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

FEBRUARY 19, 2017:

TEXAS:

Conference held in Austin to abolish the death penalty

A group of Texans wanting to get rid of the penalty heard a different perspective on the act of executing someone during a conference Saturday in Austin.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty brought together people who think it's unfair - and should go away.

The group invited journalists who have witnessed executions to explain why it's an important issue to discuss.

"Whether you're for it or against it, whether that coverage takes place is extremely important. I think that a lot of people who are advocates either for it or against it don't know the back story as far as what goes into the reporting on the death penalty, how sometimes the stories can be pretty dark, pretty looming, very graphic in a lot of ways," said Ryan Poppe.

Democratic lawmakers have filed bills in the Texas House and Senate to abolish it. However, Poppe says it will likely see the same fate as past bills to do the same.

It likely will not even come up for a vote.

(source: KXAN news)

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Activists Want Texas' Death Penalty Abolished as Executions Decline

Data from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty shows fewer inmates were executed in 2016 than in 2015 - a trend the group says continues to go down.

"I think it's time to get rid of it," said Brian Stolarz, defense attorney.

Opponents of the death penalty say juries are becoming more aware of the risk of a wrongful conviction.

"We also see juries in cases demanding higher standards of evidence. There have been 157 people nationwide and 13 here in Texas who were wrongfully convicted and released from death row," said Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Defense attorneys say the political climate has changed and so have minds.

"We have a case with no physical evidence, no science at all in the case. Just witness interviews, witness statements and other things, and a man who was innocent was going to die," said Stolarz.

2 bills have been filed at the state capitol; 1 would get rid of the death penalty for people convicted under Texas' law of parties and the other would abolish the death penalty altogether.

Additionally, fewer prosecutors are seeking capital punishment "because they have the option of life in prison without parole and also because many of them don't want to burden their counties with the exorbitant expense of a death penalty trial," said Houle.

Some argue the state ought to practice restorative justice - where those convicted have a chance to repent and rehabilitate.

"Even people who have done bad things cannot be judged on that one bad thing alone. People are greater than the one bad thing they do," said Stolarz.

So far, 18 states plus DC have abolished the death penalty.

(source: twcnews.com)

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Lawmaker wants state funds for death penalty attorneys

A Republican Texas lawmaker is trying to pass a bill that would create and fund a statewide office of appellate attorneys to represent death row inmates.

Last week, Rep. James White, R-Hillister, filed House Bill 1676 to create the Office of Capital Appellate Defender. The state-funded office would represent inmates sentenced to death who can't afford their own lawyer in their direct appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals - the time when convicts can raise issues from their trial. Currently, the convicting court appoints an approved lawyer for this step of the appeals process and the prosecuting county pays the bill.

White, who represents 5 rural counties in East Texas, said the bill is one way to help struggling counties that have had to raise property taxes while dealing with unfunded state mandates, such as paying for indigent defense. And as chairman of the House Corrections Committee and representative of the district that houses most of Texas' death row inmates, he wants to ensure the state is being thorough when handing down the harshest penalty it can impose.

White has estimated the office would cost $500,000 a year, which could put the bill in jeopardy as lawmakers work to tighten the state’s budget for the coming biennium.

(source: The Texas Tribune)

GEORGIA:

Man gets new life sentence for killing officer 25 years ago

A man sent to death row 23 years ago for killing an Atlanta police officer has been given a new sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

Atlanta-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a news release Friday that 45-year-old Norris Speed agreed to the new punishment to avoid another possible death sentence during a new penalty hearing ordered by an appellate judge.

Speed was convicted in 1993 of malice murder in the December 1991 slaying of Atlanta officer Niles Johantgen. But an appeals judge threw out Speed's death sentence in 2010, ruling a sheriff's deputy gave improper advice to the trial jury.

At a hearing Thursday, prosecutors agreed not to seek a new death sentence for Speed if he would accept life without parole.

(source:Atlanta Journal Constitution)

FLORIDA:

.Man sentenced to death for burying model alive

The Brevard County Florida court handed a man death sentence after he was found guilty for the murder of Bahamian beauty queen Darice Knowles.

Knowles, a college student and pageant winner was buried alive and encased in concrete on a wooded lot in Cocoa. 10 out of 12 jurors recommended death penalty for Vahtiece Kirkman.

. Knowles, 22, came to Brevard County from the Bahamas in 2006 to study at Brevard Community College. Her boyfriend, Christopher Pratt, was involved in dealing illegal drugs, and he, along with Kirkman, became convinced that the young woman was talking to police about them.

. The prosecutors said, her death was at the hands of Pratt under the direction of Kirkman. The accused has also been convicted of kidnapping after she was reported missing by her family members. According to reports, Kirkman buried the woman alive under a mix of concrete and dirt with her hands and feet tied with a duct tape.

. Kirkman is already serving a life sentence for his role in the 2006 robbery-related shooting death of 29-year-old Willie Parker in Cocoa. "Police cleared away more than an acre of land, using city work crews and heavy equipment to search for what would turn out to be Knowles' body. The former beauty queen is best remembered by everyone for her beautiful smile and positive approach towards life.

(source: indiatimes.com)

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Thompson's attorney withdraws speedy trial rqeuest

After a circuit judge denied a request to take the death penalty off the table for a man who went on a killing spree, the man's defense attorney Friday withdrew her demand to move toward trial in the coming weeks.

Derrick Thompson, 43, faces 1 1st-degree murder charge in Bay County and two others in Santa Rosa County in in connection with a July 2014 killing spree. He was arrested shortly after he admitted killing a Santa Rosa County couple and former Bay County Sheriff's Office officer and nightclub owner, 66-year-old Allen Johnson, as a premeditated plot to further his prescription pill addiction. Thomspon's defense attorney, Kim Jewell, had been arguing that the death penalty law in Florida was non-existent, pending the change of procedure to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

However, Circuit Judge Hentz McClellan recently found the High Court's decision that a death sentence must be met by unanimous jury verdict does not preclude prosecutors from seeking the punishment in pending cases. When the attorneys met Friday before McClellan's court, Jewell withdrew her motion for a speedy trial, which would have had jurors seated in March.

The next court date in the case is scheduled for April 18.

(source: newsherald.com)

ALABAMA:

The weak sedative behind botched executions

Alabama liberal in death sentences State's death penalty statute, other factors contribute to large number of inmates sentenced to execution.

From alleged botched executions in Oklahoma and Alabama to a split decision before the U.S. Supreme Court, a single sedative -- just 1 of the ingredients in a lethal cocktail -- defines much of the recent uncertainty around the American death penalty.

Midazolam was first introduced 4 decades ago. It's a common sedative used before minor dental or medical procedures, such as colonoscopies.

It's popular and inexpensive - $95 per 10mg wholesale. The World Health Organization lists it as one of the essential drugs needed for a basic health-care system.

But in the past four years midazolam also has been used in large doses - 100 mg to 500mg - for the darker and unhealthy purpose. Prison systems in Alabama and at least 5 other states have used it to sedate death row inmates to mask the pain of the drugs they are then given to stop their hearts and breathing.

Inmates in Alabama and other states say in lawsuits that midazolam's use amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. They say the drug isn't strong enough to block the burning pain caused by the other drugs. It has resulted in a half-dozen botched executions in Alabama and elsewhere, they claim.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, however, in a 5-4 decision declared midazolam's use in an Oklahoma case wasn't cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissent wasn't convinced midazolam prevents pain and likened the risk to being "burned at the stake."

Despite the nation's top court saying it is okay for prisons to use midazolam, three states have now abandoned its use in recent months. Alabama isn't among them despite lawyers for two inmates who were executed last year with midazolam claiming those executions were botched.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office is now awaiting a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court to set an execution date for Robert Melson - the man convicted in the 1994 triple slayings of employees at a Popeye's restaurant in Gadsden. Melson's attorneys filed a motion to the Alabama Supreme Court on Feb. 8 urging them not to set any execution dates yet until the question of the constitutionality of the method of execution with the use of midazolam is resolved, particularly after the Dec. 8 execution of Ronald Bert Smith was "badly botched."

The Attorney General's Office declined to comment for this story.

The court document filed with the Alabama Supreme Court earlier this month seeks to have the court delay the setting of an execution date for Melson.

Prison systems in Alabama and other states began turning towards midazolam as an alternative to sedate inmates after drug manufacturers of sodium thiopental and pentobarbital began cutting off supplies because they didn't want their drugs associated with executions.

Alabama was caught by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration trying to bring in black market supplies, according to previous reports. The Alabama Department of Corrections also had no luck after contacting four other states to see if they could share their supplies, and also a few dozen pharmacies to see if they would compound pentobarbital.

The testimony is being presented to U.S. District Court Judge Keith Watkins in a trial of a lawsuit filed by Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who is challenging as cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution the state's new 3-drug lethal injection protocol.

So in 2014 Alabama announced it would substitute midazolam into its lethal injection cocktail.

What is midazolam?

"It is a class of sedative hypnotics known as benzodiazepine, the most famous of which is valium. ... It's (valium is) a close cousin," said David A. Lubarsky, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management at the University of Miami.

What is midazolam designed to do?

"It is intended to relieve anxiety and when used as part of an anesthetic to reduce the requirement of other drugs. But it is not indicated as a sole drug for an anesthetic state," Lubarsky said.

It can be used as a sedative for minor medical procedures but not for surgery or an execution, Lubarsky said.

What won't midazolam do?

"You can knock someone out you just can't do anything to them ... The thing with midazolam it does not depress your sensations sufficiently to allow you to do surgery," Lubarsky said.

"If there's movement the inmate's not asleep, or not sufficiently asleep," Lubarsky said. "Nobody moves if they are properly anesthetized with midazolam or any drug," he said.

Even during procedures such as colonoscopies midazolam is used in combination with another drug to knock the patients out, Lubarsky said.

Gasping for breath

In several executions over the past 4 years around the nation, witnesses have seen inmates struggle on the gurneys after being injected with midazolam and before being given the other drugs.

In the Dec. 8 execution in Alabama the inmate, Ronald Bert Smith, moved around for 13 minutes, appearing to gasp for breath, snort, and move his arms. A correctional officer performed two unconscious tests before the other lethal drugs were administered. Prison officials said the execution was conducted according to its protocol. It's unclear whether Smith was given more than the initial dose of 500 mg of midazolam during his struggle.

One of Smith's lawyers later called it a "botched" execution.

An awakening

Nobody moves if they are properly anesthetized with midazolam or any drug," Dr. David Lubarsky

The definition of being anesthetized is being insensate, unconscious, and immobile, said Lubarsky, who has testified in inmates' midazolam lawsuits around the country.

An inmate can get to sleep with midazolam, Lubarsky said. But a very high urgent tone, adrenaline surge, or pain can produce an awakening, he said.

"You just won't stay asleep in the face of a painful stimulus, which is why it (midazolam) is not indicated as a single drug for anesthesia because it doesn't work," Lubarsky said.

Lubarsky noted the July 23, 2014 execution of inmate Joseph Wood in Arizona that took nearly two hours. Wood was given a total of 760 grams of midazolam combined with narcotics on top of that.

"All these drugs that we give are balanced against the condition of the day," Lubarsky said. "Meaning if someone is hyper acute and hyperaware and has their adrenaline going because they are about to die they don't succumb to these drugs that are not complete anesthetics."

Not enough on its own

Midazolam has no place for use in executions, Lubarsky said. "You could concoct some regimen using midazolam that would be okay but only as part of a regimen and not as a sole drug," he said.

Before midazolam most states used pentobarbital or sodium thiopental as the sedative, which provide a deeper level of anesthesia, Lubarsky said. The problem with that drug was that it didn't last long enough to get an execution, he said.

After manufacturers began refusing to provide sodium thiopental and other drugs for executions, prisons turned to midazolam, which lasts a little longer than sodium thiopental but doesn't provide a level of anesthesia sufficiently deep at any point in time, he said.

"So it's complicated," Lubarsky said. "State correctional facilities are trying to simplify what it takes anesthesiologists years to learn and to execute flawlessly."

Paradoxical affect

Alabama inmates also have suggested that they also could have a "paradoxical" reaction to midazolam.

Lubarsky explained that a paradoxical reaction is where midazolam produces in the patient the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of sedation the person becomes excited, hyperactive and even combative, he said.

Doctors don't fully understand why that occurs, but it occurs with between 1 to 11 % of people taking midazolam, Lubarsky said. It depends on personal characteristics, particularly those with sociopathic and violent tendencies, he said.

"I image imagine people who are being sentenced to death have all those characteristics," Lubarsky said.

Lubarsky said he is not a "die-hard" opponent to executions. But he said it should be done right. "We're not doing it right and it's important that we're better than the people we're trying to execute."

Move away from midazolam?

Alabama is among a half dozen states that have used midazolam in executions - either in combination with 2 or 3 other drugs, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The other states are Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia and Arizona.

But in the past few months 3 of those states - Arizona, Ohio and Florida - have abandoned or are considering abandoning midazolam's use in executions.

In court actions in the past 3 months Ohio and Arizona have moved away from the use of midazolam and it appears Florida also is looking at a replacement for the drug. (what are the replacement options?)

A federal magistrate judge on Jan. 26 declared the use of a 3-drug cocktail - including midazolam - Ohio planned to use for executions is unconstitutional, according to Cleveland.com. "The Court concludes that use of midazolam as the 1st drug in Ohio's present 3-drug protocol will create a 'substantial risk of serious harm' or an 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' as required by (Supreme Court precedent)," the judge wrote.

Arizona in December became the 1st to move away from the use of midazolam. In an agreement filed in December in an on-going federal lawsuit by a group of Arizona death row inmates the Arizona Department of Corrections agreed that it "will never again use midazolam, or any other benzodiazepine, as part of a drug protocol in a lethal injection execution."

Arizona's move away from midazolam began last summer when the state said it could no longer get a supply of the drug and suggested the prisoners' lawsuit was now moot. But attorneys for the prisoners, however, questioned what would happen if Arizona later obtained a supply of that drug and worked for a permanent agreement.

In December the Orlando Sentinel reported that records showed that Florida no longer has a supply of midazolam hydrochloride. Instead, the state has been purchasing the hypnotic drug etomidate as a replacement.

Alabama, however, has shown no sign that it plans to back off its current protocol. State prison officials have denied that either of Alabama's 2 executions since the new lethal injection cocktail was put into place were botched. They say both went according to protocol and both inmates did not respond to consciousness tests after midazolam was administered, but before the other drugs were given.

Courts so far have denied the Alabama prisoners' midazolam claims. Some of the lawsuits also have been dismissed because judges ruled the Alabama prisoners did not suggest a less painful form of execution available to the state - a requirement when contesting methods of execution. The judges have rejected inmates' suggestions of firing squad, hanging and gas, saying those are not available under Alabama law.

Attorneys for death row inmate Robert Melson who may be next up on the gurney, however, say no executions should be allowed until the lawsuits challenging use of midazolam are settled.

"There are serious constitutional issues surrounding the method the State intends to use to carry out Mr. Melson's death sentence. Given the events of Ronald Smith's execution, it is premature to set an execution date for Mr. Melson when questions about the method used to carry out that sentence have not yet been resolved."

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

OR Man Faces Death Penalty For Setting Fire that Killed 2 Firefighters

An Oregon man has been charged with 2 aggravated murder counts for setting a fire in January of 2014 that killed 2 Toledo firefighters.

Ray Abou-Arab, 63, could receive the death penalty if Lucas County Common Pleas Court convicts him for allegedly setting a Magnolia Street building that he owned on fire, The Blade reported.Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James "Jamie" Dickman, 31, died Jan. 26, 2014, while battling the North Toledo apartment fire. Private Machcinski was a 10-year veteran of the department. Private Dickman was a rookie to Toledo, responding to his 1st fire call. He previously served with the Perkins Township Fire Department.

The trial, slated to begin on April 3, could last 3 weeks or longer and will include a sentencing phase if Mr. Abou-Arab is found guilty.

Robert Miller, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, revealed he plans to file a motion to have the jury brought to the scene of the alleged crime.

In April 2015, Toledo fire union officials and top department administrators were at odds over whether the decision to eliminate a full-time safety officer in 2012 had contributed to the deaths of the 2 firefighters.

"The leader of this department, Chief Santiago, for t2 years, had a flawed system," Local 92 President Jeff Romstadt told The Blade. "We brought it to his attention. ... He needs to be held accountable for the decisions he made that are contributing factors in 2 firefighters' deaths."

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a federal report that had outlined the deaths of Pvts. Stephen Machcinski and James "Jamie" Dickman.

Mr. Romstadt said the elimination of a full-time safety officer in 2012 made working conditions for Toledo firefighters unsafe.

Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld, a department spokesman, said the safety officer position was not eliminated, but changed and "enhanced."

(source: firehouse.com)

KENTUCKY:

Why the death penalty is a bad deal for Kentucky

Few people have given much thought to capital punishment. I confess that I hadn't either until, 20 years ago, I focused on the matter through a spiritual lens - and changed my position from supporter to opponent.

As a state legislator, I sponsored bills to abolish Kentucky's death penalty.

The path to abolition is steep and formidable - liberals tend to be allies, conservatives historically have supported the death penalty. Since Kentucky's General Assembly is now overwhelmingly conservative, how can we hope that the death penalty will be abolished and replaced with life without the possibility of parole?

We can hope because support for abolition is increasing, and not just as a result of spiritual insight. There are many reasons for both conservatives and liberals to abandon our death penalty system.

Mistakes can be made in a government program run by human beings, and mistakes have been made with the death penalty. Innocent people can and have been executed.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing. Clearly, everyone should agree that it's not worth sacrificing the innocent to kill the guilty. No one who values innocent life supports a state government program that can kill innocent people.

And, although it is counter-intuitive, taxpayers spend far more money on our system of capital punishment than we would if the death penalty were not an option.

Every study conducted in the United States has concluded that the death penalty system is far more costly than a criminal-justice system in which the maximum sentence is life without the possibility of parole.

Since 1976, Kentucky has prosecuted hundreds of capital cases, 97 of which resulted in a sentence of death. Of those, 51 have been reversed on appeal, in post-conviction or through clemency. 35 sentences related to 32 inmates are presently under challenge.

Of the 97 cases, 8 ended with the inmate's death of natural causes, while only 3 ended in the inmates' execution.

So, the majority of death penalty cases are reversed on appeal, while taxpayers foot the entire bill for the cost of the trial and all appeals. Usually, the case results in a plea bargain that does not include execution - defeating the purpose of pursuing the death penalty in the 1st place.

Why is the death penalty a bad investment for Kentucky? After spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the death penalty since 1976, we are left with the following results:

-- The majority of those sentenced to death in Kentucky had their death sentences reversed by the courts.

-- In the majority of cases in which the death penalty was sought, judges and juries imposed sentences other than death.

-- Only 3 % of those sentenced to death actually die from execution.

Lady Justice is usually depicted wearing a blindfold, signifying objectivity. There should be no favor in meting out justice, no regard for power or weakness, money, or position. But the truth is, our death penalty doesn't meet this standard.

Most Kentucky counties don't use it. 2 murders committed under similar circumstances in bordering counties can result in 2 completely different sentences. To make matters worse, people of color and those in poverty are disproportionately sentenced to death rather than to life in prison.

Something is terribly wrong.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has introduced House Bill 251. And Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, has introduced Senate Bill 131 with Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, as the primary cosponsor.

Both bills propose to limit the maximum punishment in Kentucky to life without the possibility of parole. Please call your representative and senator today and ask them to support abolition.

(source: Op-Ed; David Floyd, of Bardstown, is a retired Air Force officer who served 6 terms in the Kentucky House----Lexington Herald Leader)

MONTANA:

Montana examines death penalty after judge blocks executions

Montana legislators are taking another look at whether to abolish the death penalty after a judge blocked the state from carrying out executions because it has no access to a drug used in lethal injections.

Clergy, young conservative lawmakers and an exonerated Arizona death-row inmate urged the House Judiciary Committee on Monday to pass a bill abolishing the death penalty. The maximum penalty would become life in prison without parole, under the measure by Rep. Adam Hertz, R-Missoula.

"To kill a person for having killed a person seems to me to make no sense," said Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart Jr. of the Episcopal Church of Montana. "We're not in the business of vengeance - at least I hope we're not in the business of vengeance."

Bills to abolish the death penalty have been introduced and failed in every legislative session since 1999, which is as far back as the state Legislature's online bill-tracking archive goes. Death penalty opponents came closest in the last session 2 years ago, when the measure died on a 50-50 House vote.

If the bill to abolish the death penalty passes this year, Montana will become the sixth state since 2010 to either overturn or place a moratorium on executions. Montana is similar to other states that have recently overturned their death penalties: It carries out relatively few executions, and it has previously tried several times to abolish the law, said Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham.

"I think Montana fits well within that pattern," Dunham said. "It does not aggressively carry out the death penalty."

Recently, more Republican lawmakers such as Hertz have been behind the abolition efforts in some states. They say the death penalty goes against their values that a person has a right to live from natural birth to natural death, and that housing death-row inmates and paying their court costs is too expensive.

"Some of us supported death penalty for years, but we've given a critical look at it," said Marc Hyden, an advocacy coordinator for the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. "Many of us don't trust the government to deliver mail or fill potholes, so why would we trust them with a dangerous government program that metes out death to its citizens?"

Montana has executed three inmates by lethal injection since 1976, most recently in 2006. There are currently two inmates on death row, both of whom challenged the state's execution methods in a lawsuit that led to a Helena judge effectively blocking executions until an adequate drug can be found.

The state had used sodium pentothal as a barbiturate in its 2-drug lethal injection method, but that drug is no longer manufactured in the U.S. and it can't be imported. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled in October 2015 that the state's recommended substitute for sodium pentothal doesn't meet the requirements detailed in state law and could not be used in executions, leaving the state without an alternative drug to conduct executions.

Bill Comstock, a member of the Montana branch of the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said the judge's ruling means Montana is now wasting money to house two death-row inmates who will likely never be executed. "We're essentially throwing away money for nothing," Comstock said.

The House Judiciary Committee did not take immediate action on the bill, though several lawmakers on the panel indicated their opposition. One, Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, said she is not convinced that a convicted murderer who is sentenced to life won't eventually walk away from prison.

"We believe that person's going to leave prison in a body bag," Sheldon-Galloway said. "We have no guarantee here that that's going to happen."

(source: WHIO news)

USA:

Juror screening starts in Fell trial

The process of screening 600 potential jurors in the 2nd trial of Donald Fell has started, but arguments in the death-penalty trial are not expected until the end of March.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Friday formally notifying both the court and Fell of its intent to seek the death penalty on both felony charges he is facing: carjacking with death resulting and kidnapping with death resulting.

Fell, 36, was tried and convicted in 2005 for carjacking Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon. He was sentenced to death in 2006, but the conviction was overturned because of juror misconduct.

A 2nd trial in the case was scheduled to start this month, but Jeff Eaton, court clerk for the federal courts in Vermont, said there are still several more weeks of jury selection remaining and that process won't start until Feb. 27.

With choosing jurors expected to take 3 to 4 weeks, the trial is not expected to start until the end of March, Eaton said.

The court staff was not instructed to clear a specific amount of time for the trial, Eaton said, but potential jurors this week were told to expect the trial will last 2 to 3 months.

While Fell is awaiting trial in a case that involves the death of King in New York state, the case has its origins in Rutland.

Police say Fell killed his mother, Debra Fell, and her friend, Charles Conway, in Rutland, in November 2000.

Fell and his longtime friend, Robert Lee, then went to the parking lot of the Rutland Plaza Shopping Center to steal a car, police said. There, according to police, the men found King, who was going to work at the time, and took her car, according to police.

Fell is accused of taking King to New York, where police said he beat her to death while she begged for her life.

Fell and Lee were later arrested in Arkansas.

Lee died in prison in 2001 while his trial was still pending.

Fell's initial conviction was overturned after information came to light that 1 of the jurors had done some independent investigation of the alleged crime scene and shared his conclusions with other jurors.

While the new trial is expected to start in a few weeks, a number of issues are pending before the court. A hearing is scheduled Feb. 24 on a variety of issues, including defense attorneys' requests to exclude "gruesome" photos of the scene of the homicide of King, photos of King while she was alive, or any testimony from law-enforcement officers that indicate Fell showed a lack of emotion or remorse after he was arrested.

The defense has also asked the court to limit the testimony that King's family can give if Fell is convicted and before he is sentenced.

Many of the filings leading up to the trial have focused on the argument from Fell's attorneys that the death penalty is not constitutional and shouldn't be allowed. There has not been a capital case in Vermont for about 60 years, but Fell's trial, based on the allegation that King was taken across state lines, is being prosecuted by the federal government, making it subject to the death penalty.

Other arguments made included a request to relocate the trial either out of state or elsewhere in Vermont. One argument made by Fell's attorneys was that it would be difficult to find enough jurors in the Rutland area who did not already have an opinion about the case, in part, because of the extensive media coverage.

Eaton said about 600 people had come to the court this week after receiving a summons to serve on the jury. He said those people filled out extensive jury questionnaires in a process which ended Friday and was not open to the public.

Interviews of individual people who might become jurors, which is a public process, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 27.

(source: Rutland Herald)

GAZA:

Hamas sentences 3 to death for spying for Israel, upholds 3 more rulings

All were convicted of treason, and some charged with causing the death and injury of Gazans

Authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have sentenced 6 men to death for "collaborating" with Israel, the Palestinian Safa press service reports.

3 of the sentences were new while the other 3 were sentences that were upheld following appeal.

The Associated Press reports that Sunday's sentences bring the number of people on death row to 10, and several others are appealing the same conviction.

According to the Safa report, all were convicted of treason, and some of the men were charged with causing the death and injury of Gazans through their actions.

Hamas authorities believe that 1 of the convicted, born in 1968, began working with Israel in 1991, said Safa.

3 of the accused were from Jabalya, in the northern Gaza Strip, and the others were from Gaza City and Khan Younis.

Under Palestinian law, those convicted of collaboration with Israel, murder and drug trafficking face the death penalty.

Execution orders must be approved by the Palestinian president before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognizes the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas whose 4-year term ended in 2009.

In the past, Hamas has come under fire from human rights groups for executing suspected collaborators without a trial. Sometimes Gazans are accused of being collaborators based on mere rumor and at other times those who fall out of favor with Hamas are deemed collaborators and executed.

(source: 124news.tv)

FRANCE:

The guillotine is named after a man who hated capital punishment

Q: I was watching a movie, and someone was being executed with the guillotine. Why did the French use the guillotine instead of hanging or firing squad?

T.M., of Collinsville

A: Humane execution.

For many, it's still an abhorrent contradiction in terms. But for Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, it was at the heart of his plea to France's National Assembly in 1789 for a cleaner method of killing the condemned.

Ironically, the instrument to achieve that goal - the guillotine - now carries the name of a man who was opposed to capital punishment.

So, no, Guillotin did not invent the fearsome instrument that can separate head from body in an instant. Far from it. Similar contraptions had begun popping up in Europe centuries before, at least in thought if not reality. As early as 1210, "The High History of the Holy Grail," an old French Arthurian romance novel, described a device with not one, but three openings.

"And behold what I would do to them if their heads were therein ... a cutting blade of steel droppeth down, of steel sharper than any razor, and closeth up the three openings."

It didn't take long for imagination to turn into reality. Near Merton, Ireland, Murcod Ballagh was executed with a similar device in 1307. In England at least 56 prisoners were killed with the Halifax Gibbet from 1286 to 1650, when beheadings were stopped there. The Maiden was reportedly built for the authorities in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1564 and was used to dispatch those found guilty from 1565 to 1710. But it wasn't until nearly a century later that the efficient killing machine gained its lasting name when it had its heyday in France.

Born in 1738, Guillotin seemed to excel in whatever he tried. In earning a degree from the University of Bordeaux, his essay so impressed the Jesuits that he became a professor of literature. But a few years later he went off to Paris to study medicine, earning a prize from the faculty at Reims.

So after he earned a spot in the National Assembly, his colleagues listened intently when, on Oct. 10, 1789, he argued that criminals should be decapitated by a "simple machine ... that beheads painlessly." At the time, beheading in France was done by ax or sword, which could be messy because incompetent executioners sometimes needed 2 or more strokes. Moreover, beheading was reserved for the upper class. Commoners were typically hanged, which could take several minutes.

Guillotin thought his idea would make executions not only swift and certain but more egalitarian as well, 1 of the cornerstones of the popular French motto, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite." But he also hoped it would be the 1st step in eliminating capital punishment entirely, a hope that would not be achieved for 200 more years.

So as the French Revolution continued in 1791, Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary to the Academy of Surgery, headed a committee (which included Guillotin) to develop such a device. Impressed by the Maiden and Gibbet, the group came up with an "improved" design that employed an oblique blade rather than the former models, which tended to crush the neck or otherwise mutilate the body.

On April 25, 1792, in front of what is now the Paris City Hall, highwayman Nicholas Jacques Pelletier became the 1st man to die in the new device.

"It is less repugnant: No man's hands will be tainted with the blood of his fellow being," Charles-Louis Sanson, the official executioner of the French Revolution, said in describing the machine's advantages just before the execution. "And the worst of the ordeal for the condemned man will be his own fear of death, a fear more painful to him than the stroke which deprives him of life."

Deemed a success, the blade soon was coming down on thousands during the Reign of Terror from June 1793 to July 1794, including, of course, King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie "Let-Them-Eat-Cake" Antoinette (although there's no proof she ever said that).

You might think the French would have been repulsed by the Jacobins’ bloodletting, but you’d be wrong. After the revolution, the guillotine remained France's official method of execution until September 1981, when Guillotin's dream of abolishing the death penalty became law.

Elsewhere, people also were losing their heads to this machine well into the 20th century. According to the History Channel, Adolf Hitler had 20 of the machines placed around Nazi Germany, resulting in approximately 16,500 killings from 1933 to 1945. Switzerland used it until 1940, and East Germany secretly killed countless state residents with it until at least 1966. It is thought that on Sept. 10, 1977, Tunisian native Hamida Djandoubi became the last man in the Western world to be beheaded after being convicted of killing his French girlfriend.

More facts about the guillotine, courtesy of the History Channel (stop here if you have a queasy stomach):

In 1790s France, executions were a major spectator event. People could buy souvenirs, grab a program listing the names of the condemned and order a cappuccino at the nearby Cabaret de la Guillotine. There reportedly was even a group of women who attended on a daily basis, busily knitting in between the blade's descents.

Executioners reportedly became rock stars, judged on how quickly and precisely they could accomplish multiple beheadings. It often became a family business in France - the Sansons from 1792 to 1847 before the father-son team of Louis and Anatole Deibler took over from 1879 to 1939. In fact, what they wore on the scaffold often became a fashion trend.

And, yes, there were attempts to see how long a person remained conscious after an execution by subjecting the head to fire and ammonia. (One witness swore he saw a head's cheek turn red after it was slapped.) In 1880, Dr. Dassy de Lignieres went so far as to pump blood into the head of a child murderer to see if it could speak. These ghoulish experiments stopped in the 20th century, but studies on rats found that brain activity may continue for up to four seconds after decapitation.

(source: bnd.com)

INDONESIA:

Tangerang court sentences 4 drug convicts to death

The panel of judges at Tangerang District Court has handed down the death penalty to 3 Taiwanese citizens and one Indonesian for trafficking 60 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.

The defendants have been identified as Chen Alin, Achen, Alang and Suprapto. Alin and Achen, through their lawyers, said that they had not decided on further action while Alang and Suprapto said they would appeal.

"For their offenses, the defendants are sentenced to death. The defendants have been proven guilty of jointly committing acts of crime," said presiding judge Tuti Hariyati said on Friday, as quoted by wartakota.tribunnews.com.

The death sentence was imposed as the panel of judges did not find any mitigating circumstances for the defendants.

Joko Priyatno, the lawyer for Alin and Achen, said his clients were not part of the drug ring that smuggled the meth as Alin came to the country as a technician and Achen as a driver. Edi Rustandi, Alang's lawyer, said that his client only possessed 1.06 kg of crystal methamphetamine not 60 kg.

Alin and Achen were arrested at Sun Plaza, South Tangerang, in May, in possession of 6 kg of meth. They said that they obtained the meth from Suprapto. The police then raided Suprapto's house at Paramount Cluster Alicante residential area and found 54 kilograms of meth.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

TAIWAN:

Filipino Convicts Received Clemency Through Fair and Transparent Trials in Taiwan

A Filipino foreign worker Jakatia Pawawas was executed in Kuwait last month. She was accused of killing her employer's daughter in May 2007 and found guilty and sentenced to death in 2008 in Kuwait. An appeal was filed but the appeal court in Kuwait upheld the death sentence in 2009.

The tragic incident and subsequent execution have shocked the Philippines and have been brought to attention of many Filipinos on the fairness and transparency in the judicial procedures of foreign legal systems. In contrast to the unfair and discriminatory treatments meted out to the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in some countries, more than 150,000 Filipino OFWs in Taiwan are fairly treated and well protected by the law in Taiwan. They are guaranteed by the national minimum wage and receive exactly the same national health insurance as Taiwan nationals do. As Taiwan is a peaceful and safe place, Filipinos are fairly fond of Taiwan and consider Taiwan as their second home. There are approximately 8,000 Filipinos who are married with Taiwanese. Most of them fell in love at work. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese also thank them for their hardwork and contribution toward the economic development in Taiwan.

As a full-fledged democracy, Taiwan is internationally renowned for its protection of human right. The majority of the OFWs are law abiding and hardworking. So far, only 2 Philippine nationals committed serious crimes, like murder, in Taiwan. However, they have received fair and transparent trials based on the due process of law under a 3-tiered court system made up of the Supreme Courts, High Courts, and the District Courts in Taiwan.

The public's confidence in the judiciary in Taiwan is high, as its legal system is based on efficiency, accessibility, judicial transparency, fairness and integrity.

Taiwan's legal system is not geared toward exercising the principle of vengeance. Rather, its major aim is to set the convicts on the right path and focus on the importance of rehabilitation.

The afore-said 2 murder cases are exemplified here.

A Filipino woman named Nemencia Armia was initially sentenced to death for stabbing her job broker, a 48-year-old Taiwanese woman who helped foreigners find teaching jobs at private schools in the Kaohsiung area in Taiwan in 2007. Armia was caught on closed circuit television disposing of the broker's body in a garbage bag. She also made several automated teller machine withdrawals to the tune of over NT$660,000 ($20,200) from the deceased bank account by using the deceased victim's ATM card.

Armia was firstly sentenced to death by the Kaohsiung District Court in Taiwan. However, on humanitarian ground, the Taiwan High Court's Kaohsiung branch overruled a lower court's death sentence and twice sentenced Armia to life in prison rather than death in 2010. The mitigation of sentence was based on the consideration that "the killing was a sudden occurrence, and was not premeditated", and "Armia did not carefully plan her crime and did not obtain a large amount of money, so she is not considered to be an extremely evil criminal".

According to the TV report, Armia was silent during the court hearing. After she was told by an interpreter that her death sentence had been mitigated to a life sentence, she said "thank you" to the judge. In addition, another Filipino man identified as Darwin Gorospe Sarmiento was also sentenced by Taiwan's District Court in 2015 to death for killing a grocery store owner in Taiwan's Taoyuan County in 2014. Aside from murder, Sarmiento was also convicted of sexual assault and robbery.

Sarmiento initially denied involvement in the killing, but confessed when he learned the store's surveillance camera had captured the killing and robbery. He killed the store owner with a hammer then stabbing him in the neck with a screwdriver. However, Taiwan's Supreme Court said Sarmiento did not intend to kill the owner, but was trying to rob the grocery store. It also noted Sarmiento had been under severe financial pressure to settle medical bills for his daughter who has a congenital heart disease.

Eventually, instead of the death penalty, the Supreme Court in Taiwan commuted the sentence of Sarmiento convicted of murder to life imprisonment.

Taiwan's clemency for the said 2 Filipinos over the above murder cases shows that Taiwan has not only adhered to the due process of law, but also fulfilled the universal value of the respect for human rights and humanitarian compassion. If the above-mentioned convicts have been penitent and behaved well in prisons, they are eligible to apply for the parole after serving certain years required by the law in Taiwan.

Teco, based on goodwill, is also willing to help Armia's and Sarmiento's family members to obtain visas if they wish to visit them in Taiwan.

As a matter of fact, the Hon. Rep. Rose Marie "Baby" J. Arenas visited these two Filipinos earlier on when she paid a visit to Taiwan and asked the Taiwan authorities to give humanitarian consideration to these 2 Filipino prisoners. In a way, the mitigation of sentence is a timely response to the friendly appeal from Taiwan's closest neighbor.

Looking forward, in the time of a new era for Taiwan and the Philippines, as Taiwan is implementing the "New Southbound Policy" to strengthen its relations with Southeast Asia region, and as the Philippines has been on top of the agenda as the gateway to Asean countries, both countries should expand and strengthen multifaceted cooperation and partnership, including more people-to-people engagement and interaction.

Taiwan has been a peaceful, law-abiding and nonthreatening member of the international community. Further, a democratic Taiwan is an important strategic buffer for the national security of the Philippines. As Taiwan controls the access between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, as well as the first islands chain, Taiwan and the Philippines should get to know each other better and build up stronger and more solid relationship so as to create a "win-win" situation that will be conducive to the enhancement of peace and stability, thereby benefiting all stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region.

(source: businessmirror.com.ph)

PHILIPPINES:

House leaders to decide on Monday on dealth penalty bill

The House leadership is set to decide on Monday, February 20 on whether it would end the plenary debates to pave way for the early voting of the measure seeking to reimpose life imprisonment to death penalty on heinous crimes, as well as include plunder in the list of crimes to be charged with death.

House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, chairman of the House committee on rules, said they will not allow the opponents of House Bill 4727 to delay the passage of President Rodrigo Duterte's priority measure by questioning the quorum. "As chairman of the [House] committee on rules, we will now force to vote on this measure and we will now close the period of debates," Farinas said.

AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the 44-strong Party List Coalition (PLC), said they are also set to decide if plunder will be included in the list of crimes that will be covered by the death penalty, as some lawmakers are opposing it because they face plunder complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman.

"We will finalize the inclusion and exclusion of the list of crimes on the death penalty bill, especially plunder," he said.

Sources said some lawmakers who were facing plunder complaints at the anti-graft court in connection with the anomalous use of their pork barrel or priority development assistance funds (PDAP) sought the exclusion of the plunder in the list of crimes that will be slapped with death.

Batocabe said his group will rally behind the death penalty bill.

"We have already agreed to vote on the measure by March," he said.

A week ago, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House committee on justice confirmed that HB 4727 will be put to vote on 2nd reading by March 8 and on 3rd reading on March 15, 2017. Only 4 out of 50 lawmakers who wanted to interpellate were given the opportunity to debate on the bill in the plenary.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

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

Jesus would disapprove the restoration of death penalty

In our Gospel today, Jesus cites the Old Testament law of retaliation, "an eye for an eye...." (Ex. 21:24, Dt. 19:21 and Lev. 24:20) which was meant to deter violence and put an end to the spiral of vengeance. According to the Old Testament justice was served by meting out punishment or physical harm on the perpetrator that was commensurate to the gravity of the offense.

However biblical scholars doubt if the law of retaliation was still in effect in Jesus' time. What is important for us to note is that whereas the Old Testament permitted certain forms of revenge, Jesus went beyond what the Law deemed fair and just. Instead of advocating retributive justice, he endorsed love of enemies and praying for persecutors (Mt. 5:44). Instead of doing violence to one's assailant, he taught restraint and temperance (Mt. 5:38-42).

Dan Harrington, SJ, New Testament scholar, explains that Jesus' teachings apples to personal relations; however, "Whether [they] can be transposed to the social or political realms is a matter of ongoing debate."

To determine what Jesus would have thought about capital punishment, we can examine some clues. First, his treatment of public sinners. Though the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus redeemed her from being stoned to death. While he did not tolerate her marital infidelity, he forgave her and saved her from death. He gave her a new lease in life (Jn. 8:11).

Similarly, he reached out to other public sinners, the despised tax collectors, such as Matthew and Zacchaeus. Perhaps Zacchaeus was guilty of padding taxes and of extortion, yet Jesus believed in his reformability (Jn. 19:9-10).

Second, we can examine his many sayings about God's love which shines upon the virtuous and sinner alike (Mt. 5:45), the call to forgive seventy times seven (Mt. 18:22), the mandate to become perfect in loving like the Father (Mt. 5:48). For him to endorse capital punishment would be contrary to his values and convictions and to the general message of his Gospel.

Third, we can examine his disposition toward the Old Testament Law. He explains that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Mt.5:17). Moreover, while he holds Moses in great esteem, he claims to be more authoritative than Moses, the Law-giver, "You have heard that it was said... but I say to you ..." (Mt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38). His authority emanated from being the Son of God.

Thus while he affirmed Moses' law of retaliation, he proposed a higher law, the law of loving even one’s enemies. The Law of Christ does not endorse executing grievous sinners or criminals but upholds the sanctity of human life and the possibility of renewal stemming from an experience of God's mercy, "I have not come to call righteous ones, but sinners, to repentance" (Lk. 5:32).

Fourth, Jesus' evaluation of his conviction by the Jewish Sanhedrin and crucifixion by the Roman Empire. Although we do not find Jesus explicitly condemning the execution of criminals in any of the Gospels, his silence does not mean approval. He foretells his persecution and death under the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes (Mk. 8:31; Mt. 16:21). He likens himself to the rejected prophets and the suffering righteous one of the Old Testament, "The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone" (Mk. 12:10-11), which implies a recognition of the unjust nature and circumstances of his conviction and imminent execution.

His crucifixion was the unjust execution of an innocent man, the Son of God himself. While the Cross is the fount of our redemption, it is also the symbol of human sin, hatred and cruelty. The execution of the innocent can never be sanctioned by civilized societies.

But what about the execution of the guilty? Again, this leads us back to Jesus' distinction between the sin and the sinner. The sin he condemned, the sinner he restored (Jn. 8:11).

Capital punishment is antithetical to Jesus' message and praxis. To endorse the restoration of the death penalty is diametrically opposed to our Christian faith and is simply inconsistent with discipleship to Jesus.

(source: Philippine Star)

NIGERIA:

Governors' Burden And The Elusive Hangman's Noose

to him that most of the governors refused to sign execution documents in their respective states, saying it was a factor contributing to prisons congestion across the federation.

The governor stated "Life is valued in African culture perhaps that is why governors are reluctant to sign execution documents. Since judges are the ones who make the sentences, I think the National Assembly should amend the law so that the CJN signs the warrants. I think the CJN is in a better position to assent to the execution."

However, in a recent comment the Chief Judge of Delta, Justice Marshal Umukoro, has urged state governors to develop balls and sign death warrants of inmates on death sentence in order to decongest the prisons.

Justice Umukoro who spoke in Ibadan during the 2017 Aquinas’ Day colloquium of Dominican Institute, said that recent statistics from the National Human Rights Commission indicated that no fewer than 1,612 inmates are on death sentence in Nigeria prisons.

The chief judge said that signing the death warrants would reduce prison congestion, and serve as deterrent to others.

As at July 2014, according to a report titled, "Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Nigeria", released by a civil society organization, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), prisons in River States had 157 inmates consisting of 149 males and 8 females on death row, which is the highest in the country. Delta follows, with 149 convicted inmates, comprising 146 males and 3 females. Ogun State has 132 condemned felons, while Plateau State is left with 125 males and 1 female awaiting the governor's execution order.

Other states with high death row inmates are Lagos 83, Kaduna 79, Enugu 75, Kano 51, Katsina 43, Edo 35, Cross River 17, Jigawa 18, Kebbi 13, Kwara 12, Federal Capital Territory 10, Niger 10, Ondo 7, Benue 6, Sokoto 6, Osun 5 and Taraba 4.

Those against the use of the death penalty in Nigeria argue that there is a high likelihood of wrongful conviction stemming from poor investigations by the Nigeria Police Force and the imperfections of the Nigerian criminal justice administration.

They also contend that the law is settled on the principle that it is better to set a hundred criminals free than to wrongfully convict and kill 1 innocent person and that it would be unjust to retain death penalty in the face of such imperfections in the Nigerian criminal justice administration.

Those who favour the use of death penalty maintain that anyone who has willfully killed, especially terrorists, simply deserves not to live. According to them, applying the death penalty on such people will completely foreclose the possibility of their wrecking more havoc on the society in the event that they are pardoned and released.

They also insist that killing heinous criminals will also serve as deterrence for others who may want to toe the same path.

Commenting on the issue, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said "The Truth is that death sentence is still part of our law. The law has not been abolished and the Governors are compelled by law to sign the convict's death warrant.

"We should ignore the European system that has discountenanced death penalty. As long as we still have that law as part of our system, then we should be able to abide by it. If we don't want that law again then we should go to the National Assembly and abolish it," he said.

In his own views, a Lagos lawyer, Collins Okeke said, "It has never been conclusively shown that the death penalty deters crimes more effectively than other punishments. The correlation between crime rates and the death penalty seems to be even less relevant in the case of terrorism, where the act is politically motivated, with often no cost-benefit calculation."

As the argument for and against the death penalty rages, a very vibrant group, the Nigerian Death Penalty Group with the support of the UK government believes it's time for Nigeria to stand with modern democratic states that have abolished or drastically restricted the use of the death sentence.

The reports of various groups that were set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo including the National Study Group On Death Penalty and Presidential Commission on Reform of the Administration of Justice also all recommended a moratorium on executions pending when total abolition can be actualised.

With all of these coupled with the growing reluctance of state governments to also sign death warrants, the self-imposed moratorium stance of the country and the calls especially by civil society groups for the abolition of the death penalty, many of the convicts on death row may not see the hangman's noose anytime soon.

(source: leadershiop.ng)

SOMALIA:

Puntland Military Court Sentences 7 Harakat Shebab Operatives to Death

Somalia's Puntland military court has sentenced 7 Harakat Shebab operatives also known as Al-Shabaab to death penalty.

Speaking to media reporters in port town of Bosaso, Abdifatah Haji Adan, the chairman of Puntland military court final verdict on the terror operatives.

Mr. Adan also revealed to the media that the 7 who were facing the terror charges themselves confessed to be Al-Shabaab members involved in a spate of attacks in Puntland which especially targeted government officials and army personnel.

The names of the seven men sentenced to death penalty by the military court are:

1. Nouradin Ahmed Samatar Deerow, 20.

1. Ayoub Yasin Abdi, 32.

1. Ali Ismail Ali also called "Ali Gaab", 20.

1. Hassan Adan Hassan, 22.

1. Abdihakim Mohamed Aweys, 24.

1. Mohamed Yasin Abdi, 17.

1. Daud Said Sahal, 18.

The 7 were arrested by Puntland security forces in the past few months in Bosaso port town of Bari region, according to military sources and referenced by open sources.

Puntland military court in June 2016 sentenced 43 Al-Shabaab operatives to death by firing squad after they confessed of being fighters for the terror group involved in deadly fighting between Puntland government forces and Al-Shabab group in March of 2016.

(source: intelligencebriefs.com)

FEBRUARY 18, 2017:

TEXAS:

Faith leaders support death-row inmate's religious discrimination claim

More than 500 faith leaders across the country have endorsed a statement calling for a new trial for a Texas death row inmate claiming religious discrimination in the selection of his jury.

National faith leaders including Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne of Red Letter Christians, author Brian McLaren and Baptist ethicist David Gushee issued a statement Feb. 16 supporting Christopher Anthony Young, a 33-year-old man from San Antonio, Texas, sentenced to death for killing a mini-mart and dry cleaners owner during an armed robbery in 2004.

Among other things, Young argues that one prospective juror interviewed at his 2006 trial was dismissed because prosecutors believed her association with an outreach ministries program at her Baptist church might bias her against imposing the death penalty.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to strike a juror based on her affiliation with her church," said Pastor Joel Hunter at Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla., and a lead signatory. "As evangelical Christians, we firmly believe that people of all faiths and backgrounds should be able to participate as jurors."

Prosecutors dismissed prospective juror Myrtlene Williams, 1 of 6 African Americans in the 60-member jury pool, because they believed her membership in Outreach Ministries at San Antonio's Calvary Baptist Church could cause her to be more sympathetic to the defendant, particularly in the punishment phase of trial.

During questioning Williams said that while some members of the group visited jails and prisons in an effort to rehabilitate persons who are incarcerated, she did not personally work with prisoners. Another reason given for her dismissal was she had a daughter with a past conviction of a larceny-type offense in another state.

The statement by faith leaders said her removal was wrong.

"Membership in a particular church or association with a particular ministry is not a fair basis for preventing someone from carrying out her civic duty as a juror," they said. "Indeed, eliminating a particular juror based solely on her religious affiliation offends the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution."

Young, who is African American, also has argued that the state used Williams' religious affiliation and daughter's criminal history as a pretext to dismiss 5 of the 6 impaneled jurists who were black.

The Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals denied Young's right to appeal his conviction in August. The U.S. Supreme Court will confer March 3 about whether to accept the case.

The faith leaders said they do not all agree on the morality of capital punishment and are not stating an opinion about whether or not Young deserves to die.

"We do believe, however, that the process by which he was sentenced to death was tainted by the decision of the government to strike a juror, not because of her personal beliefs, but solely because she was affiliated with a ministry that works to improve the lives of the poor, the elderly, and the incarcerated," they said. "Indeed, the government struck this juror even though she did not personally work with prisoners; she was removed, in short, because of her mere association with a church that pursued its mission of aiding the weak."

Gushee, director of the Center for Theology and Public Life and Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, currently serves as interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., a flagship congregation in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

2 years ago Gushee and other individual CBF members campaigned unsuccessfully for clemency for Kelly Gissendaner, the 1st woman executed in Georgia in 70 years and a graduate of a prison theology program sponsored by a consortium including Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, 1 of the CBF's partner schools.

Other Baptists signing on in support of a new trial for Young include Fisher Humphreys, a retired professor at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School and member at Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Ala.; Mikael Broadway, associate professor of theology and ethics at Shaw University Divinity School and associate minister at Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.; Roger Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas; and Frederick Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church Dallas.

(source: Baptist News)

FLORIDA----female death sentence overturned

After 2 death row stints, mother of murdered 'Baby Lollipops' no longer faces execution

Ana Maria Cardona, the Miami mother twice sentenced to execution for the torture and murder of her toddler son known as "Baby Lollipops," is no longer facing death row.

Prosecutors on Friday announced they will no longer seek the death penalty against Cardona for the horrific murder of Lazaro Figueroa in 1990.

The decision was made 1 year after the Florida Supreme Court, for the 2nd time, threw out Cardona's death sentence and conviction, granting her a new trial more than 2 decades after the boy's battered body was found discarded in the bushes of a Miami Beach home.

Cardona, 55, now faces life in prison if convicted of 1st-degree murder at a 3rd trial.

"We are determined to go yet a 3rd time and seek justice for who we called Baby Lollipops," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.

Her reprieve comes as Florida lawmakers in the coming weeks prepare to craft a new capital-punishment law to conform with a series of court rulings that left the state's death-penalty litigation in limbo.

In January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's capital sentencing system violated the Constitution because judges, not juries, meted out the ultimate punishment. For decades, Florida jurors had only had to give a majority recommendation on the death penalty.

The Legislature quickly passed a new law that required 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a death sentence. But the Florida Supreme Court soon overturned the law, saying it violated a defendant's right to a unanimous jury verdict.

Cardona's sentence was overturned in January 2016 for a different reason. Justices ruled that while there was plenty of evidence to convict Cardona, a prosecutor went overboard during her closing argument by repeatedly calling for "justice for Lazaro," arguments that "improperly inflamed the minds and passions of the jurors."

But the tumult over Florida's death penalty played into the state's decision to waive execution as punishment. Questions about whether a jury could unanimously agree on the death penalty were clear - in Cardona's 2010 trial, only 7 of 12 jurors agreed on the death penalty. At her 1st trial, jurors recommended death by an 8-4 vote.

Said Fernandez Rundle: "Unfortunately, as cases get old and stale, we're nowhere near an expectation of an unanimous verdict."

Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Steven Yermish, 1 of Cardona's lawyer, said it was the right call.

"Through 2 trials, the state never got close to what would be required now - a unanimous vote," Yermish said. "I want to thank the state attorney for making what we believe is the correct decision, to not seek the death penalty."

The death of 3-year-old Lazaro was huge news in the early 1990s in South Florida. The boy, weighing just 18 pounds and badly beaten, was discovered dead in the bushes of a Miami Beach bayfront home in November 1990. Police detectives, at first unable to identify the boy, called him "Baby Lollipops" because of the design on the T-shirt he was wearing.

Soon, Miami Beach homicide detectives arrested Cardona, a cocaine addict who had lived in a Miami efficiency with her 2 other children and lover, Olivia Gonzalez Mendoza.

Gonzalez was the key witness at the 1992 trial, testifying that her lover bound and tortured the boy for months before using a baseball bat to fatally beat the boy. Cardona was sentenced to death, becoming the 1st woman in Florida to be sent to death row for the murder of her own child.

One decade later, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction because prosecutors failed to disclose some of Gonzalez's statements about the crime. Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder for her role in the case and served nearly 1/2 of a 40-year prison sentence, was freed in 2008.

Gonzalez was not called to testify at the 2010 retrial.

Instead, prosecutors relied on witnesses who described Cardona's erratic lifestyle and abusive behavior toward Lazaro, plus excruciating medical examiner testimony and photos that showed months of physical abuse - a mangled arm, skull fractures, a cheek burn.

Also key: Cardona's statement to police, in which she admitted to dumping the boy's body in Miami Beach after, she said, he fell and hit his head on a bed. Defense lawyers argued that Cardona was coerced into the confession - and shifted the blame to a mentally disabled teenage babysitter who confessed, then recanted, to the killing.

After the conviction, defense lawyers contended that Cardona's life should be spared because she was raised in Cuba by a mother who showed her no love, was sexually abused as a child and later found Christianity while behind bars.

(source: miamiherald.com)

ALABAMA:

Death penalty case delayed for south Huntsville man accused in double murder

Stephen Marc Stone will not be going to trial for capital murder on March 6 as currently scheduled, but a new date has not been set yet.

Stone is facing a possible death sentence after being charged with strangling his wife, Krista Stone, and their 7-year-old son Zachary. Both were killed in the family's home on Chicamauga Trail in February 2013.

Stone was in court Friday as Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate addressed a number of issues that need to be resolved before a trial can take place.

She ordered a new mental competency exam for Stone, heard arguments on whether the case should be tossed on the grounds that Alabama's death penalty is unconstitutional and heard an update on an investigation of new evidence the prosecution is reviewing.

Stone's attorneys Brian Clark and Larry Marsili notified the court in January that an expert had previously found Stone to be incompetent to stand trial, but that finding occurred shortly after his arrest. It is ultimately up to a judge or jury in Alabama to determine if a defendant is competent - able to understand the proceedings against him and assist with his defense.

The defense had asked Pate to order a new mental examination for Stone in order to determine if he is now competent to stand trial. The court granted that motion today, which means he will be examined and a report will be generated, but it will take an unknown period of time.

Pate also heard brief arguments on a defense motion that asks her to dismiss the capital murder indictment. The motion is based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2016 which found Florida's system - which is similar to Alabama's - unconstitutional.

But the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in December Alabama's system is constitutional based on some differences from Florida's. Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard pointed to that ruling in arguing that the current system is lawful.

Judge Pate didn't rule on the motion Friday, but said she would issue an order addressing it.

The expected delay for the trial could mean the argument is moot, because the Alabama Legislature is addressing the issue in the 2017 session. Alabama in the only state in the country that allows judges, not juries, to have the final say on whether a defendant gets life in prison or the death penalty.

There are 2 bills in the Legislature that would change the system and require the jury, not the judge to have the final say on sentencing in death penalty cases.

Broussard also said the DA's office is also working on a report for the defense concerning an examination of an iPad apparently used by Stone. The iPad was picked up at the scene of the killings, but was not examined until recently. Broussard said it contained pornography and other materials prosecutors expect to present as evidence at Stone's trial. He said it will take about a month to complete the review of the iPad and today gave the defense a preliminary report on what they've found.

The defense has notified the court that they will use an insanity defense for Stone - that he was so mentally impaired at the time of the killings that he didn't understand right from wrong - and prosecutors indicated today the materials on the iPad may be used to rebut the mental health defense.

The judge also agreed to a defense request to order Crestwood Medical Center to provide requested personnel records for Stone. Both Stone and his wife had worked at Crestwood.

(source: WHNT news)

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A Civil Rights Lawyer Explains Why the Death Penalty Is So Popular in Alabama----Judges in Alabama frequently override jury's sentences of life without parole to impose capital punishment.

In Alabama, which has the highest death penalty rate per capita in the nation, legislators have taken a step to reduce the arbitrary application of capital punishment in the state.

On Wednesday, the Alabama House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would stop judges from having the final say in sentencing for capital cases in the state, and instead require a unanimous jury to hand down a death sentence. Usually, a jury decides a defendant's fate in capital cases, but Alabama is the only state that still has "judicial override," in which a judge can overrule a jury's recommendation for a life or death sentence. A similar bill, which includes no language to require a unanimous jury, is concurrently making its way through the Alabama Senate.

Ironically enough, when judicial override originated in Florida in the 1970s, it was intended as a way to prevent juries from over-sentencing the death penalty. After the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972 for its arbitrary and discriminatory application, Florida came up with the judicial override scheme, in which juries recommend a sentence, but judges could override that decision with sufficient justification. The Supreme Court's concerns were assuaged, and capital punishment was reinstituted in 1976. Alabama adopted a similar judge override statute in 1981, and it's the only state that still uses the practice, after Delaware and Florida eliminated their override systems last year.

How do you explain judicial override to someone not familiar with the legal system?

Judge override is a practice where in death penalty cases a judge can override what the jury decided about what the appropriate penalty is in a case. In death penalty cases, jurors are called for jury service, they're questioned about their views on the death penalty, and people only make it on the jury if they say "I support the death penalty, I can impose the death penalty." Then in Alabama what happens is, there's a trial, there's evidence presented about both guilt and about what the appropriate sentence should be, and then the jurors deliberate and come back with a verdict. Sometimes it's a verdict for death, sometimes it's a verdict for life without parole. But the judge in Alabama can override that determination and impose the death penalty instead. What we've seen in Alabama is that judges almost never override a jury verdict for death and impose life, but they do routinely override jury verdicts for life and impose the death penalty. We think that's partly because our judges are elected, and so are under a lot of political pressure to appear tough on crime.

How does this compare to how the practice has been used in other states?

In some other states that have had the practice in the past, it has been intended more as a check on the jury to guard against passions being inflamed or a case where a judge who sees a lot of cases knows that this is not one of those really extreme cases that calls for the death penalty.

At this point Alabama is the only state that permits judge override. Florida and Delaware had it until recently, but both of those states even before they got rid of it were not using the practice the way that Alabama was. It was very restricted, it was very limited, it was much more likely that you would see judges overriding jury verdicts for death and imposing life. And judges could really only override a jury verdict under extreme circumstances, where no reasonable person could agree with the jury [decision]. It was very rarely used in either of those states. There was nobody on death row in Delaware as a result of judge override and there were only a handful of people in Florida, and no one had actually gotten a death sentence by override in Florida since 1999. Now both of those states have decided that that practice does not comply with the United States constitution. We think the same is true in Alabama, but the Alabama courts have not yet recognized that.

In Alabama it has always been the case that most overrides are from life to death and that judges use that power as something they campaign on in political campaigns, and use that to appear tough on crime.

How many of Alabama's death row inmates were put there by judges?

Nearly 20 % of the people on Alabama's death row were sentenced through judge override - including the person in Alabama who was most recently executed, Ronald Smith.

Why is judge override such a controversial practice?

I think that it is questionable whether it's constitutional because under our constitution you do have a right to a jury trial, and the jury is really central to our system of criminal justice. We require for people to be found guilty of a crime, we require that that be done by a jury of their peers, and when you’re making the ultimate decision between whether someone should live or die, we think that also should be something that is decided by a jury.

One of the things that's happened is that it is a political tool, and that's because judges are elected. We see more judicial overrides in election years. We also see that the vast majority of judge overrides are in cases involving white victims. So there's this significant racial disparity in the way that it's exercised; 75 % of all death sentences imposed by judge override involve white victims, even though less than 35 % of homicide victims in Alabama are white. There are also problems geographically, that some judges in some counties are just much more likely to impose the death penalty by judge override than others. So that introduces another level of arbitrariness.

Support for the death penalty nationwide is falling, but is there still strong public support for capital punishment in Alabama?

I think that Alabama has, in some ways, bucked the national trend and has continued to have fairly high rates of death sentencing partly because of judge override. We do see that, although there's a fair amount of public support for the death penalty in Alabama, when even those jurors who support the death penalty - and, like I said before, those are the only people allowed to serve on juries in these cases - when those people hear the mitigating circumstances about someone's life, they are imposing the death penalty less often. For example, we had a case recently where an Iraq War veteran who had been through significant trauma was convicted of capital murder, but the jury voted - because of that significant mitigation - unanimously for life without parole. But the judge overrode that and imposed the death penalty. I think that when jurors are allowed to make those case-specific determinations that they are moving away from the death penalty, but judge override can prevent them from doing that.

Should the practice of judge override be done away with, or are there cases where it would be useful but with more safeguards or restrictions?

We think that it should be done away with. We certainly would support a system where there was a possibility to override from death to life, as that sort of safeguard against an overly emotional jury or something like that. But we think that the practice of allowing judges to override a life verdict from a jury and then impose a death penalty is unconstitutional and absolutely should be eliminated.

(source: Kate Wheeling, psmag.com)

OHIO:

Bill would make killing first responders death penalty crime

A bill in the Ohio House would add killing a first responder or military member to the list of slayings eligible for the death penalty.

The proposal from Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Republican from Westlake in suburban Cleveland, would address fatal attacks on firefighters and emergency medical service providers.

The legislation in the House Criminal Justice Committee would also include killings of current and former military members including reservists and national guard members.

Killing a police officer is already a crime eligible for the death penalty.

Greenspan tells Cleveland.com (http://bit.ly/2lNlL5n ) the goal is providing a strong deterrent. He says he was inspired to act by cases in recent years nationally and in Ohio of attacks on police, fire and military personnel.

(source: Associated Press)

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Murderers with mental illnesses may be spared execution in Ohio

Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit executing offenders who suffer from a serious mental illness, under certain conditions.

A bill introduced this week by state Sens. John Eklund, R-Chardon, and Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, would take death sentences off the table for those who show they suffered from a serious mental illness at the time of the crime. Likewise, inmates on Death Row would have a mechanism for being re-sentenced to life in prison if they can show they suffered from major depression, schizophrenia or another serious mental illness at the time they committed their crimes, according to Senate Bill 40.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities and juveniles are currently exempt from capital punishment.

"No less than juveniles or the mentally disabled, persons with serious mental illness lack the culpability normally associated with death penalty offenses even if they cannot meet the exacting standards of 'not guilty by reason of insanity' - a defense which if proved, prohibits any punishment on the offender," according to the Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption, which is urging support of SB40.

In April 2014, the 22-member Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force recommended the most sweeping overhaul to capital punishment the state has seen in 30 years. Among its 56 recommendations in a 76-page report: prohibit executions of mentally ill prisoners.

Ohio adopted its current death penalty statute in 1981. It has executed 53 men since executions resumed in 1999. Mental Health America estimates that 20 % of all death row inmates suffer from a severe mental illness.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said 46 of the 138 inmates on Death Row are receiving mental health treatment and 22 of the 46 are designated as seriously mentally ill. Data on how many of them had the mental health issue at the time of their crimes was not available.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., who supports ending capital punishment, said "I understand that repealing the death penalty is a controversial issue, but I hope we can come to a consensus that at the very least those people with serious mental illnesses should not be executed."

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association has been an ardent supporter of maintaining the death penalty.

Megan Testa, a forensic psychiatrist and a member of the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association, said the association backs SB40 because it establishes procedures for considering reduced culpability for offenders suffering for severe mental illnesses when they commit crimes.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

MISSOURI:

Missourians deserve to know source of death penalty drugs

Missouri in recent years has delivered the death penalty via lethal injection more than any other state except Texas.

And yet, state officials argue they should be able to do so without providing specifics of the life-ending process. This is a blatant disregard for the public's right to know.

Prison officials probably are steeled by a recent decision handed down by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, which overturned a trial court's ruling last year that the state was violating the Sunshine Law. The latest decision revolved around whether the pharmacists who provide the drugs used for lethal injection are shielded by that law, which has long kept the identities of the execution team private.

The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis-Post-Dispatch and The Associated Press are part of the court case. The media companies argue that Missouri is violating the Sunshine Law by insisting that a 2007 shield law also covers the compounding pharmacies that are believed to be supplying the drugs.

The anonymity provided for members of the execution team should not extend far outside the prison walls to the supplier of lethal injection drugs. At the most basic level, buying the drugs is a business transaction between the state and an outside company. The public should know how, exactly, the state is carrying out executions.

Both opponents and supporters of the death penalty should back more transparency to ensure that errors are not made and corners are not cut. Understanding more about the drugs used for lethal injection could help shape public opinion about this important life-or-death issue.

In Missouri and other states, questions have surfaced about the potency and effectiveness of the drugs being administered. Efforts to identify and address problems will be greatly hindered, if not entirely derailed, under a veil of secrecy.

Missouri, like other death penalty states, started using compounding pharmacies to gain access to the needed drugs when international companies declined to sell their products for use in executions. The state fears, rightfully so, that the pharmacies will face pushback from death-penalty opponents if they're revealed as suppliers.

But that reasoning shouldn't supplant the public's right to know.

Kansas, for its part, has not conducted an execution in decades. And a bill seeking to abolish the state's death-penalty law received a hearing this month. The measure is not expected to advance.

American attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting. Citizens deserve information as they consider their views.

Despite the ruling by the Missouri appellate court, the state should move to make the execution process more transparent.

(source: Kansas City Star Editorial Board)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

On S.D. death row, mental illness rarely a factor

A proposal that would have barred South Dakota from executing people with severe mental illness failed in a legislative committee this week after prosecutors argued the protection was unnecessary and would lead to a de facto ban on the death penalty.

Severe mental illness is rarely found to be a factor in 1st-degree murder cases, though, according to an Argus Leader Media analysis. And in one of the few such cases in which mental illness was established, the state proceeded with a death sentence despite the defendant's mental illness.

"The reason I concluded it to essentially be a death penalty repeal is that it could create unnecessary delays in proceedings that already contain ... significant safeguards to ensure the mentally ill aren't put to death in South Dakota," Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

Jackley and Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan testified against the bill Monday in the House State Affairs Committee, which rejected it on an 8-4 vote. The proposal had support from defense attorneys and mental health advocates.

An Argus Leader Media analysis found:

--In the last decade, 28 people have been charged in South Dakota with 1st-degree murder, the only charge eligible for the death penalty.

--In 3 of those cases, a psychiatrist determined the defendant's mental illness was severe enough to warrant a guilty but mentally ill plea. --2 of those defendants received sentences of 65 or more years in prison. The third, James McVay, was sentenced to death.

McVay, who had a long history of mental illness and substance abuse, told investigators he was guided by demonic voices as he brutally killed 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in 2011. A Minnehaha County jury sentenced him to death, and McVay killed himself in prison before he could be executed.

After McVay's death, Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said the case should bring awareness to the epidemic of mental illness.

"In 21st century America, where we have the best forms of treatment for everything from cancer to heart disease - we still choose to believe that people can control whether to suffer from mental illness," Smith said at the time.

