and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

JULY 21, 2014:


NJ lawmaker wants return of death penalty, cites fatal shooting of Jersey City cop

A New Jersey lawmaker is arguing that the fatal shooting of Jersey City Police Det. Melvin Santiago should lead to the state reinstating the death penalty.

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Jackson, said Santiago was "targeted for murder," and that the public supports a return of the death penalty to bring "the full weight of justice in crimes such as this," according to Chasing New Jersey.

"I believe that the time is now to reinstate the death penalty for these heinous, violent crimes when it comes to murdering law enforcement officers, when it comes to murdering a child or a terrorist," he told the news show.

Santiago, 23, was killed last Sunday in what police have called an ambush at the Walgreens at Kennedy Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue. Officers on the scene returned fire, killing the assailant.

New Jersey repealed its death penalty in 2007 under former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.

(source: The Jersey Journal)


Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty For Wadley Man Accused Of Leaving Woman's Body Near Dumpsters

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for a man charged with raping and killing a woman whose body was found near trash dumpsters in Jefferson County.

The Augusta Chronicle reports Middle Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman announced his intention Friday to pursue a death sentence for 37-year-old Anthony Mereal Lemon, of Wadley.

Lemon was charged last month with murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape and sodomy in the slaying of 29-year-old Jamillah Mia Holmes of Sandersville. A county worker found her body May 12th at a garbage collection site near Wadley.

The decision to seek death of Lemon was announced during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Lemon has been jailed without bond.

(source: Associated Press)


Brothers Charged With Capital Murder In Crawford County Slaying

2 half brothers were charged Monday with capital murder in the June death of a 19-year-old Alma man.

Jonathan Bridgewater, 27, and Nicholas Barrows, 19, both of Rudy, are accused of shooting Jamison Lee Plum, whose body was found June 30 in a shallow grave. According to the Medical Examiner's Office of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Plum died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Bridgewater and Barrows face charges of capital murder and felony with a firearm enhancement. Capital murder is a Class Y felony which carries the possible punishment of life without the possibility of parole or the death sentence. Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said his office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

"A decision on the death penalty will be decided later on, after a complete and thorough investigation by the sheriff's office," states a news release from McCune.

Barrows also was charged with possession of prohibited weapons, a Class B felony that has a sentence range of 5 to 20 years, after the Crawford County Sheriff's Office allegedly discovered pipe bombs while executing a search warrant at Barrows' Rudy residence.

Barrows and Bridgewater were arrested June 30. They are scheduled for arraignment Wednesday.

Barrows is the son of Jeff Barrows, a former Fort Smith police officer who served as interim police chief until current Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey was hired in 2007.

(source: SW Times)


Man In Malaysia Sentenced To Death For Selling Marijuana

In one of the most disgusting stories I've ever read, it appears that a 37 year old Nigerian man has been sentenced to death for selling marijuana in Malaysia. Not a fine. Not jail. Death. This man will face the death penalty for selling a substance that has never killed anyone in the history of mankind. Per New Straits Times:

A Nigerian college student gets death for trafficking 26.5kg of cannabis 4 years ago. High Court judge Datin Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah today sentenced Uchechukwu Nelson Ohaechesi, 37, to be hanged for trafficking the drugs at the side of an overhead bridge stairwell at the Kajang-bound Taman Connought highway, Cheras here, around 7.45pm on Oct 17, 2010. Amelia ruled that Uchechukwu failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case and that his defense amounted to "an afterthought, pure fabrication and untrue".

People are legally selling marijuana right now in Washington State and Colorado, and it has led to virtually no issues. Yet, in Malaysia, the court determined that selling marijuana was such a heinous act that it warrants the death penalty. This makes my heart heavy in a way that I don't think I can ever accurately capture in words. No one should be penalized for marijuana, let alone lose their life by being hung from a noose.

Some people might brush this off and think of it as an example of a country with ultra harsh laws, and that it's far removed from what is going on in the United States. To these people I would offer up this fact - a man is serving a life sentence in Missouri right now for marijuana-only offenses. Jeff Mizanskey hasn't received the death penalty in Missouri, but he will never be let out of jail according to his sentence. His life has been taken from him, and his friends and family will never get to spend quality time with him, solely because he was arrested for marijuana.

(source: Johnny Green, The Weed Blog)


Penalty trial opens for police officer's killer

Testimony resumes in Houston as prosecutors seek the death penalty for a 23-year-old man convicted of capital murder in the Christmas Eve killings 2 years ago of a Houston-area police officer and an auto body shop owner.

The punishment phase begins Monday in a state district court in the trial of Harlem Lewis III. The Harris County jury found Lewis guilty of capital murder Friday in the deaths of Bellaire officer Jimmie Norman and auto body shop owner Terry Taylor.

Prosecutors say Norman had stopped Lewis for a traffic violation, got into a struggle with him and was shot. Authorities say Taylor was shot when he tried to help Norman.

Jurors can now sentence Lewis to life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)


Death row inmate Michelle Byrom moved to Tishomingo jail to await new trial

Death row inmate Michelle Byrom has been moved to the Tishomingo County jail where she will await a new trial.

No trial date has been announced.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections says Byrom was moved Saturday to the jail in Iuka.

The state Supreme Court in March threw out Byrom's capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The court did not elaborate on its decision.

Byrom, now 57, was sentenced to death in 2000 for the killing of her husband, Edward "Eddie" Byrom Sr., and for recruiting her son in the plot. Eddie Byrom Sr. was fatally shot on June 4, 1999, at the couple's home in Iuka.

Byrom's attorneys say they have new evidence in the case and that Byrom now argues that her son committed the slaying.

(source: Associated Press)


Trial looms for mentally ill man suspected in 2 slayings -- Road to trial long for Charenton man accused of 2 fatal '13 shootings

The Charenton man suspected in the fatal shootings of a Chitimacha tribe police officer and another man in January 2013 was evaluated last week by state psychiatrists, who will weigh in on whether Wilbert Thibodeaux is mentally fit to stand trial.

Thibodeaux, 49, was evaluated at Louisiana's mental hospital in Jackson on July 14. The results of the all-day sanity test could open up a path for Thibodeaux to one day stand trial in St. Mary Parish on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder.

Or he may never stand trial.

"It wouldn't be extremely unusual to never get him to trial," said Paul Marx, who heads the Public Defender's Office for the 15th Judicial District. Marx's office represents low-income defendants in Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes. Marx has no connection to the Thibodeaux case but has defended many like him.

"I've had some who have never been able to go to trial," he said.

Thibodeaux has been an inmate in the mental ward at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel since he was arrested Jan. 26, 2013. St. Mary Parish detectives believe Thibodeaux shot to death 78-year-old Eddie Lyons and Chitimacha tribal police Officer Rick Riggenbach, who was 52 and a veteran cop who had responded to a report of Thibodeaux walking down a Charenton street armed with a gun.

Thibodeaux also is accused of burning down Lyons' mobile home and trying to kill 2 sheriff's deputies who responded to the shootings.

Prosecutors in August 2013 told state district Judge Keith Comeaux they will seek the death penalty.

Craig Colwart, Thibodeaux's lead public defender, said psychiatrists who evaluated Thibodeaux last Monday will write a report for Judge Comeaux to use in determining whether Thibodeaux, on medication, is mentally competent to stand trial.

The report should be completed in two to three months, Colwart said, but he couldn't say when Comeaux would rule.

Colwart said the mental competency issue is but one part of the long drama.

"If they come back and say he's competent, then we have to go through whether he was insane at the time of the offense," Colwart said. "Could he tell right from wrong at the time?"

If Thibodeaux is ruled incompetent to stand trial, the road to a trial is blocked until the day he is deemed mentally stable and cognizant enough to face his accusers in court.

In the 18 months since Riggenbach and Lyons were killed, Colwart and other public defenders have tried to collect records documenting the mental health problems that have plagued Thibodeaux since he was young.

Neighbors in Charenton said that although Thibodeaux had mental issues all his life, he had never been violent until January 2013.

Colwart said the records unearthed - such as those documenting an extended stay at a Texas mental facility one month before the shootings - were given to the psychiatrists at the mental hospital in Jackson last Monday.

"Because this is a 1st-degree murder case, with all the complications ... we wanted to get as much information about his situation to the doctors," Colwart said.

Thibodeaux also has been uncooperative, refusing at times to meet with attorneys who traveled from St. Mary Parish to the Elayn Hunt prison in Iberville Parish to discuss his case. And he has refused to sign legal documents needed to help his defense, Colwart said.

