining and determining intellectual disabilities in capital cases. This framework held that those with "significantly subaverage intellectual functioning" - generally yet not strictly recognized as an IQ of 70 or below - were ineligible for the death penalty provided they met 2 additional criteria, these being compelling "deficits in adaptive functioning" and the "onset of these deficits during the development period." In other words, a low IQ could combine with certain inabilities to socially function and reason within one's environment, particularly those stemming from an earlier developmental stage like childhood, to prohibit a defendant's eligibility for the death penalty.

But with ethnic adjustments, prosecutors are finding a way to artificially inflate these IQ scores in order to execute more African-American and Latinx capital inmates. Such controversial tactics are a particularly pressing concern for Sanger, who commonly represents African-American capital defendants with serious intellectual disabilities stemming from traumatic childhoods.

"We're not taking the worst of the worst, which is what the death penalty is supposed to be all about, which is to get the people who committed the worst crimes with intentionality and evil," said Sanger. "Instead, we're getting the people who are marginalized in society, and, ironically, they are often the same people who are subject to these same deprivations that would, in fact, cause them to have deficits in their IQ scores and adaptive behavior.

"If you look at the demographics of our death row inmates, you're taking a segment of society from a lower economic strata that disproportionately suffers from mental health issues and has an IQ that is close to the limit or below the limit," continued Sanger, noting that "maybe those 5 or 10 points that pushed them down there [below the score of 70] might have been a result of their exposure to these environmental issues.

"But you don't add them back in."

(source: atlantablackstar.com)

**********

The Former Death Row Prisoner Making Rings for the Exonerated----Kirk Bloodsworth makes custom jewelry for men who went to jail for crimes they didn't commit.

Dennis Maher isn't the kind of guy who typically wears rings. He's a diesel mechanic for waste management; if he were to wear them, he might lose a finger. He doesn't even wear his wedding band.

In the past year or so, though, when he's asked to talk at a university or to attend a reception, he'll slip a 28-gram sterling silver ring on his right hand. The word "exoneree" is engraved on its face. People will ask him questions about it and, if they don't already know, he'll have to tell them how he spent 19 years, 2 months, and 29 days in prison for violent sex crimes that he didn't commit. He was exonerated, and became a free man on April 3rd, 2003, 1 of the thousands of men and women who have been wrongfully convicted in this country.

Maher, who is 57 and lives in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, about an hour northwest of Boston, compares his ring to a Super Bowl championship ring - and it's as big as one, too. But there's a key difference between them. "To me, it's worth more," he said recently. "I didn't get paid for what was done to me. And I survived. And I wear it with pride."

The ring is one of dozens that have been hand-made for exonerees by Kirk Bloodsworth, the first US death row prisoner to be cleared through DNA. In fact, it was on death row that he dreamed of receiving a Super Bowl championship ring from the football commissioner. He never expected that years later, he would take up silversmithing and make his own commemorative rings for fellow exonerees.

And while commemorative rings have long been used to mark an important event or person, Bloodsworthís rings may be unique by marking the painful experience of wrongful incarceration. He has promised to give a ring to each exoneree in the US, at no cost to them, by raising money online and from friends; each ring costs $100 to make.

"Why shouldn't they get something that signifies what they endured?" Bloodsworth said. "A lot of these people have spent many, many years in a place where they didn't belong."

More than 2,000 people in the US have been exonerated for crimes they did not commit, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Some have been cleared by DNA, others through investigations and hard-won court battles by attorneys working with law clinics throughout the country. The majority of those who have been wrongfully convicted were the victims of mistaken identity, perjury or false confession, or official misconduct.

Bloodsworth spent 8 years, 10 months and 19 days in prison after being sentenced to death in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 1984 rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton. He was proven innocent by DNA in 1993, and granted a full pardon by Maryland's governor a year later. In 2003, DNA testing linked another inmate who had been serving time in the same prison as Bloodworth to the girl's brutal killing.

After his release from prison, he worked as a fisherman, driving trucks, as a machinist, and for a now-defunct nonprofit committed to criminal justice reform, the Justice Project. But about four years ago, inspired by a girlfriend who gave him a set of beading equipment, he began to dabble in jewelry making. One day, he was inspired to look up the craft online and came across a video on how to make silver rings, by Lance Johnson. That was just the beginning of his journey into silversmithing. "I watched YouTube videos for a year," he said by phone from his home in eastern Pennsylvania. He figures he watched several hundred clips from jewelers like Soham Harrison and Peter Keep, all the while trying out the techniques that he was learning about from watching them.

"I never thought in my late 50s I'd be doing this," he said. "I wish I had discovered this years ago." He formed his own silversmithing workshop, Bloods Stones Creations, in 2015, after making his 1st piece of jewelry: a silver band. Today his collection includes rings, earrings, bracelets, and pendants, one of which is shaped like a DNA strand.

In 2016, he attended the acclaimed Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, California, where he studied with master goldsmith and founder of the school Alan Revere.

"The people who receive them as a token have been through hell and for no reason at all."

In an email, Revere praised his former student's efforts to make rings for exonerees. "I find this to be absolutely fascinating," he wrote. "We jewelers have been making commemorative items for thousands of years, but this is a first. The people who receive them as a token have been through hell, and for no reason at all."

The design of the rings is exacting: The words "exoneree" or "death row exoneree" are engraved on their faces over a prison cell door; a teardrop represents the exoneree's wrongful conviction; and 3 drops of blood represent the person's past, present, and future. The rings are made in batches from an original mold and cast in wax by a former teacher in California, then shipped back to Bloodsworth to be finished and signed. It takes about a month to make each batch. The biggest challenge of making them may be having to get them the right size for each person. Rings can be customized by the wearer.

(source: racked.com)

JAMAICA:

Government senator wants hanging resumed

Government Senator Matthew Samuda is calling for the resumption of hanging amid Jamaica's rising homicide rate.

He made the call during his contribution to the State of the Nation debate in the Senate this afternoon.

Jamaica ended 2017 with more than 1616 murders.

The murder tally has continued to spiral in 2018, resulting in Prime Minister declaring a state of public emergency in St James last month.

Citing crime statistics, Samuda said it was clear criminals have no regard for life and were wantonly committing murders.

He said a strong message should be sent to murderers.

Although Jamaica has retained the death penalty, it is not being carried out since February 1988.

This is because of the 1993 ruling by the United Kingdom-based Privy Council in the Pratt and Morgan case.

The Privy Council ruled then that it was inhumane and degrading to hang an inmate who had been on death row for more than 5 years.

With legal proceedings in such cases typically exhausting that time frame, it's almost impossible to have death sentences carried out in Jamaica.

(source: Jamaica Gleaner)

IRAN:

Urgent Action: 21-Year Old Man Arrested at 16 at Risk of Execution (Iran: UA 28.18)

A 21-year old Iranian man Abolfazl Naderi is at risk of execution in Arak's prison, Markazi province. Abolfazl Naderi was 16 years old at the time of his arrest and was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial, based on "confessions" which he claims were made under torture.

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

Halt any plans to execute Abolfazl Naderi and ensure that his conviction and sentence are quashed and he is granted a fair retrial in accordance with the principles of juvenile justice, without resort to the death penalty and excluding statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment or without the presence of a lawyer;

Conduct an impartial and transparent investigation into his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice in trials that meet international fair trial standards;

Amend Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code to completely abolish, without any discretion by the courts or other exceptions, the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18, in line with Iran's obligations under international law;

Establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Contact these 2 officials by 22 March, 2018:

Deputy Secretary General of the High Council for Human Rights

Kazem Gharib Abadi

Esfandiar Boulevard

Tehran, Iran

H.E. Gholamali Khoshroo

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations 622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Phone: (212) 687-2020 -- Fax: (212) 867-7086

Email: iran@un.int

Salutation: Dear Excellency

(source: Amnesty International USA)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Pakistani Met Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia

On Thursday Saudi Press Agency published the statement of interior minister who confirmed the death penalty of four Pakistanis for their crime. These Pakistani included Liaqat Hussein son of Ishaq Hussein, Sajid Ali son of Asqar Ali, Muhammd Thaqib son of Muhammad Al- Warith Ali and Faisal Muneer son of Muneer Hussein.

These men broke into a woman's house, raped both the mother and the son, stole jewellery and cash and later murdered the woman, said the interior minister of Saudi Arabia.

These men confessed their crime then these guilty men were executed on Thursday. In the beginning of the year yet 20 men have been beheaded in Saudi.

Saudi Arabia is the country where world's most people are beheaded for their crimes like drugs and human trafficking, rape and murder. Last year in July, a Pakistani was found guilty in human trafficking crime and executed in Saudi Arabia. Another Pakistani beheaded for drug trafficking and 5 Saudi citizens were also executed for the conviction of murder.

Last year 141 people were beheaded with sword in public.

(source: christiansinpakistan.com)

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

Trial begins of 4 Saudis linked to Hezbollah terror cell

The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh on Thursday began the trial of a terrorist cell of 4 Saudis linked to Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

The court's 1st session revealed that 3 of the cell members coordinated with a wanted fugitive in Iran.

They were convicted of joining a Hezbollah training camp to manufacture and deploy C4 and TNT explosives for use in the Kingdom.

Their aim was to cause chaos, target security men, smuggle guns into Saudi Arabia, finance terrorism via an organized gang, and smuggle fugitives from the Kingdom to Iran by sea.

The prosecutor called for the death penalty. Failing that, he demanded the most severe punishment (imprisonment and financial penalty) for having violated border security and many other regulations.

Kalashnikov rifles, bullets, machine guns and money were seized. The convicts are banned from traveling.

(source: Arab News)

IRAQ:

Kurdistan Regional Government: Allegations of Mass Executions----Mass Grave Located Near Bardiya Village

New evidence suggests that between August 28 and September 3, 2017, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Asayish security forces from the West of the Tigris branch carried out mass executions of alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) fighters in their custody, which constitutes a war crime, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Peshmerga military forces detained the men, both foreign and Iraqi, in a school in Sahil al-Maliha, a village 70 kilometers northwest of Mosul. Asayish forces bused them to a prison in Shilgia, a village 45 kilometers away, according to a now retired security force member, and from there they took them to 2 sites in the vicinity of the town of Zummar, where they executed them. Human Rights Watch located an apparent mass grave site where Asayish buried at least some of the bodies after the executions, according to the retired security force member and 6 residents of the neighboring village. KRG criminal justice authorities should investigate the apparent war crimes and prosecute those implicated up to the highest levels of responsibility.

"The evidence suggests that Asayish security forces conducted mass executions of captured ISIS suspects night after night for a week, perhaps killing scores or even hundreds of male detainees," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Iraqi and KRG authorities should urgently and transparently investigate the allegations of mass executions and hold those responsible to account."

Because the mass grave site is located within the flood zone of the Mosul Dam reservoir, it is critically important to urgently allow international forensic experts to conduct a detailed exhumation of the site before seasonal rains fill the reservoir again later this year and submerge the grave site, complicating the identification of bodies, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch was not able to speak with witnesses to the executions. But other evidence suggest that Asayish forces executed the ISIS suspects. Human Rights Watch spoke to a now-retired security force member, "Nadim," who was regularly in contact with the Asayish members who told him they participated in the executions. Researchers also analyzed video and photographic evidence, including geotagged photos of bodies and satellite imagery showing the apparent mass grave was created sometime between July 5 and September 3 by bulldozer, and interviewed residents of a neighboring village.

Nadim went to 1 of the execution sites on August 29, where he said he saw approximately 30 bodies hours after the 1st group of men are believed to have been executed. Human Rights Watch visited a mass grave site where Nadim and local villagers said bodies were buried on January 30, 2018, and a 2nd time on February 6.

Nadim said that on August 29, a friend of his in the Asayish said that he and other Asayish members, all part of the West of the Tigris Asayish branch, had taken about 80 detainees suspected of ISIS affiliation from Shilgia prison the night before and had executed about 50 of them outside the village of Tal Ahmed Agha al-Kabir, and the others outside Bardiya village, which researchers visited.

Nadim said that a few hours later he traveled to the site near Bardiya, which he located based on information from locals who told him they discovered bodies there. There, he counted about 30 unburied bodies, all shot in the head, and took 3 photographs of them and 2 short videos. Human Rights Watch reviewed the photos and videos and was able to confirm based on their metadata that they were taken on August 29, 460 meters from a mass grave which was later created. In total, the photos and videos show at least 20 bodies of men. The bodies did not have visible injuries consistent with battle wounds or suicide attacks, were dressed in civilian clothing, and did not appear to have their hands bound or eyes blindfolded.

Nadim said that an Asayish security member also told him that in the evening of August 30, and through the early hours of the following morning, he and a group of other Asayish members loaded between 100 and 150 men into a large refrigerator truck, keeping them there, in freezing temperatures, for 7 hours. They transported the men to the site of the previous executions near Bardiya, dumped the bodies of the men who had died in the truck from the cold or asphyxiation in a ditch, and shot and buried alongside them any who were still alive, he said.

Nadim's statements were partially corroborated by photographic evidence posted on social media and another witness statement. A photo of what appears to be the truck that transported the detainees surfaced on Twitter on September 2 on at least 2 Twitter accounts, 1 of which has been suspended. One of the tweets states that Kurdish Peshmerga forces executed 375 ISIS members captured since August 27, northwest of Tal Afar. The other states that between August 27 and September 1,375 ISIS fugitives from Tal Afar to Zummar and northwest al-A'yadhia were executed.

The photo shows a white truck and a pile of bodies underneath, in a ditch. A Bardiya villager also told Human Rights Watch that on an evening at the end of August, he saw Kurdish forces drive through the area with two large white refrigerator trucks.

The 2 tweets also included 2 other photos. One shows a man in what appears to be an Asayish uniform, his face painted over to hide his identity, standing over a pile of bloody bodies. The 2nd shows over 15 bloodied bodies in a pile in an open grave. In both photos, the hands of some of the men appear to be bound.

Local residents and foreign women married to ISIS suspects, who last saw their male relatives in custody at the Sahil al-Maliha school, raised concerns that some of those executed may have been children as young as 13. The family members of one 17-year-old showed Human Rights Watch a video of him surrendering to Peshmerga forces for screening alongside other foreign and Iraqi male suspects. The video was posted on various media outlets on August 30. The relatives said that they have not been able to find him in any Iraqi detention facilities since.

Nadim said that on the days that followed, three Asayish members told him they were executing groups of men from Shilgia prison in the same area, temporarily burying them before later unearthing them and finally burying all of the bodies together in one mass grave using large digging equipment. The Asayish members told him that over 7 days, they executed between 80 and 150 people each day.

About 20 days after the last executions, Nadim's Asayish friends told him that a very senior security officer made a high-level visit to the Asayish office in Zummar, he said. He said that several senior local Asayish officers have not been seen in Zummar since the meeting, and his contacts in the Asayish have told him they have been detained. Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify if any officers were punished, and for what.

Human Rights Watch requested a comment from the KRG on the executions and in an email to Human Rights Watch on February 5, Dr. Dindar Zebari, the KRG coordinator for international advocacy, denied that the executions took place. He stated that according to the chief of the Asayish forces, Peshmerga forces were fighting on a 71-kilometer frontline with ISIS, as the group's members attempted to escape to Syria. In the process of the battle many ISIS members were killed, along with many Peshmerga forces, "and the corpses of the killed ISIS members in this fighting were probably brought in one place to be buried." The stretch of frontline that the response refers to is at its closest 40 kilometers from the site where researchers found the mass grave.

This explanation does not match the state the bodies were found in - shot in the head, in clusters, in a solitary desert area, far from where any fighting had occurred - according to Nadim and 3 Bardiya villagers.

The photos posted on social media on September 2 also show the hands of some of the men bound. The Zummar and Bardiya areas were occupied by ISIS for less than 1 month during late 2014, and there was no fighting there after that date, according to numerous security and military officers researchers interviewed.

According to the statement, the individuals at the school were considered internally displaced persons, not detainees, and were all transferred from there to camps for the displaced. International organizations present in the reception centers of the camps that the displaced families were bused to confirmed that no foreign adult men were among the arrivals and there were few Iraqi men.

KRG criminal justice authorities should investigate all alleged crimes, including unlawful killings, committed by any party in the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, up to the highest levels of responsibility. Those credibly implicated should be appropriately prosecuted. Extrajudicial executions and torture during an armed conflict are war crimes. Authorities should also investigate the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, Human Rights Watch said.

"There have been months of silence, but the Kurdistan Regional Government needs to be transparent about these deaths and punish anyone responsible for unlawful killings," Fakih said.

From Sahil al-Maliha to Shilgia Prison

Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of Iraqi families and 27 foreign women who said that between August 22 and 29, they and thousands of other Iraqis and foreigners approached Peshmerga forces near Sahil al-Maliha for screening. A video posted on various media outlets on August 30 shows Peshmerga forces lining up men, foreign and local, and gathering women and children to the side in a desert area.

Nadim and the families said that after the people approached, Peshmerga forces moved everyone to a school in Sahil al-Maliha and detained them there. The witnesses said the Peshmerga forces put the women, children, and elderly in 1 of the 12 rooms in the schoolhouse, and kept the men and boys over age 12 in the yard.

An image posted on social media shows about 150 men sitting in the schoolyard. Nadim confirmed that the image was taken at the Sahil al-Maliha school. In addition, he showed researchers a clip of a video at the school, showing a group of men, several of them wounded, sitting against a wall in a yard and a photo of the same scene that was geotagged, verifying the date, August 29, and location.

Human Rights Watch reviewed the photograph and identified uniquely matching features in satellite imagery recorded on August 30 and 31, 2017, further confirming both the approximate date and precise location of the photograph. Human Rights Watch also found in a time series of satellite imagery recorded between August 23 and September 5, evidence consistent with the temporary detention of potentially hundreds of people within the schoolyard. It included the accumulation of extensive debris on the ground, heavy vehicle movement, and the presence of seven large passenger buses parked immediately outside the school on the morning of August 31.

Nadim said that once at the school, Asayish forces from the nearby town of Zummar carried out daily security checks on the men, and then bused groups of them away in large trucks each day. The families also described the daily security checks and the busing, which they said they observed through the classroom windows. Nadim said he saw Asayish forces bus some of the detainees first to the Asayish center in Zummar, for another round of security checks, and then on to another location. He said his Asayish contacts told him that they were busing the men from Zummar to an Asayish prison in Shilgia. They told him that in some instances they bused the men from the school directly to the Shilgia prison.

Nadim showed Human Rights Watch researchers 4 photos that he said he received from Asayish members on August 31. 2 of the photos show trucks arriving at a destination with the detainees disembarking. Nadim said he recognized the trucks as the same ones he saw the Asayish using at the Sahil al-Maliha school to transport the detainees by the writing on the sides of the trucks. The other 2 photos show a large group of men being held in the yard of the prison, which Nadim said he recognized based on a previous visit to the prison.

The Shilgia prison is the largest prison facility in the area and it is under the same area of command as the Zummar Asayish branch.

The Mass Grave Site

Several sources, including Nadim, a Federal Police officer, and 6 Bardiya villagers told Human Rights Watch the location of the mass grave. On January 30, researchers traveled to the site, where they found large piles of dirt in a long row, with marks of excavation equipment on the side of some of the piles. Human Rights Watch interviewed a shepherd next to the site who said he saw Kurdish security forces bury the bodies there in early September.

Human Rights Watch analyzed a time series of satellite imagery of this site recorded between July 5 and September 29 and identified evidence of the movement of earth with heavy machinery on the dry lake bed consistent with the construction of a large mass grave as alleged by local witnesses.

Because the site was fully submerged under the seasonal lake water in early July according to satellite imagery, digging could not have started until the water had receded later in July or August. Satellite imagery recorded on the morning of September 3 shows ongoing digging activity along 2 linear sections of raised earth, approximately 35 and 40 meters in length. Satellite imagery recorded on the morning of September 29 shows evidence of continued digging activity at the site, including extensive parallel vehicle tracks consistent with the use of a wheeled or tracked bulldozer to pile additional soil onto the 2 earthen mounds.

A comparison of photographs Human Rights Watch took on January 30, 2018 with satellite imagery recorded on September 29, 2017 suggests the site has been undisturbed since.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

EGYPT:

Egypt must end death penalty: EU politicians

The European Parliament has condemned Egypt for its use of the death penalty and called for all planned executions to be halted pending a review of the cases.

Egypt is restricting "fundamental democratic rights", members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said in a statement on Wednesday, adding Cairo should abolish capital punishment.

"The European Parliament ... calls for the end to all acts of violence, incitement and hate speech, reminding the Egyptian government that the universal protection of human rights and long-term prosperity go hand in hand," it said.

A sharp rise in executions has taken place in Egypt since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in a 2013 coup, according to figures from Cornell University's Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.

At least 97 people have been executed in Egypt since 2014, compared with 5 executions between 2010-2014, it said.

UN human rights experts have expressed concern that Egyptian officials are using evidence obtained through torture or ill treatment, often during periods of enforced disappearance, to sentence prisoners to death in military courts.

On January 2, 5 men were hanged in Alexandria after being sentenced to death by an Egyptian military court, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 4 of whom were convicted for an explosion in April 2015 that killed 3 military personnel and wounded 2 others.

15 men convicted on "terrorism" charges over the 2013 deaths of soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula were executed on December 26 last year.

(source: Al Jazeera News)

LEBANON:

Death penalty demanded over killing of British Beirut embassy worker

An investigative judge has demanded the death penalty for the suspected killer of a British embassy worker whose body was found near Beirut 2 months ago, Lebanese judicial officials said.

Hanna Breidi, a type of government prosecutor, issued an indictment on Thursday demanding the maximum penalty for Tarek Houshi, accusing him of raping Rebecca Dykes before strangling her with a rope, the officials said.

They alleged that Uber driver Houshi raped and killed Ms Dykes in Beirut, then threw her body off a road east of the capital.

Ms Dykes was found dead on December 16 on the side of a road, strangled and reportedly showing signs of sexual assault.

The 30-year-old was working in Lebanon as a programme and policy manager for the Department for International Development.

Houshi, 29, was arrested days later.

Breidi referred Houshi to the criminal court.

(source: independent.ie)

CHINA----female gets death sentence

Nanny Sentenced to Death for Fire That Killed 4----Closely watched Hangzhou court case reveals concerns of China's growing middle class.

A live-in nanny was sentenced to death on Friday for starting a fire last summer that killed a mother and her three young children in eastern China's Zhejiang province.

The Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court announced the verdict on Friday in a trial closely watched by domestic media.

In the early morning of June 22, 2017, 35-year-old nanny Mo Huanjing set fire to the family's apartment by lighting a book in the living room. According to the court's report, she had lost 60,000 yuan ($9,500) through online gambling the previous night, and hoped that if she put out the blaze, the mother, Zhu Xiaozhen, might lend her money out of gratitude.

But the fire quickly grew out of control, and Mo fled from the 18th-floor residence, leaving Zhu and the children - a 7-year-old girl and 2 boys aged 4 and 10 - behind. All 4 died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Mo Huanjing deliberately started a fire in the high-rise apartment in the early morning that led to 4 deaths and significant property losses," the court's report said. "The criminal motivation is despicable; the results are extremely severe and have seriously damaged public security and caused social harm."

The family had hired Mo, who comes from southern China's Guangdong province, through an agency in September 2016. Between March 2017 and the date of the fire, Mo pawned jewelry and watches stolen from the family for more than 180,000 yuan, and had also borrowed 114,000 yuan from Zhu, but lost all the money through gambling. According to her mobile phone records, Mo had searched fire-starting techniques and "Will arson lead to prison?" online before committing the crime.

The tragic case attracted attention nationwide as it highlights some of the core concerns of China's growing upper middle class, such as increasing demand for domestic help - typically migrant workers - and inadequate fire safety management.

The family's apartment was one of the most expensive in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, with a market value of more than 20 million yuan. Yet firefighting infrastructure at the compound appeared to be lacking: After Zhu called the police, it took more than 2 hours for firefighters to find them. Investigation later revealed that the compound's water pressure was insufficient, and that there was no suitable parking for fire engines that could reach the top floors.

Mo's defense lawyer argued that the property management company's negligence was partly to blame for the fatalities, and the court's report also acknowledged that the compound's poor emergency management had resulted in a prolonged rescue time.

The victims' grieving husband and father, Lin Shengbin, has also become a social media advocate for improved fire safety. "If the disaster had not happened, I might never have discovered that our lives and happiness were so vulnerable," he wrote in an open letter on Jan. 31. "We are living in an extremely fragile emergency response system, with safety measures that are full of loopholes."

In addition to the death penalty, the court sentenced Mo to 5 years in prison and a 50,000-yuan fine for theft.

After Friday's verdict was announced, Lin posted on his Weibo microblog "Wife and Kids in Heaven" that "the devil has finally received punishment by law, death penalty." He added that he plans to file civil lawsuits against the other parties responsible.

(source: sixthtone.com)

PAPUA NEW GUINEA:

8 on death row in PNG, no decision yet on execution date: Corrrection Services Commissioner

8 men on death row in Papua New Guinea - including 1 still at large after escaping from Bomana prison - will have to wait longer for a decision on their execution, it has been revealed.

Correction Services Commissioner Michael Waipo told The National that while the legal requirements in relation to the execution of the death penalty in the country were in order, the capacities needed to execute it remained the problem.

"It's a long process in relation to death row," Waipo said. "You need to have facilities, followed by the training of our staff who will be responsible (for carrying out the execution).

"The law part of it is in order. It is only the infrastructure, the set-up and the capacity building of the staff to be able to deliver this arrangements which is lacking."

Waipo said it would require the assistance of those (from overseas institutions) who had the experience in carrying out the death penalty, especially the execution of people on death row.

"Maybe they can guide us in the standard operating procedures," he said. Waipo said the Correctional Services would be making a submission to Government on the matter which would include "the scope of work and the cost".

Waipo told The National that out of the 12 prisoners on death row in February 2015, 2 had died in custody and 2 were recently acquitted by the Supreme Court in Port Moresby last December.

Father and son Selman and Misialis Amos were acquitted by the Supreme Court on Dec 11 of the murder charges against them, citing errors by the trial judge who convicted them.

Both have since rejoined their families in ENB and New Ireland.

The 2 who died while in custody were:

*Gregory Kiapkot, 41, from Lokanai in New Ireland, convicted of murder and sea piracy; and

*Martin Pigit, 39, from New Ireland, also convicted of murder and sea piracy. The prisoner who escaped from Bomana about 3 years ago and still on the run is Ambrose Lati, 49, from Wabag. He was convicted in 2009 for murder.