Warden Darin Young of the South Dakota State Penitentiary talks about the apparent suicide of James McVay.

The proposal that failed this week in Pierre would have eliminated capital punishment as an option when a defendant's diagnosed mental illness is severe enough that it prevents them from fully understanding reality and the consequences of their actions.

McGowan said a forensic psychiatrist hired by McVay's attorney diagnosed him with delusional disorder, hallucinogenic induced psychosis and polysubstance abuse and dependence. But a psychiatrist testified that his mental illness did not cause him to kill his victim and that he knew his action were wrong, McGowan said.

McVay had 8 prior felony convictions before committing murder, and he had not pleaded guilty but mentally ill in any of those cases, McGowan noted.

"McVay's voluntary, drug induced psychosis would not have qualified him for an exemption from the death penalty under the proposed legislation in House Bill 1099," McGowan said. "But the state would have had to spend thousands in tax dollars to litigate the issue in front of a judge had ... House Bill 1099 been the law at that time."

(source: Argus Leader)

NEVADA:

Javier Righetti death penalty trial could start soon----Righetti confessed to killing Alyssa Otremba

The man who pleaded guilty to killing 15-year-old Alyssa Otremba in September 2011 is going to trial.

The Nevada Supreme Court decided on Thursday to upheld a lower court's decision to reject the guilty plea made by Javier Righetti a year ago.

Righetti, who was 19 at the time of Alyssa's death, pleaded guilty a year ago to 10 counts, including murder with a deadly weapon, 1st-degree kidnapping and sexual assault of a child.

A judge tossed the plea out a month later because Righetti did not specifically admit that the murder was premeditated, willful and deliberate.

That admission would allow a jury to consider more factors when deciding on a sentence for Righetti. Righetti and his lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court to reinstate his guilty plea in an effort to avoid the death penalty.

Justice Pickering wrote in the unanimous decision that "While a criminal defendant has a statutory right to tender a guilty plea, he does not have a right to plead guilty a la carte in order to avoid the state’s charging decisions."

Otremba was killed during the 1st week of school at Arbor View High School. The freshman student had stayed home from school that day because she was not feeling well. Later in the day, she left her home to pick up a textbook from a classmate. She never came home.

Righetti confessed to raping Otremba and then stabbing her more than 80 times. He then attempted to burn her body in an effort to conceal her identity.

He is due back in court on Wednesday. The judge will hear arguments that time about Righetti's mental capacity and whether he should face the death penalty. If he is found fit, he could go to trial as early as next month.

(source: KTNV news)

PHILIPPINES:

Catholics protest against extrajudicial killings, death penalty

The biggest religious sector in the Philippines held their 1st major protest against extrajudicial killings and the possible reinstatement of the death penalty.

Thousands of Catholics gathered in Quirino Grandstand Saturday morning for what they called the "Walk For Life."

The protest action started past 4:00 a.m., which Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said is the most common time when extrajudicial killings happen.

"Hindi mapupuksa ng karahasan ng kapwa karahasan," said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

[Translation: Violence is not the answer to violence.]

Catholic officials, however, said the protest is not against President Rodrigo Duterte's policies but an expression of their opposition against the societal problems threatening the sanctity of life.

"Ang Walk For Life ay hindi para ipagtanggol ang drug addict o ang mga mamamatay tao. Ang kriminal ay dapat arestuhin, kasuhan, hatulan at ikulong," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, adding drug addicts should be rehabilitated.

[Translation: Walk For Life is not to condone drug addicts or murderers. Criminals should be arrested, indicted and jailed.]

Aside from the rise of extrajudicial killings, death penalty and the proliferation of drugs, the Church is also against abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage and proposed distribution of condoms in schools.

The Church officials said they are going to be more active, and denied that the protest is a violation of the separation of church and state.

The president has strongly opposed the Catholic Church. He recently called the institution "full of shit" in a speech during the commemoration of the death of 44 slain Special Action Force policemen in January 24, accusing them of corruption, womanizing and child abuse.

(source: cnnphilippines.com)

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Improve judicial system, not death penalty: Pangilinan

A senator is pushing for the modernization of the country's justice system, instead of reviving the death penalty.

In a public hearing held at the University of San Carlos (USC) Law School yesterday, Senator Francisco "Kiko" Pangilinan said that the National Government must introduce a major revamp of the country's justice system as a way to deter crimes. Pangilinan, a lawyer, decried moves of the House of Representatives to pass a measure that aims to revive the death penalty.

Pangilinan said that other countries have higher conviction rates, but, the Philippines only has at least 30 %. The senator also said that the National Government is not providing enough budget to the judicial branch.

He said that only .8 % from the entire national budget goes to the judiciary. There are also problems on lack of courts, judges and prosecutors that need to be addressed.

"I've heard from the IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines) here in Cebu that there is 1 court handling 3,000 cases," he said.

Pangilinan also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to convene the Judicial, Executive and Legislative Advisory Council to promote reforms in the judicial system.

Lawyer Renan Oliva, Mandaue City treasurer and an IBP member, agreed with Pangilinan on the need to improve the country's justice system rather than revive the death penalty.

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

Cebu City execs want plunder in death penalty law

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella are both for the inclusion of plunder among the crimes punishable by death.

Osmena said that stealing government funds costs lives and that the penalty should be imposed upon immediately to the perpetrator.

He said that if he were to suggest, tax evasion should also be included in the list of crimes punishable by death.

Osmena said that he is in favor of the imposition of the death penalty as a whole, and added that it should be done "fairly fast." Labella, for his part, said he is not in favor of the death penalty.

But should it be imposed, plunder should be the 1st and most important felony deserving of such punishment, he said.

The Congress' majority bloc last week decided to take out plunder from the list of crimes punishable by death under House Bill 4727.

(source for both: sunstar.com.ph)

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

Lagman: House majority railroading death penalty bill

An opposition lawmaker assailed the "unwarranted railroading" of the passage of the death penalty bill and the "gagging" of its opponents after Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas threatened to close the debates if they kept on questioning the quorum.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a leader of an independent bloc in the chamber, said the House leadership was using the rules for their own benefit but was too touchy when opponents tried to do the same.

He insisted that questions on the quorum were a valid parliamentary tactic based on the rules, which state that: "The House shall not transact business without a quorum."

"Past Congresses did not gag members who wished to interpellate just like in the debates of the bills on the comprehensive agrarian reform program, reimposition of the death penalty, abolition of the death penalty and the reproductive health bill, among others," Lagman said in a statement.

Farinas had argued that it was enough to establish the existence of a quorum at the start of the session, and House members were not obligated to stay to listen to the plenary debates.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

International law and the death penalty

Recently the Attorney General stated that the death penalty could not be implemented because the delay in the criminal justice system made it difficult to carry out the death penalty in a timely manner. This is not a new discussion. In the late 1990s, the government took steps to deny persons convicted of murder access to petition international human rights bodies for their cases to be reviewed.

It was in this context that Trinidad and Tobago withdrew from certain treaties, so as to allow for the implementation of the death penalty. In 1991, T&T ratified the American Convention on Human Rights. On becoming a party to the Convention, T&T entered a reservation which allowed it to (i) retain the ability to execute persons over the age of 70, but it specifically recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

T&T was desirous of resuming the death penalty, but this was not consistent with the principles enunciated in the American Convention. As such, on 26 May 1998, T&T notified the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) of its denunciation of the American Convention and it opted out of the Inter-American Court. This withdrawal took effect on 26 May, 1999.

On the same date that T&T withdrew from the American Convention, the decision was also taken to withdraw from the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights so as to prevent individuals from being able to petition the Human Rights Committee. This was the 2nd attempt by T&T to cut any international ties which were perceived to restrain the country's ability to carry out the death penalty.

The withdrawal from the American Convention, however, did not result in the automatic "free pass" for executions as was hoped. In fact, as a member state of the OAS, T&T remained obligated to ensure that all persons within its jurisdiction, including those sentenced to death, were afforded all of the rights set out within the American Declaration, and to ensure that all persons had an effective remedy for violations of their internationally protected rights. While individual petitions, directly to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, were no longer allowed, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights still remained authorised to receive petitions alleging human rights abuses.

Alongside this development of executive action in T&T, there were also several landmark death penalty cases, one of which was the case of Pratt and Morgan. This case decided that if the death penalty was not carried out within 5 years from the date of the sentence, then the death sentence was to be commuted to a sentence of life imprisonment. Therefore a slow judicial process or an involved international petitioning system could have easily resulted in exceeding 5 years.

Some have tried to argue that the 5-year time-period in Pratt and Morgan only included the appellate process and that the petitioning of the Inter-American Commission could never count in the stipulated time. However, the case of Thomas v. Baptiste clarified this position. This case confirmed that due process of law included the idea of procedural fairness and that this fairness applied in (i) the trial and appellate phase of the proceedings and (ii) all other legal processes.

The Privy Council in that case decided that even if a legitimate expectation founded on the provisions of an unincorporated treaty (American Convention) could give procedural protection, it could not without constitutional safeguards, give substantive protection. However, the court did recognise that while the American Convention could not give rise to the legitimate expectation, the court was bound to stay the execution of any condemned person until the Inter-American Commission's report was not only issued, but also considered by the relevant authorities (Mercy Committee) in T&T.

Therefore, the effort to reduce the time of legal processes by withdrawing from the international obligations did not have the desired outcome for death penalty supporters. Further, although international human rights treaties may not be specifically written into national law through Acts of Parliament, there is a growing judicial trend of invoking international law in the context of interpreting and applying fundamental human rights. As such, increased resources for the criminal justice system may not result in the ability of the State to execute automatically.

(source: Timothy Affonso is a lecturer in Law at The UWI, St Augustine. This is the continuation in a series from The UWI's Faculty of Law staff who will illuminate on current issues of law and social concern----Trinidad Express)

PAKISTAN:

Flawed justice system: 10% of death row convicts children: report

Around 10 % of Pakistan's death row convicts are feared to be juvenile offenders, who have been sentenced to death in a clear violation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000 (JJSO) and the international obligations.

This has been claimed in a report titled 'Death Row's Children: Pakistan's Unlawful Executions of Juvenile Offenders', has been compiled by human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). The report was launched in Islamabad on Friday.

The study highlights the complete violation of JJSO's section 12 which prohibits "the sentencing of juvenile offenders to death, or labour during their imprisonment".

"In Pakistan despite prohibiting the sentencing and imposition of the death penalty against juvenile offenders, hundreds of suspected juvenile offenders have been put to death so far.

"Many of the alleged juveniles sentenced to death prior to the notification continue to be denied an inquiry into their claim of juvenility by provincial home departments and the courts," the report says.

According to the report, at least 6 juvenile offenders have been executed since December 2014 - when the government lifted a 6-year de facto moratorium on death penalty - despite credible evidence showing them to be underage at the time of the alleged crime.

The government has consistently maintained that no executions of juvenile offenders have taken place. However, juvenile offenders continue to be executed due to lack of implementation of protective safeguards and protocols particularly whilst conducting age determination investigations.

Challenges impeding course of juvenile justice

The report has attributed dismal lack of birth registrations in the country as one of the major reasons behind poor juvenile justice in Pakistan.

Pakistan is among the countries which have the lowest rate of birth registrations. It is estimated that there are nearly 10 million children - below the age of 5 years - who are currently unregistered. This figure is growing by nearly 3 million every year.

"Pakistan's failure to fulfill the right to birth registration for its children means that the criminal justice system is marred by a high risk of wrongful arrests, detention and executions of child offenders," says the report. It says juvenile suspects fail to produce any authentic documentation to prove their exact date of birth.

Resultantly, it becomes impossible for the police to determine the exact age of the juvenile and therefore they treat him just like adult prisoners. They are kept along with prisoners who are double or triple their age until a plea of juvenility is raised at the trial stage, it says.

Furthermore juveniles, who lack proper documentation, find it almost impossible to challenge the arbitrary assessments. "An absence of comprehensive guidance on how and when to determine age of an accused person has marred a significant number of trials of juvenile offenders with confusion."

When contacted, an official of the Ministry of Human Rights - while requesting anonymity - said, "It is just 1 example of violation of child rights law in Pakistan. However, there are several other such laws which are being violated everyday due to which children are becoming victim of cruelty and brutality."

Flawed system

During the launch event for the report on Friday, parliamentarians said that it highlighted an important issue which needs to be addressed immediately.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Asad Umar said that below a certain age, someone cannot be held accountable for their decisions and actions.

Noting how "deeply flawed Pakistan's criminal justice is", he said that the death penalty needs to be exercised with "extreme caution".

Senator Farhatullah Babar, who is also a member of the human rights' committee of the upper house, said there was a need to implement birth determining protocols to protect juvenile offenders.

He urged that the country should move from a security state to a welfare state.

Sarah Belal, the executive director of JPP said that the juvenile justice system did not do children any good if it appeared to be rigged against the very people it sought to protect.

(source: Express News)

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State of juvenile prisoners on death row in Pakistan highlighted

Aftab Bahadur was sentenced to death, implicated in a triple murder case when he was a young man of 14 years of age. After languishing in the jail for 24 years he walked to the gallows on June 10, 2015, and was hanged by the neck till the time he was dead at the age of 38 years.

Outside the gate of the jail was the man, on whose testimony he was declared guilty of the crime, which he never committed, weeping bitterly and crying for mercy, pleading pardon for Aftab Bahadur, shouting that he gave a wrong statement under coercion.

All his wailing failed to prevent a 'judicial murder'! This was one of many more such cases we have seen in the history of Pakistan. Not many months ago the Supreme Court declared 2 persons, real brothers in fact, as innocent of the alleged murder for which they were awarded death sentence. They were acquitted of the crime they allegedly committed and orders were passed for their 'honourable release' from jail.

The release orders only got a response from the jail authorities that the 2 brothers have been hanged to death 2 years ago!

We have seen the number of executions jump to one of the highest in the world since the government of Pakistan lifted the moratorium on death penalty in the backdrop of the horrifying incident of terrorist strike on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar. However, as the result of lifting of the moratorium we have seen few terrorists being executed while a large number of other convicts have been taken to the gallows, as if the authorities were in too great a hurry to finish the job!

And we saw some juvenile prisoners also meeting the same fate in this execution spree.

The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) engaged in efforts to restore the moratorium on death penalty, released 1 of its reports today (Friday) at a local hotel, highlighting the state of juvenile prisoners on death row in Pakistan.

It was a well attended launch and the participants included the members of the Parliament, both from the Lower as well as Upper House, diplomats based in Islamabad and a large number of people from different walks of life.

According to the press release issued by the JPP after the function the report launched on the occasion indicates that the juvenile justice system in Pakistan has failed to protect its juveniles from being sentenced to death. The report documents the fundamental weaknesses in the country’s juvenile justice system including inadequate legislative protections, scant birth registration, and lack of age determination protocols that leads to countless juveniles being sentenced to death and eventually executed.

Speaking on the occasion the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf MNA, Asad Umar stated that "below a certain age, you cannot be held accountable for the decisions that you make." He added that the death penalty has to be exercised with "extreme caution" given how "deeply flawed Pakistan's criminal justice is."

Commenting on the lack of retrospective force of the Presidential Notification for the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), Mr Umar expressed his "complete shock and horror that a legally binding presidential order is being violated."

The PPP Senator, Mr Farhatullah Babar, while praising the report observed that, the issues highlighted in the report posed an urgent need for to address the low rates of birth registration as well as implementing age determination protocols to protect juvenile offenders. He also called for reducing the number of crimes punishable by death in Pakistan (currently 27). The Member of the Senate Committee on Human Rights said that while Pakistan is a security-driven society, it needs to strive to become a welfare-driven society, as guided by Article 38. Sen. Babar also advised that the findings of the report be shared with parliamentarians to sensitize them to the cause of human rights.

Commissioner, National Commission of Human Rights, Chaudhry Shafique questioned the point of the government ratifying international human rights treaties, if the judiciary was unwilling to implement the obligations contained in them.

Child Rights Commissioner Ms Farzana Bari and the parliamentarian Ms Nafisa Khattak, Shafqat Ali of the Ministry of Human Rights, activist Ms Valerie Khan, Director of Conflict Law Centre at the Research Society for International Law Oves Anwar, founder of SPARC, Mr Anees Jilani also spoke at the launch.

Like 160 countries in the world, Pakistan has enacted legislation, specifically the JJSO, prohibiting the sentencing and imposition of the death penalty against juvenile offenders - persons who commit crimes before turning eighteen years of age.

JPP has analyzed 140 reported cases, since the beginning of the operation of the JJSO in 2000 to 2016, wherein a plea of juvenility had been raised by an accused person. 4 different types of evidence were taken into account, including a statement under S. 342 of the Criminal Penal Code, medical evidence, birth certificates and school leaving certificates, noting where judges had placed reliance on each, and where they had rejected each.

The report revealed the executions of Aftab Bahadur, Shafqat Hussain, Ansar Iqbal, Muhammad Sarfraz, Faisal Mehmood and Muhammad Amin - all juveniles at the time of arrest - proves this claim to be blatantly false.

Zafarullah Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Law stated at the Pakistan's 5th periodic review at the UNCRC that "minors were tried under the Special Court Law, separately from majors." Yet, nearly 17 years after the JJSO was promulgated, the government has failed to install separate juvenile courts.

Ms Sarah Belal, the Executive Director of JPP said that the juvenile justice system does not do our children any good, if it appears to be rigged against the very people it seeks to protect. This report, and its findings underscore the urgent need to pass the pending Juvenile Justice System Bill so fewer minors will face the gallows.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

FEBRUARY 17, 2017:

TEXAS:

Lining Up a Conviction----A suggestive photo lineup put Juan Balderas on death row. Experts say he may have been wrongfully convicted, but will he get a new trial in time?

At first glance, the photo lineup that helped send Juan Balderas to death row doesn't look too unusual. It shows 6 young Latino men staring blankly ahead. Balderas, in the bottom middle position, looks calm, almost as if he's daydreaming.

But according to judges and experts, this lineup is deeply prejudicial. 2 small details - the black hoodie Balderas is wearing and the mark on his left cheek - may have singled him out to the witness who viewed this lineup. Balderas was sentenced to death for a 2005 Houston murder based on the testimony of a single eyewitness, and he’s maintained his innocence ever since.

The witness identification procedure in Balderas' case gained the attention of the state's highest criminal court, with a majority of judges ruling in November that it was suggestive, and 1 judge arguing it was so prejudicial that Balderas deserved a new trial. Combined with allegations that prosecutors hid evidence from the defense during the trial, and that another witness has recanted his account of the shooting, the identification raises the troubling question of whether Balderas was wrongfully convicted.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts formed to cut down on wrongful convictions is urging state legislators to beef up rules for witness identifications. Balderas' case is one example of how small errors in police treatment of eyewitnesses can lead to serious problems with a conviction.

On December 6, 2005, 16-year-old Eduardo Hernandez was hanging out with friends at an apartment in Alief, a suburb in sprawling southwest Houston. A man in a black hoodie barged in, circled the room, and shot Hernandez 9 times in the back and head.

Hernandez was part of a local street gang called La Tercera Crips. He had angered his fellow members by snitching and throwing hand signs for a rival gang, several would later testify.

The only witness who saw the shooter's face was Wendy Bardales, the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend. She described the shooter as someone she had never seen before, a young Latino man about 5 feet 6 inches tall, skinny and clean-shaven. He had short black hair in a fade haircut and was wearing a black hoodie. And he had a dark mark on his cheek, she said. The night after the shooting, officers showed her a photo lineup, but she told them the shooter wasn't in it.

Over the next few days, Houston police received anonymous tips suggesting that Balderas, another member of the gang, was involved. The week after the murder, an officer went back to Wendy with a new lineup of 6 photos, which the Observer obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request. Wendy recognized Balderas - the 2 had lived in the same apartment complex and had known each other for about a year. She told the officer that Balderas "could be the shooter," and that he "looked like the shooter," even though on the night of the murder she had told police that the shooter was someone she had never seen before.

The officer returned to her house the next day, trying to pin her down on whether Balderas was the shooter, but she still didn't say she was sure. Finally, the officer told her to place her hands over the top of the face of each subject, in order to simulate the shooter's hoodie. When she did, the officer later testified, her eyes "grew wide" and "began to water." Wendy said she was positive that Balderas was the shooter.

"A witness's actual memory can be forever changed if suggestive procedures are used."

Experts who study witness identification procedures say it's a textbook example of an identification gone wrong. The 1st problem is the lineup itself. It includes only 1 person - Balderas - who matches the description Wendy gave police. None of the other 5 men are wearing a black hoodie or have any marks on their faces. They also don't match her description in other ways: Some are heavier, others not clean-shaven, others not wearing a fade haircut.

"Given the witness's description, this photo array is extremely suggestive and creates enormous potential for a wrongful conviction," said Sandra Guerra Thompson, a University of Houston law professor who studies witness identification. "The suspect should not stand out, and given that he is the only person with those distinctive features, this is highly suggestive." Large police departments typically have huge databases of booking photos, so it shouldn't be a problem to find "filler" photos that better match a witness's description.

The process is also an issue. Research over the past few years has made clear that even small, unintentionally leading statements by officers can make witnesses feel pressured to choose someone. Coaching, such as when the officer urged Wendy to cover parts of the faces, can do the same. Among other research, a 2013 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that repeatedly showing a witness the same photo can lead to their memory being essentially overwritten, with the photo replacing the original recollection of the face. "Memory is not like a video that remains constant," Thompson said. "It is very malleable and very prone to suggestion; a witness's actual memory can be forever changed if suggestive procedures are used."

Once Wendy identified Balderas, he became the only suspect in the murder case. 3 days later, on December 16, 2005, he was arrested carrying a box of guns that included the murder weapon. (Several gang members later testified that the box contained guns they shared.) More than 8 years passed before he went to trial in early 2014, a delay caused by the judge's overcrowded docket and repeated turnover among prosecutors and defense lawyers. At trial, Wendy told the jury that she was sure Balderas was the shooter. Balderas' court-appointed attorney called only 1 witness - another member of the gang, who said that a different gang member had committed the murder. Prosecutors presented no physical evidence connecting Balderas to the crime scene, such as fingerprints or DNA. After deliberating for 2 days, the jury convicted Balderas and sentenced him to death.

In November 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state, dismissed Balderas' 1st appeal. But a majority of justices on the 9-person court said they were concerned with the use of the photo lineup.

"Until this Court disallows tainted identifications based on suggestive photo spreads, as occurred in this case, Texas will continue to be a leader in the wrongful convictions of innocent people," Judge Elsa Alcala wrote in a dissent. She said Balderas deserved a new trial. In a concurring opinion, 4 other judges concluded that the witness identification procedure was "suggestive, and perhaps impermissibly so," but said they would allow Balderas' conviction to stand because of the "totality of the circumstances."

The concerns about witness identification make Balderas' case hardly an outlier: Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of convictions that are later exonerated, according to a study by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, a state commission convened by the Legislature. The panel found that more than 1/3 of the 56 non-drug-related wrongful convictions in Texas since 2010 have come in cases with witness misidentifications. Timothy Cole, the wrongfully convicted defendant for whom the panel is named, was misidentified using a 6-person photo lineup just like the one used in the Balderas case.

There's a pretty clear way to avoid this. Recent research has concluded that all witness identifications should be conducted by a "blind" officer who does not know which person in a lineup is the suspect, that all identifications should be recorded, and that a witness should be informed that the suspect may not be in the lineup and that they aren't required to choose anyone. Some research also finds that lineups are more dependable when witnesses are shown one photo at a time, which prevents them from scanning multiple photos at once and choosing the person who seems the most similar to their memory, though that conclusion is disputed.

The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2011 that led to the adoption of a state model eyewitness policy that includes most of those reforms.

But police departments don't have to follow the model policy. The 2011 law only requires departments to have some written policy, whether it meets scientific standards or not. "There's no real teeth in it," said David Moore, the president-elect of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. The law also isn't retroactive, so it doesn't do anything to help defendants like Balderas.

John Cannon, a spokesperson for the Houston Police Department, said the department's witness identification policy has changed since 2005 and now requires "blind" officers. He said he could not discuss Balderas' case because his conviction is still being appealed.

In December, the Cole panel released a new report recommending that all Texas police departments be required to follow the model policy. Rodney Ellis, who wrote the 2011 law as a state senator and is now a Harris County commissioner, told the Observer he supported that idea. "There is absolutely room for improvement," he said in an email, adding that the law was passed as a "compromise."

But even the new reforms proposed by the panel don't go far enough, argued Jeff Blackburn, founder of the Texas Innocence Project. His suggestion for the Legislature: Pass a simple law that prevents prosecutors from using any witness identification that modern research tells us is suggestive or biased.

The Balderas case "is a startling example of why people who believe we're making gradual progress in criminal justice reform are wrong," Blackburn said. "We need a direct, honest response to this problem, or it's never going to get solved."

Aside from the photo lineup, the judges who ruled against Balderas in his appeal found that there was more than enough evidence to convict him. They noted that he was arrested while in possession of the murder weapon and with a magazine clip in his pocket that fit that exact gun. A fellow gang member named Israel Diaz also told the jury that Balderas had confessed to him. Wendy's identification, the gun and Diaz's testimony added up to sufficient evidence for a death sentence, the judges found.

But new questions have also been raised about Diaz's testimony. In court, Diaz dramatically recounted meeting Balderas just hours after the murder took place, describing an almost biblical scene. "He just hugged everyone like sort of when you haven't seen nobody in a long time, like joyful, and he gave each individual a hug, and when he got towards me, he gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek," Diaz told the jury. "He said he got him, he finally got him."

Diaz has since recanted that testimony, according to an affidavit prepared by Balderas' defense investigator. The investigator said Diaz told him in a 2015 interview that prosecutors pressured Diaz to implicate Balderas. When Diaz resisted, "the prosecutor stopped me there and told me that I needed to 'change that,'" Diaz is quoted as saying in the investigator's report. "I was told that I needed to say in court that Juan told me he killed Eduardo.

"The truth is that Juan never told me that."

On the 1st day of Balderas' trial, Diaz finalized a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for testifying, he had charges against him in a separate case reduced from capital murder to aggravated robbery. Diaz was sentenced to 20 years in prison and has now been released on parole, according to state records.

Investigators for Balderas also found 23 pages of handwritten notes from previous interviews with Diaz in prosecutors' files. They say these notes, taken by prosecutors during interviews in 2007 and 2008, were never released to Balderas' trial lawyers, which is required by law. According to the notes, Diaz originally told prosecutors that Balderas said "we took care of that," not that Balderas personally confessed to killing Hernandez.

In court filings, the state has defended Balderas' conviction and the witness identification procedure. "The witness got a good view of Balderas during the murder, she picked him out of the lineup right away, and she has never wavered in her identification," Clinton Morgan, an assistant district attorney for Harris County, said in a statement.

Balderas, who has served almost 2 years on death row at the Polunsky Unit in West Livingston, is now waiting on several appeals. In a letter to the Observer, he said he was hopeful about the results. "The photo lineup was extremely unfair and even more prejudicial was the process in which the tainted identification was obtained," he wrote. "Though at the moment I feel optimistic in reaching the light of justice, throughout the night I still feel frightened and distressed, aware of the looming death penalty after being wrongfully convicted."

(source: Texas Tribune)

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A Mother Visits Her Son, Who's Condemned to Die in April ---- 'I can't touch him and comfort him.'

In 2008, Marilyn Shankle-Grant's son Paul Storey was sentenced to death. He and an accomplice had been convicted of shooting and killing 28 year-old Jonas Cherry while robbing the putt-putt golf course where Cherry worked in Hurst, Texas.

This is Shankle-Grant's account of the experience and the years since.

I was on vacation, in New York, when I found out my son had been arrested. I became numb. This is not happening, I thought. This is not true. There is not a day since where I don't think about the victim's mother, the devastation she must be feeling knowing she's lost her only son.

When I visited Paul in jail before the trial, he was very depressed. He said, "I don't want to live if I have to go to prison. I would rather die." I kept trying to keep him strong, telling him that miracles happen everyday.

I couldn't understand why Paul was sentenced to death. When you think of the death penalty, you think of serial killers. You don't think of a robbery-murder, like my son committed. For the first couple of years, I did nothing but cry. I remember our 1st visit at death row, a week after he'd arrived, he already looked a lot thinner. He seemed like he was starving himself. It broke my heart.

I decided I needed to see him as often as I possibly could. I took on extra hours at work just to get money to drive the 4 1/2 hours to the prison.

When I'd go to see him, the female prison guards would call me 'Mama,' and say, 'Mama, he's been good this week.' They say he gives them the utmost respect. I've always taught him, no matter where you are, you keep your dignity, so I can't tell you how proud I am when the guards say nice things about him. He gets letters from pen-pals, and I think a lot of people assume Paul - a black man from a single mother in the inner-city - is not that educated. But he surprises them, and then they write me to say, 'Wow, he's such a good writer!" And that makes me proud, too.

Last year, I lost my job; I was going through so much emotionally that I couldn't work. Unemployment benefits were enough to pay the bills, but not to travel to see Paul. So I started baking cookies and selling them. I made a Facebook page for Marilyn's Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes. I went to car washes and beauty shops, anywhere they'd let me sell them.

Appeals take a long time, and we never talked about what might happen. Last fall, he got an execution date in April 2017. His younger brother and I went to see him. He told us, "You've got 5 minutes to cry, scream, yell, whatever you need to do. And then we're going to enjoy our visit."

We didn't talk about it again. We never talk about the execution, or the burial, or anything like that. I don't want him to give up hope. We're still holding on to our small piece of hope, so we don't reflect on what's coming. I have an enormous amount of faith in his lawyers, and I'm praying to God they find one thing in his case that gets a stay.

But the closer it gets, the more it weighs on me. I was always the life of the party, this fun-loving, outgoing person, but I've totally changed. I exclude myself from family and friends. I don't go anywhere.

I get asked all the time if I'm going to witness the execution. As a mother, how could I not? I cannot let my child die without me. It's unnatural for a kid to not outlive their parents. But this is not a long illness. It's not a sudden automobile accident. It's watching your healthy child be strapped to a gurney and pumped full of chemicals. And there's nothing you can do.

I try to live it in my head, I think, What will it be like? Am I going to survive it? I've had nightmares. I wake up screaming. I tell Paul all the time, "We're God-fearing people. God can do anything." But I worry that when he's on that gurney he'll look at me and ask, "Mom, did you lie to me?"

When I go to see him on death row, I can't touch him and comfort him. I've heard that after the execution, they'll send him to the funeral home. They allow you to come in while they're still warm. That will be the 1st time I've touched him in more than 10 years.

(source: themarshallproject.org)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Man who killed 3 Pittsburgh police officers gets stay of execution

Richard Poplawski on Thursday received 2 court-appointed attorneys and a stay of execution as he seeks to overturn his conviction for killing 3 Pittsburgh police officers in 2009.

Poplawski's execution date had been set for March 3.

It's common for death row inmates to file such court actions seeking a new trial, regardless of whether they're likely to succeed.

Attorneys Owen Seaman and Brian Sichko have until May 20 to file a new petition on Poplawski's behalf.

Poplawski had filed his own petition seeking new counsel, a stay of execution and, among other things, dismissal of all charges and protection from reprosecution.

Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning told Poplawski he has to decide whether he wants to continue representing himself or be appointed counsel.

"We're in a 'what-do-you-want-now' situation," Manning said.

Poplawski, now sporting mutton chops and collar-length hair, was clad in a state prison-issued black-and-white striped jumpsuit. His only words in the courtroom were to answer questions posed by Manning.

Seaman said that he and Sichko met with Poplawski for the 1st time Thursday.

"He seemed to be in relatively good spirits for someone who was slated to be executed in 2 1/2 weeks," he said.

Poplawski had asked for his petition to be incorporated into any future proceedings, but Manning noted that he is not entitled to hybrid representation - in which some filings would come from Poplawski and some from his attorneys.

"We've seen his petition," Seaman said. "We've read through it, and that's what we're going to be spending a lot of time on over the next couple months - going through all of the issues he's raised, trying to sort out what might be meritless, what might have some merit, and then we will make that decision along with (Poplawski) as to which of those issues we're really going to proceed on."

He said the stay of execution was logical.

"You can't be executed while there is pending action," Seaman said. "Because (Poplawski) filed this petition - it was validly filed by himself as a pro se litigant at that time - it really requires a stay."

He stressed that this latest go-round is not an appeal - Poplawski has already appealed his conviction and sentencing to the state Supreme Court. The Post-Conviction Relief Act, which applies in this case, looks mostly at any issues pertaining to ineffective counsel.

Seaman said it's another avenue to ask for a new trial.

In April 2009, Poplawski shot and killed Officers Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul J. Sciullo II outside the home he shared with his mother in Stanton Heights.

When Mayhle and Sciullo arrived at Poplawski's house in response to a 911 domestic disturbance call from Poplawski's mother, Poplawski fired on the officers without warning.

Kelly rushed from a few blocks away to help the 2 fallen officers, but Poplawski shot and killed Kelly as well.

The city in 2011 condemned the house and razed it.

The state Supreme Court in December upheld Poplawski's conviction and death sentence, and his execution warrant was signed Jan. 17.

Poplawski's March 3 execution would likely not have come to pass.

Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, using his power to postpone executions until a state task force completes a report on whether the death penalty is fair and effective.

(source: triblive.com)

FLORIDA:

Ft. Lauderdale Shooter Cleared As Mentally Competent To Stand Trial

Defense lawyers say the Alaska man accused of fatally shooting 5 people and wounding 6 at a major airport in Florida is mentally competent to stand trial.

Attorneys for 26-year-old Esteban Santiago told a federal judge on Thursday that he understands court proceedings and can assist in his defense.

Santiago is accused of flying from Anchorage to Florida on January 6th and opening fire at a baggage claim area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Santiago told FBI agents after the shooting that he was under some form of government mind control.

Later, he said the shooting was inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.

Not long before the shooting, Santiago was briefly treated at an Alaska hospital after telling authorities he had been hearing voices.

(source: tvtv.com)

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

Amid death penalty reform debate, a call for fewer qualifying crimes

In October, the court struck down a reform package passed last year by the GOP-controlled legislature, ruling the package's provision allowing for supermajority votes by juries for death sentences was unconstitutional. Given the gravity of a death sentence, the court decided, only unanimous votes will do.

Under the legislation (HB 527/SB 280), unanimity would be required, satisfying the court's ruling and, Republicans hope, ending a series of legal setbacks that have effectively thrown dozens of death penalty cases into limbo for more than a year.

"For me, it's important that there's an orderly system of justice in place for families of victims," said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart).

The legislation unanimously passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee this week, but not before a bipartisan chorus of critics testified in support of expanding the measure to shorten the list of crimes that qualify for death sentences. Those aggravating and mitigating factors, as they're known in legal parlance, have caused Florida's docket of capital cases to explode, prompting questions about their constitutionality.

"It will give us a constitutional death penalty process for now," Florida Public Defenders Association President Rex Demmig said of the House bill. "What it does not do is correct or address the myriad of other constitutional problems that have been raised over the course of years."

Another point of contention is how to handle the cases of hundreds of death row inmates sentenced under the now-unconstitutional scheme. In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court ordered that some, but not all, of the inmates should receive new sentencing trials. Reformers are now advocating for a legislative mandate that any inmate sentenced with less than a unanimous jury recommendation should receive a new trial.

"In short, what the bill does is resolve the constitutional crisis de jour, while kicking the can, or in this case, perhaps, the barrel of other problems further down the road," Demmig said

(source: mynews13.com)

ALABAMA:

Court Finds Extraordinary Misconduct by Attorney for Alabama Death Row Prisoner

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held on Friday that death row inmate John Ward's attorney's failure to file an appeal on time was egregious unprofessional conduct.

John Ward was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1998. In July 2002, his family hired a lawyer to file a petition in state court to challenge Mr. Ward's conviction and sentence. The petition was due on August 1, 2003. The lawyer assured Mr. Ward that he would file the petition on time, but without telling Mr. Ward or his family, he decided not to file a petition in state court as he was hired to do.

Mr. Ward wrote dozens of letters and called his attorney multiple times about the status of his petition. When he couldn't reach his lawyer, he wrote to the court, which notified him that no petition had been filed. Mr. Ward asked the court for more time and a new lawyer to file his petition, but it was already too late.

In 2005, a different lawyer finally filed Mr. Ward's petition in state court, but it was dismissed because it was filed long after the deadline. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court acknowledged that a late filing can be excused if the attorney's actions are "far enough outside the range of behavior that reasonably could be expected by a client that they may be considered 'extraordinary.'" The court ruled that Mr. Ward should have a chance to prove that the late filing was not his fault and should be excused because of his lawyer's unprofessional conduct.

On Friday, the Alabama Court of Criminal appeals agreed that his attorney's conduct was sufficiently egregious to excuse Mr. Ward's late filing. "Ward instructed his retained attorney to file a postconviction petition in the circuit court," the court explained. "Instead, the attorney disregarded his client's express wishes . . . thereby violating one of his basic obligations as an attorney - the obligation to defer to his client's wishes on major decisions." Further, the court found that "Ward did not sit on his rights but that he repeatedly sought help in both state court and federal court."

The failure to provide adequate counsel to capital defendants and death row prisoners is a defining feature of the American death penalty. There is no statewide public defender office to provide legal assistance to people on Alabama's death row, and the United States Supreme Court has detailed the deficiencies in the state's death penalty system.

(source: eji.org)

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

Inmate's lawyers argue last execution went 'horribly wrong'

Lawyers for a condemned Alabama inmate urged the state to hold off on his execution date, arguing that the state's last lethal injection went "horribly wrong."

The state is seeking an execution date for Robert Melson, who was convicted of killing 3 fast food employees during a 1995 robbery of a Popeye's restaurant in Gadsden.

In a filing with the Alabama Supreme Court, Melson's attorneys argued that the state's last execution went wrong after the inmate coughed for the first 13 minutes of the procedure and appeared to move after a consciousness check.

"This Court should not set any execution dates until the question of the constitutionality of Alabama's method of execution is resolved, particularly after Ronald Smith's execution was badly botched," lawyers for Melson wrote.

During a lethal injection in December, inmate Ronald Bert Smith heaved and coughed repeatedly and briefly moved his hands after 2 consciousness checks. Lawyers for Smith say the movements showed he was never fully anesthetized during the procedure.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in December that there was no evidence that the execution went awry or that there was suffering.

Lawyers with the Alabama's attorney general's office, in asking for an execution date, argued last month that the federal courts have upheld Alabama's lethal injection process as constitutional. Dunn said in December that the state properly followed that protocol.

Alabama uses the sedative midazolam as the 1st drug in a 3-drug lethal injection combination. Inmates have argued in a court case that the drug was an unreliable sedative and could cause them to feel pain, citing its use in problematic executions.

Melson last year joined litigation challenging the state's lethal injection process as unconstitutional. The state argued that similar claims have already been rejected.

(source: The Republic)

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

The rare, bipartisan push to end judicial override in Alabama

There was a rare show of bipartisanship during Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee meeting, and even rarer step taken to end a long-outdated practice.

A bill that would bring an end to judicial override - the power that only Alabama now grants judges to overturn the decisions of juries and sentence a defendant to death - passed through the committee with bipartisan support.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, now goes to the floor for a vote.

"I think it just makes good common sense," England said. "I believe a large number of juries aren't giving the death penalty the proper weight and consideration because they know it will go to the judge who will have the ultimate say. This puts an end to that and I believe it will lead to a more thoughtful consideration."

England's bill also requires that juries be unanimous in deciding on the death penalty - a change from the current law, which requires at least 10 members of the 12-person jury.

An amendment that would have struck that language and kept the current law was also defeated by the committee.

"If it has to be unanimous to convict, it should be unanimous to sentence a person to die," England said.

The attempt to strike the unanimity language was the only real pushback England's bill received. Barry Matson, who heads the Office of Prosecution services, said district attorneys were more in favor of maintaining current law because of the reluctance of many people to impose death on another.

"I can do that, because I know I signed up for that," Matson said. "The judge signed up for that. The jurors got a summons in the mail. It's a tough thing for them."

England said it should be.

"The death penalty is our most severe punishment," he said. "It should be reserved for the worst of the worst."

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. A similar bill in the Senate - which doesn't contain the unanimity language - was approved by committee last week and awaits a Senate vote.

(source: Alabama Political Reporter)

OHIO:

Trial set for April in fire that killed firefighters ---- Building owner could get death penalty

Lucas County's only pending death-penalty case is set to go to trial April 3, a judge confirmed Thursday.

Ray Abou-Arab, 63, of Oregon is accused of setting a fire more than 3 years ago that killed 2 Toledo firefighters. He could receive the death penalty if he is convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of 2 counts of aggravated murder for the Jan. 26, 2014, deaths of Toledo fire Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.

Mr. Abou-Arab also is charged with 2 counts of murder, 8 counts of aggravated arson, and 1 count of tampering with evidence for allegedly setting fire to a Magnolia Street building that he owned.

At a brief pretrial hearing, Judge Stacy Cook asked prosecutors and defense attorneys if they were ready for the trial, which could last 3 weeks or more, including a sentencing phase that would be held if Mr. Abou-Arab is found guilty. During that phase, the defense would offer mitigating evidence, or reasons why the defendant should not be sentenced to death.

"The state will be prepared April 3," Robert Miller, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, replied.

Mr. Abou-Arab's attorney, Pete Rost, told the court the defense was "making every effort to be" ready.

Mr. Miller told the court he anticipated filing a motion seeking to have the jury taken to the crime scene to view.

Judge Cook approved a motion filed by the defense seeking an additional $5,000 to pay its mitigation investigator. She did not act on a defense motion that asks the court to dismiss the death-penalty specifications.

In it, attorneys for Mr. Abou-Arab argue that the capital sentencing scheme in Ohio is unconstitutional "because it is the judge, not the jury, who determines that death is the sentence to be imposed. And the Constitution requires a jury to find any fact necessary to qualify a capital defendant for a death sentence."

In a lengthy response, prosecutors opposed the motion, saying Ohio judges may not impose a death sentence when a jury fails to find the defendant guilty of the capital specification or when the jury fails to find that the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating circumstances.

"A more accurate statement is that it is the judge who may impose a death sentence based on the jury's findings," the response states.

(source: Toledo Blade)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma House advances measure ending electric chair executions

The Oklahoma House approved legislation Thursday to eliminate the electric chair as a method of execution, although it's been more than 50 years since the state's last electrocution.

The bill lists which execution methods are allowed, including lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia - which causes death by depleting oxygen in the blood - firing squad and any other form not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

Electrocution has not been used to execute an Oklahoma death row inmate since 1966, and a firing squad has never been used in the state.

The measure also would give the Department of Corrections' director the choice of which method to use.

House members voted 74-22 for the bill and sent it to the Senate for a vote.

Oklahoma has executed 112 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest per-capita rate in the nation and second overall tally only to Texas, where 537 inmates have been put to death over the last 40 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

But executions have been on hold in Oklahoma since a botched execution in 2014 and drug mix-ups during the last 2 scheduled lethal injections in 2015.

Oklahoma was the 1st state to authorize lethal injection as a method of execution, and capital punishment has strong, bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Lawmakers approved the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative method of execution after an inmate writhed on the gurney during a 2014 lethal injection that prison officials tried unsuccessfully to halt.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly approved a statewide referendum that enshrined the death penalty in the state constitution, making it more difficult for future legislators or the courts to end it.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Oklahoma House passes bill that would provide alternative ways to carry out death penalty

The Oklahoma House passes House Bill 1679, which would provide alternative ways to carry out death penalty.

The measure provides that the available manners of execution are to be lethal drug, nitrogen hypoxia, firing squad, any method not prohibited by the United States Constitution.

The manner of carrying out the punishment shall be selected by the Director of the Department of Corrections.

(source: KOCO news)

COLORADO:

Still, Colorado must reconsider death penalty

A year after an effort to lower the bar for implementation of the death-penalty in Colorado failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a move to repeal the state's death penalty failed this week in the same committee.

As we noted when Berthoud Sen. Kevin Lundberg's bill failed last year, it's unfortunate that Sen. Lucia Guzman's bill didn't advance this session, because this is a public policy discussion that requires the state's attention.

There are practical reasons for eliminating the death penalty. Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett has noted that prosecuting a death penalty case through a verdict can cost the prosecution more than $1 million, about a fifth of the annual budget of the district attorney's office.

But saving money is a far lesser concern than questions about whether the death penalty, as applied now, is just.

Execution is not applied uniformly. In 2013, the Denver Post reported on a review by University of Denver law experts of every first-degree murder case in Colorado over 12 years found that of 500 cases meeting the state's criteria for the death penalty, prosecutors sought death in only five, and a University of Colorado at Boulder study looked for particularly heinous cases where a death sentence could have been called for but was not and found many: "children who were kidnapped, raped and murdered. A cocaine addict who killed his wife and 16-month-old son."

Nationwide, poorer defendants, and minorities, are most likely to face execution.

Sir Mario Owens, who is black, is on death row in Colorado for the murder of 2 people. James Holmes, who is white, got life in prison after murdering 12 people and injuring 70 others. (It's worth noting that life in prison is a punishment that some "career criminals" receive for drug and gun crimes, not taking life.)

The continued exonerations of Americans on death row - 157 in the past 44 years - reveals the risk of putting an innocent inmate to death. It is without question that Americans have been executed for crimes of which they were not guilty. It is the punishment that leaves no room for appeal or pardon, should evidence surface that the defendant was not guilty

The death penalty is a punishment appropriate for murder. Therefore, lawmakers should listen to prosecutors and to the families of murder victims regarding the value of keeping the penalty available to the state. But there are too many questions and legitimate concerns to keep the death penalty on the books as it is.

(source: Editorial, Reporter-Herald)

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

Guzman: 'I came to the Legislature to repeal the death penalty'

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman's death penalty repeal bill was voted down by Republicans in committee Wednesday, just as she expected. Guzman said she hoped mainly that the bill would foster heartfelt conversation. On that score, she succeeded.

She speculated that she might have pulled off the repeal if the Democrats in November had won a majority in the Senate. But Republicans maintained the majority by 1 vote.

"It was not to be. Maybe it's the conversation that's important, going through all these steps together," she said. "I think that's a good legacy."

Guzman, a Denver Democrat, arrived at the Senate as an appointee in 2010, taking the District 34 seat vacated by Paula Sandoval. Guzman is term limited and has only 1 more session to serve at the Capitol. She is also a minister with a degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

"You know, I came to the Legislature to repeal the death penalty," she said. "That's why I wanted to run for the Senate - the main reason. I believe that Colorado can never be its best as long we're entangled with this [death penalty] statute. As a state and community, transformation is what we need, and transformation comes only when there's opportunity for people to have the time to grow. If you just slap the death penalty onto people, there's no way to grow, in my opinion. It doesn't provide closure."

Guzman told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was appearing before them as a senator and as a victim.

"Senate Bill 95 basically brings us to a question: Should we kill someone who kills someone? We're here today to talk about crime and punishment and justice. How do we as a society build and maintain a system of justice for all?"

She read aloud excerpts from the 1975 newspaper story that reported the murder of her 72-year-old father, Tom Guzman, in Katy, Texas.

"He died Sunday morning after being hit in the head during a robbery at the Highway 90 all-night service station where he worked," she said.

The murderer made off with $7 from Guzman's father's pocket. The cash register was still locked. The murder weapon, a 12-inch crescent wrench, was found in a nearby field with a pair of the criminal's shoes.

"The man on the floor of that gas station was my dad. He wasn't feeble," Guzman said. "He was quite strong. It's amazing to me that the man arrested was not charged with murder or robbery."

Guzman explained that the accused received a lesser charge that was tied to what was described as "an argument over small change."

"But parts of my dad's skull were left on that floor... My Daddy didn't deserve to die that way... What I learned is that you can change things around. There are so many things that come into play in these cases. In Colorado, so much depends on what judicial district you live in ... There's no across-the-board rules.

"My dad didn't deserve to die that way, but I learned that there's no way that killing someone who killed my dad would bring him back."

Testimony over the bill lasted for hours. Witnesses who testified against the bill included District Attorney George Brauchler, the man who in 2015 tried and failed to win a death penalty conviction for James Holmes, the Aurora Theater shooter; and Maisha Fields, daughter of state Sen. Rhonda Fields and the sister of Javad Marshall-Fields, who was gunned down on a street corner to prevent him from testifying in a gangland murder case. The 2 men convicted of killing Javad Marshall-Fields await execution on Colorado's death row.

Guzman talked at length with The Colorado Statesman about the bill. A larger story of the interview will post in the print edition of The Statesman this week.

(source: coloradostatesman.com)

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

Colorado bill eliminating death penalty fails on party-line vote as emotions run high

An effort to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado was rejected by a legislative committee Wednesday night after an emotional hearing.

The effort from Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman failed on a party-line vote, with Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the proposal.

The hearing included tear-jerking testimony from people who lost loved ones to murder, who said they found solace in the justice of capital punishment.

But Guzman offered her own perspective as a victim, having lost her father to murder more than 40 years ago. While her father was working at a service station, there was a robbery over $7 and some change. His skull was smashed with a wrench, and parts of it were found strewn across the floor.

It was always infuriating to Guzman that the man who was arrested was charged with manslaughter; not murder or robbery. But she said she never wished for the man who murdered her father to be sentenced to death, despite what she perceived as a light sentence.

"I want you to know that I'm a victim also," Guzman said. "I'm here tonight as a victim and as a victim advocate. I'm also here as someone who does not believe that we should be a society that kills people who kill people."

Senate Bill 95 was originally thought to fail with bipartisan opposition. But Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, asked to be replaced on the committee because she felt too connected to the subject this year. She was replaced by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who supported the measure.

Fields' son was murdered by 2 men sitting on death row. Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were gunned down in 2005 as the 2 were expected to testify in a pending murder case.

Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray were both sentenced to death for their involvement in the murders, though they are moving through lengthy appeals steps. Fields said she didn't want to interfere with the continuing judicial process.

Her daughter, Maisha Fields, testified at the hearing Wednesday night, pointing out that the 2 men who killed her brother had already been sentenced to what amounted to life in prison for their role in another case.

"We were able to get justice - justice for Javad and Vivian. The only punishment that was available at that time, because the defendants were already serving a life sentence, was death," Maisha Fields said.

"I'm ashamed that we're here today because I feel as if all the hard work that the 12 jurors have done, the police department, and that the life that my brother and his girlfriend Vivian lived, will be in vain . Have the political courage to say 'no.'"

Lawmakers addressed the issue of repealing the death penalty for the 1st time in 4 years. 2 efforts in the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2013 failed, one of which was sponsored by Fields. She said her opinion on the death penalty has "matured," though she still supports it.

A group has formed, the Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado, which is pushing a repeal. There are no current plans for a ballot measure, though that could change.

The group is building off of an effort in Nebraska, where proponents of overturning the death penalty believe they made significant progress. The Nebraska legislature repealed the death penalty in 2015 despite opposition led by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The success, however, was short-lived, as Nebraska voters in November reinstated the state's policy on capital punishment, with 61 % voting to "repeal the repeal."

But given success in the legislature of the Republican state, proponents of a repeal believe there is a way to reach bipartisan consensus in Colorado as well.

High-profile cases have thrust Colorado into the spotlight, including jurors in Arapahoe County who could not unanimously agree to sentence the 2012 Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, also upset some by granting a stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of murder for the 1993 deaths of 4 people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese.

The governor's stance on the death penalty has evolved. In 2014, Hickenlooper outlined his reasons for opposing the death penalty, which opened him up to attacks from Republicans as he headed into re-election.

Critics of the death penalty point to costs, with some estimates placing it between $5 million and $10 million per year thanks to the need for extensive legal work.

The last time someone was executed in Colorado was in 1997. There are 3 people sitting on death row in the state.

Opponents of the death penalty also point to an inequity, highlighting that a gruesome crime committed in 1 jurisdiction could lead to capital punishment, but the same horrible crime in another district might not because of the discretion of prosecutors. At least 2 district attorneys, for Denver and Boulder, have expressed concerns with capital punishment.

Faith leaders held a news conference ahead of the hearing on Wednesday to express support for eliminating the death penalty. They feel capital punishment goes against religious values that support life over death.

But George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County prosecutor who sought the death penalty in the Aurora movie theater case, said the reason prosecutors use their discretion is because sometimes crimes are elevated to a higher status.

"The death penalty exists because not all murders are the same," said Brauchler, who is considering a run for governor in 2018. "If we're going to try to seek justice, what we try to do is distinguish, as much as we can, one person from another."

(source: Colorado Spring Gazette)

ARIZONA:

Former death-row inmate turned prisoner advocate: 'Hate the crime but still love the person'

1-time death-row inmate turned prisoner-rights advocate Shujaa Graham had himself and members of the audience in tears Thursday during "Life After Death Row" at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix.

Graham recounted his experience spending 11 years in various California penal institutions, part of which included time spent on death row for a wrongful murder conviction. He was later exonerated in the death of a prison guard and released from prison in 1981.

Graham, who now lives in Maryland, has toured the world telling his story since. Born in Louisiana, Graham grew up on a plantation in the segregated South of the 1950s. After moving to Southern California, he spent much of his adolescence in juvenile institutions and was sent to Soledad Prison upon turning 18. Graham taught himself to read and write and studied history and world affairs while being mentored by leaders in the Black Prison Movement. He later became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system as the Black Panther Party expanded.

With his head filled with stories of his time in and out of jail and a keen speaking ability, Graham talked throughout the 45 minutes allotted Thursday afternoon until the theater had to excuse everybody for the next show.

"I guess I'll just have to talk on the way walking out," Graham said.

Here are some of the highlights:

"No matter if you were a criminal, you were still a human being. I hate the crime but still love the person."

Graham spoke about reading extensively into the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and concluded in his study that the world, especially prisoners, needed more love.

He actively opposes the death penalty, but is also concerned with the treatment of prisoners, drawing on numerous accounts of beatings and racism he experienced and observed.

"I always like to say this: I am here despite the justice system, not because of it."

Graham said he endured four trials before finally being exonerated from the murder charge, noting that the 1st jury had been systematically picked not to include African-Americans.

He spoke about galvanizing fellow prisoners to form political-protest groups. He believes he was framed for the murder based on his involvement in these groups.

"They encircled me, and I just stood there in the middle, stripped totally buck-naked, and they closed in on me."

Part of Graham's fight for justice includes the violence inmates endure on death row.

He told a story of taking 2 beatings from prison staff in just two hours after his murder conviction. He said the 1st took place in an elevator, and the 2nd when he finally got to his jail cell, which included 12 to 15 people beating him down.

"That's my goal, is for a better America."

Starting with students, Graham said he hopes to encourage those working toward careers that the desire for social justice will not only make them better at their jobs, but better people, as well.

In prison, and now out, a consistent theme in his life was fighting for his ideals. He encouraged peaceful protest, and said he has participated in multiple marches opposing the death penalty. He said death row serves to merely kill more people, rather than telling society that killing is wrong.

"Don't be sorry for me. I am here to help all of you."

Graham met his wife in prison, where she was a nurse. He spoke on the "luxury" he had with a support system after his release, something he says many prisoners do not have.

As unhappy as many of his years were in jail, Graham said his goal isn't scare people into acting better. His goal, he said, is to share his story and help people understand what he believes are the changes necessary for society to flourish.

(source: azcentral.com)

IDAHO:

Death Penalty Considered for Men Accused of Shooting Teen

Prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty against 2 Buhl men accused of killing a high school student last year. Gerardo Raul Chavez, 19, and Jose Daniel Alvarez, 20, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to felony counts of murder and intimidating a witness, The Times-News reported (http://bit.ly/2ktOOP8 ). The pair is accused of the May 7 drive-by shooting of 15-year-old Vason Lee Widaman.

"I've been giving (the death penalty) thought since the crime first occurred," prosecutor Grant Loebs said. "But I have not been seriously considering all of the factors."

Loebs has 60 days to decide whether or not he will seek capital punishment for the 2 men but said he's hoping to make a decision before that deadline.

"We look at the crime, look at the defendants as much as we can, look if there are any aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime," Loebs said of what goes into his decision. "We also look at what mitigating factors might be used in favor of the defendant in a sentencing context."

The suspects are next due in court on March 27, making that the earliest date at which Loebs could announce his decision.

During Wednesday's hearing, attorneys said a trial for the men will likely begin July 11. They each face up to life in prison for the charges against them if Loebs does not seek the death penalty.

Both men are being held without bond but Chavez informed the court this week that he would seek a bond hearing.

(source: Associated Press)

NEVADA:

Court rules against man accused in slaying of 15-year-old girl

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled today that Javier Righetti should stand trial for the torture slaying of a 15-year-old girl in Las Vegas and that the prosecution could seek the death penalty.

The court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Kristina Pickering, rejected arguments to block consideration of the death penalty.

Righetti is accused of the rape and killing of Alyssa Otremba as she headed home from school in September 2011. Righetti previously pleaded guilty in the case without negotiations with the District Attorney's Office, but he did not plead guilty to one count that the killing was "willful, deliberate and premeditated," according to court records. That would limit the prosecution from seeking the death penalty.

A judge later approved a motion to invalidate the guilty pleas.

Defense attorneys argued a District Court judge had no right to invalidate the guilty pleas.

Pickering said a previous court decision holds a defendant does not have a right to plead guilty to a lesser offense than that charged in an indictment without the consent of the prosecution.

The court also rejected an argument that Righetti faces double jeopardy by pleading guilty to all but one of the counts and the judge could not toss out the guilty pleas.

Pickering said the double jeopardy protection "is not to shield defendants like Righetti from their decisions to gamble on a novel interpretation of law which ultimately proved unsuccessful."

(source: Las Vegas Sun)

WASHINGTON:

A bill in Olympia aims to ban the death penalty in Washington State, once and for all.

In January 2017, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson introduced Senate Bill 5354 to end the death penalty in Washington State. In a press conference, Inslee said, "the evidence is absolutely clear that death penalty sentences are unequally applied, they are frequently overturned, and they are always costly."

The Senate Bill comes three years after Governor Inslee ordered a statewide moratorium on the death penalty. The moratorium suspended the executions of all individuals on death row and served to call attention to what Inslee called an "imperfect system."

12 state senators have pledged their support for the bipartisan bill, including Representative Maureen Walsh-R of Walla Walla's 16th District. The local Washington State Penitentiary in Walsh's district is the only facility in the state with an execution chamber and 1 of 2 facilities in the US with an active gallows.

"As a means of effective punishment, the death penalty is outdated," Representative Walsh said.

Republican State Senator Mike Padden, who is opposed to the bill, told one Seattle Times reporter, "I'm not a zealot for the death penalty ... but I do think there are some heinous crimes where it should be on the table."

The debate over capital punishment has deep roots in the state. Washington's death penalty has been abolished - and restored - twice in state history: 1st in 1913, when a Seattle representative named Frank P. Goss passed a bill to eliminate it, and again after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1972 maintained that capital punishment was unconstitutional. Washington reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after amending its sentencing procedures to include a bifurcated trial process in which the same jury determines guilt 1st and punishment 2nd. To be a juror in a murder trial in Washington, a person must tell the court that he or she is comfortable imposing the death penalty. Though this arrangement attempts to ensure that juries across the state will be consistent in their decisions, it necessarily excludes citizens who cannot condone capital punishment.

"You create a system that is self-fulfilling if you won't let people sit on juries who don't believe in the death penalty," Heather Hayes, Chair and Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Studies at Whitman College, said.

Around 10 pm on the night of January 4, 1993, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn stood outside the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. A little after midnight on January 5, Westley Allan Dodd would face the death penalty on 3 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder. Not only would Dodd's execution be the 1st in Washington State in 27 years, but it would also be the 1st legal hanging in the United States since 1965.

Kaufman-Osborn, the Baker Ferguson Professor of Politics and Leadership at Whitman College, was 1 of 12 people to show up in opposition to the death penalty on the night of Dodd's execution. Over 200 people were present to support it. Kaufman-Osborn remembers seeing a sign saying, "What the Heck, Stretch His Neck."

Some people brought miniature nooses. At midnight, somebody in the crowd popped the cork of a champagne bottle.

"On the one hand I was horrified by the spectacle," Professor Kaufman-Osborn said. "On the other hand, as a good academic, I was fascinated by it. I had never studied capital punishment as an academic area of inquiry."

Dodd's execution threw Kaufman-Osborn into activism. While teaching at Whitman, he published a book on the politics of the death penalty titled From Noose To Needle: Capital Punishment and the Late Liberal State. He also became a vocal member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization which advocates for the abolition of the death penalty nationwide. Washington is 1 of 31 states in the country that implements the death penalty, but 2017 just may be the year the state abolishes death row.

Timothy Kaufman-Osborn has focused most of his research on the unequal application of death sentences in Washington state. Kaufman-Osborn likened capital punishment to "a rigged lottery" - not all offenders are treated equally. As an example, in 2003, Gary Ridgway (often called the "Green River Killer") pled guilty to 48 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder. Despite being the most prolific serial murderer in state history, Ridgway struck a plea deal with the King County prosecutor and was spared a death sentence in exchange for helping law enforcement officers locate the bodies of 41 missing victims. "So you've got arguably the most heinous murderer in Washington State ... who will live out the rest of his life in a cell," Kaufman-Osborn said, "whereas if you look at the number of victims of those who remain on death row now ... the body count is considerably lower."

The exorbitant cost of death sentencing compounds the issue of unequal application. A 2015 Seattle University study found that, on average, a death penalty sentence costs the state $1 million more than a sentence to life without parole.

"Capital cases are tremendously expensive to conduct, especially as you go through the whole appeals process," Kaufman-Osborn said.

He noted that, because of the high expense, prosecutors in eastern counties are less likely to pursue capital punishment than their wealthier Western counterparts, "not because they think it should not be sought but because they realize it is going to gut the coffers of county governments."

Of the 78 men executed in the state of Washington since 1904, only 22 have come from counties east of the Cascades.

Data also suggests that in interracial homicides nationwide, black offenders with white victims are 10 times more likely to be sentenced to death than white offenders whose victims are black. "If we can demonstrate the system is classist, racist - for which there are just reams of evidence - how can that possibly be just?" Kaufman-Osborn said.

Scott Odem worked as a law enforcement officer in Walla Walla for 25 years. He is now a Classifications Officer working with minimum security inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary.

"I've seen personally what human beings can do to one another," he said.

Odem understands why many people believe the death penalty is fair punishment for heinous crimes.

"I've seen the victims in that condition and ... [there are] a lot of emotions that start swirling around," Odem said.

Professor Hayes agreed that the main argument for the death penalty is retributive.

"People that support the death penalty ... [use] purely a punitive rhetoric," she said.

According to Hayes, the prevailing sentiment among death penalty defenders is that the crimes committed by inmates on death row are "so awful they don't deserve to continue to live among us."

"The anti-death-penalty sentiment now is greater than it has been," said Keith Farrington, Professor of Sociology and The Laura and Carl Peterson Endowed Chair of Social Science at Whitman College.

But, Farrington wrote in an email, "it is still the case that the majority of Americans nationally support the use of the death penalty capital as an appropriate penalty for certain kinds of criminal murder conviction." Bill 5354 is currently in Senate committee. It has a long way to go.

(source: whitmanwire.com)

USA:

Jury selection in death penalty case could take 4 weeks

The judge who will be hearing the 2nd death penalty of a man charged with abducting and killing a Rutland supermarket worker in 2000 says jury selection in the case could take 4 weeks.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford's comments were contained in a document filed in the case of Donald Fell, who is charged abducting Terry King when she arrived for work and later killing her.

Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005, but his conviction was overturned in 2014 due to juror misconduct.

Juror orientation for Fell's 2nd trial began Tuesday. Formal jury selection begins Feb. 27 in federal court in Rutland.

Crawford says the trial itself is expected to begin in late March and last 2 or 3 months.

(source: Associated Press)

NEW ZEALAND:

60th anniversay of New Zealand's last hanging

Walter Bolton was the last man to be hung in New Zealand before capital punishment was repealed.

The trap door opened. His body fell.

On this day 60 years ago, Whanganui farmer Walter James Bolton became the last person in New Zealand to be hanged after being found guilty of murdering his wife of 43 years, Beatrice Bolton, by poisoning her with arsenic.

Bolton, 68, was hanged at the gallows in Auckland Prison, now known as Mt Eden Prison, at 6.30pm for the part he played in the crime.

Stuff reports show the prosecution alleged Bolton killed Beatrice because he was in love with another woman - his sister-in-law Florence Doughty - with whom he had a sexual affair.

Lawyers for the Crown claimed Bolton had concocted a potion of arsenic from sheep dip and laced his wife's tea with it on several occasions, requiring hospital treatment, before killing her with a large dose on July 11, 1956.

His execution was made controversial by the suggestion that his wife had not been murdered at all.

Bolton and his wife were married for 43 years and had 6 children and a relatively close relationship, journalist Bernie Steeds wrote in an article on the couple.

In the 15 months before she died, her mystery illness was never diagnosed, but an autopsy identified arsenic as the cause.

It was suggested Bolton had put the poison in her cups of tea, though no trace of the poison was ever found.

Steeds said sheep dip may have found its way into the house's spring and Bolton also had traces of arsenic in his hair and fingernails.

Active people get rid of arsenic more quickly, and Beatrice had been unwell, and had rested a lot before the poisoning was alleged to have begun, he said.

But an all-male jury in Bolton's hometown found him guilty, and despite his claims of innocence, he lost his Court of Appeal case.

In a book written by Sherwood Young, Guilty On The Gallows, a police officer who attended Bolton's execution was interviewed.

Only 20 at the time, the officer described what it was like.

"When the sheriff gave the signal, the hangman moved the lever. There was a loud metallic clang as the trap door opened. Bolton disappeared from sight behind the tarpaulin.

"A prison warden released the rope while I supported the body. It looked about 7 feet long, hanging there. The toes were almost touching the ground. The tongue was out of his mouth. When the rope was removed it slurped back into his mouth.

"I will never forget this experience."

Other stories later claimed Bolton's execution had gone horribly wrong.

Rather than having his neck broken the instant the trapdoor opened, they alleged Bolton slowly strangled to death.

53 men and 1 woman were executed in New Zealand between 1842 and 1957. The death penalty was abolished in 1941, reinstated in 1950, and then abolished again in 1989.

(source: stuff.co.nz)

INDONESIA:

2 charged with Kuantan kidnapping of businessman, face death penalty

2 men were charged at the magistrate's court here today with kidnapping a businessman to secure a RM19 million ransom 2 years ago.

Lim Sin Chye, 44, from Kemaman, Terengganu and Ang Boon Leong, 39, from Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, were accused of kidnapping Datuk Chin Yoke Choon, 53, to hold him for ransom.

The duo is alleged to have kidnapped Chin, who is the managing director of Tunas Manja Group, at the parking lot of a hotel at Bandar Indera Mahkota here, at 5.55pm on Dec 26, 2015.

The victim was later freed.

Lim and Ang face the death penalty if convicted under Section 3 of the Kidnapping Act 1961.

No plea was recorded from the duo today, and magistrate Noor Zaihan Mohamad Ali fixed Feb 28 for mention.

Later, at two separate sessions courts, the duo claimed trial to being members of underworld group "Geng William", an offence that may see them jailed for up to 20 years if convicted under Section 130V(1) of the Penal Code.

In the 2 separate courts, Lim and Ang also claimed trial to fraternising without good cause with the same underworld group, an offence which carries a maximum 20-year jail term on conviction, under Section 130Y of the Code.