(source: The Advocate)


Appeals court postpones Arizona man's execution

A federal appeals court on Saturday granted an Arizona death row inmate's request to postpone his pending execution, putting it on hold until prison officials reveal details on the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The preliminary injunction granted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversing a lower federal court comes four days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

Without weighing in on the "ultimate merits" of Wood's case, the court wrote: "Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim, and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor."

Wood's lawyers argued prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

"Today the Court has made a well-reasoned ruling affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public's right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government," Wood's lawyer Dale Baich said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.

Representatives from the attorney general's office said they had not yet seen the decision, but based on the severity of Wood's crime they intended to appeal. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the state would decide Monday how to proceed.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

"There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country," Baich said in a statement, "and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

Arizona prison officials intend to use the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)


A Lifetime on California's Death Row

"How has it gone on this long?" Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the State of Florida during oral arguments in March on a condemned inmate's appeal. The legal issue in that case had to do with how states define intellectual disability, but Justice Scalia was troubled that Freddie Lee Hall had been on Florida's death row for more than 3 decades.

In that same session, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the last 10 people executed by the state had spent an average of 24.9 years on death row.

"Do you think that that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty," Justice Kennedy asked the state's lawyer, "and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?"

Last Wednesday, in an unrelated case, a federal judge in California answered that question with a resounding no. The state's death-penalty system is "so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay," wrote United States District Judge Cormac Carney, that it violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In a remarkable ruling overturning the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend's mother, Judge Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, pointed out that of the more than 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, 13 have been executed. More than 40 % of the rest have been on death row for at least 19 years, and the backlog is growing.

The judge found that the delays are primarily due not to inmates' repeated appeals, as is often assumed, but to the state's own foot-dragging and underfunding of its indigent defense system.

California law provides for an automatic appeal of all death sentences, but it takes 3 to 5 years before death-row inmates - all of whom are indigent - are even assigned a lawyer. It takes 4 more years for the lawyer to go through the voluminous trial record and file an appeal, and 2 to 3 years for the State Supreme Court, which hears only 20 to 25 death-penalty appeals per year, to schedule oral arguments.

Tack on another 3 to 5 years for state habeas corpus petitions, which bring claims that often don't arise in the 1st appeal, such as ineffective assistance of counsel. Add 10 for federal habeas corpus claims, and the result is what Judge Carney charitably called a "completely dysfunctional" system.

Executions that are so long delayed and so rarely carried out, the judge wrote, are "antithetical to any civilized notion of just punishment." They neither deter future crimes nor serve society's interest in retribution for past ones - 2 common rationales given by supporters of capital punishment. Whether an inmate is executed depends not on the nature of the crime or even the date of his sentence, the judge said, but on "arbitrary factors" like the length of his various appeals.

California is, of course, far from alone on the issue. Nationwide, the average time from sentencing to execution is almost 16 years, and executions have hit all-time lows as states fight litigation on multiple fronts. (Because of continuing litigation over the state's lethal-injection protocol, California has not executed anyone since 2006.)

States including Florida, Alabama and North Carolina have responded to similar delays by moving to streamline death-row appeals. But speed is not the point if it comes at the expense of accuracy. As Judge Carney said, "death is a punishment different in kind from any other," and so requires more careful scrutiny than any other.

That extra scrutiny is "vitally important," the judge pointed out: Half of California’s death sentences that were reviewed by a federal court were eventually vacated.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Cruel and Unusual

Anxiety shook me when my 5th-grade teacher assigned us a paragraph on what we thought about Stanley "Tookie" William's death sentence. Williams, a former leader of the Crips charged with several accounts of 1st-degree murder, was put on death row in California. In prison, he began writing anti-gang and anti-violence books for children, some of which we had read in class.

Williams became an icon for many activists and leaders, with more than 2,000 attending his funeral. Before his execution, he left behind a recorded message for his mourners. "The war within me is over. I battled my demons and was triumphant," Williams said in his recording. "Teach them how to avoid our destructive footsteps. Teach them to strive for higher education. Teach them to promote peace and teach them to focus on rebuilding the neighborhoods that you, others and I helped destroy."

As a fledgling 10-year-old citizen, I had vague intuitions about the dilemma of justice presented before me. Part of me questioned whether it was morally just to penalize murder by executing murder under the thin veil of a bureaucratic procedure. As a young adult, I am more cognizant of the rhetorical moves supporters and opposers of this legal process use, which I explore here.

To begin with, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in California, citing that it violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Carney also contended that the system also leaves inmates with undecided fates for decades. In the past 7 years, 6 states have abolished the death penalty, but in 2012, California voters rejected such a ban.

One argument weighing in favor of the death penalty is grounded in utility - how useful or beneficial to the majority something is. For example, murder is reasonably considered a crime against society, and it would seem to benefit society as a whole to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to the so-called greater good. But a stronger utilitarian argument exists for abolishing the death penalty. Fiscally speaking, putting a prisoner on death row is expensive and wastes taxpayer money that could go to other social service programs. California has spent $4 billion on death row inmates since 1978, which boils down to roughly $177 million per inmate a year. The money accrues from factors such as costlier lawyers, as well as incarceration expenses such as individual cells and multiple guards present for visitors. The death row population in California is currently at 748 inmates, but only 13 inmates have been executed since 1978.

In the same vein of utility, proponents also suggest the death penalty also deters murder. But other factors, such as demography, policing, culture and the job market, could also affect the murder rate. In fact, an epistemological study conducted by America's National Research Council found in 2012 that research to date is not informative about whether or not the death penalty bears any weight on fluctuating homicide rates. Life imprisonment without parole, however, is a considerable alternative to the death penalty that can substantially yield social utility (not to say, though, that life imprisonment isn't severe). Craig Datesman, for example, an inmate at Gratersford Prison in Pennsylvania, has coordinated a program called Lifers to help younger people who have trouble with the law go "straight." Life imprisonment may also offer grieving families of victims financial and emotional restitution. One concept involves having lifers work in prisons for better wages in order to offer the victim's family financial restitution, one figure set at $150,000. Additionally,Murder Victim Families For Reconciliation, for example, opposes the death penalty and emphasizes justice as a transformation from violence to healing.

In contrast, those who advocate the death penalty also appeal to the more individualistic argument of human dignity. They lever the "life for a life" argument, suggesting that the death penalty approaches the defendant with human dignity, treating him or her as a free moral agent. Institutionalizing a correction legal process like the death penalty enables the government to protect the "negative rights" (freedom from interference) of citizens, like the right not to be killed.

But what about mistakes? Legally, the death penalty may not be so clean or clear-cut after all, extinguishing the rights of those who are innocent. A study conducted by statisticians and legal experts reveal that almost 4 percent of U.S. capital punishment sentences are wrongfully convicted and that about 120 of 3,000 inmates are not guilty. Medically speaking, botched lethal injections can be easily interpreted as experimental and cruel. Clayton Lockett, for example, was given a new 3-drug method that left him in pain for several minutes, dying 43 minutes after his injection. One alternative to the lethal injection death is a firing squad death, which is only legal in Utah. It can bring about heart death in about 1 minute. But the mental image of a firing squad is gruesome, uncovering an uncomfortable moral question about state-sanctioned death.

To this day, I don't recall what I wrote for my assignment. But the fear and shock remain. As a child yet to be corrupted by cynicism, I wondered what redemption meant and if the most extreme measures of institutionalized retributive measures could ever make up for the loss in human life, which may or may not have been carried out heinously. I was aghast by how the line between life and death depended so much upon social mores. But I was also aghast by how it depended so much on the whims of 1 authoritative individual - in this case, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who denied Williams clemency. The only difference is that now, as a young adult, I bluntly oppose the death penalty as a means of administering justice.

(soruce: Stacey Nguyen, The Daily Californian)


New Jersey Police Arrest Man Suspected Of Killing 2 Gay Men In Seattle----If convicted, he could face the death penalty

New Jersey authorities have arrested a fugitive suspected of killing 2 men in Seattle last month. Police apprehended Ali Muhammad Brown, 30, in West Orange, N.J., July 18 - weeks after he was identified as a suspect in the double homicide case.

Brown, who is held at a correctional facility, was charged with 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted, KIRO 7 reports. He was also wanted for a robbery and attempted carjacking in New Jersey.

Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, were found shot to death June 1 in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood. Prosecutors accuse Brown of targeting the men on mobile dating apps for gay men before meeting them outside R Place, a gay club, that night.

In court documents released July 2, prosecutors say Brown allegedly planned the attack and that Seattle police were investigating the case as a possible anti-gay hate crime, reports KIRO 7.

According to the documents, Said communicated with Brown on a gay dating app "like Grindr or Jack'd" while at the nightclub and told friends there he was meeting someone that night. Shortly after the bar closed, the victims met Brown and then drove to Anderson-Young's house in Leschi, at which point police say Brown shot them multiple times and stole Said's car. Evidence collected by homicide investigators suggests the victims were "essentially executed," according to the report.