The remaining 7 on death row are either at the Kerevat prison in ENB or at Bomana in Port Moresby. They are:

*Peter Taul, 39, from Pilapila, ENB

*Tobung Paraide, 43, from Pilapila, ENB;

*Bochea Agena, 44, from the Duke of York Islands, ENB;

*Kenny Wesley, 38, from the Duke of York Islands, ENB;

*Sedoki Lota, 21, convicted of wilful murder in 2007 and detained at Bomana Prison.

*Ben Simakot, 30, from Yangkok in West Sepik, convicted for murder and detained at Bomana Prison;

*Mark Poroli, 33, from Koroba in Southern Highlands, convicted for wilful murder and detained at Bomana Prison.

(source: onepng.com)

INDONESIA:

Indonesian MP wants to introduce the death penalty for LGBTI people

An Indonesian politician has grabbed headlines in that country after saying he believed LGBTI people should be sentenced to death or at least life in prison.

Muslim Ayub is a member of the Islamist National Mandate Party (PAN) and made the controversial comments earlier this week.

Ayub was asked about the debate in the House of Representatives around proposed amendments to the Criminal Code (KUHP).

Last week a House Commission set up to review the KUHP submitted its proposed amendments, one of which included criminalizing same-sex relations.

But Ayub and his party, PAN, want to take things further and impose harsh punishments on LGBTI people.

He told JurnaliaIndonesia that intense negotiations around the criminalization of LGBTI people had occurred, but his party was not happy with them.

'We were not satisfied. We want a death sentence or a lifetime jail sentence to have a deterrent effect on the LGBT (community),' he said.

Ayub who is known to make controversial comments represents the Aceh province, which follow Islamic Sharia Law. It is the only province in Indonesia where it is illegal to be gay.

Ayub also wanted to impose penalties on people for 'promoting LGBTI' behavior.

Will the law pass?

Observers expected the KUHP amendments to pass the House of Representatives by February 14, but it looks like that will be delayed as MPs debate a number of amendments.

Ayub's colleague in PAN, Hanafi Rais, said the debate around criminalizing homosexuality was all but agreed upon by most Indonesian political parties.

'It's almost final now, regarding the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] issue,' he told media last week.

The debate around the LGBTI community comes during a crackdown on the LGBTI community who have faced increasing persecution in the last 2 years.

Only last week the Indonesian Health Ministry declared homosexuality a mental disorder.

(source: Gay Star News)

AUSTRALIA:

Boxer says death penalty would 'deter' people from being gay

A former boxer suggested today that the death penalty would make people 'reconsider' being gay.

Anthony Mundine made the comment in an interview this week after he left the Australian 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' jungle.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he said: 'If we were to live in a society, just like in Aboriginal culture, that homosexuality is forbidden and you do it and the consequences are capital punishment or death, you think you are going to do it?'

He later made another comment stating gay people 'shouldn't be allowed on television' because they were influencing young children.

The former boxer was later branded a 'vile human' by gay former NRL player Casey Conway on Twitter.

He said: 'Anthony Mundine is a vile human and his comments should be condemned.

'Using our culture as a basis for his harmful opinions is disgraceful.

'Women and LGBTI people are your equal Anthony, you're not better than anyone. Educate yourself.'

Also in the interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mundine discussed LGBT equality.

He suggested that paedophiles 'would eventually want their own rights' because people are 'pushing gay rights so much'.

(source: Metro.co.uk)

FEBRUARY 8, 2018:

TEXAS:

British grandmother on death row loses appeal

A British grandmother who has spent more than 15 years on death row in Texas has lost an appeal to the state's highest criminal court.

Linda Carty was sentenced to death after being convicted of the murder of her neighbour in Houston in May 2001.

Prosecutors alleged that Carty, now 59, had hired 3 men to kidnap Joana Rodridguez and her newborn son.

She planned to keep the child and pass it off as her own, they said.

But Carty has always maintained her innocence and her lawyers say she was convicted largely on the word of her co-accused.

She was granted a new hearing by the appeals court in 2016 to present what she claimed was new evidence proving her innocence.

Carty argued prosecutors had coerced witnesses and withheld evidence.

But a judge dismissed that appeal, saying there was overwhelming evidence of her guilt, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has now confirmed his decision.

Carty was born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts when it was still subject to British rule and she retains a UK passport.

The Foreign Office has supported her cause and expressed concern about the prospect of her facing execution.

In an interview with Sky News on death row at Huntsville Prison in 2012, Carty protested her innocence and pleaded for more assistance from the UK.

She said: "I am 110% innocent.

"We are British. I can't wash off my nationality with soap and water. I am going to always be British.

"I won't get up and ask the British Government to go out in the public and lobby for me had I known that I am guilty because then it would be an embarrassment not only to myself and my family but also the country that I love.

"So for me when I say I am innocent and that I didn't commit this crime I mean that."

Her case has received celebrity backing and the support of campaigners at the human rights organisation Reprieve.

But the US Supreme Court refused to take up her case in 2010 and her legal options have continued to narrow.

She is 1 of more than 50 women on death rows across the United States, 6 of them in Texas.

The state has carried out more than 1/3 of all of the executions since the US restored the death penalty in 1976.

But the number of executions being carried out has continued to decline across the country. Texas, which saw 40 executions in 2000, carried out 7 last year.

(source: wessexfm.com)

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

Appeals court upholds death penalty in 1980 Williamson County murder

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said evidence proved Steven Thomas left a fingerprint when victim killed.

Court also said evidence showed Thomas left DNA on tape on Mildred McKinney's finger when she was killed.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of killing a 73-year-old Williamson County woman in 1980.

A Williamson County jury convicted Steven Thomas in October 2014 and sentenced him to death for the capital murder of Mildred McKinney, who was sexually assaulted and strangled in her home. Thomas' lawyer raised 17 points of error in the case and the Court of Criminal Appeals found them all to be without merit, according to the opinion issued by the court Wednesday.

Thomas' fingerprint was found on the back of an alarm clock in McKinney's bedroom in her home on Sherbourne Street, in what was then southwestern Williamson County.

His defense lawyer, Ariel Payan, said at a hearing before the appeals court last year that it could have been there because Thomas worked for a pesticide company that had been to McKinney's house.

Thomas' sperm also was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped around the thumb of the 73-year-old McKinney. Payan said that did not prove he sexually assaulted her because she also had DNA inside of her from 3 other unknown men and there was other male DNA on the medical tape, Payan said.

The court said in its opinion Wednesday that based on the evidence, a jury could have inferred that Thomas "deposited his thumb print on the alarm clock during the violent assault on McKinney that night in her bedroom."

The clock was found on McKinney's bloody bed next to an unplugged telephone base, the opinion said. McKinney had been bound with the telephone cord. "This evidence supported a finding that a violent bloody struggle had occurred on or near the bed and the clock was moved at that time," the court's opinion said.

The court also concluded that the medical tape with Thomas' sperm on it around McKinney's thumb also was evidence he was present when she died because she had been bound with several ligatures, including the tape around her thumb.

"The fact that the appellant's sperm came into contact with 1 of the ligatures tied to McKinney under these circumstances anchors the jury's finding that the appellant intended to promote or assist in the offense's commission and that he was at least a party to this transaction," the opinion said.

Payan had also said during his argument before the court last year that the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas' trial could not prove that Thomas killed McKinney and was not reliable. The inmate, Steven Shockey, testified in front of a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, breaking into a house and having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and that Thomas took money and jewelry.

The law requires that if a jailhouse informant testifies about a statement a defendant made that is against the defendant's interests, that testimony must be corroborated by some other evidence, the opinion from the Court of Criminal Appeals said.

The record of Thomas' trial shows there was strong corroborating evidence connecting Thomas to McKinney's death, including Thomas' fingerprint found on the clock and his DNA found on the medical tape, the opinion said.

McKinney's murder baffled authorities for 32 years until DNA tests led to Thomas' arrest in July 2012. Other suspects, including serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis Toole, were ruled out because there was never any scientific evidence linking them to the scene.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

MARYLAND:

Should MD bring back the death penalty for some crimes?

Maryland's death penalty was abolished almost 5 years ago, but there's a renewed effort to reinstate it.

FOX45's John Rydell reported from Annapolis, where some legislators say capital punishment could make sense in light of the murders of two Harford County sheriff deputies 2 years ago and another gunman going on a shooting rampage last fall at an office just a mile away.

It's crimes like this that deserve the death penalty, according to Sen. Robert Cassilly, who represents Harford County.

"The primary goal has to be beyond just rehabilitation...and these are those such cases," he told FOX45.

Cassilly's bill would apply to those who kill law enforcement officers, as well as correctional officers.

"You want to kill a prison guard, what's the worst that can happen to you? Nothing; you'll be in the Division of Corrections serving life without parole sentence," he said.

But longtime opponents of the death penalty plan to fight any effort to have capital punishment reinstated.

"And obviously there are some people who have been victimized in horrible ways....original perpetrator by committing murder," said Sen. Delores Kelley.

(source: WBFF news)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

South Carolina should not impose death penalty for mentally ill

As I watch Sen. William Timmons' 2 death penalty bills advance in the SC Senate, I would like the General Assembly to also consider stopping the practice of putting our mentally ill to death in South Carolina .

Many don't realize that in SC a judge can accept a guilty but mentally ill plea and still use the death penalty during sentencing. This means that according to the statue that a judge is acknowledging a defendant "lacked sufficient capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law" (Title 17 - Criminal Procedures Chapter 24 17-24-20 (C)) and still can turn around and sentence that same person to death.

At least 1 such person is on death row who was found to be guilty but mentally ill.

I would like our elected leaders not only to have the courage to carry out the death penalty but also to have the courage to not carry out the death penalty when it is clearly morally wrong to do so.

Paton Blough,

SC state board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Greenville

(source: Letter to the Editor, Greenville News)

FLORIDA:

Legislative Push For Another Death Penalty Fix Narrowly Passes First Committee

Already, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected more than 3 dozen appeals involving death row inmates, who received their sentences before 2002 and did not require unanimous juries. A panel of Florida lawmakers is now trying again to make a fix to that part of the state's death penalty process.

After listening to the U.S. Supreme Court and later the Florida Supreme Court, the state legislature agreed last year to make sure certain death row inmates have a review of their cases.

That's because under Florida's previous death sentencing scheme, a majority of jurors could make a recommendation, but the ultimate decision was up to a judge.

In the Hurst v. State case, the nation's highest court declared Florida's death penalty system unconstitutional in 2016 and handed the case back to the Florida Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court justices then agreed that jury's recommending a sentence of death must be unanimous.

And, the legislature last year passed a bill doing just that and the Governor signed it into law.

But, under the new law, it only applies to those whose death sentence became final on or after June 24, 2002. Why that date? It applies to an old U.S. Supreme Court Ruling.

"June 24, 2002 is the date when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Ring v. Arizona," said Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando). "The ruling in the Ring case was that juries must make the factual determination that allows for constitutional death sentence. The Ring ruling was not applied by Florida courts for 14 years, until in the Hurst v. Florida case. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that Ring applied in Florida, just as it did in Arizona, and our courts began to comply."

Bracy was the Senate sponsor of the 2017 effort. Now, in 2018, he also wants to help those death row who did not have a unanimous jury vote and their death sentence was final before June 24, 2002.

"We now have a June 24, 2002 cutoff date for death sentences reviews, based on Hurst unanimous death sentence vote requirement," he added. "The bill would make our intent known to Florida courts that we don't want the courts to limit Hurst review to only the post-Ring part of death cases."

But, some lawmakers aren't sold on the idea. That includes Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), who asked Bracy about the need for the bill.

"If the courts already said, 'this is how we're going to move forward.' Why do we need a bill to do what the courts have already told us to do," asked Bean.

"I think the date is somewhat arbitrary," Bracy replied. "So, if a person was sentenced to death before the date of June 24, 2002, I think that they should have the right to have their sentence reviewed again - just as the ones after that date are able to get. I think it's matter of justice."

But, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) likes the bill.

"I'm a big fan with A = A in the law," he said. "I think in this case, you have the courts who have made a decision, and they have set a date. And, I think we should be consistent throughout the state on how we look at death penalty cases. I think this is the right thing to do. I think this is the fair thing to do. And, I think this is the only way we can say A=A in the law, if we support this legislation."

And, bill sponsor Bracy says at the end of the day, this is the right thing to do.

"As I've stated, I just think it's a matter of justice," he concluded. "I think that folks before the date June 24, 2002, should be able to appeal and have the opportunity to have their case looked at."

And, on a 3-2 vote, the measure narrowly passed the Senate Criminal justice Committee - a panel Bracy chairs. It now has 1 more committee stop before it heads to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, a House bill has not yet been filed.

(source: WUSF news)

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

A call to conscience on Florida's march to death

"A miscarriage of justice."

That's what the Florida Senate's Criminal Justice Committee says about the death march taking place at the Florida Supreme Court.

By a 3-2 vote this week, the Senate committee approved legislation (SB 870) that calls on the court to abandon its arbitrary distinction between death row inmates who do or don't deserve new sentencing hearings since Florida's old sentencing law was found unconstitutional in January 2016.

The description is correct. The court's apparent indifference to fair play is staggering. It reflects poorly on the court and on the character of the state.

The Florida court refuses to make the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 ruling retroactive to inmates - an estimated 163 of them - whose death sentences were considered "final" before June 24, 2002. That's when a ruling in an Arizona case put Florida on notice that its death sentencing law would likely be thrown out. But it took 14 more years for that shoe to fall in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, which says a jury, not a judge, must determine if the facts warrant execution.

For prisoners whose sentences became "final" during that interval, the Florida court has been granting new hearings, for the most part, to those whose juries didn't vote unanimously for death.

In a series of identical orders over the past 2 weeks, the court rejected all 80 petitions for new hearings. In only 15 of those cases did the jury unanimously recommend the death penalty. In 47 cases, at least two jurors voted against death. Eleven juries were split by votes of 7 to 5.

All would be affected by SB 870, which says the court's decision to deny them a new sentencing hearing "will result in a miscarriage of justice for those inmates." It is "the intent of the legislature" that they should be covered by the precedent set by the Hurst decision.

Still, on Tuesday, the court continued its march for death. It unanimously denied a stay of execution for Eric Scott Branch, who is scheduled to be put to death Feb. 22 for the 1993 rape-murder of Susan Morris, a University of West Florida student.

Morris is among the 80 inmates who have lost their bids for new sentencing hearings. The jury vote in his case was 10-2. He also has a separate appeal on other issues pending before the court.

Branch's attorneys urged the court to consider that "a wave" of petitions from Florida's death row "is set to flood that United States Supreme Court's docket" shortly after Branch's execution date. If the court rules against Florida in those cases, they said, "the injustice in (Branch's) case will be irreparable."

The Florida court did not explain why it denied the stay, which the U.S. Supreme Court could still grant. But the Florida court's usual practice is to leave that sort of decision to the high court, often at the 11th hour.

SB 870 is sponsored by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, chair of the criminal justice committee. In a legal sense, the legislation would not overrule the court. Such an attempt would probably be unconstitutional.

But the declaration of legislative intent would "send a powerful message to the U.S. Supreme Court," according to Karen Gottlieb of the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University.

The bill is, of course, a long way from passage, a prospect that must be rated unlikely given the Legislature's history of embracing the death penalty. But the committee's bipartisan vote is a welcome note of conscience on an issue that cries out for it.

(source: Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee)

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

Jury continues deliberating John Chapman death penalty murder case

A Palm Beach County jury ended a full day of deliberations without a verdict in the 1st degree murder trial of John Chapman, a man who could face the death penalty if convicted as charged in the April 2015 stabbing death of .

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sent the 12-member panel home just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, ending more than 8 hours of deliberations without a verdict.

The jury's only question of the day was a request to view an interrogation video from Chapman's arrest and rehear part of his testimony from when he took the stand in his own defense last week.

In both the video and in his testimony, Chapman claimed that he stabbed Williams after she pulled a knife on him inside the cab of a pickup truck as they were parked outside of a west Boca Raton housing development.

He dumped her body in a ditch on Smith Sundy Road west of Delray Beach, where someone discovered the 28-year-old Margate woman's remains a day later. Chapman was arrested several days later at a friend's house in Miami.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Urgent Action

DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER, EXECUTION SCHEDULED

Doyle Hamm, due to be executed in Alabama on 22 February after 30 years on death row, has received a stay of execution, but the state has appealed. He has been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. The state of his veins may render his lethal injection unconstitutional.

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

* Calling on the governor to commute Doyle Hamm's death sentence, regardless of whether the stay of execution granted by the District Court because of the serious medical condition of the prisoner remains in place; * Expressing concern at the brevity of the mitigation phase of the trial, leaving the jurors without a full picture of who they were being asked to sentence, and its impact on him.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact this official by 22 February, 2018:

Governor Kay Ivey

Alabama State Capitol, 600 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, Alabama 36130, USA

Fax: +1 334 353 0004

Contact form: http://governor.alabama.gov/contact (use US detail)

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International)

MISSISSIPPI:

Death Penalty Possible In Decade Old Capital Murder Case----Over a decade later, a capital murder case is still weaving its way in and out of court.

37-year-old William Matthew Wilson pled guilty to capital murder after he reportedly beat his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

In May of 2007 he was given the death penalty.

However, 10 years later, Judge Larry Roberts threw out the death sentence.

The Judge says Wilson didn't receive proper legal counsel.

Now District Attorney John Weddle is deciding whether to represent the case, with the death penalty back on the table.

Regardless of the cases outcome, Wilson will serve a life sentence.

(source: WCBI news)

OHIO:

He's Watched 21 Men Die - A Former Journalist on 18 Years of Covering Executions in Ohio

It's a role he had to fight for and one, quite frankly, he would rather not have had. But, as Johnson says, it's fundamental and essential for the media to bear witness to these deaths, and through them, the public.

Those experiences over almost 2 decades have left Johnson with a unique perspective on capital punishment - the mechanics of state-sanctioned homicide; the logistics of lethal injection and its recent issues of supply and secrecy; the range of emotions and reactions from families and victims; the problems when an execution goes awry; the almost dry, rote details one notices when it is, for lack of a better word, successful.

Johnson wrote about all that and more in a first-person piece for Columbus Monthly in August 2016. That article ends with the troubling death of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, 2014. A 3-year moratorium on executions in Ohio would follow.

They have, of course, resumed, most recently with the aborted attempt to kill Alva Campbell after officials couldn't locate a suitable vein for the process. (His execution has been rescheduled 2 years from now; his lawyers have recently argued their client should be allowed death by firing squad instead of being subjected once again to a failed lethal injection.)

Up next is Raymond Tibbetts, whose date in the Death Chamber is next Tuesday, Feb. 13. (An original juror in that case recently wrote a letter to John Kasich asking the governor to commute the sentence to life without parole for a variety of reasons, but we digress.)

Given all that has happened in the past three years, we asked Johnson to update his piece. He's done so, for this week's cover story, with the same keen eye that produced the original. You can read the full tale in print this week. As for reading it online, that's a slightly different story. Part of the peculiar republishing agreement with Columbus Monthly for this story was a requirement that we not upload the full version online. That's too bad, but as Frank Jackson says, it is what it is.

You have 3 options here. First: You can pick up a physical copy of this week's Scene and enjoy it there. Second: You can check our our e-edition at this link and read the full thing in one place in PDF form. Third: You can head over to Columbus Monthly's site and read the original piece, stopping at the section headed "The Last Execution," and then come back here for the updated ended, which you can find below. Not ideal, we know, but the story was worth sharing with a larger audience and it's simply the conditions laid out by the original publisher.

***

The Last Execution, For Awhile

The most troubling execution I witnessed in 18 years was when a gasping, struggling Dennis McGuire was put to death on Jan. 16, 2014. McGuire did not go easily.

Things appeared to be going as planned until about five minutes after the chemical cocktail began flowing into his veins. The state was using a two-drug combination that had never previously been tried in the U.S. Suddenly, McGuire began to gasp, cough and choke. A minute later, he gasped so deeply that his stomach heaved up and down. It continued for nearly 15 minutes. McGuire clenched his fists repeatedly and several times appeared to try to rise up off the table, only to be prevented by the restraints on his chest, arms and legs. His grown son and daughter looked on in horror, sobbing uncontrollably. The family members of Joy Stewart, the pregnant, 22-year-old victim, watched in stunned silence.

"Is this what's supposed to happen?" one whispered.

My own anxiety grew by the minute, as McGuire tried in vain to stay alive. I found myself wondering if it was too late for prison officials to call it off, to end the death drama playing out on the other side of the glass. There was no way to unring the bell.

"Please die. Just die," I remember thinking, thoughts that still haunt me.

At 10:52 a.m., about 23 minutes after the deadly chemicals began flowing, the curtain was pulled. Unseen, a physician listened for a heartbeat and found none.

In the weeks and months that followed, controversy swirled about what had happened and why. The state said that an execution took place, as planned. Capital punishment opponents called it torture.

The state quickly abandoned the 2-drug combination, but that triggered a search for new killing drugs. They were difficult to obtain because of the reluctance of drug manufacturers to sell drugs for use in executions. The General Assembly scrambled to pass a law allowing the state to make anonymous purchases from small "compounding pharmacies" that mix drugs to customer specifications. No Ohio pharmacies were interested in the state's business.

Gov. John Kasich was forced to push back all scheduled executions.

An Untested Combination

The state, without disclosing the source, was eventually able to acquire a supply of 3 drugs with the following amounts to be used for each execution: 500 milligrams of midazolam hydrochloride, a strong sedative; 1,000 milligrams of rocuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer; and 240 milligrams of potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

The new, previously untried combination was successfully used on Ronald Phillips, 43, of Akron, on July 26, 2017. It was Ohio's 1st execution in 3 1/2 years. Phillips received the death sentence for raping, beating and murdering 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans, the daughter of his girlfriend at the time, on Jan. 18, 1993.

The day before his execution, Phillips' "last meal" request included a bottle of grape juice and a piece of unleavened bread for a prison-cell communion, in addition to a bell pepper and mushroom pizza, strawberry cheesecake and 2-liter bottle of Pepsi.

In stark contrast to McGuire's troubled death, Phillips died quickly and quietly at the prison near Lucasville. The process took just 22 minutes, including 12 minutes after a chemical combination began flowing into his veins. By the official time of death, 10:43 a.m., Phillips had lain motionless and not apparently breathing for several minutes.

Phillips gave a final statement choked with emotion, apologizing to the Evans family for his "evil actions" and thanking his family for their "support and faithfulness." Phillips closed his eyes and a few minutes later appeared to be sleeping. His stomach heaved slightly and his mouth fell open, but there were no dramatic reactions. A single tear fell from his left eye.

The reaction from witnesses afterwards differed sharply.

Donna Hudson, the slain girl's aunt, said, "It was too easy. I don't know if God forgave him, but I don't think I can."

William Phillips, the condemned man's brother, watched his sibling die, but did not speak to media after it was over. However, Allen Bohnert, a federal public defender who represented Phillips, said an extremely high dose of a drug midazolam acted like a "chemical curtain" to prevent Phillips from showing pain he was feeling. "Ohio once again experimented with an undisputedly unconstitutional drug," Bohnert said.

A Botched Attempt and a Retirement

Phillips' execution was the last I would witness or cover prior to my retirement from the Columbus Dispatch on Sept. 22, 2017. At that point, I had witnessed 21 executions and written about the majority of the 34 others to that point during a 33-year career.

While I had had enough of the "machinery of death," as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry S. Blackmun called it in 1994, the state of Ohio continued forward, lethally injecting Gary Otte of Parma on Sept. 13, 2017. Otte, 45, robbed and murdered Robert Wasikowski, 61, and Sharon Kostura, 45, at an apartment in Parma in 1992.

The Associated Press reported that Otte's stomach "rose and fell repeatedly" for several minutes after the 1st drug, midazolam, was administered. One of Otte's public defender attorneys hurriedly called a federal judge in Dayton, seeking to stop the execution, but the request was refused.

Ohio's capital punishment process stumbled again with the aborted execution of Alva Campbell of Columbus on Nov. 15, 2017. Campbell's lethal injection was called off after members of the prison execution team were not able to find intravenous access to administer the lethal drugs.

The Columbus Dispatch reported the execution team attempted for more than a half hour to find suitable veins on Campbell's arms and 1 leg, before Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, who was on the scene, halted the process. Campbell, who was sentenced to die for killing Charles Dials, 18, during a carjacking in Columbus on April 2, 1997, had a host of health problems. He was allowed to have a wedge-shaped pillow behind his back on the injection gurney for the execution to assist his breathing.

Campbell's attorneys asked the state to allow him to be executed by a firing squad, but a federal judge turned down the request since state law allows only 1 method, lethal injection. The General Assembly would have to approve adding a new means of execution.

Kasich set a new death date for Campbell of June 5, 2019.

Ohio has four executions scheduled this year (out of 27 slated through 2022). First up on Feb. 13 is Raymond Tibbetts, 60, a Cincinnati man who killed his wife, Judith Crawford, and Fred Hicks, for whom Crawford was caregiver, on Nov. 5, 1997. Unlike Campbell, Tibbetts has no serious health problems, although his attorneys argue he should receive clemency because of an abusive childhood and an opioid dependency acquired as an adult. The Ohio Parole Board disagreed, recommending 11-1 against clemency, but Kasich has the final word.

My direct involvement with capital punishment in Ohio has come to an end. I won't miss Lucasville, but I continue to think about the price it extracts on the families of victims and inmates, on prison employees, and on the public at large.

Being a witness to death is an important job, but I don't mind that someone else will be watching from here on out.

(source: Cleveland Scene)

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Man who killed Alianna DeFreeze was high on cocaine, unable to follow laws, according to psychologist

Christopher Whitaker was high on cocaine when he kidnapped, raped and killed 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze, and his drug use "impaired his ability to control his impulses and conform his behavior to the requirements of the law," a psychologist hired by his defense lawyers found.

Court records filed this week say the psychologist also diagnosed Whitaker with cocaine, marijuana and alcohol addiction, as well as a mood disorder, in a report expected to be presented during the 2nd phase of Whitaker's trial on aggravated murder and other charges that make him eligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutors cited the report and its findings in a Monday request asking Judge Carolyn Friedland to order Whitaker to undergo another examination by a different psychologist in an effort to rebut the defense's report.