In sessions court 1, judge Unaizah Mohd denied bail to Lim because he was detained under the provisions of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

In sessions court 4, judge Siti Aminah Ghazali also did not grant bail to Ang on the same grounds.

Both judges fixed Feb 28 for mention of the cases.

Deputy public prosecutors Muhamad Asyraf Md Kamal and Shahrul Ekhsan Hassim prosecuted, while the duo was unrepresented.

Previously, on Dec 30, purported underworld members Low Sing Hwa, 29, and Tham Hock Ann, 36, were charged at the magistrate's court here with committing the same offence.

(source: nst.com.my)

IRAN:

Iran Regime Sold the Corpse of an Executed Prisoner for $3,000

Selling unclaimed corpses in Iran has been widely noticed in recent weeks after it was found that medical colleges are paying up to $3,000 per corpse in the black-market, according to new reports.

The state-run Rokna news agency reported on February 15 that the lack of deceased bodies has forced medical students to seek help from the black markets to buy corpses to use as cadavers for medical research purposes.

The report said around 100 unclaimed corpses were found in Tehran's streets, with doctors urging that they should be handed to medical schools so that students may benefit from them.

Rokna quoted Niousha Mohammadzadeh, a practicing doctor, as saying that her college had purchased three bodies, one of which belonged to a man who was executed in prison and who didn't have immediate relatives. His corpse cost 10 million toman ($3,000), she said. The 2nd body belonged to a homeless person and the 3rd body was of an unidentified person.

Trading human organs is currently legal under the Iranian regime's law. The poor are often exploited to sell body organs such as kidneys, a practice that has spread widely in recent years in Iran.

(source: NCR-Iran)

SUDAN:

Sudanese child rapist sentenced to death

A Sudanese court has sentenced a defendant to death after he was found guilty of raping a two-year-old girl to death last year.

It was revealed that the 30-year-old defendant had raped the toddler to death before dumping her body in a well in Eastern Khartoum.

The publicly infamous case has sparked protests by Sudanese activists, who called for maximum penalty for the defendant.

An earlier death sentence against the defendant was overturned by the Sudanese appeals court last June, before a retrial was initiated by the girl's parents.

(source: alarabiya.net)

INDIA:

Rasila's family seeks death penalty for her murderer, wants Nikam to try the case----Father, brother of murdered Infosys employee meet police chief Rashmi Shukla

Family members of Rasila O P discussed issues such as women's safety at workplace and the status of the investigation with the police commissioner.

The family members of Infosys employee Rasila Raju O P, who was allegedly murdered by a security guard in the company premises on January 29, met Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla on Thursday and demanded the death penalty for their daughter's alleged killer. Rasila's father Raju O P, brother Lajin Kumar, uncle Suresh and members of the Pune Malyalee Federation spoke to the police chief. During their interaction, the family said the arrested accused, security guard Bhaven Bharali Saikiya (27), should get the death penalty.

Rasila's family also said senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam should be appointed as the special public prosecutor in the case. "We have submitted our demands in writing to the police commissioner. She has assured us that she will look into the matter," Lajin Kumar told The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, the police commissioner and Rasila's family members also discussed issues such as women's safety at work place, the Vishakha Committee guidelines and the status of the investigation. Shukla told Rasila's family that the investigation in the case was on the right track. She also assured them that she will look into their demand to appoint Nikam as the special PP in the case.

On Wednesday, Rasila's family had submitted a 'Memorandum of Agreement' for compensation at Infosys for seeking legal dues, statuary dues, provident fund, gratuity, insurance compensation and 'ex-gratia' payment, amounting to Rs 1.25 crore approximately.

(source: indianexpress.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Judiciary To Play Vital Role If Death Penalty Is Restored

La Union 1st District Representative Pablo Ortega said here that the judiciary would play a very important role once the death penalty is restored because they will be deciding heinous crimes cases with reclusion perpetuaor life imprisonment to death.

"Judges should study carefully that those who will be charged with heinous crimes will be investigated properly. They should study well if the accused deserve the death penalty," Ortega said.

Ortega, a member of the majority bloc, said he is in favor of the death penalty as long as it will be implemented and amended properly.

"I am for the death penalty but there are some amendments that will be made to ensure that only those who deserve to be meted with death sentence will be punished," he said.

Ortega said that majority of the congressmen in the ruling coalition are in favor of the death penalty although they just want that some of their proposals for amendment would be accommodated.

"We conducted a majority caucus to hear the different views of the congressmen and what are their proposals for amendments so that the bill will be implemented properly. Some of our colleagues are against it but they were convinced when the bill was properly explained by Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez."

Ortega discounted the pronouncement of Alvarez that those members of the majority who are against the bill would be expelled from the coalition.

"That's not true. The Speaker just wants clarification from opposing members for their proposals for amendments," he said.

Ortega said he is not in favor of the inclusion of plunder in the list covered by the death penalty because he said it is sometimes being made as reason for political revenge.

Alvarez, a staunch ally of President Duterte, is determined to have the bill passed on 3rd and final reading before the 17th Congress takes a break on March 18.

(source: Northbound Philippines News)

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

Crime surge due to Aquino's incompetence, not to death penalty's lifting

It will be so tragic if President Duterte gets Congress to reinstate the death penalty. The surge of heinous crimes in the country is not because of the lifting of capital punishment in 2006, but because of the incompetence of immediate past President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose forces continue to plot against his government.

Senate Bill 42, introduced by former police chief Senator Panfilo Lacson, reveals its gross ignorance: "The alarming surge of heinous crimes in recent years has shown that reclusion perpetua (which replaced execution in a 2006 law) is not a deterrent to grave offenders."

But what "recent years" is Lacson talking about? This logically are the past 6 years, from 2010 to 2015, when the Philippine National Police was under Aquino's bosom buddy, Alan Purisima. And it was during these years that there was a near total breakdown of peace and order, with Duterte himself repeatedly saying that we practically had a narco state during these years.

Crime statistics prove this point, and debunk the very wrong claim that the lifting of the death penalty in 2006, the index crime rate even went down from 47.5 that year to 42 in 2007 and 41 in 2008. This completely debunks Senator Lacson's thesis that the absence of capital punishment encouraged criminals to murder and rape more.

There was a surge in reports of index crimes in 2009, but this was mainly due to a change in the Philippine National Police's reporting system which expanded what police precincts should report as crimes in their jurisdiction. The PNP also clamped down on many precinct commanders' penchant to under-report crime incidences to make it appear that they were excellent law enforcers in their territory.

Rocketed up

As a result, the number of index crimes reported rocketed up from just 36,057 in 2008 to 301,703 in 2009 and 204,979 in 2010, probably as police precinct commanders thought it was safer to err on the side of more crimes, not less.

The reporting system, however, seemed to have normalized in the 1st years of the Aquino regime, registering 218, 160, and 135 index crimes per 100,000 people in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

However, the index crime rates surged in 2013 and 2014, to 466 and 493, respectively. Those huge numbers practically indicate a crime wave: from just 129,161 index crimes in 2012,the number more than doubled to 458,000 in 2013 and 492,000 in 2014.

(source: The Manila Times)

FEBRUARY 16, 2017:

CONNECTICUT:

3 Lawmakers File Bills To Repeal Death Penalty

Lawmakers sometimes propose legislation even when there is little to no hope of getting it passed, which is what 3 Republican legislators are doing this year with death penalty revival bills.

The state Supreme Court in 2015 ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, and issued a similar judgment in 2016. Legislative leaders say they have no intention of debating the death penalty again this year and the issue is not expected to have a public hearing. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vowed to veto any death penalty bill in the extremely unlikely event reaches his desk.

None of that has stopped Reps. Kevin Skulczyck, Kurt Vail and Rob Sampson from trying to keep the death penalty issue from being buried, legislatively speaking.

"I don't find it to be a waste of time," said Skulczyck, a Griswold resident who also represents 4 other eastern Connecticut communities. Skulczyck explained he felt compelled to submit a death penalty bill because of requests from people in his district, an area still haunted by the memories of serial killer Michael Ross.

Ross was executed in 2005 for the murders of 6 women. He was the last individual put to death under Connecticut's capital punishment law.

"In my district, there is still a legacy of Michael Ross there," said Skulczyck, who is serving his first term in the General Assembly. "I believe the most heinous of crimes should have capital punishment."

Sampson is a four-term lawmaker from Wolcott who is also chairman of the General Assembly's Republican Conservative Caucus. He said he repeatedly introduced bills to reinstate the death penalty ever since the legislature voted in 2012 to repeal capital punishment, but to keep it for those already on death row. That law was ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

Sampson said he keeps putting in death penalty bills "as a reminder that some of us are not over that. ... The death penalty has overwhelming support among our constituents."

But a 2015 Quinnipiac University Poll found that 48 % of Americans preferred life without parole for people convicted of murder, while 43 % of those surveyed still backed the death penalty.

In last year's 4-3 decision, Connecticut's high court found the death penalty "would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment" and that the ultimate sanction against convicted killers "no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency."

Sampson believes that life in prison is too good for killers like Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were convicted of the Cheshire murders of the Petit family. "Those 2 were just animals," said Sampson.

William Petit, who survived that attack and was elected as a GOP representative last year, has said he doesn't intend to campaign for reinstatement of the death penalty even though he disagrees with its repeal.

Vail failed to respond to requests for comment.

Most lawmakers would probably agree with the House chairman of the judiciary committee, Rep. William Tong, that the death penalty is not on the state's agenda.

"It doesn't make sense to consider that issue," said Tong, a Stamford Democrat whose committee has jurisdiction over criminal punishment matters. "We went through a huge debate on this a few years ago. At the end of the day, there's really nothing more to be said once the Supreme Court has spoken."

Outside Connecticut, the death penalty debate is going strong. 31 states have capital punishment on their books, while 19 have outlawed it. 8 states are reportedly seeking to abolish the death penalty, while 4 - Rhode Island, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New Mexico - have legislation pending to either expand or restore capital punishment.

(source: Hartford Courant)

GEORGIA:

DA Seeks Death Penalty in Butts County Cold Case Murder ---- After nearly 20 years, Butts County officials say they're pursuing the death penalty against a man they say killed a woman in 1999.

Towalida Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams tells WGXA-TV (http://bit.ly/2kTedAo ) that Fuquah Cashaw beat and strangled Heather Davidson to death. Her body was found in October 1999, her larynx was fractured and she suffered blunt force injuries to her head.

In 2005, a Combined DNA Index System match of DNA found in Davidson's mouth came back to Cashaw, who was being held at the Cook County Adult Probation Center on unrelated charges. Cashaw was arrested in Davidson's slaying in 2015 and was indicted on counts of malice murder, felony murder and kidnapping with bodily injury.

Tuesday, Adams said he will pursue the death penalty against Cashaw.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

House panel approves death penalty fix

Florida is 1 step closer to being able to sentence people to death.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would require unanimous jury recommendations before defendants could be sentenced to death. A similar bill in a Senate committee passed last week.

Legislation this year is necessary to reinstate Florida's death penalty.

The Florida Supreme Court last year found unconstitutional a law that would have required at least 10 of 12 jurors to recommend death.

That short-lived law was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the previous law, which required only a majority decision from a jury in order to recommend the death penalty. That decision came in the middle of last year's legislative session, so legislators tried a quick fix.

Right now, Florida technically does not have the death penalty. This has caused a backlog of cases as prosecutors try to delay trials until the death penalty in Florida is fixed.

"We have 50 cases ready to be tried in the state of Florida," said Buddy Jacobs, a lobbyist who works for state prosecutors. "This is a real crisis."

In South Florida, the death penalty snafu most recently surfaced in the ongoing murder trial of Fidel Lopez, a Sunrise man accused of disemboweling his girlfriend in 2015. Because of the current status of the law, the judge in that case barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. An appeals court allowed prosecutors to at least make an argument for the death penalty, putting the trial on hold temporarily.

The House bill, filed by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, would make the jury recommendation portion of Florida’s death penalty law the same as the other 27 states that require a unanimous jury recommendation of death to impose the death penalty. 3 other states have death penalties imposed by judges without jury recommendations. The other 19 states have no death penalty.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill face one more committee hearing next week. Assuming they pass, which is likely given the unanimous votes in the 1st Senate and House committee hearings, the bills will then be ready for floor votes when the legislative session begins on March 7.

Although House Democrats on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted for the bill, they expressed some reservations. According to anti-death penalty advocates who spoke before the committee, multiple studies that have shown the death penalty is generally imposed more often for minorities who commit the same offense under similar circumstances as white criminals.

"I would hope some of the comments that have been made, such as [a Florida legislative policy] study ... would be in place by the time the bill comes to the floor," said state Rep. Sharon Prichett, D-Miami Gardens.

Without a study weighing any inherent bias in Florida's death penalty, Pritchett said she would probably not support the bill when it is up for a vote before the full House, where the bill is likely to pass.

(source: Sun Sentinel)

ALABAMA:

House Judiciary to debate death penalty bill

A legislative committee will debate a bill to prevent judges from imposing a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon on the legislation to do away with judicial override in capital murder cases. Currently in Alabama, a jury recommends a sentence of death or life imprisonment in capital murder cases, but the judge hands down the final decision.

The bill by Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England would prevent a judge from overriding the jury's wishes. It would also require all 12 jurors to agree to impose the death penalty.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week narrowly passed a similar bill.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Jury would have final say on death penalty under House bill

A bill that would change Alabama law to give juries the final word on whether to impose a death sentence or life in prison won approval today in the House Judiciary Committee.

Under current law, judges can override the sentence recommendations of juries in capital cases. No other state allows that.

A bill by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, would say that juries determine the sentences in capital cases, which are either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

England's bill would also require all 12 jurors to hand down a death sentence.

Current law requires 10 of 12 jurors to recommend death.

"To me, it never really made sense that we require unanimity when we're convicting a person, but we don't require unanimity when we're putting that person to death," said England, who is a lawyer.

The committee approved England's bill on a 10-2 vote, sending it to the full House.

The committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, that would have retained the threshold of 10 jurors for a death sentence.

Hill, a retired circuit judge, voted in favor of England's bill.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a similar bill by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery.

Brewbaker's bill does not change the threshold of 10 jurors to recommend death.

A report released in 2011 by the Equal Justice Initiative found that Alabama judges had overridden jury recommendations in capital cases 107 times since 1976.

In 92 % of those cases, judges had overridden jury verdicts of life imprisonment to impose death sentences.

Judges are elected in Alabama. England did not say judges issue death sentences for political reasons. But he said said ending the authority of judges to override juries and requiring unanimous jury agreement on death sentences would improve public confidence in the judicial system.

Voting in favor of England's bill were Reps. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia; Hill; Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery; Paul Beckman, R-Prattville; Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove; Dickie Drake, R-Leeds; Allen Farley, R-McCalla; Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham; and Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka.

Voting against it were Reps. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo and Phillip Pettus, R-Killen.

Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, abstained.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Man who faces death penalty in death of Cleveland teen Alianna DeFreeze to appear in court

The man accused of abducting and slaying 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze is set to make his 1st court appearance since a grand jury indicted him on aggravated murder and other charges.

Christopher Whitaker faces the death penalty if convicted in the Jan. 26 killing. Officials have said he abducted Alianna from a bus stop near Kinsman Road and East 93rd Street in Cleveland. He's also charged with rape, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, abuse of a corpse and other charges.

He is being held in jail on $3 million bond.

His Thursday court appearance is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Cleveland.com will will stream the hearing on Facebook Live.

Whitaker raped, beat and stabbed Alianna before she died, according to court records. He was arrested Feb. 2 after the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner identified him through DNA evidence, police said.

Alianna, who suffered from mental health issues, was reported missing last month after she did not show up to school on Jan. 26.

Police say Whitaker kidnapped her at East 93rd Street and Carton Avenue, then took her to a vacant house around the corner on Fuller Avenue. Police officers found her dead days later inside the home.

(source: cleveland.com)

MICHIGAN----new book

Fighting the Death Penalty: A Fifty-Year Journey of Argument and Persuasion, by Eugene G. Wanger

Michigan is the only state in the country that has a death penalty prohibition in its constitution - Eugene G. Wanger's compelling arguments against capital punishment is a large reason it is there. The 40 pieces in this volume are writings created or used by the author, who penned the prohibition clause, during his 50 years as a death penalty abolitionist. His extraordinary background in forensics, law, and political activity as constitutional convention delegate and co-chairman of the Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment has produced a remarkable collection.

It is not only a 50-year history of the anti-death penalty argument in America, it also is a detailed and challenging example of how the argument against capital punishment may be successfully made.

(source: James R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor, School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany, and coeditor, America's Experiment with Capital Punishment)

KANSAS:

Kansas introduces bill to abolish death penalty

Lawmakers, faith leaders and activists convened at the Kansas state capitol to hear testimonies both for and against the death penalty on Feb. 13. Kansas is currently deliberating on House Bill 2167, which was introduced - with bipartisan support - in the House on Jan. 25 and aims to abolish the death penalty in the state and replace it with life imprisonment without parole.

The Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice heard seven people testify their support for the bill, as well as accepted the written testimonies from more than 20 other individuals to support it. Some of the individuals writing their support for the bill included exonerees Floyd Bledsoe, Eddie Lowery and Darryl Burton - all men who were wrongly convicted of murder in Kansas and Missouri. 5 different families of murder victims also wrote in their support for the bill.

Donna Schneweis, board chair of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, represented the coalition at the hearing and reported that the room was "packed" with supporters of the bill.

"It is quite impressive how many Kansans from so many backgrounds came forward to speak up for abolition," Schneweis told NCR following the hearing.

Schneweis said that she was particularly moved by the testimony of Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College.

"Opposition to the death penalty in no way lessens one's awareness of the evil that some are capable of committing. It does say that there is a better way. Death should never be seen as a solution to our problems; and it is not the solution to violent crime," Swetland was quoted as saying at the hearing.

No persons testified in person either against the bill or expressing neutrality to it. However, a few provided their written testimony to the committee. Kim Parker, the former chief deputy district attorney for Sedgwick County, provided the only neutral testimony. Those providing testimony against the bill were Derek Schmidt, Kansas attorney general, and Larry Heyka and Amy James, both murder victim family members.

Members of the Committee did not take a vote following the hearing.

This isn't the 1st time such a bill has been brought to the floor of the Kansas state government. In 2010, the senate was 1 vote short of replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

The current proposed bill was introduced and sponsored by eight Republican and seven Democrat representatives early this year. Robert Dunham, the executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, sees the bill as a reflection of the emerging trends in terms of death penalty legislation.

"The only states that are left that are seeking to abolish the death penalty require bipartisan support for abolition efforts to succeed," Dunham said. "Opponents of the death penalty are moving away from the traditional, moral, economic and racial fairness issues to making arguments based on government overreaching. Do we trust the government to get the policy right?"

"The Kansas approach with Republicans taking the lead in a bipartisan effort is what we would expect to see ... in the new landscape," he continued. "That is, as fiscal and philosophical conservatives view the death penalty pragmatically instead of ideologically, they are concluding in greater numbers that the death penalty is a failed public policy. It's costly and ineffective for purposes of sound fiscal management, as well as because of the inability to fairly administer it and the risk to innocent lives."

If the bill were to pass, it would not be applied retroactively, leaving the 10 inmates currently on death row still eligible for the death penalty. However, the state hasn't executed anyone since 1965.

Kansas' relatively small death row and lack of executions "shouldn't be a surprise," Dunham said.

"The single most likely outcome of a capital case is not that they'll be executed," he added. "The single most likely outcome is that the sentence will be overturned. Kansas sends relatively few people to death row, and there continues to be significant issues in those cases. So we can expect that the majority of Kansas cases will continue to be overturned."

"Now that's where Kansas gets another one of the patterns that we see in states that have gone to abolition. States that abolish the death penalty typically have small numbers of death sentences resulting in few, if any executions. And after a certain period of time the death penalty begins to look like it doesn't serve any purpose."

Dunham compared the proposed bill to the bill that was successfully passed in Nebraska in 2015 - which was later repealed in a referendum vote Nov. 8, 2016 - and a bipartisan bill that is currently moving through the Washington state senate. When asked about the chances that the Kansas bill will pass, Dunham said he doesn't "think you can predict that."

"What you can say is that there are a number of similarly situated states and there are bills moving forward, or bills that are introduced in a number of them," he said. "There will be close votes and it is impossible to predict what the results will be. Montana is another state that fits the profile that Kansas does. There was no opposition to the bill in the course of the public hearing. ... It was a close bill but the bill did not move forward."

"Whether [the Kansas bill] succeeds will depend on local factors. Individual legislatures decide after their constituents talk to them," he said.

(source: Kristen Whitney Daniels in an NCR Bertelsen editorial intern----Natonal Catholic Reporter)

COLORADO:

The undeniable logic for ending Colorado's useless death penalty----Colorado can no longer even get capital convictions. Even a case as repulsive as the Aurora theater shootings have been unable to persuade a jury to murder the convict for his horrific crime. The only thing that adds up from these cases is the massive bill taxpayers must pony up to prosecute a death penalty case, just to lose it. And even if there's a win, the exorbitant expense of decades of appeals and special prison accommodations only compounds the folly

Ending Colorado's death penalty is no longer just about doing the right thing; it's about doing the only thing the state can.

We have long argued that the death penalty is a repugnant, barbaric holdover from an unenlightened society, putting Colorado and much of the United States in the dubious company of North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

It's a tragedy that Senate Bill 95 died in a state Senate committee Wednesday night on a party-line vote, but it's not too late to try the measure in the State House, and let the public persuade partisan Republicans how very wrong they are on this issue.

The arguments against the death penalty, which is simply revenge murder, are compelling and unequivocal:

-- The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. This has been substantiated in numerous studies, numerous times. Murder is almost always the result of severe psychological illness, drugs, alcohol or passion. None of those causes are affected by executions or any other laws.

-- The death penalty is not equally or fairly applied in Colorado, or anywhere in the country. Murder for murder, it is a far greater percentage of poor minorities who are handed the death penalty than richer, whiter murderers. And in Colorado, every person on death row got there from an Arapahoe County court, although heinous murder cases arise across the state. Had Chuck E. Cheese's murderer Nathan Dunlap committed his sadistic 1993 crime anywhere but in Aurora, he would have been given life without parole.

-- The death penalty is obscenely expensive. A recent study of the death penalty in Maryland shows that it costs about $3 million to bring a death penalty convict to the death chamber. The same capital case without the threat of death penalty costs about $1 million, according to the study. Death penalty states have spent billions of dollars on capital punishment systems since they were re-authorized in 1978.

-- Even for those who have no qualms about killing people back for their crimes, the death penalty is ineffective because it simply takes so long to invoke. Not long ago, the average death sentence was 28 years, now down to about 18 years. A full 25 % of capital punishment cases still die of natural causes before they make it to the death chamber. Dunlap killed 4 employees of the Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993. It took 20 years to pull a date for his execution 2 years ago, set aside by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

If that's not convincing enough, and if the moral argument against savagely murdering another human for any reason isn't compelling, consider that the capital punishment system simply doesn't and can't work. More than 1 Aurora Sentinel story has pointed out that even if Colorado were able to get a death penalty case to the execution chamber, the state cannot obtain the drugs it needs to carry out such an execution.

And Colorado can no longer even get capital convictions. Even a case as repulsive as the Aurora theater shootings have been unable to persuade a jury to murder the convict for his horrific crime. The only thing that adds up from these cases is the massive bill taxpayers must pony up to prosecute a death penalty case, just to lose it. And even if there's a win, the exorbitant expense of decades of appeals and special prison accommodations only compounds the folly.

Once again, state Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, offered a bill that addresses only future cases, calling for life in prison without parole for the worst of the worst cases to come before future courts. Her arguments for ending the death penalty are especially persuasive because she knows first-hand every nuance of a death penalty case. Her 73-year-old father was murdered while working in a convenience store in 1975. She has since steadfastly worked to help us all understand that revenge isn't justice.

"It wouldn't bring justice to my daddy, all that he was, all that he did," Guzman said previously. "Because it was an act of violence, but my daddy was never a violent man."

It's time to end the expensive, barbaric, ineffective and broken revenge-killing system in Colorado. The state House should revive the issue, and every state lawmaker should vote yes on what is the only way forward.

(source: Editorial, Aurora Sentinel)

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

Sen. Rhonda Fields asks to sit out of death penalty repeal hearing

Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat who supports the death penalty, will not be sitting on a committee Wednesday when a repeal proposal comes back to the legislature.

Fields said she does not want to be a voice in the middle of the debate as the Senate Judiciary Committee discusses a proposal to eliminate capital punishment in Colorado.

"The death penalty repeal deserves a full debate, and I believe the people of Colorado should determine if it's justifiable. But I don't think tomorrow I should be a part of that decision, just based on my own personal and unique experience that I bring," Fields told ColoradoPolitics.com Tuesday afternoon.

The Aurora lawmaker brings to the conversation a heart-wrenching story after her son was murdered by 2 men sitting on death row. Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were gunned down in 2005 as the 2 were expected to testify in a pending murder case.

Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray were both sentenced to death for their involvement in the murders, though they are moving through a lengthy appeals process.

"I don't want to do anything to undermine or interfere with the work that's already being done on both sides. I just want the justice system to play out the way it should," Fields said.

An ardent supporter of the death penalty in the past, Fields said her position on the issue is "maturing as it relates to my experience and the murder of my son."

"It's not that I'm wavering on my support . But with time, I'm still grieving, I'm still heartbroken because of the death of my son, and this is traumatic.

"I haven't changed my opinion, it's well documented. So, I don't need to be on that forefront. I don't need to be the mouthpiece anymore for that."

Fields will be replaced on the Judiciary Committee by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who plans to support the measure to repeal the death penalty. The effort is sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver. Aguilar said she has already received several phone calls from people trying to sway her opinion.

With Fields no longer sitting on the committee, the bill is expected to fail on a party-line vote.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

In 2013 - when Democrats controlled the legislature - Fields sponsored a bill that would have asked voters to decide in 2014 whether to abolish the death penalty. But she spiked the legislation after a separate measure in the legislature at the time failed, which also would have repealed the death penalty.

Much of the debate at the time was driven by comments from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who signaled that he didn't believe Coloradans were ready to repeal the death penalty. The governor at the time expressed "conflicting feelings." In 2014, Hickenlooper outlined his reasons for opposing the death penalty.

Aguilar said she was happy to swap with Fields, stating, "I had told her that if at any time it was hard for her, that I would be happy to substitute, and this is the only time that she felt like she wanted to not be in there."

Fields believes it should be up to voters to decide the issue, but she added that there is justice in capital punishment.

"Someone took my son's promise, and his future," she said. "They're sitting on death row. The people who did this to my son see the highest level of penalty that the state has to render. A jury did that, not just once, but twice."

(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)

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

Death penalty sought for man accused of killing 2 people in Colorado Springs

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man who is accused of killing 2 people in Colorado Springs last May.

Glen Galloway is the prime suspect in the murders of Janice Nam and Marcus Anderson. Anderson disappeared the day before Nam was killed. His body was later found in a storage unit on N. Century Street, near N. Nevada Avenue and E. Fillmore street.

Galloway was in court Wednesday and will be back in court next week.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that this is the 1st time in 10 years that El Paso County prosecutors have sought the death penalty.

Colorado's last execution was in 1997

(source: KRDO news)

IDAHO:

Prosecutor weighs death penalty in teen's murder

The Twin Falls County prosecuting attorney is considering whether to seek the death penalty against two Buhl men charged with murdering a high school student last year.

Grant Loebs has 60 days to make his decision, though he told a judge Wednesday he hoped to make a decision before the deadline.

"I told the judge I would try to decide it as soon as I could," Loebs told the Times-News.

That decision could be made by March 27, the next time the suspects are due in court.

Gerardo Raul Chavez, 19, and Jose Daniel Alvarez, 20, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony counts of murder and intimidating a witness.

They're accused of the drive-by slaying of Canyon Ridge freshman Vason Lee Widaman, 15, who was gunned down May 7 while riding his bicycle on Northern Pine Drive and North College Road West. The shooting shocked the community and remained unsolved until Chavez and Alvarez were arrested more than 7 months later, on Dec. 20.

During Wednesday's hearing, attorneys said Chavez and Alvarez will likely be tried together beginning July 11.

They each face up to life in prison on the murder charge and could face the death penalty depending on Loebs' decision.

"We look at the crime, look at the defendants as much as we can, look if there are any aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime," Loebs said of what goes into his decision. "We also look at what mitigating factors might be used in favor of the defendant in a sentencing context."

Loebs said he can't disclose whether he's leaning toward seeking the death penalty or not.

"I've been giving it thought since the crime first occurred," the prosecutor said. "But I have not been seriously considering all of the factors."

Both men are being held without bond, as is typical in 1st-degree murder cases. But Chavez informed the court this week he would seek a hearing on his bond, though the issue was not addressed Wednesday. His attorney said Chavez is finishing a 90-day jail sentence on a probation violation, and he would argue for a bond once that sentence is fulfilled.

Chavez and Alvarez are due in court March 27 for a status conference. A jury trial was set for July 11 through July 21.

(source: magicvalley.com)

WASHINGTON:

Death penalty repeal bill not expected to advance

An effort to abolish the death penalty in Washington state got a new push this year with strong backing from the governor and attorney general, but as in previous years, the measure is expected to stall in the Legislature.

A House bill on the issue is set for a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today, but it's not scheduled for a committee vote before a deadline Friday requiring most bills to be voted out of committees.

A Senate version of the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing, so it appears the measure will suffer the same fate as death penalty repeal efforts in previous years.

"At some point, I think we're going to end the death penalty in this state. We're unfortunately not going to do it this year," said Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins, chairwoman of the judiciary committee.

Without a promise that if the House passed its measure it would then receive a vote in the Senate, "there's not a big reason to push people to vote for it when you know ultimately what's going to happen," Jinkins said.

Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in Washington state in 2014. As long as it's in place, death row inmates will remain in prison rather than face execution.

Inslee made the move as he reprieved Clark Elmore, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Reprieves aren't pardons and don't commute the sentences of those condemned to death.

Elmore is the 1st death row inmate in the state to exhaust his appeals since the moratorium was put in place.

Republican Sen. Mike Padden, the chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said he respects the various feelings people have surrounding the death penalty and thinks that costs and time spent on appeals could be streamlined.

"I'm not a zealot for the death penalty," he said. "I think it should be reformed, but I do think there are some heinous crimes where it should be on the table."

Republicans hold a slight majority in the Senate and Democrats hold a slight majority in the House.

There have been 78 inmates, all men, put to death in Washington state since 1904. The most recent execution in the state came in 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman.

The death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The latest was Delaware, where the state Supreme Court last year declared the law unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said this week that he knew this latest repeal bill would have an uphill battle and that he is "deeply disappointed" that the measure has likely stalled, especially because it has bipartisan support in the House and the Senate.

Inslee and Ferguson were joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers in announcing support for the repeal legislation sponsored by Republican Mark Miloscia in the Senate and Democratic Rep. Tina Orwall in the House.

The proposed bills would remove capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder and mandate instead a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

A 2015 study from Seattle University found that death penalty cases in the state cost $1 million more than similar cases where capital punishment is not sought.

Ferguson said he believes the current system is broken and that "morally, it's not the right position for the state of Washington to have a death penalty."

"It's past time to repeal it and more than past time for the Legislature to at least take a vote," he said.

(source: Peninsula Daily News)

USA:

Jury selection in death penalty case could take 4 weeks

The judge who will be hearing the 2nd death penalty of a man charged with abducting and killing a Rutland supermarket worker in 2000 says jury selection in the case could take 4 weeks.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford's comments were contained in a document filed in the case of Donald Fell, who is charged abducting Terry King when she arrived for work and later killing her.

Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005, but his conviction was overturned in 2014 due to juror misconduct.

Juror orientation for Fell's 2nd trial began Tuesday. Formal jury selection begins Feb. 27 in federal court in Rutland.

Crawford says the trial itself is expected to begin in late March and last 2 or 3 months.

(source: Associated Press)

PHILIPPINES:

Anti-death penalty bloc plans march

Pro-life advocates are set to hold a "candlelight walk" to oppose plans to revive the death penalty.

In a press conference yesterday, organizers of the "Candlelight Walk for Life" announced that more than 1,000 people will be joining their procession from Plaza Sugbu to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral this Saturday afternoon.

Dr. Rene Bullecer, a pro-life advocate and vice president for Visayas of the Sangguniang Laiko sa Pilipinas, told reporters that they oppose the death penalty not only because it is a cruel and an unusual punishment, but also because it is anti-poor.

Fr. Eligio Suico, chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Family and Life, said they also condemn the national government's anti-drug campaign, which has led to the deaths of drug addicts and pushers.

Meanwhile, a member of the Catholic Faith Defenders in Cebu condemned the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines (CBCP) for stopping efforts to revive the death penalty.

Lawyer Marcelo Bacalso criticized Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and other members of CBCP for opposing the death penalty.

Bacalso claimed that the Catholic Church "supported" the imposition of capital punishment, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was approved by the late Pope (now saint) John Paul II and the catechism of the Council of Trent.

In Section 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the death penalty is not an excluded recourse effectively defending human lives against unjust aggression.

But it also states that if non-lethal means are sufficient and available, authorities must limit themselves to it in conformity to the dignity of the human being.

(source: sunstar.com.ph)

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Palace defends death penalty agenda amid criticisms from foreign lawmakers

Malacanang on Wednesday defended the position of the government to push for the reimposition of the death penalty after lawmakers from Cambodia and Malaysia expressed opposition to the plan.

The foreign lawmakers warned that the Philippines might lose its credibility in the international arena if the measure pushed through.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the re-imposition of capital punishment was a priority legislative measure under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"While some countries may have their opinion, we find the move to re-impose death penalty, reserved for certain heinous crimes, as apt for exercising discipline in a culture that now treats adherence to law an option rather than a rule of community life," Abella said.

He added that even a progressive country like Singapore did not abolish the death penalty.

"A progressive Southeast Asian state like Singapore has retained the measure as a final deterrent to crime," Abella said.

While the House of Representatives continue to debate the revival of the death penalty, Duterte on Friday argued that there was a spike in heinous crimes when capital punishment was abolished in 2006.

(source: gmanetwork.com)

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

Irked by quorum questions, House leaders threaten to end death-penalty debates

Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas threatened Wednesday to abruptly end the debates on the controversial death penalty bill amid constant quorum questions by lawmakers opposed to the bill.

He said he would call a caucus of the majority members to ask them if they still want to proceed with the deliberation of House Bill No. 4727 seeking to restore capital punishment.

Addressing the audience in the gallery, which includes nuns and members of religious groups, he said he wanted the debates to continue, but some lawmakers, he complained, keep interrupting the session by questioning the quorum.

Debates on the bill have been going on for 4 session days.

5 anti-death penalty lawmakers have so far taken the floor -- Reps. Edcel Lagman, Raul del Mar, Harry Roque, Rav Rocamora and Lawrence Fortun.

The bill's sponsors -- Reps. Reynaldo Umali, Vicente Veloso and Fredenil Castro -- took turns in responding to the questions.

Before Farinas took the floor, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, the presiding officer, engaged in heated discussions with Lagman and Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza on the rules of the House over questions on quorum.

The roll call showed there were 202 members present, but Lagman said the congressmen present on the floor began to dwindle as the discussions continue. He made a motion to adjourn but was overruled.

Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he wants voting on the bill before Congress goes on break on March 18.

(source: interaksyon.com)

SRI LANKA:

Cabinet to consider reducing death penalty to life imprisonment

A proposal has been made to the cabinet to consider the ability of reducing the death penalty to life imprisonment. The proposal was made in the recommendations submitted by the inter-institutional task force which was tasked with the identification of prison reforms.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksa and Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan, had presented the recommendations made by the inter-institutional task force appointed for the Identification of judicial and legal reasons for minimising congestion in prisons and prison reforms, to cabinet yesterday.

The proposals include considering the ability of reducing death penalty to life imprisonment, the use of community-based corrections productively and enabling the payment of fines as installments instead of imposing imprisonment for those who fail to pay fines.

It has also recommended utilising police bailing method according to provisions in Bail Act.These recommendations are to be presented to parliament in due course.

(source: newsfirst.lk)

PAKISTAN:

Executing children

16 years ago, Pakistan promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 to bring its current juvenile justice framework into conformity with its international obligations. The law was meant to shield children who came into conflict with the law from the rigours of the formal judicial system. This included right of legal aid, expedited trials held in separate courts, access to services for rehabilitation and reintegration with their families. The law also provided protection to accused children from corporal punishments, torture and the death penalty.

Despite the existence of such a comprehensive legal framework (and being one of the earliest countries in the world to ratify the 1998 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), the government has failed to demonstrate much interest in implementing a comprehensive juvenile justice system.

The JJSO was not enacted retroactively. A significant proportion of the population of juvenile prisoners, therefore, fell outside the ambit of the protections accorded by the law, including protection from the death penalty. However, the Pakistani president issued a notification in 2001, in exercise of his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution (ie, the power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court).

Under the notification, juvenile offenders sentenced to death prior to the enactment of the JJSO were to be accorded remission following an inquiry into their juvenility. An upcoming report by Justice Project Pakistan, Death Row's Children, reveals that such inquiries hardly ever took place; when they did they were marred by arbitrariness and inefficiency.

Additional shortcomings in Pakistan's juvenile justice system, which result in the government's unlawful, arbitrary implementation of the death penalty against juvenile offenders have been highlighted in the report. The research analyses individual cases of juvenile offenders who have been executed or are awaiting executions to highlight the many junctures at which violations occur, starting from the arrest to the juvenile's unlawful march to the gallows.

In Pakistan, police and courts follow no age determination protocols. This is especially problematic for a country where birth registration rates are dismal. According to official estimates, nearly 10 million children below 5 years are unregistered, with the figure growing by nearly 3m every year. Courts inevitably posit the burden of proof on juvenile offenders who are not accorded any benefit of doubt. Since a majority of those facing arrest lack any form of official documentation, they are placed in a virtually impossible situation.

In May 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its concluding observations urged the government to order a stay in executions involving minors and launch a review of all cases where there is an indication that the accused was a juvenile.

The need for such a review cannot be overemphasised as it is estimated that 10pc of the current death-row population constitutes juvenile offenders. Muhammad Anwar was sentenced to death in 1998 for a crime allegedly committed when he was just 17-years-old. Despite having sufficient proof of juvenility the government remained unable to provide the benefit of this presidential remission and he is still on death row. In December 2014, Anwar came within hours of execution; he remains at serious risk of receiving another warrant.

Similarly, Muhammad Azam is another juvenile offender who was arrested in 1998 for murder and convicted and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court prior to the JJSO's promulgation. Copies of his birth records, jail records, including a copy of the birth roll confirm he was 17 when he was first admitted into custody. Jail records also demonstrate that Azam was initially held in Youthful Offenders Industrial School Karachi - a borstal institution especially designed for juvenile offenders. Following the 2001 notification, jail authorities sent a request to the trial court asking the court to determine Azam's age to ascertain whether his sentence should be commuted. However, he couldn't get the relief on the basis that the court was already functus officio following the conclusion of the appeals.

JPP in its report asks the government to reinstate the moratorium in the first instance, especially for those prisoners who were juveniles or can avail the benefit of reasonable doubt of juvenility at the time of offence committed. The report additionally asks for the enforcement of the solid age determination protocols, in compliance with international legal and policy standards.

As Pakistan prepares for the Universal Periodic Review in November 2017, it is absolutely essential that it institutes these measures in order to demonstrate its commitment to human rights in both the domestic and international arena.

(source: Miqdad Naqvi; The writer is a child rights activist and law practitioner in Lahore----Dawn)

SINGAPORE----female foreign national faces death penalty

Indonesian maid charged with murder

An Indonesian maid was charged in court with murder yesterday after an elderly woman was found dead in a Tampines flat on Monday.

Minah, 37, who goes by 1 name, is accused of killing Madam Tay Quee Lang in a 5th-floor flat at Block 276, Tampines Street 22 at around 2.10pm that day.

She is represented by lawyer Nasser Ismail, who was appointed by the Indonesian embassy.

The wheelchair-bound Madam Tay, 78, lived in the flat with her husband, Mr Tan Hee Seng, who is in his 70s.

Neighbours said the maid had been with the couple for about a month.

Shortly before Madam Tay was found dead, neighbours said they heard a scream from the flat.

Minah was the only other person in the unit besides Madam Tay.

Engineer Ashaari Hasan Basri, 28, who lives on the same floor, told The Straits Times on Monday that he called the police after hearing the screams.

Police said they received a call for assistance at 2.10pm and paramedics later pronounced Madam Tay dead at the scene.

Minah was seen leaving with police officers at about 6pm that day to assist with investigations and Madam Tay's body was taken away about an hour later.

Minah was placed under arrest on Tuesday.

She will be remanded for a psychiatric evaluation at Changi Women's Prison and will be back in court on March 8.

If convicted of murder, she will face the death penalty.

(source: straitstimes.com)

AUSTRALIA:

Abolishing the death penalty in the Asia Pacific

On 3 February 2017, a small ceremony was held to remember the 50th anniversary of the execution of Ronald Ryan at Pentridge jail in Melbourne, Australia. Ryan's execution for the murder of a prison guard proved to be the tipping point for Australia. It sparked a movement for abolition of the death penalty which culminated in 1985 when capital punishment was abolished.

This act of domestic law reform was soon followed by action on the international stage in 1990 when Australia ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), creating an international law obligation to abolish the death penalty.

Australia has since become a strong international voice against the death penalty, partly forged out of the execution of its citizens in Malaysia, Singapore and most recently Indonesia, where Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed for drug trafficking in 2015. Australia's international advocacy for abolition of the death penalty was further advanced in 2016 when the parliamentary report 'A World Without the Death Penalty' was released, which made 13 recommendations as to how Australia could improve this advocacy. These recommendations are under consideration as part of Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper due out in mid-2017.

But Australia's efforts to abolish the death penalty face significant hurdles in the Asia Pacific, which were highlighted on 7 February when Australian Antonio Bagnato was sentenced to death by a Thai court following his conviction for murder. 11 of the 25 states that engaged in capital punishment in 2015 are located in the region, including the country with the largest number of executions per year - China. There are also worrying signs that some states are considering reinstating the death penalty. In the Philippines, the Death Penalty Act allowing for the reintroduction of the death penalty is currently before the Congress, while Brunei and Papua New Guinea have actively considered removing their de facto death penalty moratoria in recent years.

Nevertheless, Australia is well placed to oppose the death penalty among Asia Pacific nations. Such an approach should focus on advocacy for either a de jure or de facto moratorium on capital punishment. Australia already has strong bilateral relations with pro-death penalty retention states such as Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. Likewise, South Korea - which is abolitionist in practice - is a state with which Australia has strong ties and may be persuaded to become abolitionist for all crimes.

Australia is also in a good position to commence a campaign promoting the adoption of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which has a total of 81 signatory states and is endorsed regionally by New Zealand, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. Article 6 of the ICCPR contains certain provisions that limit the application of the death penalty, however, varying positions are taken on the interpretation of Article 6, including whether drug offences are the 'most serious crimes' to which the death penalty can be applied.

In contrast, the Second Optional Protocol unambiguously requires states parties to abolish the death penalty in their national legal systems. Accordingly, a state which adopts the Second Optional Protocol indicates to the international community and its own citizens that the death penalty will no longer apply. This is a matter the Philippines will need to reflect upon in their current debate over the death penalty.

There is considerable potential for Australia to begin a regional campaign to adopt the Second Optional Protocol. Based on Amnesty International's 2016 report on the status of the death penalty worldwide, there are 12 Asia-Pacific states that are abolitionist for all crimes but have yet to adopt the Second Optional Protocol, 3 states that are abolitionist in practice and 9 pro-retention states. Such a campaign could initially seek to focus on those abolitionist states with whom Australia has close bilateral relationships and then focus on pro-retention states in the region.

Australia already has experience with these types of diplomatic campaigns, having promoted regional support for the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in the 2000s. This is even an area where Australia could find common ground with Timor-Leste. A joint Australia - Timor Leste campaign promoting the adoption of the Second Optional Protocol with Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta taking an active role would carry significant moral weight.

(source: Donald R Rothwell is a Professor of International Law at the ANU College of Law, The Australian National University----East Asia Forum)

NIGERIA:

The Plight of Nigeria's Living Dead

Hundreds of Nigerians are enduring daily torture on death row as they await execution for crimes ranging from kidnapping to blasphemy.

Nigeria has no qualms about sentencing thousands of its citizens to death. A 1998 Supreme Court decision ruled that "the sentence of death in itself cannot be degrading and inhuman", and in recent years, the number of crimes punishable by death in Nigeria has been growing.

For example, in 2013, the Nigerian Senate approved the death penalty for acts of terrorism. In 2014, 54 soldiers were awarded death sentences for mutiny. In 2015, the Upper Sharia Court of Kano sentenced 9 people to death for blasphemy. And in 2016, Lagos became the latest of several Nigeria states to make kidnapping a capital offence. It is little surprise then that in 2014, Nigeria led the entire world in death sentences as 659 people were condemned.

However, despite these high numbers, Nigeria has reportedly executed just 7 people in the past decade.

It could be that state authorities are reluctant to authorise executions - only two governors have signed execution warrants since the return to democracy in 1999 - or it could be that even a nation with a population of 180 million cannot recruit enough hangmen to operate its gallows. But regardless of the reasons, the result is that hardly any prisoners sentenced to death have actually been executed.

The president and state governors do sometimes grant pardons or commute death sentences, but there is no evidence of any policy framework regulating this. What happens in practice then is that office holders occasionally make pronouncements commuting sentences, usually as a token of goodwill, but even supposedly reprieved prisoners continue to languish on death row for years, along with their unpardoned cellmates.

Deplorable conditions

Not to mention the deep controversies around the justness and effectiveness of condemning citizens to death in the first place, the standards of trial processes leading to these sentences in Nigerian courts are often highly questionable. The use of torture for interrogation by Nigerian police is well-documented, yet this tainted evidence forms the basis of many convictions. A criminal justice system in which 80% of inmates claim having been beaten, threatened or tortured in police custody is not one that can be trusted with upholding a fair trial.

But even after contentious death sentences may be passed down, detainees often face further miscarriages of justice as they are kept in deplorable conditions for years.

The opaque and broken state of Nigeria's criminal justice system makes it difficult to know exactly how many prisoners there are on death row, but a 2015 Amnesty International report puts the number at 1,673.

These inmates are incarcerated without an end in sight in prisons that are notorious for overcrowding, human rights violations, infrastructural decay, torture, poor funding, improper management and poorly-trained officials.

According to a presidential commission investigation, inmates spend an average of 10-15 years on death row. And during this time, they live under the weight of uncertainty in appalling environments, with many suffering from mental illnesses.

Right to dignity

Debates on the effectiveness and morality of capital punishment will no doubt rage on, but even its most unyielding proponents agree that the sentence is not for torture and then death. Moreover, while a citizen may forfeit some of their freedoms by committing a crime, they retain many of their human rights as protected under the constitution. These rights are not benefits or privileges, but are conferred simply by being a member of the human race.

Yet in contravention of this legal and ethical reality, much of the process that an individual may go through - from the legitimacy of the trial, to the conditions on death row, to the method of execution (if this ever occurs), to the treatment of the body - all fail to protect the dignity of the human person.

A system that relies on questionable evidence; that keeps condemned persons in daily apprehension of death for 15 years; that houses them in unventilated concrete cubicles; that routinely starves them; and that makes them clean the gallows is unjustifiably cruel and undignifying.

Nigeria's death row crisis mirrors the defects in the criminal justice system, and resolving it would require the collaborative effort of all tiers of governments. But sadly, political elites have long benefited from these same systemic weaknesses, which those in authority are able to exploit in order to delay, frustrate or influence unwelcome trials and to strengthen their own hold on power.

These structural failings, and lack of political will to correct them, means that many Nigerians are at risk of being denied their constitutional rights and their inalienable human right to dignity - not least the forgotten hundreds of living dead undergoing psychological if not physical torture day by day as they await a sentence that may have been passed down unjustly and may dangle over their heads indefinitely.

(source: Tosin Osasona is a Research Associate and Criminal Justice Expert at the Centre for Public Policy Alternatives, Lagos, Nigeria----allafrica.com)

IRAN----executions

15 Prisoners Executed

Iran Human Rights has received reports of 15 executions in Iran, 3 of the prisoners were hanged on Monday, while 12 of them were hanged today.

12 prisoners hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (northern Iran):

According to close sources, the 12 prisoners were executed on the morning of Wednesday February 15. 6 of the prisoners have been identified as: Mir Mohammad Mousavi, Farzad Taghavi, Yousef Mohammadi, Arash Bayat, Bahram Yazdani, and Taher Rezalou. The 12 prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement before their executions, and according to a confirmed source, majority of the prisoners were sentenced to death on drug related charges. 2 death row prisoners, who were also taken to solitary along with the 12 prison, were reporyedly taken back to their cells after their death sentences were suspended by the complainants on their case file.

3 prisoners hanged at Zabol Prison (Sistan & Baluchestan, eastern Iran) on drug related charges:

According to a report by the human rights news agency, Baloch Activists Campaign, 3 prisoners were hanged at Zabol Prison on Monday February 13. The prisoners were reportedly sentenced to death on drug related charges. The report identifies the prisoners as Mohammad Sarani, 32 years of age and Zaher Nahtani, 31 years of age. Both of these men were reportedly held in prison for 5 years each before their executions.

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

(source: iranhr.net)

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

Family Members, Protest to Death Sentence of Their Son

According to the released reports, the family of Mostafa Azadi on Tuesday, February 14th staged a sit-in protest in front of the office of the Head of the Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani until the morning of Wednesday, February 15th demanding the halt of the death penalty for their son who is imprisoned in the solitary confinement awaiting execution.

On Monday 13th February the family of Mostafa Azadi was informed that their son has been transferred to the solitary confinement of Zahedan Central Prison in order to receive the inhumane death penalty. They immediately came to Tehran from Kuhdasht (in Lorestan Province) and went to the office of Sadegh Larijani on Tuesday demanding the halt of execution for their son. They were told that the death penalty will be carried out on Wednesday, February 15.

The family announced that they will continue the sit-in protest unless the death penalty of their son halts.

It is noteworthy that according to a statement by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, The mullahs' regime's henchmen sent 10 inmates to the gallows in Qum and Zabol on February 13. One of them was executed while his appeal had been sent to the regime's judiciary.

Also, 3 other prisoners, 29 and 30 years old, were executed in Jiroft and Mashhad prisons on February 11 and 12. On the other hand, 9 prisoners have been reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in Gohardasht prison for execution. Iranian Resistance calls all relevant international authorities to take urgent and effective action to prevent these executions.

A few days ago, Ali Alizadeh, an official in the so-called anti-drug campaign, called for the continuation of brutal punishments and said, "Adjusting death penalty does not contribute to the campaign, and faces it with challenges." (Khaneh Mettlat, state-run news agency- 5 February 2017) In yet another case, the mullahs' judiciary in Tehran issued the ruling for cutting off the hands of 3 individuals charged with theft. (Hamshahri, state daily- 12 February 2017) Unable to cope with the growing domestic and international crises, and in fear of public uprising, the hated regime of mullahs finds the only way out in intensifying suppression. The regime's officials should be expelled from the world community for their anti-human crimes, and must be tried for crime against humanity. Silence and inaction before the crimes of this savage regime over the past three decades has encouraged it to continue and intensify these crimes.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

FEBUARY 15, 2017:

TEXAS:

Sabine County grand jury re-indicts man accused in baby death for capital murder

A 27-year-old Pineland man who was arrested back in December of 2014 in connection to the death of his girlfriend's 5-month-old daughter has been re-indicted on a capital murder charge, according to the Sabine County District Attorney's Office.

Sabine County District Attorney Kevin Dutton said Tuesday that Matthew Hudson's original charge was 1st-degree murder. Jail records show that Hudson has posted a bail amount of $100,000 and has been released from jail.

"We can prove this was more than just negligence," Dutton said. "The original autopsy report didn't have photographs."

Dutton said his office was getting ready to take the case to trial, and they met with the medical examiner. At that time, the medical examiner showed them the photos.

"We determined that the grand jury needed to hear new evidence, and then they indicted him for capital murder," Dutton said.

The death penalty is not off the table, Dutton said. The district attorney explained that Hudson has been appointed a death penalty counsel.

Dutton said although no court date has been set yet, they are hoping to try the case by the end of the year.

According to the affidavit, a Sabine County Sheriff's deputy was contacted by a Child Protective Services investigator on Nov. 7, 2014, in reference to a 5-month-old baby girl that had been airlifted from the Sabine County Hospital to Texas Children's Hospital, where she died less than 48 hours later.

When the deputy went to the Sabine County Hospital, a doctor told him that a CT scan of the child had shown "some possible brain trauma."

Then the deputy spoke to Sophia's mother, who said that Hudson took her to work at about 5:55 a.m. that morning. She said that her daughter was fine when Hudson dropped her off at work.

In addition, the baby's mother told the deputy that she had taken Sophia to the Sabine Family Medicine a couple of weeks before her baby wound up in the hospital. She also took her daughter to Complete Healthcare Services in Jasper a few days before Nov. 7, 2014 for treatment of a cough.

Hudson told the deputy that after he dropped his girlfriend off at work, he went back home to a residence in the 300 block of Westwood Loop in Hemphill with Sophia, according to the affidavit. Hudson allegedly left Sophia in the car seat until she began to get fussy, and he moved her closer to him.

According to the affidavit, Hudson took Sophia out of the car seat and changed her dirty diaper. He told the deputy that he lay the baby on her back and started to give her a bottle of formula. When Sophia started to get sleepy, Hudson laid her on her back in his bed and started giving her the baby formula again.

Hudson told the deputy that Sophia started bubbling milk out of her mouth, and he wiped her mouth before trying again with the formula. This time, Sophia bubbled the milk again and coughed, according to the affidavit. When Hudson noticed that Sophia was unresponsive, he allegedly shook her in an effort to get a response.

After Hudson woke up the 3 other people who were at the house, all 3 of them came running to help, and one of them started doing CPR on the baby and kept doing it until the first responders from the Fairmont Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene, the affidavit stated.

Hudson told a 2nd SCSO deputy who came to assist at the hospital the same version of the story, according to the affidavit.

The 2nd deputy went with Hudson to his home. According to the affidavit, the deputy noticed that there was no working light in the bedroom where Hudson had taken Sophia to feed her. When asked about the lack of a working light, Hudson allegedly told the deputy that he used the light on his cell phone.

The affidavit stated that the deputy did not see any sign of aspiration on the bed, the living room, or on the floors of the residence.

On Nov. 10, 2014, Hudson met with a Sabine County deputy, a Texas Ranger, and CPS workers in Hemphill. During the interview, he gave almost the same version of what he had earlier said had happened. However, this time, he told authorities that after Sophia started getting fussy, he took her out of the car seat and started tickling her and making her laugh, according to the affidavit.

In addition, Hudson allegedly started tossing Sophia in the air and catching her to make her laugh.

Later, after Hudson talked to authorities about Sophia bubbling up the milk and coughing before becoming unresponsive, he said that he didn't remember how many times he shook the baby or how hard, according the affidavit.

When the Texas Ranger asked Hudson who he thought was responsible for Sophia's death, Hudson allegedly said that he believed he was.

(source: KTRE news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Trial underway for Wake County man accused of killing in-laws

Before opening statements even began Tuesday morning in the death penalty trial of a Wake County man accused of murdering his in-laws, the defendant interrupted the judge. And there was more drama later in the day when the man's ex-wife -- and only survivor of the attack -- took the stand.

Nathan Holden interrupted Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway during jury instructions to say he wanted jurors instructed on the constitution.

"Attention your honor, I'm pleading that the jury can instruct their own truth and constitution and that the white man's interpretation of law," he said. "And uhh ... and free (inaudible). I believe that the jury be instructed the constitution be up to natural interpretation."

The jury is made up of 9 men and 3 women. The racial makeup is 11 white and 1 African American.

Holden faces 1st-degree murder charges in connection with the fatal shootings of 57-year-old Angelia Smith Taylor and 66-year-old Sylvester Taylor near Wendell in April 2014.

Latonya Holden was shot and seriously injured on April 9, 2014 at her parent's home in the 1100 block of Lake Glad Road.

"I was like I'm leaving. I'm not happy. I don't see us working this out and I'm gone," Latonya Holden said on the witness stand Tuesday.

Latonya Holden has not yet testified about the day of the attack. She is expected to do so Wednesday morning.

Nathan Holden's defense attorney said during opening statements that the case is not a "'who done it,' this is not about what happened."

"Nate Holden is the one who is responsible for the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. He did shoot his wife." Defense Attorney Elizabeth Hambourger said.

The couple's 3 children were in the home at the time of the shooting, but they were not hurt.

"Latonya did what any mother would do, she took her attention and focused it on her kids. She did everything she could to keep them safe. She put them in the closet, told them that she loved them, because she didn't know if she was ever going to see them again," Prosecutor Jason Waller explained to the jury during opening statements said.

He went on to explain that Latonya called 911 to report that Nathan Holden was at the home shooting after hearing her mother call out for her father and hearing shots fired while in a back bedroom.

Jurors were told by the prosecution that Holden beat and shot his wife while their children listened from a closet. Waller said Latonya's survival was miraculous.

Hambourger told the jury that what the defense wants them to understand is "how things got to this point within this particular family."

"This case is about why this happened and it is about Nate Holden's state of mind at the time it happened," she said.

Investigators said Angelia Smith Taylor was found dead inside the home, while Sylvester Taylor was found dead in the yard.

Authorities arrested Holden after a standoff near his home hours later.

Court documents show Latonya Holden had a restraining order against her husband when the incident happened. The couple separated back in December 2013.

(source: WTVD news)

GEORGIA:

New Towaliga DA seeks death penalty in 1991 murder case

18 years after the lifeless body of Heather Danielle Davidson was found dumped on a roadside in Butts County, the new Towaliga Circuit district attorney announced he will seek the death penalty for her accused killer.

Davidson, 22, had been kidnapped, beaten and strangled to death on Oct. 2, 1992. Her body was found along Kermit Williams Road, just west of Interstate 75 near Jackson.

On Feb. 17, 2015, 46-year-old Fuquah Dewalt Cashaw was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Pearland, Texas, where he was working as a welder, according to a report from KCRP-TV. Later that year, he was indicted by a grand jury in the cold-case murder.

Davidson, of Stockbridge, was a dancer at a Forest Park club where investigators allege Cashaw was a customer, Jackson Progress-Argus reported. Cashaw has been in jail since his arrest.

On Tuesday, the circuit's new DA, Jonathan Adams, said in a news release that he would seek the death penalty for Cashaw, who'd pleaded not guilty in December.

"After my review of this case, the manner of death and other factors that cannot be released publicly at this time, I am convinced we must pursue the death penalty," Adams said. "The DA's Office will vigorously prosecute this case and finally secure justice for Heather Davidson in her vicious murder."

The case resurfaced in 2005 when DNA was collected from Cashaw in an unrelated involuntary manslaughter case out of state.

Butts County Sheriff Gary Long told the Jackson newspaper that a DNA match more than a decade ago was not enough for an arrest warrant. Further investigation and improved DNA technology led to the arrest.

Early last January, when Richard Milam was circuit's district attorney, Cashaw was granted a bond of $1 million because he had not been indicted within 90 days, the Jackson Progress-Argus reported.

(source: macon.com)

FLORIDA:

157th Death Row Prisoner Exonerated

Isaiah McCoy, a death row inmate, became the 157th person in the United States and the 1st one this year to be exonerated for a crime he didn't commit.

Prosecutors charged McCoy with shooting to death James Munford, 30, during a drug deal in the parking lot of a Dover, Delaware, bowling alley on May 4, 2010.

A jury found McCoy guilty of murder in June 2012, but the Delaware Supreme Court later overturned his conviction and death sentence in 2015 because of prosecutorial misconduct, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The court suspended Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata from practicing because of his misconduct at McCoy's trials. His acts included belittling McCoy and making intimidating comments during a break in proceedings and then lying to the judge about making the comments. McCoy, who acted as his own attorney, rejected a plea deal.

In a bench trial, Kent County, Delaware, Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young acquitted McCoy after ruling that there was no physical evidence tying McCoy to the murder.

After he was released from prison on January 19, McCoy said, "I just want to say to all those out there going through the same thing I'm going through to keep the faith and keep fighting."

(source: jacksonvillefreepress.com)

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

Convicted killer moves to overturn death sentence

An Okaloosa County serial killer sitting on death row is trying to get his death sentence overturned.

Frank Walls has been on death row since 1988 after being convicted of two murders. He later confessed to 3 more murders.

Walls argued his sentence should be overturned because the jury wasn't allowed to consider aggravating factors required under a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

He also argued that because of his low IQ of 72 he suffers a mental disability that should prevent him from facing the death penalty.

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Florida law that used a bright-line IQ score of 70 to determine whether a killer could be put to death.

These are the last motions Walls will be entitled to before a death warrant will be signed in his case.

If approved, Walls still faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: WEAR TV news)

OHIO:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for Cleveland teen's slaying

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man charged with killing a 14-year-old Cleveland girl found dead in an abandoned house last month.

44-year-old Christopher Whitaker, of South Euclid, was indicted Monday on charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and offenses against a corpse in the death of Alianna DeFreeze.

Court records listed no attorney for Whitaker. A message seeking comment was left with the public defender's office.

A prosecutor says the facts of the case and Whitaker's criminal history compel his office to seek the death penalty. Whitaker has previous convictions for assault and sexual battery.

Alianna was reported missing after failing to show up for school. Surveillance cameras recorded her getting off a public bus on Jan. 26 near where her body was found days later.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI:

Missouri doesn't have to reveal source of lethal injection drugs, appeals court rules

In Missouri on Tuesday, a state appeals court ruled prison officials do not have to reveal their source of lethal injection drugs.

Missouri prison officials are not obligated to publicly reveal the source of the state's lethal injection drugs, a Missouri appellate court ruled Tuesday.

The decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, overturned a trial court ruling last March that said the state violated the Sunshine Law by withholding documents that would identify pharmacists who supplied the prison system with the drugs used in executions.

At issue is whether the law that protects the identity of the state's execution team applies to those who supply the drugs. The appeals court found that it did.

Tuesday's decision is the latest development in an ongoing legal battle that has drawn in several news organizations and civil liberties groups that have sought information about how the state carries out lethal injections. The source of the drugs is of interest to critics of the death penalty, and similar litigation has played out in other states.

Missouri prison officials said they would not comment on the decision Tuesday because it remains under litigation.

Bernie Rhodes, the Kansas City attorney who represents The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Associated Press and other media organizations in the case, said Tuesday that the appeals court was wrong to conclude that the pharmacists are covered by the state's "black hood law."

Missouri law protects the identities of the execution team, defining the team as "those persons who administer lethal gas or lethal chemicals and those persons, such as medical personnel, who provide direct support" for the execution.

The pharmacists supplying the drugs are not present at the prison during the execution and may never have been at the prison, Rhodes said.

"We believe to directly assist, you have to be there," Rhodes said. "Selling the drugs is no different ... from selling the syringes or the gurney or the light bulbs in the execution chamber." But no one has asserted that the suppliers of those other items are provided anonymity by the law.

The appeals court ruling said that disclosing the identities of "individuals essential to the execution process" could hinder Missouri's ability to execute the condemned.

"Releasing the identities of the drug suppliers could serve as a backdoor means to frustrating the State's ability to carry out lawful executions by lethal injection," reads the ruling, written by appeals court Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert.

The identity of physicians involved in the death penalty process is a central one in Missouri and other states that still execute prisoners by lethal injection.

The process involves controlled substances, which requires a physician to write a prescription for the drugs used in executions. Lethal injection in the 1980s and 1990s became an increasingly popular choice for death penalty states. The process replaced other execution methods like the electric chair and the gas chamber, both of which were seen as being prone to botched executions.

Lethal injection was thought to be a painless form of execution. But death penalty opponents and attorneys who represent prisoners on death row argue it's unconstitutional because lethal injection methods aren't proven to be effective and can involve inexperienced personnel to carry it out, and some point to evidence that it may indeed cause a painful and prolonged death.

Codes of conduct for medical professionals frown upon physicians using pharmaceuticals and medical techniques to put people to death. That makes it difficult for states to find doctors willing to participate in executions, and those who do insist on secrecy to avoid the fallout in their profession if their identities were disclosed.

Death penalty defense attorneys, however, argue that the public has a right to know the identities of physicians who take part in executions to know whether the individuals are competent and qualified.

Drug manufacturers, many of which are based in Europe, do not want their products used in lethal injections, which further challenges the ability to execute prisoners by lethal injection.

Legal challenges to lethal injection practices in several states are ongoing. In Ohio, a federal judge last month rejected the state's 3-drug lethal injection protocol on the grounds that 1 of the drugs, the sedative midazolam, is not sufficiently humane in its effects.

The same month, Texas officials filed a federal lawsuit seeking to get a final answer about whether the Food and Drug Administration will hand over lethal injection drugs the agency confiscated nearly a year and a half ago. In Oklahoma last year, a grand jury criticized state officials charged with carrying out executions, describing a litany of failures and avoidable errors.

In 2007, Missouri passed a law that made it illegal to disclose the identity of current and former members of the execution team. That law passed the Missouri General Assembly after an investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed the identity of a doctor who participated in the state's execution process. That doctor, Alan Doerhoff, was banned by a federal judge from assisting in future executions after he testified that he was dyslexic and sometimes made mistakes in administering the drugs used for lethal injections.

Doerhoff had also been sued for medical malpractice several times.

Missouri took a pause from executing prisoners, in part because the state had a difficult time locating drugs and willing execution team participants. In 2013, the state resumed its death penalty, which led to several media outlets and death penalty defense attorneys trying to identify the state's new source for lethal injection drugs.

The Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa, Okla., was eventually revealed as a source for Missouri's execution drugs. State and federal inspections of The Apothecary Shoppe have found problems. A 2015 inspection by the FDA "observed serious deficiencies in (The Apothecary Shoppe's) practices for producing sterile drug products, which put patients at risk."

Missouri executed 16 men from 2014 to 2015, 2nd only to the 23 executions in Texas over the same 2 years.

Last year, Missouri had just one execution, largely because most of the 25 men on the state's death row have appeals remaining or are unlikely to be executed because of medical or mental health concerns.

The plaintiff attorneys in the case are discussing an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the case include the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, former Democratic legislator Joan Bray and the Guardian US news agency.

(source: The Kansas City Star)

KANSAS:

Death row: Legislators have responsibility to abolish capital punishment.

Many Kansans may not know the state has a death penalty.

There have been no executions in Kansas since 1965.

Still, attempts to abolish capital punishment have failed. In 2010, the Kansas Senate narrowly rejected a proposal to repeal the state's capital punishment law and replace the death sentence for some murders with life in prison without parole.

Proponents of repeal often cite the expense to taxpayers. 1st-degree murder proceedings involving the death penalty cost far more than cases in which death wasn't sought, studies have shown.

As part of new discussion on another proposal to kill capital punishment, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt recently argued debate over the death penalty shouldn’t center on dollars and cents.

The issue does indeed go beyond economics: the potential for error matters more.

The Innocence Project reports that since 1973, 157 people convicted and sentenced to death were exonerated through DNA evidence and other means, with the most recent in January.

It's assumed that others now on death row nationwide were wrongly convicted, with some unjustly executed.

False convictions may stem from poor legal representation, cases of mistaken identity or false confessions made under duress.