Additionally, prosecutors said that homicide investigators linked Brown to the murders after finding fingerprints and 9mm casings in Said's car, which was found abandoned in South Seattle.

Authorities say they will continue to investigate. In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said, "All of our communities are safer today as a result. I hope his arrest brings some initial measure of closure to the families of Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said."



Political prisoners Arzhang Davoodi sentenced to death

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced political Prisoner Arzhang Davoodi to death for his opposition to the clerical regime, according to reports received from Iran. Mr. Davoodi has already served 10 years in prison

Davoodi, 62, a teacher, was arrested in October 2003 and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment which was later increased to 20 years.

For the past 10 years he has been subjected to torture and abuses, He has been held in solitary confinements and denied medical care.

He has been told by Bandar Abbas prison authorities that he would soon be transferred to Tehran.


Iranian regime sentences a prisoner to stoning to death and hanging

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced a prisoner to death by stoning, hanging and 15 years imprisonment, state-run Mehr News Agency reported.

The regime's judiciary chief in northern city of Ghaemshahr who did not identify the prisoner said the review of the case of this 32-year-old prisoner has been one the most important tasks of his office.

He said the prisoners has been sentenced to 2 times execution which includes hanging and stoning to death for alleged crimes that included adultery and possessing satellite receivers among others.

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


Wave Of Forgiveness Washes Over Iran

April 16 was supposed to be the last day of Balal's life. Seven years after stabbing another teen dead in a street fight, Balal was to be publicly executed in front of his victim's family, in a small town in Iran's northern province of Mazandaran.

Instead, Balal was given a new lease on life when, in the very last minute, he was spared by his victim's mother. The dramatic scenes of Balal, his neck in a noose, being pardoned have received extensive coverage in the media and on social-networking sites.

Since then the scene has been reenacted dozens of times in a wave of forgiveness that belies the authorities' efforts to push the death penalty.

Last week alone, according to the reformist "Shargh" daily, nine individuals sentenced to death were pardoned by victims' families.

Observers say a concerted publicity campaign is at play, but money is also a factor.

Artists, television celebrities, and rights activists have been publicly calling on citizens to spare the lives of those sentenced to death and the media have been sympathetic in their coverage.

In Balal's case, for example, popular TV presenter Adel Ferdowsipour spoke to an audience of millions in favor of him being pardoned.

But Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, a well-known Iranian lawyer who has represented several convicted killers, says that what media call a wave of mercy is in fact a "business."

Under Islamic laws applied in Iran, the families of convicted murderers are able to buy their kin's freedom from victims' families. The official rate for blood money is 150 million toumans -- or about $50,000 -- but often the sum requested is higher.

In Balal's case, his victim's family reportedly received blood money of about 300 million toumans.

"Based on the information I have about some of the cases, I have to say that a large part of the reconciliations in Qisas" - a reference to the Islamic law of retribution - "cases are happening in exchange of enormous sums of money from the families of those convicted," Khoramshahi said earlier this month in an interview with

The Tehran-based lawyer added that media should encourage people not to request huge sums of money for showing mercy.

Iranian Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in April that during the past Iranian year - from March 2013 to March 2014 - the lives of 358 condemned Iranians were spared under the Islamic law of retribution.

Mahmood Amiry Moghadam, spokesman of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization, says it is not clear how many pardons were prompted by the lure of financial compensation.

But Moghadam thinks that some Iranians are finding "value" in showing mercy.

"I think as much as the establishment is trying to promote executions," he says, "a culture that goes against it - a culture of mercy - is being promoted."

Moghadam says Iran's civil society and anti-death-penalty groups should be given credit for the trend.

One of the groups active against executions is the "Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty In Iran" campaign, founded by a number of prominent intellectuals and rights activists including former Tehran University chancellor Mohammad Maleki.

Maleki tells RFE/RL there's a growing distaste for the death penalty in Iran and a tendency toward mercy.

He agrees that many families spare the lives of their relatives' killers for money. At the same time, he says he's come across a number of cases where the families pardoned convicted killers out of compassion.

"It will take time before it becomes ingrained in the society," he says in a telephone interview from Tehran. "People have to realize slowly that money cannot replace forgiveness and sacrifice."

Maleki notes that the trend comes as the Iranian establishment continues to hold public hangings.

"The establishment only knows violence and blood," he says.

One journalist in the Iranian capital says the establishment is already benefiting from the wave of forgiveness because "it shows a more human face of Iran."

But others fear that violence is so deeply rooted in Iranian society that it will take a long time before things change.

The country carried out 665 executions in 2013, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

And with Iranians under tremendous pressures that discourage communication and dialogue, the wave of mercy is not likely to last, according to prominent university professor and sociologist Mostafa Eghlima.

"It's not easy [for people] to forgive someone who has killed their children," he concludes.

(source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)


Implementation of death penalty may be resumed soon ---- GHQ attacker, TTP terrorists can be sent to gallows

Under mounting pressure from the security agencies to lift the moratorium on death penalty in the cases of dreaded terrorists and hardened criminals, the federal government may allow carrying out the death sentences.

Likely to be hanged 1st are Aqeel alias Dr Usman, a soldier-turned-jehadi and the ring leader of the 2009 fidayeen attack on the GHQ building, and several other TTP terrorists, already handed down death sentences.

According to well-informed government sources in Islamabad, since the launching of the operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, the security establishment had been pressing the federal government hard not only to legislate new laws to tighten the prosecution of dreaded terrorists but also to lift the moratorium on death penalty which is in force since 2008.

Because of the moratorium, over 8,000 criminals, including terrorists, target killers, murderers and those involved in other heinous crimes, have not been executed for the last 6 years. The federal government had subsequently passed the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) 2014 immediately after the launch of the operation Zarb-e-Azb in on the recommendation of the khaki top brass.

The government sources said that in their July 17 meeting at the GHQ, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had discussed in detail the issue of effectively prosecuting terrorists in the courts as well as dealing with those terrorists who had been handed down sentences but are not getting convictions, thus leaving a negative impact on efforts of the armed forces in the war against terror.

Both the PM and the COAS were unanimous that the terrorists should be given a tough message that they will not be spared for their misdeeds come what may once they are arrested. Thus, the government circles say, there is a strong possibility of the prime minister revoking moratorium on death penalty as far as the cases of dreaded terrorists and hardened criminals are concerned.

The moratorium on death sentence was invoked by the Zardari-led PPP government on the pressure of international community.Subsequently, some 8,000 convicted prisoners continue to defy death despite the fact that they have already exhausted their judicial appeals and their convictions have been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

When the Sharif government came into power, it had announced to resume the death penalty but soon got it reversed. However, repeated warnings by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that the executions of jailed militants including Aqeel alias Dr Usman would compel the TTP to wage a war against the PML-N leadership finally forced the government to take a U-turn on its previous declaration.

It was in August 2013 that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered to halt carrying out of the death sentences in the country till further orders. The decision came hardly a few days after the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban, Asmatullh Muavia, warned that the executions of the TTP men would compel the Taliban to wage a war against the PML-N.

His warning was followed by yet another threatening statement released by the TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, saying that a highly-trained squad of suicide bombers has been formed to target two key figures of the PML-N (most likely Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif) if Aqeel alias Dr Usman was hanged in Faisalabad jail as per schedule on August 23 [2013].

"The residences of prominent PML-N leadership will be attacked immediately if Aqeel is sent to the gallows as per schedule. The leadership of the PML-N will be our target, just like we had targeted the ANP leadership," the TTP spokesman had warned.

Interestingly, however, before taking the U-turn on death sentences, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had stated on August 14 in Islamabad that the new government was determined to establish the writ of law. "There is a huge backlog of 450 cases of death sentences and we are processing them as fast as we can to implement the execution orders of the hardened terrorists so that the law may take its due course," he had said. On his part, Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed was quoted by the national press as saying on August 15 that the death sentences had been awarded by courts and not the PML-N. He said that the courts were rightly displeased with dragging feet on hanging the criminals, who have been sentenced and who have exhausted the right of appeal long time ago.

Against the backdrop of the reports about their imminent executions, the Taliban had warned through a pamphlet distributed in South and North Waziristan on August 14: "If the jailed prisoners are executed, it would amount to a declaration of war on the part of the government".

Aqeel was set to be executed in Faisalabad on August 23, 2013 but he was lucky to have survived in the wake of Sharif government's decision to impose moratorium on death penalty.