Friedland has yet to rule on the motion.

The filings come in the middle of the guilt phase of Whitaker's trial and offer a glimpse into the strategy Whitaker's lawyers could use to convince jurors that the 44-year-old should not be executed for what he did to Alianna on Jan. 26, 2017.

If convicted, the trial enters the so-called "death-penalty phase" where the jury will decide whether to recommend a life sentence or execution for Whitaker.

One of Whitaker's lawyers, Tom Shaughnessy, said during opening statements last week that the they will not contest the charges. Whitaker confessed to kidnapping the girl in a voluntary statement to police, and investigators matched his DNA to that found on Alianna's body.

Whitaker was examined by Robert Kaplan, a Beachwood-based forensic and clinical psychologist who often consults as a mitigation expert on behalf of defendants in criminal cases.

In addition to his various addictions and mood disorder, Kaplan also says that Whitaker blocked out some of the details of the killing. This includes information outlined by the prosecution that Whitaker used power tools to inflict dozens of wounds on the girl while she was still alive.

Prosecutors believe that Kaplan's findings are "unsupported and incorrect," and want their own psychologist to examine Whitaker and avoid jurors hearing only a "one-sided and potentially inaccurate" picture of Whitaker's mental state at the time of the crime.

He testified as a mitigation expert in the trial of Douglas Shine Jr., who faced the death penalty after jurors convicted him of shooting and killing 5 men inside a Warrensville barbershop in 2015.

Jurors recommended that Shine be sentenced to death, but Cuyahoga County Judge Joan Synenberg instead sentenced him to 5 separate life-sentences.

Shaughnessy was also one of Shine's lawyers.

(source: cleveland.com)

MISSOURI:

Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Slaying of Clinton Officer

The prosecuting attorney in Henry County, Missouri filed notice Wednesday of his intent to seek the death penalty in the murder of a Clinton, Missouri police officer last year.

Ian McCarthy is charged with 1st degree murder in the shooting death of Officer Gary Michael, who was killed during a traffic stop August 6 near Highway 13 and Green Street in Clinton.

Michael had been with the Clinton P.D. for less than a year when he was shot. Investigators say McCarthy fled the scene of the shooting, but crashed his vehicle about 2 blocks away, and ran off on foot. He was arrested 2 days after the shooting.

In his notice to seek the death penalty, Henry County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Shields calls the killing a "callous disregard for the sanctity of all human life," and was "random and without regard to the victim's identity."

Shields also noted as grounds for the death penalty, that McCarthy had a previous conviction for a serious assault conviction. In July, 1997, McCarthy pled guilty to robbery after threatening a woman with a knife in New Hampshire. He was also convicted by a jury in New Hampshire of another assault in May, 2002.

McCarthy has requested a change of venue and a change of judge. His next court hearing date is set for March 26.

(source: ozarksfirst.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma appeals ruling overturning murder conviction

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court that overturned a murder conviction on the grounds that Indian reservations in the state were never dissolved by Congress.

An appeal filed Wednesday says Congress effectively dismantled reservations when Oklahoma became a state and that the ruling throws thousands of convictions in eastern Oklahoma into question.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in August overturned the murder conviction and death penalty of Patrick Dwayne Murphy in McIntosh County. The court says Murphy is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and that the crime took place on what was established in 1866 as the Creek reservation.

In rejecting a requested rehearing, Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote it is "a good candidate for Supreme Court review."

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

Attorney who withdrew from death penalty case sues county

An appellate attorney based in Montana has sued a Utah county alleging his free-speech rights were violated when he was fired after speaking publicly about a lack of funding in a death penalty case.

Samuel Newton filed the lawsuit in federal court last week against Weber County and its 3 commissioners.

Newton had a contract with the county to represent death row inmate Douglas Lovell in his appeal. He withdrew from Lovell's case in September, saying the county had created conflicts of interest and that payment problems were causing stress-related medical issues.

The county severed Newton's contract to represent indigent defendants after finding his comments "harmful to the county's reputation."

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

GOP Senators Introduce 'Eric's Law' to Reform Death Penalty Cases

A group of Republican senators has introduced a bill to give federal prosecutors the option of impaneling a 2nd jury for sentencing in federal death penalty cases where the 1st jury failed to reach a decision.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Pat Toomey (R., Penn), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced Eric's Law Wednesday, so named for federal correctional officer Eric Williams who was murdered in 2013 by an inmate serving a life sentence. Because one member of the sentencing jury would not affirm the death penalty, Williams' killer continued serving life in prison. In a press release, Cotton argued the continued life sentence was a way of receiving no punishment.

"It's disturbing that the man who murdered Officer Williams escaped punishment. Eric's Law will protect against such a gross miscarriage of justice and allow more hardened criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Cotton said.

Toomey echoed Cotton's point and said families should not have to see violent criminals escape justice.

"[Williams'] murderer essentially received no punishment for his crime, even though 11 out of 12 jurors voted for the death penalty, because he was already serving a life sentence. The lack of any consequence in this case highlights a flaw in our justice system that this legislation will address," Toomey said in a press release. "I hope my colleagues will swiftly consider this important piece of legislation so no other families have to see violent criminals avoid justice."

Current law does not permit federal prosecutors to impanel a 2nd jury for sentencing in death penalty cases. Instead, when a jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the judge must choose a punishment besides death.

Cornyn argued Eric's Law is consistent with federal law's death penalty provision.

"Federal law provides for the penalty of death in the most severe crimes, including those involving the vicious murder of law enforcement officers and prison guards like Eric Williams," Cornyn said. "This legislation will help keep our communities safe and give federal prosecutors the option to impanel a 2nd jury to decide the ultimate penalty if the 1st panel cannot reach a unanimous decision."

Cruz also said he was "proud" to join the senators to support the legislation, arguing it could prevent future miscarriages of justice.

Eric's Law is based on similar procedures in place in states such as Kentucky, California, and Arizona.

(source: freebeacon.com)

INDIA:

Karnataka to go the MP way? Considers death penalty for rapists of minor girls----"From molestation to rape, there has been an increase in crimes against children," said Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy to TNM.

The Madhya Pradesh cabinet in December 2017 unanimously passed a Bill to award the death penalty to those involved in the rape or gang-rape of girls below the age of 12. And now, the Karnataka government is mulling doing the same in the state.

Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy discussed the issue in the Legislative Council on Tuesday. Speaking to TNM, he pointed out that there has been an increase in cases of rape under the POCSO Act in Karnataka over the past few years.

"From molestation to rape, there has been an increase in crimes against children. The state government is considering taking serious action by awarding stringent punishment for the serious nature of child rape," he said.

"When Madhya Pradesh passed the Act awarding death penalty to child rapists, I had written to the MP government and gotten a copy of the Act. We are going through the clauses. We are also waiting for a report on the MLC VS Ugrappa Committee, which was set up to probe the safety of women and children in our state. We have received an interim report and are waiting for the final one and also the committee's recommendations," he added.

It is unclear if Karnataka's Bill will be limited to only the rapists of girl children, or will include boys and transgender kids, as well.

While many would see this as a welcome deterrent against sexual crimes against children, experts have earlier pointed out to TNM that the proposal is flawed.

For instance, Kushi Kushalappa of Enfold, an NGO working towards prevention of child sexual abuse, said that the assumption that only girls get raped was "a silly position in today's scenario".

"We have to cover children who are transgender, boys, and girls equally. When we say only girls can be raped, the message that we continue to send out is that girls are more vulnerable. All children are equally vulnerable," she said.

Bengaluru-based researcher Swagata Raha also pointed out that the Madhya Pradesh legislation ignored the fact that most abusers are known to the children. "Are we expecting that children will come forward and then disclose that the abuse has been perpetrated and then go ahead and testify against their fathers, uncles, brothers or neighbours? That's too much of a burden to put on a child," she had argued.

It has also not been established through research if death penalty is really a deterrent for criminals.

There is also the question of whether the death penalty would apply to minors who may commit the crime.

(source: thenewsminute.com)

PAKISTAN:

Do public executions deter violent criminals?

Last month, the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice sent a bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology for review. The bill proposes an amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and seeks public execution of criminals charged with kidnapping a child below the age of 14. In the council's meeting, being held today, the amendment was expected to be placed at the top of the agenda.

Article 14 of the Constitution promises that the "dignity of a man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable." Therefore, a law authorising public killings violates this very spirit.

The Supreme Court in its judgment reported in 1994, SCMR 1028, observed that public hangings even for the worst of criminals violate the right to human dignity as enshrined in Article 14, as well as the right to protection from torture articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, a charter produced by leading Muslim scholars in London in April, 1980. Article 7 of the charter declares that a state is not permitted to torture a criminal, especially a suspect: "God will inflict punishment on those who have inflicted torture in this world."

Then there are past precedents. Last year, in the Dr Kumail Abbas Rizvi vs UOP case, the Supreme Court while discussing Article 14 of the Constitution stated: "The right to dignity was one of the cardinal principles of law and most valuable right, which had to be observed in every civilised society - human dignity, honour and respect was more important than physical comforts and necessities." In another case, Dr M Aslam Khaki vs. Federation of Pakistan, the court emphasised that the Quran "confers human dignity upon every person ... subject to law, the privacy of human being is also inviolable."

There is also no empirical evidence to suggest that capital punishment can act as a deterrent against crime. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries where brutal executions - by beheading, hanging and a firing squad - are a public spectacle. Between January and June 2014, 17 people were executed in Saudi Arabia. In contrast, between January and June 2015, there were 102 executions in total. Nearly 1/2 of the public killings in Saudi Arabia were for drug-related offences, delineating that there were significantly more executions for drug crimes in 2015 than there were in 2014. And that number reportedly increased by 23 % in February 2016 in comparison to the previous year. In addition, the same year, there was a 0.58 % increase in the rate of murder per 100,000 people in the Kingdom, as recorded by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

In 1981, a young boy named Pappu was kidnapped from Lahore. His lifeless body was later recovered from near a pond. General Zia-ul-Haq's regime sentenced the kidnapper and killer to death, who was publicly hanged. The man's body hung in full view for an entire day. Yet, soon afterwards between 1983 and 1992, 11 similar incidents of rape were committed against minors, as young as 4 years of age. 4 of them occurred in Lahore, where Pappu's rapist and killer was killed, according to data from HRCP.

In India in 1985, in the Attorney General of India v Lachma Devi case, the Supreme Court of India struck down a directive for public hanging on the basis that "a barbaric crime does not have to be visited with a barbaric penalty such as [public hanging]."

It can also be argued that public executions have adverse effects on the psycho-social well-being of children. In Iran in 2013, after witnessing a public execution; 2 brothers as young as 12 and 8 years of age went home and performed the same act causing the death of the 12-year-old boy.

The UN Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body of the ICCPR, has stated that "public hangings amount to a violation of human dignity" under the covenant. In 2017, the Government of Pakistan committed to reducing the scope of its death penalty in order to bring it in conformity with international human right standards, in order for it to continue a dialogue with the European Union under the GSP+ mechanism. Keeping this in view, legalising public executions would amount to a clear violation of international commitments.

In addition, public hanging would further aggravate the under-reporting of crimes in these cases. Research has proven that in cases of child sex abuse a significant majority of the perpetrators are family members or are otherwise known to the victim, in the capacity of teachers or neighbours. In such cases, if there is an introduction of public hanging, victims and their families will become even less likely to report these cases in order to avoid public embarrassment pertaining to notions of loss of family honour and virtue being associated with sexual abuse.

Justice isn't being served if the very nature of the punishment is both barbaric and ineffective.

(source: Muhammad Pansota is an advocate of the high court, practising in Lahore----geo.tv)

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1 awarded death sentence, 5 life imprisonment in Mashal Khan murder case

The anti-terrorism court in Abbotabad on Wednesday awarded death sentence to one and 25-year-prison to five others in the Mashal Khan murder case.

The decision, announced by judge Fazal-e-Subhan Khan at Haripur Central Jail, convicted sentenced 25 others under section 297/148/149 PPC to one (1) year R.I and Under section 11-WW ATA, 1997 to 3 years R.I.

The court exonerated 26 out of 57 accused in the Mardan lynching case. "No conclusive evidence is brought on record against them and at the same time they were not found to have played any overt act in the lynching of Mashal Khan whereas though identified in the videos/PFSA report, they could only be seen standing in the mob or making videos therefore they are acquitted of all charges leveled against them and it is directed that they shall be released forthwith if not required in any other case," the judgement reads.

The capital punishment has been awarded to prime accused Imran Sultan under section 302(b) and section 7(1)(a) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) while 5 have been convicted and sentenced to life-imprisonment under section 302(b)/148/149 of PPC.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government announced it will appeal against the acquittal of accused. "The K-P govt will go into an appeal against all those who have been acquitted," a press release issued by the K-P Home Department said. "We will also file an appeal for extreme punishment of those already awarded [life imprisonment]."

Mashal's family unhappy with ATC verdict

Speaking to the media after the verdict was announced, Mashal's mother expressed dissatisfaction over the acquittal of the accused. "It was a pre-mediated murder," she told reporters during a press conference. "They all had come to kill him, then why are some of them set free?"

"The murder was committed in broad-day light, why are we being denied justice?" she asked.

The victim's mother stressed that the accused should be given exemplary punishment to ensure such an incident is not repeated.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah disappointed over verdict

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanullah expressed his disappointment at the ATC verdict. The Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) leader said the K-P government's incompetence in investigating and prosecuting the case had aided accused. He claimed that a worker belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had been freed during the inquiry process.

Earlier, the parents of the arrested suspects staged a protest outside the anti-terrorism court after being prohibited from entering the courtroom before the verdict was announced.

Mashal Khan murder case: ATC to announce verdict on Feb 7

The ATC in Abbottabad reserved its judgment on January 27 in the Mashal Khan murder case after the hearing of the case was completed.

The Peshawar High Court transferred the case from Mardan to ATC Abbottabad, which heard the case in the Haripur jail, on a request of the victim's father, who had sought the move fearing his "influential adversaries".

The ATC started hearing the case back in September after indictment of 57 arrested suspects which included students and staff members of the varsity. It also rejected bail application of arrested men in the case.

Mashal Khan murder: Defence told to explain stance on shifting case

During the course of the hearing, nearly 50 witnesses were presented before the court and recorded their statements. The prosecution lawyers during the trial presented videos clips as alleged evidence that the arrested suspects were involved in lynching Mashal to death.

The 23-year-old, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University, was lynched to death by a mob on allegations of blasphemy on April 13 last year. The brutal incident was videotaped sending shockwaves nationwide, as well as, triggering a debate over the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

(source: The Express Tribune)

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Pakistani Court Convicts 31 Men in Student's Lynching

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death and 30 others to prison terms ranging from 4 to 25 years for their role in the campus lynching of a university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy. 26 other people were acquitted.

In April 2017, the mob comprising mostly students beat and shot to death 23-year-old journalism student Mashal Khan, who was a student at Abdul Wali Khan University. The fatal attack followed allegations he had shared blasphemous content on social media.

A police investigation later established that the accusations were leveled at Khan after he criticized rising school fees and what he alleged was nepotism in teacher appointments.

A mobile phone video of the lynching attack, which was posted on social media, sparked an outcry in and outside of Pakistan, drawing widespread condemnation and refueling concerns over persistent misuse of the blasphemy laws.

Students, teachers and employees were among the 57 people rounded up with the help of the online video and CCTV footage from the university. Late last year, a court indicted the detainees, although they all pleaded not guilty. 4 others remain at large.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where insulting Islam or its Prophet Muhammad can carry the death penalty. No one has ever been executed under blasphemy laws in Pakistan, but mere allegations have provoked dozens of mob lynchings.

Salman Taseer, the governor of the most populous province of Punjab, was assassinated in 2011 by his official bodyguard after calling for the laws to be reformed. Taseer's assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was later tried and executed by hanging. Qadri has been hailed as a martyr by religious fundamentalists in Pakistan.

The federal law minister, Zahid Hamid, resigned late last year under pressure from a religiously-motivated rally over allegations he committed blasphemy by trying to alter the electoral oath declaring the Prophet Muhammad as God's final prophet.

(source: Voice of America News)

INDONESIA:

Death-row Indonesian kingpin ran drug ring from prison: Police

A jailed Indonesian drug lord facing execution ran a meth-and-ecstasy ring from behind bars, police said Thursday (Feb 8), as officials announced his narcotics network had been smashed.

A dozen people were arrested as police said they seized nearly 111kg of methamphetamine and more than 18,000 pills of ecstasy in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces.

Convicted drug kingpin Togiman, also known as Toge, ran the group from prison, despite already having been sentenced to death twice for narcotics trafficking, police said, adding that the ring had links to Malaysian organised crime.

"The mastermind was Togiman," said Sulistiandriatmoko, spokesman for Indonesia's anti-drugs agency.

"He must have had many other accomplices. (The suspects are) probably just the first few that we have caught. We'll investigate this further and coordinate with international anti-narcotics (agencies) if needed."

Togiman, who is in his early 60s, will be charged with drug trafficking, officials said, adding that it would be up to the courts to decide whether he should face another death sentence.

The 12 arrested suspects have been charged with drug trafficking and could face execution or life in prison.

Togiman was already in jail when he was again convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death for the 2nd time last year. It is not known when Togiman might be executed

It was also unclear how he was able to operate a criminal network while incarcerated, but corruption-riddled Indonesia's prisons are known for rampant crime.

"50 % of drug trafficking is being done from inside prisons," Budi Waseso, head of the anti-drugs agency, told reporters.

Last year, the government vowed to jail guards caught taking bribes from inmates in exchange for special treatment.

In one of the highest profile cases, a businesswoman jailed for corruption was found with banned items in her cell, including a spring mattress, couch, refrigerator, television and air conditioning.

Indonesia has some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws. Several foreign and Indonesian nationals have been executed by firing squad in recent years for drug trafficking, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in 2015, a case that sparked diplomatic outrage and a call to abolish the penalty.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has said the country is facing a "drug emergency" and previously ordered police to shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

IRAN:

HRW Calls On Iran To Stop Executing Child Offenders

Human Rights Watch has called on Iran to stop executing child offenders after 3 people were put to death in January for crimes they committed as minors.

In a February 7 statement, the New York-based rights group said "Iran should immediately and unconditionally end the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children under age 18, and move toward a complete ban on capital punishment."

The statement detailed the executions of three Iranian detainees in January.

Amirhossein Pourjafar, aged 18 when he was executed on January 4 in Karaj prison near Tehran, had been sentenced to death on charges that he raped and murdered a 3-year-old girl when he was 16.

The execution of 22-year old Ali Kazemi occurred on January 30 - 7 years after he was convicted of fatally stabbed a man dead in a street fight at the age of 15.

Iranian authorities also executed 20-year-old Mahboubeh Mofidi on January 30.

Mofidi -- a child bride at the age of 13 -- was convicted of murdering her husband when she was 17 years old.

Human Rights Watch said Iran is "1 of only 4 countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013."

It said other countries that have done so include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Amnesty International says at least 90 people have been executed in Iran since 2005 for crimes committed when they were minors.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

FEBRUARY 7, 2018:

TEXAS:

New punishment trial begins for convicted murderer Stanley Griffin

Convicted murderer Stanley Lamar Griffin returned Tuesday to a Brazos County courtroom where a 2nd jury will hear punishment testimony to decide his fate -- a hearing that comes almost 6 years after he was sentenced to death for killing a single mother and injuring her son.

The retrial for the punishment phase was ordered in 2016 by the state's highest court after deciding that the slaying of the 29-year-old College Station woman and the attack on her 9-year-old son didn't meet the standard required for a death penalty case.

The jurors heard Tuesday from 14 witnesses called by the prosecution, many of whom testified about Griffin's tendency toward aggression and violence. Among them was Jodie Piacente, whom Griffin was convicted of attacking in 1990. He served 13 years of a 20-year sentence in prison for the crime before moving to the Bryan-College Station area.

Griffin was arrested in September 2010 after authorities found Jennifer Marie Hailey dead in her apartment off Pedernales Drive. Her son knew the suspect and identified him by name to police later that morning; DNA evidence tied Griffin to the crime scene, according to testimony in the 1st trial.

In that 2012 trial, Griffin was found guilty of capital murder in the strangling death of Hailey and for choking and stabbing her son with a garden trowel after killing her. That ruling was overturned when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals voted 6-3 that there was not enough evidence to prove capital murder.

Such a conviction requires the state to prove that Griffin killed a person while also committing another felony, such as kidnapping, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson or burglary. Capital cases don't allow for aggravated assaults, injury to a child or attempted murder as the secondary crime. Prosecutors argued in the 1st trial that Griffin had effectively kidnapped the boy by ordering him to his room.

The sentencing retrial will determine how long Griffin will spend in prison. The 52-year-old faces between 5 years to life in prison.

Brazos County First Assistant District Attorney Brian Baker told jurors in his opening statement that they would be seeking the maximum sentence -- life behind bars.

"We're going to ask you [the jury] to protect anyone and everyone in this man's path," said Baker, outlining decades of consistent violent behavior exhibited by Griffin.

Griffin's defense declined to make an opening statement, reserving the right to do so after the state wraps up its case.

Piacente, who was the 1st to testify Tuesday, said she first met Griffin in Webster, Texas, as a neighbor and acquaintance of her then-boyfriend. Shortly after that boyfriend moved out of the apartment where she and her 2 children lived, Piacente said she was awakened in the middle of the night to find Griffin standing over her. She said he told her he noticed her door was open and came inside to make sure everything was OK.

As she was walking him out, Piacente said Griffin went to the kitchen, and she noticed the living room window had been shattered. Piacente said he returned with a knife, which she managed to knock away before he began to choke her. After a struggle, and with the assistance of her son, who distracted Griffin, Piacente was able to escape and alert police to the attack.

The 10-woman, 3-man jury -- 1 is an alternate -- also heard from Andrea Calixte, whom Griffin dated for the more than 5 years leading up to Hailey's death, and her son, Jordan Maupin, with whom Griffin often clashed.

During the several years of their on-and-off relationship, Calixte said there were several instances of verbal abuse and a few physical altercations -- 1 of which resulted in a broken tooth and cut lip after she said Griffin pushed her down and she fell into a clay pot. Griffin was arrested and served several months in jail for the offense, after which Calixte said she was convinced to give him another chance.

Calixte said Griffin told her on multiple occasions during the relationship that he would kill both her and her children if she ever left him.

Maupin, who was a teen at the time Griffin and his mother were in a relationship, said in his testimony he had an adversarial relationship with Griffin. He testified that Griffin was frequently verbally -- and occasionally physically -- abusive toward him. In what he said was Griffin's first instance of violence toward him, Maupin said the man choked him and briefly lifted him off the ground by his neck. Maupin said he tried to tell his mother about the abuse, but it was dismissed at the time; Calixte testified that she does not remember being told of any violent incidents until later in the relationship.

Eventually, Calixte said she was able to save up enough money to rent her own apartment without Griffin's knowledge, and get herself and children away from him in the months leading up to Hailey's slaying.

3 corrections officers who worked at the Huntsville prison while Griffin was an inmate in the mid to late '90s, a Brazos County Sheriff's deputy who has assisted in his transport from the jail to the courthouse, and 1 of his parole officers from the mid-2000s, also testified Tuesday to his illicit and often violent behavior, as well as what Baker described as the man's many opportunities to reform.

Examples cited included Griffin's verbal sexual harassment of a corrections officer and the sheriff's deputy, both of whom are women; his propositioning of another corrections officer to smuggle in cigarettes and drugs; and an instance of Griffin fighting with other inmates.

During the parole officer's testimony, she and the state prosecutors walked through criminal offenses -- including arrests for assault involving family violence and interfering with an emergency call to authorities -- for which his parole was not revoked and he was given another shot at probation.

Jurors also heard testimony from the first officer who arrived on scene after the crime, Hailey's co-worker and best friend at the time -- with whom Griffin lived for more than a week after his split with Calixte -- and Hailey's oldest brother, Jason Hailey, who was the 1st person to find the victim and her son before police arrived.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. today in District Judge Steve Smith's courtroom at the Brazos County Courthouse, 300 E. 26th St. Hailey's now-teenage son is expected to be among those who take the stand.

(source: The Eagle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Trial to begin for accused killer of St. Clair police officer

Opening statements in the capital murder trial of a New Florence man charged with killing St. Clair police Officer Lloyd Reed in 2015 will begin Thursday morning.

A jury of 6 men and 6 women, along with 4 alternates, were empaneled Tuesday afternoon to hear evidence in the case against Ray A. Shetler Jr., 33, who could face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Shetler is accused of gunning down Reed, 54, of Somerset County on Nov. 28, 2015, as he responded to a domestic call from Shetler's girlfriend.

Westmoreland County Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said a potential winter storm predicted to hit the region overnight and into Wednesday prompted her to push back the start of the trial until Thursday.

Jury selection was completed Tuesday after prosecutors and defense attorney Mark Daffner questioned prospective panelists for a 2nd day. 8 jurors were chosen Monday.

The final 4 jurors and 4 alternates were selected from a new pool of 75 prospective panelists called to court Tuesday.

Opening statements and testimony will start Thursday.

District Attorney John Peck said weather and scheduling issues are likely to postpone until Friday a planned trip to take jurors to the murder scene on Ligonier Street as well as a location near the Conemaugh River where Shetler is accused of discarding the suspected gun he used in the shooting.

Peck has cited the fact that Reed was shot in the line of duty as the aggravating circumstance making the case eligible for the death penalty.

The trial is expected to take about 2 weeks.

(source: triblive.com)

GEORGIA:

He faces the death penalty for killing 2 cops. Is it because they were white?

Though it is more than a year from going to trial, the death penalty case against a Peach County electrician accused of gunning down a pair of sheriff's deputies there took an interesting and unusual turn this week.

The alleged killer's defense team raised questions - be they valid in this case or not - about violent crime, race and how it is that prosecutors deem it necessary to seek the ultimate punishment for murderers in some cases and not in others.

In Macon alone - where prosecutors have seldom pursued capital punishment in the last 3 decades - since the beginning of 2013, of the 100 or so homicide victims, more than 80 have been black. None of those cases has generated a death-penalty prosecution.

Only 1 Bibb case - the 2012 slaying of legal secretary Gail Spencer, a white woman - led the DA's office to seek the death penalty against 2 of her killers. The pair later pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life without parole. The other case in the Macon circuit that has prompted death-penalty prosecution is the one at hand, in which Peach sheriff's deputies Daryl Smallwood and Patrick Sondron were attacked on Nov. 6, 2016.