In Kansas, a state that currently has 10 inmates on death row but hasn't executed anyone in decades, it's reasonable to question whether resources devoured by death-penalty proceedings would be better spent in ways such as investigating cold cases and preventing crime.

In the end, it's a divisive, emotionally charged issue.

People have different versions of justice. Self-proclaimed "pro-life" activists, for example, are split on whether the state should sanction killing the worst criminals.

The most horrific acts warrant severe, unrelenting punishment, which life without parole delivers. Those offenders must never again be a threat to society.

Victims' loved ones also deserve better than being subjected to decades of painful death-penalty appeals.

The latest proposal to end the death penalty in Kansas (which wouldn't reverse sentences for those currently on death row) likely won't gain traction this year.

Tax policy, budget fixes and K-12 public school funding will dominate this legislative session. While that's understandable, thoughtful consideration of the responsible act of repealing the death penalty shouldn't be tabled indefinitely.

(source: Opinion, Dena Sattler----Garden City Telegram)

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

House Committee holds hearing on the death penalty

The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee held a hearing on House Bill 2167

This bill would repeal the death penalty in Kansas.

Several proponents of the bill shared their testimony and for some it was very personal.

Celeste Dixon supported the death penalty until her mother was murdered.

"I woke up realizing I was actively wishing for another human being to die, and I just didn't like the way that made me feel."

While the offender was on death row Dixon saw a different perspective.

"This woman had just heard that her son was going to die, and I just remember not at the moment but later when I started thinking about it, that must be a terrible feeling to have."

Dixon along with other proponents of the bill to repeal the death penalty and replace it with a life sentence gave testimony at a house committee hearing.

Former Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz said the money used for people on death row should go to better causes, and life in prison should replace the death penalty.

"Existence in a prison is not an existence I think any rational person would want to experience"

And while many proponents were present at the hearing several others sent in written statements in support of the bill.

As for Celeste, she realizes this won't bring back her mother, but knowing she's doing right in helping other victims, brings her peace.

This bill did not pass in the senate, but constituents are hopeful that it will pass in the house.

If the bill is passed the death penalty will be replaced with life in prison without the chance of parole.

The house committee is expected to further discuss the hearing before making a vote.

(source: 6lawrence.com)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Panel rejects eliminating death penalty for mentally ill offenders

A legislative panel on Monday defeated a bill that would have eliminated the option of the death sentence for severely mentally ill criminal offenders.

The House State Affairs Committee on a 8-4 vote opted to reject the bill after defense attorneys, mental health advocates and others advocated for its passage, saying severely mentally ill individuals shouldn't be subject to capital punishment.

The measure proposed instead setting a life sentence without opportunity for parole as the maximum penalty for criminal offenders found to have severe mental illnesses.

"You only execute morally culpable people and if you have a serious mental illness, you're not morally culpable," said the measure's sponsor Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead.

Attorney General Marty Jackley, state's attorneys from Minnehaha and Pennington Counties and others said the current process is adequate to assess offenders' mental health status and to eliminate the option of the death sentence for offenders who are found to have mental illnesses.

Aaron McGowan, Minnehaha County state's attorney, said very seldom do prosecutors seek the death penalty for offenders and those cases don't involve mentally ill individuals.

"We use it sparingly, we use it appropriately and we'd ask this committee to consider that these are evil defendants who have a hole in their brains where most of us have a conscience," he said.

Opponents also argued that the bill was an effort to eliminate capital punishment in South Dakota.

"HB 1099 is a death penalty repeal in all but name," Jackley said.

A handful of other states have considered and rejected similar measures.

(source: Argus Leader)

COLORADO:

Repeal Colorado's flawed and broken death penalty

The failures of Colorado's capital punishment system are almost too lengthy to list, and yet prosecutors continue to sporadically and unsuccessfully ask jurors to sentence convicted criminals to death.

We urge Colorado lawmakers to repeal the death penalty by approving Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman's Senate Bill 95, which would replace capital punishment with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole

It's time the state stop spinning its wheels in pursuit of death and instead lock its worst criminals away to live out an insignificant existence in a cell with few comforts.

SB 95 wouldn't impact the fates of the three men currently on death row; it would only eliminate the potential for others in the future to be sentenced to death.

It would save the state millions in both the prosecution and defense of murderers and an untold number of judicial man hours that have so infrequently resulted in death. The track record of death sentences in Colorado is bleak.

Let's start in 1997, the last time someone was executed in Colorado. Gary Davis, who raped, tortured and murdered Virginia "Ginny" May, sat on death row for a decade filled with execution dates and stays.

A month before he was put to death by lethal injection, Davis went on TV to apologize for killing May.

In response, Rod MacLennan, the victim's father, stated: "The state has spoken, everything is in place now. Why continue to bring it up? He's one guy we want to forget, and if they knew him, all the people would want to forget him. Why bring his memory up for us to look at?"

Davis was a constant media spectacle for 10 years while he awaited death.

Convicted murderer Frank Rodriguez came close to being killed in 1996, but 42 hours and 39 minutes before his execution, a judge granted a stay. Instead Rodriguez died in 2002 of Hepatitis C complications, 18 years after his crime.

Between 2001 and 2005, another 5 death row inmates had their sentences changed to life in prison for a variety of problems with legal processes.

And now we come to Colorado's 3 remaining death row inmates.

Gov. John Hickenlooper spared the life of Nathan Dunlap with a temporary reprieve in 2013. Dunlap, convicted of killing 4 people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's in 1993, still sits on death row awaiting a final decision on his life even though all of his appeals have expired.

The beginning appeals of the 2 other death row inmates, sentenced in 2005, have been stalled in court for years, despite a 1997 change in law intended to expedite the process. The appeals process has been so mired in uncertainty with judge changes and motions that it will stretch on for years.

And finally, 2 Colorado juries have recently demonstrated an unwillingness to sentence anyone to death, sparing the life of James Holmes in August 2015 after convicting him of killing 12 people at the Century Aurora 16 theater and a few weeks later Dexter Lewis who stabbed 5 people to death in a Denver bar.

Guzman said these cases all demonstrate a system that is broken beyond repair and needs to be repealed. We agree.

(source: Editorial, Denver Post)

ARIZONA:

Arizona unveils new death penalty plan: bring your own lethal injection drugs ---- The state's execution protocol invites death row inmates' lawyers to provide drugs to kill their own clients - a suggestion attorneys describe as ludicrous

As states have faced challenges to carrying out executions by lethal injection, various work-arounds and alternatives have been proposed, including the return of electric chairs and firing squads. Arizona may have come up with the most original concept yet: an invitation for lawyers to help kill their own clients.

With drugs that can legally be used for lethal injections in short supply, the Arizona department of corrections' latest execution protocol states that attorneys for death row inmates are welcome to bring along their own.

The protocol says that "the inmate's counsel or other third parties acting on behalf of the inmate's counsel" may provide the department with a sedative, pentobarbital, or an anesthetic, Sodium Pentothal, if they can obtain it "from a certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier".

Attorneys, though, said the idea is ludicrous. Megan McCracken, a lethal injection expert at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, said the clause is "unprecedented, wholly novel and frankly absurd. A prisoner or a prisoner's lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections, so it's hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol."

Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender who works on death penalty cases in Arizona, said he was "at a loss" to explain the provision, which he said presents "ethical issues as well as legal issues. It's not legal for me as a lawyer to go out and procure drugs for a client. So legally it's impossible and ethically as well, my job is to make sure that my client's rights are protected and not to work with the state to ensure that it carries out the execution ... If the state wants to have the death penalty it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally, it can't pass that obligation on to the prisoner or to anyone else."

The department of corrections did not respond to a request to elaborate on the reasoning behind the clause.

In 2011 the then manufacturer of pentobarbital for the US market, the Danish company, Lundbeck, banned its use in executions. Arizona illegally tried to import sodium thiopental from India in 2015 and found its shipment blocked by federal officials at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport.

The latest protocol, as the Arizona Republic reports, was written amid litigation concerning the department's procedures, including the wide level of discretion afforded to its director, its levels of secrecy and the questionable effectiveness of its drugs.

There are 119 prisoners on Arizona's death row, according to the corrections department, but the state has not executed anyone since July 2014, when Joseph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die, gasping and gulping on the gurney as he was injected with 15 doses of drugs while his attorneys appealed for an emergency stay of execution in a telephone call with a judge.

4 men have been executed by lethal injection in the US so far this year.

Mississippi's house of representatives this month passed a bill which - should it become law - means that if lethal injections are unavailable or ruled unconstitutional, the state can use a gas chamber, a firing squad or an electric chair.

In 2015, Utah approved the use of firing squads if drugs are unavailable. The state is the most recent to carry out an execution by that method, in 2010.

(source: The Guardian)

WASHINGTON:

Death penalty repeal bill not expected to advance

An effort to abolish the death penalty in Washington state got a new push this year, with strong backing from Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, but the measure still won't see a vote in either chamber.

A House bill will have a public hearing Wednesday, but it's not scheduled for a committee vote before a key deadline on Friday. A Senate version of the bill never was scheduled for a hearing, so it appears the measure has suffered the same fate as repeal bills introduced in previous years.

The death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The latest was Delaware, whose Supreme Court last year declared the state's death penalty law unconstitutional.

Inslee imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Fell defense seeks further death penalty appeal, more time

The defense team for Donald Fell has asked the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to review two key lower-court rulings on his upcoming death penalty retrial.

The motion, filed Friday, asks the court for permission to appeal U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford's decision not to rule the death penalty unconstitutional and his refusal to grant a stay in the retrial.

If the appeals court agrees to review either of the decisions, it could delay Fell's retrial, which is scheduled to begin in late March.

Lead counsel Michael Burt, who recently wrapped up his defense of Gary Lee Sampson in another death penalty trial, has argued that he has not had ample time to prepare for the Fell trial. Sampson was sentenced to death Jan. 9 in Massachusetts.

Burt has floated the possibility of asking to withdraw from the case if he doesn't get more time to prepare.

In the motion before the 2nd Circuit, Burt says additional time to prepare will "advance the ultimate termination of the litigation."

"If this order is in error," Burt writes, "and Mr. Fell is forced to trial with unprepared counsel, this death penalty case may again be subject to a retrial."

In an earlier motion the defense had sought permission to appeal the death penalty ruling but was rebuffed by Crawford, who argued that the case did not meet the legal requirements for granting what is known as an interlocutory appeal. Typically such appeals are granted only in civil cases. However, the 2nd Circuit has conceded that in rare instances interlocutory appeals may be heard in a criminal case.

Fell, who is charged in the killing of North Clarendon resident Teresca King in 2000, was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death. However, the ruling was overturned due to juror misconduct. Fell's current defense team was appointed in February 2015 after the case was transferred to Judge Crawford.

It is not the 1st time the 2nd Circuit will be asked to address matters related to the constitutionality of the death penalty in this trial. In 2002 the appeals court overturned a decision by Judge William Sessions declaring the death penalty unconstitutional because it denied a defendant's right to due process.

Though Crawford found major flaws in the application of the federal death penalty, he said it was not the role of a district court judge to overturn the prevailing wisdom of the Supreme Court, which has upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty for more than 40 years. Crawford has also expressed some frustration with the defense team's request for additional time to prepare and has pointed out that the retrial has already been delayed twice.

Yet the defense maintains that addressing the constitutionality of the death penalty at this stage will ultimately save time and money on "fruitless litigation" in the future. If Fell is convicted and sentenced to death, Crawford's ruling will undoubtedly be appealed. Even if Fell is sentenced to life in prison, the death penalty ruling will likely play a role in an appeal given Crawford's criticism of the jury selection process in capital cases.

In its motion the defense says the 2nd Circuit "has extolled the virtues of pretrial appellate litigation of the constitutionality of the Federal Death Penalty Act."

(source: vtdigger.org)

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

Conservatives Are Key In Leading The Conversation About The Death Penalty

In early 2013, my group Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP) launched at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). While we entered CPAC supported by nationally known conservative stalwarts like Richard Viguerie and Jay Sekulow, at first, some viewed us as a bit of a novelty organization.

At the time, conservative-led criminal justice reform was still a relatively new concept, and scrutinizing capital punishment's many failures from a conservative perspective wasn't regularly conducted at the national level. Despite this, we ultimately experienced widespread acceptance and incredible success at our 1st CPAC, and the success of this work has only grown since.

4 short years after we launched, the death penalty's landscape has shifted dramatically thanks, in part, to the burgeoning conservative push to end capital punishment.

For many years, repealing the death penalty was viewed as a partisan issue only supported by Democrats, and unsurprisingly, nobody batted a lash when the usual suspects on the political left championed efforts to end capital punishment in various states.

Yet the myth that liberals uniformly oppose the death penalty, while conservatives support it, has been thoroughly debunked. In fact, since CCATDP formed, there has been a surge of Republicans filing repeal legislation. Just in the past 2 legislative cycles, conservatives have sponsored repeal bills in a dozen different states - many of which are deep red bastions of conservatism.

As many of these states inched closer to statutorily ending their capital punishment programs, this last election cycle saw Americans rejecting many renown pro-death penalty prosecutors. Voters from several counties, including Duval County, Florida, and Harris County, Texas, booted their pro-execution district attorneys. These are hardly left-leaning counties, and as such, conservatives played an indelible role in replacing their prosecutors for ones without the same strong affinity for capital punishment.

The reason conservatives are increasingly opposing the death penalty is simple: it doesn't work, and it violates our core principles.

Most conservatives consider themselves to be pro-life, but there is an ever-present risk of executing an innocent person so long as an error-prone government administers the death penalty. In fact, over 155 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to die. So, it can't be considered pro-life. Moreover, it costs far more than its alternatives. Exact numbers vary from state to state, but capital punishment easily costs taxpayers millions more than life without parole. These expensive capital proceedings have also been directly responsible for budget crises, resulting in tax increases. Consequently, it can't be viewed as fiscally responsible.

The death penalty also fails to consistently provide any sort of benefit to outweigh the incredible costs and abhorrent risks. According to peer-reviewed studies and anecdotal evidence, capital punishment doesn't deter murder, and because of the complex, protracted proceedings, many murder victims' families find it to be a much more painful process than life without parole. In short, capital punishment is an expensive government program that imperils innocent lives, which is why growing numbers of conservatives are turning against it.

Understanding what the death penalty does in practice rather than in theory is another factor spurring capital punishment's stark decline. The year before CCATDP launched, there were 43 executions, but last year, there were 20. Similarly, the number of states that executed individuals dropped from 9 in 2012 to 5 in 2016.

There is a similar effect relating to death sentences too. In 2012, 78 death sentences were delivered, but that number shrunk to 30 in 2016. Americans, especially conservatives, are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with capital punishment, which can clearly be seen as the death penalty's usage continues to dwindle.

4 years after CCATDP was founded, we will be returning to CPAC next week, but our experience and message will be slightly different. We have exhibited at the conference every year since 2013, but if the last 2 years at CPAC are good indicators, then few will look at us with peculiar interest. Instead, we are simply viewed as part of the growing conservative movement.

However, in 4 years, our message has changed to some extent. Rather than just educating our fellow conservatives about how the death penalty is inconsistent with our values, we can also share how far conservatives have moved the needle when it comes to ending capital punishment.

(source: Opinion, Marc Hyden; ijr.com)

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

ABA brief supports lawyer groups challenging US rule on habeas counsel appointment procedures

The ABA has filed an amicus brief arguing supporting 2 legal groups that claim a final rule governing the appointment of lawyers in capital habeas appeals fails to adequately protect the right to competent counsel.

The ABA brief (PDF) argues that the 2 groups - the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona - have standing to challenge the rule. The ABA filed the brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, according to an ABA press release.

At issue is a Justice Department final rule implementing a portion of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which allows states to fast track capital habeas cases if they offer competent counsel to indigent death-row inmates. The rule creates procedures to certify the state mechanisms for appointment of competent counsel.

The ABA brief asserts that the final rule "contains no meaningful substantive competency criteria." The rule doesn't reference objective material such as ABA guidelines on competent counsel in death-penalty cases, the brief says. And it allows the U.S. attorney general to judge state procedures in a way that "could essentially be arbitrary," according to the brief.

The case is Habeas Corpus Resource Center for U.S. Department of Justice.

(source: abajournal.com)

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

Death penalty and the United States

The death penalty is an issue widely contested across the country. Not the world, however: only 43 of the 200 nations that participate in the United Nations routinely execute their prisoners.

The United States is one of the nations that uses the death penalty on its prisoners, and the U.S. seems to wear this as a badge of honor.

Gallup reports that 60 % of Americans favor the use of capital punishment, a number that hasn't dropped below 57 % since 1972. A plurality of Americans also believe that this practice is "not used enough."

While overall support for the death penalty is waning, potentially due to the methods currently used in the process, what cannot be denied is the fact that it is still the will of the people.

The use of the death penalty will not change until public opinion shifts. This article will not be an attempt to shift public opinion, even though it is my personal opinion on the values our nation has adopted that could lead to the death penalty being maintained deep into the modern age.

Violence has been a simple and effective way to maintain a power structure throughout the history of humanity, including much of the animal kingdom. This power structure can then be used to enforce a system of law, either based on the morals of the community or some third party (miscellaneous holy texts, the word of some supreme dictator, et cetera).

That being said, power structures based on dominance and enforced through violence have lasted so long because they are, for the most part, effective. An animal will follow the instructions of the alpha.

This theory falls apart, however, when one aspect is introduced. Life or death circumstances will often overtake this fear of authority. As Maslow stated, physiological needs outweigh an individual's desire for safety. A poor child living in an impoverished area will steal food if it means that they won't starve to death. And, as poverty is the largest catalyst to crime, it is no surprise that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.

So we, being animals ourselves, are accustomed to violence as a way of demonstrating dominance and keeping control. Should we avoid human nature?

Well, as many nations have shown, it's not difficult to abolish the death penalty. So there must be a more complex reason as to why the U.S. specifically is such an avid advocate of this practice, even though many other developed countries label this venture "barbaric."

One potential explanation is the approach to crime taken in the United States. Whereas many nations in the developed world adopt a healthy mixture of rehabilitation and punishment, the U.S. seems to be heavily focused on the penalty aspect of the penal system, as opposed to helping the guilty reform. The problem with this is 2fold:

1. A focus on punishment (even capital punishment) does not decrease recidivism, and often hurts the chances of an offender successfully reintegrating into society, which can increase recidivism.

2. Focusing on punishment, instead of rehabilitation, creates a divide between offenders and the rest of the population. When the 2 are divided as such, it is easy to demonize or dehumanize any criminal for breaking the social code. While the latter certainly has understandable and positive implications for society, there are certainly negative aspects to it as well.

Mob mentality, as well as the desire to maintain societal order, feed the flames of support for a violent offender's execution. They are viewed as a danger to order, and, in the eyes of proponents, do not provide anything positive to society.

The problem is then exacerbated by the harsh, punishment-focused prison system, which has the potential to hinder the fight against crime and further strengthen the divide between the supporters of the death penalty and its casualties.

(source: Dean Cahill is a 1st-year student majoring in English--The Quad)

US MILITARY:

Airman convicted of murdering pregnant fiancee, could face death penalty

Airman 1st Class Charles Amos Wilson III was found guilty Monday of the premeditated murder of his fiancee and their unborn child in 2013.

Wilson, an airman with the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, was found guilty in a court-martial of 1 count of murdering Tameda Ferguson and a 2nd count of murdering the child she was 8 1/2 months pregnant with at the time, Robins officials said in an email to Air Force Times. Wilson was found shot to death at her home in Dawson, Georgia, about 100 miles south of Robins, in August 2013.

Robins officials said the sentencing phase began Tuesday, and that Wilson could be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, life without the possibility of parole, or death.

"The Air Force is committed to the pursuit of justice," Robins spokesman Roland Leach said in the email. "Based on the evidence and the law, a panel of military members found Airman First Class Charles Wilson guilty of the premeditated murder of Ms. Tameda Ferguson ... and Ms. Ferguson's unborn child ... Monday, Feb. 13, at the Houston County Courthouse in Perry, Ga."

The Macon Telegraph first reported Wilson's conviction on Monday.

This is the 3rd court-martial Wilson has faced in the last year. In June 2016, Wilson was found guilty in another court-martial of striking Tech. Sgt. Denise Forrest, who was his girlfriend at the time, during an argument, though he was found not guilty of other charges. He was sentenced to the maximum 6 months of confinement - but because he had already been in jail for 2 1/2 years, his sentence amounted to time served - and a reduction in rank from senior airman.

In another court-martial that same month, Wilson was found not guilty of felony murder in the death of his friend, Demetrius Hardy, who was a civilian employee at Robins. Wilson was also found not guilty of aggravated arson, conspiracy, and other charges during that court-martial. Prosecutors alleged that Hardy set fire to Wilson's trailer in what authorities called an insurance fraud scheme, so both men could collect insurance money. But Hardy was severely injured by the fire and died a few days later.

Before his arrest, Wilson was a support section team member and hardware custodian.

Former Senior Airman Andrew Witt is now the only airman on death row. He was also stationed at Robins when he stabbed another airman and the airman's wife, and nearly killed a 3rd person in 2004.

The last time the Air Force executed an airman was in 1954. That year, 2 airmen were executed for the rape and murder of a Guam citizen.

(source: Air Froce Times)

SINGAPORE----female foreign national faces death penalty

Indonesian helper in Singapore faces death for alleged murder of elderly employer

An Indonesian domestic helper in Singapore has been charged today with the murder of her 78-year-old employer, media reports said.

Wheelchair-bound Tay Quee Lang was found dead in her flat at Block 276 Tampines Street 22 with a knife reportedly lodged in her neck.

Channel News Asia reports that Minah, 37, is accused of causing the death of Tay at about 2.10pm on Monday in the Tampines flat Tay shared with her husband, who was not home at the time of the alleged killing. Police said they received a call for assistance at about 2.10pm. When officers arrived at the unit on the 5th floor, they found the woman lying motionless. She was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

In court today, Minah, dressed in a black and white striped T-shirt, appeared calm as the capital charge was read to her by an interpreter. She will be remanded for a psychiatric evaluation and will next appear in court on Mar 8. If she is found guilty of murder, Minah will face the death penalty.

(source: thestandard.com.hk)

NIGERIA:

Lagos NAWOJ to FG, states: Pass death penalty for rape

The Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos State Chapter, has called on the Federal Government and all state governments to pass death penalty for rape.

This call was contained in a communique signed by the Lagos NAWOJ Chairperson, Hajia Sekinah Lawal at the association's February Congress which held in Lagos State.

The group commended the Lagos State House of Assembly and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for passing death penalty for kidnapping in the state noting that rape is also a big problem in the country.

"The Police and parents should be ready to report and follow cases of rape to the last conclusion. Mothers should also make sure their grown-up girls were well-dressed as a strategy to curb rape while those found guilty should be sentenced to death in order to serve as deterrent to others," it added.

Lagos NAWOJ also called on Federal and state governments to urgently do something about the economy with a view to tackling high inflation, saying access to drugs, medical care and food items is becoming more difficult.

Similarly, members expressed concern over the likelihood of emergence of fake drugs due to unavailability of the originals.

The group also commended the first lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari for the women empowerment programme through vocational trainings and called for more empowerment programmes for unemployed graduates and women.

"A place like Lagos State for instance has a lot of riverine communities; with this, we can have more fish farmers so as to meet the deficit of fish farming in Nigeria," the communique suggested.

The group urged all and sundry to do everything within their capabilities to end female genital mutilation.

(source: The Nation)

IRAN----executions

13 Prisoners Executed

9 prisoners on death row, 3 verdicts for hand amputation

The mullahs' regime's henchmen sent 10 inmates to the gallows in Qum and Zabol on February 13. One of them was executed while his appeal had been sent to the regime's judiciary. Also, 3 other prisoners, 29 and 30 years old, were executed in Jiroft and Mashhad prisons on February 11 and 12.

On the other hand, 9 prisoners have been reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in Gohardasht prison for execution. Iranian Resistance calls all relevant international authorities to take urgent and effective action to prevent these executions.

A few days ago, Ali Alizadeh, an official in the so-called anti-drug campaign, called for the continuation of brutal punishments and said, "Adjusting death penalty does not contribute to the campaign, and faces it with challenges." (Khaneh Mettlat, state-run news agency- 5 February 2017)

In yet another case, the mullahs' judiciary in Tehran issued the ruling for cutting off the hands of three individuals charged with theft. (Hamshahri, state daily- 12 February 2017)

Unable to cope with the growing domestic and international crises, and in fear of public uprising, the hated regime of mullahs finds the only way out in intensifying suppression. The regime's officials should be expelled from the world community for their anti-human crimes, and must be tried for crime against humanity. Silence and inaction before the crimes of this savage regime over the past three decades has encouraged it to continue and intensify these crimes.

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

**********

9 Prisoners Hanged

2 unidentified prisoners were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison on Sunday February 12 on murder charges, and 7 unidentified prisoners were reportedly hanged at Qom's Langroud Prison on Monday February 13 on drug related charges.

According to the state-run news agency Rokna, 1 of the prisoners from Vakilabad Prison comitted murder on March 11, 2007 at the age of 19 while the other prisoner committed murder on December 19, 2007 at the age of 21.

The human rights news agency HRANA reported on the 7 executions carried out at Langroud Prison. Their report identifies one of the prisoners as Saeed Shokri, 26 years of age.

"The prosecutor of Qom is newly appointed, and these seven executions were his way of spreading fear. Unfortunately, they didn't even allow Mr. Shokri's lawyer to file a request for a retrial. Instead, they ridiculed him and said that he should attend his client's funeral the next day," a source close to Mr. Shokri tells Iran Human Rights.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent on these 7 executions.

(source: iranhr.net)

PHILIPPINES:

ASEAN parliamentarians urge Duterte: Reject death penalty

Parliamentarians from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies at the House of Representatives to reject the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country, and to respect the Philippines' international obligations and standing in the ASEAN as a regional leader in human rights protection.

Instead of bringing back the death penalty, the Philippines and ASEAN should think about reforms, preventive measures, and rehabilitation, as ways of deterring crimes instead of the old "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" doctrine, Cambodia Rep. Mu Sochua, Battambang Representative of the National Assembly of Cambodia, said.

"Killing, in whatever form, is a form of violence. Death penalty is the extreme form of violence," Sochua said.

Malaysia, a nation that still imposes capital punishment, still gets opposition from its legislators lobbying for the abolition of the punishment that has been labeled as anti-poor.

Malaysian Batukawan Representative Kasthuri Patto of the Parliament of Malaysia said most victims, if not all, of capital punishment in Malaysia are the poor.

"The ones who are normally victims of this are the marginalized, the poor. Members of the opposition have been lobbying to push for the abolition, particularly in drug trafficking," Patto said.

"Of the 1,000 people who are in death row, 600 are foreigners," Patto added.

She added that the Malaysian government has already put up a committee that will look into the methods of the death penalty.

The Philippines, represented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, argued that there is consensus worldwide that the death penalty is not an effective means of combating crime, including illegal drugs.

"Iran has had the death penalty since 1959 and yet they admitted the death penalty did not solve their drug problem," she said.

"Singapore and Hongkong...Hongkong has no death penalty, Singapore does, but they have the same crime rate," Hontiveros added.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians also reminded the Duterte administration about the country's international obligations.

The Philippines formally abolished capital punishment in 2006 and ratified in 2007 the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) aimed at the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

"We have always been inspired by your people power movement, democracy. We want to continue to put you in that high platform, to play that role to protect fundamental rights for our people," Sochua said.

"The Philippines must commit to its true self of being a righteous nation, a nation of faith, a nation that is looked upon," Patto said.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said that since the Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006, it has inspired other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to restrict the use of the death penalty, which denotes positive regional progress in the move toward abolition.

(source: abs-cbn.com)

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

Palace to ASEAN lawmakers: Death penalty 'apt' for PH----The Philippine government, responding to criticism from Cambodian and Malaysian lawmakers, says the death penalty is needed to enforce discipline

Malacanang reacted to Southeast Asian lawmakers' opposition to the revival of the death penalty in the Philippines, arguing that capital punishment is an appropriate measure for the country.

"While some countries may have their opinion, we find the move to reimpose death penalty, reserved for certain heinous crimes, as apt for exercising discipline in a culture that now treats adherence to law an option rather than a rule of community life," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement on Wednesday, February 15.

9 members of the Cambodian Parliament and 6 from the Malaysian Parliament signed a solidarity statement opposing the planned reimposition of capital punishment, a measure strongly supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Cambodian and Malaysian lawmakers called the death penalty a "barbaric and outdated form of punishment" and one that "puts the Philippines' internatonal credibility at risk."

Despite the criticism, the Palace said the reimposition of the death penalty "remains a priority legislative measure."

It pointed out that several other Southeast Asian countries, like Singapore, continue to impose the death penalty in order to deter crime.

The Philippines' House of Representatives is currently holding debates on the bill for the revival of the death penalty. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is eyeing the bill's passage by mid-March.

The Senate, however, is not keen on approving the measure.

Last February 10, Duterte reiterated his support for the reimposition of capital punishment, saying that government statistics prove it is an effective deterrent against crime.

The Philippine President, elected partly for his hardline stance against crime and drugs, said he also believes the death penalty is the only fitting punishment for certain crimes.

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

Death penalty lifting did not increase incidence of heinous crimes

President Duterte last week argued for the return of the death penalty by referring to the purported statistics reported by the Bureau of Corrections head Benjamin de los Santos in his recent testimony to the Senate.

The bureaucrat testified: "BuCor statistics show that before the abolition of the death penalty we had 189 inmates convicted for the commission of heinous crimes. After such abolition, a staggering 6,024 were sentenced for heinous crimes, an astonishing 3,280 percent increase."

That's a total lie, a patent fabrication: The Senate must cite the BuCor official for perjury, and for attempting to fool it to pass a law re-imposing the death penalty by presenting false information.

There is no such data: Neither the BuCor nor its mother agency, the justice department, has collated information on convictions on heinous crimes.

The only BuCor data that could approximate the number of "inmates convicted for heinous crimes" are the number of its yearly admissions of convicts. The number of those convicted of heinous crimes - such as murder, rape, and kidnapping - may be estimated based on its data that 48 % of convicts in its prisons are "maximum security" inmates.

(To clarify, the BuCor under the justice department is charged with supervising 6 national prisons, including the biggest, the national penitentiary at the New Bilibid Prison, with its inmates consisting of those already convicted and with sentences of more than 3 years. On the other hand, the inmates in the jails of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which is under the Philippine National Police, are those still on trial and with convictions of less than 3 years.)

As the data below show, after the June 2006 ban of the death penalty, there was very minimal increase in the number of those convicted for murders and rapes, the 2 most frequent crimes punishable by death, with very little deviation from the yearly average of 2,558 incidences.

The slight increases are due of course to the increases in our country's population, which grew from 87 million in 2006 to 101 million in 2015. Indeed, for both 2016 when there was no death penalty, and 2005 when there was, the heinous crime rate per 100,000 population, was the same, at 2.8.

Lifting of capital punishment in 2006 had no impact on incidence of murder and rape.

The data therefore indisputably shows that the abolition of the death penalty had not encouraged more heinous crimes, contrary to the claims of the BuCor official and proponents of the death penalty.

The Philippine data isn't at all surprising: rigorous, scientific studies show that the death penalty has no impact on the incidence of heinous crimes. 2 studies in the United States that claimed to prove that the abolition of the death penalty increased murder rates in certain US states, were later proven to be "fundamentally flawed" by that country's National Research Council.

In fact, murder rates from 1900 to 2010 in American states in which there is no death penalty were even lower than in states with capital punishment. A 2009 survey of criminologists showed that over 88 % believed that the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder.

The issue is really so commonsensical. As Amnesty International has pointed out: "The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime."

Same finding here: Death penalty no impact on murder rates.

In essence, the death penalty has been a remnant from our civilization's violent past, unenlightened by humanity's higher values, mainly the recognition of the mystery and wonder of a human life, that took more than 1,000 years to develop. We have only learned in the past 50 years that a human does not totally have free will, with his baser instincts capable at times of completely taking over his reason or values, even as we have to pretend we are captains of our souls.

From being a penalty imposed by all nations in the past, 140 nations have abolished it in law and in practice, and only 54 retain it in practice. Only the US (31 out of its 52 states) among the Western nations retain it, and not even "violent" Russia in practice.

It's not a coincidence that many of the American states that do have the death penalty are those where Christians who take the Bible literally dominate.

Excluding in the discussion China and other nations whose cultures are still dominated by the primacy of the group - as in an ant colony - rather than the individual, the most important reason why there is still capital punishment in this day of enlightenment and age of reason will surprise you.

Religion

It is religion, particularly Christianity and its offshoot, Islam. Christianity and Islam have molded most of humanity's values for at least a thousand years, and these 2 have always brainwashed people to believe that God himself sees vengeance as a value to be upheld, that an eye must be paid for an eye taken, a life for a life extinguished.

As late as 1952, Pope Pius XII even made the ridiculous argument that the "State does not dispose of the individual's right to life." Rather, he argued, "in expiation of his crime, [the criminal]has already disposed of his right to life." Until 1969, the Vatican City's statutes had capital punishment - for the crime of attempting to assassinate the Pope.

Pope Francis has stated that he is against the death penalty, but that it is his personal opinion and he is appealing for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it is "cruel and unnecessary." The Vatican had officially supported the 2015 United Nations campaign against the death penalty.

But believe it or not, Catholic dogma still doesn't see anything wrong with capital punishment as a right of the state to defend itself. No wonder the support of many, if not most, Filipinos for the return of capital punishment in this unlucky, dominantly Catholic nation.

We will be the 1st country to re-impose the death penalty, and the second time around after the ex-general Fidel Ramos rammed a law through Congress in 1993 authorizing it. Gloria Arroyo abolished it in 2006. Duterte wants it back, after given false information.

What a country that keeps changing its mind on such a fundamental issue.

(On Friday, it was not the 2006 abolition of the death penalty that encouraged more crimes, rather it was the incompetence of the BS Aquino III regime and I will show that with facts, figures, and logic.)

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

House opposition: Pointless to push for death penalty if Senate rejects it

Representative Raul Daza says the House debate on capital punishment will be 'moot and academic' if the Senate kills the death penalty bill Opposition lawmakers advised the House leadership to "pause and think" given that a majority of senators are not keen on passing the controversial death penalty bill.

In a press conference on Tuesday, February 14, Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza cited a resolution passed by 14 senators declaring that the Senate has a say in the termination of any treaty or international agreement.

During the Senate's first hearing on the proposed revival of capital punishment, anti-death penalty Senator Franklin Drilon forced a government lawyer to admit that restoring the death penalty is illegal under an international treaty that the Philippines ratified in 2007.

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bans states party to it from reimposing capital punishment.

"So this raises a prejudicial question: Should the House now proceed on HB 4727 given that the Senate or a majority of the Senate has already put in writing their sentiment that we should not tamper with our treaty obligations without first according to the Senate due respect to look at how the bill will affect a treaty that has been ratified by it?" asked Daza.

He said that if the Senate ultimately decides to block the passage of the death penalty bill, all the efforts of the House leadership to push for the measure will be "moot and academic."

"I think the House leadership, given this new development, should pause and think. Because in the event that the Senate asserts its authority and expresses its sentiment to uphold and restate our treaty commitments under the protocol, which is that we committed not to reimpose the death penalty, the House bill now becomes moot and academic," said Daza.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is bent on ending the plenary debates on the death penalty by March 8. He had already warned congressmen that he would strip them of their leadership titles if they vote against HB 4727.

The Speaker also said he "does not care" if the Senate ends up blocking the bill so long as it is passed in the House. But Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman disagrees with Alvarez.

"This is a bicameral legislature. No one acts solely and independently of the other. So kailangan mangialam (you need to care) because of the bilateral nature of the Congress of the Philippines," said Lagman.

He also urged the House and Senate leadership to meet and iron out the differences in their approach to the reimposition of the death penalty.

"Otherwise, we in the House will be engaged in an exercise of futility if after all, the Senate will not approve any measure reimposing the death penalty," said Lagman.

(source for all: rappler.com)

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

Minority solons to House leadeship: Pause, think about death penalty

An independent minority lawmaker called on the leadership of the House of Representatives to reconsider its support for the death penalty bill due to the country's treaty obligations for the abolition of capital punishment.

In a press conference at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza urged the House leadership to "pause and think" about the country's obligations to abolish the death penalty, the central issue that stalled the deliberations in the Senate.

Senators centered on the country's obligations to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under the Second Optional Protocol states that "Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction."

Daza urged the members of the majority supporting the bill to allow Senate to first consider the treaty obligation, which if found valid would render the House bill seeking to restore the death penalty moot and academic.

"The House leadership, given this new development, should pause and think because in the event that the Senate asserts its authority to uphold and restate our treaty commitments under the protocol, the House bill becomes moot and academic," Daza said.

For his part, Albay Rep Edcel Lagman said the House should not waste its time on deliberatingon the death penalty if it would be an exercise in futility.

He called on the congressional leaders to meet and thresh out its differing positions on the death penalty.

"I'm urging the House as well as the Senate leadership to meet in order to iron out this particular difference. Otherwise, we in the House would be engaged in an exercise in futility if the Senate will not approve any measure reimposing death penalty," Lagman said.

The House bill is expected to limit crimes punishable with death to the most heinous, making the proposal more favorable to lawmakers, and indicating that the death penalty bill has better chances in the lower House than in the Senate.

House Bill 4727 restoring death penalty is seen to be a priority legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill seeks to impose death penalty on more than 20 heinous offenses, such as rape with homicide, kidnapping for ransom and arson with death.

According to the original version of the bill, the following are punishable by death under the Revised Penal Code - treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with homicide, rape, intentional mutilation or arson and destructive arson.

Plunder is also punishable with reclusion perpetua to death according to the Republic Act 7080 or the plunder law as amended by Republic Act 7659.

Some lawmakers, however, believe plunder should not be punishable with death under the bill.

The following offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act are also punishable with death - importation; sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation; maintenance of a den, dive or resort; manufacture; possession of certain quantities of dangerous drugs; cultivation; unlawful prescription; misappropriation or failure to account confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs; and planting of evidence.

Carnapping is also a criminal offense punishable with death under the Anti-Carnapping Act or Republic Act 6539.

Justice committee chairperson, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, said the House leadership is willing to reduce the list of crimes punishable under death only to the most heinous - drug trade and abuse, murder, kidnapping, carnapping and rape.

Umali said though that plunder may be removed from the list as it is not as heinous a crime as those committed against persons and life.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

FEBRUARY 14, 2017:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Amid claims of racial bias, N.C. inmate is released from death row

A judge has released a N.C. inmate from death row, amidst allegations that prosecutors illegally discriminated on the basis of race during jury selection.

After nearly 20 years on death row, 39-year-old Phillip Antwan Davis was re-sentenced on Friday to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Davis was originally sentenced to death in the 1996 murders of his aunt and her daughter in Asheville.

An all-white jury sentenced Davis, who is black, to death after he pleaded guilty to the murders.

Prosecutors purposefully excluded the only qualified black juror from the 1997 jury that decided Davis' sentence, according to the N.C. Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Prosecutors in the case had attended a training session where they were taught to give excuses for striking jurors. In a news release issued Monday, the death penalty litigation center said that such excuses were used "to mask their intention of ridding the jury of African Americans."

It is illegal to strike jurors based on race.

When they excluded the black juror, prosecutors noted that she was wearing a cross earring and objected to her Tweetie Bird t-shirt, which they said indicated she didn't take the case seriously, the center said.

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams, who was elected to that office in 2014, agreed that Davis should be re-sentenced to life without parole.

Williams cited several reasons, including Davis' age at the time of the crime, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Davis was 18 when he committed the murders. Had he been under 18, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

Williams also noted that Davis accepted responsibility for the murders and pleaded guilty to the crimes, the Citizen-Times story said.

In court on Friday, Davis expressed his continuing regret for the killings:

"To family members and anyone who knew Joyce and Caroline, they were 2 very special people who were loved by a lot of people including myself," Davis said. "I regret everything that happened and it's something I'll regret for the rest of my life."

(source: charlotteobserver.com)

FLORIDA:

Death sentence upheld for inmate who killed Fla. CO----Enoch Hall was sentenced to die for beating, strangling and stabbing CO Donna Fitzgerald

The Florida Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for a convicted rapist who killed a Tomoka prison correctional officer, but one justice dissented saying the decision ran afoul of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Enoch Hall, 47, was sentenced to die for beating, strangling and stabbing corrections officer Donna Fitzgerald at the Tomoka Correctional Institution on June 25, 2008, near Daytona Beach. Hall was serving 3 consecutive life sentences when he killed Fitzgerald, stabbing her 22 times with a makeshift knife. Fitzgerald was supervising Hall, a welder on a work crew. Her body was found over a cart and partly disrobed, which prosecutors said had shown Hall intended to rape her.

Now-retired Circuit Judge J. David Walsh in 2010 sentenced Hall to die after a jury unanimously recommended death. But last year in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state's death sentencing process, ruling it was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges and not enough to juries.

In response to the Hurst decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that juries must unanimously find the existence of aggravating factors before a judge can impose death. It also held that the jury's recommendation for death must be unanimous. Florida had long required only a majority of jurors to recommend death before requiring a 10-2 vote until that was quickly struck down.

The state Supreme Court ruling released Thursday held that because the jury recommendation for death was unanimous in Hall's case then it was reasonable to believe that the jury unanimously found aggravating circumstances to support the death penalty in his case.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, and justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston upheld the death sentence. The justices also cited the "egregious facts" surrounding Fitzgerald's killing further indicated the jury unanimously found aggravating circumstances.

But Justice Peggy Quince dissented writing that his fellow justices were doing what the U.S. Supreme Court cautioned against in the Hurst case.

"Even though the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty, whether the jury unanimously found each aggravating factor remains unknown," Quince wrote.

(source: The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi and the death penalty: Firing squad is not the answer, abolition is

I would like to say I was surprised when I read the headline last week stating Mississippi was considering the firing squad as a method of execution, but I was not. Unfortunately, Mississippi is not the only state taking 2 giant leaps backward on the issue of capital punishment.

Since the sole provider of sodium thiopental - an anesthetic that is part of the cocktail used in lethal injections - stopped production in 2011, states have been scrambling to find other means of execution. As a result of this shortage, Mississippi has not had an execution since 2012, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

HB 638, which passed the Mississippi House with 74 votes last week, would provide Mississippi with alternate forms of execution including the gas chamber, firing squad, and electric chair.

Additionally, the bill would prevent the names of any parties associated with the execution, including drug manufacturers, from being released to the public, because this could lead to ethical problems.

According to a Buzzfeed News report, in 2015, Texas attempted to purchase a lethal injection drug from a company in India. The state was, however, unable to do so before the Indian government raided the company, which was consisted of 5 20-year-old men, producing narcotics in a small apartment.

Other states, such as Nebraska, have also attempted to illegally purchase lethal injection drugs that were not approved by the FDA.

Most importantly, the bill represents a moral departure from global progress on the issue of the death penalty. Instead of searching for new methods of execution, Mississippi leaders should remove the death penalty altogether.

The United States is currently the only developed country that still executes its citizens.

According to Amnesty International, the United States ranked 5th for most executions for 2015, sitting quite cozily between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations voted in 2014 for a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, but the U.S. was one of only 38 countries who opposed it. Even beyond basic support of capital punishment, the United States has lagged behind other countries on more specific aspects of capital punishment.

It was not until the 2002 Supreme Court ruling in Atkins v. Virginia that executing an intellectually disabled individual was ruled unconstitutional, or until 2005 Roper v. Simmons that sentencing a juvenile was no longer permitted, taking the U.S. nearly three decades to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mississippi's move towards expanding execution practices stands in stark contrast to the global trend on this issue.

If you are currently thinking that a global trend is not sufficient reason to alter domestic policy, then you are probably right. Which is why there are plenty of other reasons Mississippi and the United States should alter its position.

First of all, the death penalty is extremely costly. A 2011 study conducted by Federal Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyala Law School Professor Paula Mitchell found that the death penalty had cost California taxpayers $4 billion dollars and by commuting those currently on death row to life without parole, the state would save approximately $5 billion over a 20 year period. This trend in costs holds true for other states as well.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), the majority of capital cases stem from only 2 percent of U.S. counties, which shifts the exorbitant cost of executions to the entire state. However, in some cases, the high cost means raising county taxes to foot the bill.

A Wall Street Journal article pointed out that in the 1990s Quitman County, Mississippi raised taxes three times, and then still took out a loan in order to pay for the capital trial of two men. When resources are spent on the death penalty, it detracts from other programs. Being a state with budget problems, Mississippi quite literally cannot afford this.

For how much we spend on the death penalty, it is severely ineffective at deterring crime.

In a 2009 survey of "former and present presidents of the country's top academic criminological societies, 88 percent of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. Even though the South accounts for 80 % of executions, FBI reports still show the region has the highest murder rates."

Many death penalty advocates argue that if we speed up the appeals process and number of executions per year, the death penalty's general deterrence would be more effective and less costly. Or as author Edward Abbey puts it, "The death penalty would be even more effective, as a deterrent, if we executed a few innocent people more often."

DPIC reports that there have been 157 people exonerated from death row since 1973 with the most recent occurring on January 19, 2017.

Mississippi accounts for 4 of these exonerations, with 1 being a Starkville man who was exonerated of 2 capital murder charges as recently as 2015. The risk of executing the innocent is simply too great. In addition, the system has proven to be racially biased.

A 1984 Stanford study found that the defendant's odds of receiving a death sentence were 5.5 times higher if the victim were white. The ACLU reports that blacks currently account for a disproportionate 55 % of those currently awaiting execution. By combining the global trend towards abolition with the cost, deterrence, rate of exonerations, and proven racial bias, it is compellingly clear why the United States and states such as Mississippi must also choose abolition.

Even when considering these facts, I am still often asked, "but what if it were you whose loved one was killed, wouldn't you want the death penalty then?"

Alexis Durham responds to this in the Northwestern Law Review by asking instead this: "Should society be content to accept retributivist emotions as worthy of normative preservation and codification in law simply because such feelings have been a regular part of human reactions?" The answer is no.

Ultimately, it is a luxury to view people through only the veil of their crimes - when they have a name and story, the issue becomes more complex.

I have sat in jail across the table from individuals who were facing a looming death sentence or execution. I saw this complexity first-hand because each time I sat there, I was consistently confronted by how blatantly human they were.

When MS legislators consider what this bill will cost us, I ask that they also consider what it will cost us morally, as a state. The question they must ask is not whether people deserve to die, but rather, whether we as a state deserve to kill. The answer again is no.

(source: Opinion, Holly Travis; The Reflector)

OHIO:

Prosecutors will seek death penalty in murder of Alianna Defreeze

More charges were filed against the man accused of killing 14-year-old Alianna Defreeze.

Christopher Whitaker, 44, was originally charged with aggravated murder. Now, he faces an indictment for rape, kidnapping, offenses against a human corpse, burglary and tampering with evidence.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office told FOX 8 News it will seek the death penalty in this case.

Defreeze was last seen on Jan. 26 getting off of an RTA bus at East 93rd Street and Kinsman Avenue. Her mother reported her missing when she learned Alianna was not at school. 3 days later, officers found her body in an abandoned house on Fuller Avenue.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at Imani Temple Ministries in Cleveland Heights for her funeral.

Whitaker became a suspect through DNA evidence. U.S. Marshals arrested him without incident in Maple Heights. When he appeared in court on Feb. 4, Whitaker's bond was set at $3 million.

Authorities said he has an extensive criminal record, including charges of sexual battery and felonious assault. He is a registered sex offender in Cuyahoga County.

(source: Fox News)

KANSAS:

Kansas Lawmakers Consider End to Death Penalty

Kansas lawmakers are considering repealing the death penalty but a committee chairman is not sure whether the bill will pass.

The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard testimony Monday. Rep. Russell Jennings, the committee chair, says he doesn't know the vote count for the proposal. The bill is brought by a group of 15 lawmakers.

Kansas is 1 of 31 states that allow the death penalty.

The bill's supporters argue that the death penalty is expensive because of the higher level of legal work needed in capital punishment cases. They also say people can end up on death row after being wrongly convicted. The Midwest Innocence Project says more than 150 people have been exonerated after being committed to death row.

No opponents testified Monday.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Panel rejects eliminating death penalty for mentally ill offenders

A legislative panel on Monday defeated a bill that would have eliminated the option of the death sentence for severely mentally ill criminal offenders.

The House State Affairs Committee on a 8-4 vote opted to reject the bill after defense attorneys, mental health advocates and others advocated for its passage, saying severely mentally ill individuals shouldn't be subject to capital punishment.

The measure proposed instead setting a life sentence without opportunity for parole as the maximum penalty for criminal offenders found to have severe mental illnesses.

"You only execute morally culpable people and if you have a serious mental illness, you're not morally culpable," said the measure's sponsor Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead.

Attorney General Marty Jackley, state's attorneys from Minnehaha and Pennington Counties and others said the current process is adequate to assess offenders' mental health status and to eliminate the option of the death sentence for offenders who are found to have mental illnesses.

Aaron McGowan, Minnehaha County state's attorney, said very seldom do prosecutors seek the death penalty for offenders and those cases don't involve mentally ill individuals.

"We use it sparingly, we use it appropriately and we'd ask this committee to consider that these are evil defendants who have a hole in their brains where most of us have a conscience," he said.

Opponents also argued that the bill was an effort to eliminate capital punishment in South Dakota.

"HB 1099 is a death penalty repeal in all but name," Jackley said.

A handful of other states have considered and rejected similar measures.

(source: Argus Leader)

COLORADO:

Insights: Death penalty fight begins anew in Colorado Wednesday, but all's quiet on the front

There have been no rallies, no press conferences and little fanfare from either side about taking away the government's ability to kill somebody. Maybe it seems like brain damage to stare at a rock waiting for it to move. Colorado is a rock on this issue.

Senate Bill 95 has respected, capable sponsors - Senate Democratic leader Lucia Guzman, a pastor with a kind demeanor, and Rep. Alec Garnett, a former state party executive director and the son of Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett.

The death penalty was at Colorado's forefront just months ago. Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, an often-rumored candidate for governor, sought to enforce it on James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70 others when he opened fire in an Aurora movie theater in 2012.

Holmes got life in prison.

Technically, only 2 people sit on Colorado's death row. Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray were co-conspirators in the 2005 execution of a witness who was going to testify in a murder case against Ray.

The 3rd Coloradan awaiting death is Nathan Dunlap. He was 19 years old in 1993 when he hid in the restroom of the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora until after closing time. He robbed the place and killed 3 teenagers and a 50-year-old woman who worked there.

Dunlap won't be executed as long as John Hickenlooper is governor, however. Hickenlooper said in 2013 he would not be the governor to decide Dunlap's fate, that Colorado should have a discussion first about where it stands on the death penalty.

4 years later, that conversation hasn't happened, and the bill is up for its 1st, and possibly its last, hearing Wednesday afternoon.

The path to death row in Canon City is lined with political quicksand.

In 2013, Democrats sought to repeal the death penalty, but couldn't hold together enough members of their party to get the bill out of committee. One of those House Democrats who stood in the way was Lois Court. She is now in the state Senate, where there are 18 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

The bill isn't likely to survive the Senate Judiciary Committee, however. The deck is stacked on both sides.

The committee has 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats. The Republicans are chairman Bob Gardner, a tough-as-nails attorney from Colorado Springs; John Cooke, the former Weld County Sheriff; and Don Coram from Montrose, who represents a district of western Colorado where people are anything but soft on criminals. The Democratic side is challenging, too.

Committee member Rhonda Fields of Aurora supports the death penalty, for the most personal and ironclad of reasons. Death row inmates Owens and Ray killed her son, Javad Marshall-Fields and Marshall-Fields' fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, at an intersection. Arapahoe County juries sentenced them to death.

Even if Fields doesn't recuse herself for a conflict of interest, she's unlikely to support a repeal. She said in 2013 that voters should decide whether Colorado remains one of the 31 states with a death penalty.

The 5th member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is Daniel Kagan, who represents part of Arapahoe County. The death penalty runs through Arapahoe County.

Dunlap, Owens and Ray were sentenced to death in Arapahoe County. In December, Brauchler said he would seek the death penalty against a fourth man, Brandon Jamal Johnson. The 27-year-old's lawyers have said he's willing to plead to a charge that spares his life for killing his 6-year-old son. Brauchler has said "no dice."

Brauchler is one of the top names mentioned as a Republican candidate for governor next year. Last year he convicted James Holmes in the 2012 mass shooting in the Aurora movie theater. He could not get the death penalty from an Arapahoe County jury, however.

Brauchler won another term last year with no opposition in the primary or general election.

Though Hickenlooper didn't support a repeal effort in 2013, his Dunlap decision was still an albatross around his 2014 re-election campaign. That summer a Quinnipiac University poll indicated nearly 7 in 10 Coloradans favor the death penalty.

Wednesday, advocates will make the case that if a jury, such as the one trying Holmes, isn't willing to hand down the penalty and some governors aren't willing to enforce it, then why should taxpayers continually foot millions of dollars in legal bills in each case. A person who gets death gets decades of access to the courts at taxpayers' expense.

They also will point to statistics that show the possibility of death as a punishment doesn't deter violent crime, but only serves as society's vengeance.

States with the death penalty had murder rates 25 % to 46 % higher than states without it, Kathleen Hynes, a volunteer with the ACLU of Colorado, wrote in an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette last August.

"We know capital punishment does not save the state money and resources, is not a deterrent and we don't know how many innocent people we have killed or will kill in the future," she said. "So, let's do away with this law."

In closely divided legislative districts, however, officeholders have to think how their vote, no matter how nuanced, sounds in an opponent's campaign attacks.

No one in the state Capitol is talking much about this bill, because anything they say can and will be held against them in the court of public opinion.

(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)

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

Colorado Death-Penalty Expert Michael Radelet on Latest Push to Ban Executions

On Wednesday, February 15, the Colorado Legislature's Senate Judiciary Committee will turn its attention to Senate Bill 95, a bill seeking to ban the death penalty in the state, sponsored by 2 Democrats, Senator Lucia Guzman and Representative Alec Garnett. One of those scheduled to speak in support of the bill is Michael Radelet, a CU sociology professor who's spent much of the past 35 years studying the debates, missteps, and declining use of capital punishment at home and around the globe.

Radelet's new book, The History of the Death Penalty in Colorado (University Press of Colorado), hits bookstores just in time to give lawmakers a comprehensive look at the 103 executions that have taken place here since 1859, as well as a compilation of dozens of other cases in which men were sentenced to death but never executed. It discusses botched hangings (like that of Eddie Ives), our short-lived experiment with using three-judge panels to impose death, the increasingly cumbersome legal machinery of death appeals, and what Radelet describes as Colorado's "ambivalence" about the death penalty, embodied in such disparate events as a jury's refusal to sentence Aurora theater shooter James Holmes to death and Governor John Hickenlooper's controversial "reprieve" for Nathan Dunlap.

The state has actually imposed the ultimate penalty only twice in the past half-century - most recently a full 20 years ago, when rapist/murderer Gary Davis was executed by lethal injection. But efforts to put the state's seldom-used death penalty out of its misery in recent years have consistently met strong opposition from district attorneys and the state's powerful victims lobby. Will this year be any different? We decided some historical perspective from Radelet might help give us some idea. Here's our recent conversation:

Westword: Senate Bill 95 refers to the death penalty in Colorado as a "failed policy." Would you agree with that?

Michael Radelet: Those are Lucia Guzman's words, and she's been a foe of the death penalty ever since she was a little girl. A failed policy? There are some things it does real well; it allows politicians to create the false impression that they’re actually doing something about crime. It allows them to look tough. In terms of political advantage, it's not a failure. But as a criminal-justice policy, by any measure, it certainly is.

We've been close to abolition before - and actually have had periods when executions were banned in Colorado. Is the political climate right now to eliminate all future executions?

We abolished the death penalty once - in 1897. We brought it back in 1901 to deter lynchings, not homicides. In 2009 the legislature came within one vote of abolishing it again. Whether Governor Bill Ritter would have signed that legislation is unknown; he played his cards very close to the vest. This year, this hearing on Wednesday is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I think the chances are very slim because of the makeup of that committee. As far as I know, no Republican has signed onto the bill - not even the Catholic Republicans. And what Governor Hickenlooper does is another question.

What's your view on the arguments about racism in the prosecutors' discretion over who gets prosecuted as a capital case? All 3 of our current death-row residents are, as you know, African American men who went to the same high school.

If you look to cases in which they sought death since 1980, the argument shifts around - to the race of the victim. There are very few cases where death is sought for killing people of color. In the last 10 years or so, there have been some pretty horrific homicides with multiple Hispanic victims, where the death penalty was not sought.

What does the history of the death penalty in Colorado teach us about how this state has dealt with the legal and moral issues of execution, compared to other Western states?

In Colorado, we've never really been gung-ho about it, like Texas. But in other Western states, there has also been ambivalence about the death penalty. New Mexico abolished it. Nebraska abolished it for a while; they talked about fiscal responsibility, small government and religious values. Then the governor, Pete Ricketts, vetoed the bill. The legislature overrode the veto. And then Ricketts - his family is loaded, and the family donated several hundred thousand dollars to a ballot initiative, and the death penalty was restored.

But even the most conservative states have ambivalence about it. The trend nationally for the last 15 years has been a trend away from the death penalty, on several different fronts. Public support for the death penalty is dropping; the most recent poll shows that more people support life without parole. There have been fewer people sentenced to death, fewer executions, more religious leaders speaking out. And more states abolishing the death penalty: New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware. And you've got moratoria, led by other governors following Governor Hickenlooper's lead, in Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania. Clearly, something is going on. Around the world, the trend is all in one direction over the past 40 years; we're just looking for the final nail in the executioner's coffin, so to speak. But how Colorado gets there is still up in the air.

Do you think state leaders have had the "intense conversation" about the death penalty that Hickenlooper hoped they would have when he granted a temporary reprieve to Nathan Dunlap?

I don't know about state leaders, but more and more people are talking about it. Students are talking about it, churches are talking about it. But it's not a top-ten issue in Colorado. It’s not really front and center. If Hickenlooper ends up commuting the sentences of the 3 men now on death row, then we're at least 20 years out to the next possible execution. Maybe more than that. Meanwhile, it's a good time to be an attorney.

In your book, you write that the conversation has shifted from who should die to who should kill, that we're making "godlike decisions without godlike skills." Are there particular instances of that in Colorado that come to mind?

We can start with Joe Arridy. [Arridy, a man with an IQ of 46 who was executed in 1939 after a highly dubious "confession" of involvement in a rape and murder in Pueblo, received a posthumous pardon from Ritter in 2011.] There have also been prosecutions in Colorado where the guy ended up acquitted. Right now the death penalty seems to be reserved not only for people of color from Arapahoe County, but they also seem to [want to use it] with the mentally ill - James Holmes, and they still haven't announced if they're going to seek death for Robert Dear. That’s what I mean by godlike decisions: There are many cases where the circumstances are highly aggravated, yet the death penalty is not pursued.

When you address these senators about this bill, what do you think is the most important thing to get across?

I think if we look at this on a basis of empirical facts and research, there's no question they'll vote to abolish. On the issue of cost, of inequities, of deterrence, and helping the families of homicide victims - those are all abolitionist arguments now. But if you look at it on the basis of emotion, then [the bill] won't pass. The knee-jerk reaction is pro-death, but the more people know about the death penalty, the more likely they are to oppose it.

(source: Alan Prendergast has been a staff writer for Westword since 1995 and teaches journalism at Colorado College----Westword)

USA:

Surviving Death Row

A group of exonerated death row survivors called the 'Resurrection Club' fights to abolish the death penalty in the US.

Fast facts

--On July 1, 2016 there were 2,905 people on death row in the US

--1,446 people have been executed since 1976, 540 of them in Texas

--157 people sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973

[source: Death Penalty Information Centre]

----

After spending years on death row in American jails, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Greg Wilhoit and Albert Burrell were reborn the day they were declared innocent and released.

This is the story of 4 friends who, after enduring years of mental suffering and isolation from society, became activists and are campaigning to end the death penalty.

Still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after being incarcerated for so long despite their innocence, they joined the association of death row exonerees, Witness to Innocence. Calling themselves the "Resurrection Club", they travel from state to state, supported by their wives and children, to lobby for an end to the death penalty.

More than 150 death row survivors have been found innocent and exonerated in the US and many have joined Witness to Innocence. This is a story of friendship and love, a trip through the US - from Texas to Washington DC - to end an inhuman and unjust criminal justice system.

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

FILMMAKERS' VIEW----By Guillermo Abril and Alvaro Corcuera

In November 2009, we first heard about the 100-plus people in the United States who were once sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit.

Juan Melendez, a man from Puerto Rico who spent 18 years on death row in Florida, showed us a documentary about his life in Madrid. He talked to us about Witness to Innocence, the only organisation in the US which brings together death row exonerees and their relatives, and told us they were going to meet soon.

Soon after, 21 survivors gathered in Birmingham, Alabama. One of us travelled there to write an article for El Pais Semanal, the magazine we work for in Spain. We decided we needed to attend another Witness to Innocence meeting, this time with a camera. That's how the idea for "Surviving Death Row" was born.

We didn't have any experience in making documentaries - we were print journalists. The first step was building a team. We brought in Luis Almodovar, a colleague at El Pais, as director of photography for the film.

Using our own money in the beginning, we were motivated by our passion. We travelled with cameras for the 1st time to Richmond, Virginia, in 2011, to a similar gathering to the one that had happened in Alabama a year and a half earlier. This was the 1st of 5 trips in the years to come.

Capital punishment is still legal in 31 US states and 2,905 people were on death row as of July 1, 2016. Last year, 20 executions took place in the US. Texas has executed the most convicts since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976: about 1/3 of the nearly 1,500 people dead as a result of capital punishment.

In the summer of 2011, we made a 2-week road trip through Texas. The exonerees spoke at universities, schools, churches, radios and community centres, trying to turn around widespread public opinion in favour of the death penalty in the region. Greg, Albert, Ron and Shujaa were 4 of those exonerees, travelling together in a van. They would become the main characters in our film.

We were deeply affected by our visit to Albert's home, a run-down trailer on his sister's ranch. Albert had spent 13 years on death row and we discovered he had a small mental disability. He showed us his horses and we accompanied him to his various jobs, which included working as a junk seller.

On later trips, we travelled to Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Detroit and Washington DC and visited more exonerees in their homes.

Greg told us how he had been forced to give up his daughter for adoption when he was wrongfully sentenced to death for killing his wife. Ron showed us the ruins of the American dream in downtown Detroit where he grew up as a kid and where he still rides his Harley. Shujaa invited us to his family's house on Father's Day where he shared a meal of Southern-style crabs with his wife, sons and grandsons. His wife talked to us about the day she met him in prison. She was a white nurse. He was a "dangerous" African-American inmate, according to the authorities. They have been together since he was freed in 1981.

Watching the exonerees when they got together was a moving experience. They had long, deep conversations. Besides being friends, they were "pain mates", as we called them: people who shared the experience of surviving a miserable place. Only after they left prison had they realised that there were others like them, who understood what they had gone through. When they met, they did not have to justify anything. Nobody judged them or asked them questions. They just laughed and enjoyed their freedom together.

(source: Al Jazeera)

MYANMAR:

Myanmar Authorities Sentence Rohingya Man to Death for Attacks on Border Guards

Myanmar authorities have sentenced a Rohingya Muslim to die for leading and participating in militant attacks on border police stations that killed 9 officers in Rakhine state's Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships four months ago, police officials said Monday.

Muhammad Nul, also known as Ula, received the sentence at the district court in Rakhine's capital Sittwe on Feb. 10 for intentional murder during a raid on Rathedaung's Kotankauk border post, police said.

The 23-year-old from Maungdaw's Kyautpyinsite village is 1 of 14 people police have charged in the attacks, but the only one so far to receive the death penalty, they said.

Trials are under way for the other 13 in special courtrooms in Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung township, though they have yet to be sentenced, lawyers said.

Myanmar has said those who carried out the attacks were militant Rohingya Muslims who had received training and financial support from Islamic extremists abroad.

The news comes as Myanmar police investigate allegations of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims who live in the areas where the border guard attacks occurred on Oct. 9, 2016.

More than 1,000 Rohingya are believed to have died in a subsequent security operation by Myanmar soldiers and border police in northern Rakhine state, while at least 66,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.

Some Rohingya have accused the security forces of murder, torture, rape, and arson, prompting the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to issue a report on Feb. 3 saying that the abuses indicate "the very likely commission of crimes against humanity."

The Myanmar government has denied allegations of abuse, but set up an investigation commission in December to look into the violence in northern Rakhine.

In an interim report in January, the commission said it had found no evidence of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims living in the region, and that its probe of rape allegations had yielded insufficient evidence to take legal action.

On Friday, the commission set out on a 6-day fact-finding mission to the affected areas to investigate the U.N.’s allegations of human rights violations.

Other investigation teams

Last week the Myanmar military also created a team to investigate whether soldiers stationed in northern Rakhine used excessive force and committed human rights violations.

Myanmar's police have also set up a team of high-ranking officials to investigate the allegations of human rights abuse by security forces.

A statement issued by the home affairs ministry on Sunday said that if security force members violated human rights, they would be charged under police disciplinary law, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

The statement also said that action was being taken against officers who did not follow instructions, but gave no further details, the report said.

It was an apparent reference to a small group of police officers caught on video abusing Rohingya civilians in a village in Maungdaw during the security sweep early last November. Those involved in the incident were sentenced to 2 months in prison.

(source: BenarNews)

BANGLADESH:

Pilots panic over death penalty in new aviation draft law

Pilots and aviation experts strongly criticised the Cabinet approved Civil Aviation Operation Act 2017 draft law which proposes death penalty for negligent or reckless operation of post-departure flights.

Though the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism claims the draft law has been formulated in accordance with the guidelines of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), pilots and aviation experts decry the ministry's claim, stating that the government has misrepresented the guidelines and that the draft law does not reflect ICAO rules.

Reactions of pilots range from panicked to enraged. A Biman Bangladesh Airlines pilot said: "As a pilot, I am scared, angry and sad about the approval of the draft law which proposes a death penalty punishment."

"This sort of punishment for obstructing aircraft operation is rare. These types of laws are not prevalent in any country of the world," he added.

Requesting anonymity, a pilot of a private airlines said other countries also consider accidents caused by negligence or reckless flight operation after the departure of a flight to be an offence. Yet no country in the world has a law whereby a pilot may face death penalty for such violations.

An aviation expert said the new draft law was disappointing for the industry and would certainly hamper the growth of aviation in the country.

Choosing anonymity, a senior Biman Bangladesh Airlines pilot said for the sake of the pilots, the government should immediately revise the draft law before it gains approval in parliament, especially since even road accident laws only require a maximum of 3 years imprisonment for reckless drivers.

He added that the pilots, who are the main stakeholders in this decision, had not been consulted before the law was drafted. Now that the draft law has been approved, parents will no longer encourage their sons or daughters to choose aviation as a career.

Several pilots, especially young, newly recruited ones, are fearful that if the law passes at parliament, they will have to find alternative jobs.

"The new draft law will definitely affect us. Now, we are fearful of even doing our day to day work. Perhaps it would be better if we leave our jobs or find alternative jobs," said an engineer of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, requesting anonymity.