A deserter from the Medical Corps of the Pakistan Army who later joined the Taliban ranks, Aqeel was sentenced to death in August 2011 by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Rawalpindi for his role in the GHQ attack. 3 civilians - Khaliqur Rehman, Mohammad Usman and Wajid Mehmood - were awarded life sentences while 2 others, Mohammad Adnan and Tahir Shafiq, handed down 8 and 7 years jail sentences respectively.

While Aqeel was caught alive following the assault, another ex-soldier and 5 civilians were arrested later and were found guilty of abetment in the brazen attack. The court martial proceedings against the accused were headed by a serving brigadier and the trial lasted over 5 months at an undisclosed location near the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

But Aqeel's fate was effectively sealed on December 7, 2012 when an Army Appellate Court headed by a major general had rejected his appeal against the death sentence. As Aqeel attempted to challenge his sentence in the superior courts, he was told that the verdicts handed down by the military courts cannot be challenged in a high court. As per the confessional statement of Aqeel, he had deserted the Army's Medical Corps in 2006 to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). He later joined hands with Commander Ilyas Kashmiri's Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HuJI), finally becoming a significant leader of the Waziristan-based Punjabi Taliban. In the aftermath of 2007 Lal Masjid operation, Aqeel and some other hardcore jehadi elements floated a new group - Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab - which had carried out the GHQ attack.

As such, the GHQ assault was one of the first major terrorist attacks attributed to the Punjabi Taliban. Aqeel had disclosed during interrogations that the GHQ attack was conceived in the Miramshah headquarter of North Waziristan by the same militants who had attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team's bus in Lahore in March 2009.

Shortly after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, Aqeel fled to Waziristan where he had met al-Qaeda-linked Ilyas Kashmiri. It was at this meeting that the idea of the attack on the General Headquarters was finalised by Ilyas Kashmiri, who himself had deserted the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Army to become a key al-Qaeda leader, before being killed in a US drone attack in June 2011.

(source: The News)


Taiwan prosecutors seek death penalty on subway killer

Taiwanese prosecutors on Monday said they were seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing 4 people and wounding nearly 2 dozen others in a stabbing spree on the Taipei subway that shocked the island.

Cheng Chieh, a 21-year-old college student, was charged with 4 accounts of murder and 22 accounts of attempted murder for the fatal attack on May 21, the 1st of its kind on the city's subway system since it began operating in 1996, AFP reports.

"The accused's actions fit the definition of mass murders, his means were ruthless and inhuman, and caused irreparable harm to the victims and their families. We demand the court sentence him to death,'' prosecutors said in a statement.

The incident shocked Taiwan, otherwise proud of its low levels of violent crime, and resulted in several minor injuries as edgy commuters fled trains over false alarms in the following week.

Cheng's parents had asked for him to be sentenced to death to help ease the pain inflicted on the victims and their families, calling their son's actions ''unforgivable''.

Executions are carried out in Taiwan by a single shot to the heart from the back -- or, if the prisoner agrees to donate his organs, a bullet to the back of the head.

Prosecutors said psychological evaluations have shown that Cheng was not in a state of mental disorder when he committed the crime, and that he is fit to stand trial.

They described him as "anti-society, narcissistic, immature and pessimistic".

In elementary school, he vowed to "kill people in revenge" after having trouble with classmates, they said.

Local media said he had been obsessed with online killing games and had written horror stories since high school.

Cheng's parents spoke to reporters on May 27 at the subway station outside Taipei where the killings took place.

"Although he is our child, the crime he committed is unforgivable," Cheng's sobbing father said.

"I think he should be sentenced to death... he should face it himself. Only by so doing may the pains inflicted on the victims and the wounded and their families be slightly eased.''

He urged judges to pass sentence on his son as soon as possible. "We hope Cheng Chieh can act in a correct manner during his next life," he added.

Security has been strengthened on the metro, which transports around 1.85 million people a day.

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation is seeking a compensation of TW$20.61 million from Cheng for operational losses after it lost around 945,000 passengers in the 10 days following the attack.

(source: The Standard)


Singapore's under fire for execution restart

The hanging of 2 convicted drug smugglers in Singapore has been described as a step backwards by rights advocates. On Friday, Singapore carried out its 1st executions in more than 3 years, after 2 men were hung for drug-related offences.

In late 2012, Singapore's Parliament adopted amendments to abolish the death penalty under certain circumstances and a number of people have had their death sentences reviewed since.

(source: Radio Australia)


It's time for Singapore to relook its war on drugs

48-year-old Foong Chee Peng and 36-year-old Tang Hai Liang were both hanged at dawn on Friday morning. They are the first 2 to have been executed in Changi Prison since an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty began in July 2011.

Both men were Singaporeans, convicted on drug trafficking offences. As far as we know, most of the inmates sitting on death row are there because of Singapore's never-ending war on drugs.

The resumption of executions sends a chilling message to the inmates as well as to anti-death penalty campaigners. With 2 already hanged and cremated, will there be more executions next Friday, and all the Fridays to come? Is the 3-year reprieve now over?

There are many problems with the death penalty and its application. In Singapore, we have highlighted issues with the mandatory nature of the death penalty, and how it continues to restrict the discretion of the judges even after the amendments have been made. We have pointed out that the current system greatly disadvantages drug mules, while kingpins avoid the noose. We have expressed our concern with the process of issuing Certificates of Cooperation, an opaque and confusing system that appears to grant a huge amount of power to the prosecution.

Beyond that, there is an even wider concern that our current war on drugs is failing. Even with our best efforts, the drug trade in Southeast Asia has not decreased, but has instead increased. Continual arrests, death sentences and even extrajudicial killings over the years - carried out not just by Singapore by other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand - have done little to alter this fact.

It is understandable that we would want to live in a safe society where drug crime is low. But it doesn't make sense for us to cling on to old methods that appear to have a limited impact on the regional drug trade, in the hopes that it will suddenly work much better and keep drugs off the streets.

We will need new solutions and new innovations to deal with this problem, and we won't be the 1st. Other countries and states have already started looking at alternatives to what has been an expensive and bloody war on drugs throughout the world, reforming their drug laws and shifting mindsets to allow for more rehabilitative and restorative methods of dealing with drug crime and drug addicts.

Portugal was 1 of the first to decriminalise drugs and treat drug users as patients rather than criminals. Some analysts say that decriminalisation has actually not led to an increase in drug consumption, while other reports actually suggest that drug crime has actually gone down.

Singapore might be small and worried about our vulnerability, but we cannot keep our heads stuck in the sand. We cannot keep sacrificing lives in the hope that it will one day pay off. It is high time we gather up the courage to explore new ideas and new solutions.

(source: Commentary; Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. The views expressed are her own. Singapore Scene)


Ukrainian couple get Lanka death sentence for double murder----Found guilty of murdering 6-year-old and a woman

A Ukrainian couple have been sentenced to death in Sri Lanka, for a double murder committed in 2010. The Colombo High Court sentenced the Ukranian nationals, the 'Colombo Gazette' reported.

They had been found guilty of murdering a 6-year-old along with a woman, who worked as a maid. The child's mother was also been injured in the attack in 2010 and following the murder the Ukrainians had been arrested.

The Ukranian woman has appealed to court to carry out her sentence immediately instead of sending her to prison.


JULY 20, 2014:


Jury: Man guilty of capital murder in death of Bellaire police officer

After a one-week trial, it took a Harris County jury just 2 hours to find a 23-year-old man guilty of capital murder for the death of a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander - murders recorded on the officer's own police dash camera.

Closing statements ended Friday around 1:30 p.m.

Defense attorneys asked the jury to opt for a lesser charge of murder that would essentially spare Harold Lewis III the death penalty. Lewis' attorneys contend, that despite the fact that the shootings of both Bellaire Police Cpl. Jimmie Norman and innocent bystander Terry Taylor were captured on the officer's dash cam, that no one can be completely sure what happened during the 1-minute struggle between the officer and the suspect inside Lewis' car.

Lewis was indicted for capital murder based on the allegation that he intentionally killed more than 1 person. Defense attorney Patrick McCann asked the jury to consider that the gun might have gone off accidentally during the struggle inside the car.

In her closing statement Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson scoffed at the theory and said that Lewis' entire actions that day must be taken into account.

"He decided he was going to kill this officer because he was not going to jail," Anderson said referring to Lewis leading police on a high speed chase Christmas Eve 2012, hitting 2 other vehicles, then refusing the officers commands and repeatedly telling the officer he was trying to find his cell phone.

Lewis had an outstanding warrant for marijuana possession and his .380 caliber handgun was stolen. Evidence showed his cell phone was right next to him the entire time in the car. Anderson told the jury the 1-minute struggle showed Lewis' continued attempt to escape and that the shot that hit the officer point-blank in the head - and the shot 2 seconds later that killed Taylor - were both intentional.