As pretrial proceedings in Fort Valley wound down late Monday afternoon, one of the lawyers for Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., the man who allegedly shot and fatally wounded Smallwood and Sondron in his yard on the outskirts of Byron, called Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke to the stand.

By then, defense lawyers in the case, which is set to go on trial in the spring of next year, had begun winding down their arguments in a string of pretrial motions. Their arguments, part of the oft-arduous, necessary and sometimes-years-long process of making sure a capital case is ready for trial, centered on a number of matters. Some were routine. Others were not.

On Monday, Elrod's defense team spent more than half an hour citing 65 murder indictments in cases that Cooke's offices in Peach, Crawford and Bibb counties have sought since January 2013, when Cooke became the DA. The victims in those cases were mostly black people.

When Cooke was called to the stand to presumably answer questions about the apparent disparity, the state objected to having him testify.

"This was sprung on me at the last minute, without any notice," Cooke told Judge Edgar W. Ennis Jr.

When proceedings resumed about midday Tuesday, prosecutors again balked at having Cooke testify. They argued that he cannot be compelled to testify in the matter or be forced to defend a decision to pursue capital punishment, and that the reasons for seeking death in Elrod's case are akin to others in which cops were attacked and killed in "unprovoked, cold-blooded" assaults.

Prosecutors also cited one of the statutory aggravating circumstances that allow the state to seek the death penalty, that being the slaying of police officers in the line of duty.

Hogue, however, insisted that, at least in part, "this case is based on the race of the victims."

"I've got over 50 other indictments which also had statutory aggravating circumstances, but for which he did not seek the death penalty," Hogue went on. "Might (the reason) be the race of the victim?"

Hogue said that 'in no way" was he suggesting that Cooke should seek the death penalty more often.

"We're happy that he seeks it as seldom as he does," Hogue said.

He also said the defense team was in no way diminishing "the worth of those 2 police officers" with their argument.

"We say," Hogue said, "that it's unconstitutional to value the lives of any victims in a murder case more or less than others."

The judge will likely rule on the motions when hearings resume in early April.

(source: macon.com)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Supreme Court denies stay of student killer's execution

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected a request for a stay of the Feb. 22 execution of death row inmate Eric Scott Branch, who was convicted of murdering a University of West Florida student in 1993.

Branch's attorneys filed the request for a stay last week as they appealed an issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court did not detail its reasons for denying the stay in a 1-sentence order.

Branch was sentenced to death in the sexual assault and murder of student Susan Morris.

Gov. Rick Scott last month scheduled Branch's execution for Feb. 22.

The request for a stay involved an issue related to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002.

That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida's death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

Branch and dozens of other death row inmates who were sentenced to death before the Ring decision argued that the new unanimity requirements should also apply retroactively to their cases.

But the Florida Supreme Court has rejected those arguments. In seeking the stay of execution, Branch's attorneys wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court "will be inundated in the coming months" with challenges to the Florida Supreme Court's refusal to apply the new sentencing requirements to inmates such as Branch.

Meanwhile, Branch's attorneys have sought a stay on other legal issues but were turned down last week by an Escambia County circuit judge.

They appealed that decision Monday to the Florida Supreme Court.

(source: news4jax.com)

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

Bill to expand the number of retroactive death penalty cases advances

A proposal to expand the number of prisoners on death row who could have their sentences reviewed by a jury was approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

The issue dates back to early 2016, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death penalty was unconstitutional, as it allowed judges to make the final decision on sending a prison to death row. The Supreme Court had ruled similarly in an Arizona case in 2002.

That ruling compelled the Legislature to rewrite its sentencing laws, with the current law now requiring a unanimous jury verdict for the state to impose a death sentence.

The question following the high court's decision was how many of the several hundred people on death row in Florida would be able to appeal their sentences. The Florida Supreme Court answered that question in December of 2016, when it ruled 6-1 that death sentences finalized before that June 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona case would remain in effect.

Former Justice James Perry was the lone dissenter, writing that all death row inmates should have their sentences changed to life in prison. Justice Barbara Pariente agreed with Perry that the ruling should apply retroactively to all death row inmates, but said they should be entitled only to a rehearing, not guaranteed a lesser sentence, the Miami Herald reported.

The proposal from Ocoee Democrat Randolph Bracy (SB 870) would do just that.

"It's just a matter of justice," Bracy told Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean when asked why the need for a law after the Supreme Court had weighed in already.

Bracy, the chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, added that the June 24, 2002 cutoff date for death sentence reviews was arbitrary. "I think they should have the right to get a sentence reviewed again, just as the ones after that date are able to," he told Bean.

Adding his voice in support of the bill was St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, who said it the right and fair thing to do.

While the bill now advances in the Senate, it has yet to get a sponsor in the House.

(source: Florida Politics)

ALABAMA:

Capital murder trial starts for suspect in 2015 crime spree, co-defendant pleads guilty

A jury will spend the next several days listening to witnesses and attorneys as they determine the fate of Cortez Mitchell.

The 19-year-old is one of 4 young men police say gunned down Antonio Hernandez, 27, and Joshua Davis, 25. During their crime spree, police say they also committed multiple armed robberies. Mitchell, as well as Amani Goodwin, Cedric Cowan, and Joseph Cowan were arrested in May 2015, all charged with 11 felonies, including capital murder.

The 4 were between ages 16-20 at the time of the violent acts, and have all been denied youthful offender status.

Mitchell's trial was first to be scheduled, starting Monday. He pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect. During his youthful offender hearing, a psychologist testified his IQ was 70 and he has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.

1 of the co-defendants has accepted a plea deal.

Amani Goodwin entered a guilty plea to 2 counts of felony murder and 3 counts of 1st degree robbery.Goodwin was sentenced to life sentences on each felony murder count and 20 years for each robbery count. All sentences will run concurrently.

If convicted by jury, Goodwin would not be eligible for parole. Due to the court accepting his plea deal, he will be eligible for parole in the future.

In exchange for the pleas, he has to testify against the co-defendants, Cortez Mitchell and brothers Joseph and Cedric Cowan. The trials for the Cowan brothers, who will be tried separately, have not yet been scheduled.

Prosecutors say if Joseph Cowan is convicted, they will pursue the death penalty. He's the only one eligible for the death penalty because he was 20 at the time of the killings while the others were minors.

(source: WHNT news)

MISSISSIPPI:

Death penalty vacated in 2005 capital murder case

A Mooreville man has spent the last 2 months in the Lee County Jail, waiting to see if he will return to the death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, his home for the past decade.

William Matthew Wilson, 37, pleaded guilty to capital murder in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter and was sentenced to death in May 2007 by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gardner.

In December 2017, special appointed judge Larry Roberts granted Wilson's petition for post-conviction relief in Lee County Circuit Court and threw out the death sentence, citing ineffective counsel. The guilty plea and conviction stand.

District Attorney John Weddle is now trying to decide whether to present the case to a jury to reconsider the death penalty. Without a new sentencing hearing, Wilson will be sentenced by default to life without parole.

"We expect to make a decision in the next week or so," Weddle said. "We wouldn't have to try the case again, since he pleaded. But we would have to collect a lot of information and present it to a jury before they could make a decision."

Wilson was brought to Lee County 2 months ago when the case returned to circuit court. He will remain in the county jail until the case is settled.

One thing the DA has to consider is whether or not the special judge would preside over a new sentencing hearing. Since the PCR petition alleged ineffective counsel by local attorneys, the local judges recused themselves.

Wilson admitted to authorities that Malorie Conlee, 2, would not stop crying on the night of April 28, 2005. He punched the child in the head with his fist 3 times. Even though the child was unresponsive and "didn't look right," Wilson did not seek medical attention for the child for more than 8 hours.

The guilty plea and death sentence were upheld by the state supreme court on direct appeal in 2009.

In his PCR petition in circuit court, Wilson argued that his public defenders William Bristow and James P. Johnstone rarely talked with him about his case.

"Trial counsel failed to visit or otherwise properly communicate with Mr. Wilson ion any significant manner during the approximately 18 months leading up to his first attempt to plead guilty to the charge of capital murder," Judge Roberts wrote in his December 2017 judgement.

The judge said the attorneys also failed to prepare for the penalty phase and had no experts to testify as to mitigating factors to keep Wilson from being sentenced to death.

"Most telling, however, is the trial counsel's failure to have researched the sentencing history of Judge Gardner in similar situations where a jury had been waived in the penalty phase of a capital case," Roberts wrote.

Gardner presided over 2 similar cases and sentenced both to death. 1 of Wilson's attorneys was on the legal team of 1 of the previous cases but never explained Gardner's history to Wilson.

(source: Daily Journal)

IOWA:

Senate committee to ponder capital punishment

Death-penalty proponents in the Iowa Senate are pushing for a limited deterrent aimed at protecting children, peace officers and communities from terrorist attacks or heinous acts of violence.

A 5-member Senate Judiciary subcommittee is slated to take up a measure next week that would reinstate capital punishment in situations where someone aged 18 or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor, kills a peace officer in the line of duty or commits an intentional act in which 2 or more people are killed.

"My personal belief is that there are some instances out there of pure evil," said Republican Sen. Dan Dawson, a Council Bluffs peace officer who is a subcommittee member and supporter the bill. "Those people will always be evil, and we have to have a penalty for them to address those exceptional instances."

The bill calls for a 2-tiered process whereby an accused perpetrator deemed mentally competent is tried before a jury or judge. If convicted of a capital offense, a second, separate review would be conducted to determine if the person should be put to death via lethal injection.

The bill has enough votes to advance in the Senate but the overall fate of the death-penalty issue is uncertain, given that a broader reinstatement has stalled in the House.

In a related development Tuesday, the 4 bishops of Iowa voiced their opposition to the death penalty.

"We speak in opposition to the use of the death penalty in any form and to its possible reinstatement in Iowa," according to a joint statement from Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels, Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless and Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates issued through the Iowa Catholic Conference.

(source: The Gazette)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Death Penalty Bill Advances

As of last Friday, the 2018 Legislature has now finished 16 out of the 39 days scheduled for this year's session. South Dakota used to have a short session and a long session, but now the maximum allowed for all sessions is 40 days except for special sessions.

A week ago was the deadline for unlimited bill introduction but a limited number of bills could still be introduced. By Monday, Feb. 5, we should find out exactly how many bills have been introduced but I have heard that it is going to be a record high number. Then we will have to see whether we can get all of those bills heard and considered by the house of the legislature where they started by "cross-over" day, which is Feb. 23 this year.

This week was the annual South Dakota National Guard Dining Out, a formal banquet to which all of the legislators are invited. It is a dazzling display of formal military uniforms and gowns but it is also a serious opportunity to honor our South Dakota National Guardsmen and women. It was pointed out to us that of all the National Guard units in the entire United States who received Superior Unit awards last year, two-thirds of them were South Dakota units.

2 of the bills on which I was one of the prime sponsors have been passed by 1 house and gone over to the other house.

HB 1123 forbids applying the death penalty to persons who are severely mentally ill. I worked with the prime sponsor in the House to make sure that it was very clearly written so that it would only apply to persons who can clearly demonstrate a history of severe mental illness. I testified in favor of this bill before the House Committee and was pleased to see that it passed the House on Friday. It will still have to be heard by a Senate Committee and on the floor of the Senate.

(source: Sen. Arthur Rusch R-District 17 (Vermillion) ---- YanktonDaiy Press & Dakotan)

NEW MEXICO:

Legislature should say no to death penalty bill

As a former volunteer chaplain on Virginia's death row, I strongly oppose HB 155 and the attempt to bring back the death penalty to New Mexico. I write from personal experience that this terrible act of killing on the part of the state does not deter murder. It has never been possible to administer the death penalty without error or bias.

In fact, during my short tenure of 5 years, 1980 to 1985, 2 men out of 24 on Virginia's death row were found to be innocent after having been condemned to death--and a 3rd was exonerated a few years later. Moreover I deeply believe, based upon evidence, that of the 24 at least another 2 or 3 were not guilty of capital murder. That's coming close to an error rate of 25% on innocence, the highest standard.

By the time that "generation" of prisoners had gone through the system, six of them had their sentences commuted to life, primarily due to doubts about the legal handling of their cases.

But what about errors in trial procedure and judicial error at the national level? A study by the Columbia School of Law revealed that the appellate courts found judicial or trial error in 68% of death penalty cases and either threw them out or sent them back to the lower court for retrial or rehearing. Of these, 7% were found to be entirely innocent, 75% were sentenced to less than death, and 18% were resentenced to the death penalty.

New Mexico would be no better. Our state is already strapped for funds for criminal defense let alone other aspects of its criminal justice system. How could it possibly match with funds the resources of the government prosecutorial side? The end of the process is justice--not a statistical slap on the back. The death penalty takes enormous resources away from protecting our citizens from the very crimes it purports to defend us from. It costs far more than life imprisonment. And it drains funds that could go to police protection, drug treatment and prevention, alcoholism treatment and mental health--all of which are implicated in the crimes for which capital murder becomes a label.

Believe me, having worked to help men on death row take moral responsibility for their crimes so that they could die as moral souls before God, I know that they did not consider the possibility of the death penalty--not for one second--before committing their crimes. They were driven by other things, often drugs and mental illness, and the full range of human surges of emotion out of control. They did not calculate and thus did not consider consequences--least of all the odds that some prosecutor would opt for a capital murder charge versus a 1st degree charge without the death penalty for the same act.

Surveys of leading criminologists agree with my experiences. For example, in a 2009 survey by the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 87% of criminologists agreed that the death penalty does not deter murder. Furthermore, states with the death penalty consistently have higher murder rates than those without it.

This bill is not about protecting our citizens or making us safe. It's about electioneering and political ambition.

Don't fall for it. Write your state legislator today and tell him or her to vote it down.

(source: Chuck Barrett worked as a professional in the D.C. Department of Corrections, the D.C. Pretrial Justice system, the ACLU National Prison Project, and was founder and director of the Community Justice Ministry of the National Capital Area during the 1970s and 1980s. He served as a volunteer chaplain on Virginia's death row from 1980 to 1985----Las Cruces Sun-News)

UTAH:

Utah lawmaker wants extensive study of death penalty costs vs. life without parole sentence

A state lawmaker wants a more in-depth study of how much it costs for capital punishment in Utah, and to determine whether it's cheaper to instead give a prisoner a life sentence.

House Bill 70 would request legislative auditors to do a study of death penalty costs, including the amount of money spent by law enforcement, courts and others when a defendant's execution is sought.

Legislative analysts in 2012 estimated that a death sentence and decades of appeals costs $1.6 million more than a life-without-parole sentence. But bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said that study was "very brief" and did not include many of the costs incurred by state and county personnel.

If HB70 passes, he said Tuesday during a House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, it would likely mean auditors would study the issue in-depth for nine or 10 months.

"You can be pro [death penalty] or you can be con," he said Tuesday. "You don't have to worry about that. All we're talking about here is a fact-finding process."

A state lawmaker wants a more in-depth study of how much it costs for capital punishment in Utah, and to determine whether it's cheaper to instead give a prisoner a life sentence.

House Bill 70 would request legislative auditors to do a study of death penalty costs, including the amount of money spent by law enforcement, courts and others when a defendantís execution is sought.

Legislative analysts in 2012 estimated that a death sentence and decades of appeals costs $1.6 million more than a life-without-parole sentence. But bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said that study was "very brief" and did not include many of the costs incurred by state and county personnel.

If HB70 passes, he said Tuesday during a House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, it would likely mean auditors would study the issue in-depth for 9 or 10 months.

"You can be pro [death penalty] or you can be con," he said Tuesday. "You don't have to worry about that. All we're talking about here is a fact-finding process."

The bill passed out of the committee on Tuesday with little debate, and will now move forward for consideration by the entire House.

Handy proposed a similar bill last year to study death penalty costs, he said, but time ran out during the legislative session before it could be considered by state senators.

Utah legislators came close to abolishing the death penalty altogether in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

ARIZONA:

Trial Begins for Arizona Inmate Accused of Killing Cellmate

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for an Arizona inmate if he's found guilty of killing his cellmate in a Florence prison in 2011.

The Florence Reminder and Blade-Tribune reports the 1st-degree murder trial began Monday for Zachary Eggers, who is charged in the death of 25-year-old Jeremy Pompeneo.

Prosecutor Vince Goddard told the court that Eggers ambushed Pompeneo inside the cell, killing him after several punches and smashing his head into a wall.

Eggers' attorney Bret Huggins argued the death was not premeditated, noting there were no conflicts between the 2 men documented.

Eggers was serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2005 of killing his parents near Douglas.

Pompeneo was also serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend in 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Spokane Serial Killer Bob Yates Was Sentenced to Death Almost 20 Years Ago, Here's Why He's Still Alive

Serial killer Robert Lee "Bob" Yates committed some of the most gruesome murders Washington has ever seen. The quiet husband and father's 18 slayings were so horrible that he was sentenced to death. Yet, somehow, nearly 20 years after sentencing, he's still rotting away in Washington State Penitentiary.

Yates made a habit of picking up young female prostitutes in the "Skid Row" area of Spokane, WA, having sex with them, and then murdering them. He admitted he did this to 13 women from 1996 to 1998. All 13 women were found dumped around the rural town, with a precise gunshot wound to their head. This clearly pointed to Bob's history in the military, where he spent 18 years and won several medals of honor.

Yates was nearly caught when a woman he assaulted, shot, and robbed escaped him and went to police in 1998. 1 month later, he was asked for a DNA sample, but insisted that as a "family man," he couldn't oblige such an extreme request. 2 years later in 2002, he was arrested in connection with another murder. At that time police searched his car, finding DNA evidence to link him to 12 more slayings.

Thanks to a plea bargain, Yates escaped the death penalty for the 13 murders, instead getting 408 years in prison. The death penalty finally came in 2002 when he was charged with another 2 killings in Pierce County. He has also since confessed to 2 Walla Walla murders in 1975 and another in 1988 in Skagit County. Even with a grand total of 18 murders under his belt, Yates felt that he should not receive the lethal injection he was sentenced to. He has claimed that he's a necrophiliac, and it was the fault of his mental illness that he committed the crimes. Though his appeals keep failing, he is still alive thanks to the fact that Washington Governor Jay Inslee refuses to sign any death orders while he's in office. So here we are, nearly 20 years after Yates first went to prison, and he's still alive and well in jail.

(source: intouchweekely.com)

GAZA:

Palestine Pulse----Palestinian family executes son suspected of spying for Israel

The Barhoum family executed one of its own sons, Ahmed Said Barhoum, Jan. 19 in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah.

The family accused him of providing the Israeli military with information that led to the assassination of 3 leaders from Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing. Israeli warplanes struck the city of Rafah on Aug. 28, 2014, during the Israeli war on Gaza, killing the three men in addition to 5 civilians, based on information provided by Ahmed, according to his family.

The family said in a statement on Jan. 19, "We, the family, will gladly punish [Ahmed] to avenge the heroic martyrs and honor the rights of their families."

The statement continued, "The family followed the investigation from the moment Ahmed was arrested by Palestinian security forces. We have listened to his confession and examined the tools he used to communicate with the Israeli enemy."

The family said, "We advise all families who find themselves in the same position as we have to cooperate with the resistance forces."

No Hamas leader would comment to Al-Monitor, but the movement did praise the execution in a statement published by Hamas-affiliated al-Resalah on Jan. 19: "The Islamic resistance movement Hamas in Rafah appreciates the measures this family of martyrs and mujahedeen, the Barhoum family, has taken to punish Ahmed for his crimes."

Gaza's public prosecutor Ziauddin al-Madhoun also declined to comment on the execution. Al-Monitor contacted Muhammad Faraj al-Ghoul, head of the legal committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council and a Hamas member, who simply said, "I do not want to comment on this issue."

That Hamas' legal leadership is refusing to comment suggests that there are internal differences within Hamas over the extrajudicial execution of accused spies.

Several local human rights organizations condemned the execution. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in a statement issued Jan. 21, "Anyone involved in working with Israel must be tried before the official judiciary, which guarantees justice and rejects individual or organizational punishment." Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is working to abolish the death penalty altogether.

Issam Younis, director of Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights whose father and stepmother were killed during the Israeli attack, told Al-Monitor, "Any execution should ultimately be implemented by virtue of a court order if the law permits it. No unofficial party can carry out an execution on its own." Younis stressed that the judiciary is the only party charged with implementing the law. He added, "No arrest or detention can be made except through the provisions of the law, regardless of the type of crime."

Younis added, "The crime of collaborating with the Israeli occupation is the most serious type of crimes, and the law classifies it as a major crime that requires a severe punishment, which can be the death penalty. But the important thing is that the provisions of the law are implemented by the appropriate authority through the courts. Justice is not revenge."

Imad Dweik, director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, "We strongly condemn Ahmed's execution by his family, and we consider it a murder outside the scope of the law. The official bodies must investigate the execution that took place. We are not against holding spies accountable, but it needs to be done according to the law, with a fair trial to give the accused the right to defend himself."

He noted that Ahmed had been detained for at least 2 months by al-Qassam Brigades before his family announced he had been executed, adding, "We consider his detention to be a form of forced disappearance and kidnapping."

Dweik said,"We have approached the prosecutor's office and other official bodies in the Gaza Strip to investigate Ahmed's execution. I do not expect them to do anything about it, but we did discuss with official bodies in the Gaza Strip the importance of standing against the unlawful execution of spies since it disrupts domestic peace in Gaza and violates human rights."

Hamas alarmed human rights groups when it executed a number of spies following the 2014 war. The concern was not only over the lack of fair trial, but also over the informal executions outside the scope of the official Palestinian legal institutions.

Abdullah Abdullah, Fatah leader and head of the PLC's political committee, told Al-Monitor, "The law governs all Palestinian territories, and what happened was outside the framework of the law. We are against any party taking action on its own and playing the judiciary's role in implementing the law."

According to Palestinian law, the courts can issue death sentences, but they can only be carried out with presidential approval, which has not been granted since 2005. All the death sentences carried out so far since the 2007 Palestinian division have been in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Taha, law professor at al-Isra University, told Al-Monitor, "The family is not a civil nor a military or political institution, and it is not entitled to run the Palestinian public affairs. This execution is highly unacceptable, especially in Palestine, which is in the midst of achieving a political entity and establishing a state."

Taha added, "The family cannot claim any authority whatsoever, and we should avoid families [taking extrajudicial action] to prove their nationalism. This is an effort [to demonstrate] nationalism on the Barhoum family's part. A spy's family usually makes a statement disowning him and lets the judiciary take action."

(source: Moath al-Amoudi is a Palestinian writer who has been working as a journalist for 8 years, specializing in public issues. He holds a master's degree from the Islamic University and worked for several Palestinian and foreign media outlets. He participated in researching a book called "The Palestinian Prisoners," which was published in several languages, by preparing a range of interviews and documentaries with a number of Palestinian decision-makers and leaders, and conducted a series of investigative journalism surveys----al-monitor.com)

IRAN:

3 Children Executed in January

Iran executed at least 3 child offenders across the country in January 2018, Human Rights Watch said. Iran should immediately and unconditionally end the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children under age 18, and move toward a complete ban on capital punishment.

On January 4, authorities in Karaj prison executed Amirhossein Pourjafar for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl when he was 16. On January 30, authorities in Bushehr prison, in southern Iran, executed Ali Kazemi for a murder he allegedly committed when he was 15. On the same day, in Nowshahr prison in northern Iran, authorities executed Mahboubeh Mofidi, who was married when she was 13, for the alleged murder of her husband in 2014, when she was 17.

"Iran seems intent on erasing any positive impression gained from modest reforms to its drug execution laws last year by hanging several child offenders in a bloody start to 2018," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "When will Iran's judiciary actually carry out its alleged mission, ensuring justice, and end this deplorable practice of executing children?"

On January 30, the Imam Ali Society, a local nongovernmental group that focuses on saving children from death row, reported that Kazemi, who was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a man during a street fight 7 years ago, was executed in Bushehr prison in Bushehr province. The group said that he was executed even though the authorities had promised to try to halt the execution.

Amnesty International reported that, on the morning of January 30, prison authorities called to reassure the family that the execution had not taken place. However, at midday, Kazemi's family found out that the execution had just been carried out.

Mofidi was 20 when authorities executed her on January 30 in Nowshahr prison in Mazandaran province. Human Rights Watch confirmed Modifi's date of birth - May 18, 1997 - through reviewing copies of her national identification card and her death certificate.

Pourjafar, who was 18 when he was executed, told Shargh newspaper on December 30, 2017, that he was under influence of alcohol when he committed the crime. Mojtaba Farahbakhsh, Pourjafar's lawyer, told the newspaper that Pourjafar had signs of a "conduct disorder" and had been hospitalized in a mental health center during his detention. Despite these circumstances, the authorities pushed ahead with carrying out the death penalty.

Iran is 1 of only 4 countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013. The others are Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Gaza has also executed children. Iran is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans executing child offenders.

Iran's 2013 penal code amendments prohibit executing child offenders for certain categories of crimes, including drug-related offenses. For other serious crimes, article 91 of the amended code allows judges to use their discretion and not issue a death sentence against a child who was not able to comprehend the nature and consequences of the crime at the time. The amended law also allows the courts to rely on "the opinion of a forensic doctor or other means it deems appropriate" to establish whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions.

However, Iranian courts have continued to sentence children to death after these amendments became law. From 2014 to the end of 2017, Iran executed at least 25 people for crimes committed when they were children, according to Amnesty International and Iran Human Rights.

Shahriar Khoramdel, Kazemi's lawyer, told Human Rights Watch on February 1 that judges at the court of first instance and the supreme court refused to send Kazemi to forensic doctors for an examination to assess his ability to comprehend the nature of his crime.

Since 2012, Human Rights Watch has called on the Iranian government to amend its penal code to impose an absolute prohibition on the death penalty for child offenders, as required by international law. Human Rights Watch has also called on Iran's judiciary to impose an immediate moratorium on executions due to the serious concerns regarding due process violations leading to the implementation of the death penalty, and to move toward abolishing capital punishment. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment.

"Iranian authorities often claim they are treated 'unfairly' by the international community for their human rights record, but they only hurt their case when they have the shameful distinction of leading the world in executions for crimes committed by children," Whitson said.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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Iran Executions: The Newlywed Bride's Case; A Review

Last week a juvenile offender named Mahbubeh Mofidi, who was sentenced to death on the charge of murdering her husband, was executed at Noshahr Prison. The so-called "17-year-old newly-wed" was the 3rd juvenile offender executed in January 2018.