A senior pilot of airlines said if the government did not revise the law, the pilots would have to express their anger and fear in a more formal manner.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

IRAN:

4 prisoners in imminent danger of execution

At least 4 prisoners ain Rajai Shahr Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. According to close sources, the prisoners were transferred on Saturday February 11. The prisoners have been identified as: Mir Mohammad Mousavi, Mohammad Abdi, Farzad Taghavi, Yousef Mohammadi. A close source has informed Iran Human Rights that the prisoners are on death row on murder charges.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

No plans to hang tycoon Zanjani in coming weeks

Judiciary spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, has denied reports on plans to execute Iranian businessman billionaire Babak Zanjani over the coming 5 weeks.

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei has said that Zanjani will not be executed over the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 21), Fars news agency reported.

He further added that the country's intelligence ministry is still probing into the issue. Babak Zanjani was arrested in December 2013 after accusations that he withheld billions of oil revenues, channeled through his companies. Zanjani at the time denied the accusations.

Iranian judiciary has previously announced that the 42 year-old businessman was sentenced to death, pronouncing him guilty of fraud and economic crimes.

During the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's term, Zanjani reportedly played a key role in helping the country to bypass Western-imposed sanctions against Iran restricting the country's oil exports.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the death penalty saying the execution of the billionaire will mask the identity of senior officials who supported him.

(source: Trend News Agency)

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

Urgent Action

MAN ARRESTED AT 17 FACES IMMINENT EXECUTION

The execution of Hamid Ahmadi, an Iranian man arrested when he was just 17 years old, has been rescheduled for 18 February. He continues to be held in solitary confinement in Lakan prison in the city of Rasht, northern Iran, further exacerbating his mental anguish.

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

* Urging the Iranian authorities to immediately halt any plans to execute Hamid Ahmadi, and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

* Urging them to ensure 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, in particular ensuring that no statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment or without the presence of his lawyer are admitted as evidence;

* Calling them to ensure that his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated and that those responsible are held to account in trials that meet international fair trial standards;

* Urging them to 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.

Contact these 2 officials by 27 March, 2017:

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

Head of the Judiciary

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani

c/o Public Relations Office

Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi

Above Pasteur Intersection

Vali Asr Street, Tehran, Iran

Salutation: Your Excellency

Office of the Supreme Leader

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Fax: (212) 867-7086

Phone: (212) 687-2020

Email: iran@un.int

Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei

Salutation: Your Excellency

(source: Amnesty International)

PHILIPPINES:

'Conscience vote' sought on death penalty bill

Pro-life advocates are seeking a conscience vote in the lower House on the proposal to revive the death penalty amid alleged arm-twisting to pass the bill.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman thinks pro-death penalty lawmakers don't have enough numbers backing the bill, which has pushed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to threaten lawmakers to vote for the death penalty or risk losing their positions.

"I don't think they have the numbers to pass the measure so the Speaker has resorted to intimidation of house members particularly deputy speakers and committee chairs," Lagman said on Monday's episode of ANC's "Talkback."

"A conscience vote should be the priority not a party or pressure vote," he added.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said that deputy speakers and committee chairpersons at the House of Representatives who will vote against the reimposition of the death penalty will be removed from their posts.

Alvarez, who has denied arm-twisting congressmen who will vote against the bill, also said PDP-Laban party-mates who would oppose the measure should resign from the party, asserting that as members of the supermajority in the House, they should as the main proponents of the bill.

Commissioner Karen Dumpit of the Commission on Human Rights agreed with Lagman, saying the vote could not just be dependent on a party stand since the bill concerns the right to life.

"This is about the life of the people, we cannot just go by a party line because this is very important. It's the right to life," she said.

House Justice Committee Chair Reynaldo Umali, on the other hand, argued for the necessity of the death penalty due to the growing number of crimes, a reason which Lagman dismissed as not compelling.

"Until we reform the criminal justice system there has something to be done, something bold to address the gravity of the crimes and growing criminality that is happening," Umali said.

Lagman said families of victims of heinous crimes do not wish for death to the perpetrators since vengeance is not justice.

Dumpit added that the Philippines, as a stakeholder to the "Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty" has an obligation to honor its provisions.

"That is an international commitment that we are bound to honor because it is a legal obligation," she said.

Umali responded that despite such a commitment, the country can still implement the death penalty anew.

"A treaty cannot be better than our Constitution that allows it," Umali said.

(source: abs-cbn.com)

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

14 senators block Palace move to withdraw from treaty vs death penalty

In a resolution filed on Monday, 14 senators virtually blocked a Palace move to withdraw from an international agreement to clear the way for the passage of a bill reviving death penalty in the country.

The resolution expressed the sense of the Senate that any move to withdraw from any treaty that had been concurred in by the Senate will not be valid without their concurrence, as stipulated by the Constitution.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said, "This is in recognition of the right of the Senate to participate in the withdrawal of a treaty, because the Senate concurrence is required in the approval of the treaty. A treaty that is approved by the Senate becomes part of the law of the land, and any repeal of any treaty by a withdrawal should also require the concurrence of the Senate," Drilon said.

Drilon said that 14 senators signed Senate Resolution No. 289 titled "Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that termination of, or withdrawal from, treaties and international agreements concurred in by the Senate shall be valid and effective only upon concurrence by the Senate."

Besides Drilon, those who signed the resolution are Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Senators Benigno Aquino IV, Leila De Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara and Joel Villanueva.

"The power to bind the Philippines by a treaty and international agreement is vested jointly by the Constitution in the President and the Senate," the resolution said. "A treaty or international agreement ratified by the President and concurred in by the Senate becomes part of the law of the land and may not be undone without the shared power that put it into effect," the resolution added.

Drilon further explained that the resolution is just formalizing the approval on the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) treaty.

"When we ratified the treaty there, we included a provision there that says that any withdrawal should have the Senate concurrence, and that was approved. So we are just reiterating and formalizing the resolution," Drilon said.

According to news reports, Malacanang Palace is now moving for the country's withdrawal from the Second Option Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which hinders deliberations on the death penalty law.

"Well, that is a legal position that the 14 senators have taken: that any withdrawal from any treaty should require the concurrence of the Senate. But it is argued by those who opposed the death penalty that in fact, the Philippines cannot withdraw from that Second Protocol," Drilon stressed.

Drilon, former justice secretary, said that the Constitution explicitly delegated to the Senate the power to concur any international treaty and agreement entered into by the Executive Department.

"When we concur in a treaty, it becomes part of the law of the land. The concurrence of the Senate is required to make the treaty effective and therefore any withdrawal should have the concurrence of the Senate," Drilon said.

"Let me repeat that a similar provision was already approved by the Senate in the concurrence in the treaty wherein the Philippines agreed to become a member of the AIIB," he added.

(source: interaksyon.com)

FEBRUARY 13, 2017:

CONNECTICUT:

3 Connecticut lawmakers call for restoring the death penalty

As many states move toward eliminating the death penalty, 3 Connecticut lawmakers are trying to bring it back in the Constitution State.

Republican Reps. Robert Sampson, Kurt Vail and Kevin Skulczyck have proposed separate bills that would reinstate capital punishment, which was abolished by the state Supreme Court in 2015. In a sharply divided 4-3 decision, the majority opinion said the death penalty "no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose."

Sampson disagrees. He has proposed bringing bring back the death penalty each year since 2012, when lawmakers and the governor approved eliminating capital punishment, but only for future crimes. That law was ruled unconstitutional by the 2015 Supreme Court decision, which said it must apply to all death row inmates.

"I believe that it's a mechanism to deter crime and there are crimes so heinous they deserve the death penalty," Sampson said.

Sampson cited the 2007 home invasion murders in Cheshire, where 2 paroled burglars killed a woman and her 2 daughters after terrorizing the family for hours. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, died. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was badly wounded but survived. The 2 killers were sentenced to death, but the sentences were changed to life in prison without release after the Supreme Court decision.

Petit, a Republican, was elected to the state House of Representatives in November and has criticized the repeal of the state's death penalty. But he has said he has no plans to join any efforts to reinstate capital punishment.

Skulczyck, of Griswold, said he supports using capital punishment for "the most serious murder offenses."

"A lawless society inspires a lack of respect for authority and devalues human life," he said in a statement.

Vail did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Sampson said that while he doesn't expect his bill to pass, he is emboldened because Republicans won enough state Senate seats in November to create a tie with Democrats in the chamber - although Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman would break any tie. Democrats hold a slim majority in the House.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would not sign any legislation reinstating capital punishment, spokesman Chris Collibee said.

"The governor has been very clear that he is opposed to the death penalty," Collibee said. "As people do begin to consider this piece of legislation, we think it is wise to remember the decision issued by the state Supreme Court on this very issue."

Legislation in at least 4 other states would either restore or expand the death penalty: New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and New Mexico, according to the legislation tracking service LegiScan. Bills are pending in at least 8 states seeking to abolish capital punishment: Colorado, Missouri, Alabama, Indiana, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska and Montana.

There is no death penalty in 19 states, while 31 states have capital punishment, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Of the 31 states, 4 have moratoriums on their death penalty laws.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Could SC prosecutor be rethinking death penalty trial for Dylann Roof?

Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson of Charleston said she is weighing various choices as she decides whether to pursue a state death penalty trial against convicted Charleston church killer Dylann Roof.

More than a year ago, she announced she was pursuing the death penalty against Roof, 22, a Columbia area, self-defined white supremacist.

But now that a federal jury has given Roof a death penalty sentence, is she changing her mind about pursuing the same thing in state court?

"I have been discussing the options with the victims and victims' families," said Wilson, 9th Judicial Circuit solicitor, in response to an email query from The State newspaper late last week.

Roof's court-appointed attorneys for the state trial, Ashley Pennington and Bill McGuire, have told presiding state Judge J.C. Nicholson that Roof is willing to plead guilty to murder charges in exchange for life in prison without parole. As of yet, Wilson has not accepted that standing offer.

Meanwhile, Charleston lawyer Andy Savage, who represents a number of Roof's victims' families, told The State his clients are in favor of allowing Roof to plead guilty to murder charges in state court in exchange for an ironclad agreement that he will never be paroled or be released from prison.

Savage said if Roof gets a life without parole sentence in state court, "he has agreed to waive any appellate rights except he may challenge the competence of his attorneys, a challenge that we believe would be unfounded. In return, he has asked that he be confined exclusively in a federal prison for the remainder of his life. That request is one we endorse."

Roof already said during his federal trial that he didn't trust his court-appointed legal team. But he has not filed a formal complaint. And although he has admitted the crime, on Friday he filed an appeal that could lead to the overturning of some of his federal convictions and the death sentence.

Should the federal conviction and sentence be overturned, a state plea deal or a state conviction would keep Roof in prison regardless.

Roof was found guilty in December of killing nine African-American parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. The jury's death penalty decision in January came after a high-profile trial that took place amid high security over 2 months.

Wilson said she's not necessarily in a hurry for a state trial. Nor is she delaying a decision.

"I am not operating on a deadline except that I understand the importance to the victims of having the state's cases resolved as expeditiously as possible," she said.

But she does have some questions she wants answered before she makes a decision.

3 choices, but questions about death

Although Wilson had announced she was seeking the death penalty in September 2015, some 9 months elapsed before the federal government announced it would seek a federal death penalty.

After that, various scheduling and procedural matters in both state and federal court allowed federal prosecutors to leapfrog the state's death penalty timetable and go 1st.

Now, with the federal trial out of the way, Wilson has 3 basic options:

-- To proceed with a state death penalty trial at the Charleston County courthouse at a date to be set, but probably later this year. The courts have the final say-so in scheduling the trial.

-- To dismiss the existing state death penalty indictments against Roof, a process called nol pros, with an option to re-indict Roof anew in years to come on death penalty charges if, in the federal court system, he eventually is sentenced to life in prison.

-- To allow Roof to plead guilty in state court to the nine murders and settle for sentences of life without parole for each of the murders. No matter what happened to Roof in the federal system, he would always have a life without patrol sentence hanging over his head in the S.C. prison system.

But Wilson also said she is a "looking to discuss with the new (President Trump) administration in the Department of Justice their stance on the death penalty."

It has been 14 years since the federal government executed anyone. Since the federal death penalty law was enacted in 1988, only 3 people have been executed. In a filing in state court last summer, Wilson said she has "no confidence" the federal government would actually seek Roof's execution.

"While the prior Department of Justice (under President Obama) purportedly supported the death penalty," Wilson said, "their refusal to follow through with it (in other cases) was a concern of mine. I am hopeful that the new Department of Justice administration is more committed to carrying out the death penalty than the prior administration."

Wilson said she intends to speak with the Department of Justice once new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his team are in place.

Wilson also said she is seeking information from the S.C. Department of Corrections regarding the status of the death penalty in South Carolina.

Is a death penalty really a death penalty?

South Carolina's last execution took place in 2011. There are about 40 inmates on the state's death row, including 4 who have been there since the 1980s.

Those cases are in various stages of appeal. If an S.C. inmate's execution date were to come due, the state would be unable to carry it out, says corrections director Bryan Stirling.

Some drugs used in lethal injections have failed to kill quickly and, many have argued, humanely. The subsequent lawsuits and publicity have made it impossible for the state to obtain the toxic drugs, Stirling said.

Although Wilson did not discuss other considerations that might make her lean toward a guilty plea, they no doubt include, 1st, the difficulty and time-consuming process of choosing an impartial Charleston County jury and, 2nd, the emotional impact on victims' relatives of having another trial.

And, Wilson stressed, whatever she does, she must do nothing that would upset Roof's current conviction and death sentence.

"My ultimate goal is to make sure we do nothing to interfere with their (federal prosecutors') hard work and that our prosecution serves as a meaningful insurance policy for their trial success," Wilson said.

(source: thestate.com)

FLORIDA:

Attorneys for serial killer Walls in court on Monday

Attorneys representing Frank Walls, an Okaloosa County serial killer who has been on death row since 1988, will appear in court on Monday to schedule two motions on their client's behalf.

The lawyers are seeking to have Walls' death sentence reviewed because he didn't receive the jury consideration of "aggravating factors" that a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling entitles him to, said Assistant State Attorney John Molchan, who will represent the First Judicial Circuit at the 9 a.m. hearing.

In reviewing the case of Hurst vs. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that before a death penalty can be handed down a jury must agree unanimously that at least 1 aggravating factor - possession of a weapon during commission of the capital crime, for instance - was present when the crime was committed.

The unanimous standard was not applied during Walls initial sentencing.

Molchan said when the motion citing the Hurst case is heard by Circuit Court Judge William Stone the state will present the argument that the Supreme Court decision does not apply retroactively past 2002.

"We have a lot of case law that says it's not retroactive," Molchan said.

Walls' attorneys' 2nd motion will state that an intellectual disability should prevent him from being put to death.

This motion follows a U.S. Supreme Court determination that Florida acted unconstitutionally by using a single "bright line" IQ score of 70 to determine whether a killer could be put to death.

That opened the door for death row inmates with IQ's slightly higher than 70 to present their case for intellectual disability, and the Florida Supreme Court determined last year that Walls deserved a hearing on the matter. On Jan. 9, it denied a state motion for reconsideration of the 2016 ruling.

Walls, a 1-time Ocean City resident who was sentenced to death in 1988 for 2 murders and later confessed to 3 more, has been determined to have an IQ of 72.

Molchan said he would be surprised if Walls was in Okaloosa County for the Monday hearing, but he said he expects at some point he'll be brought back to the county for a court appearance.

State Attorney Bill Eddins has said he expects the state to prevail in both of the motions being scheduled Monday. These are the last motions Walls will be entitled to file before a death warrant is signed in his case, Eddins said.

(source: nwfdailynews.com)

OHIO:

Prosecutor may seek death penalty in Ohio State student's death

Franklin County Prosecutor files motion to pursue death penalty against the accused killer Golsby of murdering Ohio State student, Reagan Tokes.

The state has filed a motion to hold Brian Golsby without bond.

The Grove City Division of Police arrested the 29-year-old man after her body was found following her disappearance on Wednesday.

Golsby was also charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and rape in connection with her homicide.

According to the Franklin County Prosecutor, those charges make the death penalty for Golsby eligible under the Ohio Constitution.

Golsby was scheduled to appear in court on Monday, February 13.

(source: 10tv.com)

KANSAS:

Kansas bill would compensate wrongfully convicted people $80K per year, $1M for death row

Legislation introduced in the Kansas Legislature would compensate wrongfully convicted people $80,000 for each year they served in prison and $1 million if they were on death row.

If it is signed into law, Senate Bill 125 would make Kansas - which currently doesn't have a wrongful conviction compensation law - one of the most generous states for exonerees. It will be discussed at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.

"It is a very strong bill and we look forward to working with the committee on it," said Paul Cates, a spokesman for the Innocence Project.

To qualify for compensation, an exoneree must file a claim within 2 years of his or her release showing they were convicted of a felony under state law, served time in a Kansas prison, and were found to have not committed the crime. It would exclude defendants who pleaded guilty or pleaded no contest to the crime.

The Innocence Project would like to see that exemption removed. More than 10 percent of those exonerated by DNA testing had previously pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit, Cates said.

In addition to $80,000 per year served, exonerees would also receive the costs of their civil lawsuit, including attorney fees. All payments would come out of the state general fund.

Legislation introduced last year in the Kansas House offered dramatically smaller payouts for exonerees: the federal minimum wage multiplied by 2,080, or about $15,000 per year. That bill, House Bill 2611, died in the House Judiciary Committee. It was introduced by former Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry.

The most high-profile exoneration in the state in recent years was that of Floyd Bledsoe, wrongfully convicted of killing Camille Arfmann in Oskloosa in 1999. He was sentenced to life in prison but released in December 2015 after DNA results and suicide notes from his brother showcased his innocence.

Under the 2016 House bill, Bledsoe would have received $235,248. Under the 2017 Senate bill, he would be eligible for $1,248,000. Bledsoe said he was impressed by the Senate bill and credited Gonzalez, a police chief and special investigator who reexamined his wrongful conviction, with laying the groundwork for it.

"In his defense, he just wanted to get something going. He said he didn't want ($235,248) to be the number, he just wanted to get something going," Bledsoe said.

Tricia Bushnell, director of the Midwest Innocence Project and a former attorney for Bledsoe, said MIP supports the Senate bill.

"It provides fair compensation for the wrongfully convicted," she said.

SB 125 also would turn over $5 million to the heirs of anyone wrongfully executed in Kansas. It is highly unlikely that the provision will be necessary anytime soon; Kansas hasn't executed an inmate since 1965.

The federal government and 32 states have wrongful conviction compensation laws on the books. Kansas is one of the 18 that do not. The federal law, established in 2004, compensates exonerees $50,000 for each year spent in federal prison, plus up to $50,000 for each year spent on death row.

Texas, with its notorious tough-on-crime reputation, has the nation's most generous compensation law. It pays a lump sum of $80,000 per year served, along with lifetime annuity payments of $40,000 to $50,000 plus $25,000 for every year that someone was wrongfully registered as a sex offender. As of mid-2016, the state had paid $93 million to wrongfully convicted Texans.

In the absence of a compensation law, Kansas exonerees are still able to receive compensation through civil lawsuits. Eddie Lowery was exonerated in 2003 after serving 9 years in prison for a rape and assault in Ogden that he didn't commit. 7 years later, he won a $7.5 million settlement from Riley County.

(source: cjonline.com)

NEW MEXICO:

Death penalty bill will be killed, and N.M. is better for it

Ron Keine, an innocent man who was sentenced to death in New Mexico because of bad cops and perjured testimony, won’t have to return to the state to testify against the bill to reinstate capital punishment.

Keine, an active Republican, stood ready to travel to New Mexico to try to reason with Republican legislators who want to revive the death penalty. Now he can save the airfare and stay at his home in suburban Detroit.

Every legislator knows that the surest bet in this year's session is that the death penalty bill will die.

The proposal, House Bill 72, was scheduled to be heard on a recent Saturday, when a big crowd would have turned out. But the sponsor postponed the hearing, delaying the inevitable. As soon as the death penalty bill is called, majority Democrats will kill it.

That's the wise decision. New Mexico is broke, barely able to provide money for ordinary jury trials.

Death penalty cases are the most expensive part of the judicial system. And states with capital punishment run the very real risk of executing innocent people unless they can provide an adequate defense fund.

Even murder cases that seem clear-cut can result in wrongful convictions. Keine knows this all too well.

He and 3 of his buddies were members of a motorcycle gang in the 1970s. They became convenient targets for lazy investigators and prosecutors who wanted to solve the high-profile murder of a university student in Bernalillo County. Those in power cut corners to get the convictions. And they were as wrong as they could be.

Keine and the other 3 defendants landed on death row. The state had to free them after 17 months when its case, built on lies, was exposed by a Detroit News investigation. Keine, 69, is the only 1 of the 4 who's still alive, a flesh-and-blood reminder of the danger in believing that every criminal investigation is done by the book.

Keine's wrongful conviction was one of many that caused me to oppose the death penalty. But there was a time, after a friend of mine, Ray Garcia, was murdered by a robber, that I wanted to see a death sentence carried out.

Ray, 26, was working the graveyard shift at the front desk of a hotel in Colorado. A female co-worker had needed the night off, so Ray filled in for her. He did favors for people all the time.

On that night in 1988, a gunman robbed the hotel. He forced Ray and the hotel's unarmed security guard onto the floor, then shot them in the head execution-style. Ray died instantly. Against all odds, the guard survived and later identified the killer. It was a crime that shocked a city, and it met every standard for a death penalty case.

Instead, the district attorney made a deal with the shooter, who pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in return for a life sentence.

Later, the man who killed Ray was charged with 2 more murders, both committed before the one at the hotel. The killer received the death penalty for 1 of them.

Ray's parents felt no better when the killer went to death row. Nothing would bring back their son. And the death sentence meant the killer's appeals would drag on.

Years rolled by, and his death sentence was overturned. He's serving 2 terms of life with the possibility of parole and one sentence of life without parole. The killer, Ronald Lee White, now 61, contracted hepatitis and is so shriveled that he no longer looks evil. He will die in prison.

Still, he's already outlived Ray by 29 years. Along with political posturing, the reason there's a call for the death penalty in New Mexico is because of criminals like White.

But the best evidence against the death penalty is Ron Keine. He and 155 other innocent people have walked off death rows since 1963, all of them grateful that truth finally set them free. Nobody knows how many other innocents still sit in prison or have been executed.

In New Mexico, where money is scarce, the chances of errors in death penalty cases would be greater than most places. The demise of the death penalty bill will be the best outcome for a system that's supposed to provide justice for all.

(source: santafenewmexican.com)

UTAH:

New poll shows large majority in Utah moving away from the death penalty

The Utah Justice Coalition is pleased to report the results of a new poll that shows the changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Utah residents.

The results show that 64-percent of Utahns who were polled favor alternatives to the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

The survey of 784 Utah voters by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina took place January 13-15. Respondents were asked this question; "Of the following list of choices, which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder?"

Here is how they responded:

9% Life in prison with no possibility of parole

47% Life in prison with no possibility of parole and a requirement to work in prison and pay restitution to the victims

8% life in prison with a possibility of parole after at least 40 years

29% The death penalty

6% not sure

"By giving people the full array of alternatives to the death penalty this poll was able to find out how people in Utah really feel," said Kevin Greene, Organizing Director of Utah Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a project of the Utah Justice Coalition. "The death penalty is losing favor in our state because it wastes tax dollars, is ineffective in stopping violent crime, and risks possibly killing an innocent person, and none of those things align with our conservative principles."

(source: utahpolicy.com)

IDAHO----female may face death penalty

Bingham County woman accused of 1st-degree murder for weekend homicide; Melonie Smith could face death penalty

Bingham County authorities say they are investigating a weekend murder and have a suspect in custody.

Melonie D. Smith, 48, of Bingham County, has been arrested on a charge of 1st-degree murder - the most severe homicide charge under Idaho criminal law. If convicted authorities said she could face the death penalty.

The Bingham County Sheriff's Office says the murder occurred Saturday and Smith was arrested and booked into Bingham County Jail early Sunday morning.

Authorities have confirmed that one person was killed but they have not yet provided any information on the cause of death or where in Bingham County the crime occurred. Authorities have not released the name of the victim or even provided the person's gender and age.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the case with help from the Blackfoot police/Bingham County detective division.

The Sheriff's Office stated: "The location of the crime scene will not be released at this time. The detectives division is still in the early stages of the investigation so no further information will be released at this time."

(source: idahostatejournal.com)

PHILIPPINES:

14 senators block Palace move to withdraw from treaty vs death penalty

In a resolution filed on Monday, 14 senators virtually blocked a Palace move to withdraw from an international agreement to clear the way for the passage of a bill reviving death penalty in the country.

The resolution expressed the sense of the Senate that any move to withdraw from any treaty that had been concurred in by the Senate will not be valid without their concurrence, as stipulated by the Constitution.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said, "This is in recognition of the right of the Senate to participate in the withdrawal of a treaty, because the Senate concurrence is required in the approval of the treaty. A treaty that is approved by the Senate becomes part of the law of the land, and any repeal of any treaty by a withdrawal should also require the concurrence of the Senate," Drilon said.

Drilon said that 14 senators signed Senate Resolution No. 289 titled "Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that termination of, or withdrawal from, treaties and international agreements concurred in by the Senate shall be valid and effective only upon concurrence by the Senate."

Besides Drilon, those who signed the resolution are Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Senators Benigno Aquino IV, Leila De Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara and Joel Villanueva.

"The power to bind the Philippines by a treaty and international agreement is vested jointly by the Constitution in the President and the Senate," the resolution said. "A treaty or international agreement ratified by the President and concurred in by the Senate becomes part of the law of the land and may not be undone without the shared power that put it into effect," the resolution added.

Drilon further explained that the resolution is just formalizing the approval on the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) treaty.

"When we ratified the treaty there, we included a provision there that says that any withdrawal should have the Senate concurrence, and that was approved. So we are just reiterating and formalizing the resolution," Drilon said.

According to news reports, Malacañang Palace is now moving for the country's withdrawal from the Second Option Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which hinders deliberations on the death penalty law.

"Well, that is a legal position that the 14 senators have taken: that any withdrawal from any treaty should require the concurrence of the Senate. But it is argued by those who opposed the death penalty that in fact, the Philippines cannot withdraw from that Second Protocol," Drilon stressed.

Drilon, former justice secretary, said that the Constitution explicitly delegated to the Senate the power to concur any international treaty and agreement entered into by the Executive Department.

"When we concur in a treaty, it becomes part of the law of the land. The concurrence of the Senate is required to make the treaty effective and therefore any withdrawal should have the concurrence of the Senate," Drilon said.

"Let me repeat that a similar provision was already approved by the Senate in the concurrence in the treaty wherein the Philippines agreed to become a member of the AIIB," he added.

(source: interaksyon.com)

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

'Death penalty shameful for Catholic Philippines'

A leader of the Catholic Church said it would be shameful for the country to restore the death penalty while the Philippines prepares to mark 500 years of Catholicism.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the Church is in the midst of preparations for the 500th anniversary of the first mass in the country held on March 31, 1521.

Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) hopes that Catholics will oppose the restoration of capital punishment because it is contrary to their faith.

He, however, rejected suggestions that Church leaders are lobbying Congress against the restoration of the death penatly.

"Church leaders are not Congress lobbyists, that is not our duty," Villegas said in a forum.

"Our duty is to disturb consciences. At the end of the day I hope the Speaker (of the House) will allow a conscience vote on the death penalty," he added. The restoration of capital punishment is a priority of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Villegas also called on Catholics to join the "Walk for Life" event organized by Church lay leaders which will be held on February 18. The march is meant to speak out against extra-judicial killings and the restoration of the death penalty.

NO FIGHT WITH DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION

Villegas also sought to downplay suggestions that Church leaders are leading a confrontation with the Duterte administration. He said that the Church is always open to "critical collaboration" with the government.

He said that while they may be critical of some of the policies of the administration, Church leaders are also looking at the positive things that the government is doing like fighting corruption and reaching out to the poor.

Villegas also said he saw no need for another Jaime Cardinal Sin to lead the Church. Cardinal Sin, who died in 2005, led the People Power uprising which toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Villegas said Sin lived in a different time.

Villegas, who was considered a protege of the late cardinal, said it would be unfair for today's Church leaders to be expected to become another Cardinal Sin.

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

Arroyo can keep House post until death penalty vote: Alvarez

Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can keep her post, at least until congressmen vote on a bill that seeks to restore the death penalty, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Monday.

Arroyo, who abolished capital punishment when she was president, said she would abstain from voting on the measure, which is among President Rodrigo Duterte's priorities.

"Let's wait until after the voting. It's difficult to discuss now because there is no vote yet. For all we know, they might vote in favor and support the President."

Alvarez said the House majority should support administration policies.

(source for both: abs-cbn.com)

BANGLADESH:

Cabinet approves draft law imposing death penalty, fine for disrupting civil aviation

Cabinet has approved a draft law imposing death penalty and a fine of Tk 50 million for disrupting civil aviation.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the 'Civil Aviation Movement Act 2017' at a cabinet meetingon Monday.

The draft was approved on principle on Feb 29 last year.

The penalties for different crimes related to aviation have been increased in the draft which will now come up for final approval.

The draft is an updated version of the 1960's 'The Civil Aviation Ordinance', Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters after the meeting.

"Any action disrupting smooth operation of air crafts and jeopardising people's lives will be considered a crime," he said.

The penalty for such action is death and a fine of Tk 50 million, said Alam . He clarified that the death sentence was added lately.

Anyone breaching the 'Air Navigation Order' (license for operating aircraft) will be awarded 5-year jail term or Tk 10 million fine or both.

The secretary said, for misusing the light signals, which is a serious crime, the penalty is life sentence or fine of Tk 50 million or both.

For carrying dangerous items in flights, the penalty is jail for 7 years and a fine of Tk 5 million.

The law defines 'dangerous items' as any object that is hazardous to health, property and environment.

The items flagged by the International Civil Aviation as 'dangerous' fall in this category.

The proposed law imposes 7-year prison term and Tk 5 million fine for entering Bangladesh's airspace illegally, said the secretary.

Some directives of the International Civil Aviation have been incorporated in the draft, he said.

(source: bdnews24.com)

TAIWAN:

Death penalty not to be discussed at judicial reform conference

An upcoming judicial reform conference will not touch on an amnesty for former President Chen Shui-bian or specific policies such as the scrapping of the death penalty, a co-convener of the organizing committee said Monday.

That was the conclusion arrived at after the conference's organizing committee completed its fourth and final meeting, according to Chiu Hei-yuan.

The conference, scheduled to open on Feb. 20, will be divided into five groups that touch on protecting victims and the underprivileged, establishing a fair and trustworthy judiciary, creating a highly efficient judicial system with accountability, promoting participation and transparency and building a system that maintains social order.

Each of the 5 groups will meet once every 2 weeks, and they are scheduled to hold 6 meetings during a 3-month period.

Chu said his committee solicited views from civil groups on what topics to cover, and none of them brought up the issue of scrapping capital punishment.

The main reason why the death penalty will not be on the conference's agenda is because it will not be appropriate to talk about specific policies at the conference, Chu said.

Issues related to human rights, such as the human rights of the victim of a murder, the family of the victim, and even the killer will be discussed in the group touching on human rights, he said.

On whether an amnesty for former President Chen Shui-bian will be part of the judicial reform conference, Chu said it was stated clearly when the organizing committee was formed that isolated cases will not be discussed.

"Some said that bringing (former president) Ma Ying-jeou to justice is the most important judicial reform issue. This was an isolated case," Chu said.

"The issue of amnesty will not be discussed at the conference," Chu said, adding that the issue will be handled by the Presidential Office and the Ministry of Justice.

In her address to the organizing committee, President Tsai Ing-wen asked conference participants to use "language that people can understand" to explain various topics.

(source: focustaiwan.tw)

IRAN:

Judiciary to reconsider death penalty for drug traffickers

Judiciary spokesperson has reported on a proposal to the Iranian Parliament to make amendments to capital punishment law as regards drug trafficking.

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said the new bill sent by the Judiciary to the Parliament aims to modify coverage of death penalty for drug traffickers though it is still being investigated.

On the latest status of Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani, charged with economic corruption among others, Mohseni Ejei said his verdict was being implemented.

The official however highlighted that Zanjani's verdict was multi-faceted and death penalty was only a fragment in the overall sentence.

He underlined that the oil tycoon had to stay alive until all his properties were identified; "it still remains unknown whether the criminal holds properties outside the country and the Ministry of Intelligence has intensified its investigations in this regard."

Mohseni Ejei maintained that death penalty for the other 2 defendants in the case had been cancelled as well as that indictment has not been announced against some respondents.

The Judiciary spokesperson reiterated that presence of the prime suspect was needed since a new defendant has been arrested.

Still in a different issue, Mohseni Ejei announced that 8 terrorists in Alborz Province and some in other provinces have been arrested though no exact number of detainees is at hand.

(source: mehrnews.com)

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

Italy tells Iran of 'extreme concern' for scientist who could face death penalty

The Italian government expressed alarm on Monday about the fate of an Iranian academic detained in Tehran for nearly a year and reportedly sentenced to death for espionage.

Ahmadreza Djalali, who used to work at the University of Eastern Piedmont, was arrested on April 25th 2016 when in the Iranian capital for a conference, according to Italian media.

The foreign ministry in Rome said in a statement it had "activated its channels of communication with the Iranian authorities to highlight its extreme concern" about the 45-year-old.

Stressing his academic links, the ministry sought information about Djalali's detention -- he is reportedly in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison -- and asked "that he be quickly returned to his family".

Djalali's wife, who is living in Stockholm with the couple's two children, told Corriere della Sera that he faced "the death penalty for collaboration with enemy states".

Djalali worked at the University of Eastern Piedmont between 2012 and 2015 and also had employment in Belgium.

There has been no comment from Iranian officials or media about his case.

(source: thelocal.it)

FEBRUARY 12, 2017:

MISSISSIPPI:

Alternate execution method bill ignores larger death penalty debate

There is no gentle way to say it, so here goes. House Bill 638 as passed by that chamber of the Mississippi Legislature isn't a bill that considers whether the state should impose the death penalty. No, that's not the matter at hand in this legislation.

House Bill 638 is a bill that would govern the method by which the state would impose the death penalty should the current lethal injection method at some point in the future be ruled unconstitutional.

Nationally, lethal injection as a method of execution is mired in litigation over the specific drugs used in the lethal injection "cocktail" and whether the practice actually is the "more humane" method that legislators thought they were adopting almost 20 years ago.

Attorney Jim Craig represents 2 the Mississippi prisoners who lost their 2016 case at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Craig has been a longtime legal player in litigation opposing the death penalty in Mississippi - whatever the method.

Craig, co-director of the Roderick & Solange Justice Center at New Orleans, argued in 2016: "Neither compounded pentobarbital or midazolam are in the class of drugs specified by state law for use in executions. There is good reason for that. In other states, both compounded pentobarbital and midazolam have been used in botched executions, which tortured prisoners to death. Those states have changed their protocols to create safeguards against chemical torture."

Last year, Hood responded to the federal appeals court decision as follows: "For years and years, anti-death penalty groups have clogged the courts with bogus legal claims that only delay justice for murder victims and their families. If these anti-death penalty groups want to change the law, they should be lobbying the Legislature to change the law to stop use of the death penalty, not filing frivolous claims attempting to dupe judges into stopping executions at the last minute."

Hood's response defines where the majority of the Mississippi House of Representatives apparently is on the subject - and that's a place where the death penalty is still the law and implementation methods are subject to expansion.

The new legislation provides that if lethal injection cannot be the method, then the state would proceed to implement the death penalty by nitrogen hypoxia. "Hypoxia" occurs when someone has a lack of an adequate supply of oxygen.

The air we breathe is normally about 78 % nitrogen and 21 % oxygen (the rest is argon or other gases). Giving a condemned prisoner 100 % nitrogen would induce hypoxia, unconsciousness and death in what proponents in the scientific and legal communities suggest would be far more human than lethal injection.

If nitrogen hypoxia is ruled unconstitutional, then the state would proceed with implementing the death penalty by firing squad. If the firing squad method is ruled unconstitutional, then the state would proceed under the new law to implement the death penalty by electrocution.

In other words, HB 638 says that Mississippi is prepared to carry out the imposition of the death penalty by any accepted form of execution used in the state's history with the exception of the old cyanide-fueled gas chamber. Remember, Mississippi has engaged in almost all of the accepted forms of execution during the state's history including hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, and lethal injection.

The notion that imposition of the death penalty can be somehow sanitized and guaranteed to be painless or free from fear and anxiety is one that flies in the face of what the death penalty really is - which is the most extreme form of punishment. Those who argue otherwise delude themselves.

I have covered 4 executions incorporating death sentences carried out both in Mississippi's old gas chamber and in the state's present lethal injection chamber. By any method, watching a condemned man strapped down and killed by the State of Mississippi is a sobering experience - and not one whit like the experience portrayed in the movies.

House Bill 638 is the reaction to litigation filed challenging the "cruel and unusual punishment" aspects of lethal injection. Most of those legal challenges were filed as a delaying tactic to thwart the imposition of the death penalty.

For good or ill, state legislatures are pushing back hard against those challenges with this type of legislation. The propriety of maintaining the death penalty at all is by no means part of the current discussion.

(source: Sid SAlter, The Oxford Eagle)

TENNESSEE:

Exclude mentally ill defendants from death penalty

Excluding severe mental illness defendants from the death penalty would be a fair and efficient reform

Our society's understanding of mental illness improves every day, with a growing movement nationwide to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in our prisons and jails.

In this context, it is surprising that people with severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, can still be subject to the death penalty in Tennessee.

As one clear example, that comes from the state of Texas, the defendant Scott Panetti first showed signs of severe mental illness at 20 years old, soon after his discharge from the military. He was hospitalized over a dozen times and received government disability benefits because of his chronic schizophrenia.

In 1992, while off his anti-psychotic medications, Mr. Panetti tragically murdered his in-laws. While there is no question about his guilt, his schizophrenia significantly impacted his trial and sentencing.

In court, he acted as his own attorney while dressed in a cowboy costume. He attempted to subpoena over 200 witnesses, including John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and the Pope, and his behavior was bizarre and incomprehensible - and he was sentenced to death in Texas.

As a former Tennessee Attorney General, I understand how horrific these crimes are and how seriously we must take capital cases. I firmly believe that Mr. Panetti and other capital defendants should face very serious consequences for their crimes.

But in light of our increased understanding of mental illness, I believe that for those with documented mental illness of the most severe form at the time of their crime, the maximum punishment should be life in prison without parole.

Severe mental illness is characterized by psychotic episodes, which affect rational judgment. It can also lead to a greater risk of wrongful convictions - with several studies showing a link between mental illness and false confessions - or have very problematic trials, as evidenced by Panetti's case.

I believe that the money saved by not seeking the death penalty in these cases could be used to solve cold cases, train and staff police forces, fund victims' services, or create mental health programs.

I'm not the only one who thinks this change is overdue. National groups like the American Bar Association (ABA), American Psychiatric Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America all support a severe mental illness exclusion. In 2007, an ABA study committee, of which I was a member, conducted a comprehensive assessment of Tennessee's death penalty laws and found that "mental illness can affect every stage of a capital trial" and that "when the judge, prosecutor and jurors are misinformed about the nature of mental illness and its relevance to the defendant's culpability, tragic consequences often follow for the defendant."

Some may argue that Tennessee's law does not need to change, as prosecutors and judges already take into account a defendant's severe mental illness in other ways.

I know the care that Tennessee's prosecutors put into researching their cases and defendants' background before seeking a death sentence. However, if a defendant hasn't received treatment or his attorney hasn't thoroughly researched his background, a prosecutor may be unaware of how significant the illness is, allowing some defendants with severe mental illnesses to receive a disproportionate sentence.

When the illness is discovered later in the appeals process, it can lead to decades of costly court proceedings. An exclusion would be a safeguard against such situations, which, though rare, end up being very expensive and hard on victims' families.

For these reasons, I support efforts underway to establish a severe mental illness exclusion from the death penalty. Such an exclusion will help to ensure that defendants with severe mental illnesses, while punished, are treated fairly and we avoid expensive death penalty trials, devoting those resources to preventing these tragedies from happening in the first place.

(source: W.J. Michael Cody was the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee (1984-1988) and the United States Attorney for Western District of Tennessee (1977-1981). He has also served as a member of the American Bar Association's Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Team (2007) and the Constitution’s Project Death Penalty Initiative's Blue-Ribbon Committee (2000) that worked on bi-partisan studies of capital punishment and proposed consensus recommendations for reform----The Commercial Appeal)

OHIO:

8 death row prisoners given stay of execution in lethal injections wrangle----3 executions led to legal challenge from prisoners who said method used was 'too painful'

8 prisoners on death row have had their executions stayed amid a legal challenge over how condemned prisoners should be put to death in the state of Ohio.

A judge ruled a proposed new 3-drug method for lethal injection was unconstitutional after prisoners issued a legal challenge saying it would be too painful, causing Governor John Kasich to halt executions for the 2nd successive year.

Prisoner Ronald Phillips was scheduled to die on February 15 for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, Sheila Marie Evan, but this has now been postponed until May 10.

Ohio became the 1st state to adopt a single drug, pentobarbital, for lethal injections in 2009 after 3 executions were botched in a 3 year period using the 3 drug procedure.

In 2011, the Danish company which manufactures pentobarbital announced its distributors would not supply the drug to prisons which carry out the death penalty, leading to new combinations of drugs being tested by Ohio.

The last man to be executed by Ohio was convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire in 2014, sparking controversy after he took an unusually long 25 minutes to die with a new 2-drug procedure.

Ohio state law says that drugs used during executions must "quickly and painlessly cause death".

Critics say proposed anti-anxiety drug midazolam does not render prisoners deeply unconscious which may lead to pain from the other 2 drugs that stop the heart.

Lawyers argue the proposed method could be in violation of the constitutional protection from "cruel and unusual" punishments.

A lawyer for Ohio said the state has asked 7 other states to supply it with the single-dose drug pentobarbital but all had refused.

Ohio is among several states that have had problems obtaining drugs used in lethal injections.

Mr Kasich said he is confident the state will win an appeal based on a prior ruling in the Supreme Court that upheld the use of midazolam in a 3-drug process.

"These delays are necessary to allow the judicial process to come to a full resolution and ensure that the state can move forward with the executions," he said.

The US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear the case on February 21.

Ohio was the 2nd state to adopt the electric chair as its preferred method of capital punishment in 1897, and reinstated the death penalty in 1974 after a hiatus - although it did not resume executions until 1999.

The death penalty remains a legal punishment in 31 out of 50 US states, with 2095 inmates on death row in July 2016.

The use of capital punishment has declined steadily in the US since 1999, when 98 were carried out nationwide, to just 20 instances last year.

(source: The Independent)

INDIANA:

Several bills await hearings at Indiana's 2017 legislative session

The 2017 Indiana General Assembly is well underway. Several bills have yet to be heard, and some of those could make a big impact on the state.

One piece of legislation would protect some people from the death penalty.

"I do not think that passing this bill is a logical next step to ending the death penalty in general," said Hoosier Alliance for Serious Mental Illness Exemption program director Matthew Ellis.

The bill proposes a procedure to decide whether a person charged or convicted of murder has a serious mental illness.

If a person is believed to have suffered from 1 of 6 different diagnoses at the time of the crime, they would be exempt from the death penalty. Those include bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

If the bill becomes law, Ellis said those already serving on death row who qualify for the exemption could file an appeal. The sentence could then be changed to life without parole.

However, Ellis believes the bill is not intended to be a tool for criminals to get out of capital punishment.

"This is not a wide open door for anyone to claim any kind of mental illness," explained Ellis. "This is a very specific set of diagnoses that specifically impact their actions at the time of the crime."

Ellis said the law would save taxpayers money. He said the average cost of someone serving life without parole is about $43,000, but he said someone sentenced to death costs an average of $450,000

(source: WLFI news)

NEBRASKA:

2 may join Nebraska death row but will executions resume?

After briefly repealing its death penalty only to have it reinstated by voters, Nebraska has resumed an effort to acquire drugs needed to carry out executions for the 1st time in 20 years, just as judges consider whether to increase death row by 2 men who between them killed 8 people.

Nebraska is among the few states where those facing capital punishment have a remarkably good shot at ultimately dying of natural causes. Since 2001, four death row inmates have died of natural causes while awaiting execution, including one who died last year of brain cancer.

Of the 10 people currently on Nebraska's death row, Carey Dean Moore has waited 37 years for his murder convictions in the 1979 shooting deaths of 2 Omaha cab drivers. He is among at least 24 of the nearly 3,000 death row inmates in the U.S. to have been sentenced in 1980 or earlier.

"It's harder to carry out executions than many state officials like to admit," University of Nebraska-Lincoln law professor Eric Berger said. "The state moved to lethal injection (in 2009) in the hopes of being able to start carrying out executions again, but one thing after another has gotten in the way of the state's being able to do it."

That has included the state's trouble obtaining the drugs it needs for lethal injections, said Berger, who worked with death penalty opponents during the recent ballot campaign that saw Nebraska's death penalty reinstated in November. The state paid more than $54,000 for a hard-to-find lethal injection drug nearly 2 years ago to a dealer based in India, but never received it because the federal government blocked the shipment over questions of the drug's legality.

And then there are the multiple appeals filed by most death row inmates, Berg said.

"Given that the state hasn't been able to get over those hurdles even once in the last 20 years, it should make us skeptical that it'll be able to do so consistently in the future," Berg said. "The one thing that is certain is that the state's efforts will take a lot of time and consume a lot of taxpayer dollars."

Former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg, who served as co-chair of the petition drive that led to the reinstatement of the state's death penalty, rejects the argument that enforcing the death penalty is substantially more expensive than life behind bars. Those with life sentences file about as many appeals as those facing death, he said.

He also pointed to recent measures that could ease the way to again carrying out executions. One was a recently-enacted executive measure that would allow the corrections department to execute inmates with a single drug rather than multiple drugs, an action also taken by several other states. Another is a bill being considered by lawmakers that would keep secret the suppliers of the state's lethal injection drugs. Fifteen other states have enacted similar so-called shield laws.

Enacting such a secrecy law will invariably lead to lawsuits and more death row appeals, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes capital punishment and tracks the issue.

"These secrecy provisions increasingly challenge the legitimacy of the death penalty," Dunham said. "People like public policy to be conducted in the open."

Stenberg, now the state treasurer, said he heard the same doubts about the state's ability to carry out executions when he was the state's top prosecutor. When he was first elected in 1990, "the most recent execution at that time had been in 1959 with Charles Starkweather," he recalled.

He went on to oversee 3 executions during his 12-year tenure. He was able to do so, he said, by asking for an execution date whenever he could.

"It would force the defendants to take the next legal step available, pushing the process along," he said.

Nebraska currently has no executions scheduled, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said.

It remains to be seen whether 2 men convicted in capital murder cases in Omaha will join Nebraska's death row.

Nikko Jenkins was convicted in 2014 of killing 4 people in 3 separate attacks in and around Omaha over the span of 10 days, just weeks after he had been released from prison. Anthony Garcia is a former medical doctor who was convicted in October of the revenge killings of 4 people, including the 11-year-old son of a faculty member he blamed in part for his firing 15 years ago from an Omaha medical school's pathology residency program.

3-judge panels have determined that aggravating factors make both men eligible for the death penalty. The judges must now determine whether mitigating factors - such as childhood abuse or impaired mental capacity - exist that might spare them death and see them sentenced to life in prison. Their sentences are expected later this year.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, who prosecuted the Jenkins and Garcia cases, has said he's been frustrated by the inability of the state to carry out an execution since Robert Williams died in the electric chair in 1997. But he believes the death penalty is needed in cases where children, officers or multiple people have been killed.

"I believe the death penalty is certainly merited in these cases," he said.

(source: Associated Press)

IDAHO:

Murder trial details shaping up

Kootenai County prosecutors want Jonathan Renfro to have his day in court.

Soon.

"As we know, cases do not age like wine. They age like milk," Deputy Prosecutor David Robbins said Friday in front of First District Judge Lansing Haynes.

When Renfro, 26, the accused killer of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, faces a jury this summer, more than 2 years will have passed since Moore was shot while patrolling a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood.

Haynes solidified a July 31 trial date and allowed for the public defender's office to select from one of 2 Idaho attorneys with death-penalty expertise to serve as Renfro's lead attorney.

"Delays in the case are attributable to the lengthy, appropriate pre-trial motion practice," Haynes said. "I'm not assigning any blame for unnecessary delays because I don't think the delays were unnecessary at all."

Renfro faces the death penalty if found guilty.

At a previous hearing, Seattle-based attorney Mark Larranaga was put forward by the public-defender's office to serve as the lead attorney in the case. However, Haynes was concerned about delaying the case because Larranaga is unavailable to represent Renfro until early 2018.

Haynes asked Kootenai County Public Defender Linda Paine to seek out any Idaho attorneys who have been qualified by the state's supreme court to serve as lead counsel in a death penalty case. Paine found 2, Caldwell-based defense attorney Scott Fouser and Twin-Falls based defense attorney Keith Roark.

Both attorneys were in the courtroom at the Kootenai County jail on Friday, and briefly spoke with Haynes about their availability. Fouser and Roark said they would be able to represent Renfro at the end of July, but both attorneys added they need time to prepare.

"I don't know any trial attorney who doesn't prefer to do things later rather than sooner, for that reason," Roark said.

Haynes said it was not necessary for him to appoint either attorney as lead counsel, and left the matter to Renfro and the public defender's office. Paine said she could submit their selection by Tuesday.

The jury trial will begin on July 31. Haynes estimated it will take 5 to 8 weeks.

After the hearing, Roark and Fouser shook hands with and introduced themselves to Renfro.

(source: Bonner County Daily Bee)

ARIZONA:

Inmates offered 'do-it-yourself' execution

The Arizona Department of Corrections has had trouble killing people.

It hasn't been able to get the drugs it wants, and the drugs that it has gotten have transformed the already gruesome act of executing a person into a ghoulish, unacceptable freak show.

But the department persists.

The latest move, unique in - the world - offers Arizona death-row inmates the opportunity to perform a kind of do-it-yourself execution.

Last month, The Arizona Republic's Michael Kiefer reported on a new execution protocol announced by Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Like many policy decisions in Arizona government, the process begins with the implausible and ends with the bizarre.

Executions, the Department of Corrections says, are to be carried out using either of 2 barbiturates, pentobarbital or thiopental.

Except there's a small problem. Neither of those drugs can be obtained legally. Thiopental is no longer manufactured in the United States and is banned from importation, and the manufacturers of pentobarbital refuse to sell the drug for the purpose of execution.

Will the state find a compounding pharmacy that will produce the deadly mixture for the department?

We'll see.

In the meantime, the new execution protocol says that if defense attorneys choose to do so, they can pick up the drugs on their own and the department will use it to kill their clients.

Really.

"This is a bizarre notion that calls for actions that are both illegal and impossible," said Dale Baich from the office of The Federal Public Defender in Arizona.

Arizona is alone in this lunacy (surprised?)

"A prisoner or prisoner's lawyer cannot legally obtain these drugs or legally transfer them to the Department. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, we cannot imagine a way to obtain the drug. Those that obtain controlled substances illegally, go to prison."

As far as Baich or anyone else can determine, Arizona is the only state to even suggest such a thing.

Hey, America, who says the best (meaning worst) governmental craziness is coming out of Washington, D.C.?

Arizona is still in this game, baby!

Not too long ago the DOC got caught trying import from a sketchy foreign source some killer drugs that it hoped to use in executions.

Now, it's actually suggesting that the condemned inmate get his attorneys to participate in his killing.

Beat that, Donald Trump!

"It is hard to comprehend what the ADC was thinking in including this nonsensical, unprecedented provision as part of its execution procedures," Baich told me. "If the state wants to have the death penalty, it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally. The state cannot pass its obligation on to the condemned prisoner."

Maybe any other state cannot or would not do such a thing, but this is Arizona.

We can give it a try.

(source: EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic)

WASHINGTON:

State capital punishment law worth another look

The death penalty is the ultimate case of the punishment fitting the crime, at least when the crime involves intentionally taking the life of another. That is part of the appeal for its supporters, who argue that those who commit heinous acts are getting their just reward, that victims' loved ones get closure, and that it serves as a deterrent to crime. The mindset is hard-wired into American society and traditionally receives strong public support.

Opponents argue that the penalty is retribution that may satisfy a deep-seated desire for justice, but that it is irreversible - people who were wrongly accused have been put to death, and for them there is obviously no recourse. Foes also say that it is not applied equally, that the state shouldn't have such life-or-death power, that problems arise with execution mechanisms and that it does not serve as a deterrent; some offenders have even used it to commit suicide-by-state.

Washington has a tightly written law that reserves capital punishment for the worst of the worst. Executions have been used sparingly - only 5 times since the Legislature reinstated the law in 1981 - with the most recent execution coming in 2010. Cal Coburn Brown that year died by lethal injection after he was convicted in the 1991 murder of a 21-year-old woman in Burien. The details of the murder are grisly; Brown carjacked the victim at knifepoint, then robbed, raped and tortured her for 36 hours before killing her. His case fits the argument that this penalty fits misdeeds by the worst of the worst.

Part of the long interval since executions stems from a capital punishment moratorium that Gov. Jay Inslee imposed in 2014. Inslee argued that the death-penalty law has been applied inconsistently and unequally, and on that he has a point.

All of this state's potential executions became problematical after Gary Ridgway, the notorious Green River Killer, was spared execution for the deaths of 48 women in the 1980s and 1990s. King County officials deemed it a worthwhile tradeoff to spare Ridgway's life as part of a plea bargain that yielded the names of 41 victims that they would not have obtained otherwise. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, which raised a glaring issue: If killing 48 people doesn't warrant capital punishment, what does?

That is one aspect of the debate that is returning to the Legislature this year. Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have proposed that this state join 19 others and Washington, D.C., in abolishing the death penalty. Inslee and Ferguson are Democrats, but their proposal has bipartisan support, having won the endorsement of Republicans such as former Attorney General Rob McKenna and state Sens. Maureen Walsh and Mark Miloscia.

In addition to unequal application of the law, Inslee pointed to the cost of prosecuting cases. Seattle University in 2015 came out with a study of 147 death penalty cases in this state; it found the average cost of prosecution was $3 million, while a life imprisonment sentence averages about $2 million per inmate. While drawn-out appeals raise the price tag, another factor is the limited number of attorneys who are qualified to handle death penalty cases. There is also an expense in time, which Brown's case illustrates well; appeals and a change in how the state carried out lethal injections meant 19 years passed between crime and punishment.

Legislators representing the conservative Yakima Valley are reluctant to abolish the death penalty, and their beliefs no doubt align with those of their constituents. But legislators do understand some of the issues. Yakima Rep. Norm Johnson and Sunnyside state Sen. Jim Honeyford, while supporting capital punishment, also noted concern about costs.

We have supported Washington's selective use of the death penalty, noting in 2010 after Brown's execution that the tightly crafted state law reflects the will of the public and is written in a way that reflects the solemnity of ending the life of an individual. There will always be - and always should be - vigorous debate about whether the state should have the right to end the life of an individual.

In this year's debate, death penalty foes will argue that it is applied unfairly and that costs of death-penalty prosecutions are too high. Supporters will cite the sentiments of victims' families, who fear that even with a life sentence, an offender could still be paroled onto the streets. Backers will also say that for the most heinous crimes, the punishment fits the crime.

Is the death penalty still viable as applied in this state? While we lean toward reluctance to changing the law, we do believe that the questions being raised are valid ones. Spokane Republican state Sen. Mike Padden, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, last year blocked a hearing on a similar bill. Padden said in January that he would consider holding a hearing if the Democratic-controlled House passes a measure first, and Padden should follow through on that statement and conduct a hearing, The death penalty is an issue worth revisiting and a debate worth having.

(source: Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board)

IRAN:

International Calls to Stop Inhumane Underage Executions by Iran Regime

According to state-run IRNA news agency, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Iranian regime's Tehran Prosecutor General, announced Wednesday February 8 that based on regime's Islamic Penal Code, the Prosecutor Office has submitted requests to the courts to cancel retaliation sentences for ten under-18 convicts, of which 6 requests have been accepted.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concerns over executing convicts who were under-18 at the time of their offense, saying that a lot of such convicts in Iran are awaiting execution.

Amnesty International had previously announced that between 2005 and 2015, at least 73 convicts who were under-18 at the time of the offense have been executed in Iran. There are at least another160 such convicts who are awaiting execution, according to a report by the UN.

The UN has also recently reported that Hamid Ahmadi, sentenced to death for committing murder at 17, has been taken to solitary confinement in Rasht's Lakan Prison, due to be hanged on February 11.

Jafari Dolatabadi also announced on Wednesday that according to Article 302 of regime's Islamic Penal Code, Tehran Prosecutor Office has requested that17 retaliation cases be revised, which has led to 3 retaliation sentences being cancelled.

The UN Human Rights Committee as well as other human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized Iran's high execution rate. Applying death penalty for drug trafficker has been announced as one the reasons for Iran's high execution rate.

Iranian regime's Attorney General 'Mohammad Jafar Montazeri' has recently emphasized that the death penalty is not going to be removed from the regime's drug penal code.

Earlier, Mohammad Bagher Olfat, regime's Deputy Head of the Judiciary on Crime Prevention, had announced that execution of drug traffickers in Iran has not been 'deterrent'.

(source: NCR-Iran)

PHILIPPINES:

Defense team eyed for poor offenders facing death penalty

A Capital Defense Unit with a budget of P260 million that would provide legal assistance to convicts who will be meted death penalty has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Luis Campos Jr. of Makati City (Metro Manila) made the proposal in light of ongoing debates on restoration of capital punishment for heinous crimes in the chamber.

Campos over the weekend noted that there should be a state-funded CDU that will provide topnotch private attorneys to poor convicts facing execution to ensure that nobody gets wrongfully doomed on account of his or her simply being poor and inability to obtain superior legal representation.

"Assuming Congress decides to revive death verdicts for the worst criminal offenders, we have to ensure that disadvantaged individuals accused of capital felonies receive the best legal defense available," he said in a statement.

According to Campos, the CDU is in accordance with Section 11, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution that reads, "Adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty."

He suggested that the CDU be run by the University of the Philippines College of Law's Institute of Human Rights and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, with the university paying for all the legal fees of poor defendants facing potential death sentences.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, Campos said, will determine the beneficiaries of the CDU, which will be a different office from the Public Attorney's Office.

"We have to acknowledge that getting hold of adequate legal remedies has a price not everybody can pay," Campos said.

House leaders have announced that administration lawmakers are likely to vote for the passage of death penalty if the measure will provide that penalties for heinous crimes will range from lifetime imprisonment to death, depending on the judge's discretion.

But House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list would not agree to such compromise, warning that only impoverished citizens inadequately represented at trial would get death sentences.

"Moneyed people who are able to retain high-priced lawyers would always escape conviction. Sadly, the quality of legal representation is still the single biggest factor that would determine whether a defendant receives or dodges the death sentence," Atienza said.

(soruce: Manila Times)

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

They are the biggest donors to the Church, but their employees do not get just wages.

Their children go to exclusive girls' or boys' schools run by Catholic priests or nuns, but hold bacchanalian parties on weekends and holidays.

They proudly wear uniform heralding their membership in fraternal service organizations, but practice open-marriage arrangements.

And they attend Mass regularly, even receive Holy Communion, but advocate the reimposition of the death penalty.

Split-level Christianity, that's what it is; I can now hear my high school teachers exclaim in unison.

So this move of resurrecting the death penalty to curb crimes will not go quietly into the night. It will appear or disappear from president to president, despite their Christian faith.

The late strongman Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, supposedly to stem the tide of communism and to curb criminality. The country was placed under military authority, and civil rights were suspended.

Yet, after 4 years of martial rule, Marcos decreed the use of death penalty, a tacit admission that the tactics of the former dictator and his military caboodle failed.

When the genuine people power ousted Marcos to make Corazon Aquino president in 1986, among her first moves that same year was the abolition of the death penalty. 6 years later, Fidel Ramos succeeded Aquino. He then reinstated capital punishment by lethal injection. Coincidentally, Ramos is Marcos's cousin and a former military man.

In 2006, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became president. One of her better decisions was the abolition of the death penalty. Thus, all death row prisoners were moved to life imprisonment.

So, here we are again, this move to resurrect the death penalty. The move is nothing new nor surprising, especially because the current president has a penchant for violent thoughts and do-this-or-else statements.

Now, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is adopting the tack of his president-friend, both in substance and style. In Alvarez's mind, killing is good while preserving life is bad? Begging the question indeed. Have Alvarez and his fellow honorable men and women considered the findings of many studies on the matter?

One study corroborates the findings of an earlier study in 1996. 88 % of the leading criminologists in the US said they do not believe that death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.

Those contemplating to commit crime do not think of consequences.

This is corroborated by an article penned by a former US District Court and Court of Appeals judge H. Lee Sarokin, "Is it time to execute the death penalty?"

He writes, "...deterrence pays no part whatsoever. Persons contemplating murder do not sit around the kitchen table and say 'I won't commit this murder if I face the death penalty. But I will do it if the penalty is life without parole'."

(source: Opinion; Lelani Echaves----sunstar.com.ph)

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

Church won't be silenced in opposing death penalty - bishop

The Catholic Church will not stop airing its opposition to the death penalty bill despite being criticized by politicians for supposedly meddling in state affairs, a former head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on Sunday.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the Church would continue to proclaim its teachings on the sanctity of life even if priests were being subjected to attacks by proponents of the death penalty bill.

He was responding to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who once called bishops a "bunch of shameless hypocrites" for issuing a united stand against the spate of drug-related killings under the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

"I am not offended, I understand him (Alvarez), Cruz said over Church-run Radyo Veritas."

Cruz earlier advised Alvarez against "playing God" with the latter's threat to strip members of the Duterte-controlled supermajority in Congress of deputy speakerships and committee chairmanships if they will oppose the death penalty bill.

Alvarez, author of the death penalty bill, said former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would be among those who could be replaced if she opposed the measure. It was during Arroyo's term as President that the death penalty was abolished.

The measure seeking to reinstate capital punishment for heinous crimes is being debated at the plenary of the House of Representatives

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

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

House waters down death penalty bill

The House of Representatives is watering down the bill re-imposing the death penalty in a move to lessen opposition to it among its members and the public.

In radio interviews yesterday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he and members of his super majority coalition have agreed that the imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes "will not be mandatory."

"The proposed penalty would range from life imprisonment to death. In other words, it is the judge who will decide if he will impose capital punishment," he said.

He said they have also agreed to reduce the number of heinous crimes covered by the death penalty measure, Bill 4727.

"We will remove some crimes. The list of covered offenses will no longer be 21," he said.

Responding to questions, Alvarez said aside from plunder, he could not remember the offenses that would be removed from the list.

But Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, principal sponsor of the bill, said the crimes to be dropped include arson, possession of marijuana and possibly bribery.

Umali, who is justice committee chairman, said some members feel that crimes that do not result in the death of a person should not be punishable by death.

The covered offenses under the bill include treason, piracy, bribery, parricide, murder, rape, kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery, destructive arson and drug-related crimes.

Alvarez kept the door open for the return of plunder in the list of heinous crimes.

If a member of the House proposes it during the period of amendments and the majority votes for it, then it would be restored, he said.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said he and his House boss voted for keeping plunder in the proposed law during Wednesday's closed-door majority caucus.

"But nothing is final yet, and the bill as it stands still includes plunder.

There has been no amendment to it, as we are still in the process of building a consensus," he said.

Many House members want plunder included in the list of offenses covered by capital punishment. They consider it a heinous crime "that robs the poor of money for education, health and other basic services."

Alvarez expressed confidence that he and other House leaders would be able to muster the needed votes to approve Bill 4727.

Earlier, he warned deputy speakers and committee chairmen that they would be replaced if they would not support the measure.

Rep. Carlos Zarate of leftist party-list group Bayan Muna, who attended the Wednesday caucus, said there was indeed an agreement to have a penalty ranging from life in prison to death and to reduce the number of covered crimes.

However, he said the agreement "has not been reflected in the original bill, which is still the one being deliberated in plenary session."

He said he and 6 other leftist representatives would continue to oppose the bill, even if it is watered down, "because we are against the death penalty."

Zarate chairs the committee on environment and natural resources. 2 other leftist colleagues also head committees.

Asked if they would give their posts up or wait to be replaced, they said they would relinquish their committee chairmanships if the House leadership tells them to do so.

Also in danger of losing her post as deputy speaker is former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who represents Pampanga's 2nd district and who is against the death penalty.

Alvarez has said his majority coalition would replace Arroyo if she does not support Bill 4727.

There are speculations in the House that the former president, a staunch ally of President Duterte like Alvarez, is interested in the position of speaker.

(source: Philippine Star)

FEBRAURY 11, 2017:

TEXAS:

Meet the Texas warden who supervised the most executions

People against the death penalty protest outside the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas.

It's execution day, and there have been no last minute reprieves.

"I don't think we've ever executed an innocent person," said retired warden Charles Thomas O'Reilly.

The condemned killer now walks to the death chamber, knowing nothing can save him now.

"Myself and the chaplain, we're in the death house with the inmate," O'Reilly explained.

It's a process O'Reilly knows intimately.

Between 2004 and 2010, O'Reilly supervised 140 executions. The retired warden says each one was different.

"We had one guy that got in there, and he cracked jokes the whole time he was in there," O'Reilly said.

Among those executions, 1 was a woman, Frances Newton, in 2005.

"She didn't give us any trouble. We treated her with as much dignity as we would anybody else that would be in there," O'Reilly said.

He also watched over the execution of one of the most notorious criminals in Texas history: Angel Resendiz, the so-called "railroad killer" who traveled the country by rail, killing as many as 14 people, including Dr. Claudia Benton of West University Place.

"These are evil people," O'Reilly said. "While I believe there's a lot of good in the world, there's also evil in the world."

O'Reilly says he sleeps well at night -- no nightmares, no regrets.

"If you're a warden at the Walls, you're gonna preside over executions," O'Reilly said. "If that's a problem for you, don't take the job."

On the day of execution, the prisoner would be brought to Huntsville from death row in Livingston. O'Reilly would meet with the prisoner that afternoon, explain the process to him or her, and as the final hour approached, he would say, "It's time."

A team of guards would strap the inmate into the gurney and then, IVs would be inserted into his arms.

O’Reilly's would be the last voice the condemned would ever hear.

After that, by remote control, O'Reilly would turn on a light in another room where someone whose identity would be kept secret started the flow of drugs.

"He makes his final statement and then he goes to sleep," O'Reilly explained.

The retiree looks back at his career and says supervising more executions than any warden in Texas history is not what he wants to be remembered by.

O'Reilly says he'd rather be remembered as a good and fair warden who was just doing his job.

(source: KHOU news)

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

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Order New Hearing In Brazos County Death Penalty Case

A death row inmate from Brazos County is getting another court hearing.

That's after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the trial judge who removed himself after sentencing John Thuesen for capital murder nearly 7 years ago was not allowed to return to preside over Thuesen's post-trial appeals.

Justices on the state's highest criminal court found that the judge who assigned a replacement did not issue a formal ruling allowing the original judge to return.

The replacement judge was ordered to return and take no longer than 180 days to hear Thuesen's appeal and make a ruling.

This week's decision by the criminal appeals court, the 1st of its type in Texas, does not change the local jury's decision that Thuesen killed his ex-girlfriend and her brother in College Station almost 8 years ago...or the death penalty sentence issued by the trial judge.