When the sentencing phase begins on Monday prosecutors will ask the jury for the death penalty.

"The jury's held Mr. Lewis accountable at this point. He is going to spend the rest of his life, he is a very young man, in prison, this doesn't need to be another death in this tragedy, that's all we have to say,” said defense attorney Patrick McCann.

(source: KHOU news)


Mass murderer who butchered four in Northampton: 'I'm not afraid to die' ---- Michael Ballard says death penalty 'makes the most sense.'

Mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard casts his decision to abandon his appeals and seek his own execution as a simple one.

It's not meant as a public expression of remorse for having "butchered" - his own chilling word - 4 people.

It's not meant as atonement, to even the scales of justice just a little for the lives he took in 2010 in that Northampton home.

It's not a political protest against the death penalty. It is also not, he said, an act of despair by a suicidal man.

Rather, Ballard told The Morning Call in a 2-hour interview on death row, it is the cold and reasoned choice he has made after coming face to face with just 2 stark options: to accept his own death; or appeal his sentence for years, if not decades, from the cramped and "dehumanizing" walls of solitary confinement.

"The jury made their decision, and I'm not about to spend the next 20 years begging the state of Pennsylvania for a mercy they're not going to give," Ballard said.

"There's no emotionality. There's no apprehension," he insisted. "I'm not afraid to die."

Ballard was interviewed 1-on-1 July 10 at the State Correctional Institution-Greene, where the state's largest death row is housed. Sitting in a small booth feet from a reporter, a plate of security glass between them, Ballard called his resolution a straightforward one, though he acknowledged that he struggles to picture the end he has chosen for himself - strapped to a gurney and lethally injected with a cocktail of drugs.

But he said he is a man who keeps his word.

"This is the decision I have made," Ballard said.

Death, "to me, it makes the most sense."

The clock is ticking.

The day after Ballard spoke to the newspaper, Gov. Tom Corbett received the certified record of his case, bringing into motion a state law that requires Corbett to schedule Ballard's execution, according to Joshua Maus, a spokesman for the Office of General Counsel.

Under the rules, an execution date will be set for no later than early December, though Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said legal wrangling will all but guarantee the day comes and goes without Ballard's being put to death, even if he sticks to his course.

When Ballard was sent to death row in 2011, it was Northampton County's 1st capital verdict in nearly 25 years. Morganelli calls him the "poster boy" for the death penalty. The state Supreme Court upheld his sentence in November, citing overwhelming evidence in support of it.

By his own admission, Ballard savagely knifed to death his former girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who heard screams at their Northampton home and tried to help.

"We want it done. We want it over with," Zernhelt's older sister, Maryann Trimmer Banko of Whitehall Township said last week, speaking for her family.

"We do not want to hear his name again or see his face again," she said of Ballard. "We want to move on."

Alvin Marsh, a World War II veteran who was deaf and blind, was slain in his wheelchair. Zernhelt's split-second valor left a widow and 3 children. Merhi had 2 children of her own. Her father was the 1st killed; afterward Ballard wrote in blood on a wall next to him that Merhi was a "whore."

Ballard said he "constantly" thinks about the killings. He'll never offer a public explanation for them, he said.

"An explanation does nothing to change the fact that I butchered everyone in that house," Ballard said. "It doesn't bring anyone back, and it's just a vain attempt to salvage how I look to other people.

"I've already told you, I don't give a [expletive]," Ballard said.

At the time of the June, 26, 2010 massacre, Ballard had recently been paroled from prison, where he served 17 years for murdering an Allentown man nearly 2 decades before. Donald Richard, 56, was knifed to death in 1991 after apparently making a pass at Ballard while showing him an apartment for rent.

Ballard waved away questions of whether his execution could be a bid for redemption.

"I can't sit here and tell you that there isn't a part of me that feels that guilt, but I'm not making this some sort of altruistic endeavor," Ballard said.

The interview came as Ballard has publicly sparred with the self-appointed defense lawyers who might otherwise save his life. He charges they have acted against his interests and without his authorization.

In March, an appeal on Ballard's behalf was made to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a Philadelphia nonprofit active in the anti-capital punishment movement. When Ballard learned of the petition through a Morning Call article, he wrote the justices directly, saying it was done behind his back and should be thrown out.

Ballard said he also has barred the highly successful Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia from even visiting him on death row, though one of its attorneys, Billy Nolas, told Morganelli in June that he plans to represent Ballard in further legal challenges.

If Nolas or any other federal defender tries to do so, Ballard said, he will fight them.

"They have no business on my case whatsoever," Ballard said of the lawyers who have managed to reverse scores of death sentences in Pennsylvania.

One of Ballard's defense attorneys at trial, James Connell, said he believes Ballard is sincere about abandoning his appeals. Connell said a "very upset" Ballard phoned him after learning of the Supreme Court petition, and they spoke at length about his desire to "let the legal system take its course."

"He didn't tell me he wanted to die," Connell said. "He told me he wanted the legal system to take its course."

But Connell said he has no doubt Ballard understands what that means and is mentally competent to make that decision.

"I think he knows exactly what he's doing," Connell said.

Personally, Connell said, he disagrees with Ballard's plans.

"If he asked my opinion, I'd certainly talk to him and tell him every life is worth living, despite what the circumstances might be," Connell said.

Like Connell, Morganelli said he concludes that Ballard is sincere. But as the reality of his execution nears, Ballard could still reverse himself, as happened in another case Morganelli handled: that of Martin Appel, who murdered 3 people during a 1986 bank robbery in East Allen Township and is now serving life in prison after successfully appealing his death sentence.

"This is up to Mr. Ballard. This is his decision," Morganelli said. "At this moment, I believe this is what he wants. Will he change his mind when things get closer? Perhaps."

On Monday, Morganelli filed court paperwork seeking to have the federal defenders barred from the case unless Ballard expressly authorizes them to appear on his behalf. The filing, described by Morganelli as a "preemptive strike," also asks that Ballard be brought to Easton from death row for a hearing to confirm that he is competent, as was determined before his trial.

Nolas has not responded to repeated requests for comment, including a phone call and email last week.

'Torture for me'

For inmates who fight their sentences, Pennsylvania has a de facto legal moratorium on executions, having not put a killer to death against his will since 1962, when John F. Kennedy was president. But 3 prisoners were executed in the 1990s after they volunteered for it by abandoning their appeals.

Though that is the path Ballard said he wishes to take, he maintained he is not eager to die, and said he is not "hanging by a bedsheet" - a reference to suicide. He also objected to a reporter's characterization that he has decided to "embrace" his death.

Nonetheless, Ballard's position represents a sea change from two previous interviews with The Morning Call - conducted just before and just after his May 2011 trial - in which he insisted he was not going to be a volunteer.

"I don't have a death wish. That still stands," Ballard said in June 2011. "I don't view myself as so worthless that I need to check out."

Ballard, 40, has now been at the prison in Greene County for 3 years. His optimism is gone, he said, and the reality of remaining on death row is "torture for me."

And the hope of winning at appeal on a "technicality" isn't enough, he said, considering that even after years of legal fights, his "prize" would be to one day die in prison as a lifer.

"This isn't a suicide mission. I'm not committing suicide," Ballard said. "I was sentenced to this. If I had an option, this is the last [expletive] one I'd be picking."

Throughout the interview, Ballard, who was not handcuffed, used his hands to help make his points, slapping the walls as he talked of the restricted life of solitary confinement - 22 hours a day alone in a 7-by-12-foot cell, cages awaiting every time he is let out to exercise.

Occasionally, he popped into his mouth small fruit candies that he had smuggled out of his cell in his sock. Often his sentences were punctuated with profanity, and he at one point put up both his middle fingers to underscore his explanation of why he won't try to stop the state from fulfilling its intention.

"It's their sentence. If they don't want to carry it out on me or anybody else, then get it off the books," Ballard said.

If history is any guide, Ballard's decision will provoke a flurry of legal filings on his behalf that question whether he is mentally fit to make it.

Ballard said he is expecting that Nolas or another anti-death-penalty lawyer is "going to do his damnedest to say that I'm completely bat [expletive] crazy and I don't know what I'm doing."

Ballard said his competency shouldn't be in question, and "no lay person is going to argue against that."

According to Ballard, the federal defenders have already made efforts to get him to change his mind. They visited his father in his native Arkansas to see if he could persuade Ballard to accept their representation. They also tracked down a daughter that Ballard said he had as a teenager - a child who was never mentioned in testimony or court paperwork in his case.

"I was not in her life. I wasn't there as a father to begin with," Ballard said. "It's very unfortunate for her to be brought into this."