According to a close source, on the morning of Tuesday, January 30, Mahbubeh Mofidi was hanged at Noshahr Prison (Northern Iran). She was convicted of murdering her husband with the help of her brother-in-law on December 17, 2013. Based on information from a close source she was born on May 18, 1997, and thus less than 17 years old at the time of committing the alleged murder.

In 2014, a couple of months after the murder, when the result of forensic toxicology was issued, Mahbubeh was arrested. She reportedly confessed to the murder with the help of her brother-in-law with an intent to marry each other.

At that time, the Prosecutor of Noshahr had said in an interview with the official media: "The woman was arrested, and she confessed to the murder with the help of one of her relatives. She said that she fell in love with her brother-in-law after her marriage and they finally decided to get married". The Prosecutor continued, "The victim's brother carried out the plan and provided aluminium phosphide in capsules, and his wife made him take the pills which resulted in his death."

One of Mahbubeh Mofidi's relatives on condition of anonymity said to Iran Human Rights (IHR), "Mahbubeh was the victim of fratricide. She was deceived by her husband and married him, but his evil brother tricked her after the marriage so that he could kill his brother. Mahbubeh didn't know what exactly was inside the capsules and trusted her brother-in-law."

He added, "What authorities say about Mahbube is not correct. The victim's brother was arrested first and confessed to the murder and said that Mahbubeh didn't know what was inside the capsules. But he changed his confessions later. The judge was confused, but no one was able to prove Mahbubeh's innocence."

"In the next court sessions, the victim's brother deceived Mahbubeh into confessing that she was aware of what was inside the capsules and told her that this way they wouldn't get executed. She agreed to do this because she liked him. He had called Mahbubeh's parents and lawyer from prison and told them that she wasn't aware of what was inside the capsules," the source said to IHR.

Mahbubeh Mofidi was sentenced to death on the charge of murder. Her brother-in-law was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on the charge of complicity to murder. He is being held at Noshahr Prison.

Mahbubeh Mofidi's execution, as well as her age at the time of the offence, has later been confirmed by some official news websites although her name wasn't mentioned.

This is the 3rd juvenile offender execution in January 2018 that has been reported by Iran Human Rights. The execution of Ali Kazemi at Bushehr Prison on January 30 was also reported. He was sentenced to death on the change of murder at the age of 15. Amir Hossein Pourjafar was the other juvenile-offender executed on the charge of murder at the age of 16 at Rajai Shahr Prison on February 3.

These sentences prove that the Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code (2013), as well as other articles related to protection of children at risk of retaliation, cannot effectively protect juvenile-offenders from execution.

Iran has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which bans the execution of juveniles. Moreover, based on Article 37 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, execution and life imprisonment of juveniles is banned.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

RUSSIA:

Polyarnaya Sova prison releases killer sentenced to death

It turns out that the criminal was released on parole out of the prison for life-term-sentenced prisoners.

Polyarnaya Sova (Polar Owl) prison for life-term prisoners released 63-year-old Anvar Masalimov, sentenced to death, while the verdict has not been replaced with life imprisonment, on parole. Masalimov killed a man, dismembered the corpse and burned it in the oven.

The crime was committed on August 17, 1991. Then he got foot in a lonely old man. The pensioner accepted the homeless who had already served 15 years for killing the former prisoner. They drank together, and one day Masalimov killed him for no reason. After the murder, the criminal dismembered the corpse of the old man and threw the remains into the oven to conceal the traces of crime. However, it was not possible to hide the crime traces. The neighbor of the pensioner found the scraps of meat in the toilet and called the police. In court, Masalimov said that he blew up because the old man accidentally burned his photos. Masalimov's guilt was fully proved, and he waited for several years to be shot until a ban was imposed on the death penalty and the punishment was replaced with life imprisonment.

Masalimov fought for mitigating the sentence. The Vologda Regional Court admitted that it is possible to mitigate the punishment "in connection with the adoption of a law that improves the state of the convict". Masalimov was released on parole.

Now Masalimov is the only one life-imprisoned who was released. According to MK, he is in Moscow now.

The very fact of judicial precedent rattles. A man, who escaped the death penalty, is released now. Does this mean that life-imprisoned prisoners could be released after 25 years? Finally, there are about 500 prisoners sentenced to life and 25-year imprisonment.

(source: crimerussia.com)

THAILAND:

Family appeals against death penalty over Italian slaying in Phuket

An Italian Senator has appealed to the Government of Thailand to stave off the death penalty for Denis Cavatassi, who stands convicted of hiring a killer to murder his business partner, Luciano Butti, in Phuket in 2011.

Cavatassi was convicted and condemned to death by the Supreme Court of Thailand but has always maintained his innocence, reports The Italian Insider.

In response, a press conference was called on Tuesday (Feb 6), headed by Senator Luigi Manconi, President of the Commission for the Protection of Human Rights, to call for Cavatssi's sentence to be annulled, said the report.

Also present at the press conference on Tuesday were Cavatassi's family, his legal team and the head of Amnesty International in Italy.

Butti and Cavatassi managed the Ciao Bella restaurant together on Phi Phi Island. Police believe the murder was motivated by B9 million that Mr Butti had supposedly embezzled from the business the 2 owned.

Cavatassi, however, has maintained his innocence.

"Cavatassi was arrested in 2011 alongside three others but released soon afterwards on caution. The family have always argued that the accused could have fled the country at this point," noted the Italian Insider report.

"He was arrested again following allegations from a Thai manager at his restaurant that he had boasted of large sums of money owed between the 2 partners. Cavatassi maintains that he has never received a fair trial," the report added.

Mr Butti was shot dead while riding his motorbike from Pa Khlok to Phuket Town at about 10pm on March 15.

His body was discovered 200 metres from the entrance to the Bang Pae Waterfall.

Just 5 days later, on March 20, police had arrested Cavatassi and 3 others: Prasong Yongkit, Somchai Kasuk and Ratchanon Sawaree, all Thai.

At that press conference, police said that Cavatassi had told them that Mr Butti had embezzled B9 million from the business.

Failing to get the money back, police allege, Cavatassi then paid B150,000 to Prasong, who had worked in the restaurant for 9 years, to organise to have Mr Butti killed.

Prasong told the press conference that Mr Butti was an unpleasant boss, had cheated many people, and was "ruining" Thailand.

Prasong contacted Polawat Jongrak to arrange the hit. He in turn hired 4 others - Suchat and Eakachai Nimlaor, Ratchanon and Somchai Kasuk.

But by September that year the alleged gunman Suchat Nimlaor and his supposed driver Eakachai Nimlaor had yet to be apprehended, and at last report remain at large.

Campaign groups such as Amnesty International have long campaigned for the death penalty to be abolished in Thailand and estimate that around 450 convicts are on death row in the country, the Italian Insider noted.

However, Thai authorities have been observing a de facto moratorium on the penalty since 2009, when the last prisoner was executed, it added.

The Phuket News notes that the Thai judiciary usually commutes death penalty sentences to life imprisonment if the accused pleads guilty to the charges against him.

This apparently has not happened in Cavatassi's case.

The Phuket News also notes that it has yet to be confirmed whether Cavatassi's legal team have exhausted all forms of appeal against the death sentence.

(source: thephuketnews.com)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan court hands out death sentence over blasphemy lynching----The lynching of Mashal Khan over blasphemy accusations sent shockwaves through Pakistan

A Pakistani court sentenced 1 person to death and 5 others to life imprisonment on Wednesday for lynching a student accused of blasphemy in a highly-charged case that sent shockwaves through the conservative Muslim country.

Last April, Mashal Khan, 23, was stripped, beaten and shot by a gang of mostly students before being thrown from the 2nd floor of his dorm at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan.

"1 of the accused has been awarded a death sentence, (5) were given life imprisonment while 26 have been acquitted," Saad Abbasi, a defence lawyer representing the accused, told AFP at the prison where the verdict was announced.

An additional 25 were given 3-year sentences, he added.

Ahead of the verdict announcement, heavy security was deployed at the jail in the city of Haripur where the accused were detained, with the area cordoned off by around 300 regular police and elite commandos.

The brutality of the attack, which was recorded on mobile phone cameras and posted online, stunned the public and led to widespread condemnation -- including from prominent Islamic clerics -- with protests erupting in several cities.

Students who participated in the lynching were later rounded up after being identified using CCTV footage from the university and video clips.

An official report released months later concluded Khan was falsely accused, saying the murder was instigated by members of a secular student group who felt threatened by Khan's growing prominence as a critic of rising fees and alleged corruption at the university.

Blasphemy is an enormously sensitive charge in Pakistan, and a criminal offence that can carry the death penalty.

While the state has never executed anyone under blasphemy laws, mere allegations have prompted mob lynchings and lesser violence.

Since 1990, vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people tied to blasphemy, according to research compiled by the Center for Research and Security Studies think-tank.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

FEBRUARY 6, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Voices from Solitary: 18 Days to Live----Clemency Sought for Solitary Watch Contributor Thomas Whitaker, Scheduled to Be Executed on February 22nd

Thomas Bartlett Whitaker is a tremendously gifted writer. His work has been published on Solitary Watch (here and here), and was selected for inclusion in our anthology Hell Is a Very Small Place. It has taken top prizes in the PEN Prison Writing Awards for both fiction and essay. And some 150 pieces of his writing, including 22 chapters of a novel, have appeared on Minutes Before Six, the website he started with the help of volunteers on the outside. Originally intended as a forum for his own work, it has since expanded to include over 100 other incarcerated contributors, and comprises the single best online collection of current prison writing in the world.

The name of the site, Minutes Before Six, refers to the time at which executions are carried out in the state of Texas. After more than a decade in solitary confinement on death row, Thomas Whitaker is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm on February 22nd. His death warrant has been signed, his appeals are exhausted, and the Supreme Court has declined to review his case. His last remaining hope lies with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has the power to recommend that the governor commute his death sentence to life without parole.

The clemency petition filed on Thomas Whitaker's behalf is remarkable in that its central appeal for mercy comes from the primary victim of his crime. His father, Kent Whitaker, survived the murder-for-hire ordered by Thomas, in which Thomas's mother and his younger brother were killed. Kent Whitaker has forgiven Thomas, visits him in prison, and is begging the state of Texas to spare the life of his only remaining family member. If his pleas are ignored, it will give lie to the claim that the death penalty is meant to provide justice to victims' families, rather than just satisfy a thirst for blood by politicians and the public.

All executions are travesties. But for us, this one is personal. Thomas Whitaker is a Solitary Watch contributor. We have corresponded with him, receiving the letters he neatly types alone in his cell, each one a gem. We, like thousands of others, know him only through his writing. But we see in that writing more than just brilliance, erudition, and style. We see wisdom, compassion, and humanity. We see a man who is much more than his worst act, and still has much more to give to the world.

If you agree, please consider writing a letter in support of the Clemency Petition of Thomas Whitaker, and sending it to: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency Section, 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757.

To provide advice on what to say in your letter - as well as more evidence of why this life should be saved - we are publishing here an excerpt from a recent post on Minutes Before Six, written by another fine writer, Steven Bartholemew. Incarcerated in the state of Washington, Bartholemew last month wrote this appeal for a friend he has never met. Time is short; please heed his call. -- Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

...Thomas has been fighting his case for over a decade, seeking post-conviction relief throughout the entire court system. The appellate process is not unlike a demented elevator with no doors to open. You ascend slowly, glacially, from level to level, trundling yourself upward with each denial and appeal, only to find yourself back in the basement. With each ascension you feel the tug of gravity, which you might mistake for hope. Sometimes your gut tells you just before the floor drops; other times it catches you off balance. Thomas's case was recently rejected by the second highest court in the land, the US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Let me state this clearly: we are at the point where clemency is Thomas's only hope of not being killed in the next few months. The Governor has already signed the Death Warrant setting Thomas Whitaker's execution date for February 22nd. In the State of Texas, a clemency process was instituted decades ago as an ostensible safety valve for an overburdened criminal justice system.

This is Thomas's sole remaining chance to avoid death. The clemency process differs from trials and appeals in several important ways. In clemency proceedings, there is no retrying of the evidence, no arguing over technicalities. Rather, the matters presented are those on which the courts have not already ruled. In Thomas's case, the petition being considered is simple and straightforward: to commute his sentence from death to life.

In Texas, a death row prisoner's petition for clemency is considered by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. As a rule, members do not meet in person to deliberate. Instead, they each render separately a decision based on their own individual criteria - their personal touchstones for deciding the fate of a human being which they need not disclose, so they do not. By relying on subjective and secret standards, such an opaque process presents an obvious barrier to success: any strategy is guesswork, no more and no less. In the words of U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, regarding the arbitrariness of the Board's practices, "A flip of the coin would be more merciful than these votes." Now you know what Thomas is up against.

The petition is either granted or denied by a majority vote of the Board, which then informs the governor's irrevocable decision either to sign off on commutation or allow the execution to proceed. Make no mistake, petitioning for clemency is a long shot. The statistical probability of being granted clemency in Texas is not high. However, Thomas's execution becomes a certainty if we do not try.

Thomas's attorney is presently composing a petition that outlines the reasons the Board ought to commute his death sentence. He will not be making a legal argument but rather presenting Thomas as a living human entity to the Board Members, drawing on his personal life and accomplishments to humanize him instead of citing evidence and conclusions of law to try to acquit him. The Board Members will not recommend his petition unless they find a preponderance of clear and cogent reasons to spare his life. They may define their threshold of persuasion in amorphous terms, such as "exceptional circumstances", which means literally whatever they choose to recognize it as. Clemency hearings are outside the procedural methodology of the courtroom. Rules of admissibility do not apply, and no one really knows what sways the Board because there is no clemency precedent from which one could make inductions.

Members of the general public may submit written information for the Board's consideration. Here is where we come in, you and I. It's one thing for Board members to have in front of them clerical evidence of Thomas's accomplishments - copies of his degree, literary awards, and so forth. It's another matter entirely for them to read firsthand accounts of Thomas's effect on free-world citizens. Mind you, no one is asking that Thomas Whitaker be released but rather that he simply be allowed to continue breathing.

The District Attorney will be the 1 and only advocate for the death of Thomas. Throughout his case, the State - and no one else - has maintained that justice can only be served by the loss of more life.

The Clemency Board will also consider public sentiment. The Board's only way to gauge the wishes and attitudes of the community is through letters of support written by anyone whose life Thomas has impacted - people like you, for example, whose knowledge and perception of prison have been vastly enriched by this man. They need to hear from folks like yourself: intelligent, free people who have lived vicariously through Thomas's stories, literate citizens who have trusted him for a decade as a patient and honest guide through the experience of death row. You, dear readers, are his community. You may be thinking that you wouldn't know what to say. However, I can assure you that how you express yourself means less than the fact that you are willing to write at all.

To that end, I would present a few suggestions as possible starting points. One of the things I always ask of free people after we've conversed for a time is whether their preconceptions about prison have changed. I can't imagine anyone reading the works of Thomas and not fundamentally altering his or her notions of what prison and prisoners are made of, how death row feels, or what the purpose of the death penalty even is - and what that means. Some of you have felt compelled to become involved with social justice after reading his work. Some of you have found here a much-needed comprehension of what your own incarcerated loved ones have endured in silence. Others have become able to view us not as the bogeyman in the cage but rather as human beings who are willing to unpack our own flaws and mistakes, our authentic selves, for you. Some of you have come here as surviving victims, intending to face down the surrogate objects of your fear or loathing, and have instead walked away with the clarity and closure born of understanding. Some of you have been entertained and educated by stories you could not possibly find anywhere else. These things are worth mentioning to the Board. It would be impossible to quantify the value of the work Thomas has tirelessly offered you, holding the fiercest light to the most obscured microcosm of human infliction and deprivation. But a support letter would go a long way towards representing what the experience of [Thomas's writing] has meant to you.

After nearly 15 years in prison, my faith in humanity isn't what it once was. But I believe wholeheartedly that you would be willing to take 10 minutes out of your cluttered day to write a letter that will increase the likelihood of Thomas's life being spared.

I have to believe that you, of all people, realize the import and worth of this particular life - the effect his writing has had on your understandings of this world and the human condition in general, his potential for a long and productive literary future. I refuse to entertain the notion of an apathetic reader or one too preoccupied to respond - not here, and for mercy's sake, not now. Our window of time is too small to admit complacency, procrastination, or inaction.

I imagine that you, our readers, are aligned with the rest of the civilized world outside America in believing the idea of judicial killing is morally bankrupt. I have faith in your moral compass, so I will not preach, dear choir.

Our sensibilities about the ethical status of the death penalty arise from the same aversion to physical violence en masse we feel when considering war. Our state governments have executed 1,448 men and women since the resurrection of the death penalty in 1977 - a grim doctrine, one carrying the stench of fossilized worldviews derived from pre-civilized mythos. Such barbarism under color of law suffuses most of us with societal shame ... But we are no more capable of properly thinking about the legally orchestrated killing of 1,448 human beings than we are able to say what it feels like to witness 3,000 people being crushed and burned alive. We all watched that happen on 9/11, but unless we personally knew someone in one of the World Trade Center towers, what we felt was an abstract sort of dread, something akin to disbelief. To acknowledge this emotional shortcoming is merely to recognize the limits of what the human mind can construct from sensory input ...The pitiful truth is that we might be incapable of feeling what we must in order to change our own world.

But we are able to meaningfully think about what it means for the State of Texas to snuff out the life of one man: a vibrant person whom we've come to know and esteem highly through his words. Thomas has invited his fellow prisoners onto his site so that we, through our writing, might stand alongside him. He has invited you and me, his fellow human beings, into his inner world so that we might try to think alongside him. I have to believe that we, his community, are capable of feeling what we must in order to change the outcome of the one hearing that could allow Thomas to keep on living, breathing, and writing for us. I can only believe that we are capable of mustering what it takes to extricate ourselves from our daily frittering long enough to act. It isn't too often we are faced with the opportunity to help avert the death of someone who matters to us with our actions. This is our chance to do so.

When I contemplate the reality of Thomas's sentence, how the State of Texas will decide the exact time of his last heartbeat, I feel no small amount of compassion for him as a fellow human being. I feel sadness at the thought of the senseless loss of such a prominent intellect, someone I have grown fond of, and a familiar voice who often says things the way I wish I would have. I feel outrage that the most prosperous and diverse nation on the planet could still be so shamefully backward. I have to admit some selfish interest in this, as well. If there is one thing we all know about Thomas Whitaker, it's that he has more to accomplish, more to teach us, and much more to say. I, for one, really want to know what that is. Don't you?

Please send letters in support of the Clemency Petition of Thomas Whitaker to: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Clemency Section, 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757.

(source: solitarywatch.com)

NEW YORK:

Rough Justice----Martin McDonagh's 'Hangmen' Is the Best New Play in New York City

Martin McDonagh, nominated for 2 Oscars for '3 Billboards,' serves up more violence and dark humor in his brilliant play 'Hangmen,' set in 1960s England.

What a coup for the Atlantic Theater Company to currently house the best new play in New York by a playwright and director nominated for 2 Oscars.

The mystery is why Martin McDonagh's brilliant, electrifyingly satisfying Hangmen isn't on Broadway right from the get-go; caution perhaps - it will likely follow the path of its London trajectory where it began its 5-star, rave-reviewed life at the Royal Court Theatre in 2015 before transferring to the West End.

Hangmen is already a sell-out success, which is hardly surprising given the buzz around McDonagh generally, but especially given his Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Original Screenplay for 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - nominations that have proved controversial, given the film's portrayal of race and racism.

In its opening scene - a heady mixture of brutality and dark humor that McDonagh writes so well, and which is the hallmark of this play - Hangmen, directed by Matthew Dunster, first takes the audience to Britain in 1963, and to a dank jail cell where a prisoner called James Hennessy (Gilles Geary) is pleading for his life as the hangman's noose swings in preparation.

The hangman is Harry Wade (Mark Addy), a large and bluff Northerner, whom Hennessy immediately mocks: They could have at least sent Pierrepoint, he says, referring to Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's most pre-eminent executioner.

Harry is in Pierrepoint's shadow, and later - at the worst possible moment - Pierrepoint, played by Maxwell Caulfield (of Dynasty/Miles Colby fame) appears to take issue with Albert talking up his own executioner skills. Both men are competitive about the numbers of people they have killed, and their own professionalism. Their sniping sounds funny until you consider the business of death they are trading barbs about. Fans of McDonagh will know that in the mining of absurdity and extremity lies the exposure of truth.

The play flashes forward 2 years later to 1965. The walls of the jail cell fold away to reveal one of the best evocations of a British pub I have ever seen on TV and stage. You can feel the fug of cigarettes and the smell of spilled bitter in Anna Fleischle's excellent set (that even incorporates a cafe with rain-soaked windows that Fleischle accommodates in the eaves of the pub).

This pub in Oldham, Lancashire, belongs to Harry and his wife Alice (Sally Rogers). With capital punishment now abolished, the pub is both Harry's refuge and kingdom. He and Alice struggle to understand their daughter Shirley (Gaby French). Shirley's inner turmoil is dismissed as "mooning," and their parental ignorance dovetails, potentially tragically, with the appearance of the menacing Mooney (Johnny Flynn), whose name mirrors the "mooning" Shirley's parents struggle to identify.

Mooney is a hint of the swinging '60s in this claustrophobic pub. He is the opposite to the other 1960s, the stultifying universe of tradition and rules Harry embodies. Mooney has a shag haircut, a sneering malevolence, a peacock's strut, and a constant stream of insinuating, ever-so-slightly menacing chit-chat.

Flynn as Mooney is terrifying, hilarious, and mesmerizing. Who is he? What is he? Where has he come from? He reminded me of Sloane in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane: an easy smile, a leering thorn in the side of authority and conventional decency, and possibly concealing a weapon in his pocket.

McDonagh's command of language and pace is as mischievous as it is virtuosic; like Orton, he plays on words, subverts meanings, and knows how repetition and wordplay can work in glorious absurdity, as when these bluff men's men - or so they would like us to think - find themselves saying "cock" over and over again.

This is a play about men, and its significant flaw is that it does not know what to do with its female characters. Alice is little more than an archetypal Northern landlady, with big hair, an outward brassiness, and a scarred heart of gold. Shirley is a little more calibrated; she is not simply the doe-eyed ingenue, but has an intelligence and guile we see only flashes of. Schematically, the play ensures her absence and Alice's comparative silence.

The counterargument is that Hangmen is merely being true to its time and setting, which would also explain the play's glancing sexism and racism. They are just there, present, not celebrated. His wife and daughter know their places as Harry's adjuncts. He is unfamiliar to them, and mother and daughter cling to each other.

Just like the real, retired Pierrepoint had, Harry has a pub, and this pub has a comic gallery of drinking regulars, one of whom is probably a serious alcoholic and another who mishears things and has to have them explained - a familiar comedy trope, and here another outlet for more wonderful McDonagh timing.

But propping up one other corner of the bar is a dour, inscrutable police inspector Fry (David Lansbury). He knows who the real Harry is; a far from affable timebomb, who misses the glory of all his kills - the war criminals, the domestic criminals, and the wrongly accused whose miscarriages of justice, and whose deaths he oversaw, he doesn't allow to weigh on his mind.

Harry's assistant Syd (Reece Shearsmith, excellently obsequious) at first seems a comic sidekick, but he too has a plan to exact some long-considered revenge on his former boss.

He would do well to take care. If you're unsure over who Mooney is and what he is capable of, you are just as unsure over Harry, as played by the brilliant Addy whose warmth can turn to fury in a split second. His job gave him everything of the identity he wanted to project to the world - authority, leavened by others' fear.

When his own worst fears over the fate of his daughter appear to be confirmed, he can see only one recourse to reassert himself. The meticulous stage-craft of the ensuing, graphic violence, choreographed by J. David Brimmer, is so smooth that it is, in the spirit of the play, both very funny and very dark.

No spoilers here, but in his twists and turns of the plot, McDonagh warps and deconstructs not only the violence that men do, but also the violence they would like one another to believe that they are capable of. Hangmen is about fantasies of violence and real violence, legalized murder and criminal murder, and the ever-diminishing returns of male one-upmanship and desire to control.

In Hangmen we are finally left with men left behind by time; two hangmen who, once literal executioners of responsibility and authority, now need to escape the same for their own continued liberty.

One of their sins is obvious, it's right in front of us. Something else, the charged, problematic specter of capital punishment, is suspended in the smoky fug of the pub. These men have absolutely no idea what to do and now no power to protect themselves with. It is both quietly devastating and revealingly absurd.

Hangmen is at the Atlantic Theater Company (Linda Gross Theater), 336 West 20th Street, New York City, until March 25.

(source: The Daily Beast)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Jury selection begins for 2015 police officer slaying trial

Jury selection has begun for the trial of a man charged in the 2015 shooting death of a police officer in Westmoreland County.

Ray Shetler Jr., 33, is charged in that county in the death of 54-year-old St. Clair Township officer Lloyd Reed Jr.

Officer Reed was killed in an exchange of gunfire after responding to a November 2015 domestic disturbance call. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if the New Florence resident is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

District Attorney John Peck says jurors will be taken to the shooting scene to acquaint them with the property and with places where the suspected murder weapon and clothes were found.

Defense attorney Mark Daffner has suggested that Mr. Shetler was defending himself and didn't realize that Reed was a police officer.

Police have said that Mr. Shetler gunned down Officer Reed on Nov. 28, 2015, after Mr. Shetler's girlfriend, Kristin Luther, called 911 to report a domestic incident.

"He says, 'expletive the police,' to her ... and he left the house and went outside," state police spokesman, Trooper Stephen Limani, said in 2015.

But Mr. Shetler told investigators he didn't know the man approaching him that night with a gun drawn was a police officer, according to a criminal complaint.

After the men exchanged quick gunfire, Officer Reed died, and Mr. Shetler led police on a 6-hour manhunt before he was caught in nearby Indiana County and charged with homicide.

Officer Reed, 54, of Hollsopple, Somerset County, was in uniform and wearing a bulletproof vest when he responded in a marked cruiser around 9:15 p.m. to a the New Florence home Mr. Shetler shared with Ms. Luther, police said.

State police said Ms. Luther told an emergency dispatcher in a 911 call that Mr. Shetler wounded her, causing her nose to bleed, and threatened to kill her and himself.