(source: WTAW news)

VIRGINIA:

Judge orders mental evaluation for Henrico man accused of killing his parents on Easter

A judge on Friday ordered a mental evaluation to ensure that a Henrico County man charged with killing his parents last Easter is fit to stand trial.

Henrico Circuit Court Judge James Stephen Yoffy granted a defense motion for an evaluation of William Brissette. The judge ordered it to be finished by April 3 so attorneys could examine it.

Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon L. Taylor supported the motion for the mental examination.

The report, which will be done by a psychologist at the University of Virginia, will gauge whether Brissette is competent enough to understand the trial process and can help the attorneys defending him.

"There is concern here that the defense has raised that Mr. Brissette's mental illness has made him incapable of assisting in his defense," Douglas A. Ramseur, Brissette's attorney, said after Friday's court hearing.

Ramseur declined to specify what mental illness Brissette is suffering from.

Brissette, 23, is facing charges of capital murder in the case. He is accused of fatally shooting his parents, Henry J. Brissette III and Martha B. Brissette, on Easter Sunday last March. The punishment for that is life in prison or death.

Taylor has said that she intends to seek the death penalty, saying last September that her decision is based on the "vileness" of the crime and the likelihood of "future dangerousness."

But the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Central Virginia wrote a letter to Taylor Tuesday saying it opposes the death penalty in the Brissette case. Kathy Harkey, the group's executive director, wrote that she personally knew Brissette's biological grandmother,the late Miriam Blevins, who served on the group's board of directors.

"Based on my relationship with the late Mrs. Blevins, and my knowledge of this cruel disease from a professional and family member perspective, I feel confident that the late Miriam Blevins and her daughter, the late Martha Brissette, would find a death sentence to be a cruel and unusual punishment for their loved one William Brissette," Harkey wrote. "They would not want William to suffer additional psychological torture and death. They would want him to live and receive proper medical care for his treatable medical condition."

Friday's motion threw a kink into the court schedule.

The case had been set for a 2-week trial in June, but that has been withdrawn and a new trial date hasn't been rescheduled.

The next court hearing is on April 6 to discuss the results of the mental evaluation.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Asheville man removed from state's death row

A 39-year-old man who was sentenced to death in the 1996 murders of his aunt and her daughter was granted on Friday his bid to be removed from the state's death row roster, following an agreement by his defense attorneys and the Buncombe County district attorney.

"To family members and anyone who knew Joyce and Caroline, they were 2 very special people who were loved by a lot of people including myself," Phillip Antwan Davis said, pausing often in emotion. 'I regret everything that happened and it's something I'll regret for the rest of my life."

When he was sentenced to death in the murder of Joyce Miller, Davis at age 19 became the youngest person awaiting execution in North Carolina. A jury sentenced him to life without parole in the death of Caroline Miller, 17.

Defense attorneys for Davis in October filed a motion arguing that their client, who is black, should be sentenced to life without parole, citing concerns that he was handed death by an all-white jury.

Black juror's dismissal, death penalty revisited in double homicide

The one eligible African-American who was called as a prospective panelist for Davis' sentencing was stricken by a former assistant district attorney, who said she was concerned about the woman's ability to serve based on her T-shirt, one featuring Tweety Bird, and a cross earring.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a prospective juror cannot be removed from service based on race. In response, North Carolina's conference of district attorneys provided training in 1995 through a course called "Top Gun II," one that gave prosecutors a host of reasons to strike jury prospects, such as inappropriate dress or lack of eye contact.

While none of the reasons were based on race, critics have argued it was intended to weed out individuals who were not white.

District Attorney Todd Williams, who won that office in 2014, cited several reasons for agreeing that Davis should be resentenced to life without parole, including his age at the time of the crime. He was a few months beyond age 18. Had he been under 18, Davis would have been ineligible for the death penalty.

Williams also noted that after the crime Davis accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to the murders of his aunt and cousin, leaving it to a jury to decide between sentences of life and death.

He described that plea offer, one without a deal for life on the table, as "highly mitigating."

"The jury selection process serves as a bulwark against bias in the criminal justice system," Williams said after the hearing. "Our system has built-in checks on abuses such as discrimination and prosecutorial misconduct. When the system is not allowed to work as it's naturally intended to, that’s when you have a problem."

Of the family members he spoke with, Williams said he heard no one argue that Davis should remain on death row.

The murders likely stemmed from a suspected theft: Joyce Miller discovered $800 had disappeared and believed her nephew, who had purchased new clothes and a gold chain, had stolen the money. She returned the clothes and hid the necklace. Davis threatened his cousin, demanding its return.

He pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, the 1st for fatally shooting Caroline, and then shooting and attacking her mother with a meat cleaver.

Under the judgment entered by Superior Court Judge J. Thomas Davis of Rutherford County, Davis agreed to drop any appeals in the case, including a pending motion made under the now-vacated N.C. Racial Justice Act of 2009, which prohibited imposition of the death penalty based on race.

Relatives of Davis and the Millers did not appear at the hearing. Davis' mother lives in California, while a brother who appeared at a hearing late last year in support of a life sentence is in the military and could not return to Asheville, his attorneys said.

"From the earliest days, Phillip has expressed remorse and that has been as evident the 1st day as it was today," said Mark Kleinschmidt, who has represented Davis since 2001, along with attorney Shelagh Kenney. "He pleaded guilty in the beginning in an attempt to take responsibility."

Among those who did gather was Betty Bickford, a now-retired teacher at Oakley Elementary who taught Davis in the 5th grade.

She was in the courtroom for most of his sentencing in 1996 and the pair continue to write. In letters the former student she remembers as sensitive and sweet still talks about his remorse in the murders, she said.

"Our mouths dropped open when the jury walked in and they were all white," Bickford remembered. "I was sick because I didn't want him put to death."

After the hearing, a shackled Davis paused in front of Bickford and other supporters, thanking them for attending.

"I want to give you a big hug," his former teacher turned pen pal said to Davis, as she laid eyes on him for the 1st time in more than 2 decades.

"I do too," Davis responded.

The inmate exchanged brief snippets of conversation with supporters before being led away officers.

He was allowed to hug no one.

Death row inmates are not allowed contact visits, but with the resentencing and new imprisonment, Davis could be allowed to hug future visitors.

(source: Asheville Citizen-Times)

GEORGIA:

Former soldier uses PTSD defense in death penalty trial

A former sergeant in the Georgia National Guard said he does not remember shooting and killing an off-duty police officer outside a Griffin Waffle House almost 3 years ago, but he doesn't doubt that he did it.

Michael Bowman - the 1st defense witness called in his death penalty trial - is claiming post traumatic stress disorder from 3 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan caused him to react as if he were being attacked by the enemy when he allegedly shot and killed officer Kevin Jordan.

raigned in Waffle House shooting

"I just remember him telling us to leave, but I don't remember nothing else," Bowman, speaking so softly that at times it was hard to hear him, told a jury in LaGrange where the death penalty trial was moved because of too much local news coverage of the shooting.

Bowman said his only memory of early-morning events on May 31, 2014, was the impact of the bullets fired by the officer's brother, who happened to be there when Jordan was killed.

"It was like I was hit in the back with a ball bat," Bowman said.

The death penalty trial began with opening statements Tuesday and prosecutors concluded their case Thursday afternoon. Bowman was the 1st witness called by defense attorneys.

Bowman testified that they began that Friday evening at a local bar, Mama's Country Showcase, where they danced and shot pool. Bowman said he was not drinking.

He had come armed but left the gun in the car while he was inside the bar. He said he was armed most of the time because he found his hometown changed after his third deployment - more threatening because of crime and an increased prevalence of gangs.

Bowman left Mama's Country Showcase several hours later after he found his brother, Tyler Taylor, in the bar parking lot passed out and with vomit on his pants leg.

Bowman fetched his gun from the car before leaving with Taylor and Chantell Mixon, his girlfriend, to get something to eat.

But at the Waffle House, Mixon almost immediately created a disturbance, demanding to be served immediately, so they were asked to leave.

Witnesses told police Mixon became even more belligerent as officer Jordan, a 43-year-old father of 7, walked her out. In the parking lot, Bowman allegedly shot Jordan 5 times in the back as he tried to arrest Mixon.

Bowman's attorney spent most of the 3 hours of Bowman's testimony on his service with the Georgia National Guard. But the 32-year-old defendant also talked about the bad turns in his life after he was honorably discharged as a decorated sergeant in 2010.

Bowman said his missions in Iraq and Afghanistan included clearing roads of explosives, shooting to disable any vehicles that tried to follow their convoys, driving supply trucks to various outposts and providing protection to a colonel.

He was injured in an explosion on a road.

Bowman's testimony was monitored by a military attorney, who intervened if questions touched on sensitive topics.

Once Bowman returned to Georgia after his final deployment and took a job driving a truck, he suffered memories of some of the hundreds of combat missions, Bowman testified.

"I was having big problems with guard rails, trash and people driving slow," he said.

In the war zones, improvised explosive devices were often hidden on guard rails or under trash along the roads, Bowman explained. The practice was to drive 70 to 80 mph unless they were clearing roads of IEDs, and that is why slow drivers unnerved him, Bowman said.

Soon after his service was over, Bowman said, he started having nightmares. The dreams, still coming several times a week, were always the same, he said.

Each time, the "disturbing" dream started in a war zone and Bowman struggled to pull a malfunctioning trigger on his rifle. Then the scene would change to his home where someone was trying to break down his front door or in a mountain setting where someone was hiding behind a rock; the trigger didn't work in those settings either, Bowman said.

Bowman said each time he awoke from the dream, he would grab the pistol he kept on the nightstand or under his pillow and check the front door for evidence of an intruder. Then he would be awake until time to go to work.

He said, however, that he only asked the Veterans Administration for help with the ringing in his ears that started after he was hurt in an explosion and not for his troubled dreams.

Spalding County District Attorney Ben Coker, during cross-examination, pointed out that in each of the three assessments of his health after his deployment, Bowman claimed he was healthy and denied having any problems.

He also asked Bowman about the side effects of steroids he injected until about 12 weeks before Jordan was killed.

Did he know that steroids could cause sleeplessness, Coker asked.

Did he know steroids cause feelings of irritation, the district attorney asked.

Did he know that one of the steroids he took was not suitable for human use, Coker wanted to know.

Bowman answered "no" to each question.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi House passes bill for executions by gas chamber, firing squad

Lawmakers in the Mississippi House of Representatives have passed a bill that could reintroduce the gas chamber, firing squad and electric chair to execute prisoners on death row.

The last prisoner to be executed in Mississippi was in 2012, after which federal rulings on the constitutionality of the most common lethal injection protocol, combined with court challenges at the state level, have held off any state executions, though 47 prisoners remain on death row.

Under a bill passed in the state House 74-43, if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional, a series of other forms of execution would be used, unless they, too, are deemed cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

As written, the legislation first states lethal injection should be used. After that, a nitrogen gas chamber would be employed, followed by a firing squad and finally the electric chair.

Mississippi has used lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia and the electric chair at times during its history, officials said, though all executions since 1984 have been by injection. Utah also employs a firing squad as a means of capital punishment, but only if chosen by the inmate over lethal injection. The last time a prisoner was executed by gunfire was in 2010.

The bill is supported by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It has not been taken up by the state Senate.

(source: United Press International)

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

Firing squad executions are way to go

Mississippi lawmakers are advancing a bill that would bring the firing squad back to the Magnolia State. In a state where lethal injection is the only approved method of execution, lawmakers fear the courts may block such executions, thus removing the death penalty from the books in Mississippi.

House Bill 638 would make sure that, if the judiciary acts to undermine the will of Mississippians by striking lethal injection by judicial fiat, the state would be able to turn to the firing squad, electrocution or the gas chamber. In the words of House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, HB 638 is the 1st line of defense against death penalty challenges brought by "liberal, left-wing radicals."

"I have a constituent whose daughter was raped and killed by a serial killer over 25 years ago, and that person's still waiting for the death penalty," Gipson explained. "The family is still waiting for justice."

Does not Gipson have a point? In a land in which the law is king, how is it those who disregarded the law are able to exploit it to stave off a final judgement day?

When Giuseppe Zangara aimed his pistol at President Roosevelt on Feb. 15, 1933, and took a shot, he missed the president but did injure 4 people during his attempt, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Within 2 weeks of the assassination attempt, Zangara pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve 80 years. But also in 2 weeks, Cermak died as a result of his injuries.

Zangara faced a retrial for murder and was found guilty. He was sentenced to death and was legally executed on March 20, 1933 - just under 6 weeks after he tried to kill the president.

There is no evidence Zangara was convicted by a kangaroo court and no evidence to suggest he was innocent. Zangara attempted to kill a president and in doing so killed a mayor. The cost for his crime? Death. The justice system worked.

Where justice was delivered for Cermak in just over 25 days, Gipson's constituent is still waiting for justice after 25 years. For 25 years a victim's death has remained unavenged and a mother's sense of justice in doubt. This 25-year wait is testimony to moral cowardice that has infected our judicial branch.

By pushing HB 638, Mississippi lawmakers are taking a preemptive strike against a growing judicial culture of impotence when it comes to the death penalty. Forcing their own values on the people, judges have allowed their culturally corrupted conscience to interfere with their primary duty - delivering justice.

Rather than hold killers accountable, judges lament that lawmakers are succumbing to barbaric passions and long for a better way. The problem? It is not for the men and women in black to find the "better" way. It is their job to make sure the laws of a state (or a nation) are adhered to without finding ways to circumvent them.

Thus we find Mississippi working to join Oklahoma and Utah in resurrecting the firing squad and the elites fretting that Mississippi is going too far. How could a civilized society place a man before a firing squad, they ask. To these folks, that's 3rd-world justice.

But isn't a firing squad the most humane way to execute a criminal? Isn't death instantaneous? Where lethal injection could go array, causing prolonged pain, and electrocution could not work effectively, there is no doubt multiple bullets do the job quickly and safely.

This debate, however, is not about finding a humane way to deliver the ultimate justice; it is about abolishing the death penalty. So while others may look at Mississippi's firing squad and pity Mississippi, maybe they should transfer that pity to the victims who, thanks to the progressive mindset that has weakened the law's moral authority by superimposing a counterfeit compassion for capital convicts, are still waiting for justice.

(source: Guest Columnist; Joseph R. Murray II----Clarion-Ledger)

OHIO:

State postpones executions again, adds 5 more

Gov. John Kasich has postponed 8 scheduled executions as the state continues to work through legal challenges and attempt to locate supplies of the drugs it uses to put inmates to death.

The move Feb. 10 comes a couple of weeks after a federal magistrate judge blocked 3 executions that were scheduled through April, ruling that the new lethal injection process adopted by the state was unconstitutional.

Ronald Phillips, who was convicted in the brutal rape and murder of an Akron girl in 1993, was scheduled to be executed next week. He's now scheduled for execution on May 10.

Gary Otte, who faced a March 15 execution date in the killing of 2 people in Cuyahoga County in 1992, has been moved to June 13.

And Raymond Tibbetts, facing an April 12 execution for the murder of his wife an an elderly man in Hamilton County in1997, was pushed back to July 26.

The postponements continue a years-long legal challenge over Ohio's lethal injection protocols, following the execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014.

McGuire, who received a capital sentence for the rape and murder of a pregnant Preble County woman, gasped for breath during what witnesses described as a prolonged procedure under the state's 2-drug execution method.

In early 2015, state prison officials abandoned that combination, switching to 2 different drugs, though that protocol has not been used.

The state and others have struggled to find supplies of execution drugs, after manufacturers blocked their use for lethal injections. State law changes enabled the purchase of drugs from compounding pharmacies, under legislation that allowed the names of those businesses to be kept secret, but prison officials have not identified or obtained supplies in that way.

In October, state prison officials announced a new 3-drug lethal injection protocol, using midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. But a federal magistrate judge last month ruled the new process was unconstitutional, noting in documents, "The court concludes that use of midazolam as the 1st drug in Ohio's present 3-drug protocol will create a 'substantial risk of serious harm' or an 'objectively intolerable risk of harm'"

The governor's office announced Friday that a pending review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was not expected to be completed in time already-scheduled executions.

According to the governor's office, "Accordingly, these delays are necessary to allow the judicial process to come to a full resolution, and ensure that the state can move forward with the executions."

Asked earlier this month whether the state would ever in a position to execute inmates, Kasich responded, "I don't know. I just don't have the answer to that We have a guy that raped and murdered a 3-year-old girl. He's next in line. I can't tell the judges what to do. Some of them are probably philosophically opposed to the death penalty. No matter what we do, they're going to remain opposed to it. I don't have any better answer to that."

He added, "I would like to proceed. There's no joy or anything in this. It's just it's a matter of justice, particularly for the families that have been aggrieved. We'll do the best we can."

Kasich has postponed executions on several occasions since McGuire's death. Other dates that were pushed back Feb. 10 included:

Alva Campbell, Jr., convicted in the 1997 murder of a Franklin County man, to Sept. 13 from May 10.

William Montgomery, convicted in the 1986 murder of 2 women in Lucas County, to Oct. 18 from June 13.

Robert Van Hook, convicted in the 1985 murder of a Hamilton County man, to Nov. 15 from July 26.

Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, convicted in the 1991 murder of a Hamilton County girl, to April 17, 2019, from Sept. 13.

Melvin Bonnell, convicted in the 1987 murder of a Cuyahoga County man, to April 11, 2018, from Oct. 18.

More than 30 executions are scheduled through early 2021.

(source: Twinsburg Bulletin)

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

Ohio governor delays 8 executions as court fight continues

Gov. John Kasich on Friday delayed 8 executions as a court fight continues over the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection process.

Kasich's announcement postponed the execution of a condemned child killer scheduled for next week until May and moved 7 other procedures months into the future.

The Republican governor said the timing of arguments before a Cincinnati federal appeals court necessitated the delay. The court is hearing Ohio's appeal of a federal judge's order finding the state's latest execution process unconstitutional.

Kasich said he's confident Ohio will win the appeal but that the court calendar didn't provide enough time to prepare for executions scheduled this month, next month and April.

"These delays are necessary to allow the judicial process to come to a full resolution, and ensure that the state can move forward with the executions after the appeal is settled," Kasich said.

The delay also leaves open the possibility that, should the appeal reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the court's vacant 9th seat, will be confirmed and able to hear the case.

The delay was another setback for death penalty supporters who hoped that new supplies of drugs obtained by Ohio last year would allow executions to move forward after a 3-years-plus delay.

The state has said it has enough drugs for 4 executions, but records obtained by The Associated Press indicate Ohio could have enough on hand to put dozens of killers to death.

Ronald Phillips, scheduled to die Feb. 15 for raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993, is now set for execution May 10.

Also Friday, the Ohio Parole Board rejected a clemency request by Gary Otte, who shot 2 people to death in back-to-back robberies over 2 days in suburban Cleveland in 1992. The board cited the "heinous" nature of the killings. Kasich on Friday moved Otte's execution date from March 15 to June 13.

At issue is a federal judge's ruling last month rejecting the state's latest proposed 3-drug execution method, which hasn't been used in Ohio.

As part of that decision, Magistrate Judge Michael Merz said Ohio didn't prove that the st drug in its current 3-drug process, the sedative midazolam, doesn't present a substantial risk of harm.

Merz also said the possibility exists that Ohio could obtain the barbiturate pentobarbital.

Ohio says it has made numerous unsuccessful efforts to find pentobarbital. In a court filing last week, state attorneys said they asked 7 other states for the drug.

The prisons agency also tried in vain to obtain the active ingredient in pentobarbital in hopes of having a compounded version made, the filing said.

The filing says Ohio asked Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Virginia for the drug.

"None of those states agreed to provide pentobarbital to Ohio," according to the filing, which summarized a sealed deposition by Stephen Gray, the prison agency's in-house lawyer.

The filing doesn't say when Ohio made those requests. Of the 7 states, only Georgia, Missouri and Texas appear to have reliable sources of pentobarbital when needed. Those states won't reveal the source.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014 when Ohio used a never-tried 2-drug combo that it then abandoned.

The prison system says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year permitted midazolam's use.

"Ohio has the capability to perform constitutional executions now. It should be permitted to do so," Thomas Madden, an assistant attorney general, said in Ohio's appeal.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has scheduled arguments for Feb. 21.

The prisons system changed its execution process because it can't find pentobarbital, said Gary Mohr, the agency's director, who said the agency is "comfortable" with its position before the appeals court.

"This is a serious responsibility, and we work hard to carry out executions in a humane manner, with the utmost respect for the law, for victims, and for justice," Mohr said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "That commitment is unwavering."

The state also said in its filing:

- Ohio can't import pentobarbital or its active ingredient from a foreign manufacturer because the state's application to add pentobarbital to its current federal importer registration hasn't been acted on in 4 months.

- Even if Ohio had a license to import the drug, it hasn't identified any company that would provide it.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Parole board rejects clemency plea from Gary Otte in Parma murders

The Ohio Parole Board has recommended that Gov. John Kasich reject the clemency request of an inmate sentenced to die for killing 2 people in Parma in 1992.

Gary Otte made his plea for mercy in an interview with the Parole Board in January. The board considered arguments at a hearing earlier this month.

Otte is scheduled to die by lethal injection June 13. His execution date was 1 of 8 rescheduled as a result of a lawsuit by inmates over Ohio's lethal injection protocol. The Kasich administration announced the new execution dates Friday.

What was the crime?

On Feb. 12, 1992, Otte shot 61-year-old Robert Wasikowski in the head and stole $413 after talking his way into Wasikowski's home at the Pleasant Lake apartment complex. The next day, Otte forced his way into Sharon Kostura's apartment in the same complex and shot her in the head. He stole $45, car keys and a checkbook from the 45-year-old woman.

A Cuyahoga County court convicted Otte guilty of 2 counts of aggravated murder and other crimes later that year. His received death sentences for both of the killings.

What did Otte's lawyers argue?

At the clemency hearing, Otte's lawyers argued his life should be spared because he was repeatedly bullied as a child and that bullying led to drug and alcohol use and depression that led him to commit his crimes.

Otte's trial lawyers failed to effectively present mitigating evidence that could have prompted his trial court to reject a death penalty in favor of life in prison, his lawyers argued. Life without parole, which wasn't an available sentence when Otte was tried for his crimes, would be a fitting and just punishment, they said.

What did the parole board decide?

The parole board rejected Ott's arguments, voting 11-0 against clemency.

The report now goes to Kasich, who ultimately will decide Otte's fate.

(source: cleveland.com)

ARKANSAS:

Jail guard's slaying death-penalty case

Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black said Thursday that her office intends to seek the death penalty for an Arkansas prison inmate accused of beating one female guard to death and seriously injuring another at the Miller County jail in December.

Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 27, has been formally charged with capital murder of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty in the death of correctional officer Lisa Mauldin and with 1st-degree battery of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty for injuries he allegedly inflicted on correctional officer Damaris Allen.

Hunter faces the possibility of a death sentence or life without the possibility of parole if found guilty of capital murder in Mauldin's death, and the possibility of 10 to 40 years or life in prison if found guilty of battery in the assault of Allen.

Hunter is accused of attacking Mauldin, 47, at about 1 p.m. Dec. 18 in the jail's kitchen, according to a probable cause affidavit. Hunter used his hands to inflict fatal injuries on Mauldin, according to the affidavit, and was met by Allen, 35, as he tried to leave the kitchen.

"Hunter struck Allen in the face, knocking her to the floor," the affidavit said. "Hunter then struck Allen with her portable radio. Hunter dropped the radio and struck Allen with his fist several times. Hunter then ran out of the kitchen and was apprehended in the hallway by other detention deputies."

Hunter was serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery and 2 counts of felony domestic battery as part of a plea bargain in Pulaski County, court records show. Case documents show that Hunter's convictions stem from a Jan. 27, 2010, confrontation at a relative's home in Little Rock.

Hunter shot his uncle when the uncle tried to stop him from stealing his mother's car and then fired a 2nd shot, striking his mother, before driving away in her rented Dodge Charger, according to case records. Hunter's mother and uncle survived.

Hunter told investigators he intended to kill himself when his funds were exhausted. He said he left town and switched the plates on the car after spending a couple of nights in Texarkana before heading to the Houston/Galveston area.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

MISSOURI:

Craig Wood willing to take life in prison to avoid death penalty, attorney says

Craig Wood is willing to spend the rest of his life in prison if, in exchange, the Greene County prosecutor drops his pursuit of the death penalty, according to an exclusive interview with Wood's attorney.

Patrick Berrigan, Wood's attorney from the public defender's capital case division, said he sent a letter to Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson on Oct. 31 telling the prosecutor Wood is willing to plead guilty to murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014 and agree to a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Berrigan told the News-Leader about the proposal Thursday. He said the crimes Wood is accused of committing - snatching Hailey off the street, taking her back to his house, raping her and killing her - are "terrible" and "egregious."

Berrigan said what separates Wood from other people recently sentenced to death in this country - like church-shooter Dylann Roof in South Carolina - is remorse.

"Craig Wood has a great deal of remorse about this case," Berrigan said. "Some people would find that persuasive, or at least a factor, in decisions about life or death."

Berrigan said this week he hasn't heard back from the prosecutor about the proposal.

4 months after Wood was charged in 2014, Patterson said he would pursue the death penalty against Wood, citing a Missouri statute that allows the death penalty if a crime is "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman."

Patterson said Friday that ethics rules prohibit him from publicly discussing possible plea negotiations.

"At this point, we are still proceeding with the prosecution of the case," Patterson said.

Stacey Barfield, Hailey's mother, said after a pretrial court appearance Wednesday that it is difficult for her to sit through the proceedings.

Attorney David Ransin, who represents Hailey's parents, said Hailey's parents want to avoid a trial, but the most important thing for them is coming to a resolution that is "air-tight."

"We want it done right," Ransin said.

Ransin said the worst thing for the family would be for Wood to plead guilty and for the family to think everything was behind them, only for the case to be opened back up if Wood appealed his conviction.

Ransin said he believes Patterson is still gathering information about the case.

"My understanding is that Dan's position is there is more to be done and more information to be obtained before he is comfortable fulfilling his duty to the state, to the community as well as the family to make the right decision with regard to accepting a plea or proceeding to trial," Ransin said.

Patterson said he is listening to input from Hailey's family as the case moves forward.

"As in all cases, we talk about these things with the family and will consider the victim's family's input as we move along," Patterson said.

Patterson said other factors are also considered in death-penalty cases, including the facts of the case, the defendant and the interests of the community and the state.

After a 2nd rescheduling last year, Wood's trial is now set for October.

If Wood goes to trial and is found guilty, there would be a separate proceeding to decide whether or not to put Wood to death.

4 days after Hailey's death, an estimated 10,000 people marched in a candlelight vigil for Hailey on Commercial Street in Springfield. The Jefferson Avenue footbridge, where the march ended, was illuminated in purple, Hailey's favorite color.

Many others in Springfield left their porch lights on in memory of Hailey and donated to her memorial fund.

Berrigan, Wood's attorney, has been working capital cases for three decades. He said the majority of the death-penalty cases that he has worked have ended with negotiated pleas.

Wood, 48, has been charged with kidnapping, rape and murder in connection with Hailey's death on Feb. 18, 2014.

Springfield police say the girl's body was found wrapped in garbage bags in Wood's basement, hours after witnesses saw someone matching Wood's description grab Hailey off the street near her home.

Berrigan acknowledged this week that prosecutors have a strong case against Wood. He said he has no idea whether they will accept his plea offer.

Wood took the stand briefly during a pretrial court appearance last year, and during cross-examination, he said he was high on meth during the time frame in which he is accused of abducting and killing Hailey.

Much of the recent court proceedings in the case have dealt with mental evaluations for Wood, and what rights prosecutors have to see notes from psychologists and to have their own psychologist interview Wood.

In Jefferson City, Hailey's parents have been focused on legislation that would speed up Missouri's Amber Alerts, which are issued for abducted children.

Wood's parents, Jim and Regina Wood, have teamed up with the Barfields to advocate for the legislation, which has been dubbed Hailey's Law.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)

NEBRASKA:

Gov. Ricketts says Nebraska moving forward to carry out capital punishment

Gov. Pete Ricketts says his administration is moving to carry out executions in wake of voter approval of the death penalty.

Ricketts has signed off on a lethal injection protocol drafted by the Department of Correctional Services. The governor says the department is working on plans to revive capital punishment. He says there is no timeline at present to carry out executions.

Ricketts says the administration is simply carrying out the will of the people.

"The vast majority of Nebraskans voted to keep capital punishment as a tool for public safety; 61% of the folks voted in favor of it," Ricketts tells reporters. "So, it's really up to us now in state government to be able to carry out the will of the people and be able to implement those sentences."

Voters in November overturned the Unicameral's repeal of the death penalty.

Nebraska has 10 inmates on death row. The state last carried out an execution 20 years ago.

Corrections officials revised the initial lethal injection protocol it proposed following a public hearing on it, removing a provision that would have kept secret the supplier of lethal injection drugs.

State Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell sponsors LB 661 which would allow state officials to withhold information that would identify individuals or businesses making, compounding, or prescribing drugs for lethal injection. The Government, Military, and Veterans Committee heard public testimony on the bill Thursday.

Ricketts says his administration will push forward with or without the measure.

"Other states have passed this as a way to do it," Ricketts says. "We've got a protocol right now that we're working on with regard to regulations. Whether we have a shield law or not, we're going to pursue our regulation. Certainly, again, I'll let the legislature vet through their process. Other states have passed shield laws as a way to help them. So, this certainly has potential."

Sen. Kuehn has testified that 15 or the 31 states with the death penalty have shield laws. He says he has modeled his bill after a shield law adopted in Georgia.

Nebraska does not have the drugs needed to carry out an execution by lethal injection.

(source: nebraskaradionetwork.com)

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

New bill would keep suppliers of lethal injection drugs secret in Nebraska

A proposal keep the suppliers of death penalty drugs secret gets a mixed reaction in the Capitol Thursday.

Supporters and opponents lined up to testify on LB 661.

The measure offered by Sen. John Kuehn, of Heartwell, would create an exemption in the state's open records law.

The drugs, the make-up and testing of the compounds would all be public, except for names of individuals and companies who provide the drugs for an execution.

"Disclosing the identity of suppliers subjects them to very real risk of harm, violence and harassment that would prevent the state from obtaining compounds to preform state obligations," Kuehn told the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

He said that Nebraskans sent a clear message when they voted overwhelming by 61 % to keep the death penalty, and lawmakers have a responsibility to fix the system.

Corrections director Scott Frakes testified that the states that have carried out lethal injection executions all have similar "shield laws."

"I firmly believe this bill is needed to remove a tool that death penalty opponents will continue to use to frustrate and stymie the will of the voters," Frakes said.

But opponents argued it could allow the state to obtain the drugs through shady methods.

"It may be a thief. It may be a crooked company,"Alan Peterson, who represents a death row inmate, said.

Peterson said the state has a long tradition of open records.

That information will come out anyway, because a state shield law wouldn't provide protection in federal courts, where most death penalty cases end up.

"This isn't going to stop that. So the compelling reason is don't sacrifice, along with the person who is being killed, the transparency of state government.

That's really a sacrifice," Peterson said.

Other opponent said that if this law was in place, Nebraskans would never have known the state paid $54,000 to Harris Pharma, an overseas broker, to obtain a lethal injection drug it never received.

That same broker was accused of re-directing drugs for executions that were supposed to go from medical uses in developing countries.

But, Sen. Kuehn argued that this issue goes beyond just executions.

He said that because of harassment, companies have cut back producing anesthetics that are also used in other medical procedures.

Kuehn said that caused dangerous medical shortages.

"How many medical patients will suffer have less-than optimal medical or surgical care, or die, to protect convicted death row inmates," Kuehn said.

In January, Gov. Pete Ricketts approved a new execution protocol that would allow the director of corrections to select which drugs would be used in a execution.

(source: KETV news)

MONTANA:

Montana Death Penalty Repeal Bill Narrowly Defeated

A bill asking for the end of capital punishment was narrowly voted down in the Montana House today.

Days after hearing testimony from clergy, young conservative lawmakers, and an exonerated death-row inmate from Arizona asking for the end of capital punishment, state lawmakers voted against their request.

The bill, HB-366, introduced by Adam Hertz, a freshman Republican from Missoula, was voted down largely along party lines - Democrats voting in favor of abolishing the death penalty and Republicans tending to vote against.

Shortly before the House Judiciary committee voted, Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway, a Republican from Great Falls, passed out a picture of her sister-in law and asked the lawmakers on the committee to imagine something - a daughter, being murdered, beaten with a pop bottle and stabbed in the throat, eventually running out of blood. Then she gets tossed in the trunk of a car.

Lola Sheldon-Galloway says the bill, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, was too weak in its language. She says some people, convicted of heinous crimes, shouldn't be able to leave a prison alive.

"There is a better option, than this particular legislation," Sheldon-Galloway says. "And I will definitely vote no on it, for that reason."

When the bill was introduced earlier this week, no-one testified against it. Before the vote, Representative Shane Morigeau, a Democrat from Missoula, asked lawmakers to consider the mistakes that can be made in the death penalty system.

"We are not perfect in our sentencing," Morigeau says. "We make mistakes all the time. And I think sentencing 1 person to death and making a mistake one time, is 1 time too many."

The bill to abolish capital punishment failed 10 votes to 9. Attempts to remove the death penalty from Montana's books have failed in every legislative session this century. There are currently 2 men sitting on death row.

(source: mtpr.org)

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

Panel tables bill to abolish Montana's death penalty

A legislative committee has tabled a bill that would abolish Montana's death penalty.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 Friday against advancing the measure to the full House. The bill could be revived, but it is likely dead for the legislative session.

Bills to abolish the state's death penalty have failed in every legislative session since 1999, which is as far back as the Legislature's online bill-tracking archive goes.

Executions in Montana were blocked in 2015 when a state judge ruled that the state doesn't have access to one of the drugs that can be legally used in lethal injections.

There are 2 inmates on the state's death row. The state's last execution was in 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Family of Phoenix woman oppose death penalty in murder case

The family of a Phoenix woman who's accused of killing her 3 young sons last year are again speaking out against prosecutors' plans to seek the death penalty.

Octavia Rogers had a status conference in her case Thursday. Her next court hearing is May 1.

Rogers was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury in the deaths last June of 8-year-old Jaikare Rahaman, 5-year-old Jeremiah Adams and 2-month-old Avery Robinson.

Authorities say the 3 children were fatally stabbed and partially dismembered.

Rogers has pleaded not guilty. She remains in custody on 3 charges of premeditated 1st-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Rogers deserves the death penalty because the killings were committed in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

An attorney for Rogers' family says his clients will fight against that plan.

(source: Associated Press)

NIGERIA:

UK Urges Nigeria To Stop Death Penalty

The British high commissioner, Paul Arkwright has urged that Nigeria should prohibit death penalty. This is in support of the recent call by the EU Heads of Mission in Nigeria to uphold the moratorium on the capital punishment.

In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend by the British High Commission, the Ambassador noted that, "on 1st February, 2017, Lagos state signed a law authorising death penalty for anyone convicted of kidnapping where the victim dies. It's also regrettable that as recently as 23 December, 2016, Nigeria witnessed the execution of 3 prisoners authorised by the Edo state government.

"These actions have undermined the progress Nigeria made in upholding the moratorium on the death penalty. I fully associate myself with the recent call by EU Heads of Mission in Nigeria to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty that has been in place since 2006.

"We remain open to working with the Nigerian government and civil society to push forward the debate towards abolition of the death penalty," the statement concluded.

According to a report by the EU Heads of Mission on death penalty in Edo state, the Mission had shown deep regret at the execution of 3 Nigerian prisoners on 23 December 2016, an execution authorised by the Edo state government. The EU further stressed upon the universality of human rights including the right to life, while opposing the death penalty in all circumstances.

(source: nigeriatoday.ng)

VIETNAM:

Vietnam to build 5 more lethal injection venues

5 more venues to facilitate lethal injections will be built in Vietnam in the coming time according to the Ministry of Public Security.

A report from the ministry showed that since the 1st execution carried out using lethal injection in August 2013, 429 prisoners on death row had been executed by this method by July 2016 at 5 facilities in Hanoi, HCM City, Nghe An, Son La, and Dak Lak.

The National Assembly amended the Penal Code in 1999 and 2009 in which the number of death-eligible crimes were reduced from 44 to 22. However, the number of death sentences, especially in crimes relating to drugs, murder, and rape, has not declined for many reasons, the report said.

There were 1,134 criminals given death sentences in 5 years between July 1st, 2011 and June 30th, 2016.

According to the ministry, there have been many difficulties in carrying out executions using lethal injection instead of firing squads during the trial period, especially in obtaining lethal drugs and relieving the pressure of holding hundreds of death row inmates in prison.

"But this is certainly a more humane method of execution which causes less pain to the convicted and their family, and relieves pressure on executors, the ministry claimed.

The injection will contain 3 substances -- sodium thiopental, an anesthetic; pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant; and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

(source: vietnamnet.vn)

PHILIPPINES:

The clock is ticking on anti-death penalty lawmakers----House rules state every lawmaker has the right to speak for an hour in a plenary debate, but after a recent majority ruling, anti-death penalty congressmen now have fewer minutes on the floor

Time is literally running out for congressmen attempting to block the return of the death penalty in the country.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is already targeting the middle of March for the passage of House Bill (HB) Number 4727, and he is bent on seeing this through with a threat against House leaders who will vote against the measure.

But even on the plenary floor, every lawmaker who will interpellate the bill's sponsors will find limited minutes to argue against the death penalty.

This comes after a questionable interpretation of the House rule allotting a 1-hour speaking time per congressman that was agreed upon by a majority of lawmakers during the February 8 death penalty debate.

A back and forth exchange was occurring between anti-death penalty lawmaker and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman and HB 4727 sponsor and House justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali at the time.

Deputy Speaker Mylene Garcia-Albano then interrupted the 2 and requested that Lagman end his interpellation as he had already gone beyond his time limit.

She cited Section 91, Rule XII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, which states: "A Member shall not be allowed to speak for more than one (1) hour in debate on any question. No Member shall speak more than once on the same question without leave of the House, unless the Member is the proponent of the motion or has introduced the question or the matter pending, in which case the Member shall be permitted to speak in reply, but not until every Member who chooses to speak on the pending question or matter shall have spoken."

But Lagman objected to Albano's request, arguing that the leadership should not be including in his time count the minutes Umali spent replying to his questions.

"Madam Speaker, I have not spoken for more than one hour in my interpellation. I would appeal to the records of the House on the minutes I have consumed. Because in counting the one hour, we should not include the time utilized by the sponsor," said Lagman.

"My questions are short, but the answers of the sponsors are inordinately long. So my 1 hour has not been consumed," appealed Lagman.

Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc, however, raised a point of order and referred to the clock in the plenary hall to explain that Lagman was supposedly talking for 1 hour and 32 minutes already.

But Lagman continued to fight the majority lawmakers.

Tactics

"The clock is not the reckoning of the time I have consumed. It should be the transcription which should tell us how many minutes I have consumed. But if the leadership of the House would like to gag me, then they can do that," said the opposition legislator.

He was then given another 5 minutes to further explain before Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas stood up and asked his colleagues to finally vote on Lagman's appeal.

"The gentleman appealed the ruling of the chair. He has explained his appeal. Now we will now vote on the appeal. For the guidance of the members, a vote of yes on the appeal or 'aye' will uphold the appeal. So a vote of 'nay' will deny the appeal," said Farinas.

Albano then proceeded to oversee the ayes and nays vote despite Lagman repeatedly calling out "Madam chair! Madam chair!" on the microphone.

There was a resounding "Nay!" among the 156 lawmakers present, so Lagman lost his appeal.

This ruling means that should HB 4727's sponsors spend a good number of minutes answering the questions addressed to them, it would be to the detriment of the anti-death penalty lawmakers' respective time limits.

It remains to be seen if they can make a good case against capital punishment in the coming days.

Time is gold, they say. At the House, where the battle for the death penalty's return is raging, the value of time seems higher than ever before.

(source: rappler.com)

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

Origins of death penalty

For those who think that the debate on whether or not we should have death penalty is about Duterte's war on drugs and crime here are some reminders.

Death penalty goes a long way back. It is said to be a punishment for crimes contained in the ancient Laws of China. Or even earlier, in a more distant time and place. "In the 18th Century BC, the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes, although murder was not one of them."

A lady senator argues that the death penalty will not solve the country's drug problem. I think the senator misunderstands. Punishing evil is not about eliminating evil because that is impossible. It is about protecting the innocent who become victims of unpunished crime.

She cites the Amnesty International report which said that "thousands of people have been executed for drug offenses since 1959 in Iran. In 2015, Iran had 829 executions, 571 for drug-related offenses. However, the Iranian government itself admitted that the death penalty has failed to reduce drug trafficking in the country," she said.

It is shocking how a lawmaker can say the punishment of crime will not deter crime. Why make laws at all if it is useless? She then cites "Hong Kong and Singapore which have identical murder rates, despite the former abolishing the death pen in 1993 and the latter mandatorily imposing the death pen for murder & other crimes."

I hope senators vote wisely on Senate Bill No. 1313 which is about "the Barangay Health and Rehabilitation Strategy of 2017."

The CBCP must be careful about issuing a statement against its own teaching. I would be partial to what greater theologians have long held that capital punishment is a form of "lawful slaying."

The teaching of the Catholic Church categorizes capital punishment as a form of "lawful slaying," a view defended by theological authorities such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Augustine held that the death penalty was "a means of deterring the wicked and protecting the innocent."

Here is a word from Dan Van Ness president of Justice Fellowship when he called for "A Call to Dialogue on Capital Punishment."

"Scripture mandates capital punishment.

"The principal argument is that because life is sacred, those who wrongfully take another human life must lose their own lives. This is a form of restitution; a matter of justice - the state purging itself of those who shed innocent blood.

Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." This is part of the larger covenant that God made with Noah after the flood. It not only reflects the great value of human life, but also gives the reason for that value: Man is made in God's image. The absolute language of Genesis 9:6 suggests that all those who kill another human being must be killed. And since this mandate was given long before the Mosaic Law to all who survived the flood, it apparently has universal application.

The Law, as given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, ordained execution for several offenses: murder (but not accidental killings), striking or cursing a parent, kidnapping, adultery, incest, bestiality, sodomy, rape of a betrothed virgin, witchcraft, incorrigible delinquency, breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, sacrificing to false gods, oppressing the weak, and other transgressions. (See Exod. 21, 22, 35; Lev. 20 & 24; Deut. 21-24.)

While no New Testament passage expressly mandates capital punishment, several imply its appropriateness. For example, in Romans 13:1-7 Paul calls his readers to submit to the authority of civil government, reminding them that "if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the authority] does not bear the sword for nothing." In its ultimate use, the word sword implies execution.

Christ's death on the cross ended the requirement for blood recompense and blood sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, replaced the sacrifice of animals. His death also made it unnecessary to execute murderers to maintain human dignity and value because the crucifixion forever established human value. Hebrews 9:14 says, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

Christ's teaching emphasizes forgiveness and willingness to suffer evil rather than resist it by force. This may not be definitive on the issue of the state's authority to execute, but it does demonstrate a different approach to responding to evil than that established on Mt. Sinai. Christ’s example in not demanding death for the adulteress supports this argument (John 8).

The Bible permits capital punishment see strengths in both the pro and the con arguments, but disagree with the conclusions of both.

As noted previously, Scripture includes many provisions for capital punishment. The Mosaic Law significantly limited the scope of Genesis 9:6. For example, individuals guilty of manslaughter or accidentally causing another's death were exempted from the death penalty.

New Testament passages assume the existence of the death penalty but don't take a position one way or the other. Romans 13 comes closest to speaking of the state's authority to execute, but significantly it refers to the state's authority, not obligation, to execute.

Those who believe that Scripture mandates or permits capital punishment must move on to another question: What conditions does Scripture give before the state may exercise capital punishment? The Old Testament Law did not simply address the "whether" of capital punishment; it also spoke of the "how." These provisions need not be literally carried out today for our death-penalty statutes to meet biblical standards. For example, Deuteronomy 17 required the condemning witnesses to throw the first stones. This is impossible today, because stoning is not a current method of execution. However, the principle is that witnesses were held responsible for the consequences of their testimony, encouraging truthfulness.

(source: Opinion; Carmen Pedrosa, The Philippine Star)

FEBRUARY 10, 2017:

TEXAS----new execution date

New death date for inmate spared from execution this week

A Texas death row inmate whose execution date scheduled for this week was halted because of a legal technicality has received a new execution date.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says the prison agency has received court documents setting 37-year-old prisoner Tilon Carter's lethal injection for May 16.

Carter had been set to die Tuesday for smothering an 89-year-old man during a robbery at the man's Fort Worth home. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order last Friday halting the punishment because a state office that represents death row inmates was notified of the scheduled punishment a half-day late, a violation of state law.

Carter was condemned for the 2004 robbery and slaying of James Tomlin, a retired Bell Helicopter worker.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----22

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----540

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

23---------March 7------------------Rolando Ruiz----------541

24---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------542

25---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------543

26---------May 16-------------------Tilon Carter----------544

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

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

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Sentence for Killing Guard

The Florida Supreme Court is upholding the conviction and death sentence for a man who killed a Daytona Beach corrections officer.

The court on Thursday rejected arguments by Enoch Hall that his attorney mishandled his case. The court also noted that his sentence should remain in place because a jury unanimously recommended the death penalty.

Hall was serving life sentences in the sexual battery and kidnapping of a 66-year-old woman when he killed a corrections officer. Hall stabbed 50-year-old Donna Fitzgerald 22 times with sheet metal in 2008.

Fitzgerald was alone while supervising Hall and others in an inmate work program. An investigation determined Hall may not have been eligible for the program, and Fitzgerald should've had a radio or body alarm to summon help.

(source: WTXL news)

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

Death sentence tossed out in Florida drive-by shooting case

The Florida Supreme Court is throwing out the death sentence of a Jacksonville man convicted in a drive-by shooting that killed a young girl watching television at her grandma's house.

The high court on Thursday upheld Rasheem Dubose's conviction for the crime, but ordered a new sentencing hearing because a jury did not unanimously agree to impose the death penalty. The court in a split decision recently ruled that death sentences require a unanimous jury recommendation if the sentence was imposed after a 2002 key ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

DreShawna Washington-Davis, 8, was killed when 29 shots were fired into her house in July 2006. Authorities said the shooting was a retaliatory strike against the child's uncle.

Dubose's brothers, Terrell Dubose and Tajuane Dubose, were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the crime.

(source for both: Associated Press)

ALABAMA:

Former Alabama death row inmates to share their stories of confinement, freedom

Racism, poverty, freedom and confinement will be the focus of speeches delivered by 2 former Alabama death row inmates, sharing their stories at the University of North Alabama later this month.

Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row, and Gary Drinkard, who was released after 5 years, will share their stories of exoneration and wrongful conviction during a conference at UNA Feb. 23-24. The events are open to the public.

Hinton walked free in April 2015 at age 52. He'd been on death row for 30 years for the 1985 murders of 2 Birmingham fast food restaurant managers. Hinton and his attorneys asked prosecutors for years to retest the gun that linked him to the crime.

On April 3, Anthony Ray Hinton walked free, prosecutors dropping the charges - the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered a retrial - that he'd killed 2 men in a Birmingham area fast food managers in 1985. The bullets didn't match up beyond a doubt, the state said.

Shortly before his release, new tests ultimately ruled that the bullets found at the crime scenes couldn't be conclusively linked to the gun or to each other.

Hinton's conviction, he has said, is rooted in racism, poverty and failures of the criminal justice system.

"We want to help people think critically about the crimes and evidence that warrant sentencing someone to death," said Stephanie Renee Adair, one of several English graduate students helping plan the conference at UNA.

Incarceration has been a focus of Alabama politics recently, particularly with Gov. Robert Bentley's plans of spending millions on new prisons to house the state's inmates, who currently are being held in overcrowded facilities.

Bentley will propose a plan similar to the one he proposed last year, borrowing $800 million to build 4 new prisons, while closing most of the existing prisons.

"Mass incarceration is a crisis, but we're not really answering why," said Katie Owens-Murphy, an assistant professor of English at UNA. "Maybe the problem isn't with space but rather with the way the criminal justice system itself operates. Anthony Ray Hinton and Gary Drinkard show how it becomes possible to convict and sentence innocent people, even to death."

Gary Drinkard spent 5 years on death row for the Morgan County murder of Dalton Pace, a junkyard dealer. But, he was released in 2000 after getting a new trial. Drinkard said his lawyers weren't up to the task of defending him in a death penalty case the 1st time around, and the Alabama Supreme Court threw out his 1st conviction.

7 men have been released from death row in Alabama since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. One man who has been there shares his experience.

The 2 are speaking at the Alabama Regional Graduate Conference because its focus this year is on confinement. Graduate students have studied prison literature as part of their focus on American literature.

Anthony Ray Hinton and Gary Drinkard show how it becomes possible to convict and sentence innocent people, even to death.

Rather than having only academic research and scholarship tell the story of the criminal justice system, Adair said the conference will offer a real-life testimony of the system's failures.

"We're putting on human face on how the system can go wrong," Adair said.

Hinton will speak Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. in UNA's Guillot University Center. Drinkard will speak at 4 p.m. the next day.

(source: al.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi's Death Penalty Bill Would DESTROY What Makes Us Human

We are the ones who will be hurt by this.

While commuting home last night with my boyfriend, he asked me a very interesting question. Well, interesting and alarming. "Do you think that there will start being real fist fights in Congress?"

I wanted to say no, that our country was civilized and humane, that we solved things with words.

But then I really thought about the simmering resentment and anger that's been brewing since before the election, and I had to think differently: America is coming dangerously close to losing what makes us special - our civility.

Of the 33 states in this country that have the death penalty, lethal injection is the primary method in which executions are carried out. This continues to be true, even in the face of mass shortages of the drugs used to put convicted felons to death.

In Oklahoma and Utah, death by firing squad is still technically legal, by it's more of a legal holdover than anything else.

The last time a man was killed by firing squad was in 2010. Convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner requested the firing squad because he felt it was more in keeping with Mormon beliefs.

Even though the choice of death was his own, it caused tremendous controversy at the time for obvious reasons chief among them the fact that we as a people believe ourselves more civilized than that manner of execution would make us seem.

The 8 other states that have alternative means of execution, such as hanging or the gas chamber, don't use them as their primary method of execution. That's because their continued existence is more of a legal oversight than anything else (like how in Carmel, New York it is still technically illegal to eat ice cream on the sidewalk).

That's what makes the new law introduced in Mississippi so disgusting.

Under House Bill 636, firing squad, electrocution and gas chambers will be added as modes of execution in cases where lethal injection may be blocked.

The thinking here: The lack of the right drugs for lethal injection is causing delays that leave prisoners on death row for decades.

Now, I'm all for efficiency, but as a taxpayer, I have zero problem continuing to pay for a prisoner's upkeep if the alternative is something as cruel and senseless as the violent modes of death being introduced by this bill.

We're living in a scary time, one of serious upheaval.

Our president is frequently compared to Adolf Hitler, who famously perpetrated a genocide of the Jewish people using gas chambers to help hurry things along.

Does overcrowding in Mississippi prisons really merit the gassing of human beings?

I understand that the death penalty itself is a complicated and controversial issue.

Even as I write this, I can hear someone saying "if we’re going to be killing them anyway how does the way we kill them matter?"

I understand that, to one degree or another, but I do think there's a humane way to do it that doesn't reduce us from human beings to animals.

We've so long prided ourselves in this country of being civilized, in doing the right thing whenever possible. For some (like me) the election of Donald Trump began the very real erosion of that belief.

Lest we forget, one of Trump's favorite general, James Mattis, had no problem sharing that "it's fun to shoot some people."

While people like that exist, I think they are the exception and not the rule.

I think we can be better than that, that we SHOULD be better than that.

Maybe instead of passing this bill, Mississippi legislators should be examining what's causing shortages of the drugs used for humane executions instead of reconciling themselves to losing part of what makes them human.

(source: Rebecca Jane Stokes, yourtango.com)

OHIO:

Court filing: Ohio asked 7 states in vain for lethal drug

Ohio asked 7 other states for a lethal injection drug in an unsuccessful attempt to continue putting inmates to death, according to a court filing.

The prisons agency also tried in vain to obtain the active ingredient in the drug, pentobarbital, in hopes of having a compounded version made, the filing said.

State attorneys cited the information in a Feb. 3 motion with a Cincinnati appeals court to explain why reverting to pentobarbital is not an option.

The filing says Ohio asked Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Virginia for the drug.

"None of those states agreed to provide pentobarbital to Ohio," according to the filing, which summarized a sealed deposition by Stephen Gray, the prison agency's in-house lawyer.

The filing doesn't say when Ohio made those requests. Of the 7 states, only Georgia, Missouri and Texas have current supplies of pentobarbital. Those states won't reveal the source.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014 when Ohio used a never-tried 2-drug combo that it then abandoned.

Ohio is appealing a federal judge's ruling last month rejecting the state's latest proposed 3-drug execution method, which hasn't been used in Ohio.

As part of that ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Merz said the possibility exists that Ohio could obtain pentobarbital.

Merz also said Ohio didn't prove that the first drug in its current 3-drug process, the sedative midazolam, doesn't present a substantial risk of harm.

The prison system says the opposite is true and that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year permitted midazolam's use.

"Ohio has the capability to perform constitutional executions now. It should be permitted to do so," Thomas Madden, an assistant attorney general, said in Ohio's appeal.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has scheduled arguments for Feb. 21.

The prisons system changed its execution process because it can't find pentobarbital, said Gary Mohr, the agency's director, who said the agency is "comfortable" with its position before the appeals court.

"This is a serious responsibility, and we work hard to carry out executions in a humane manner, with the utmost respect for the law, for victims, and for justice," Mohr said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "That commitment is unwavering."

The state also said in its filing:

-- Ohio can't import pentobarbital or its active ingredient from a foreign manufacturer because the state's application to add pentobarbital to its current federal importer registration hasn't been acted on in four months.

-- Even if Ohio had a license to import the drug, it hasn't identified any company that would provide it.

(source: The Republic)

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

Lawmaker proposes death penalty for murder of first responders, military personnel

A Northeast Ohio lawmaker's 1st bill in the General Assembly would expand the state's aggravated murder laws to allow the death penalty when the victim is a first responder or military member.

A statehouse bill introduced by Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Republican from Westlake, would also expand penalties for felonious assault when the victim of the crime is a police officer, first responder, federal officer or military member.

"The intent is to really provide a strong deterrent," Greenspan said.

The bill, HB 38, is Greenspan's 1st as a legislator. 14 other lawmakers, including 4 from Northeast Ohio, signed on as co-sponsors.

Where did the idea come from?

The legislation grew from an idea Greenspan developed over the last few years as police, fire and military personnel were victims in attacks across the country.

Most recently was an ambush attack in December on firefighters in Youngstown when they responded to a call. One firefighter was wounded in the leg and another narrowly escaped injury when a bullet passed through his turnout coat but didn't hit him. The shooter was waiting across the street from the burning house when firefighters arrived.

What would the bill do?

Greenspan proposes amending Ohio's criminal laws dealing with aggravated murder and felonious assault.

Under current law, if the murder victim is a police officer, the defendant could face the death penalty if convicted. Greenspan's proposal would add first responders (firefighters and EMS personnel), military personnel (including ROTC, reserve forces and National Guard) and federal law enforcement officers to that section of law.

It would apply to current and former members of those groups.

In addition, it would add that group to laws applying to felonious assault, upping the crime to a 1st-degree felony and requiring that any sentences handed down are served consecutively, rather than concurrently.

How does it work?

The law requires that the victim either be engaged in their duty - such as a police officer on patrol - or that the offender specifically is looking to kill someone who is in the protected group.

So, for example, if an attacker strikes out against people in a VFW hall or veterans marching in a parade, it should be apparent, Greenspan said, that they are striking out against former military personnel.

What happens next?

The bill was assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee.

It is scheduled to get its 1st hearing, along with testimony from Greenspan, on Feb. 21.

(source: cleveland.)

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

Justices hear Donna Roberts case for 3rd time

The assistant Trumbull County prosecutor who has faced the Ohio Supreme Court 3 times over the same death row case says she expects the high court to come back with a decision within a year.

"I have been through this 3 times, so there is not a whole lot new to say on this," LuWayne Annos said Wednesday after returning from Columbus where she presented oral arguments for the state in the Donna Roberts case.

For about 45 minutes Tuesday morning, the Ohio Supreme Court heard for a 3rd time arguments about whether Roberts belongs on Ohio's death row. Roberts, who is the only female facing execution in the state, appealed her case after a second Trumbull County judge gave her a death sentence in 2014.

Defense attorney David Doughten told the court Tuesday Roberts deserves a life sentence because the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars a judge who didn't preside over trial, mitigation phase or allocution from sentencing someone to death.

In October 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court sent the case of Roberts, convicted for the 2001 planned murder of her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut, in Howland, back to Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for re-sentencing. It was the 2nd time the high court vacated Roberts' death sentence. In the spring of 2014, Judge Ronald J. Rice, who was appointed to the case after the 2013 retirement and subsequent death of Judge John Stuard, resentenced Roberts to death.

Doughten argued Rice's action was improper, according to the Sixth and Eighth Amendments, as well as a U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Hurst vs. Florida. In Hurst, the court in an 8-1 ruling held that the Sixth Amendment requires a jury to find the aggravating factors necessary for imposing the death penalty.

Doughten argued that Rice did not hear from Roberts in an allocution - the phase where the defendant can give a last plea for leniency before the judge pronounces sentence. Doughten said Rice only reviewed a transcript of Roberts' statements before Stuard.

In the 2nd appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court remanded the case because Stuard failed to state in his written opinion that he considered Roberts' spoken remarks.

"The judge (Rice) did not hear from Donna in person which could affect his decision on her demeanor and attitude," Doughten said. "He had to rule from a bare bones sheet of paper."

Doughten argued Rice merely did an independent review of the case, "something that this court is doing now."

In arguing for the state, Annos said Rice thoroughly reviewed 29 transcripts, including Roberts' 20-page allocution made before Stuard.

"(Judge Rice) took that allocution apart, sentence by sentence, and he took everything at face value," Annos argued, noting that Rice only questioned Roberts' credibility about allegations over whether she was beaten by Fingerhut. "And twice on the record, Donna Roberts said she made up those allegations."

Annos also took exception to the Hurst argument, saying Florida and Ohio have different systems when determining the death penalty.

"Hurst doesn't control Ohio death penalty statutes," Annos said.

After persisting with points about Hurst, Doughten was admonished by Justice Terrence O'Donnell who said, "Hurst isn't being argued here."

After both sides presented their arguments, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said the court would take their arguments under advisement.

The case arose from the December 2001 murder of Fingerhut, who operated Greyhound bus terminals in the Mahoning Valley. Roberts lived with her former husband in an Avalon Drive home in Howland. At some point , Roberts had an affair with Nathaniel Jackson, who was sent to prison in 2001. During his incarceration, Jackson and Roberts exchanged letters and phone calls. Prison authorities monitored this communication that revealed a murder plot, which served as key evidence during the trial.

When Jackson was released from prison, Roberts picked him up. 2 days after Jackson's release, Fingerhut, 57, was shot to death at his home.

Jackson was convicted of murder and also sentenced to death.

(source: Tribune Chronicle)

INDIANA:

New Bill Would Exempt Mentally Ill From Death Penalty----Exemption would only apply to defendants with 1 of 6 Serious Mental Illnesses

A trio of state lawmakers want to make a big change to the way Indiana imposes the death penalty.

A new bill (SB-155) from Republican Senators Jim Merritt, John Ruckelshaus and Eric Bassler would exempt people with a specific type of serious mental illness from the death penalty and grant them the same legal protective status already granted to juveniles and people with intellectual disabilities.

Under the new legislation, capital punishment would be removed as a penalty for individuals suffering from one or more of the following conditions:

--Schizophrenia

--Bipolar Disorder

--Major Depressive Disorder

--Delusional Disorder

--Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

--Traumatic Brain Injury

"In these cases...when a person has been professionally diagnosed and judged to have a serious mental illness, I'm convinced that this exemption should apply. No person with impaired judgment due to mental illness should be executed," says Sen. Merritt, who supports the use of capital punishment.

What the legislation is not designed to do, however, is give mentally ill defendants a "free pass" to circumvent the criminal justice system.

"The defendant can still be found guilty and held accountable for crimes. This is not an insanity defense. It does not preclude a life-without-parole sentence or absolve any responsibility for the crime," says Matthew Ellis, Project Director of the Hoosier Alliance for Serious Mental Illness Exemption.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hear SB-155 within the next 3 weeks.

(source: WIBC news)

MISSOURI:

Accused Killer Trenton Forster Could Be Up for the Death Penalty

Justice can be slow. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says in the case of Trenton Forster, who is charged with killing police officer Blake Snyder, there's still work to be done before a trial date can be set, including deciding whether or not this will be a death penalty case.

"We will start working, we're gathering all the information, the reports are completed, we'll provide ultimately that information to the defense. Everything we have, they will get," he says.

This week, Forster was arraigned and last week additional charges were added against him for shooting a 2nd officer. McCulloch says a decision on the death penalty could come in the next month.

"There's a lot of work that goes into it at that point. We're still considering all the evidence and making determinations into whether this is a death penalty case. That determination will probably be made in the next month or so," he says.

McCulloch was asked if this case is personal, since his father was a police officer killed on the job.

"It hits a lot closer to home than most others, but it is something that, when we look at the police, that if someone's going to kill a police officer, an armed trained police offer, than that's a dangerous person."

McCulloch says there probably won't be a trial date until this time next year. That's a long time for Snyder's widow, Elizabeth Snyder, to wait.

"It's incredibly tough, you know, it's a reminder everyday of what happened and what we're having to go through and I just look forward to it being over with, which it might take awhile, but I look forward to it being done," she says.

(source: KMOX news)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska State Sen. Kuehn says death penalty opponents have contributed to shortages of drugs used in surgeries

Some of the same drugs used in operating rooms also are used in death chambers.

State Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell said Thursday that intersection has factored into shortages of the medicines needed for surgeries. He blamed the protests and "harassment" of drug manufacturers by death penalty opponents.

To support his argument, he cited a 2011 letter from the American Society of Anesthesiologists that said difficulties in obtaining a common surgical anesthetic targeted for its use in executions had jeopardized the safety of patients in need of medical procedures.

"How many medical patients will suffer, have less than optimal surgical and medical care, or die to protect convicted death row inmates?" Kuehn asked Thursday as he testified in support of his bill that would hide the identities of those who would supply lethal injection drugs to Nebraska.

Opponents of the secrecy bill said citizens have the right to scrutinize every detail and dollar spent when it comes to something of the magnitude of an execution. Spike Eickholt, lobbyist for the ACLU of Nebraska, questioned whether Nebraskans would support shielding the identify of an abortion drug supplier who had a contract with the state.

"In government, nothing good happens in secret," he said.

Legislative Bill 661 would change Nebraska's public records law so state officials could legally withhold any information leading to the identity of an individual or business that "manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes" execution drugs.

Members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard public testimony on the bill Thursday. The committee took no action after the hearing.

Drug secrecy laws are on the books in 15 of the 31 states with the death penalty, Kuehn said. Texas and Georgia, the states that led the nation in executions last year, both have the shield laws.

The courts have generally ruled against inmates who've challenged the secrecy laws. Kuehn said he patterned his bill after the law in Georgia, which was upheld by that state's Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision in 2014.

Kuehn referred to the 61 % majority of Nebraska voters who supported the death penalty in November by reversing the 2015 repeal of capital punishment by state lawmakers. Voters sent a clear message that they want the Legislature to fix the death penalty, he said.

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, a member of the Government Committee, questioned Kuehn's assertion that death penalty opponents are to blame for drug shortages. Was it possible, he asked, that some companies have restricted supplies of their products because they ethically oppose executions?

Kuehn acknowledged that it was possible. But he argued that his law would make it possible for those willing to supply the state with execution drugs to be able to do so without repercussion.

Kuehn also said he has been harassed by death penalty opponents for introducing the secrecy legislation.

His bill does not extend secrecy to provisions of the execution protocol that requires laboratory testing of any lethal drugs purchased by the state. The lab results, along with the identity and quantity of drugs the state intends to use, would have to be shared with the inmate well in advance of an execution.

Among the 4 people who testified for the bill was Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services. Late last year, the department included a similar secrecy rule in a draft version of the state's execution protocol but decided to remove the provision in the final version. The governor recently signed off on the new procedure.

The state currently has a supply of potassium chloride, 1 of the 3 lethal drugs required under the previous protocol. But that drug alone cannot be used to execute because it does not first render an inmate unconscious.

Frakes said he has just recently started the process of contacting potential drug suppliers but has not made a purchase.

He told committee members that it may be possible to obtain drugs without a secrecy law but that such a law would remove barriers, making it easier for the department to carry out a legal punishment. Currently 10 men are on death row in Nebraska, which last carried out an execution 20 years ago.

"I firmly believe this bill is needed to remove a tool that death penalty opponents will continue to use to frustrate and stymie the will of the voters," Frakes said.

Pierce County Sheriff Rick Eberhardt read the names of some of the victims of death row inmates as he testified in support of the bill. He told lawmakers that he and other death penalty supporters will be watching the issue closely.

"This is not about vengeance; it's about justice," he said.

11 organizations and people testified against the bill, including Media of Nebraska, the League of Women Voters and Nebraskans for Peace.

Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson, who helped draft the public records law in 1979, said the legal requirement for public disclosure of records related to state expenditures and purchases traces back to the territorial days.

Peterson, who also has long represented a death row inmate, predicted lawyers for the condemned would use the federal courts to learn the names of the state's suppliers. Defense lawyers would be obligated, he said, to make sure the manufacturing or business practices of a supplier weren't grounds for a stay of execution.

Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro testified on behalf of the Nebraska State Bar Association. He stressed that the association takes no position for or against the death penalty but opposes the secrecy bill.

"Because the idea of hiding those involved in making the drugs used to execute people ... could not be further from the administration of justice," he said.

(source: omaha.com)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Does death penalty increase violent crime?

Murder rates are higher where there is a death penalty. Judge Glen Severson said the year before Elijah Page was executed we had two murders on the court schedule and the year after we started executing again we had 7. Now we have 11. We execute people when they want to get executed. And we delay it when they do not. Who rules here? The 2 that killed the prison guard, one tried and did well in school, but with little violence on his record, he gets executed first. The one that had been a devil since a kid, is still alive. The Governor and Attorney General always say that those executed are the worst criminals. But the worst one is still alive. Their talk is just a psychological method to try to reduce the bad effects of executions.

If the criminals want the death penalty, is it really that bad of a punishment? Or, would they be more likely to repent and ask forgiveness if they had to think about it longer. I was there the first time Elijah Page was to be executed and he was laughing and talking about old times with his girlfriend and her brother when he had just a few hours left. She was too upset to talk about it. Giving the criminal an easy way out is not necessarily good or justice.

Violent crime is going down in America. New York and Los Angeles have murder rates going down. St. Louis, Chicago, Sioux Falls, and the state of South Dakota have murder and violent crime going up. I do not think cops are violent here like St. Louis and Chicago, so I do not see that as the problem. But we need to look at the death penalty and anything else that might be the cause of this.

Roger L. Elgersma, Pipestone, Minn.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Argus Leader)

COLORADO:

Should Colorado legislators kill the death penalty, or voters?

A bill to abolish Colorado's death penalty will be considered in the legislature this session.