A long-lost daughter also made an appearance for the last person to be executed in Pennsylvania, "house of horrors" murderer Gary Heidnik of Philadelphia, who was put to death in 1999. Heidnik's case demonstrates just how long Ballard's fate could be delayed, even with his decision not to contest it.

Though Heidnik wanted his end to come, lawyers from the federal defender office unsuccessfully tried to appeal on behalf of his daughter, who had been raised in foster care. Though he never sought to challenge his 1988 sentence, it still took 11 years for Heidnik to be executed, said A. Charles Peruto Jr., a Philadelphia lawyer who represented him at trial and supported him in his decision to volunteer.

Peruto predicted Ballard "is going to have a long, long wait" of at least 5 years before he is executed.

Ballard said he has no idea when he could be put to death.

"My best guess? Middle of next year," he said, throwing up his arms.

Though seemingly an aberrant decision, a surprisingly high number of death-row inmates ask to be executed, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Nationwide since 1976, one in 10 prisoners put to death was a volunteer, 141 out of 1,383 executions, according to the Washington nonprofit.

The reasons are varied, Dieter said. Some inmates suffer from mental illness that may affect their decisions. Some do so out of guilt for their crimes. Others feel that life on death row is pointless. For still others, it is a chance to wrestle their fates back from the justice system, he said.

"Even if it is a negative sort of control, you get to call the shots, so to speak," Dieter said. "It draws attention. You are the commander."

In describing his decision, Ballard bristled over the "warehousing" he said is the reality of death row. He said he is not a "house pet" who can accept 4 walls and his every move being dictated by guards.

Ballard also said he "absolutely" believes that he had a fair trial, and that his public defenders - Connell and Michael Corriere - served him well during it.

Ballard doesn't even blame the jurors for reaching the verdict they did.

"Based on the letter of the law, they came back with the right sentence," Ballard said, before shrugging his shoulders.

He spoke the words after being asked if the jury got it right, a question he answered only after a long pause and a chuckle, saying it was a difficult one for him.

"They made their own decision," Ballard said. "It's not unlike the decision I made the year before."

Since that mass killing, Ballard believes he deserves credit for the road he has taken.

"I've pleaded guilty. I'm not trying to fight and claw and scratch on some asinine technicality, so it's going to be carried out," Ballard said. "What more could the family - those families - expect. What more could the community expect?"

If the public is seeking an expression of remorse from him, Ballard said, it is not going to get it.

"You can vilify me in whatever manner you so choose. What's done is done," Ballard said. "If I don't seem remorseful to somebody, they can interpret my demeanor or my lack of emotion as they see fit."

"People," Ballard said, "fill in their own blanks."

(source: Morning Call)


Questions surround future executions in Virginia

Virginia has 8 inmates currently on death row and one of the main questions is how they will be executed.

Virginia's lethal injection protocol consists of 3 drugs: a sedative, paralytic and a heart stopping drug.

The sedative used is now nearly impossible to find, forcing the Commonwealth to turn to a less tested drug called Midazolam. The Virginia Department of Corrections says the new drug cocktail went through an extensive, multi-step process before being selected.

However, those tests have not been released publicly.

"The Constitution exists to protect all of us and prevent the government from torturing any one of us," said Matthew Engle, the interim head of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, a resource for defense attorneys run through Washington and Lee Law School. "We can't effectively check the government if they're allowed to develop this entire protocol behind closed doors and not answer any questions."

2 years ago Rex Taylor struck up a friendship with one of the most infamous names in the New River Valley, William Morva.

Morva is on death row after being convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy in August 2006.

Taylor and Morva have sent each other dozens of letters over the last 2 years and have repeatedly spoken over the phone.

But 1 letter sent recently stuck with Taylor.

It was to the point, including the words "I don't want to die here."

"I knew when we first started talking that he was going to be put to death eventually," Taylor said. "But after getting to know him and becoming friends with him, when I read something like that it really does get to me. It bothers me."

Now the question for Morva and the seven other death row inmates in Virginia is how they will be executed. It's usually done through lethal injection, but getting the drugs needed is becoming a big problem.

We requested the lethal injection protocol from the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC).

A 3 drug cocktail is used consisting of a sedative, paralytic and a heart stopping drug.

The 2 sedative drugs traditionally used, Pentobarbital and Thiopental Sodium, are now nearly impossible to come by as manufacturers worldwide have refused to sell drugs used for capital punishment.

The Commonwealth's solution is to use Midazolam as its sedative.

It's the same drug used during a January execution in Ohio where it took the inmate 24 minutes to die, raising concerns of cruel and unusual punishment.

The VADOC said its protocol is not comparable to Ohio's, since the midwestern state uses a 2 drug cocktail.

"We've seen states sort of on the fly swap drugs out, substitute drugs, change their protocols, and in Virginia that's been going on as well," said Matthew Engle, the interim director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse run through Washington and Lee Law School. "What is most troubling about it is that it's been going on behind closed doors."

Engle is concerned the Commonwealth is turning to a new drug without releasing any of its studies or research.

"What will happen is what's happening in Ohio and what's happening in Oklahoma which is that we will have problems with executions and there will be lawsuits afterwards," he said. "That's when we'll find out what's actually going on, but that's not what it should take."

However, another option being explored by the General Assembly is changing how death row inmates are executed.

"We have the death penalty on the books, we're supposed to enforce the law yet we don't have a mechanism to actually do so," said Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-Salem).

Habeeb is one of more than 60 delegates that voted this year to make the electric chair the primary form of execution, an option now used only if requested by the inmate.

That bill passed the House of Delegates but stalled in the Senate.

"I'm one of those people that isn't aggressively seeking to expand the death penalty," Habeeb said. "But Virginia has a public policy and what's happening is Virginia is unable to enforce (it) because of policy decisions made in Europe. That's frankly sort of a backwards way for us to be setting our policy."

It's a policy that is at the mercy of the companies manufacturing the drugs.

For now, it's unclear how William Morva and the lives of the other death row inmates will end.

No executions are on the schedule, so Engle and Habeeb agree there's still time to get it right.

"We should be looking at this process ahead of time, we should be preventing these problems from happening," Engle said. "The only way to do that is through an open process."

Governor Terry McAuliffe did not respond to our request for an interview and Attorney General Mark Herring declined to comment.

However, while in the Senate Herring voted to expand the death penalty 5 times.

(source: WWBT news)


Va. inmate can't manage own death-penalty appeal

A judge has denied a Virginia inmate's request to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.

William Morva was convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in 2006 during an escape. He exhausted his state appeals in April 2013.

In the federal appeal case, Morva had sought a dismissal of his court-appointed attorneys.

The Roanoke Times ( ) reports that U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski ruled Friday that a federal appeal's technicalities are too complex for a lay person to manage. Urbanski also rejected Morva's request for new attorneys.

Urbanksi also ordered Morva to undergo a mental evaluation. He said he would rule on Morva's competence later.

Morva's lead attorney, Jonathan Sheldon, had asked Urbanksi to declare Morva incompetent and have him evaluated and treated.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors seek death penalty in Jefferson County slaying

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for an east Georgia man charged with raping and killing a woman whose body was found near trash dumpsters in Jefferson County.

The Augusta Chronicle reports Middle Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman announced his intention Friday to pursue a death sentence for 37-year-old Anthony Mereal Lemon of Wadley.

Lemon was charged last month with murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape and sodomy in the slaying of 29-year-old Jamillah Mia Holmes of Sandersville. A county worker found her body May 12 at a garbage collection site near Wadley.

The decision to seek death of Lemon was announced during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Lemon has been jailed without bond.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)


Both sides vie for victims' support in theater shooting case

The letter arrived in the mailbox of an Aurora movie theater shooting survivor half a year after the attack.

In its 6 paragraphs of carefully, sympathetically written prose, a woman offered to help the survivor communicate with defense attorneys representing the gunman: questions, concerns, disappointments.

"I would like to learn from your experiences of this case," the woman, Tammy Krause, wrote in the letter, "and share how I might best be able to assist you."

After meeting with Krause and anti-death penalty advocates, the survivor had a different impression.

"I really felt like the ... defense team was trying to use me to orchestrate a dialogue with the victims and survivors in this case to sway them towards changing their minds on the death penalty," he wrote in an affidavit filed in court last month.

In modern high-profile criminal cases, few resources are more coveted by attorneys on either side than the victims of the crime and their loved ones.

Defense attorneys - especially in death-penalty cases - are increasingly seeking victims' input and backing through special "defense-initiated victim outreach" efforts, such as the letters sent to theater shooting survivors and victims' loved ones.