Ms. Luther said her boyfriend had his .270-caliber hunting rifle with him when he left the Ligonier Street home.

"There was a lot of information that was given to Officer Reed prior to his arrival, and those things that he's hearing are a police officer's worst nightmare ... you have a female - maybe outside of a child - in distress and having a person with a long rifle," Trooper Limani said. "Every one of us knows that that vest we wear every single day isn't going to stop a long rifle round."

From inside the home, Ms. Luther told police she heard someone yelling, "Ray, put the gun down, put the gun down.' Mr. Shetler yelled back, she told police, and stepped toward Officer Reed, rifle in hand.

They were 20 to 30 feet apart when Officer Reed, a 25-year veteran of the force, shot his .40-caliber pistol 6 times and Mr. Shetler fired three rounds, Trooper Limani said.

It's unclear who fired 1st, the trooper said, but Mr. Shetler aggressively approached the officer and did not put down his gun on command.

The officer fell to the ground when he was hit, Ms. Luther told police.

He was able to send a distress call over the scanner alerting authorities that he'd been shot, the trooper said, and Ms. Luther, a Ligonier officer and a passerby tried to help him.

Part of the rifle round went through the officer's bulletproof vest, across his chest and lodged in his right arm, Trooper Limani said. He was not wearing a body camera.

Seward Officer Justin Dickert, who also arrived in uniform and a marked cruiser, told investigators he heard Officer Reedís commands before the gunfire. The Seward officer, identified by Trooper Limani, fired once at Mr. Shetler as he took off running.

Mr. Shetler had been shot in the front of his right shoulder. He told police he ran after the shooting and swam across the Conemaugh River, where he lost his rifle, which was later recovered.

He was later picked up on nearby Power Plant Road, where they found Mr. Shetler walking, and was taken into custody without incident.

Officer Reed served for about 2 decades in Seven Springs, according to St. Clair Capt. Donald Hess. Capt. Hess said Officer Reed also worked in Hooversville and Seward boroughs. For about 5 years, he worked part-time for St. Clair, which assists in neighboring New Florence.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Upstate lawmaker to reintroduce bill to allow firing squad executions in SC

South Carolina Rep. Josh Putnam (R, Piedmont) said he plans to reintroduce a bill to add firing squads to the execution methods in South Carolina.

Putnam first introduced the bill in 2015 but the legislation didn't pass. He said the new bill would be almost identical to the prior one but he feels it's important for creating dialogue about death penalty options in the state since lethal injections cannot be carried out at this time.

"We can't carry out death penalties in the state and we need a solution," Putnam said.

Putnam said the inability to execute inmates is causing issues for solicitors dealing with victims' families. Many families want solicitors to push for the death penalty, but the state does not currently have the ability to execute them, Putnam said.

"Many people don't understand the problems this is causing," Putnam said.

The lawmaker said other solutions, such as bringing back the electric chair, are being considered, but Putnam argues that the firing squad may be the most viable solution going forward.

"There is a lot of data that shows firing squad is the most effective and most humane way of putting someone to rest," he said.

Putnam said Tuesday that he plans to reintroduce the bill in the state house within the next few days.

(source: foxcarolina.com)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Condemned killer seeks to block execution

With a scheduled execution little more than 2 weeks away, attorneys for death row inmate Eric Scott Branch appealed to the Florida Supreme Court on Monday after an Escambia County circuit judge refused a request for a stay.

Branch, now 46, was sentenced to death in the 1993 sexual assault and murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris.

Gov. Rick Scott last month scheduled Branch's execution for Feb. 22. In seeking the stay in circuit court, Branch's attorneys argued, in part, that Branch was 21 at the time of the murder and that brain development continues into the mid-20s.

They argued people in their early 20s are "cognitively comparable to juveniles under the age of 18," Judge Edward P. Nickinson III wrote Thursday in an order denying the motion for a stay.

The argument was based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that barred the death penalty for people under age 18 because it would violate an Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But Nickinson wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling had established a "bright line" of age 18.

"This Court must construe the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in conformity with decisions of the United States Supreme Court," Nickinson wrote.

Branch's attorneys last week also asked the Florida Supreme Court for a stay of execution while he appeals another issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court had not ruled on that request as of Monday afternoon.

Trial begins for man accused of murdering 16-year-old

Alexandria Chery was in her bed with a big blanket the last time her mother, Rosalie Joseph, saw her alive, Joseph testified Monday.

Joseph was the 1st witness in the murder trial of Sanel Saint-Simon, Joseph's partner of 11 years, who raised Alexandria and is now accused of brutally killing her. Saint-Simon faces the death penalty if convicted.

Alexandria was 16 - on summer vacation from Olympia High School between 10th and 11th grades - when she went missing July 28, 2014.

That morning, Joseph said she woke up at 6 a.m., brushed her teeth and drove Saint-Simon to his 7 a.m. shift at a Boston Market.

Joseph drove back home and started getting ready for work. She woke her daughter because she wanted Alexandria to come with her to work and help clean hotel rooms so she could finish faster, she said. But Alexandria wasn't feeling well.

"She said, 'Mom, I have a headache, I can't go,'" Joseph said through a Haitian Creole interpreter Monday. Joseph said she has lived in the U.S. since 1992 and speaks English but feels more comfortable speaking Creole.

Joseph left her daughter some medicine and went to work, she said.

About 9:30 a.m., she got a call from Saint-Simon asking if Alexandria was with her, Joseph said. She told him the teenager was home sick. Security camera footage showed him leaving work at about that time, though he later told Joseph and Orange County deputies he was at work all day.

Joseph tried calling her daughter all day to see if she was feeling better, she said Monday. Alexandria never answered. She also couldn't reach Saint-Simon.

Joseph's sister, who worked at the hotel with her, told her everything was probably OK, Joseph said Monday.

"She said, 'Rosalie, you're keeping too strict of a watch on her. She's just sleeping, let her sleep,'" Joseph said, wiping her eyes with a tissue on the witness stand.

By the time she came to pick him up from work about 5 p.m., Saint-Simon was at a Publix across the street from the Boston Market.

When he got into the car, she noticed an injury on his hand. He said he got hurt opening a box at work, Joseph said. She didn't ask him any more questions.

"I was already mad at him because I couldn't get ahold of him all day," she said.

As soon as they got home, Joseph went into Alexandria's room to check on her. She found the room in disarray - sheets stripped off the bed, dresser drawers pulled out with all the clothes missing and an empty closet, she said. Alexandria was nowhere to be seen.

"It looked like someone had moved and left the house," she said.

She screamed. Saint-Simon came to Alexandria's room, looked at Joseph, looked at the room and left the apartment, she testified.

Alexandria's body was found four days later, in what Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams called a "shadowy, insect-filled grave" on the Osceola-Polk county line.

"The defendant took steps to ensure his carefully laid plan was carried out," Williams said in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Peter Schmer asked the 18 jurors, chosen over 2 weeks of jury selection, to pay close attention to the evidence in the case.

"There are holes in the state's case that create reasonable doubt. This is not such an open-and-shut-case as that state would have you believe," he said.

Testimony will continue Tuesday. The trial is expected to last about a week. If jurors convict Saint-Simon of 1st-degree murder, they will return in April to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

(source: OPrland Sentinel)

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

An odd rationale for Supreme Court death penalty reviews

Decisions have been coming out of the Florida Supreme Court so quickly the past two weeks, theyíre starting to read like form letters. Life-or-death form letters.

Since Jan. 22, the court has rejected more than 70 requests from death row inmates to have their sentences reviewed by a jury. Mind you, these aren't just random prayers from desperate prisoners.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 2 years ago that Florida's longtime method of handing down punishments in capital cases was unconstitutional. So, naturally, condemned inmates were suddenly eager to have their sentences reviewed and, possibly, changed to life in prison.

And the Florida Supreme Court supports that. Up to a point.

And that point is June 24, 2002.

The court has basically drawn a line on a calendar when it comes to whether prisoners get a chance to argue that their constitutional rights were infringed.

"Itís not honest. It's not proper," said Stephen Harper, director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation. "There are a number of people who will not get relief even though they have very strong cases."

Here's the basic issue:

Florida used to have juries vote on whether to recommend a death sentence, and then allowed a judge to make the final decision. When faced with a similar situation in a case in Arizona in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges should not be making that call.

It took 14 years, and another U.S. Supreme Court decision, for Florida to figure that out. The Legislature has since passed a law requiring a unanimous jury verdict for a death sentence. Where it gets tricky is the retroactive issue.

The Florida Supreme Court has essentially said the state screwed up by not paying attention to the Arizona case, and thus any death row cases from 2002-16 should be subject to review.

That makes sense. The sentences, after all, were unconstitutional.

But so were the cases prior to 2002, right?

"The Florida Supreme Court's decision to make the rule retroactive to some people but not others, finds absolutely no support in anything that I'm aware of anywhere in the country," former Stetson law professor and current U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Allen told a Florida legislative committee last year. "It really is like being pregnant. You either are pregnant, or you're not. There is no middle.

"A constitutional rule is either retroactive to people, or it's not. Because the result of this is truly strange."

You want strange? Consider this scenario: 2 juries recommend death. One by a 7-5 vote in May 2002. Another by an 11-1 vote in July 2002. The defendant from May is out of luck. The defendant in July could be re-sentenced.

If you were suspicious, you might even wonder if the decision had anything to do with the practical matter of re-doing hundreds of sentences. The state already will have to review about 150 cases post-2002, and would have about 200 more if pre-2002 cases were considered.

A bill (SB 870) is scheduled to be heard in a Senate judiciary committee this morning that would expand the number of retroactive cases, but it's hard to imagine the Legislature going down that road.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court has its own version of fair play.

(source: John Romano, Tampa Bay Times)

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

Man convicted of murder makes 1st resentencing court appearance

The Florida Supreme Court overturned Renaldo McGirth's death sentence after rulings that such sentences made final after June 24, 2002, must come from unanimous jury decisions. In McGirth's 2008 trial, the jury voted 11-1 for death.

A Marion County man convicted of murder and attempted murder made his 1st appearance in local court Monday to begin his resentencing process.

Renaldo Devon McGirth, 29, wearing an orange jumpsuit with a white long-sleeve undershirt, sat at the defense table while attorneys and 5th Circuit Judge Jonathan Ohlman discussed the next steps in his resentencing. The Florida Supreme Court overturned McGirthís death sentence more than a year ago after sweeping rulings that death sentences made final after June 24, 2002, must come from unanimous jury decisions. In McGirth's 2008 trial, the jury voted 11-1 for death.

Ohlman told McGirth he would work on appointing a new attorney to represent the defendant in future proceedings. All parties decided to meet again in March with the new defense attorney, but did not set an exact date. McGirth waived his appearance at that court date, saying he wished to return to the Department of Corrections.

State Attorney Brad King is the prosecutor in this case.

McGirth murdered Diana Miller and shot her husband James Miller, both of The Villages, while robbing them at their home in 2006. McGirth shot Diana Miller once in the chest and once in the back of the head. He also shot James Miller in the back of the head, but the man survived and was able to crawl out a bedroom window to get help.

The search for McGirth and his co-defendants ended in a high-speed car chase. McGirth also stole $259.

Death penalty cases have two trial phases: guilt and penalty. In the guilt phase, a jury of 12 people decides whether the defendant is guilty of the 1st-degree murder charges. If they convict the defendant, the same jury will sit for the penalty phase and decide whether the defendant is sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

McGirth's conviction still stands, but he must have a new penalty phase to decide whether he will remain on death row or receive a reduced sentence of life.

He is 1 of 4 Marion County death row inmates that have been granted resentencings over the past year, one of whom had the sentence reduced to life.

(source: The Ocala Star Banner)

MISSISSIPPI:

Teen pleads guilty in death of boy found in stolen car

A Mississippi teen is pleading guilty to reduced charges in the killing of a 6-year-old boy who authorities say was inside a car stolen from a supermarket parking lot.

D'Allen Washington, 18, pleaded guilty Monday to accessory after the fact to the kidnapping of Kingston Frazier, and to an unrelated robbery charge.

Warren Martin, Washington's lawyer, says Washington has agreed to testify against others in the case. Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest tells local media that Washington's testimony should help prosecutors seek the death penalty against Byron McBride, who authorities say shot and killed Frazier.

Martin says Washington will be sentenced March 26. He says prosecutors recommend he spend 15 years in prison.

A 3rd teen, Dwan Wakefield, faces juvenile charges that could be upgraded to adult charges.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Jury selected in Eric Azotea double murder trial

A jury of 12, plus 4 alternates, has been selected to hear the double murder trial of Eric Azotea, the Johnson City man accused of killing and dismembering a Sullivan County couple in 2015.

The jury will be sequestered for the duration of the trial. Opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday in Carter County.

If convicted of 1st degree murder, Azotea faces the death penalty.

Issues with selecting this jury included those who would never, and would always, support the death penalty, and the pre-trial publicity this case has received.

"Any murder case is a tough case," District Attorney Tony Clark told WCYB. "We are seaking the death penalty in this case and there is hgihtened due process when that happens."

(source: WCYB news)

OHIO:

Jurors see tools used in slaying of Alianna DeFreeze

Jurors on Monday saw the tools that investigators believe Christopher Whitaker used to inflict fatal wounds on 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze last January.

1 by 1, jurors watched as a Cleveland police crime scene investigator opened brown bags of envelope to reveal the artifacts -- some stained with girl's blood -- used to end Alianna's life.

Whitaker, 44, faces the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder, rape, kidnapping and other charges in her Jan. 26, 2017 disappearance and death. Opening statements began Thursday in the trial that's expected to last through this week.

Monday's testimony focused on the discovery of Alianna's body in a vacant house on Fuller Avenue, just off East 93rd Street near Kinsman Road, after 3 days of searching for her.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mahmoud Awadallah gave jurors a close-up view of the Black and Decker drill, phillips-head screw driver, nut driver and box cutter, and the bloody pieces of Alianna's school uniform and training bra.

Jurors also saw multiple photographs of the puncture wounds to Alianna's face and head, depicting the aftermath of the brutal injuries that prosecutors say matched the tools.

One of Whitaker's lawyers, Thomas Shaughnessy, told jurors during openings statements last week that Whitaker does not contest the charges, a signal that Whitaker's lawyers will focus on the penalty phase of the trial and try to convince jurors not to recommend that Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Friedland sentence the him to death.

Monday's witnesses brought the clearest and most disturbing picture yet to how the 7th grader whose mother said still played with baby dolls spent the final hours of her life.

A trio of Cleveland police officers assigned to search vacant houses south of Kinsman Road entered the home on Jan. 29, 2017 and spotted a trail of blood that led from the hallway into a bedroom behind a closed door, Hodges testified.

Another officer kicked in the door and discovered Alianna's body, which lay crumpled in the corner, bloodied and naked.

The officer sighed, paused and clenched his eyes shut as he recalled finding the girl's body wearing nothing but socks in a pool of blood, with wounds to the back of her head and to her eye.

The trail started in the home's dining room, where investigators believe Whitaker inflicted most of the girl's injuries before he dragged her body to the bedroom and tossed it into the corner.

Todd Clemens, a Cleveland police crime scene investigator, testified about the tools, along with a bloodied gray glove and a backpack, found lying on a built-in window bench in the home's dining room, which was covered in blood.

As Awadallah gave jurors a close-up view of each tool, he asked Clemens if he saw wounds Alianna that matched each tool.

The drill matched 4 puncture wounds to the girl's cheek and a wound on her forehead that dislodged her right eyeball from its socket, he said.

The boxcutter appeared to match several slash-type wounds to Alianna's neck, Clemens said. "Too many to count," he said.

Many of the wounds had started to show signs of healing, a sign that she was alive for several hours after Whitaker inflicted them on her, investigators said.

A Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office worker is expected to testify later this week and confirm that testing matched the exact tools found in the home to Alianna's wounds.

Jurors also saw the pieces of Alianna's clothing, including a black tie and a sweater with a red and white round logo on the right breast that made up Alianna's school uniform, that were found strewn about the house.

The tie was soaked with blood, and the sweater was torn open down the front.

Awadallah also showed jurors Alianna's teal training bra that was stained with blood.

(source: cleveland.com)

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

Federal appeals court panel rules killer Danny Hill no longer eligible for death penalty

A 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered that Danny Lee Hill no longer be eligible for the death penalty for the brutal 1985 murder 12-year-old Raymond Fife.

The panel, based in Cincinnati, on Friday affirmed Hill's conviction but reversed the decision of U.S. District Judge John Adams of Akron, who affirmed Hill's death sentence.

The federal appellate court said earlier rulings by Ohio courts were wrong when they said Hill, 51, was not too intellectually disabled to be executed.

Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, said he will request the Ohio Attorney General's Office to appeal Friday's decision to a full panel of the judges of the 6th Circuit.

"Respectfully, as prosecutor for Trumbull County and 1 of the trial prosecutors ... I strongly disagree with that part of the court's decision," Watkins said in a news release Monday.

Miriam Fife, mother of Raymond Fife and retired longtime county victim-witness advocate, said of the ruling, "I know this is not good news, but I am hopeful the attorney general's office will appeal it."

She noted the long list of judges who affirmed the decision of Visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran, who ruled in 2008 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court that Hill was not too disabled to be put to death.

The decision says the 6th Circuit panel found that Ohio courts have unreasonably applied the U.S. Supreme Court's 3-part standard for determining intellectual disability. All 3 parts must be present for someone to be declared too disabled for the death penalty.

The ruling says there is agreement Hill's IQ score of between 48 and 71 means he "easily meets the 1st element of the clinical definition of intellectual disability."

But the federal court also thinks Hill meets the definition of intellectual disability on the 2 other measurements - adaptive abilities and whether his deficits manifested themselves before he turned 18. Earlier judges disagreed Hill was intellectually disabled in the last 2 areas.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that execution of mentally retarded criminals violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Hill was convicted during a 1986 trial before 3 judges of common pleas court and sentenced to death.

Hill, then 18, and Timothy Combs, then 17, attacked the boy Sept. 10, 1985, as he rode his bicycle along a path off Palmyra Road Southwest to a Boy Scout meeting. He was beaten, raped and set on fire. He died 2 days later.

Fife and Watkins noted another Trumbull County murderer, Jason Getsy, had the death penalty taken away by a panel of the same federal appellate court for the killing of a Hubbard woman in 1995, but the decision was later overturned, and Getsy was executed in 2009.

(source: The Vindicator)

IOWA:

We shouldn't trust the state to execute people

Although Iowa's death penalty ended in 1965, new legislation has been introduced in an attempt to reinstate it.

During this legislative session, there has been renewed discussion of bringing back Iowa's death penalty, which ended in 1965. There are opponents to bringing back the death penalty who have based their opinions on financial and budgetary concerns, opponents who have religious or moral disagreements with the death penalty, and opponents who believe it would give murderers additional fame and publicity when the media cover their death-penalty appeals. Without getting into those debates, I simply raise the question if we should trust the state to execute people based on its previous history of carrying out executions.

We have no idea what a new death penalty in Iowa would look like once it gets out of the Legislature, and there are many scientific and case studies of innocent people imprisoned and even executed that should give us cause for concern. When emotions are high, we often make irrational decisions that have unintended consequences.

Proponents of the proposed death-penalty legislation claim that the new death penalty will only be used in rare cases. Whenever new legislation is proposed, it almost always starts small. As time goes by, the Overton window moves, and the Legislature grants itself more power and authority by passing additional laws. Before you know it, the original law looks nothing like what the new legislation is doing.

In addition to not knowing what would be in the legislation, the government has a horrendous track record with criminal justice. The National Registry of Exonerations lists 2,164 criminal exonerations that have taken place, and 353 of them listed were exonerated from DNA evidence. In 2014, a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed that 4.1 % of people sentenced to death in the United States were likely innocent. In 2015, the FBI admitted that the hair analysis, which was used in 32 death-penalty cases, was a flawed analysis.

Once people are executed, we cannot bring them back no matter what evidence we later find or confessions are made. Why should we trust the Legislature with the responsibility of passing legislation that would end human life when we may have such a high rate of innocent people being executed?

The role of the government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Bringing back the death penalty will not protect any of those things. In fact, based on previous studies and results, we know that it can be used to end innocent lives mistakenly. Our state motto proudly says, "Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain." How can we live up to our motto if we execute even one innocent person?

The risks are too high. We cannot trust the state to execute people. The Legislature should kill this bill before it gets out of committee.

- Jake Porter

Council Bluffs business consultant

2018 Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor

(source: Guest Opinion, Daily Iowan)

NEW MEXICO:

New Mexico death penalty bill denied

New Mexico will not be bringing back the death penalty this year.

According to the New Mexican, on Saturday a legislative committee turned down a bill sponsored by Republican representatives Monica Youngblood and Greg Nibert.

It would have reinstated capital punishment for the murders of children, police officers and correctional officers.

New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009.

(source: KRQE news)

UTAH:

Death row inmate's former lawyer suing Weber County, claims free speech rights violated

The former attorney for a death row inmate is suing Weber County, claiming his contract was terminated because he publicly criticized the lack of funding for his client's appeal.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, appellate attorney Samuel Newton claims his right to free speech was violated when he was fired in apparent retaliation for his remarks.

Newton was representing Douglas Lovell, 60, who was appealing a death sentence for murdering 39-year-old Joyce Yost. Lovell killed the South Ogden woman to keep her from testifying in court that he had kidnapped and raped her.

Lovell first pleaded guilty to murdering Yost in 1985 but was spared the death penalty on the condition that he lead authorities to her remains. When he failed to do so, he was sentenced to die in 1993. In 2010 the Utah Supreme Court allowed Lovell to withdraw his guilty plea and ordered a new trial. He was found guilty by a jury in March 2015.

As part of Lovell's appeal, Newton sought additional funding to thoroughly investigate whether Lovell's previous attorney had failed him at trial, and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interfered in the case by limiting what LDS bishops who had interacted with Lovell behind bars could say on his behalf on the witness stand during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Newton was granted $15,000 of the $37,000 he requested for the effort, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that Weber County is one of five counties in Utah that does not rely on the state's indigent defense fund, but funds defense efforts for indigent defendants on its own. In January 2017, the county renewed its contract with Newton.

In June, Newton asked to be removed from the case, suggesting in the filing that Weber County was underfunding Lovell's appeal and that the strain of the dispute with the county was compromising Newton's health, according the lawsuit. The motion was granted in August, and Newton continued to speak publicly and in the media about the dispute as well as his belief that the death penalty should be abolished.

Though Newton had been removed from the Lovell case, his contract to represent indigent defendants in Weber County through the end of 2019 was still in place. The county severed that contract in October, claiming Newton had "made various representations to the media and to the court that have been untruthful and harmful to the county's reputation."

The lawsuit claims the termination of Newton's contract based on statements he made under the protection of the First Amendment violated his constitutional rights.

"Unspecified 'harm' to a county's 'reputation' would not outweigh the importance of an independent contractor's First Amendment rights, particularly when the speech involved rights of a third party and a case unrelated to Newton's general general appellate contract," the lawsuit states.

The claim goes on to emphasize that "the speech for which Weber County punished Newton was on a matter of public concern, relating to matters of political, social and economic concern to the community."

Newton's lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages for Newton and his law partners for "economic loss, emotional distress and other personal injury resulting from the violation of their constitutional rights."

Lovell has since been appointed a new attorney, Colleen Coebergh. His next hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 27.

The Weber County Attorney's Office did not respond to calls for comment on the lawsuit. No hearings have been scheduled.

(source: Deseret News)

USA:

Ban death penalty for those 21 or younger, ABA House says

The ABA House of Delegates on Monday asked all death penalty jurisdictions to ban capital punishment for any offender who committed their crime at the age of 21 or younger.

In the report accompanying the resolution, the chairs of the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice wrote: "In light of this evolution of both the scientific and legal understanding surrounding young criminal defendants and broader changes to the death penalty landscape, it is now time for the ABA to revise its dated position and support the exclusion of individuals who were 21 years old or younger at the time of their crime."

The language of Resolution 111 makes clear that the ABA is not taking a position "supporting or opposing the death penalty."

In a motion to amend, Robert L. Weinberg, a past president of the District of Columbia Bar and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, proposed removing that language. He brought up a CLE session held earlier during this midyear meeting by Cassandra Stubbs of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project.

"We stand almost alone among the progressive democracies in adhering to capital punishment," he said.

He urged the ABA to take up a future resolution taking a position on capital punishment, specifically for abolition. He said including language about the ABAís lack of position on the death penalty in the current resolution was not necessary.

Michael Byowitz, the Board of Governors' liaison to the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project, rose to speak in opposition to Weinberg's amendment.

"I do so with some trepidation and sadness, because Bob Weinberg is a personal hero of mine," Byowitz said. "My heart pulls me in the direction he would have us go, but my head pulls me in a different direction."

Byowitz said marginal efforts chipping away at the use of the death penalty are the most effective ways of addressing the problem.

"We will be ignored if we are perceived in many of the councils that matter as against the death penalty," he said. "Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Former ABA President James Silkenat and several others voiced support of bringing a future resolution before the ABA House of Delegates taking a stance on capital punishment, but urged the delegates to reject the current amendment.

"I strongly oppose capital punishment, but this amendment is the wrong way to do it," Silkenat said.

The amendment was defeated in a divided vote. Resolution 111 was passed overwhelmingly.

(source: ABA Journal)

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

Many Say He's the Least Qualified Lawyer Ever to Lead a Guantanamo Case. He Agrees.

For years, an expert legal team defended one of the most high-profile accused terrorists in a death penalty case at the military tribunals here. But a courtroom dispute involving classified snooping prompted nearly all of the team to abruptly quit this fall, leaving only a 39-year-old former SEAL turned lawyer with just 6 years' experience, and none with a capital case.

By many assessments, including his own, the lawyer, Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, is completely unqualified to represent Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi man accused of orchestrating the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in 2000. Though he was trained to hunt down the most dangerous terrorists in the world, nothing prepared him to defend someone accused of carrying out terrorist acts.

"On another day, I could have easily taken my client out. I know it seems like a contradiction," Lieutenant Piette said as he stood in the tropical glare outside the dust-colored court building here, which is ringed by razor wire and sniper netting. "But in a lot of ways being a SEAL and being a defense attorney - you're doing the same thing. You're defending the Constitution."

No lawyer with so little experience has ever led a case before the tribunal, and in fact, regulations prohibit it. That the Nashiri case is going forward at all has led many to question whether the tribunals can offer a fair trial, and has cast a harsh light on the already troubled military system, which so far has produced no convictions at trial, despite years of effort.