Next sat down with 2 Senate Democrats, State Senator Rhonda Fields of Aurora and State Senator Lucia Guzman of Denver, who is also the Minority Leader. They're on the same party, and not on the same side of this issue. Guzman would like to do away with the death penalty in the legislature, while Fields says that if anything, it should be made into a ballot measure. Fields does have the power to kill the bill before it gets out of committee.

While both Senators disagree, they, and other Senators, have spent hours having respectful and thoughtful conversations about the topic.

(source: 9news.com)

UTAH:

Majority of Utahns prefer alternatives to death penalty, according to new poll

A recent poll appears to show the majority of Utahns are not in favor of the death penalty.

The Utah Justice Coalition, a criminal justice reform group, released the results of a new poll Feb. 9 that asked, "Of the following list of choices, which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder?"

--9 % of respondents said they prefer life in prison with no possibility of parole.

--47 % said they prefer life in prison with no possibility of parole and a requirement that the convicted must work while in prison and pay restitution to the victims.

--8 % said they prefer life in prison with a possibility of parole after serving 40 years.

--29 % said they prefer the death penalty.

--6 % said they were unsure.

The Coalition said in its press release that the 64 percent of participants favoring alternatives to the death penalty reflect "changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Utah residents." "The death penalty is losing favor in our state because it wastes tax dollars, is ineffective in stopping violent crime, and risks possibly killing an innocent person, and none of those things align with our conservative principles," said said Kevin Greene, Organizing Director of Utah Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a project of the Utah Justice Coalition.

The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina and took place Jan. 13 to 15. Pollsters spoke with 784 Utah voters.

The death penalty in legal in Utah, but only applicable to those found guilty of aggravated murder. The death penalty is either administered through lethal injection or by firing squad, according to the Utah Department of Corrections.

(source: KUTV news)

MONTANA:

Abolition of the death penalty in Montana

Now is the time for a significant act of righteousness and to put the admonition, "thou shalt not kill", into action.

We must act soon to permanently abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Relevant legislation will be introduced to the process in January 2017. Our great state would be further distinguished by abolition of this archaic practice. The death penalty is not a large numerical issue in Montana since, thank God, we have few on "death row." It is, however, big to the few and to our moral/ethical consciousness. The death penalty is on legal "hold" in Montana as uncertainty about drugs for lethal injection has become and continues to be an issue.

The moral/ethical position: Abolish the death penalty because it is the right thing to do.

"Thou shalt not kill." We need to put this into action related to the violence worldwide. In few instances do we have the power to control killing, but abolition of capital punishment is one.

There are rare instances of mistakes. Infrequently persons, who are later shown to be innocent, have been on death row awaiting execution. Some have, no doubt, been executed and proven innocent later.

Family and loved ones of victims often favor life imprisonment over death and find solace in mercy.

The death penalty has not been a deterrent to crime nor is there evidence that its abolition promotes or facilitates crime.

Is the person convicted and sentenced the same person who awaits execution often many years after sentencing? It's a privilege given mankind to be able to change.

Spare the executioner the experience of executing. Imagine such a job.

Another position: Abolish the death penalty because it's the responsible thing to do.

It costs society more to carry out a death penalty than to maintain a life sentence in terms of monetary costs of appeals, etc. Proposed is no death penalty, but life in prison without parole. It would cost less.

Lethal injection is not the merciful means of killing envisioned. About seven percent are "botched". The availability of drugs used to kill has been an issue for some time and recently Pfizer's refusal to provide drugs it manufactures to kill makes a statement.

Not unexpectedly there are pros and cons on these points, but I have chosen the position that suits my moral conscience. See deathpenalty.procon.org. for a ten point argument.

For your personal reasons please support efforts to abolish capital punishment in Montana by: Writing to representatives of your district simply stating your support for bills abolishing capital punishment.

If you want more information please contact us. We'll try to help.

(source: Valley Viewpoint; Mary Darby and Blaise Favara----Ravalli Republic)

ARIZONA:

Octavia Rogers, mom accused of murdering 3 boys, will face death penalty

Octavia Rogers, the mother accused of killing her 3 sons, will face the death penalty when she goes on trial, the Maricopa County Attorney's office said Thursday.

Rogers, 29, allegedly stabbed the 3 boys then dismembered them in June. Police then say she stabbed herself at their home near Interstate 17 and Bell Road.

The 3 boys were 8-year-old Jaikare Rahaman, 5-year-old Jeremiah Adams and 2-month-old Avery Robinson.

The decision was made a status conference.

(source: NBC news)

PAKISTAN:

Killers of uncles get death penalty

A sessions court has awarded death sentence to a convict and 40 year imprisonment to his brother for killing their 2 uncles and wounding the 3rd one in a domestic dispute.

Tarkhanwala police had filed a case against Saleh, his brother Arshad and father Ashraf over murdering Ghulam Raza and his brother Asif and injuring Saeed on May 12, 2014.

The slain and injured person were real maternal uncles of accused. The honorable court announced death penalty to Saleh Muhammad and 40 years jail to his brother Arshad while court released their father Ashraf on the benefit of doubt. According to the FIR, Zubaida Bibi, mother of both the convicts, had quit her house and gone to her parents over a quarrel. the court also ordered to pay Rs1.87 million as compensation to the heirs of deceased. Police have shifted convicts to the District Jail.

(source: The Nation)

PHILIPPINES:

Amid criticisms, Duterte says death penalty to deter heinous crimes

President Rodrigo Duterte defended on Friday his plan to restore death penalty in the country, saying it would be a deterrent against heinous crimes.

"When it (death penalty) was abolished, there was an increase of 3,000% (heinous crimes). And they say it's not a deterrent?" Duterte said in Filipino during a speech in a business forum in Davao City.

The President read a news report in the middle of his speech, quoting Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Benjamin De Los Santos as saying that heinous crimes rose to 3,180 % after the death penalty was abolished in 2006.

"BuCor Director Benjamin delos Santos said there were 189 inmates convicted of heinous crimes before the capital punishment was abolished in 2006," Duterte said reading while reading his briefer.

"After death penalty was revoked this figure rose to 6,200 inmates, an astonishing (3,180%) increase of persons convicted of heinous crimes," he added.

The President slammed his critics who have been saying that nothing has happened when the death penalty was imposed in previous administrations.

"They said that even if the death penalty was there, nothing happened. It's because I wasn't the President then. Bring it back and I'll turn those crazy into curtains. I'll hang them," he said in Filipino.

Both Houses of Congress had started deliberating on the proposal to reimpose the capital punishment.

Duterte has repeatedly said that he wanted to revive the death penalty to make sure that criminals pay for their sins.

He also earlier said that the death penalty was for retribution.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

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

Lawmakers urged to cross party lines against death penalty

Senator Leila de Lima has called on lawmakers to cross party lines as they deliberate on the measure calling for the immediate reinstatement of the death penalty as capital punishment for heinous crimes.

De Lima made her appeal as the House leadership called members of the so-called supermajority for a party stand on the death penalty measure.

"The issue of possible re-imposition of death penalty is addressed more to the conscience of the members of both houses of Congress," De Lima said in an interview. "Lawmakers should transcend political affiliations in this particular issue, especially with the points raised by some members of the Senate that treaty commitment cannot be taken for granted," she stressed.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier threatened House members, particularly those holding key positions or chairmanships in his chamber, to strip them from their posts if they refuse to support President Rodrigo Duterte's call to restore the death penalty.

Unlike in the House of Representatives, the Senate has different dynamics and thus will deliberate on the measure "based on the cogency and the soundness of the arguments and would not succumb to any type of coercion or arm-twisting."

"But that is something that they cannot do, hopefully, here in the Senate," she said.

The joint Senate committees on justice and human rights and constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws earlier decided to suspend public hearing on death penalty to review the implications of the country's commitment to treaties and international agreements which prohibit executions and compel member states to abolish death penalty.

The Philippines is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, as well as in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which states that "treaties which do not have provisions on withdrawal or denunciation cannot be denounced or be withdrawn from."

(source: Manila Bulletin)

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Philippine Jesuits join CBCP vs death penalty-----'Might should not be equated with right,' says Father Antonio Moreno, the Philippine head of the biggest male religious order in the Catholic Church

Filipino members of the Society of Jesus, the biggest male religious order in the Catholic Church, joined the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in condemning efforts to revive the death penalty.

The Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, said it "adds its voice to the chorus of dissent against moves in Congress to reinstate the capital punishment."

The Jesuits also run the network of Ateneo schools in the Philippines, which count government leaders, including President Rodrigo Duterte himself, among former students.

"The Philippine Jesuits stand behind our bishops in condemning the wanton disregard for life that capital punishment represents, something made even more repulsive in a context where rampant killing has been taking place with apparent disregard or even endorsement," said Father Antonio Moreno, the head of the Philippine Jesuits, in a letter to his fellow Jesuits dated Thursday, February 9.

Moreno quoted Pope Francis, who is also a Jesuit, in saying that "we are all part of a Church that proclaims, in word and deed, a gospel of life."

"We laud the government's efforts to rid the country of lawlessness and criminality, for this aim, in its own way, is an affirmation of life. But such efforts should not be made in a manner that tears asunder an integral ethic of life," Moreno said.

He added: "Just as we respect the lives of the unborn and the innocent, we too should consistently protect the lives of every individual person, not excluding those rejected and marginalized by society."

Deterrent effect 'a myth'

"Might should not be equated with right. Any punitive or sheerly pragmatic approach, whether wielded by government or popular opinion in support of death by legal or non-legal means, denies the God-given value of human life, a value that can never be compromised," Moreno said.

Moreno stressed that the death penalty's "deterrent effect" against crime is a myth, and that he fears its "uneven implementation in a flawed justice system."

He then urged his fellow Jesuits "to contact local legislators to decry legislation favoring a culture of death," and to support "online efforts like www.veritas846.ph/chooselife or the poll at www.congress.gov.ph."

"Let us not forget that in His last moments on earth, Jesus, Himself a victim of capital punishment, forgave the repentant thief dying together with Him. May Our Lord's Divine Mercy inspire our nation to uphold the sanctity of all human life and to reject the death penalty once and for all," Moreno said.

The CBCP on January 30 denounced the death penalty in a statement released after their bi-annual plenary.

Days later, on February 5, the CBCP also issued its strongest statement yet against the drug-related killings. The bishops denounced the "reign of terror" in poor communities, with more than 7,000 deaths linked to Duterte's war on drugs.

Days after issuing this statement, CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged Filipinos to join a grand procession, called "Walk for Life," at the Quirino Grandstand on February 18.

(source: rappler.com)

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Death penalty only 'punishes the poor'

Though knowing that he is in the minority, Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City's north district remains adamant about his opposition to plans of reimposing the death penalty.

During the interpellation and debate at the House of Representatives last Tuesday, Del Mar said death penalty is never the solution to address crimes.

"When death penalty was applied in the Philippines, was there any showing that it worked? There is no evidence that death penalty is more effective than for-life imprisonment," he said.

Among the first bills filed by Congress this year was the reinstatement of death penalty.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said they are targeting to submit the bill to reinstate death penalty next month.

Legislators opposing the death penalty also pointed to the "conflict of interest" by proponents who lobbied to remove the inclusion of plunder in the list of crimes punishable by death.

In opposing the reinstatement of capital punishment or death penalty, Del Mar said it punishes only poor people who could not afford the best lawyers to defend them.

"Do you agree that the Philippine justice system is ill-equipped and severely flawed? Do you dispute the fact that most of those who end up in the death row had deficient defense because they were poor and had no money to get witnesses, pay good lawyers, or bribe judges?" he said.

The lawmaker said there is a possibility that innocent individuals will be subjected to death.

He said in the US, 68 % of all death penalties were reversed either because the evidence was insufficient or illegally admitted.

"Once an innocent person is put to death, is it not an act that can never be reversed? Bad enough if an innocent person is jailed but at least he is still alive when the wrong is corrected," he said.

Del Mar described the death penalty as "barbaric, antiquated, and regressive."

He said at least 105 countries had rejected it and several religious denominations also denounced it as policy.

As a country whose population is mostly Catholic, del Mar said the faithful believe in retribution, but not by taking human life.

"The 'eye-for-an-eye' injunction in the Old Testament has long been replaced by the 'turn-the-other-cheek' advice in the New Testament," Del Mar said.

"Catholics and other Christians believe in repentance and the capacity of sinners to reform. The death penalty totally rejects that possibility," he said.

(source: cebudailynews.inquirer.net)

NIGERIA:

Gov. Amosun commutes death sentence of 2 convicts

The Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has commuted the death sentence on two convicts to life imprisonment and ordered the release of 3 other prisoners.

The 2 convicts had been sentenced to death last December for armed robbery.

The governor's gesture was contained in a letter addressed to the Controller of Prisons, Nigerian Prison Service, Ogun State Command, dated February 8, and signed by Funmi Ajayi, Permanent Secretary (Political Affairs and Administration), for the Secretary to the State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa.

In an Order of Commutation signed by the governor, Mr. Amosun said written reports in the cases of the said persons received as well as other information derived from the record of the cases and elsewhere, were taken into consideration.

He said after consultation with the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, he was exercising his power under sub-section (1) of Section 212 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

Those ordered to be released are Gbenga Oyeleye, Idowu Olojede and Dare Jimoh, who were imprisoned, following their conviction over criminal charges.

Mr. Oyeleye was serving a 3-year sentence and has 6 months yet to serve, while Mr. Olojede was released on grounds of old age and good record. Mr. Jimoh, a long term convict, also got reprieve for good conduct and good record.

The governor ordered that the death penalty imposed on Nurudeen Suleiman and Isikilu Olamilekan, both males, who were convicted for robbery at the High Court of Ogun State sitting at Ijebu Ode on December 14, 2006, be commuted to life imprisonment.

Mr. Amosun had during his visit to the Ibara Prison in Abeokuta on January 25, as part of activities to mark his 59th birthday, promised to review cases of those who deserved to be pardoned.

(source: Premium Times)

INDIA:

Afzal Guru Hanging: A Case of Miscarriage of Justice

'No words can describe the pain. It was like a bolt from the sky.we are still locked in that moment. We're still struggling to reconcile with that moment'

Wasn't it just yesterday? Spring announced itself in Delhi. The sun was out, and the slaw took its course. Just before twilight Afzal Guru, prime suspect in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, was secretly hanged, and his body interred in Tihar jail. The world's biggest democracy did not even have the courtesy to inform his family. In a moment of rare unity India, or in the least its major political parties, the Congress, the BJP and the CPM, came together as one (barring a few squabbles about ?delay? and ?timing?) to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law.

With obvious electoral gains in mind, the Congress government went after soft Muslim targets. And the BJP was happy to make vociferous demands for the hanging of Muslims accused of terrorist acts while calibrating its stance in other instances. This was political cynicism at its worst. How long, the question is, will the people of India turn a blind eye to such cynicism?

Instead of whipping up and pandering to mob demands, the Indian state ought to be pursuing peace by fostering coexistence. But that would need a modicum of wisdom sadly lacking in the rulers in New Delhi.

Let me recapitulate the whole saga. The Government of India in a top-secret operation hanged a Kashmiri Muhammad Afzal Guru, on February 09, 2013, in New Delhi's infamous Tihar jail. Guru, held to be a suspect in connection with the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 was buried in the jail premises. It was not a mere hanging but a judicial murder aimed at gaining political objectives. New Delhi executed Guru despite having accepted the recommendation to put moratorium on capital punishment during its Universal Periodic Review in the United Nations Human Rights Council's 21st session, in September 2012. The evidence against Guru in the case was entirely circumstantial and was based on a confessional statement extracted by the police under duress. This was, however, conveniently set aside by the Supreme Court of India.

The apex court in its judgment had admitted that there was no evidence of his direct involvement but had termed the execution as necessary to "satisfy the collective conscience of the society". This ruling itself speaks volumes about the conviction and the punishment being political. Legal experts believe that Guru was not provided with a counsel of his choice and adequate legal assistance, as a result of which his entire trial was prejudicial and unfair. The court-appointed junior lawyer was not for defense of Guru but for assistance of the court. He did not visit his client even once in jail, not summoned any witnesses in Guru's defense and did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.

Ironically, the Indian government went ahead with its premeditated plan of sending Guru to the gallows, despite the fact that a petition filed by his wife for repeal of his death penalty was pending in the Supreme Court. Moreover, he was given the punishment out of turn as judgment on death sentences of many other accused was to be taken before his. Guru was also denied the right of review after his mercy petition was rejected by the Indian president.

The Government of India did not stop here.

It did not bother to inform the family members of the victim about the decision in advance so that they could meet and talk to him for 1 last time. And , rubbing salt into their wounds, they were not handed over his body, which was buried inside the jail, depriving the family of performing Guru's last rites. Even the residence of the family members was put under siege to prevent people from expressing solidarity with them.

All these facts make it amply clear that hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru was a political stunt taken by the Congress party in view of the General election to be held in India the following year. Like the execution of prominent Kashmiri liberation leader, Muhammad Maqbool Butt, in February 1984, Guru's hanging holds a message to Kashmiri: they would continue to be made sacrificial lambs for political games in the so-called largest democracy of the world. The saga doesn't end here. Following the hanging, New Delhi has been resorting to subject the people of occupied Kashmir to collective punishment by imposing curfew from time to time, putting the entire Hurriyet leadership behind the bars or under house arrest, arresting hundreds of youth and using brute force on peaceful protests against. The use of brute force has already led to the killing of many innocent people and injuring of scores of others.

However, the Indian collective conscience is indifferent in this case where victims were of similar faith and ideology; Muslims, Pakistanis and Kashmiris. A nation that calls itself secular and democratic is tangled in the corruption of the pre-partition conscience, which remains a threat to its own survival and integrity. Now that Afzal Guru has been hanged, I hope the 'collective conscience' has been satisfied. Or is the cup of blood still only half full?

India's actions against Kashmiris expose its claims of being a democratic country. The international community must hold New Delhi accountable for its actions and pressurize it to return the mortal remains of Afzal Guru to his family to at least give the family some solace.

(source: Malik Aamir; The author practices Law at the Lower court, Srinagar----The Kashmir Reader)

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India files mercy plea for 2 nationals awarded death sentence in Qatar

India has filed a mercy petition with Qatar for 2 nationals who were awarded death penalty by the Supreme Court there for allegedly murdering a woman 4 years ago, the external affairs ministry said on Thursday.

Indian mission in Doha has filed a mercy petition on Wednesday with Qatar foreign ministry regarding the death penalty of Subramanian Alagappa and Chelladurai Perumal for further action, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

The court in Qatar had recently rejected a plea by the Indian Embassy to overturn the death penalty awarded to the duo, both in their 40s, but commuted the life term awarded to the third accused, Sivakumar Arasan, to 15 years jail term.

Subramanian hails from Villupuram. Perumal is a resident of Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu.

(source: Hindustan Times)

FEBRUARY 9, 2017:

TEXAS:

Montgomery County DA's Office requests new execution date for Swearingen

The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office asked a judge Tuesday to set a Sept. 21 execution date for Larry Swearingen, the Willis man sentenced to death for murdering a teenage Montgomery College student in 1998.

But Swearingen's attorney thinks an ongoing civil rights suit on his case should be decided before any execution date is even suggested.

Swearingen was sentenced to death in 2000 for murdering Melissa Trotter, an 18-year-old Montgomery College student. Trotter went missing Dec. 8, 1998, and was found dead in the Sam Houston National Forest north of LakeConroe.

After years of appellate fights over post-conviction DNA testing, Swearingen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Texas in October 2016 claiming he should be entitled to that DNA testing. Swearingen sought testing on Trotter's sexual assault collection kit; hairs recovered from her body, the gloves used to move her body and a hairbrush found on the ground near her body; all hairs collected from her clothing; the ligature and the pantyhose used to strangle

Trotter, among other evidence his appellate attorneys believe contain biological evidence that has not been tested.

"It's premature to even have filed this motion," said Swearingen's attorney James Rytting, adding that he plans on filing a motion opposing the fall execution date sometime soon.

The execution date motion will be decided upon by visiting Judge J.D. Langley in the 9th state District Court. Judge Phil Grant, having previously worked on the Swearingen case during his time with the DA's Office, was recused from the case in June 2016.

But the DA's Appellate Division Chief Bill Delmore said the September date was appropriate and intentionally selected.

"A September date will provide sufficient time to allow a resolution of the civil suit," Delmore said. "I have not found anything that suggested the existence of an appeal from the denial of a DNA motion should preclude going forward on an execution date. I've even seen cases in which the Court of Criminal Appeals has denied a stay (of execution) even when there's an appeal from the denial of a motion for DNA testing pending."

As for the DNA testing, then-9th state District Court Judge Kelly Case approved the testing in August 2014. But subsequent appeals filed by Montgomery County prosecutors blocked it all the way to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Rytting appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court in February 2016, which refused to hear the case in October 2016.

Swearingen has dodged four execution dates - in 2007, 2009, 2011 and most recently in 2013 - that were all stayed by the Court of Criminal Appeals. He's been in and out of the appellate process for more than a decade, including four previous motions for DNA testing which lost their momentum in appeals courts each time.

For Melissa Trotter's family, the September date cannot come soon enough.

"We're definitely ready to be done with all this judicial process," Melissa's mother Sandy Trotter said. "It hinders all of us from healing as we just keep remembering all the bad that happened to Melissa. It's unfinished business yet. It's not going to bring Melissa back. We're never going to have her. But it'd be better to remember the good memories than all this stuff that happened Dec. 8, 1998."

Langley had yet to rule on Delmore's motion as of Tuesday evening, court records show. Swearingen's federal case in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas has yet to be resolved.

In an opinion in October 2015 reversing Judge Case's DNA ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals referred back to previous rulings it and lower appellate courts had made in Swearingen's case. In the October 2015 ruling, they said Rytting's motion did not meet the 5-pronged requirement for green-lighting DNA tests in the appellate phase as outlined in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

Instead, the CCA denied Swearingen's appeal on the basis that he did not provide new information that would show the DNA evidence would prove his innocence. The court's concurring opinion also referenced a "mountain of evidence" that originally convicted Swearingen in 2000. Delmore called the evidence "overwhelming" in Tuesday's motion.

"Capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily against certain identifiable classes of people; there is evidence that innocent people have been executed before their innocence can be proved; and the death penalty wreaks havoc with our entire criminal justice system."

----US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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Texas needs to reform its 'law of parties,' which allows death penalty for people who haven't killed anyone

On Monday, a Republican state representative from Plano, an avowed conservative, will make a prison visit to see a death row inmate whose life he wants spared.

If it seems a departure from political orthodoxy, it isn't: It's a case of reason in the light of facts.

Rep. Jeff Leach, who has served on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, says he is only one of a broader bipartisan legislative effort to re-examine Texas' "law of parties" as it is applied in death penalty cases. In brief terms, the law says that a co-defendant involved in a crime that results in a murder is just as responsible, even if that defendant was not involved in the actual killing.

Lawmakers have rallied around the case of death row prisoner Jeff Wood, who is by no means a sterling character but who even police and prosecutors agree never killed anyone. In 1996, Wood was sitting in a truck outside a Kerrville convenience store when his friend went in, robbed the safe, and killed the clerk.

Wood was sentenced to death under the law of parties, by which a jury decided he should have anticipated that the murder would take place. Wood claimed that he did not know his accomplice was armed or that a robbery was even planned.

The accomplice was executed for the clerk's murder in 2002. Wood has, to date, received 2 stays of execution, and those arguing his case claim that his sentence should be commuted to life in prison.

"I am a death penalty proponent," Leach said, in a make-no-mistake tone of voice. "Having said that, if there needs to be reform to the way we apply it, the Legislature ought not to be afraid to have those conversations."

To date, 10 people who did not commit the actual killings have been executed in the U.S. under "parties" or similar laws. Half of them have been in Texas. In some cases, the actual killer received a lesser sentence than the accomplice who was put to death.

Reforming the law of parties' application to capital cases, Leach said, would still leave laws intact to seek the death penalty for contract murders, organized crime, or cases such as the "Texas 7," in which all the defendants shared the intent to commit murder.

2 Democratic lawmakers - Terry Canales of Edinburg's HB 316 and Harold Dutton of Houston's HB 147 - are also seeking reform to the statute. Leach, who has not yet filed his bill but expects to work with Canales, said he expects broader bipartisan support. Prosecutors, district attorneys, and defense lawyers are also being included in the discussions, he said.

This measure is not about overturning the death penalty in Texas - which this board has advocated - but about fine-tuning the way it is used.

"If we're going to continue to use the death penalty in Texas," Leach says, "We need to use it only for the most heinous crimes."

Like residents across the country, Texans are divided over the death penalty. But all can agree that where it is imposed, it should be reserved, as Leach says, as the ultimate punishment for only the most dangerous offenders.

What you can do

Contact your legislator to register your support for HB 316, and urge lawmakers to ensure that co-defendants who did not kill are not eligible for the death penalty under the state's law of parties statute. To find out who represents you and how to contact them, go to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx and type in your address.

Email forms are available on each lawmaker's website. Find them at www.house.state.tx.us/members and www.senate.state.tx.us/directory.php.

'Law of parties' executions

Texas executions carried out under the "law of parties" statute since 1985:

Doyle Skillern: executed Jan. 16, 1985. Was waiting in a nearby car when his accomplice - who received a life sentence with parole eligibility - shot and killed an undercover narcotics officer.

G.W. Green: executed Jan. 12, 1991. Participated in a robbery in which an accomplice shot and killed the homeowner. The shooter was also executed; a 3rd accomplice received a life sentence.

Carlos Santana: executed April 23, 1993. Participated in an armored car robbery in which his accomplice murdered a security guard. The accomplice was also executed.

Jesse Gutierrez: executed Sept. 16, 1994. Gutierrez was party to a robbery in which his brother killed the victim. The brother, Jose Gutierrez, was also executed.

Robert Thompson: executed Jan. 19, 2009. During a Houston holdup, Thompson shot and injured a store clerk. As the robbers fled, Thompson's accomplice shot a 2nd clerk, who was killed. The accomplice received a life sentence. Gov. Rick Perry refused a recommendation by the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles to commute Thompson's sentence to life, as well.

[source: Death Penalty Information Center]

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

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When Your Lawyer Abandons You on Death Row

Another terrifying way the legal system screws the poor.

For 2 months, John Ramirez had been sitting in his cell in Texas's death row prison, counting down the days to his execution date and scrawling handwritten letters to anyone who would listen. His message: Get me a new lawyer.

Ramirez's execution was stayed last week just 2 days before he was scheduled to die, after a federal judge ruled that his court-appointed lawyer had failed to file a necessary clemency petition.

He's far from alone: Death row inmates around the country have faced the ultimate punishment after court-appointed lawyers abandoned them, declining to file motions or cutting off communication with their clients in the high-tension, high-stakes last weeks before an execution. It's one example of how America's criminal justice system remains skewed in terms of funding and resources toward prosecutors and away from poor defendants.

Ramirez was sentenced to death in December 2008 for the murder of Pablo Castro in Corpus Christi 4 years earlier, when he was 20. According to testimony at his trial, Ramirez and 2 women attacked Castro in an attempt to rob him for drug money, with Ramirez slashing his throat and stabbing him more than 20 times. He ended up with just $1.25 from Castro's pockets, and Ramirez wasn't arrested until 3 1/2 years later near the Mexican border.

Now 32, Ramirez said in an interview with a local TV station last month that he was remorseful for his actions, but hoped his appeals would lead to a life sentence instead of an execution. "I was young and stupid and made a lot of bad choices that night," he said. "I never meant to do that - I didn't go out planning to take someone's life like that."

From the beginning, the man's legal representation has been lacking, to say the least, even if his own instincts about how to ward off capital punishment were suspect. At Ramirez's request, his attorney gave a closing argument at the punishment phase of his trial that consisted of reading a single-sentence bible verse: "For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Amen."

Even so, the jury deliberated for three and a half hours over whether to give Ramirez death or a life sentence.

But the legal system's ugliest failure came when another, court-appointed attorney named Michael Gross represented Ramirez in his state and federal appeals, which were both unsuccessful. Last November, after his execution date had been set for February 2, Ramirez sent Gross a letter firing him and asking him to not file anything in his case. Meanwhile, Ramirez's godmother struggled to find him a new lawyer.

But federal law makes clear that once an attorney is appointed, they have a responsibility to represent their client all the way up to their execution, including by filing clemency petitions. The only way to get out of that responsibility is to go to the judge and have them substitute in a new lawyer.

Gross didn't do that. In a motion in federal court, he said that he attempted to find a new lawyer for Ramirez but was unable to do so. The deadline for Ramirez to file a clemency petition - January 12 - came and went without Gross taking any action.

Finally, Ramirez's godmother got in touch with Gregory Gardner, another lawyer who agreed to help, according to court records. Gardner filed multiple motions in federal court 2 weeks ago, arguing that Gross had neglected his duties and urging the judge to postpone Ramirez's execution and appoint a new lawyer.

Last Tuesday, just 2 days before Ramirez was scheduled to be executed, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos agreed with Gardner's argument, staying Ramirez's execution. "At the heart of this case is an inmate whose attorney neglected an important legal obligation," she wrote. An appeals court upheld her decision on Wednesday. Garner said he was heartened by the judge's ruling. "We're seeing that the federal courts are not going to allow people to be executed when their attorneys stopped working for them," he said.

This doesn't appear to be the 1st time Gross has let a client down just before their execution. In March 2016, another of his clients, Texas death row inmate John Battaglia, came within 7 hours of being executed before a court granted him a reprieve, ruling that Battaglia had been "abandoned" by Gross, who failed to file a key motion. In December, Battaglia got another stay of execution after a state court found that he may not be mentally competent to be executed. (Gross did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

The Texas attorney general argued in court filings last week that Ramirez's claim of lack of representation was a ruse to postpone his execution. They pointed out that Gardner had intervened in both the Battaglia and Ramirez cases: "This is not abandonment; it is gamesmanship," the state said in its response in federal court. (The judge didn't buy it.)

Check out our documentary on debtors' prisons and America's for-profit justice system.

Lawyers and professors who study capital punishment say it's hard to pinpoint how many death row inmates are left high and dry by their lawyers when it matters most. "It happens more than we would like to admit," said Kathryn Kase, a senior counsel at the nonprofit criminal justice legal group Texas Defender Service. "Sometimes there are attorneys available to step in, but there's not always someone who has the capacity to do it."

For many years, attorneys in Texas (and other states) who were appointed to defend death row inmates didn't get paid for any work they did after their last appeal to the Supreme Court was denied, according to Kase. That meant that in some cases, if they filed a clemency petition or made last-minute motions to try to save their client's life, they'd essentially be working pro bono.

"Some attorneys make the decision that they would rather pay the rent than fight what they feel will be a losing battle," Kase said, adding that the law is now clear that this is not permitted.

And it's not just a Texas issue, although the state seems to have a disproportionate number of cases that involve some form of lawyer abandonment. "It is an outrageous and scandalous problem in the system," said Eric Freedman, a Hofstra Law School professor who studies capital punishment. "There's no question in the world that people are being killed under the radar screen without adequate representation."

In some cases, like for both Ramirez and Battaglia, the fact that a lawyer failed to fulfill their duties results in a last-minute reprieve for the defendant. Similarly, Missouri inmate Mark Christeson received a stay of his execution in 2014 based on a court decision that his lawyers, who filed a federal appeal almost four months late, had failed him. (Christensen was executed last week after another round of appeals.)

In other cases, courts let executions go ahead even when attorneys fail to do their jobs. Raphael Holliday, another Texas inmate, was executed in November 2015 after his court-appointed lawyers said they would no longer represent him. At one point, after Holliday tried to petition the court to give him a new attorney, the appointed lawyers actually argued against their own client's motion.

So what can be done about it? Part of the problem is funding, advocates say: courts should offer more investigative cash to court-appointed attorneys, in an attempt to promote strong representation. That could help avoid drawn-out appeals over an ineffective counsel, and even end up saving money overall by reining in attorney fees on both sides of cases. In the United States, budgets for public defenders are typically fractions of the budget for prosecutors and police investigators - state prosecutors spent almost $3.5 billion more than public defenders' offices in 2007, Mother Jones reported.

In some courts, federal public defender offices also have specific "Capital Habeas Units," teams of highly trained lawyers ready to represent death row inmates in federal court. "You don't see this kind of abandonment occurring in cases in which prisoners are represented by a Capital Habeas Unit," said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. There's no such unit in the federal circuit court covering Texas - even though, at least until 2016, the state had executed more people than any other for decades.

"No one should face the executioner without the benefit of counsel," Kase said. "That's a bedrock value of the American justice system."

(source: vice.com)

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Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----22

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----540

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

23---------March 7------------------Rolando Ruiz----------541

24---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------542

25---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------543

26---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------544

27---------July 19-----------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane---545

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Expanding death penalty is the wrong move

Once again a small group of New Hampshire representatives has introduced legislation to expand the use of the death penalty in our state. House Bill 351, if enacted, will make "a person who knowingly causes the death of a child guilty of capital murder."

Taking the life of another human being is an unimaginable breach of human decency. Taking the life of a child, who by virtue of their age, size and/or ability is less able to defend him or herself, is that much more depraved. And so it is understandable that the murder of a child triggers a highly emotional response.

A highly charged environment, however, is not always conducive to a rational deliberative search for justice. In the past couple of decades alone, there have been a number of adults, including parents, convicted of killing young children by shaking them in anger or frustration, only to have more recent scientific and forensic studies cast doubt on the very concept of "shaken baby syndrome." The very fact that we are so moved by such crimes, makes us that much more susceptible to mistakes in judgment. Our legal system, at least in theory, is quite enlightened and humane, but it is not infallible.

New Hampshire is the one remaining state in New England to allow the death penalty by statute, although there has not been an actual execution in 77 years. Nationally the number of states that have repealed the death penalty has steadily risen while the number of people executed has continued to decline.

Public opinion on this issue has shifted as well. Recent polls suggest that the share of Americans who support the death penalty in cases of murder, is at the lowest point in more than 4 decades.

The reasons for doing away with the death penalty are many. The expense of death penalty cases is exorbitant. The one active case in process in New Hampshire has cost more then $5 million over the past 10 years.

Mistakes are sometimes made, leading to the killing of innocent men and women. Over 140 convicted death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973.

The death penalty is applied more frequently to people of color, particularly in cases where victims are white.

And there is no good evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to would be murderers.

This is not the time to expand the death penalty in New Hampshire; rather, we should be joining with states around the country and civilized nations all over the world who have banned government-sanctioned killing.

The role of government should be to maintain freedoms, protect the vulnerable and provide justice for all; never to take the lives of our fellow human beings.

Joe Schapiro

288 Church St.

Keene

(source: Letter to the Editor, Keene Sentinel)

ALABAMA:

Bill to end judges' override on death sentences clears committee

A bill to remove from judges the authority to issue a death sentence after a jury has recommended life in prison won approval today in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill cleared the committee on a 5-3 vote, with committee chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, casting the last and deciding vote.

Ward joined four Democrats in voting for the bill and said he thought it was the right thing to do.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, is sponsoring the bill. It moves to the full Senate.

Alabama is the only remaining state that allows judges to override jury's recommendations and issue a death sentence.

Brewbaker told the committee that from 2005 to 2015, judges overrode juries and issued death sentences 23 times. 12 of those came in election years, which Brewbaker said is a strong indication that politics was influencing the decisions.

"Election cycles are influencing sentencing, and that can't be good," Brewbaker said.

Voting in favor of the bill were Sens. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham; Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, and Ward.

Voting no were Sens. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville; Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia and Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City.

Williams said it was wrong to assume that judges allowed their decisions to be influenced by politics.

"The issue before us right now is do we believe in the sovereignty of the jury," Williams said. "That's what the issue is. The issue cannot be that someone is elected to an office therefore they must be corrupt and make bad decisions because they were elected."

Brewbaker said it was not his intent to impugn the integrity of judges, but said the numbers speak for themselves.

"I think if you look at it statistically, it's pretty clear the election cycle is playing a role in this," Brewbaker said. "And I'm not trying to impugn an officer of the court. I'm just saying they're involved in the political process in exactly the same way legislators are."

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, who has sponsored legislation to place restrictions or repeal the death penalty for years, is sponsoring a bill similar to Brewbaker's this year.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, has a similar bill in the House.

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

Suspect in Huntsville slayings of wife, son wants death penalty ruled unconstitutional

A man pursuing an insanity defense in the fatal strangling his wife and young son is asking a Madison County judge to dismiss 2 capital murder charges.

Stephen Marc Stone is asking Circuit Judge Donna Pate to dismiss the capital indictments and rule Alabama's death penalty unconstitutional.

Stone is set to go on trial March 6 in the deaths of 7-year-old Zachary and 32-year-old Krista Stone. The victims were found dead Feb. 24, 2013, at their home on Chicamauga Trail in south Huntsville.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

A paraplegic man who died in his daughter's arms and a 37-year-old fatally beaten by her boyfriend are among north Alabama's homicide victims for whom prosecutors hope to get justice in 2017.

Stone and his attorneys are arguing the state's death penalty sentencing procedures violate the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as Supreme Court decisions.

The defense argues that when the Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty system in Hurst v. Florida, it also made Alabama's system unconstitutional, according to court records.

"Florida's capital structure contained a fatal flaw: it allowed the Judge to find the facts determinative of a life or death sentence," attorneys Brian Clark and Larry Marsili wrote in a motion.

Because a judge ultimately decides whether to sentence a convict to death or prison, the attorneys argue the law is unconstitutional.

In a capital trial when a guilty verdict is handed down, the jury votes on whether a person should be sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole. However, the judge makes the final decision.

There has been much debate about Alabama's system since the Hurst decision.

Alabama is now the only state to allow judges to override jury recommendations for life without parole and for those recommendations to be non-unanimous.

A hearing on pending motions in Stone's case is set for Friday at 11 a.m.

The judge also is expected to rule on a defense request for a mental evaluation of Stone, who is seeking to prove himself not guilty by reason of mental disease of defect.

An independent expert hired by the defense found Stone, 37, is not competent to stand trial, court records show.

(source for both: al.com)

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

Baldwin County DA could seek death penalty against Mary Rice

Capital Murder suspect, Mary Rice will be brought back to the gulf coast for prosecution. She's the alleged accomplice to William Boyette in the murders of 2 women and an accomplice - after the fact in 2 others. Because 1 of the murders happened in Baldwin County and the others in Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, Florida, there's still the question of where she will be prosecuted.

State Attorney for Escambia County, Bill Eddins said Rice will first be charged in Santa Rosa County. Baldwin County investigators have been working hand-in-hand with their counterparts in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties throughout this process and that will continue as either state County moves forward with the prosecution.

A tip from an alert citizen in West Point, Georgia brought to an end a rash of murders across 3 gulf coast counties over the last week. While the primary suspect, William Boyette took his own life, his alleged accomplice, 37 year-old Mary Rice was arrested. Baldwin County District Attorney, Bob Wilters is glad that Rice will be returned to local authorities quickly.

"It would be very beneficial to the families of everybody involved, our victims' families just to have a little bit of closure on this case, to kind of know that the nightmare has ended," Wilters said.

While Boyette was thought to be responsible for the shooting deaths of four women in 3 counties, investigators believe Rice played a key role in the last 2. 52 year-old, Peggy Broz was gunned down in the front yard of her Lillian home Friday, February 3, 2017. Her car was stolen and recovered the next day in Escambia County. Then, 28 year-old Kayla Crocker was shot at her Beulah home the following Monday. Her car was also stolen. Wilters said there's been ongoing cooperation between local jurisdictions and that that will continue through the legal process. Regardless of where Rice is first taken, she will be prosecuted by whoever has the best case against her.

"This is a case where we want to make sure that we start off with our best case, whether it's here in Baldwin County or whether it's in Escambia County, Florida," Wilters said. "This is something that we're not going to get in a turf war over. Whoever's got the best case, that's the one we're going to go with."

While the investigation into the murder of Peggy Broz is still ongoing, Wilters said if what he finds warrants it, he could pursue the death penalty.

"We probably would, but we haven't made that decision at this point. To get a death penalty, you have to have aggravating factors that outweigh the mitigating factors," explained Wilters. "We'll have to take a look to see if we do have those aggravating factors."

Since it's still an open investigation, Wilters couldn't go into many of the facts or evidence that's been gathered in the Broz murder. He did say that no matter what jurisdiction tries the case, he expects things to move forward pretty quickly.

(source: WBRC news)

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

State senator proposes new option for death penalty----Senator proposes firing squad

A state senator proposed a new bill Tuesday that would provide an alternate option for the death penalty in Alabama.

Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, introduced a bill that would authorize execution by firing squad. Pittman said he was inspired to introduce the bill by death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who claims lethal injection is cruel and unusual.

The proposed bill would list a firing squad as an option, along with injection, for criminals who are given the death penalty.

Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. state that allows a firing squad. In 2015 Utah approved a firing squad as capital punishment, but only if lethal injection drugs weren't available.

(source: WVTM news)

MISSISSIPPI:

House passes bill to allow firing squads in executions

The House passed a bill that could lead to the death penalty being carried out by nitrogen gas, firing squad or electrocution.

The execution alternative methods in House Bill 638 would only come into play if Mississippi's lethal injection protocol is ruled unconstitutional. Then each of the other methods would be successive if one is ruled unconstitutional.

House Judiciary B Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said the bill has the support of Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood.

"I have a constituent whose daughter was raped and killed 25 years ago and the person is still awaiting execution," Gipson said. "If we want to have the death penalty, this bill will give us options."

Gipson said firing squads have been used in some states. He said electrocution and gas have been used previously in Mississippi.

Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, asked Gipson, who is a Baptist minister, what the Bible says about grace and mercy and whether he believes in grace and mercy.

"I'm a big believer in mercy and grace," Gipson said. "Unfortunately, the death penalty is necessary for those who commit atrocious crimes."

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, said a lot of people sentenced to death have been found to be innocent.

The bill says if the current method of execution is held unconstitutional by a court or is otherwise unavailable, then the sentence of death shall be carried out by nitrogen hypoxia.

If lethal injection and nitrogen hypoxia are ruled unconstitutional or are unavailable, then the sentence of death would be carried out by firing squad.

Then, if the other above methods are ruled unconstitutional or for some reason are unavailable, the final method of carrying out an execution would be done by electrocution.

Hood said his support for the bill is to remove the language that a certain protocol has to be used to carry out lethal injections.

Since Mississippi joined the union in 1817, several forms of execution have been used. Hanging was the 1st, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The state continued to execute prisoners sentenced to die by hanging until Oct. 11, 1940, when Hilton Fortenberry, convicted of capital murder in Jefferson Davis County, became the 1st prisoner to be executed in the electric chair. Between 1940 and Feb. 5, 1952, the old oak electric chair was moved from county to county to conduct executions. During the 12-year span, 75 prisoners were executed in the Magnolia State for offenses punishable by death.

In 1954, the gas chamber was installed at the State Penitentiary at Parchman, according to MDOC. It replaced the electric chair, which is on display at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy. Gearald A. Gallego became the first prisoner to be executed by lethal gas on March 3, 1955. During the course of the next 34 years, 35 death row inmates were executed in the gas chamber. On June 21, 1989, Leo Edwards became the last person to be executed in the gas chamber at thePenitentiary. On July 1, 1984, the Mississippi Legislature partially amended lethal gas as the state's form of execution. The amendment provided that individuals who committed capital punishment crimes after the effective date of the new law and who were subsequently sentenced to death would be executed by lethal injection. On March 18, 1998, the Legislature amended the manner of execution by removing the lethal gas provision as the alternate form of execution. Since 2002, 17 death row inmates have died by lethal injection.

The last time Mississippi executed a death row inmate was 2012. Since then, a federal lawsuit over the drug protocol used in executions, combined with motions before the state Supreme Court, have left a question mark as to when the next execution might occur. 47 inmates remain on death row.

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

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

Mississippi considers firing squad execution method in response to lawsuits by 'liberal, left-wing radicals'

Politicians in Mississippi are advancing a proposal to add firing squad, electrocution and gas chamber as execution methods in case a court blocks the use of lethal injection drugs.

Republican representative Andy Gipson said House Bill 638 is a response to lawsuits by "liberal, left-wing radicals".

The bill passed the House amid opposition on Wednesday, and moves to the senate.

Lethal injection is Mississippi's only execution method.

The state faces lawsuits claiming the drugs it plans to use would violate constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Mississippi has not been able to acquire the execution drugs it once used, and it last carried out an execution in 2012.

The Death Penalty Information Centre said of the 33 US states with the death penalty, only Oklahoma and Utah have firing squad as an option.

(source: breakingnews.ie)

KENTUCKY:

Lawmakers Seeking to Abolish Death Penalty Cite Cost, Morality, Mistakes

Saying it's about the soul of Kentucky, Rep. Jason Nemes is filing legislation to abolish the death penalty.

2 chambers. 2 lawmakers from different parties. Similar bills. Republican Representative Jason Nemes and Democrat Senator Gerald Neal are both filing legislation Tuesday in the Kentucky General Assembly to abolish the death penalty.

Saying he wants to "stand for life," Nemes, a conservative lawmaker from Louisville, says his bill is "about the soul of Kentucky" and for him, "a matter of faith."

"If I believe that Jesus wouldn't do it, I don't think my government ought to do it either and I understand there are differences," he said.

Senator Neal, also from Louisville, says like the Nemes bill, his legislation would eliminate execution as one of the five penalties now available to a jury in a death penalty case, making life without the possibility of parole the maximum sentence. The Legislature has repeatedly rejected that idea, with many proponents of capital punishment saying it deters crime.

Nemes, who describes himself as a "law and order guy," says his stance is also about the proper role of government. He says he fears Kentucky's death penalty system will make a mistake and that's not something he's willing to live with.

"I believe that our government has the right to take someone's life or liberty, only to the extent necessary to protect us," Nemes explained. "And I'm strongly in favor of life without the possibility of parole, not even coming up for a question for parole."

Since 1973, 157 people have been exonerated from death row in America, including one in Kentucky, yet execution remains legal in 31 states.

Neal says while lawmakers often cite morality or the "broken system" for their opposition, it's because of the cost of the death penalty that many lawmakers have "second thoughts..."

"In fact, [they] find it not acceptable to pay for that process when they understand that it costs more to execute a person than it is to incarcerate them for life," Neal said.

(source: WMKY news)

MONTANA:

Bill abolishing death penalty gains momentum

A bill abolishing Montana's death penalty is gaining momentum this week in Helena.

House Bill 366 would replace the death penalty with a lifetime sentence without the possibility of parole.

Bills like this have been introduced before without success, but supporters this year think it has a chance.

That is largely thanks to new support from several Republicans, led by Adam Hertz (R-Missoula), who's serving his 1st term in the Montana House.

Hertz said, for him, abolishing the death penalty comes down to 3 things.

"Cost. It's a really, really expensive, ineffective government program." Hertz said, citing a study that found the death penalty can cost a state many times more for a state to prosecute than a life sentence.

"Redemption," Hertz said is his 2nd reason. The 3rd, he said, is about being consistently pro-life.

"I understand that's it's also a generational issue sometimes. I'm not pressuring anyone to vote against their conscience on this," Hertz said. "Folks know where they stand on it. I'm here to give them information and let them know why I support abolition and hope that they see things my way."

After nearly 2 hours of testimony in support of the bill at a panel hearing last week no one spoke up in opposition. Some have disputed how much money the bill would actually save.

Hertz expects House Bill 336 to get its 2nd reading on the house floor sometime next week.

There are currently 2 men on death row in Montana: William Gollehon, sentenced in 1992, and Ronald Smith, sentenced in 1983.

Both have successfully postponed their executions using the court system.

(source: nbcmontana.com)

ARIZONA:

Death row survivor to speak at The Casa Feb. 20

Shujaa Graham, a death row survivor, is to speak about social justice and his experiences, Feb. 20 at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley.

After serving 3 years on death row in San Quentin, Calif., Mr. Graham was exonerated for the 1973 killed of a prison guard, according to a press release.

After 4 trials, he was released from prison in 1981. Now he is a community organizer, youth advocate and anti-death penalty activist who fights for social justice and human rights, the release stated.

Mr. Graham's event is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 20, at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley.

Admittance is $10 per person or $20 per family. Children ages 10 and up are welcome. Portions of proceeds will support Arizona Death Penalty Alternatives.

(source: Paradise Valley Independent)

CALIFORNIA:

Irvine man who killed mother and brother diagnosed schizophrenic, insanity defense looms

An Irvine man accused of gunning down his mother and brother at a family home pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a pair of murder charges.

Nolan Pascal Pillay, 37, is due back in court March 9 in Newport Beach March 9 for a pretrial hearing. He remains jailed without bail.

He is charged with 2 counts of murder with special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, making him eligible for the death penalty. Pillay also faces 2 sentencing-enhancing gun use allegations.

Police were called about 1 p.m. Jan. 31 to a home in the 14900 block of Crystal Circle, prompting a temporary lockdown of a nearby elementary school.

The bodies of 58-year-old Gloria Pillay and 35-year-old Arlyn Pillay were found inside, and the defendant was arrested without incident at the scene, according to Kim Mohr of the Irvine Police Department.

Neighbors said a man and his 2 sons had lived in the house for about 15 years, and a person could be heard yelling "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" around the time of the killings.

Pillay's attorney, Jacqueline Goodman, said her client has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"He's had these racing thoughts that would torture him," Goodman said.

"It's too early for me to know" about whether the defendant will seek an insanity defense, she said. "But knowing what I do about the seriousness of his mental illness I would not be surprised" if an insanity defense is mounted.

"His father and everyone in his family so far have been completely supportive and devastated," Goodman said. "Everyone has remarked on how gentle and nonviolent he is."

Many of his relatives were flying in from South Africa to support Pillay, according to the attorney.

Goodman said she hasn't spoken with everyone in her client's family, but of all the relatives she has been in contact with, no one "blames him, which I think is very remarkable."

Pillay has a college degree and has tried to hold down a job, but his mental illness made that difficult, Goodman said. Pillay made a habit of making breakfast for his father and packing him a lunch for work, she said.

"He would do errands at home, so he was always desirous of being helpful, of pulling his weight, but he struggled with his mental illness to keep a job."

Senior Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke, who filed the charges, declined comment.

(source: mynewsla.com)

IRAN:

6 Iranian juveniles have death sentence curtailed

Iran has commuted death sentences against 6 juvenile offenders following UN criticism it was executing people who had committed crimes as children at "an unprecedented rate", a report said Thursday.

Prosecutors asked the judiciary to reconsider 10 cases, the Shahrvand newspaper quoted Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying.

"6 requests were accepted and their death sentences overturned," he said.

International conventions outlaw the death penalty for offences committed by minors but Iranian law allows executions of those convicted of such offences once they reach 18.

However, it also allows for death sentences to be commuted to compensation to victims' families if it is determined that the juvenile offenders did not understand the full gravity of their actions.

Shahrvand did not specify what the judiciary decided in the other 4 cases referred to it.

Last week, UN human rights experts appealed to Iran to cancel the looming execution of Hamid Ahmadi who was 17 when he was sentenced to death in 2009 for the fatal stabbing of a young man during a fight.

They said that last month they intervened to halt the execution of another juvenile offender, and that they had learnt too late that 2 others were hanged on January 15 and 18.

The executions were carried out secretly and those killed were buried at mass graves outside the capital, with families not informed of their fate.

(source: enca.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Restoration of death penalty gets mixed reactions in Leyte

Officials in Leyte province have expressed varied opinions on the proposed re-imposition of death penalty in the country.

Leyte second district Representative Henry Ong said the better way to crime prevention is to address the root cause of criminality -- poverty and lack of education, not killing the criminals.

"I don't think that death penalty is the solution. If we only do our part and give them the economic support and give children proper education and guidance, I don't think criminality will increase," Ong said. He said no one pressured him to oppose death penalty, stressing it was his belief as a Roman Catholic that life is sacred.

"As a Catholic, I was taught and raised to respect and love life. I don't think it will really solve the problem and if ever this will be passed, poor people who cannot afford to have good lawyers are the ones who would suffer," Ong said. Eastern Visayas has 13 representatives in Congress and only 2 representatives support death penalty -- Leyte third district Representative Vicente Veloso and An Waray party-list Representative Victoria Isabel Noel.

Noel clarified that although she supports death penalty, the imposition should only be on heinous crimes and on drug-related cases. The party-list lawmaker believes that the imposition of death penalty could help the government deter heinous crimes. For a member of the Archdiocese of Palo clergy, Fr. Mark Ivo Velasquez, "the return of the death penalty will not make ours a more just and secure society."

"Proof of this is the nations in which it is still practiced. On the contrary, it will make us into a more violent and bloodthirsty people, who seek revenge over justice. Under the cloak of mere legality, society would administer as a remedy the very disease it tries to eliminate," Fr. Velasquez said.

He added that death penalty is not justifiable in the eyes of God.

The restoration of capital punishment in the country has been the subject of plenary debates in Congress after the House of Representatives' justice committee approved in December last year a report containing the substitute bill that would allow it back in the criminal justice system.

The measure, which is a consolidation of 7 House bills of the same intent, has enumerated heinous crimes punishable by death penalty, namely: Treason; Piracy in general and mutiny on the high seas or in Philippine water; Qualified piracy; Qualified bribery; Parricide; Murder; Infanticide; Rape; Kidnapping and serious illegal detention; Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons; Destructive arson; Plunder; Possession of dangerous drugs; Carnapping, among others.

The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

(source: sunstar.com.ph)

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

'Supermajority' OKs compromise to scrap mandatory use of death penalty

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said the mandatory use of death penalty for heinous crimes will be eliminated from the death penalty bill. In a press conference, Alvarez said this was agreed upon by members of the so-called "supermajority" coalition during a caucus on Wednesday afternoon.

Alvarez also disclosed that reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment will be added as another option of punishment.

Alvarez also reiterated that House leaders who will not support the administration's priority measure will be plucked out from their posts - including deputy speakerships, chairmanships and vice-chairmanships.

Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who abolished death penalty in 2006 when she was President, has expressed opposition against the bill.

"We have to replace her (Arroyo) as deputy speaker... I already asked the majority leader (Rodolfo Farinas) to talk to her," Alvarez said.

Alvarez announced that he will insist on a party vote rather than a conscience vote on the death penalty bill.

Alvarez met with his party mates from the ruling party PDP-Laban to reiterate its party stand in favor of House Bill No. 4727. Members who will deviate from it might as well resign, he noted.

Under the proposed measure, death penalty will be imposed on more than 20 offenses including illegal drug trafficking, arson, treason, murder, rape, kidnapping, and carnapping.

The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

The imposition of death penalty has been suspended since 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines."

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly declared that he wanted capital punishment reimposed on heinous crimes, especially on criminals involved in drug-trafficking.

(source: update.ph)

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

Alvarez sacks Arroyo, Andaya for opposing death penalty bill

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday kicked out deputy speakers who are opposed to the death penalty bill, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Alvarez said his decision was final.

Another deputy speaker who is against the death penalty is Rep. Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur.

"It is the policy of the leadership, and that is not arm-twisting. I am not threatening anybody. When I say something, I'd do it. She (Arroyo) will have to be replaced as Deputy Speaker. I haven't talked to her, but I already asked the Majority Leader to attend to it," Alvarez said.

"I am not forcing the members of the House leadership [to vote in favor of death penalty bill]. If there are really 4 deputy speakers against it, then I will have to ask for their replacement from their respective parties," he added.

Alvarez shrugged the warning of Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list that the House leader will eventually lose the support of his allies if he continues to kick out deputy speakers who are against the death penalty.

"I am not forcing anybody. If I lose support, I'm okay with it. I am not forcing anyone to go with me," Alvarez said.

The Speaker made the stance after a caucus with PDP-Laban members on Wednesday morning, with discussions on the death penalty bill stymied in the last 2 weeks because of lack of quorum.

"The party stand of PDP-Laban is the restoration of death penalty. I think we have around 100 members. If you don't agree with the party stand, then you might as well quit from your party membership," Alvarez told reporters.

"They are free to resign from the party. I will not force them, of course," he added.

Alvarez also warned "Super Majority" coalition members from other political parties to toe the line or lose their positions in the House leadership.

The Super Majority coalition is led by PDP-Laban. The ruling coalition includes members of the Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People's Coalition, Party-list Coalition, National Unity Party and Lakas-CMD.

"I already asked their cooperation since they belong to the majority [coalition]. If you were a deputy speaker or committee chairman, it would look bad if you are not supporting the administration bill. We could replace them [in the House leadership if they don't agree with death penalty]," Alvarez said.

"But it will be up to them to leave the Super Majority," he added.

The death penalty law was abolished during the Arroyo presidency in 2006.

On Wednesday, lawmakers amended the death penalty bill by providing life sentence as an option to punish those convicted of heinous crime.

"We agreed that the death penalty won't be mandatory (anymore). Instead, the punishment will be ranging from reclusion perpetua (lifetime imprisonment) to death. This means it will be the judge's call when to mete death penalty [to a convict]," Alvarez told reporters.

"The punishment will depend on attending circumstances. The judge will be the one to decide what is appropriate between the 2," he added.

The initial version of the death penalty covers heinous crimes and drug-related offenses.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas on Tuesday cautioned anti-death penalty lawmakers against repeatedly questioning the lack of required majority attendance on the session floor, warning that the House leadership could bar some 50 lawmakers from questioning the death penalty bill.

Under the rules, the House cannot discuss measures in the plenary without a quorum.

"If the gentleman [from Manila]will insist on having a quorum, then we will not have enough time to accommodate the 50 interpellators for the death penalty debates. If there are 3 [lawmakers]in favor [of death penalty]and 3 against, we can move to close the period of debates," Farinas said.

Farinas was referring to Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list, who has been questioning the quorum. Atienza conceded and instead proposed to suspend Tuesday's session until a quorum is reached.

In 25 minutes, a quorum was reached and the sponsorship on the death penalty bill proceeded.

The death penalty bill covers heinous crimes and drug-related offenses, and deems the possession of at least 10 grams of illegal drugs as drug trafficking punishable by death.

(source: The Manila Times)

THAILAND:

Murder Suspect Who Fled to Cambodia Gets Death Penalty

An Australian former kickboxing champion who fled to Cambodia to escape justice for the murder of a former Hells Angels member has been sentenced to death for the crime by a Thai court.

Antonio Bagnato, 28, traveled to Phnom Penh shortly after the body of Wayne Schneider, a former business partner, was found buried in a forest near the tourist town of Pattaya in December 2015. He was captured by military police near Kandal Market the next day and sent back to Thailand. A 2nd man, U.S. national Tyler Gerard, was arrested at an immigration checkpoint as he tried to cross into Cambodia.

Mr. Bagnato denied any involvement in the kidnap and killing of Mr. Schneider. The 2 had previously run a gym together in Sydney.

On Tuesday, the Pattaya Provincial Court found Mr. Bagnato guilty of murder and abduction, and sentenced him to death - though legal experts in Australia have said it is unlikely he will face the death penalty as Thailand has not carried out any executions since 2009.

Mr. Gerard, 22, was given 3 years in prison for deprivation of liberty after evidence was found linking him to the scene of the kidnapping, though his sentence was reduced to 2 years for his cooperation with authorities. 3 other suspects remain on the run.

Thai police believe the killing was motivated by conflicts over a multimillion-dollar international drug network.

Cambodian authorities are currently helping Thai police locate 2 suspects wanted for their alleged involvement in another murder case in Pattaya. South African Abel Caldeira Bonito, 23, and Briton Miles Dicken Turner, 27, are said to have crossed into Cambodia on January 24 through the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint in Koh Kong province, the same day victim Tony Kenway was shot in the head while sitting in his car. Mr. Bonito has ties to Phnom Penh.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Chuon Narin said on Wednesday: "The internal security police and immigration police are working on it. Police have not found them yet."

(source: The Cambodia Daily)

INDONESIA:

Judge Hands Down Death Penalty to Eno Farihah's Killers ---- Suspects of the murder of Eno Farihah (in orange), a worker at PT Polyta Global Mandiri in Tangerang.

The Tangerang District Court rendered death penalty to 2 suspects of Eno Farihah murder case, Rahmat Arifin bin Hartono and Imam Hapriadi.

"[The court] imposed death penalty to 2 of the defendants, Imam and Arifin," panel of judges chairman M. Irfan Siregar said during the reading of the verdict at the Tangerang District Court on Wednesday, February 8, 2017.

The panel of judges declared that the two defendants convincingly committed a premeditated murder. The panel of judges considered that the death penalty was delivered, since the defendants were sadistic and vile, caused trauma to the victim's family, refused to plead guilty, and did not regret their action.

"We did not find any reasons to lighten the sentence," Irman added.

When reading the verdict, Irfan temporarily adjourned the trial since Eno's mother and families were crying in the court. Meanwhile, the two defendants seemed calm and did not show any emotions.

Prosecutor Agus Kurniawan said that the verdict was in line with his demand.

"We will file an appeal against defendant's appeal, but we're going to report to our superior. The verdict is in accordance with the charge," Agus told Tempo after the trial.

The defendants' lawyer Sunardi said that he would think about measures to be taken in relation to the verdict.

Eno Farihah, 19, a worker at PT Polyta Global Mandiri was brutally murdered in an employee housing in Tangerang on Thursday night, May 14, 2016.

Another defendant RA, 15, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

(source: tempo.co

BANGLADESH:

High Court to hear appeals of 15 Narayanganj 7-murder convicts

The High Court will hear death reference and appeals for 15 death row convicts of the Narayanganj 7 murder case.

A bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim nodded to hear the appeals after the defendant's lawyers presented the case details on Wednesday.

The order to fine convicts Nur Hossain and Arif Hossain have been stayed until the appeals are settled by the High Court, said their lawyer SRM Lutfur Rahman Akand.

The court will hear the appeals and the death references on the same day, he said.

Former Narayanganj Councillor Nur Hossain, former army major Arif Hossain and 13 others have appealed against a Narayanganj court order that has handed them death in the case.

The 15 convicts are Siddhirganj Awami League's former Vice-President, Ward Councillor Nur Hossain, Former commander of RAB 11 Lt Col Tarek Sayeed, former RAB camp commander Arif Hossain, RAB camp commander Masud Rana, Havildar Emdadul Huq, Lance Naik Belal Hossain, Sepoy Abu Toiyob, Constable Shihab Uddin, Sub-Inspector Purnendu Bala, Soldier Asaduzzaman Nur, Nur Hossain's accomplice Mortuza Zaman Charchil, Ali Mohammad, Mijanur Rahman Dipu, Abul Bashar and Rohom Ali.

Advocate AM Shahjahan and SRM Lutfur Kabir argued for the defendants while Deputy Attorney General Forhad Ahmed represented the State on Wednesday.

Narayanganj City Corporation Panel Mayor Nazrul Islam, advocate Chandan Sarker and five others were abducted on Apr 27, 2014 from Narayanganj. They were killed and their bodies were drowned in Shitalakkhya River.

On Jan 16, Narayanganj District and Sessions Judge Syed Enayet Hossain awarded death penalty to 26 including Nur Hossain and 3 former senior RAB officers. 9 others were sentenced to various prison terms.

The verdict was delivered in presence of 23 defendants. The 12 other convicts, of which 8 belonged to the RAB, are absconding.

Police arrested fugitive death row convict Sergeant Enamul Kabir from Magura on Feb 5.

Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha ordered to prepare the paperbook as a priority after the death reference arrived at the High Court on Jan 22.

(source: bdnews24.com)

FEBRUARY 8, 2017:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

NH House committee hears testimony on bill proposing death penalty for killing children

A house committee debated a bill that would send those who knowingly cause the death of a child to death row.

"When you see a little casket like that, and he's laying in there with his little teddy bear because someone can rape him and break his neck and break his skull and video tape it and that doesn't deserve a death penalty?" said Jane Sylvestre, an aunt to a baby who was murdered.

It was an intense and emotional testimony from Sylvestre, the aunt of Baby SJ. Officials said Tommy Page crushed the boy's skull while sexually assaulting him.

A House committee began to weigh whether to categorize crimes like this one against children as capital murder on Tuesday. They heard powerful testimony from both sides.

"I wish it was for women, I wish it was for disabled," said one man who supported the bill. "Anyone that commits murder should get the death penalty."

Barbara Keshen, a former homicide prosecutor for the New Hampshire Attorney General's office, says mistakes are made when investigating crimes.

She spoke of 6-year-old Elizabeth Knapp of Hopkinton who was raped and murdered in her bed. The boyfriend of the girl's mother was one of the prime suspects until DNA linked another man to the case.

"If James Dale had worn a condom - I as I sit here today - I feel virtually certain that Richard Buchanan would have been found guilty and would likely had been sentenced to death," she said.

Sabrina Butler Porter, of Mississippi gave a first-hand account after being sentenced to death when her 9-month-old son died. Porter was later exonerated.

"I sit on death row 2 years, 9 months waiting to die - my son had heart problems, kidney problems and chronic bowl syndrome," she said. "This system doesn't work for everybody they made a mistake."

The committee recommended to wait to move forward because the Senate is also drafting a similar bill.

(source: nh1.com)

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

Don't expand the death penalty

To the Editor:

Expanding the death penalty is not what New Hampshire wants or needs. HB 351 is just an attempt to keep ineffective government policy in law. Why create another opportunity to squander millions of taxpayers' dollars?

The state has already spent more than $5 million on a single death penalty case. Just one case. Why? Because it is extremely expensive to prosecute and investigate a single death penalty case. Not to mention, the state has not executed a person since 1939, therefore, we clearly can live without the death penalty.

Attempting to expand the death penalty is foolish. Why attempt to create another opportunity to waste resources (financial and human,) when we're trying so desperately to eliminate wasteful spending habits? Just say no to HB 351! Besides, it is time for us to start looking for ways to get rid of useless laws and policies, like the death penalty law.

SELINA TAYLOR

Belmont Street

Manchester

(source: Letter to the editor, Union Leader)

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

NH should abolish death penalty

On Tuesday, February 7th the NH House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will be holding public hearings on HB 351-FN to discuss expanding the offenses eligible for the death penalty to include knowingly causing death of a child.

A man I help was convicted of murdering a child under six, which was a capital crime in Texas. He has been on death row since 1999. However, the science around pediatric head injuries has evolved and his execution was stayed in 2015 with the Court of Criminal Appeals sending his case back to the trial court. It is our hope that with the multiple experts willing to testify pro bono on his behalf he will be given the opportunity to have another trial - a more fair one.

Science is always evolving. We know that many people were wrongfully imprisoned before the use of DNA evidence. Some were executed. As Time magazine said, "the modern death penalty remains slow, costly and uncertain". Death penalty expansion is a major reason why innocent people are convicted and executed. The more people on death row increase the odds of mistakes happening.

New Hampshire needs to abolish the death penalty, not expand it. It is clearly not a deterrent and the costs of a capital trial far exceed non-capital murder trials (in California they found capital crimes are 6 times more expensive). Call or email your State Representative and ask them to reject any expansion of the death penalty here in New Hampshire.

Ann Wright

Lee

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

PENNSYLVANIA:

Knoble case proves senselessness of death penalty

It has now been more than a week since the death penalty trial of Jeffrey Knoble was front-page news and he was instead sentenced to life in prison.

I am personally relieved that I am no longer reminded every day that we live in a state that continues to believe the cold-blooded, deliberate and premeditated killing of a person is an appropriate form of punishment.

I am personally relieved as a taxpayer that my tax dollars will not be wasted on imposing a punishment that is much more expensive and yet no more effective than life in prison.

I am personally relieved that the family of the victim will not need to relive their loss every time the death sentence is appealed and that the mother of Knoble will not need to plead for her son's life in the penalty phase of the trial.