"When you have a leave-no-stone-unturned kind of defense approach, one thing is to say, 'Let's see if we can reach out to the victims and see if we can get something helpful for our case,'" said Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor who studies victims' rights issues.

Prosecutors, who often have legal obligations to keep victims informed about cases, have also increased outreach efforts, adding victims advocates to their staff. In the Aurora theater shooting case, one prosecuting attorney is assigned full time to communicate with the victims.

The result, though, is that crime victims in high-profile cases are confronted with an array of people who offer their help but who also have underlying interests. It has left some victims feeling more alone.

"We are re-victimized by the same system that should be protecting us," said a relative of one of the slain theater shooting victims, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to attract more attention.

Because so few mass shootings result in court trials, the case against James Holmes - for whom prosecutors are seeking the death penalty - is among the most high-profile in the country. 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded in the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater 2 years ago Sunday.

The controversy over victim outreach spilled into the open in the theater shooting case last month. Defense attorneys accused the prosecution of interfering with their investigation by sending victims an e-mail suggesting the defense's efforts were dishonest. Counting letters from Krause and the attorneys themselves, some victims in the case have received 4 or more messages from the defense.

The judge in the case ultimately ruled the prosecution should send a clarifying e-mail to victims and acknowledged that the battle for victims' loyalty has become common, if sometimes overly combative, practice.

"The parties are not competing businesses attempting to sway consumers to choose a product or service," Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour wrote.

Advocates for defense outreach efforts say such efforts are important because prosecutors - while fighting against those accused of committing crimes - don't always represent victims' wishes.

"Defense lawyers are trying to find a way to let victims' voices be heard," said Denver attorney Iris Eytan, who represented the parents of slain corrections officer Eric Autobee when they disagreed with the way prosecutors were handling the case against their son's killer.

In Autobee's case, Eytan said prosecutors did not share developments in the case with the family after they asked District Attorney George Brauchler - who is also prosecuting the theater shooting case - not to seek the death penalty. During a pretrial hearing, prosecutors argued that the Autobees ended communications with the district attorney's office.

"We're the people most affected, yet we're tossed aside like a piece of trash and our rights don't mean anything," said Bob Autobee, Eric's father.

Brauchler ultimately offered a plea deal in the case that sentenced Eric Autobee's killer to life in prison.

Bob Autobee, who has since been honored by anti-death penalty groups, wrote a letter that a private attorney asked at least one theater shooting survivor to pass along to other survivors and victims' families. Autobee called his letter an invitation to meet and discuss his experiences, recovery and forgiveness for his son's killer.

"I'm not trying to make up other peoples' minds," Autobee said. "But they all need to know both sides of this."

The theater shooting survivor, whose name was redacted in court papers, said he was approached by anti-death penalty advocates after a speaking engagement and invited to a dinner. The survivor wrote in his affidavit that Krause, the defense's outreach specialist, was also at the dinner and asked him for help in talking with other survivors and victims' relatives.

Prosecutors in the case say Krause's outreach has created confusion among victims and that prosecutors listen sincerely to victims' voices.

"She works for the Defendant," prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire wrote of Krause in the contested e-mail sent to victims, "and her goal is to try to find Victims who will help the Defendant."

In an affidavit filed in the theater shooting case, Krause said having communication with defense attorneys can improve victims' experiences with the criminal justice system. Krause has also conducted outreach for defense teams in the cases against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, terrorism conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph.

"Such interactions cannot be done with an ulterior motive," she wrote.

But at least some of those contacted by Krause in the theater shooting case have not felt that way. After having 2 conversations with Krause, another theater shooting survivor cut off contact. That survivor, whose name was also redacted in court documents, wrote in an affidavit: "I felt like they were trying to manipulate me."

(source: Denver Post)


Will justice prevail?

By now you've probably been reminded countless times that two years ago today James Holmes massacred 12 innocent Aurora theater-goes and injured 70 others. His was an act of pure evil. Some victims continue suffering from the mass murderer's mayhem long after their physical injuries have healed while Holmes sits in prison awaiting yet another examiners interpretation of his horrendous acts being entirely related to his sanity.

Is this long-delayed attempt at justice really about Holmes' insanity or is it actually a proxy fight about Colorado's death penalty? 18 "progressive" states have already banned it and many want it banned here. So far nearly every legal device in the defense attorney's bag of tricks has been playing out before Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour's court where the trial will be heard.

The trial was to have begun last February although Judge Samour postponed it after the defense attorney's pled Holmes was not guilty of the massacre by "reason of insanity." Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is a strong and avowed supporter for proscribing the death penalty in cases where the outrageously evil acts such as those Holmes committed are so obvious. He once declared: "If you don't seek capital punishment (in this case) then you may as well not have capital punishment in Colorado." A 1st round of professional mental health evaluations might have been favorable to the defense and were presented to the court which will now allow yet another round of evaluations to occur. A new trial date was set to begin this October although last week the judge postponed the trial date yet again.

Both prosecution and defense attorneys speculate that if and when a trial date is set it will take at least 8 months to complete. Jury selection alone could take from 2 to 3 months and around 6,000 potential jurors may be required in the final jury selection process. In May KCNC-TV initiated an open records request seeking how much the Arapahoe County DA's office has already spent on the Holmes trial. The figure was $685,461 and continues to mount each month. David Beller, a Denver criminal defense attorney, not involved in the case, speculated taxpayers should prepare themselves to spend up to $5 million more before it's over. Even if a death penalty results the average life of a Colorado death penalty case takes an average of 20 years or more to play out.

In 1993, former Chuck E. Cheese restaurant employee Nathan Dunlap hid in the restaurant's bathroom until closing and then proceeded to shoot all five employees killing 4 and seriously wounding another. It was the largest mass murder in Colorado before both the Columbine and Aurora theater massacres. 2 years later Dunlap was found guilty and sentenced to death. With many appeals, including claims that Dunlap's defense attorney's failed to adequately represent him, costs for seeking justice in this case has cost taxpayers over $18 million. Dunlap's execution was set for August last year but resulted in Governor Hickenlooper issuing a controversial "temporary reprieve" to Dunlap's execution. The final outcome for Dunlap is still in doubt and may depend on the outcome of this November's governor's election.

Right after the death penalty in Holmes' trial became an issue the Denver Post editorialized that DA Brauchler's insistence on asking for it was a mistake. They advocated for a plea deal and a life sentence without parole and suggest the matter will otherwise not be resolved for decades. The Aurora Sentinel agreed in their own editorial declaring: "...this much money and energy should be spent on preventing the next massacre rather than seeking unattainable revenge for this one".

Is Colorado's death penalty simply an attempt to seek revenge or is it an entirely appropriate sentence for committing an act of mass murder by someone who knowingly manifests pure evil?

(source: Commentary, Bob Greenlee, Daily Camera)

ARIZONA----stay of impending execution

Appeals Court Postpones Arizona Man's Execution

A federal appeals court on Saturday granted an Arizona death row inmate's request to postpone his pending execution, putting it on hold until prison officials reveal details on the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The preliminary injunction granted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversing a lower federal court comes 4 days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

Without weighing in on the "ultimate merits" of Wood's case, the court wrote: "Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim, and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor."

Wood's lawyers argued prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

"Today the Court has made a well-reasoned ruling affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public's right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government," Wood's lawyer Dale Baich said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.

Representatives from the attorney general's office said they had not yet seen the decision, but based on the severity of Wood's crime they intended to appeal. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the state would decide Monday how to proceed.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

"There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country," Baich said in a statement, "and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

Arizona prison officials intend to use the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)


Yumans on death row

-- More Information --

Former inmates on death row sentenced out of Yuma who have died since 2000 include Vincent Lee Accardo, Richard Bible, Gregory Scott Dickens and Bernard Smith.

-- Accardo, 62, died of natural causes on March 9, 2011, while awaiting execution for the murder of Bard farmer Kenneth Cloud, who was shot to death on Dec. 9, 1997, in the parking lot of a popular hamburger cafe in Yuma.

-- Bible, 49, was executed by lethal injection on June 30, 2011, for kidnapping, molesting and fatally bludgeoning 9-year-old Yuma resident Jennifer Wilson to death on June 6, 1988, while she was on vacation with her family in Flagstaff.

-- Dickens, 48, is believed to have committed suicide in his cell on Jan. 27 while awaiting execution for the murder of Bryan and Laura Bernstein on Sept. 10, 1991, at a rest stop on Interstate 8 east of Yuma.

-- Smith, 49, died of natural causes on Dec. 11, 2002, while awaiting execution for the Aug. 22, 1983, murder of 57-year-old Charles Pray at Low Cost Market in Yuma.

Former inmates on death row sentenced out of Yuma who were re-sentenced to life in prison include Bobby Lee Tankersley, 62, and Fred Robinson, 73.