President Trump has doubled down on Guantanamo, signing an order last week to keep the prison open and vowing in his State of the Union address to send more prisoners to the island. But the tribunals at Guantanamo have repeatedly sputtered, dragging out for more than a decade cases that were originally envisioned to be so speedy that they were set in temporary buildings and tents.

As further evidence of the system's dysfunction, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis fired the top official overseeing the tribunals, Harvey Rishikof, as well as his chief of staff on Monday. A Pentagon spokesman said the change in leadership, which was first reported by The Miami Herald, would not affect continuing cases.

The Nashiri case began in 2011 and is still churning through pretrial hearings. So are the trials for those accused of being Sept. 11 collaborators. The judge for the Nashiri case has said he would like to begin picking a military jury by December, which puts the schedule of the case in doubt.

In death penalty cases, the military tribunal rules require so-called learned counsel who have tried capital cases before. The team's former lead counsel had tried 38. Lieutenant Piette has tried none. But the judge in the case has decided to move forward with only the lieutenant - a move that has alarmed a number of legal scholars.

"He doesn't come close to being qualified," said Ellen Yaroshefsky, a professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University. "So a death penalty case is basically going forward without a lawyer. If that is what we think passes as a court system, we're in big trouble."

One of the people questioning the lieutenant's decision to stay is the lieutenant himself. His presence in court allows the case to move forward without experienced counsel. "That is clearly a problem, because there is no way I qualify as learned counsel," he said. "But leaving the client without a lawyer to protect his rights could be even worse. I don't know if I've done the right thing, but I don't think I really had a choice."

The dispute that prompted the resignations of the rest of Lieutenant Piette's team started this summer when the defense learned that conversations with their client - conversations that are typically strictly confidential - were likely being monitored by the government.

The defense team searched the detention block room at Guantanamo where they met with Mr. Nashiri and spotted something that to them confirmed government monitoring. The original lead defense attorney, Richard Kammen, said in an interview that what he found was classified, so he was barred from disclosing it, even to his client. He objected to the court, but the judge in the case ruled this fall that the client had only limited rights to confidentiality. Mr. Kammen quit the case in protest, saying it was ethically impossible to stay. 2 assisting lawyers followed.

"We were gobsmacked," said Mr. Kammen, who for years has jousted with the military tribunal, making his appraisal of it clear by wearing a kangaroo pin on his court jacket. "Under the law, we had to quit. We had no choice."

Both the judge and prosecutors were furious at the exodus, which threatened to derail an already slow-moving case. The lead civilian prosecutor, Mark Miller, denounced the defense for what he called "a scorched-earth strategy to obstruct the proceeding by any means, however frivolous, however cynical."

The judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, ordered the defense back to court in October. When they refused, he ordered a Marine general in charge of the defense to force them back. The general also refused, and was confined in a trailer next to the razor wire-ringed court in November for contempt. At the most recent hearings in late January, Judge Spath was still trying to compel the lawyers to appear, so far without success.

In a federal court, appointing a new experienced lawyer would be straightforward, but Guantanamo is no federal court. Few lawyers qualified to take death penalty cases have both the requisite top secret security clearance and the willingness to work with the special military tribunal rules created by Congress in 2009 for Guantanamo, said Navy Cmdr. Brian Mizer, who in the past has represented multiple detainees at the tribunals.

"There is a perception that the tribunals are like tilting at windmills," he said. "Many lawyers don't want to go near it."

Mr. Mizer and others said it could take at least a year for a new lawyer to be appointed and get caught up on the case.

Experienced counsel in a case like Mr. Nashiri's is critical, Commander Mizer said, because the thicket of charges stemming from a series of attacks is complicated further by evidence gathered through years of torture at C.I.A. black sites.

But after Mr. Kammen left, Judge Spath ruled that learned counsel were required only "to the extent practicable," and pushed forward with pretrial hearings with just the lieutenant at the helm.

Lieutenant Piette, who grew up in Texas and Wisconsin, said he was not easily swayed by long odds. He enlisted in the Navy right after high school in 1997, inspired by his grandfather, who had been a decorated commando during World War II. Despite limited swimming skills and no experience with weapons, he soon graduated from the notoriously punishing SEAL selection course in a year when nearly 90 % of the class dropped out.

He was assigned to a cold-weather warfare team and deployed to Kosovo.

After the U.S.S. Cole and the World Trade Center were attacked, he thought the team would be sent to hunt terrorists. Instead he was deployed again to Eastern Europe. He finished his enlistment without seeing combat. With a young family at home and a growing frustration at the lack of action, he left the Navy at the end of 2003.

For years after, he said, he was dogged by regret. SEAL teams began deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. 3 friends were killed in combat. Men he knew shot Osama bin Laden, he said. He worried he had fumbled his chance to make a difference.

That changed at Georgetown University's law school, where he started his degree program thinking he would become a prosecutor, but in his final year found the criminal defense clinic.

Raised Roman Catholic, he described representing destitute, often mentally ill clients as the moment he really understood the teachings of Jesus.

"It was the 1st time since the SEALs I found something really meaningful," he said. "I was standing between a person and the system. Everything I had learned about training and preparation and perseverance - it clicked."

After graduating in 2012, he spent 5 years as a Navy lawyer, working criminal cases at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. Last April he was hired to work on the Nashiri case. He had barely started when his whole team quit.

In January, the judge repeatedly fumed at the missing defense team, calling it a strategic tactic intended to undermine the trial.

"Never have I seen such open and notorious rejection of orders from a court," the judge told the court.

Lieutenant Piette stood before him, respectful but unwavering. As a SEAL member, he said later, he was used to being yelled at.

During hearings over several days in January, the prosecution called witnesses and moved to introduce photos and bags of blast fragments from the attack, which killed 17 sailors. Lieutenant Piette sat silently, spinning his pen in seeming frustration, but passed up dozens of chances to object and cross-examine.

He felt staying nearly silent was the only effective strategy for his client, he said. Over the course of 2 days, the judge asked 37 times for the defense to comment on the admission of evidence. Each time the lieutenant stood and responded, "Defense takes no position other than to object to these proceedings continuing without learned counsel."

Though he wanted to argue at length, challenging the very idea that evidence could be admitted without a jury present, he said he knew it would be unethical to even try, and could sink the case. He hoped his refusal to participate would preserve an issue for appeal. Whether it will upend the trial or be a mere footnote in the tribunals will likely not be known for years.

The prosecution declined requests for an interview, but in court, an Air Force major on the team denounced Lieutenant Piette's objections, calling them "shameless, disingenuous and conceited."

The same day, though, Abbe Smith, a law professor at Georgetown who taught Lieutenant Piette criminal defense, put his photo up in her ethics class as an example of a "courageous and ethical representation."

"He's pretty gutsy. This legal train is in motion and he steps out in front to protect his client," she said in an interview. "I don't know that all lawyers would do that."

Mr. Kammen said discussions with Lieutenant Piette about staying were "complicated" and he was not convinced his most junior lawyer did the right thing.

"If we are obligated to withdraw, isn't he?" Mr. Kammen said. "He's a fine lawyer, but this is way beyond what he can do."

(source: New York Times)

SOMALIA:

Somali Military Court Sentences Al-Shabab Members for Role in Deadly Blast

A military court in Mogadishu on Tuesday sentenced Al-Shabab member to a death penalty for Mogadishu truck bomb, the court chairman Hassan Nuur Shuute announced.

The court also sentenced 2 men to prison, 1 life imprisonment, while w others were released due to lack of evidence.

More than 500 people were killed in truck bomb blast in Mogadishu on October 14, 2017, which was the deadliest blast in Somalia.

(source: allafrica.com)

MALAYSIA:

Gopi Kumar is 6th victim of minister's delay in bringing into force amended law

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) notes that despite the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 receiving royal assent on 27 December 2017, which effectively abolishes the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, the failure of the minister to what is necessary to bring the law into force has resulted in Malaysian judges still having no choice but to sentence convicted drug traffickers to death.

"Since there is only one sentence provided for under Section 39B of the Act, the court hereby sentences all the accused to death," he [Judge Datuk Ghazali Cha] said. (theSun, 22 January 2018).

Until the new Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 comes into force, judges continues to have no discretion but to sentence those convicted to death.

The most recent victim was Malaysian lorry driver S Gopi Kumar, 33, who was sentenced to death (theSun, 24 January 2018).

Earlier, on 17 January 2018, it was reported that five others, Malaysian A Sargunan, 42, and four Indian nationals (Sumesh Sudhakaran, Alex Aby Jacob Alexander, Renjith Raveendran and Sajith Sadanandan ) were convicted and sentenced to death by the Shah Alam High Court that day for drug trafficking under Section 39B (1)(a) Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (The Star, 17 January 2018).

As not all cases get reported by the media, there may be many others who have been sentenced to death, who otherwise might not have been if not for this ministerial delay.

A perusal of the Malaysian official e-Federal Gazette website on 25 January 2018 shows that the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which received royal assent on 27 December 2017, has still not come into force.

In comparison, other laws that received royal assent on the same day like the Income Tax (Amendment) Act 2017 came into force on 30 December 2017. Even some laws that received royal assent later on 29 December 2018, like the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (Amendment) Act 2018, have already come into force since 11 January 2018.

When the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 comes into force, it will finally abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, which has existed since 1983. Judges, will then have the discretion to impose a sentence for drug trafficking other than the death penalty, ie imprisonment with whipping of not less than 15 strokes, for the offence of drug trafficking.

Section 3(2) of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 states:

(2) Any proceedings against any person who has been charged, whether or not trial has commenced or has been completed, and has not been convicted under section 39b of the principal Act by a competent Court before the appointed date, shall on the appointed date be dealt with by the competent Court and be continued under the provisions of the principal Act as amended by this Act.

This means that any person even already on trial for drug trafficking (section 39B), so long as they have not yet been convicted, can still enjoy the benefits of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017.

But until the minister does what is necessary to ensure this law comes into force, judges will continue to have no discretion but to impose the mandatory death penalty on those convicted before the new law applies.

The new law, sadly, does not provide any remedy to those already convicted or for the 800 or more currently on death row after having been convicted for drug trafficking.

Hence, as of today, Gopi Kumar and possibly 5 or more who have already been convicted by the High Court before the new law comes into force are victims of a great injustice and may be hanged to death.

As it stands now, under even the new law, after conviction and being sentenced to death by the High Court, the Appellate Courts also will not have the capacity to change the death sentence to imprisonment, unless they choose to acquit them of drug trafficking or possibly elect to convict them for for a lower offence that does not carry the mandatory death penalty.

In light of the inadequacies of the new upcoming drug law, Malaysia must table another new law that will result in the commuting of the sentence of all those currently on death row after having been convicted of drug trafficking - and even other offences that carry the mandatory death penalty. This will be just for the 2 Malaysians and 4 foreigners sentenced in 2018.

This new law could be tabled in the coming parliamentary session this March 2018. This is the most reasonable approach, considering that there are more than 800 on death row, and judicial review of the sentence of so many may be a difficult or near impossible task.

It must also be reminded, that Malaysia was looking at abolishing the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty. While the new Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 will do away with the mandatory death penalty for just 1 offence - drug trafficking - the mandatory death penalty still exists for murder and so many other offences, some of which are offences that do not result in any grievous injury or death to victims.

(source: aliran.com)

PERU:

Death Penalty Talk Revives Criticism of Human Rights Court

The arrest of a man who has confessed to raping and killing an 11-year-old girl, and burning her remains, has revived the call among some members of Congress to reinstate the death penalty.

Under the 1979 Constitution, the death penalty was abolished except for crimes of treason during times of war, and in 1993 Congress added the crime of terrorism. The last death sentence was issued in 1979, against a non-commissioned Air Force officer charged with spying.

The president of the Judiciary, Duberli Rodriguez, said the global trend shows that the death penalty is not the answer to crime, and instead there should be stronger emphasis on the need for prevention and for stiffer sentences. He also noted that reinstating the death penalty would require amendments to the Constitution and to the Criminal Code.

It would also affect the country's standing in the hemisphere's legal institutions.

"We would have to leave the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and I believe that is not legally convenient," Judiciary president Rodriguez said.

That fact is not lost on some of the lawmakers proposing the death penalty.

Daniel Salaverry and Hector Becerril, leading members of Keiko Fujimori's Fuerza Popular party, believe opting out of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, IACHR, should be part of the death penalty debate.

Salaverry said he hoped "this generalized indignation that we feel" would drive the Congress to seek solutions to "aggressions against children." Admitting this would jeopardize the country's standing with the Inter-American Court, he questioned the value of its work. "What is the point of this institution? Only to liberate terrorists," he said to RPP radio.

Becerril also criticized the Court. "It has only caused economic and moral harm to the country by approving the liberation of terrorists."

The IACHR held a hearing last week to review President Kuczynski's pardon of former President Alberto Fujimori, which is considered unjustified by the United Nations, by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The review is at the request of the families whose spouses, children or siblings were murdered by the Colina death squad at the teaching university in La Cantuta and in the low-income district of Barrios Altos in 1992. Both assassinations were known and approved by Fujimori.

Meanwhile, and even though reinstating the penalty would not be a speedy process that could be done in the heat of the moment, the enthusiasm for harsh treatment has led several news sources to bring up the once-famous case of a death sentence gone wrong.

In 1954, a black pickpocket was charged and convicted of the murder of a 3-year-old boy who had been found in the Armendariz ravine, between Miraflores and Barranco (now the access road from the expressway to the Costa Verde beaches). Jorge Villanueva was dubbed by the press as the Monster of Armendariz, which became a household name. He had only been known as a petty thief but 1 witness, an ice cream vendor, had seen him near the ravine. He claimed he was innocent even when he stood to face his firing squad. Years later, he was proved innocent when forensics found that the child's fatal injuries were consistent with being run over by a vehicle and not from violence caused by another human.

(source: Peruvian Times)

IRAQ:

In Iraq, death-row jihadists 'confess' on prime-time TV

Every Friday in Iraq, a gripping show on state television beams the alleged confessions of death-row jihadists into homes around the country.

At peak viewing time, it broadcasts gruesome images of their purported crimes before interviewing the convicts, who appear clad in orange or yellow jumpsuits.

Baghdad declared victory against the Islamic State group in December, after years of fighting to regain vast stretches of territory the jihadists seized in 2014.

Iraq has detained thousands of suspected members of IS, a group infamous for deadly attacks, mass killings and the execution of detainees in orange jumpsuits.

Once a week, a show titled "In the grip of the law" escorts convicted jihadists back to the scene of their crime under heavy security.

By spotlighting IS atrocities, the show aims to stamp out any remaining support for the jihadist group's ideology, its presenter says.

"I get tipped off by the interior ministry, the defence ministry or national security, who captured them," Ahmad Hassan, 36, says.

"They choose the case to highlight and I ask the justice ministry for permission to interview the convict," says Hassan, whose show is aired by state channel Al-Iraqiya.

The programme is up to its 150th episode, he says, and not about to end any time soon.

"Even if IS has lost militarily, its ideology still exists," he says.

"Its supporters view others as non-believers and will continue to murder as long as its ideology lives on."

'Detective agency'

Dressed in a beige suit and brown tie, on a set meant to evoke a detective agency, Hassan starts his show each week with shocking images.

1 episode opens with a photo of dozens of Sunni tribesmen lying in a pool of their own blood, after their 2014 execution by IS in the town of Heet, northwest of Baghdad.

It then introduces Mithaq Hamid Hekmet, 41, one of those condemned over the massacre, who recounts the killings in chilling detail -- even citing the names of others who took part.

On the show's set, a mahogony desk, stacks of papers, maps of Baghdad and mugshots of the day's convict seek to create an intriguing atmosphere to draw in viewers.

In another episode, former IS finance official Mohammad Hamid Omar, nom de guerre Abu Hajjaj, describes his speciality: extorting funds from pharmacies, schools, real estate agencies, petrol stations and doctors.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

IRAN:

Urgent Action

KURDISH MAN SENTENCED TO DEATH AFTER UNFAIR TRIAL

Iranian Kurdish prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi has been on hunger strike since 27 January in protest of being sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial that followed four months of enforced disappearance. He has been transferred to solitary confinement in reprisal. His conviction and sentence violate international law and must be quashed.

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

* Ensure that Ramin Hossein Panahi's death sentence and conviction are quashed and release him unless there is sufficient evidence not obtained through torture or other ill-treatment to charge him with a recognizable criminal offence and grant him a fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty;

* Stop using the denial of medical care as a form of punishment and ensure that he is immediately granted access to adequate medical care outside prison;

* Order a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into his prolonged solitary confinement and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, bringing to justice anyone found responsible, including those with superior responsibility, in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 19 March, 2018:

High Council for Human Rights

Mohammad Javad Larijani

Esfaniar Boulevard, Niayesh Intersection

Vali Asr Avenue, Tehran, Iran

H.E. Gholamali Khoshroo

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Phone: (212) 687-2020 -- Fax: (212) 867-7086

Email: iran@un.int

Salutation: Dear Excellency

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

At Least 10 Prisoners Scheduled to Be Executed

At least 10 prisoners, most of whom charged with murder, were transferred to solitary confinement at Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to a close source, on the morning of Sunday, February 4, at least 10 prisoners were transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison. The prisoners, most of whom are sentenced to death on murder charges, will be executed if they fail to win the consent of the plaintiffs.

It should be noted that executions at Rajai Shahr are usually carried out on Wednesdays.

According to Iran Human Rights (IHR) annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were carried out for murder charges. There is a lack of any classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for all types of the murder, regardless of intensity and intent.

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

Iranian Hardline Cleric Says Protesters Should be Sentenced to Death

A Friday prayer leader in Tehran has called for the death penalty to be issued to citizens who participated in the weeklong protests that erupted across Iran in December 2017.

"In our theology, the ruling against those who pour into the streets in opposition to a just Islamic ruler, cause fires or kill people ... is death," said Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami during a sermon on February 2, 2018.

Khatami is a member of the chairing committee of the Assembly of Experts, the constitutional body that select's the country's ruler.

He continued: "If you want to show mercy, that's fine. But don't give us the impression that you just want rioters to go free. Thereís a time for mercy and there's a time for rage. You have to be firm against the leaders of the riots, like Imam Ali."

Shia Muslims regard Ali (601-661 AD) as the successor to the Prophet Muhammad.

"Those who were played and fooled should be chastised and woken up and should pledge not to commit mischief again by acting as mercenaries for agitators," added Khatami.

At least 25 people were killed and thousands arrested in Iran's December 2017 protests.

According to information obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), some protesters arrested in Hamadan and Khuzestan provinces were already facing charges that are punishable by death before Khatami's fiery sermon.

"Some of them have been investigated, interrogated and charged with 'rebellion,'" said a legal source in the city of Izeh, Khuzestan Province, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.

"The families of the freed detainees have been threatened a lot and are too afraid to talk," added the source. "Most of them say that they are being slapped with serious charges and if they do anything wrong, they could be given heavy sentences."

According to Article 279 of Iran's Constitution: "Moharebeh (rebellion) is defined as drawing a weapon against the life, property or chastity of people or to cause terror as it creates the atmosphere of insecurity."

According to Article 286: "Any person, who extensively commits felony against the bodily entity of people, offenses against the internal or international security of the state, spreading lies, disruption of the economic system of the state, arson and destruction of properties, distribution of poisonous and bacterial and dangerous materials, and establishment of, or aiding and abetting in, places of corruption and prostitution [on a scale] that causes severe disruption in the public order of the state and insecurity, or causes harsh damage to the bodily entity of people or public or private properties, or causes distribution of corruption and prostitution on a large scale, shall be considered as mofsed-e-fel-arz [corrupt on earth] and shall be sentenced to death."

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

FEBRUARY 5, 2018:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Trial for New Florence man, accused of killing police officer, begins Monday

Jury selection is expected to start this morning in Westmoreland County in the capital murder trial of a New Florence man charged with the fatal shooting of a police officer in late 2015.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck has said he will seek the death penalty for Ray A. Shetler Jr. if jurors find him guilty of 1st-degree murder.

Shetler is charged with killing St. Clair Township police officer Lloyd Reed during a domestic dispute call on Nov. 28, 2015. The prosecution contends Reed, 54, was in uniform when he was shot in the chest by Shetler during an exchange of gunfire after police responded to a call for help from a woman.

That woman contended her boyfriend, Shetler, was drunk and abusive and had a weapon.

Shetler has maintained that he did not know that Reed was a police officer when fired his gun. After the shooting, Shetler fled and swam across the Conemaugh River before he discarded the murder weapon, prosecutors allege.

The trial before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio is expected to take about 2 weeks. Jurors are expected to be taken to the murder scene during the trial.

According to court records, the prosecution said it will ask jurors to sentence Shetler to death because his victim was a police officer.

In more than 2 decades as district attorney, Peck has put 5 men on Pennsylvania's death row, which has fewer defendants waiting for execution than it has in recent years.

According to the state's Department of Corrections, there are 156 condemned men waiting for execution. No women are on death row.

It was just 2 years ago that more than 200 inmates were on death row, but as a moratorium on capital punishment imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015 continued, the number declined.

Some death sentences were commuted to life prison terms while other defendants died in prison. 1 such inmate was Michael Travaglia, one of oldest members of death row who was sent there in 1981 after a Westmoreland County jury sentenced him to die for the 1980 murder of Apollo police Officer Leonard Miller.

Travaglia, 59, died in September of natural causes following a lengthy illness.

His codefendant, John C. Lesko remains on death row for Miller's shooting.

Kevin Murphy, 57, was sentenced to death in 2013 by a Westmoreland County jury for the 2009 killings of his mother, sister and elderly aunt in an automotive glass repair shop the family owned in Loyalhanna Township.

Ricky Smyrnes, 31, formerly of North Huntingdon, was sentenced to death in 2013 for his role 3 years earlier in the torture killing of a mentally disabled woman in Greensburg. Smyrnes was considered to be the ringleader of a group of 6 roommates convicted in the 2010 killing of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.

Melvin Knight, 28, formerly of Swissvale, also was sentenced to die by lethal injection for his role in Daugherty's stabbing death but a state appeals court last year vacated that sentence. A new hearing, in which Peck will again ask for the death penalty against Knight, is scheduled for later this year.

Last month Peck announced he will seek the death penalty against Rahmael Sal Holt, an Allegheny County man accused in the November fatal shooting of New Kensington police Officer Brian Shaw.

Pennsylvania has executed just 3 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978. The last execution was in 1999.

(source: Tribune-Review)

DELAWARE:

Former Carney deputy legal counsel jumps in race for attorney general

A 4th person has joined the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general: Chris Johnson, formerly the governor's deputy legal counsel, recently announced he plans to run for the position.

In his announcement speech, Mr. Johnson, 32, pledged to combat inequality and fight for a fairer legal system.

"My strategy is to unite coalitions of people who face oppression every day," he said. "I will be the candidate who speaks up for those whose voices have been silenced.

"I am not afraid to say that 'Black Lives Matter.' I support the 'Me Too' movement, and am not afraid to say 'Time's Up.' I will stand up for the rights up the LGBTQ community. I will stand with our DREAMers, even if Washington will not. And that's just who I am. Being unwilling to compromise in a world fraught with bigotry, hatred, and injustice, I stand for a bold new vision for Delaware."

Mr. Johnson, who resigned his position with Gov. John Carney's office at the end of January, has previously worked for the city of Wilmington's law department. He is the vice chair of the Wilmington Democratic Party and sits on the board of directors for the Delaware Center for Justice and the executive committee of the Delaware State Bar Association.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination for AG are three former Delaware Department of Justice high-ranking officials: Chief of Staff Tim Mullaney, state prosecutor Kathy Jennings and Chief Deputy Attorney General LaKresha Roberts. Republican Tom Neuberger, a private attorney, has announced his intention to run as well.

Current Attorney General Matt Denn revealed in August he would not campaign for a 2nd term, citing "grueling" politics and a desire to spend more time with family.

The current field of Democratic candidates is quite varied, ranging in age from 32 to 67 and including 1 white man, 1 black man, 1 white woman and 1 black woman.

In an interview, Mr. Johnson said he opted to enter the race "simply to represent a voice that isn't heard, the voice for chance and that progressive voice."

As priorities, he pointed to urban gun violence, the opioid epidemic and criminal justice reform. Wilmington has seen record levels of violence in recent years, and 308 people fatally overdosed in Delaware in 2016. Delaware's imprisons people at a higher rate than the 50-state average, while the United States' incarceration rate is much higher than almost every other country.

"These statistics are sobering. Especially considering that national crime rates have been dropping in other jurisdictions," Mr. Johnson said. "The Delaware criminal justice system is truly broken and stacked against low-income and minority communities.

"That is why I am here. I am ready to lead the movement towards achieving a truly just, equitable, and color-blind criminal justice system in Delaware."

Describing gun violence in cities, particularly Wilmington, as his main issue, Mr. Johnson said he would aim to collaborate with local governments to create programs to keep kids and teenagers off the streets.

That's an area Mr. Denn has not completely solved, Mr. Johnson opined.

"I do believe there's a lot he's left on the table, again in terms of specifically addressing gun violence from a state perspective," he said, although he was otherwise complimentary of the current officeholder.

Unlike the other candidates, Mr. Johnson is against capital punishment. Mr. Neuberger, Mr. Mullaney, Ms. Jennings and Ms. Roberts have all said they would be willing to seek the death penalty in certain circumstances.

The death penalty was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2016 over a provision justices ruled to be unconstitutional, but lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would reinstate it.

Mr. Johnson is in favor of the legalization of marijuana, saying it would have "economic and criminal justice benefits alike."

Legislation awaiting a vote in the House would allow adults to consume cannabis for recreational purposes.

Mr. Johnson kicked off his campaign in Wilmington with a career workshop, emphasizing a focus on reducing crime other than through incarcerating offenders.

"I could go on about my other positions on urban gun violence, consumer protection and many more that you will hear from me on the campaign trail. But today, I will end with this: I believe that the Attorney General's Office, now more than ever, has a responsibility to influence the cycle of crime outside the scope of prosecution," he said in his announcement speech.

"Imagine the number of crimes that would be prevented if there were more funding available for public education beginning at pre-k, for after-school programs, for community centers, for health and rehabilitation services, and for job preparedness resources - especially for ex-offenders who are re-entering society."