I am personally relieved that Knoble will no longer have the courtroom stage to act the part of an arrogant, violent psychopath. If someone who acted as despicable and nonredeemable as Knoble does not get the death penalty, how can District Attorney John Morganelli believe it is still necessary to keep it for the worst of the worst?

David Rose

Easton

(source: Letter to the Editor, Express-Times)

FLORIDA:

Death Penalty Fix Moves Forward In Florida Senate

Then Rep. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) debating on the House floor. Now as a senator, Bracy chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.

Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) wants a more permanent death penalty fix. But his committee has little interest in revisiting such a contentious issue.

The Florida Legislature seems ready to require unanimous sentences for the death penalty. But even with that fix, Florida's procedures remain in a dubious position. Sen. Randolph Bracy filed, but quickly withdrew, an amendment pushing the courts to offer new hearings for more people on death row.

"My sense is that the majority of the Legislature just wants to deal with the 12-0 verdict of a jury," Bracy said after the hearing, "and I don't think there's an appetite to go past that."

Florida's high court took the unusual step of establishing a cut off for new penalty hearings tied to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Defense attorneys are bringing well over a hundred appeals for clients who didn't make the cut off.

(source: WFSU news)

MONTANA:

Should Montana abolish the death penalty? see: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/opinion/2017/02/06/weeks-question-feb-6/97573656/

(source: Great Falls Tribune)

CALIFORNIA----foreign national may face death penalty

Aspiring Kiwi rapper could face US death sentence

An aspiring Auckland rapper may be executed in the US after being charged with 1st-degree murder.

29-year-old Clinton Thinn was arrested in California after allegedly trying to rob a bank.

He is reported to have gone into the Chula Vista bank and used a flare gun and a hammer in the stick-up. He was captured during his attempt.

Fairfax reports a friend of Thinn as saying after being taken into custody he was involved in an incident at a prison, which allegedly led to another person's death.

Thinn has been charged with murder in the first degree, attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a loaded firearm.

Thinn has not entered any plea and he isn't eligible for bail. If convicted he could face the death penalty.

Fairfax reports his friend, Chris Sims, as saying he's worried for Thinn, who's only a "Grammar boy from Parnell".

"I'm just afraid he's going to be in prison for the rest of his life, on death row," he says.

"I can't really believe it. I may never see Clinton again."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is working with Thinn.

(source: newshub.co.nz)

RUSSIA:

Russian opinions on death penalty split evenly, poll shows

Just over 40 % of Russians have told researchers that they wanted the moratorium on death penalty lifted and an equal share of respondents have said that they wanted it to remain in place.

Independent public opinion research center Levada reported on Wednesday that its latest poll had uncovered a major split in the Russian society over the death penalty controversy. According to the research 44 % of Russians want the death penalty returned.

Of these, 32 % said that in their opinion death penalty should be used under the same rules that existed in the 1990s, before the moratorium. 12 % said that they wanted the use of death penalty expanded.

At the same time, 41 % of respondents said that they were against death penalty - 25 % said that Russia must maintain the moratorium and 16 % think that the authorities should take one more step and abolish it from the legislation.

15 % of respondents said they did not have any opinion on the issue.

Researchers also noted in their release that the public attitude towards death penalty had not changed greatly over the past years. In 2015 the share of those who supported it was 41 % and 44 % opposed this measure.

Levada Center's deputy director Aleksey Grazhdankin said that the slightly growing opposition to the death penalty must be connected with the falling crime rate. "Before, our citizens have hoped that harsh punishment would help to fight crime, but in the 2000s the crime rate decreased and so did the public worriedness. This caused the public sympathy towards repressive measures to decrease," he said.

The moratorium on capital punishment was introduced in 1996 in connection with Russia's entry into the Council of Europe. The last execution in the Russian Federation took place on September 2, 1996.

Politicians and officials have raised the issue of re-introducing the death penalty from time to time usually for populist reasons. Many Russian politicians and officials have raised the issue of canceling the moratorium, especially after terrorist attacks or other brutal crimes that attract public attention. However, the country's top authorities have so far refused to introduce any changes to the situation, claiming that the question was too complex.

In mid-January the head of the Lower House Committee for Legislative Work, Pavel Krasheninnikov, said that he personally wanted the Criminal Code to be "cleansed" of any mentioning of death penalty, because this punishment can be neither ordered nor applied.

(source: rt.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Solons won't allow arm twisting on death penalty debate: Atienza

2 party-list lawmakers on Wednesday criticized Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for threatening leaders to replace deputy speakers and committee chairmen who are against the revival of the death penalty.

Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza said there are still men and women in the Lower House with integrity who will stand by their principles and not allow themselves to be forced into supporting the proposed reimposition of the death penalty.

"This is a sad day for the 17th Congress. If Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez is twisting the arms of his majority, then he is committing a very serious mistake in doing that because he is now trampling on the principles of each member of his majority," Atienza said.

The House Speaker on Wednesday threatened to replace deputy speakers and committee chairmen who are against the administration bill.

For his part, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque insisted that now is not the right time to support the death penalty, which he said was very divisive.

"This gives the enemies of this administration the traction that they need. This is the worst time to push for the death penalty," Roque said.

He added: "You will drive away our numbers to the enemy if they persist in pushing for the death penalty."

Roque explained that if they persist in passing the death penalty law, it will be struck down as being unconstitutional.

"Because the Constitution says that treaties form parts of the laws of the land," he said.

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

Catholics to march vs EJKs, death penalty

The Filipino bishops' fight against extrajudicial killings and the revival of the capital punishment is set to hit a new level as they call on the public to go to the streets.

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a statement, called on the faithful to join the "Walk for Life" which will be held on February 18 at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

"Is it God's will that blood be on our streets? Is it God's will that dead bodies of our brothers and sisters be found in our sidewalks? Is it God's will that mothers kill the infants in their wombs ? It is not God's will," Villegas said.

Since the conclusion of CBCP's 114th plenary assembly last week, the group of prelates has released stinging statements denouncing the government's "reign of terror" with its alleged hand on extrajudicial killings amid the war on drugs and moves to reimpose death penalty for heinous crimes.

"Let us walk for life, let us fill our streets not with blood not with dead bodies but with prayer with courage to walk to stand up for life," Villegas added.

Reinstating the death penalty was one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte, a move which he believes would curb criminality in the country.

The capital punishment was abolished under the rule of Cory Aquino.

Death penalty was then restored for "heinous crimes" during the Ramos government, and it was carried out by the Estrada administration starting in 1999 with the execution of Leo Echegaray in 1999. This was followed by a long moratorium, and in 2006, the Arroyo government abolished the death penalty before her visit to then Pope Benedict XVI.

Under some of the bills filed before the Congress, death penalty will be imposed on certain heinous crimes such as murder, parricide, carnapping and drug-related crimes.

Meanwhile, while the government has denied supporting extrajudicial killings, the president himself has repeatedly said that he has no problems in killing criminals.

The Philippine Catholic Church's opposition to these issues has earned the ire of the president.

Duterte even called the Catholic Church as the "most hypocritical institution," even accusing bishops and clerics of corruption and sexual abuse.

(source for both: abs-cbn.com)

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

10 senators oppose death penalty bill

At least 10 senators - 3 short of clear majority -- have expressed opposition to the proposal to re-impose death penalty as punishment to heinous crimes, Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said aside from himself, those against the revival of the death penalty are Sens. Franklin Drilon, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Escudero.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has also expressed opposition to death penalty but he said he is keeping his options open.

"This one throws a spanner to the woodwork." Gordon said.

13 votes are needed to pass a bill in the Senate.

Gordon said if the measure passes the committee level, Sen. Manny Pacquiao or whoever favors the revival of death penalty would sponsor and defend it on the floor during interpellation.

Aside from Pacquiao, those who are pushing for the resurrection of death penalty are Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, and Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian.

Gordon also said the Philippines accession to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ties the senators' hands.

Drilon said the ratification of the ICCPR "imposes upon us the obligation not to impose the death penalty.

Richard Anthony Fadullon, senior deputy state prosecutor of the Department of Justice, said while the country has commitments and respects international treaties, the DOJ position in favor of death penalty "is anchored on the situation that we have in the country."

"I am not aware if the SOJ (Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre) or the undersecretaries have reviewed all the international covenants that we have entered into in the past," Fadullon told senators.

He said while the country honors international treaties, "but at the same time it should not lose track of the fact that there are certain means which are peculiar to our country that we have to look into."

However, he admitted that there is no way the country could withdraw from the treaty as there is no "opt out" provision in the agreement.

This prompted Gordon to suspend the hearing until the DOJ could submit its position paper on death penalty in relation with ICCPR.

Gordon said the DOJ is expected to submit its position paper next month "which we will determine whether the position is valid or not."

Drilon said the Philippines would risk isolation from the international community if it re-imposes the death penalty law because of the country's commitment to ICCPR.

Aguirre said the planned reimposition of death penalty would not violate the country’s international obligation as the 1987 Constitution, which allows capital punishment, is higher than international treaties.

He referred to Article III, Sections 1 and 9 in the Constitution which allows Congress to impose capital punishment on heinous crimes.

Also, during the 69th UN General Assembly last December 2014, the Philippines, along with 95 other countries co-sponsored a resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty and reiterated its position when it signed a joint declaration the following year in commemoration of the 4th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The death penalty in the country was abolished in 2006 with the signing of then President Arroyo of Republic Act 9346 (An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines), which repealed Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law passed during the time of former president Fidel Ramos.

The DOJ chief also said there is no truth that the death penalty has a disproportionate impact on the poor as claimed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

(source: malaya.com.ph)

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

Farinas warns: Don't use quorum to delay death penalty debate----House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas makes the warning on the day House justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali is expected to sponsor the controversial measure

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas warned congressmen opposing the reimposition of death penalty that if they continue questioning session attendance as a delaying tactic, the House leadership will terminate the debate on the capital punishment bill.

The Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative made the warning on Tuesday, February 7, the day House justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali is expected to sponsor House Bill (HB) Number 4727 for second reading.

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Cristina Roa-Puno made the motion for the plenary to continue considering the proposed death penalty bill.

But Buhay Representative Lito Atienza argued that they have yet to check the attendance for the day. The Rules of the House state that congressmen "shall not transact business without a quorum."

Farinas then said that the House leadership is already accommodating the 50 lawmakers who want to interpellate the sponsors of HB 4727.

"In fact, the leadership is accommodating the 50 by starting the debates already. But if they want to have strict quorum only to be able to discuss this, then we will not have enough time to accommodate all the 50," said Farinas.

"I wish to cite to them our rule regarding debates. When it comes to debates on any matter, when 3 [in] favor have spoken and 3 anti or against have spoken, we can move to close the period of debates," he added.

Deputy Speaker Mylene Garcia-Albano then temporarily suspended the session for 25 minutes as more congressmen were urged to arrive at the plenary hall.

A total of 217 lawmakers were present, constituting a quorum.

Umali was then called to deliver his speech to sponsor the controversial death penalty bill.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte is supporting the return of capital punishment, which he argued would be a way to exact payment for the victims of heinous crimes.

Umali said he is eyeing the passage of HB 4727 on 3rd and final reading by the end of the first regular session of the 17th Congress.

The Philippines was the 1st Asian country to abolish the death penalty under the 1987 Constitution. It was reimposed during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos to address the rising crime rate. It was eventually abolished in 2006, under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Catholic Church, human rights groups, and some lawmakers have objected to the reimposition of capital punishment, saying it is not a deterrent to crime.

(source: rappler.com)

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

Senate hearing on death penalty hits snag

Efforts to revive the death penalty in the country hit a snag yesterday at the Senate, as senators warned of serious repercussions on the Philippines' global trade deals and possible violation of international rights treaties to which the country is a signatory.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, suspended further hearings on the proposal until the Department of Justice (DOJ) comes up with a good legal justification that the Philippines would not violate any international treaty if it revives the death penalty.

One such treaty is the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which committed the country not to impose the death penalty.

"It would not look good for a nation who signs a treaty to leave it, especially if it is the ICCPR or International Humanitarian Law," Gordon said. "But let's see if we can abandon the treaty and proceed to what we want to do."

The suspension came after the 1st hearing on death penalty bills for heinous crimes filed by Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao.

Gordon and Sens. Frank Drilon, Leila de Lima and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV raised the issue on the country's treaty obligations, as well as possible repercussions on trade agreements with countries or economic blocs against the death penalty.

The senators pointed out that under the Constitution, international law forms part of the country's legal obligations.

(source: philstar.com)

IRAN:

Urgent Action

IRANIAN ACADEMIC COULD BE SENTENCED TO DEATH

Iranian academic specializing in disaster medicine Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, a resident of Sweden detained in Iran since 25 April 2016, has been threatened with the death penalty. He has been on hunger strike since 26 December 2016 in protest at his detention.

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

* Calling on the authorities to release Ahmadreza Djalali unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offence, in line with international law and standards, ensuring that he is not targeted for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly;

* Urging them to ensure he has access to a qualified health professional who can provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy and informed consent;

* Calling on them to ensure that, pending his release, he is protected from any punishment for his hunger strike, including prolonged solitary confinement, which may amount to torture;

* Urging them to ensure that he has regular access to a lawyer of his choice and to his family, including facilities to communicate with those living abroad, and requesting them to grant Swedish consular access to him.

Contact these 2 officials by March 21, 2017:

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

Head of the Judiciary

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani

c/o Public Relations Office

Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi

Vali Asr Street, Tehran, Iran

Salutation: Your Excellency

Office of the Supreme Leader

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Fax: (212) 867-7086

Phone: (212) 687-2020

Email: iran@un.int

Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei

Salutation: Your Excellency

(source: Amnesty International)

FEBRUARY 7, 2017:

TEXAS:

Death penalty trial starts Monday

The death penalty trial of Michael Dwayne Bowman, 33, is set to begin in a Troup County Superior courtroom Monday morning.

Bowman is accused of shooting and killing Griffin Police Officer Kevin Jordan, 43, while he was working an off-duty job at a Waffle House 1702 North Expressway on June 1, 2014, police said.

Attorney's asked for a change of venue for the trial, citing concerns with the media attention surrounding the case. The Troup County Government Center was chosen as the site for Bowman's trial.

The Spalding County District Attorney's Office and Bownman's defense lawyer spent weeks picking a jury comprised of Troup County citizens.

Officer Jordan was trying to break up a fight between several people who were asked to leave the restaurant, including Bowman's girlfriend Chantell Mixon.

The off-duty officer was allegedly trying to restrain Mixon when Bowman allegedly shot Jordan several times in the back, police officials stated.

Jordan died from his injuries. He left behind 7 children.

Bowman was indicted on 3 counts of murder, aggravated assault of a police officer, obstruction of a police officer, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to the Spalding County District Attorney's office.

Mixon was also charged with murder in the case. It was unclear as of press time Sunday when or if she will stand trial.

(source: LaGrange Daily News)

FLORIDA:

Murder charge dismissed against inmate accused of killing North Naples man

Prosecutors have dismissed a murder charge against a North Florida inmate accused of the brutal 2012 prison rape and killing of a Collier County man in their shared cell.

Instead, the state intends to re-indict Shawn "Jiggaman" Rogers, 36, and seek capital punishment after Florida legislators take another stab at rewriting the state's death penalty law this spring.

Rogers is accused of raping, stabbing and beating to death Ricky Martin, 24, of North Naples, in their Santa Rosa Correctional Institution cell in March 2012.

Bill Bishop, an assistant state attorney in Okaloosa County, said prosecutors were worried Rogers' attorneys would file a demand for a speedy trial at a time when there is confusion about whether or not the state's death penalty is available as a punishment.

The State Attorney's Office in the First Judicial Circuit dismissed the charges Jan. 9. Prosecutors intend to re-indict Rogers after the state's death penalty is clarified by lawmakers and the Florida Supreme Court.

Rogers already is serving a life sentence with no chance at parole for armed burglary and aggravated battery in Volusia County.

"Death is the appropriate sanction for Mr. Rogers," Bishop said. "He could have basically just received another life sentence and would not have been punished and held accountable for the death of Mr. Martin."

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty law in January 2016, ruling it unconstitutional because it placed the decision of death in the hands of a judge. During last year's legislative session, lawmakers rewrote the law to require 10 of 12 jurors to agree on the death penalty.

But in October, the state Supreme Court declared the new law unconstitutional because it doesn't require a unanimous decision. Death penalty cases across the state are in flux due to the ruling.

"We have every belief the Florida Legislature is going to make those modifications to the death penalty law,” Bishop said of requiring a unanimous jury decision.

Martin's father-in-law, Russell Sharbaugh, who also is the personal representative of Martin's estate, said he understands the decision to dismiss the charges. Sharbaugh, who lives in the Naples area, supports the death penalty for Rogers.

"I don't think he should walk away with no punishment," Sharbaugh said.

Investigators said Rogers, who has gang ties and an extensive history of violence behind bars, bound Martin’s hand and feet with strips of bed sheet and then beat him within 36 hours of Martin arriving at the Santa Rosa prison. Martin was found lying in a pool of blood with his pants and underwear down to his knees.

Several inmates in nearby cells said the attack was racially motivated, according to an Inspector General's Office report about the killing. Rogers admitted to the killing in letters to relatives, Florida Department of Corrections records show.

Martin died April 8, 2012, about a week after being removed from life support at a Pensacola hospital.

A 2014 Miami Herald article about the killing raised questions about why Martin, a 150-pound nonviolent offender, was placed in a cell with the 6-foot-4, 226-pound Rogers, who has a long history of attacking and beating other inmates. Rogers has admitted to being one of the state's most violent prisoners, according to the paper.

4 months before Martin was transferred to the Santa Rosa prison, he filed a grievance with the Department of Corrections inspector general claiming his life was being threatened, the Herald reported.

Martin was serving a 5-year prison sentence for breaking into a Golden Gate home and stealing guns in August 2007. He had less than 2 years left on his sentence at the time of his killing.

Before his final prison stint, Martin had racked up 11 arrests as a juvenile and adult, largely for burglary, theft and probation violations in Collier County.

Last March, Sharbaugh filed a lawsuit against several prison guards and administrators, as well as state leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott. The lawsuit claims prison officials failed to protect Martin and retaliated against him for filing a grievance.

"It's been 5 years. It's been dragging on forever," Sharbaugh said. "But honestly, I feel the guards are as much at fault as Rogers. I honestly believe that."

(source: Naples Daily News)

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

Bill on unanimous jury for death sentence clears 1st panel

A bill requiring a unanimous jury recommendation for a death sentence was OK'd by a Senate panel Monday.

The legislation (SB 280) was cleared unanimously by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It's sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, the panel's chair.

Monday's vote comes as a staff analysis said death penalty cases in Florida "have essentially ground to a halt."

In 2016, the Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring at least 10 of the 12 members of a jury to recommend the death penalty.

But the Florida Supreme Court in October ruled 5-2 that jury recommendations must be unanimous for capital punishment to be imposed.

Significantly, the court said the law can't be applied to pending prosecutions.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in the Hurst v. Florida case, had previously ruled that the Constitution "requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death," according to a legislative staff analysis.

"We're going to be back here next year talking about these aggravating factors," said state Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat. "That said, at least we're fixing the thing we need to fix the most."

As of Jan. 15, "state attorneys reported a total of 313 pending death penalty cases of which 66 were ready for trial," the analysis said.

"Because there is currently no constitutional sentencing procedure in place due to the lack of jury unanimity in a final recommendation for death, cases in which the state is seeking the death penalty have essentially ground to a halt."

The Senate bill must next clear the Rules Committee before it can be taken up on the floor. A similar bill filed in the House (HB 527) has not yet had a hearing in committee. The 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7.

(source: stpetersblog.com)

OHIO:

Ohio Supreme Court hearing appeal in Howland murder case

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear the appeal of a woman sentenced to death for her part in the 2001 murder of her husband in Trumbull County.

Today's hearing before the justices is for Donna Roberts, who along with her lover Nathaniel Jackson, were convicted of killing Robert Fingerhut in Howland Township.

Both were sentenced to death.

Authorities say Roberts and Jackson plotted to kill Fingerhut so she could collect more than $500,000 in life insurance proceeds.

This is the 3rd time Roberts has appealed her death sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court returned Roberts' case to the trial court for a 2nd time in 2013 for resentencing. The Court concluded that the trial court hadn't considered potentially mitigating information Roberts gave at her 1st resentencing hearing.

The court ordered the trial court to consider the entire record when deciding again whether the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

A new judge conducted the resentencing because the judge who originally heard Roberts' case had died.

The new judge determined that death was the appropriate penalty in the case.

In her appeal, Roberts maintains that the new judge couldn't properly consider all the evidence in the case because he wasn't present for any of her trial and didn't hear her statement firsthand. She asks the court to impose a life sentence.

Jackson's death sentence is set to be carried out on July 15, 2020. The Ohio Supreme Court has already refused to reconsider its earlier decision to uphold Jackson's sentence.

Jackson is the only woman on Ohio's death row.

(source: WFMJ news)

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

September trial scheduled in Delphos death penalty case

A man facing the death penalty in the killing of a 15-month-old boy was given a Sept. 18 trial date Monday.

Christopher M. Peters, 26, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, and endangering children in the death of 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger. The child was found dead inside an apartment Nov. 15 at 24249 Lincoln Highway.

Judge Martin Burchfield of Van Wert County Common Pleas Court also scheduled pretrials at 10 a.m. on the following dates: March 6, April 3, May 8, June 5, July 17, Aug. 7, Aug. 14 for a motion hearing, and Aug. 24 and Sept. 8 to consider jury excuses.

Burchfield also granted a defense motion to allow Peters to appear in front of the jury without handcuffs or other restraints. The trial is scheduled for 2 1/2 weeks.

Peters was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

Few details have been released about the child's death. The child’s mother found him unresponsive and called 911. Another woman got on the phone call and asked for police officers at the scene saying it was clear the child was dead. The mother said she last checked on her son the day before when he was sick and not eating.

(source: limaohio.com)

KENTUCKY:

Capital punishment must die

In 1997, Larry Osborne was 17 years old. At that age, most kids would be obsessed about their SAT scores or lining up a date for the senior prom. Mr. Osborne, on the other hand, was standing trial for his very life, accused of breaking into the Whitley County home of 82-year-old Sam Davenport and murdering him and his 76-year-old wife, Lillian. Despite the absence of any physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, Mr. Osborne was nevertheless convicted and sentenced to death based solely on the recorded grand jury testimony of an alleged witness who drowned before the trial. Kentucky's Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction, necessitating a new trial. At the conclusion of the do-over, Mr. Osborne was acquitted of all charges and released immediately. That it "only" took 6 years to go from being the youngest man to ever sit on Kentucky's death row to a free man is a testament to the skill and tenacity of Mr. Osborne's legal defense team led by the peerless Gail Robinson (R.I.P.).

To ensure that no such innocent person is ever put to death in the future, or any guilty one for that matter, will be the responsibility of another team, this one comprised of state legislators like Joe Fischer, Jason Nemes, Darryl Owens, Jeff Hoover, Gerald Neal, Julie Raque Adams, Robert Stivers, and Whitney Westerfield. Some of these lawmakers support abolishing capital punishment in Kentucky. Others chair committees that would consider such a measure or hold leadership positions that would decide if an abolition bill merits a floor vote in the House and Senate.

Kentucky is, by acclimation, a pro-life state --- perhaps the most pro-life state in the union. The accolade is well-deserved. Just last month, the General Assembly passed SB 5, a measure that prohibits the killing of unborn babies after 20 weeks of gestation, a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade that, 44 years ago, legalized abortion-on-demand in America. The bill received a lopsided 79-15 approval in the House (17-14 among House Democrats that voted, including their floor leader and whip) and 30-6 in the Senate.

Although I do not equate the innocent lives of the unborn with those of convicted killers who are at least accorded the full measure of due process of law while pre-born infants, under Roe, enjoy no such legal protection, the moral principles at stake in each discussion are the same: if a society that calls itself civilized has any legitimate claim to that status and believes sincerely in the sanctity of all human life as unique and precious in the eyes of God, it simply cannot also enforce and carry out the executions of human beings for crimes committed. Being pro-life and pro-death penalty is a contradiction in terms.

Candor requires that I inform the reader that I am a paid lobbyist for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. But taxpayers were the only people paying me anything for opposing capital punishment from 1980-2002 when I was a state legislator and introduced bills to repeal this barbaric practice.

Opposition to the death penalty does not equate to sympathy for convicted murderers. I've never participated in a candlelight vigil or shed any tears for the criminals sitting on death row. The truly guilty are where they deserve to be, at least in theory, never to be free again. No, the vigils and the tears belong exclusively to the victims and their grief-stricken families. But does killing the killers really honor the memories of those victims? What kind of example does that teach our children - that our reaction to the most pernicious act carried out by one human being upon another (the act of taking a life) is to take that person's life? The more heinous the murderers --- think Timothy McVeigh or Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev --- the deeper our resolve should be that we must never descend to their level.

There are lots of other compelling reasons to oppose the death penalty, but those reasons pale to insignificance beside the single fundamental ideal that we cherish in this Judeo-Christian nation --- that all human life is sacred. In the fevered debate about the "life" issues: abortion, euthanasia ("assisted suicide"), and the death penalty, it's all cut from that same bolt of cloth, the "seamless garment" as the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin called it.

It will take courage for our elected women and men to pass this final measure to drive the point home, convincingly and completely, that Kentucky is indeed the most pro-life state in America. But this issue transcends the fleeting political careers of we mere mortals. As William Jennings Bryan said in his famous "Cross of Gold" speech: "The individual is but an atom; he is born, he acts, he dies, but principles are eternal."

(source: Opinion; Bob Heleringer is a Louisville attorney who served in Kentucky's House from the 33rd District from 1980 to 2002----Courier-Journal)

NEBRASKA:

Kuehn proposes shield law to begin death penalty fix

The rural veterinarian from Heartwell had just jumped into his new role as a state senator in early 2015 when the Nebraska Legislature voted to replace the death penalty with life in prison, then voted to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of the bill.

Sen. John Kuehn voted against the bill (LB268) and then against overriding Ricketts' veto, after taking time, he said, to educate himself and listen to constituents.

"My district was very clear where they stood on the issue," he said.

Kuehn's legislative District 38 covers 6 counties and a corner of another in south-central Nebraska. 18 months after his votes in the Legislature, residents in the 6 full counties of his district -- Clay, Franklin, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps and Webster -- voted 11,656 to 4,684 to keep the death penalty in Nebraska, and residents of Buffalo County, where Kuehn has some constituents, voted 13,080 to 7,167 to keep the law on the books.

But even before that statewide vote, Kuehn said, he had begun thinking about how to repair what death penalty opponents said was a broken system.

Last summer he began doing research, he said, to answer the question: Is it broken beyond repair or are there specific steps that can be taken to make it workable?

To that end, he has introduced a bill (LB661) that would keep confidential the state's sources of lethal injection drugs. Nine other senators have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors.

"I don't know that ... it has the ability to fix it," Kuehn said. "I think it's a first step."

He knows there will be other roadblocks to carrying out the death penalty, he said.

When the Department of Correctional Services rewrote the execution protocol after the November election, it originally allowed for the supplier of the lethal injection drugs to remain confidential. But after a hearing on the proposed protocol, in which many of those testifying demanded more transparency, it struck a paragraph that would have authorized the director to not disclose the identity of the supplier.

Kuehn's bill, however, would allow the person or company to remain a secret.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, who is opposed to the death penalty, is opposed to any secrecy tied to the protocol.

"When the state decides to kill one of its own citizens, the process of the state sanctioned murder should be transparent and open to the public," he said. "Citizens should not be killed in a shroud of secrecy."

Kuehn knows people may think he worked in conjunction with the department in writing the bill, but he did not, he said. And the bill is not wrapped up in the politics of this session, he said, even though the bill was sent to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee rather than the Judiciary Committee for hearing and discussion.

The 1st draft of the bill was delivered on Oct. 31, before new senators were elected, he said, and before new committees and their leaders chosen.

Keeping the source of lethal injection drugs confidential is important for more than just the state's benefit, Kuehn said.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

MONTANA:

Bill to abolish death penalty hears emotional testimony

The House Judiciary Committee heard an hour of powerful testimony from people in favor of abolishing the death penalty, who shared a comprehensive list of reasons for their support.

Those who testified included a man wrongly sentenced to death, the mother of a murder victim and attorneys who were haunted by years of adherence to the death penalty system. Conservative legislators and religious leaders asked the committee to consider the ethics of a system where a death results in more death. Several people said eliminating the death penalty is a cost-saving measure.

Bills to abolish the death penalty have never made it off the House floor. Last session, a bill to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole came close, but died in the house with a 50 to 50 vote, largely along party lines with Republicans against it.

However, some conservatives are realizing the death penalty doesn't align with their core values. Adam Hertz, R-Missoula, introduced House Bill 366 this session, which would substitute the death penalty for life without parole.

Hertz said he introduced the bill in part to be a good steward of tax dollars, and said an inmate on death row costs 10 times more than an inmate sentenced to life without parole. The bill does not yet have a fiscal note to determine the cost savings for abolishing the death penalty. Several committee members questioned whether it would be significant, as there are only 2 Montanans on death row.

While concerned about fiscal responsibility, Hertz said the bill would also fulfill his belief that life begins at conception and ends with natural death, and would provide inmates with a chance for redemption.

"I believe the death penalty system overlooks why we condemn murder in the 1st place," Hertz said. "As a Christian, I believe in redemption."

Rep. Adam Rosendale, R-Billings, Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, and Marc Hyden represented the Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty organization. Hyden said conservatives are realizing the death penalty violates core principles of valuing life, promoting fiscal responsibility and a limited government.

Ray Krone, who spent a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, told the committee his story. He was accused of a murder involving a bite wound and found guilty after the prosecutor hired an expensive expert who testified the bite on the victim matched Krone's teeth. His parents mortgaged their house and cashed in retirement funds to afford an appeal. He was again found guilty, but was sentenced to life in prison after the judge doubted his guilt. In 2012, DNA testing finally proved his innocence. Krone is the 100th death row inmate to be exonerated in the United States.

"I was number 100," he said. "10 years, 3 months, 8 days of the hell my family went through."

Susan DeBree, a pastor at United Methodist in Livingston, is the mother of a murder victim. Gretchen, her daughter, was shot in the back of the head. Her death was found to be suspicious, but no charges were filed.

While the family has spent a lifetime with questions regarding the murder of Gretchen, DeBree said the death penalty wouldn’t have brought closure either.

"The death penalty reinforces the practice of killing another human being to end the conflict," she said. "Redemption is a gift from God. Our faith teaches us it's possible for all."

Franklin Bookhart, a representative with the Montana Association of Christians, said the idea of killing a person for having killed a person is contradictory and calls the whole practice into question.

"I would add human justice of course is always approximate. Sometimes we execute people who are innocent," he said.

Sarah Beck, a pastor from Billings, said the death penalty process forces the families of victims to relive the crime with each appeal and denies the ability to grieve or heal. Beck presented the committee with a letter signed by 50 family members of murder victims, who also oppose being complicit in taking a life.

Betsy Griffing, an attorney, said she supports the end of the death penalty for ethical reasons, the exorbitant cost and its arbitrary application.

She said death penalty cases are inherently complex and often take 20 years to get through motions, challenges of searches and confessions and constitutionally required appeals. The lengthy process is supposed to ensure that the innocent are not executed. In her years of experience, Griffing said she thought minorities and low-income people were disproportionately sentenced to death.

Griffing spoke of a fellow attorney haunted by the hypocrisy of a system that takes a life because it values life. After she supervised the legal team in Montana's 1st execution in 50 years, she could no longer support the death penalty.

"I too vowed I would do everything I could to see that the death penalty was abolished," she said.

SK Rossi, director of advocacy and public policy for ACLU Montana, said there isn't any evidence suggesting the death penalty deters people from committing capital offenses.

No one testified in opposition to the bill.

(source: Helena Independent Record)

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

Montana Examines Death Penalty After Judge Blocks Executions

Montana legislators are taking another look at whether to abolish the death penalty after a judge blocked the state from carrying out executions because it has no access to a drug used in lethal injections.

Clergy, young conservative lawmakers and an exonerated Arizona death-row inmate urged the House Judiciary Committee on Monday to pass a bill abolishing the death penalty. The maximum penalty would become life in prison without parole, under the measure by Rep. Adam Hertz, R-Missoula.

"To kill a person for having killed a person seems to me to make no sense," said Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart Jr. of the Episcopal Church of Montana. "We're not in the business of vengeance - at least I hope we're not in the business of vengeance."

Bills to abolish the death penalty have been introduced and failed in every legislative session since 1999, which is as far back as the state Legislature's online bill-tracking archive goes. Death penalty opponents came closest in the last session 2 years ago, when the measure died on a 50-50 House vote.

If the bill to abolish the death penalty passes this year, Montana will become the sixth state since 2010 to either overturn or place a moratorium on executions. Montana is similar to other states that have recently overturned their death penalties: It carries out relatively few executions, and it has previously tried several times to abolish the law, said Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham.

"I think Montana fits well within that pattern," Dunham said. "It does not aggressively carry out the death penalty."

Recently, more Republican lawmakers such as Hertz have been behind the abolition efforts in some states. They say the death penalty goes against their values that a person has a right to live from natural birth to natural death, and that housing death-row inmates and paying their court costs is too expensive.

"Some of us supported death penalty for years, but we've given a critical look at it," said Marc Hyden, an advocacy coordinator for the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. "Many of us don't trust the government to deliver mail or fill potholes, so why would we trust them with a dangerous government program that metes out death to its citizens?"

Montana has executed 3 inmates by lethal injection since 1976, most recently in 2006. There are currently two inmates on death row, both of whom challenged the state's execution methods in a lawsuit that led to a Helena judge effectively blocking executions until an adequate drug can be found.

The state had used sodium pentothal as a barbiturate in its 2-drug lethal injection method, but that drug is no longer manufactured in the U.S. and it can't be imported. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled in October 2015 that the state's recommended substitute for sodium pentothal doesn't meet the requirements detailed in state law and could not be used in executions, leaving the state without an alternative drug to conduct executions.

Bill Comstock, a member of the Montana branch of the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said the judge's ruling means Montana is now wasting money to house 2 death-row inmates who will likely never be executed. "We're essentially throwing away money for nothing," Comstock said.

The House Judiciary Committee did not take immediate action on the bill, though several lawmakers on the panel indicated their opposition. One, Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, said she is not convinced that a convicted murderer who is sentenced to life won't eventually walk away from prison.

"We believe that person's going to leave prison in a body bag," Sheldon-Galloway said. "We have no guarantee here that that's going to happen."

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Washington Governor Says Death Penalty Doesn't Offer Equal Justice

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he thought long and hard about imposing a moratorium on the state's death penalty. Inslee told "Think Out Loud" host Dave Miller that the temporary halt in executions came only after an examination of the entire justice system in Washington state.

"The state could not continue to administer unequal justice with such extreme costs, with no deterrence of crime, and a very high failure rate of our prosecutions," Inslee said. "We've had 75 % of our capital punishment sentences overturned."

In 2011, then-Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said he hoped the moratorium he imposed would spark a public dialogue around the issue, something he told Think Out Loud has not happened. Inslee told OPB that he believes the issue has gotten a lot of attention, at least in his own office.

"I have made this very clear," Inslee said, "that I believe the legislature should move on this subject, that it should change these capital cases to life in prison, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and I've urged them to do so as recently as a week or 2 ago," he said.

Inslee acknowledged he used to be in favor of capital punishment. But he says it's different as governor.

"I'm responsible for administration of justice," he said. "And what I found in the real world is that we have a very flawed system of justice in our state, which has incredibly unequal results."

29 of the 39 counties in Washington state are not currently asking for the death penalty in capitol cases because they can't afford it, according to Inslee.

"It doesn't matter who the prosecutor is: it's off the table. So you basically have ... a handful of counties that are executing citizens of this state for the same crime, where in the majority - and it is the majority of these counties - we use life in prison without a possibility of parole," he said.

The moratorium was enacted in 2014, but just this past December, Inslee was confronted with the first death row inmate who had exhausted his appeals. Inslee chose to grant a reprieve of Clark Richard Elmore's death sentence. In 1995 Elmore had raped the 14-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, drove a piece of metal through her head and crushed her skull. Inslee said he spoke with a number of parties involved in the homicide case before granting Elmore's reprieve.

"I talked to the prosecuting attorney about this, who prosecuted the case ... I talked to him; I talked to a family member. They had diverse viewpoints. And the prosecutor wanted the death penalty even after 20 years of appeals; the family member I spoke to did not think that was something that she wanted."

Inslee says he's hopeful Washington state lawmakers will pass a repeal to the death penalty, but in the meantime, some counties are taking the matter into their own hands.

In Seattle's King County, "they're no longer bringing the death penalty," Inslee said. "This is a county that could actually afford it, but the prosecuting attorney there declined to seek a death penalty in a vicious, multiple-victim murder."

Inslee says Washingtonians believe in making policy that is based on evidence - something he says is especially needed in the criminal justice system. "We need to spend more time listening to the the evidence of reality," Inslee said, "rather than just making emotional decisions. And I think that is the case in the death penalty."

(source:n opb.org)

USA:

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg talks Congress, death penalty and "a meaningful life" at Stanford

What makes a meaningful life for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

"To put it simply, it means doing something outside yourself," she said Monday night at Stanford's Memorial Church, in conversation with the university's The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, dean for religious life.

"I tell law students ... if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill - very much like a plumber," she said. "But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself ... something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you."

Welcomed with thunderous applause, she opened by reading from her book, citing relationship advice ("sometimes it helps to be a little deaf"), her father-in-law's career advice ("you will find a way"), raising children ("I returned to the law books with renewed will") and her devotion to her husband ("without him, I would not have gained a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.")

The 83-year-old did not volunteer her opinion about President Donald Trump's nomination of Colorado federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, nor the legal controversies over the administration's temporary immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Last summer she drew criticism, and later apologized, for saying she feared for the country and the court if Trump was elected.

But she mourned the loss of collegiality that was once part of Capitol Hill, and a cherished friendship with the conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"I wish there was a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back when people respected each other, and voted for the good of the country and not just along party lines. Someday there will be great representatives who will say 'Enough of this nonsense. ... I hope that day comes when I'm still alive."

When asked what she would like to change: "the electoral college!"

She decried the death penalty, saying "If I were queen, there would be no death penalty," but praised the nation's recent reduction of executions.

The oldest justice by more than 3 years, and 1 of the 4 reliably liberal jurists on the court, a student teased her about eating more kale. Then she was asked: Who she would like to see eat kale? "Justice Kennedy!" she deadpanned.

A long line of students waited to ask questions. "It was such a pleasure to hear her go off script. I loved getting to hear from her more directly," said alumnae Eliza Ridgeway of Sunnyvale.

Ginsburg's lecture is part of a series created in memory of late Stanford law professor Harry Rathbun, who delivered his distinguished "Last Lecture" every year from the 1930s to the 1950s. In years in which a lecture is scheduled, the Office for Religious Life chooses a speaker to visit campus and talk about the various paths to building a meaningful life.

Previous iterations of the lecture featured former Secretary of State George Shultz, the 14th Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey and Ginsburg's former colleague on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor. The lecture was established by The Foundation for Global Community.

She spoke fondly of former justice O'Connor, calling her "as close to being a big sister to me as one could wish for." O'Connor, who survived breast cancer, advised Ginsburg after chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer: "Be sure to get it for Friday so you can get over it during the weekend."

In a far reaching conversation, she cited music she couldn't live without: Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Don Giovanni." She confided her childhood role models: Amelia Earhart and the fictional heroine Nancy Drew. She recounted a New Year's Eve dinner with late Justice Antonin Scalia, when her husband struggled to find a good recipe for wild boar.

She described her attitude toward combating cancer: "Never have a defeatist attitude ... and I'm going to surmount this." The most important person in her life? "My personal trainer," she joked. To the delight of the crowd, Ginsburg showed off her tote bag with the motto: "I dissent."

When asked, 100 years from now, how she would like to be remembered:

"That I was a judge who worked as hard as she could to the best of her ability - to do the job right."

(source: eastbaytimes.com)

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

Judge laments the whittling away of habeas corpus by high court

Stephen Reinhardt, 85, has been a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for the last 37 years. An unabashed liberal, he once remarked, "I can't remember the last time I read 'justice' in a court opinion, except in front of someone's name." A former clerk gave him the nickname Chief Justice of the Warren Court-in-Exile.

I have read many Reinhardt opinions over the years, but a recent one on the state of federal habeas review in the U.S. is particularly significant. He laments how the Supreme Court has made habeas review absolutely toothless. Anyone involved in criminal law should make sure to read his concurrence in Curiel v Miller, 830 F.3d 864 (2016).

During the Warren Court era, habeas petitions offered state criminal defendants the opportunity to have federal courts correct erroneous state court interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. But the Burger and Rehnquist Courts worked hard to narrow the scope of habeas review. This culminated in the 1989 decision in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288.

The court there held that a federal court in its habeas review was generally not allowed to apply "new rules" of constitutional criminal law of which the state courts could not have been aware.

In other words, a habeas court should not disturb a state criminal conviction unless it could show that the state violated a rule that was "dictated by precedent" that existed at the time the conviction became final.

This was the catalyst for Congress narrowing habeas review in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This law holds that a federal court can only disturb a state conviction if it "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established [f]ederal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States."

Reinhardt complains that the Supreme Court's "increasingly restrictive interpretation of that provision has gone well beyond the face of the statute to virtually eliminate meaningful federal review."

His 1st criticism is that the Supreme Court has insisted that "clearly established [f]ederal law" can mean nothing short of a specific holding by the Supreme Court itself. As Reinhardt notes, these days the court only reviews about 80 cases a year. Moreover, many points of clearly established law never require Supreme Court holdings because they are uncontroversial.

In that case, "Although a constitutional violation may be clear, federal courts will often be unable to grant habeas relief as there is no 'clearly established' Supreme Court law governing the question certainly a counter-intuitive, if not a counterproductive, result."

Next, he points to the Supreme Court's crabbed interpretation of what is an "unreasonable application" of law. The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that habeas relief is not available if the holding is merely "wrong"; it must also be objectively unreasonable.

And the court has further defined this as meaning that habeas relief can be used only if there is "no possibility fair-minded jurists could disagree" that the state ruling conflicts with the Supreme Court’s holding.

Further, if the state court does not explain its reason for rejecting a petitioner's claim, the Supreme Court has held that the federal court must attempt, in Reinhardt's words, "to conjure up a plausible, though not necessarily correct, hypothetical basis for the decision."

This, Reinhardt notes, leads to the absurdity that "Even if every imagined basis that the federal court can think of is clearly incorrect, the court may still not grant relief so long as any of the reasons, while wrong, could be deemed 'reasonable.'"

Reinhardt also points out that all of this is compounded by the heavy caseloads carried by state appellate courts that often militate against extensive analysis of every claim.

The Supreme Court has even contended that this justifies further deference to state decisions. One Supreme Court opinion even stated that habeas should be reserved to correct only "extreme malfunctions" of the state court system.

This lead Reinhardt to boldly suggest state certification recommending non-AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] review of certain state decisions. The rationale for the Supreme Court's extreme deference to state court criminal decisions lies in principles of comity and federalism.

Reinhardt basically asked whether a state Supreme Court could essentially waive this protection, suggesting that in some cases, the state Supreme Court might expressly relinquish the deference usually provided by AEDPA.

It might do this when it concedes that its decision could have benefited from more extensive review. There may be cases where a state court would welcome federal assistance to insure a just result.

Reinhardt also recommended that a state Supreme Court might certify entire categories of cases for this non-AEDPA federal review, which might include all death penalty and life-without-parole cases or certain classes of cases involving youthful offenders.

Reinhardt concedes that he cannot guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court would accept this concept of non-AEDPA certification by state courts.

But currently, a federal judge is constrained to say, in Reinhardt’s words, "I know this result is unfair, unjust and unconstitutional, but I have been told that I must nevertheless defer to the view of the state courts that may have had neither the time nor resources to fully review the constitutional errors involved."

Reinhardt's goal is to have the federal and state systems working together, not in opposition of each other, in order to guarantee that the Constitution is enforced in a way that provides justice.

Justice. Reinhardt's opinion is indeed one that uses the word in the true sense, other than a title before a person's name. Curiel provides food for thought for those of us despairing of the current state of habeas practice in our country.

(source: Timothy P. O'Neill, Law Bulletin columnist----Akron Legal News)

AUSTRALIA:

Government urged to end silence on death penalty report

The time has come for the federal government to follow through on recommendations made in 2016 by a major parliamentary report on the death penalty, the Law Council of Australia has said.

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has used the 50th anniversary of the last execution to take place in Australia to press the government to respond to recommendations on the death penalty published in a major parliamentary report in May last year.

At the time of its publication, the report A world without the death penalty received support from both sides of government.

LCA president Fiona McLeod SC said Australia must continue to show leadership as an "outstanding advocate against the death penalty". She noted that six Australian nationals have been executed overseas since Australia's own abolition of the practice. Victorian Ronald Ryan was the last person to be hanged in Australia, on 3 February 1967.

"The Law Council will continue to strongly and consistently argue that no person, anywhere in the world, should ever be subjected to the death penalty," Ms McLeod said.

"This is irrespective of their nationality, personal characteristics, the nature of the crime of which they have been convicted, or the time and place of its alleged commission.

"The death penalty is a breach of the most fundamental human right: the right to life," she said.

Urging the government to finally respond to the report, the LCA underscored two key recommendations as key priorities: a new strategy for the global abolition of the death penalty and strengthened guidelines for the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

According to Ms McLeod, the Australian government has an important role to play in speaking out against capital punishment in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Implementing a new strategy for the global abolition of the death penalty will "add structure and ballast to Australia's abolitionist position", she said.

The report recommends that Australia contributes to the development, funding and implementation of this new strategy for the abolition of the death penalty. With 56 nations around the world retaining capital punishment as a legal penalty, the proposed strategy would focus on the USA and countries in the Indo-Pacific.

"We urge [the government] to continue to take the lead and adopt the recommendations of the report, to ensure Australia has a consistent position in its international engagement," Ms McLeod said.

Ms McLeod made her appeal at a symposium hosted by the LCA at Monash University last week. The event discussed Australia’s contribution to the abolition of the death penalty and featured special guest speakers including Special Envoy for Human Rights Philip Ruddock, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus QC and Liberal MP Tim Wilson.

(source: lawyersweekly.com.au)

THAILAND:

Antonio Bagnato gets death penalty for murder of alleged Hells Angels drug kingpin Wayne Schneider in Thailand

A Thai court has sentenced an Australian man to death for the kidnapping and murder of a Hells Angels member alleged to have been a major drug trafficker.

Antonio Bagnato, 28, was found guilty of murder, deprivation of liberty and disposing of a body.

In December 2015, former Hells Angels member Wayne Schneider was abducted from outside his home by 5 men and later found buried with a broken neck and facial injuries consistent with a severe beating.

The judge said the killing was premeditated, with GPS from the getaway car, DNA from the crime scene and witness testimonies all connecting Bagnato to the crimes.

"The first defendant [Bagnato] is found guilty of all charges and according to the criminal code, the penalty is execution for the murder and deprivation of liberty, plus a year in prison for hiding the body," Judge Sirichai Polkarn at the Pattaya Provincial Court said.

The court room was packed with representatives of all parties.

"We've got hearts and they're hurting right now," a relative of Bagnato said, calling the verdict "ridiculous".

The judge said DNA evidence also placed 22-year old American man Tyler Gerard at the scene of the abduction.

Gerard received a 3-year sentence for deprivation of liberty that was reduced to two years for his cooperation with the investigation.

The sentence includes time already served in pre-trial detention, meaning he could be free before the end of the year.

Gerard's parents said they were relieved at the verdict.

"[Tyler's] words were, 'Calm down mum, pray for the other people in this room'," Tracy Gerard told the ABC.

Assault rifles, knuckledusters found in Bagnato properties

Schneider was abducted from outside his luxury villa in Pattaya, Thailand in December 2015 by 5 men.

Melbourne underworld figure and former president of the Comancheros motorcycle gang Amad "Jay" Malkhoun was inside the house and told police he slept through the attack.

At a hearing in November, 2 security guards at Schneider's residential complex identified Bagnato as being involved in the kidnapping.

"I saw the defendant trying to push Wayne's legs into the cabin of the pick-up truck," Supan Pitakpong said.

Police tracked a GPS device fitted to the rented car used in the kidnapping.

Crime scene photos published in Thai media showed a bullet casing, an extendable baton rope and blood on the street where Schneider was abducted.

A search of properties rented by Bagnato found 2 assault rifles, 2 handguns, tasers and knuckledusters.

Baganto fled to Cambodia and was arrested in Phnom Penh 5 days later.

His version of events differed markedly to that given by co-accused Gerard and Australian Luke Cook, who was convicted last year of aiding a fugitive.

He told the court he left Schneider's house and spent the night with a Thai dancer from Pattaya's infamously sleazy Walking Street.

The judge said his alibi was not credible.

Bagnato told the court he was "scared" after Schneider's death and tried to get consular advice in Bangkok, but the Australian embassy was closed.

His account of getting a taxi and bus to Cambodia contradicted the court's previous ruling that Cook drove Bagnato, his wife and child to the border.

The whereabouts of the other 3 people involved in the abduction is unknown, although it is believed at least one man has returned to Australia.

Bagnato reportedly member of secretive fight club

Bagnato was a member of the Saint Michael Christian Brothers Fight Club - a secretive organisation that ran fight nights and required members to swear an oath of allegiance, according to Fairfax newspapers.

Australian police had a warrant for his arrest in relation to the murder of Bradley Dillion in Sydney in 2014.

Bagnato arrived in Thailand 2 days after Dillion's murder.

He told the Thai court in November he earned about $11,000 a month training Muay Thai fighters in Pattaya.

Thai police told the ABC both men were on a watchlist for drugs and money laundering in Australia.

Thailand is a key transit country for organised crime syndicates - including various Australian bikie gangs - smuggling methamphetamine and heroin from the "Golden Triangle" to lucrative markets including Australia.

"It's a picture of a superhighway," Narcotics Suppression Bureau Chief Police Lieutenant General Sommai Kongwisaisuk told The Bangkok Post newspaper.

(source: abc.net.au)

PHILIPPINES:

Pacquiao: Death penalty for drug traffickers

Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao on Tuesday called for the reimposition of the death penalty anew saying a it should focus on drug trafficking violations.

For Pacquiao, drug traffickers deserve death penalty because he considers their acts heinous crimes.

The senator said he filed Senate Bill 185 or the "Act to impose the death penalty and increase the penalty on certain dangerous crimes, amending for that purpose other special penal laws and for other purposes" because the country is facing immense challenges from trafficking and drug abuse.

He said these crimes have created an emergency situation that now merits urgent action.

"On a personal level, I can forgive. However, the heinous crime of drug trafficking is committed not just against a person but against the nation. Drug traffickers deserve death penalty," he said in his opening statement at the Senate hearing into proposals to revive the death penalty.

Pacquiao authored three separate death penalty bills on heinous crimes involving dangerous drugs, kidnapping and aggravated rape. He however said the death penalty must focus on drug trafficking because he believes combining it with other crimes will complicate the definition of heinous crime.

He said a separate death penalty bill will be unburdened by the lengthy consideration of other offenses. Pacquiao added that the Senate cannot allow the compelling nature of imposing death penalty on drug trafficking to be weighed down by less compelling reasons for other offenses.<>P> "It is more beneficial and practicable if we do it on a per crime basis and not bundle it with other crimes...To bundle it with other crimes will dilute arguments and complicate definitions in determining whether a particular crime is heinous or not because offensive acts may be of different characters,"

Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao cited a Dangerous Drugs Board statement in 2011 that 80 % of crimes are drug-related. A Reuters report in October 2016 said that government officials "could not say where the data came from to back up" that particular claim.

Pacquiao then enumerated some related new headlines to back his claims.

It can be recalled that Pacquiao visited the Filipina death-row inmate Mary Jane Veloso in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to show support for her in July 2015. Veloso was convicted of drug trafficking but was granted a last-minute temporary reprieve.

During the proclamation of elected senators last May, Pacquiao already said he favors the return of the death penalty saying capital punishment is actually based on the Bible.

(source: Philippine Star)

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'Only 7 executed' after death penalty reimposed in 1998 - DOJ

The death penalty was not given an opportunity to be enforced properly after only 7 executions were carried out after capital punishment was reimposed in 1998, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Speaking before the Senate, Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon reiterated the justice department's support for the restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes.

"We would like to reiterate the support for the proposed bills for the restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes and that this department has not interposed any Constitutional or legal objections thereto," he said.

"It was not given an opportunity to be actually enforced properly, it was not given an opportunity to see whether the effects would be one of deterrence or not," he added.

Fadullon rejected arguments that the death penalty is not a deterrent to heinous crimes and denies due process for suspected criminals. Court trials for heinous crimes, he said, guarantee rights of the accused and go through many levels of appeal.

He added that "only 7" executions occurred after death penalty was reimposed in the country in 1998.

The Senate committee on justice is deliberating on 6 bills seeking capital punishment. 3 bills were filed by Senator Manny Pacquiao, while the 3 others were filed separately by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

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Death penalty revival to violate int'l pact - rights crusaders

The Philippine government will violate an international agreement if it restores the death penalty, human rights watchdogs warned Tuesday as senators deliberated on bills seeking the return of capital punishment.

Commission on Human Rights commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit pointed out that Manila had ratified the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which "prescribes a progressive obligation among nations to abolish death penalty and prevent its reimposition."

The treaty also mandates that, "No one within the jurisdiction of a state-party to the present protocol shall be executed," Dumpit said.

Lawyer Romeo Cabarde of Amnesty International also noted that the Philippines may not back out of the pact as "it does not allow an opt-out provision."

A representative of the justice department, however, argued that while the Philippines must honor its international commitments, government must also base its policies on local affairs.

"Yes, we believe that we have international commitments. But we also believe that we have a responsibility to our countrymen and that is something that we should also look into very carefully rather than close our eyes to what is happening in our country," said Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon.

Senator Bam Aquino urged fellow lawmakers to confer with foreign affairs officials regarding the international treaties in the next hearing regarding death penalty reinstatement.

(source for both: abs-cbn.com)

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Drilon: Death penalty debate faces difficulty in Senate

It's an uphill fight for death penalty in the Senate, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon said on Tuesday right before the Senate deliberations on the controversial bill.

"It will have an extreme difficulty in the Senate. I will not be surprised if it fails," Drilon told CNN Philippines The Source.

"We will give it priority as we are giving it today, but I don't think anyone will assure passage," he added.

Drilon said "a heated debate" can be expected as the Senate opens its first committee hearing on the death penalty on Tuesday.

Although the death penalty bill enjoys support in the House of Representatives, support for it is more muted in the Senate.

Drilon estimated that 10 senators are opposed to the bill. In order to pass Senate, the measure for death penalty needs at least 13 out of 24 votes.

Among those opposed to the death penalty are Senators Richard Gordon, Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Leila De Lima, Ralph Recto, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, and Antonio Trillanes IV. Those championing the bill are Senators Manny Pacquiao and Tito Sotto.

Drilon identified the "defective justice system" as his primary reason for opposition to the bill.

"If we have a death penalty, an error cannot be corrected anymore," said Drilon. "Many of the issues that we hear today can be traced to a large extent to our failure to properly implement our system of justice."

(source: cnnphilippines.com)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistani Christian Bailed At Last - After 3 Years Facing Death Penalty For Insulting Islam

A Pakistani Christian has been bailed after more than 3 years in prison without being brough to trial or convicted.

Adnan Prince, 29, from Lahore, was initially jailed in November 2013 after being accused of blasphemy and insulting Islam, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death sentence.

Despite no successful conviction being made, delaying tactics by the prosecution and lawyers' strikes meant Prince was detained for more than 3 years before finally granted bail against a bond worth $3,000, according to World Watch Monitor.

Asma Jahangir, Prince's lead counsel, said forensic evidence had failed to link the accused with his alleged offences and she was confident he could be freed soon.

He was accused of blasphemy on October 7, 2013.

Prince had been working at a diamond glass shop in Lahore when he was spotted reading a controversial book by Islamic fundamentalist Maulana Ameer Hamza, leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa, a political arm of the jihadi organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba which claimed responsibility for the Mumbai bombings.

He was spotted reading the book, I asked the Bible why the Qurans were set on fire, by his Muslim colleague who took offence and reported him for blasphemy, claiming Prince had "marked several pages... with abusive words against the Prophet of Islam".

On hearing of his accusation and the severity of the punishment if convicted, Prince fled. But his brother, mother, aunt and uncle were arrested in his place and told they would not be released until he returned.

So on November 6 Prince handed himself in to the police station where he says he was tortured repeatedly.

"The police were on the verge of killing me after I surrendered to them, but God kept me safe by His grace," he said according to WWM.

"When I came to my senses [after 1 round of torture], I was told that a heavy machine would be rolled over my thighs, which would not only be painful but would render me permanently impotent.

"Then the deputy superintendent of police pushed the barrel of a pistol into my mouth and told me to confess that I had written abusive words in the book. He said he would count to 3 and that if I didn't confess, he would pull the trigger."

On one occasion he was told he was free to go.

"But I knew they were lying and would shoot me from behind if I left," he said. "I told them that if you want to shoot me, then shoot me in the chest and not in the back. They stopped torturing me when they felt they would not be able to shake my resolve."

While in prison he was kept separate from other prisoners for fear of attacks.

Similar cases have been known to take as long as 7 years to reach trial.

The most famous ongoing 'blasphemy charge' case is that of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for insulting Islam in 2009 and still remains in jail, awaiting her appeal.

(source: Christian Today)

FEBRUARY 6, 2017:

ALABAMA:

Alabama's judicial override system must end

Lost in a flurry of other news from Washington D.C., the Supreme Court last Monday refused to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's capital punishment scheme. Judges in Alabama are legally able to override jury recommendations for life without parole and choose to sentence defendants to death instead. This makes Alabama once again the lone holdout in a legal battle the rest of the country has already settled. Florida and Delaware, the other 2 states that have had judicial override in recent memory, had their laws declared unconstitutional in January and August of 2016, respectively.

Capital punishment is a contentious issue, but not allowing a judge to actively go against a jury's recommendation of mercy should not be. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed when they ruled that Florida's version of judicial override violated the Sixth Amendment, citing a requirement that a jury, not a judge, must find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty. Although the procedural elements of judicial override in Alabama differ from Florida's former scheme, the relevant considerations for unconstitutionality apply to both. The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case challenging the capital sentencing structure in Alabama, though there are currently several before it.

In addition to most likely being unconstitutional, judicial override presents clear ethical problems. The law essentially provides judges with total discretion on when it can be used, with the only requirement being that the judge must assign the jury's recommendation "weight" before reaching a decision. The nature of the system easily allows for considerations other than justice to come into play. Trial and appellate court judges are elected in Alabama, which creates a potential incentive for judges to override jury recommendations so as not to appear "soft on crime." Claud Neilson, former candidate for the Alabama Supreme Court, had an ad featuring the message that he'd "looked into the eyes of murderers and sentenced them to death." The idea that a judge's record of sending people to die could garner support from voters is exactly why judges should not be able to ignore a jury's decision and send someone to death row. In fairness, Neilson has never used judicial override.

Historically, around 10 % of homicide cases in Alabama that have black defendants have had white victims. That leaves between 80 and 90 % of cases where the defendant was black that the victim also was. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, cases with black defendants and white victims account for about 30 % of judicial overrides, while cases where both the defendant and victim are black account for only around 20 p%. The proportional disparity implies that judges put more weight towards overriding life sentences for black defendants when their victims are white. There is no reason to believe that crimes committed by black people against white victims are any more heinous or violent than those with different racial breakdowns. This imbalance is clear racial bias, and it furthers the argument for judicial override to be deemed unconstitutional and repealed.

There is no compelling reason to maintain the practice of judicial override. All other states have either willfully stricken it from their law books or never had it instituted at all. Alabama has shown a stubborn willingness to be the last bastion for bad laws throughout its history. Unfortunately we should not expect that the drawn-out death of this issue will be any different than the ones that fell before.

There are currently 183 people waiting to die in Alabama after the execution of Ronald Smith, whose jury recommended life without parole, in December.

(source: Opinion; Mason Estevez is a junior majoring in economics and journalism----The (Univ. Ala.) Crimson White)

OKLAHOMA:

Ohio judge's ruling places execution drug back in headlines

In Ohio, an execution once scheduled for Feb. 15 is no longer on the calendar. A federal judge ruled recently that the state's new 3-drug process is unconstitutional, and he took particular issue with a drug familiar to Oklahoma officials.

Magistrate Judge Michael Merz agreed with the attorneys for 3 death row inmates that it wasn't certain the sedative midazolam wouldn't cause "substantial risk of serious harm," which is the bar the U.S. Supreme Court set in a 2008 case from Kentucky.

Midazolam was the focus of a legal challenge in Oklahoma brought in 2015. Attorneys for Richard Eugene Glossip, John M. Grant, Benjamin Robert Cole and others objected to the sedative's use in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, justices sided with the state and rejected arguments that using midazolam could lead to an unconstitutional level of pain.

The ruling meant Oklahoma could resume executions, which had been on hold pending the outcome of that case. But no one has been executed here since Charles Warner in January 2015, due not only to legal challenges, but also concerns about the state's protocol and its ability to get the necessary drugs.

Ohio now finds itself in a similar situation. Merz not only nixed the state's ability to use midazolam, but also barred Ohio from using the other 2 drugs it had been using. Instead, he said the state should look to use a compounded version of the barbiturate pentobarbital.

Oklahoma would prefer to use pentobarbital, but like Ohio and other states has been unable to obtain it because manufacturers have stopped supplying it for executions. That has led officials to look for other drugs, some of which have been problematic. In the Warner execution, for example, it was learned several months after the fact that the wrong third drug had been used.

Oklahoma now has 48 inmates on death row, 13 of whom have exhausted their appeals and will be eligible for execution dates when the state resumes lethal injections. The unknown is when that might occur - a moratorium in place since late 2015 won't be lifted until all federal and state investigations into the state's death penalty are finished, and changes to state execution protocol are completed and ready to be implemented by the Department of Corrections.

Oklahoma's isn't the only death chamber getting little use. In a story last week, The Associated Press highlighted 10 active death penalty states - in 7 of those, no executions are scheduled. Ohio has enough drugs on hand to carry out 4 executions, but the magistrate's Jan. 26 ruling has erected a roadblock.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Oklahoma is able to ramp up once its revamped protocol is approved. The state carried out zero executions in 2016, the 1st time that has happened since 1994. Might Oklahoma go 2 consecutive years without an execution? If so that would be notable, but perhaps not terribly surprising given today's climate.

(source: The Oklahoman Editorial Board)

KANSAS:

Death penalty bill to get hearing

5 years ago, when the Kansas House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee conducted a hearing on a bill that would end the death penalty, Steven Becker was a retired judge testifying along with other death penalty opponents.

On Monday, Feb. 13, House Corrections and Juvenile Justice will conduct a hearing at 1:30 p.m. in the State Capitol on a bill to abolish the death penalty. Rep. Becker, R-Buhler, is the principal figure behind the bill.

"I don't think I'll be testifying at the hearing," Becker said Friday. He sits on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, as do some other bill co-sponsors.

The hearing could draw a number of people offering testimony, including victims' family members, law enforcement and prosecutors, church leaders, and advocacy groups, such as the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

In recent years, legislative attempts to eliminate the death penalty have been thwarted when bills landed in a committee and no hearing occurred. "That was my decision to schedule a hearing," said Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman J. Russell Jennings, R-Lakin.

House Bill 2167 has 15 sponsors. Besides Becker, other legislators from the region putting their name on the bill include Reps. Tory Marie Arnberger, R-Great Bend; Eber Phelps, D-Hays; Tim Hodge, D-North Newton; Susan Concannon, R-Beloit; and Diana Dierks, R-Salina.

The legislation would establish the crime of aggravated murder with sentencing of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole. It would not change current death sentences.

Kansas has not carried out the death sentence since that penalty was restored over 20 years ago.

(source: Hutchinson News)

USA:

A Wiser Generation of Prosecutors

The newly elected district attorney in Denver, Beth McCann, announced last month that her office would no longer seek the death penalty. "I don't think that the state should be in the business of killing people," she said.

In Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston and has long been one of the most execution-friendly counties in America, the new district attorney, Kim Ogg, said there would be "very few death penalty prosecutions" under her administration.

In January, the Democratic attorney general in Washington State, Bob Ferguson, proposed a bill that would ban the death penalty there. The bill is supported by the governor, Jay Inslee, a bipartisan group of legislators and, notably, by Mr. Ferguson's Republican predecessor.

These women and men are at the forefront of a new generation of local and state law-enforcement officials, most elected in 2015 and 2016, who are working to change the national conversation about the proper role of the prosecutor - one of the most powerful yet least understood jobs in the justice system.

Just a few years ago, it was political suicide for a district attorney almost anywhere to profess anything less than total allegiance to the death penalty, or to seeking the harshest punishments available in every case.

Times are changing. As capital punishment's many flaws have become impossible to ignore, its use has dwindled. The number of new death sentences and executions continues to drop - only 30 people were sentenced to death nationwide in 2016, and 20 were executed. Prosecutors aren't just seeking fewer death sentences; they're openly turning against the practice, even in places where it has traditionally been favored.

Reformist prosecutors are also changing how they handle non-capital offenses, which make up the vast majority of prosecutions. Kim Foxx, the new state's attorney in Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, ordered her prosecutors in December not to bring felony charges in shoplifting cases involving less than $1,000 of goods, which is the vast majority of cases. The idea is to keep more nonviolent offenders, many of whom are homeless, drug addicted or mentally ill, out of jail and steer them into treatment programs where they will be less likely to re-offend.

Prosecutors like these are especially important today. Donald Trump's blunt, hysterical "law and order" campaign distorted the reality of crime in America - invoking an apocalyptic hellscape when in fact crime remains at historic lows. Now that Mr. Trump is president, his dark vision is likely to be implemented on the federal level by his pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who as a senator has fought almost all efforts at justice reform.

In these circumstances, the best chance for continued reform lies with state and local prosecutors who are open to rethinking how they do their enormously influential jobs.

(source: Editorial New York times)

EGYPT:

Death penalty verdict issued for Coptic alcohol merchant murderer----The defendant confessed to crime saying he "would kill all alcohol sellers if he could"

In just 2 consecutive court sessions, the Alexandria Criminal Court on Sunday sentenced a defendant to death, charged with 1st-degree murder and caught on CCTV cameras slaughtering a Coptic alcohol merchant.

The 1st trial session was held on Saturday. The death penalty verdict was sent to the Grand Mufti for consultation and the final sentence shall be announced on 9 March, a Sunday state media report said.

Investigations revealed that the accused man, named Adel Soliman, confessed that he deliberately slaughtered the merchant named Youssef Lamaei while he sat in front of his store in Sidi Beshr in Alexandria.

The defendant reportedly told the court that he killed Lamaei and that he would kill all alcohol merchants if he could.

According to a report, published by state-media on 8 January, Soliman was referred to a criminal court, as he added to his confession statement that the reason he murdered the merchant was that he sold alcohol and that he had previously asked him several times to stop such business.

Video footage from the store's security camera showed a bearded man approach the victim from behind before slitting his throat with a knife. There were eyewitnesses to the crime, including the victim's family members.

(source: Daily News Egypt)

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