(source: delawarestatenews.net)

NORTH CAROLINA:

DA wants death penalty for Bertie County inmate charged in officer's death

Prosecutors want the death penalty for an inmate accused of beating to death a correctional officer who rushed to extinguish fire set in a prison dormitory trash can.

Multiple media organizations report that District Attorney Valerie Asbell last month advised a Bertie County judge she would seek the death penalty against Craig Wissink. He's accused of beating to death Sgt. Meggan Callahan with the fire extinguisher she used to douse the fire inside Bertie Correctional Institution last year.

The 36-year-old Wissink was already serving a life sentence for a June 2000 murder in Fayetteville.

Callahan was the 1st of 5 North Carolina prison workers to die last year in 2 attacks by inmates. State prisons have seen severe staff shortages, putting workers in danger.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Poole to get new resentencing hearing in murder of Lakeland man, rape of victim's pregnant fiancee

Convicted murderer Mark Anthony Poole will get a new sentencing hearing, but a circuit judge has ruled his conviction for the 2001 murder of a 24-year-old Lakeland man and the rape of his pregnant fiancee will stand.

In a 73-page decision, Circuit Judge Jalal Harb denied Poole's request for a new trial, saying the errors the defense argued were made during Poole's 2nd trial, whether considered individually or collectively, didn't rise to the level of warranting a new trial.

"The Court did not find that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness," Harb stated in his order.

In an evidentiary hearing last year, lawyers for Poole had argued that attorneys representing him during his 2005 trial had told jurors Poole acknowledged that he committed armed robbery, armed burglary and rape. That error, they said, allowed prosecutors to tell jurors Poole never proclaimed his innocence in the murder, which unfairly prejudiced him in the trial.

But Harb has ruled that error didn't justify a new trial.

"Any deficiency by counsel with regard to any of the claims and subclaims asserted by the defendant, when combined, could not reasonably be viewed as affecting the fairness and reliability of the proceedings or the outcome of the trial," he wrote.

Poole, 55, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and related charges following a 2-week trial in April 2005, nearly four years after Noah Scott and his fiance awoke in the night to find Poole inside their Lakeland mobile home. Scott died that October morning of blunt force trauma to the head.

The girl testified that Poole beat her with a tire iron and held a pillow over her face as he raped her, asking where the money was, according to court documents. Before he left, Poole returned to the bedroom, where he'd left the girl on the bed, touched her vaginal area and whispered "Thank you," court records show.

DNA evidence and eyewitness testimony identified Poole as the assailant in the home-invasion attack, court documents state.

The jury voted unanimously to recommend the death penalty against Poole, and Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance sentenced him to die for the crimes.

In December 2008, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the death penalty against Poole, which led to a 2nd sentencing hearing in 2011. That jury voted 11-1 to recommend the death penalty, and Poole was again sentenced to die for the murder. Circuit Judge J. Michael Hunter ruled the brutality of the attack outweighed any mitigating evidence presented by the defense, according to court records.

In July 2016, Poole's lawyers appealed his conviction and sentence, about 6 months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Floridaís death penalty process was unconstitutional.

That Supreme Court decision has led to changes in the state's death penalty statute, which now requires jurors to agree unanimously that prosecutors have proven the facts in at least 1 of the statutory factors supporting the imposition of the death penalty. The jury's vote also must be unanimous to recommend death, whereas before only a simple majority among the 12 jurors was required to recommend that a judge impose the death sentence.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the changes are retroactive in some cases, including Poole's. Since the jury vote in his 2011 resentencing wasn't unanimous, he's entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

No date has been set for Poole's resentencing. His next hearing is a status conference May 10.

(source: The Ledger)

ALABAMA:

Decatur random killings crime spree; 3 others charged

A capital murder trial begins today for 1 of 4 young people charged in a 2015 Decatur crime spree that included random killings, armed robberies and shootings.

Cortez Mitchell, a 19-year-old from Decatur, faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole if a jury convicts him of capital murder in the May 2015 crime spree that left 2 men dead. Mitchell was just 16 when authorities say he and 3 others gunned down Antonio Hernandez-Lopez and Joshua Davis.

Hernandez-Lopez and Davis were chosen at random by the suspects, police have said. The killings were part of a crime spree that included 6 armed robberies and 2 shootings into homes. The spree spanned several days during mid-May.

"They seemed to just be going around thinking they were having a good time," a Decatur police Captain said of the suspects during a news conference to announce the charges on May 17, 2015.

Charged along with Mitchell are brothers Joseph and Cedric Cowan, and Amani Goodwin. Each suspect was denied youthful offender status by Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell. Youthful offender status would have guaranteed the suspects serve no more than three years if convicted. Each defendant faces 11 felonies, including robbery, discharging a gun and capital murder. Only Joseph Cowan is eligible for the death penalty because he was 20 at the time of the killings. Mitchell and Cedric Cowan were 16, and Goodwin was 17, making them too young to be sentenced to death.

Mitchell's trial begins this morning at 9 a.m. in Howell's courtroom. The jury was empaneled last week on Friday morning. With more than 60 potential witnesses, the trial could continue into next week.

Mitchell has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. His competency has been a central question during pretrial court hearings. He recently asked for new lawyers, but changed his mind by the time he was in front of the judge for a hearing. His appointed attorneys, Joe Propst and Jacob Roberts, said the request was just another example of Mitchell's inability to understand the charges and severity of the situation.

During a hearing on Mitchell's youthful offender application, a Tuscaloosa psychologist testified the boy's IQ was 70 and he has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.

"He's functionally illiterate," Goff testified about Mitchell, according to The Decatur Daily. "He did not, in my view, understand his right to counsel and didn't have the mental faculties to waive his right to counsel."

Shortly after police began identifying suspects in the crimes, Mitchell agreed to speak with investigators and pinned the shootings on the older Cowan. Mitchell's statement also incriminated Cedric Cowan and Goodwin, according to authorities. Goodwin drove the suspects, according to police.

Mitchell first was identified as a suspect because he took to school a cellphone that had been taken in 1 of the robberies, police have said. Investigators called that their big break in the case.

The killings were the 1st homicides in Decatur, a city of about 55,000 residents in nearly 2 years. The previous killing happened in August 2013.

Goodwin, now-20, is the next defendant set for trial in August. It's not yet clear when the Cowan brothers could face a jury.

(source: al.com)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana doesn't have to keep heat index below 88 degrees on Angola's death row, court says

3 ailing Louisiana death row inmates will still have to be protected from excessive heat during the sweltering summer months, but a federal appeals court has given state corrections officials more latitude to decide how to keep them cool.

A 3-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the state does not have to prevent heat indexes at the Angola prison from topping 88 degrees as a Baton Rouge federal judge previously ordered.

The appellate court ruled that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson erred by setting the 88-degree threshold and sent the civil rights case, filed by the 3 prisoners in 2013, back to him for further review.

The panel left open the possibility that Jackson may require what it called "temperature triggers" that would initiate the use of specific heat-relief measures. But where Jackson "went astray," the appellate court judges said, was when he effectively required a "temperature ceiling" that could not be breached.

"Although well-intentioned, the district court ... both considered and accepted the need for a maximum heat index," Circuit Judge Jerry Smith wrote Wednesday for the panel, noting that a previous 5th Circuit panel "plainly foreclosed any consideration of a maximum heat index."

In his response to the appeals court ruling, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the Constitution "does not require prisons to be comfortable; it requires them to be humane."

The state has argued it should have to provide only cold showers, an individual fan and unlimited access to ice and water to the 3 inmates.

Mercedes Montagnes, an attorney for the 3 inmates, declined comment Thursday.

The 5th Circuit has made it clear over the past few years and again on Wednesday that condemned killers Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee are not entitled to air conditioning on Angola's death row. The inmates' attorneys have argued that air conditioning is the only way to adequately lower heat indexes on death row, and at the same time reduce the prisoners' risks of heat-related illness or even death.

Ball was condemned to die for fatally shooting beer deliveryman Ben Scorsone during a 1996 armed robbery of a Gretna lounge. Magee received the death penalty for the 2007 shotgun killing of his estranged wife, Adrienne Magee, and their 5-year-old son, Zach, in a subdivision near Mandeville. Code is on death row for the slaying of 4 people at a house in Shreveport in 1985.

Jackson and the 5th Circuit both have found that subjecting the ailing Angola death row inmates to excessive heat constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and that some remedies are necessary to protect their health and safety. Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson agreed with Smith and fellow 5th Circuit Judge Rhesa Barksdale that ordering the state to maintain the heat index below 88 degrees was wrong. But in a partial dissent, he said that to forbid Jackson from considering a maximum safe heat index "is to require that court to remedy the constitutional violation that we have found exists ... without considering its cause."

"But, in a facility where the heat index frequently exceeds 100 degrees and has risen as high as 110.3 degrees, requiring the state to lower the heat indices to which these medically compromised plaintiffs are exposed is not the same as mandating that the heat index remain below 88 degrees," Higginson wrote.

The heat index is a measure of temperature and humidity.

The state is currently providing the three inmates with cold showers, individual fans, unlimited access to ice and water, and "IcyBreeze" units. IcyBreeze is a brand name, but in court documents the modified ice chests also have been referred to as "Cajun coolers," which are equipped with fans and ducting to blow cool air.

The state has been using the IcyBreeze units under protest, saying they are essentially air conditioning, but the 5th Circuit panel disagreed with that characterization in its Wednesday decision.

"As the district court rightly explained, the IcyBreeze units are basically ice chests with fans attached," Smith wrote, adding that they also are inexpensive, costing about $500 apiece.

The inmates' civil rights case has bounced back and forth between Baton Rouge federal court and the New Orleans-based appellate court.

Jackson's 2013 order mandating the state to keep heat indexes from topping 88 degrees was struck down by the 5th Circuit because it effectively required the state to install air conditioning throughout the death row housing, the appeals court said.

The state's 2nd court-mandated plan provided the 3 inmates with daily, 15-minute cold showers; ice containers regularly replenished from newly purchased ice machines; and a personal fan. The inmates' objected to that plan, and Jackson concluded it was inadequate because it exposed the prisoners to heat indexes above 88 degrees. The judge also found that the plan did not reduce the substantial risk of serious harm to the inmates because they continued to experience heat-related symptoms during the plan's implementation.

The state, in connection with settlement discussions, then implemented under protest several experimental relief measures. These included relocating the 3 men to another tier close to the air-conditioned guards' pod, installing an air vent in that pod to divert cool air to the inmates' cells, setting up a plastic curtain around their cells to trap the cool air, providing each man with an IcyBreeze unit and regularly replenishing the units with ice. Those measures would only kick in when the heat index topped 88 degrees.

The state appealed Jackson's imposition of that third plan to the 5th Circuit, which led to Wednesday's ruling.

In sending the case back to Jackson in that ruling, the appeals court said the judge "cannot decree whether any given plan is necessary to lower the heat index to below a maximum, nor can it require the state to provide an undetermined number of IcyBreeze units or other measures to keep the heat index below a certain point."

The panel, however, said it "may well be that parts of the Third Plan are still necessary to redress the constitutional violation: i.e., 'housing these prisoners in very hot cells without sufficient access to heat-relief measures.'"

(source: The Advocate)

OHIO----impending execution

Ohio juror voted for death 20 years ago, now seeks mercy

Ross Geiger had doubts about recommending a death sentence 20 years ago for a convicted Ohio killer, concerned about the impact of the offenderís tough childhood on his behavior.

But ultimately, Geiger voted in favor of death for Raymond Tibbetts for killing a Cincinnati man he was staying with.

Today, Geiger has changed his mind. After reviewing documents made available during Tibbetts' clemency appeal last year, Geiger believes he and other jurors were misled about the "truly terrible conditions" of Tibbetts' upbringing.

On Jan. 30, Geiger asked Gov. John Kasich to spare Tibbetts, who is set for execution Feb. 13.

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

Geiger said he didn't feel like he had a choice at the time.

"I felt persuaded the law required me to vote for death in this circumstance," he told The Associated Press.

The Republican governor is reviewing Tibbetts' clemency request, said spokesman Jon Keeling.

Tibbetts, 60, was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks' home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit.

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

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

"In nearly every case this board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions," Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a 2017 filing. "The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders."

The parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy. A message was left with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office about Geiger's letter.

Jurors heard "mostly anecdotal stories" from a psychiatrist called on Tibbetts' behalf about his troubled childhood and poor foster care, Geiger told Kasich.

Geiger said he was shocked last month reading testimony presented at Tibbetts' clemency hearing about the conditions Tibbetts and his siblings lived through in foster care.

At night, Tibbetts and his brothers were tied to a single bed at the foster home, weren't fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts' application for mercy last year.

Geiger told Kasich he was angered to see such material, which jurors had never been presented.

During the 1998 trial, Geiger managed people processing health insurance claims. He described himself as a conservative Republican at the time.

Today he's a commercial banker who voted for President Donald Trump, "a pro-growth, economic liberty kind of guy."

He says he made the decision to write Kasich on his own. He also feels sympathy for Tibbetts' victims, who deserve justice, he said.

"In a selfish way this is about my feeling duped by the system," Geiger said. "The state asked me to carry the responsibility for such a decision but withheld information from me that was important."

Geiger's letter matters because the parole board wasn't aware of his regrets when it ruled against Tibbetts, said Erin Barnhart, a federal public defender representing the inmate.

"Kasich is the only person who has the ability to act on it at this point," Barnhart said.

(source: The Republic)

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"The Penalty" tells three capital punishment-related stories. They include that of a recently exonerated death row inmate and a homicide victim's family trying to negotiate the legal system. A 3rd story examines the 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire using a never tried 2-drug process that Ohio has since abandoned.

The film follows federal public defender Allen Bohnert during his unsuccessful fight to stop McGuire's execution.

Screenings are scheduled in several Ohio cities beginning Monday to include Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus.

(source: Associated Press)

IOWA:

State can't be trusted on capital punishment

During this legislative session, there has been renewed discussion of bringing back Iowa's death penalty which ended in 1965. There are opponents to bringing back the death penalty who have based their opinions on financial and budgetary concerns, opponents who have religious or moral disagreements to the death penalty, and opponents who believe it would give murderers additional fame and publicity when the media covers their death penalty appeals.

Without getting into those debates, I simply raise the question if we should trust the state to execute people based on their previous history of carrying out executions.

We have no idea what a new death penalty in Iowa would look like once it gets out of the legislature, and there are many scientific and case studies of innocent people imprisoned and even executed that should give us cause for concern. When emotions are high, we often make irrational decisions that have unintended consequences.

Proponents of the proposed death penalty legislation claim that the new death penalty will only be used in rare cases. Whenever new legislation is proposed, it almost always starts small. As time goes by, the Overton window moves, and the legislature grants itself more power and authority by passing additional laws. Before you know it, the original law looks nothing like what the new legislation is doing.

In addition to not knowing what would be in the legislation, the government has a horrendous track record with criminal justice. The National Registry of Exonerations lists 2,164 criminal exonerations that have taken place and 353 of them listed were exonerated from DNA evidence. In 2014, a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed that 4.1 % of people sentenced to death in the United States were likely innocent. In 2015, the FBI admitted that the hair analysis, which was used in 32 death penalty cases, was a flawed analysis.

Once a person is executed, we cannot bring them back no matter what evidence we later find or confessions are made. Why should we trust the legislature with the responsibility of passing legislation that would end human life when we may have such a high rate of innocent people being executed?

The role of the government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Bringing back the death penalty will not protect any of those things. In fact, based on previous studies and results we know that it can be used to end innocent lives mistakenly. Our state motto proudly says, "Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain." How can we live up to our motto if we execute even 1 innocent person?

(source: Gues Column, Jake Porter; The Gazette)

WASHINGTON:

End death penalty in Washington

Washington's death penalty is applied inequitably and its administration is costly.

For so many reasons, Washington state should eliminate the death penalty.

As King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberghas argued eloquently in these pages and recently before a state Senate committee: the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, it is unnecessary for public safety, it is not worth the cost to taxpayers or the emotional energy for victims' families, and it simply hasn't worked the way it was intended.

Since Washington reinstated the death penalty in 1981, 33 people were sentenced to die, 5 have been executed and 8 are currently on death row. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on executions in 2014, which helped boost this policy conversation. But that does not bind future governors.

The Legislature should end the death penalty this year.

Senate Bill 6052, which would eliminate the death penalty, has bipartisan support for a variety of reasons, including those listed by Satterberg. Also, as primary sponsor Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, says, the death penalty process is not worth the $1.5 million in public costs per case and the years victims' families suffer through the process.

Not all victims' families or prosecutors agree that the death penalty should be abandoned. But as Satterberg asks: Do you support the death penalty Washington has or the one you wish we had?

"The law we have is deeply flawed," he told the Law & Justice Committee, which passed the bill out of committee on Jan. 25.

The law is used only in the most populous counties, because those are the only municipalities that can afford decades of death penalty appeals. Most counties do not have the resources to even consider pursuing the death penalty. Even in the counties where such a process is possible, death penalty cases suck money away from other important prosecutorial work.

The legal system is imperfect, no matter how carefully these cases are managed. Nationally, since 1973 at least 160 people have been freed from death row after new evidence shows they were wrongly convicted, according to Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

Washington state should eliminate the death penalty.

(source: Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Donna Gordon Blankinship, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins, Melissa Santos, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus)---- Seattle Times)

BOTSWANA:

Rising murder cases scornful of death penalty

Cases of murder in Botswana are escalating despite the intervention of law mechanisms in the form of the death penalty.

Botswana is the only country in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) that still upholds and practices the death penalty as other member states have either abolished the exercise in law or in practice. Indications suggest that the executions are in practice bearing no fruits as citizens continue to kill each other for various reasons - including trivial ones. Statistics turned up by WeekendPost indicate that murder has been escalating since 2015 through to 2016 and recently 2017.

According to the Botswana Police Service Annual Report for the year 2016, a total number of 278 murder cases were recorded in 2015. In 2016 the number escalated to a whooping 305 murder cases registered. Police records further indicate that during 2017 a total number of 70 murder cases were recorded from January to March, 81 from March to June and 51 from June to September summing to 202. The recorded cases from September to December were however not immediately availed to this publication upon request.

It is also still unclear how many cases have gone un-recorded between the years or in cases of when the victims have gone missing without a trace. Botswana Police Assistant Public Relations Officer (PRO) Jayson Chabota stated to this publication in an interview on Wednesday that "during the festive season police operations that ran from 18th December 2017 to 3rd January 2018, recorded a total of 22 murder cases".

According to Chabota, this shows a glaring increase as compared to 20 cases registered during the same period in 2016. When asked on the reasons for these growing murder cases, the Police mouthpiece pointed out that "most murder cases were as a result of killings related to love affairs and misunderstandings that erupted at drinking places." A highly regarded lecturer of Social Work at the University of Botswana (UB) Kgomotso Jongman hinted that death penalty is not a deterrent all.

"We have reached a state of hopelessness where nothing matters. Death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent but when people got nothing to lose it's not a deterrent anymore," he said. Take an example of a 19 year old in Mogoditshane who was on bail owing to murder, he went on and killed another person again, he highlighted while adding that "he knows he is going to be killed anyway".

Jongman's sentiments were also shared by Keletso Tshekiso; a reputable Counselor serving as the Publicity Secretary of the Botswana Counseling Association who was firm that capital punishment is proving to be counterproductive. She explained that "in punishment, the stimulus propelling the undesired behavior decreases the likelihood of repetition of that behavior in future. So you can't punish a dead person because they won't feel anything. In short you are just eliminating that individual. It may not be considered as punishment by another person until they too face death sentence. So to many, 'capital punishment is just an angry law' which eliminates the murderers (perpetrators) and not murder (action)."

In addition, the professional Counselor noted that there are quite a number of reasons while people kill, like social influences, issues of power relations, cognitive and intellectual impairment and added that the reasons keep on increasing. Some human rights renowned local attorneys such as Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm, Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys and Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners continues to call for the abolishment of the capital punishment.

When sharing his legal thoughts to WeekendPost on Thursday, Ndadi said: "I do not know what plays in the mind of a murderer, but I doubt if a murderer thinks of the consequences at the time. He continued: "the proponents of capital punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent, does it? NO!!!" On the other hand, he stated that he knows that it is wrong and barbaric to kill, and to him it doesn't matter under what circumstances, unless of course it is in self defence.

"It doesn't matter to me whether the killing is as a result of death penalty or crime, it is wrong. The argument that a punishment must fit the crime committed holds true but not to the extent of repeating the crime," he pointed out. "That is why we do not rape people who rape, steal from those who steal, beat up those who beat others (even their spouses and partners) for we know it is wrong to do so. But why do we find it okay to kill?" he asked. The esteemed human rights attorney highlighted that he is aware that the Court of Appeal has declared death penalty in Botswana to be constitutional.

"I have a problem with that because any person has a right to life and dignity. The right to life must be preserved by government as well. No one should be licensed to kill by any law. The government must take the lead in showing how precious life is, and not follow what murderers do. Otherwise it is like punishing a child for doing what you yourself do to the child or others."

Another well regarded attorney Rantao, has in recent reports, called for the abolishment of the death penalty on grounds that it is evil, irreversible, discriminatory and just a form of retribution that solves absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, while countries across the globe continue to dispose of the practice, Botswana still continues to enforce on it having executed approximately more than 53 people since independence in 1966, most of which were said to be men. Put mildly, Botswana carries out roughly 1 execution per year.

The death penalty is provided for in the supreme law being the constitution section 4(1) which states that: "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the law in force in Botswana of which he has been convicted." According to the Botswana Penal Code (which enforces capital punishment) section 202: "any person who of malice aforethought causes the death of another person by an unlawful copyright Government of Botswana act or omission is guilty of murder."

It posits in section 203 that "subject to the provisions of subsection (2), any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death. (2) Where a court in convicting a person of murder is of the opinion that there are extenuating circumstances, the court may impose any sentence other than death. (3) In deciding whether or not there are any extenuating circumstances the court shall take into consideration the standards of behaviour of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs."

The technique for the execution of death sentence in Botswana is also pronounced under section 26(1) of the Penal code which posits that "when any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he shall be hanged by the neck until he is dead." Meanwhile, on behalf of government, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu is adamant that the death penalty will continue to be practised.

He said this when speaking at the 29th session of the 3rd cycle review report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 2 weeks back at Geneva, Switzerland. He stated at the high level meeting that "Botswana's view on "the question of death penalty" remains unchanged, and the death penalty remains a competent sentence under the laws of Botswana."

He continued to highlight that, in that regard, "government holds the view that the death penalty is not a human rights violation, or a form of torture, but rather a matter of criminal justice. Like every country, we retain the sovereign right to independently decide our own criminal justice system, including the retention of the death penalty," he maintained.

He also explained that while the country does not begrudge those who have abolished it or imposed a moratorium on executions, it equally expects that they too should respect their right to determine whether it abolishes or retains it, as a criminal justice sanction, in accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However Batshu said the Botswana government was however aware that there could be some genuine concern about the application of the death penalty in some parts of the world.

He further told the global gathering that "let me assure you that in Botswana, we have robust laws and institutions including an independent judiciary in order to ensure that there is no arbitrary imposition of the death sentence. Nonetheless, Government intends to hold public debates on the death penalty over the coming period, and Botswana would welcome technical and financial assistance to carry out such an exercise."

(source: risingpost.co.bw)

GEORGIA:

Georgia Tightens Punishment for Criminal Group Membership

The Georgian Government has decided to step up efforts in the fight against the criminal world, and will tighten punishment members of criminal groups; especially for being a so-called "thief-in-law."

The proper legislative amendments, initiated by the Interior Ministry, were approved by the Government and sent to the Parliament for further consideration.

According to the changes, any person who appears to be a member of a criminal group or a "thief- in- law", for the purpose of settling any dispute or making any decisions, or supports the criminal world, will be punished according to criminal law.

Also, any person who organizes the meeting of criminals or so called "thieves-in-laws", or takes part in such meetings, will be punished.

Furthermore, if under the current criminal code, being a "thief-in-law" is punished by 7-10 years imprisonment, according to the amendments, this punishment will be increased to 10-15 years in prison.

As for membership of an organized criminal group, the punishment will be a term of 7 to 10 years instead of the previous 5-8 years.

Georgia's Deputy Interior Minister, Natia Mezvrishvili, says that as soon as members of the criminal world, so-called thieves-in-law cross the state border of Georgia, law enforcement bodies will detain them immediately.

"Moreover, the people who provide any kind of assistance to the members of organized crime groups will be also punished according to the law," she stressed.

Giorgi Gakharia, Interior Minister of Georgia, says if the members of the organized crime groups cooperate with the investigation, their punishment will be lifted.

"The planned changes are necessary if we all want to build a successful country and eliminate organized crime once and for all," he stated.

The Minister believes law and order will not be established in the country until there is effective cooperation between civil society and law enforcement agencies.

"We are building this bridge of trust now. For this purpose, we needed to be honest to ourselves and to society," Gakharia told Imedi TV.

Georgia's Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, welcomed the changes, saying Giorgi Gakharia enjoys tremendous support from the Cabinet.

"I would like to emphasize and assure our population that the mentality of organized crime will never again take root in Georgia. Never ever! In this regard, we will be truly consistent and merciless because it is about the peace and quiet of our fellow compatriots and the building of our country's future," the PM stressed.

Vory v zakone, or "thieves-in-law," are originally a Soviet phenomenon. They first appeared in the 1930s - people who did not accept the Soviet regime and went into the criminal underground. "Thief" is not a profession, but a title backed by the thieves' "law," or code of conduct.

According to the thieves' own morality: to not rat on others, to repay debts, to not be associated with sports teams, etc. But the title gave them the right to act as arbitrators in the criminal world.

These "thieves" disappeared back in the early 1960s, when the death penalty was introduced for the involvement in gangs, said Mikhail Pashkin, chairman of the coordinating council of the Moscow and Moscow Region police trade union.

These days, a "thief-in-law" is just the leader of a criminal gang, with the exception of a few traditions that have been preserved: the ceremony of "crowning" (the awarding of this title), and the thieves' cashbox - the so-called obshchak (common fund), which is held by the "thieves."

Only people, who have been convicted many times can become the so-called thieves-in-law. Once accepted they must live according to the thieves' code. The penalty for violation of this code is often mutilation or death.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the so-called thieves-in-law (the vory) assumed a leading role within the Russian criminal hierarchy.

Today, the thieves are spreading their influence far beyond the borders of the former USSR and they have their organized crime groups in Europe and even in the USA.

(source: georgiatoday.ge)

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