-- Tankersley had initially been convicted and sentenced to death in 1993 for the Nov. 17, 1991, rape and murder of 65-year-old Thelma Younkin in her hotel room. His conviction was overturned in 2004 based on new evidence, and he was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Andrew Gould to a statutory term of life in prison, which makes him eligible for parole in 2016 after serving 25 years.

Since Tankersley will be 64-years-old when he becomes eligible for parole, and there are no victims in the case still living, the state attorney general's office - which prosecuted the case - has agreed not to argue against parole when hearings begin.

-- Robinson had initially been convicted and sentenced to death, along with Washington. On appeal, he received a reduced sentence of life in prison, and is currently serving out his time at Arizona State Prison Complex - Lewis.

Less than .02 % of inmates awaiting execution on death row in Arizona were sentenced out of Yuma County.

Of the 119 Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) inmates currently on death row, only 2 were sentenced in Yuma. The 2 men, Theodore Washington and Alvie "Copie" Kiles, were initially sentenced to death after being convicted of separate murders on Jan. 13, 1988, and March 28, 1990, respectively.

Theodore Washington murdered Sterleen Hill and seriously wounded Ralph Hill Sr. with a shotgun in their Yuma home on June 8, 1987.

According to court records, Washington had traveled to Yuma with Fred Robinson and Jimmy Mathers earlier that day. Robinson was in town to convince his common law wife, Susan Hill, to return with him to their Banning, Calif., home. Robinson and Susan had three children together, and had been involved in a tumultuous relationship she was trying to escape.

Robinson was convinced Susan was at her father Ralph's home in Yuma, although she was actually living without his knowledge with relatives elsewhere in California, and was not at the Hill home when Robinson arrived there with Washington.

At about 11:30 p.m., Sterleen heard sounds outside her home and asked her teenage son, LeSean, to investigate. He saw no one, but at about 11:45 p.m., someone knocked on the door. When LeSean opened the door, a man with a deep voice identified himself as "James" and told LeSean he had money for Ralph.

When LeSean opened the door to accept the money, the man attempted to grab LeSean. LeSean pulled away, ran through the house past his parents' bedroom, and escaped through another door. Ralph and Sterleen emerged from the bedroom as a result of the commotion and heard voices shout, "we're narcotics agents! We want the dope and the money!"

The 2 intruders forced Ralph and Sterleen to return to their bedroom and lie face down on the floor. An African American man with a red bandanna and a moustache then "screwed" a handgun into Ralph's ear before ransacking the couples' drawers and closet while a second person stood watch.

The couple were then tied up and Ralph was rendered unconscious.

After fleeing, LeSean telephoned the police from a neighbor's house. As he and the neighbor returned to the Hill home, they observed a tan Chevette driven by Robinson speeding away from the vicinity, pursued by a sheriff's deputy in a marked police vehicle.

Deputies entered the Hill home and found Ralph and Sterleen had been shot at close range with a .12-gauge shotgun. Ralph survived, although he suffered massive injuries, including the loss of an eye. Sterleen died as a result of blood loss from the shotgun wound.

Robinson, who was alone in the Chevette, was eventually pulled over and arrested. During a search of his vehicle, deputies found an empty shotgun shell box, a red bandanna, clothing, sheets and Mathers' duffle bag. The shotgun used in the murder was found discarded nearby the Hill home. Investigators later determined it was owned by Robinson.

Mathers left Arizona, but was arrested by police near Coachella, Calif., the following day. Washington traveled by bus back to Banning and was also later arrested.

Washington, Robinson, and Mathers were tried jointly and each received the death penalty.

On appeal, Robinson received a reduced sentence of life in prison, and is currently serving out his time at Arizona State Prison Complex -- Lewis.

Also on appeal, the state supreme court reversed Mathers' conviction, finding insufficient evidence to support the jury verdict. He was acquitted in 1990.

On Feb. 9, 1989, Kiles murdered 26-year-old Valerie Gunnell with a tire iron in her Yuma apartment following an argument about him stealing her food stamps to purchase cocaine. Kiles then killed Gunnell's 2 daughters - 5-year-old Shemaeah and 9-month-old Lecresha - because they were "crying and hollering and screaming" after seeing their mother murdered.

Lecresha's body was later found floating in a canal in Mexico. Shemaeah's body was never found.

Kiles was convicted on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in 1989 and sentenced to death, but Yuma County Superior Court eventually vacated the charges and sentence after ruling he received inadequate counsel. At a retrial in 2000, a jury convicted Kiles on the murder charges but could not agree on the death sentence, so he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2006, a jury in Maricopa County discovered aggravating factors in the case and sentenced Kiles to death, which he and his attorneys immediately appealed.

Kiles' next appeal made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, where he admitted to the murders but claimed the death penalty should not apply in his case because premeditation was impossible since he was intoxicated when he committed the crimes. It was rejected in 2009.

When Kiles received the death sentence in 2006, it restarted the appeals process from the beginning, which means, unless something significant changes, it will take at least another 15 years before he faces execution, according to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

(source: Yuma Sun)


California capital punishment ban offers opportunity for Christians

Capital punishment in the State of California was ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday, July 16. Thursday, a Fox News piece on the ruling showed this was no typical political decision to appease the most liberal state in the nation.

There are several compelling reasons that this ruling by a George W. Bush-appointed judge should be lauded by more than just anti-capital punishment advocates among Californians or even just Catholics among Christians. In fact, it is narrow enough that even conservatives should approve of the ruling.

It does not indict the death penalty in principle, just California's management. An LA Times editorial Friday detailed the broken system that has resulted in just 13 executions since 1978 - about 1.4 % of prisoners sent to death row, requiring weekly executions for 14 years to clear.

Judge Cormac J. Carney stated in his ruling that not only did the exhaustive delays causing the felon to face their death multiple times constitute cruel and unusual punishment, but took any deterrent of executions away. (Statistics suggesting it is no deterrent at all fail to fully consider its effects as prosecutor leverage.) In fact, death row became more desirable than life without parole because of better accommodations since most prisoners would die of natural causes anyway.

Capital punishment is losing steam in states far more conservative than California. The lengthy appeals process and higher security for inmates with nothing to lose has always made death row more costly. Recent issues with lethal doses have halted executions around the nation.

Thus, it is unlikely California will see another execution. In a state with anti-capital punishment Attorney General Kamala Harris and a Democrat-controlled executive and legislative branch with 48 % of the state saying they are willing to scrap the death penalty for life without parole (arguably worse punishment anyway), there is not likely to be the political or financial capital to fix a broken system so executions can start again.

Yet the larger issue for Christians should be capital punishment in general. Right now, Catholics are the only major Christian faith denouncing state-sanctioned executions.

Yes, the Bible says "an eye for an eye" in Leviticus 24:20. That was also an old covenant rule governing the maximum punishment for nomadic Israel to keep victims from escalating conflicts, not meant as a minimum requirement. There are scores of scriptures about the sanctity of life that was even more a focus in the new covenant of Jesus Christ.

Above all else, true Christianity is a pro-life faith that believes in redemption. We are called to try to convert everyone and that includes giving murderers until God takes them to repent.

This ruling offers Christians a chance to reach these lost souls. It also gives Christianity an opportunity to reach many others that see the compassion of Christ instead of the judgment of religion. The best evangelism might be standing against injustice.

For one thing, the death penalty is not applied equally. Not only are disproportionate percentages of crimes by minorities designated for capital punishment, but disproportionate percentages of those crimes were perpetrated on white victims.

Finally, Christians valuing life should recoil at the risk an innocent person being executed. This happens less frequently with better DNA science (something the pro-life but anti-science fringes of Christianity might want to remember), but still is a reality because death sentences do not require higher burdens of proof and often DNA evidence is not available in murder trials.

It is time for Christians to take charge on the death penalty across the world. At the very least, nobody willing to plead guilty and save the state a trial should be on death row, capital punishment must be applied fairly and the burden of proof needs to be much higher than for non-capital offenses to ensure no innocent person is executed.

(source: The Examiner)



'Cruel and unusual punishment': For victim or killer?--Exclusive: Ann-Marie Murrell opposes judge's decision to overturn man's death penalty

This week U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled against the death penalty, citing the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." The ruling was based on a petition for death-row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly 20 years ago.

The main reason cited for Judge Carney's decision was the "dysfunctional" death penalty system in California, which causes inmates to have to wait an "inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution." Carney said that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

In other words, Judge Carney believes it is too cruel and too emotionally distressful for Ernest Dewayne Jones (and potentially others on death row) to have to wait for their executions.

Carney needs to re-examine exactly what "cruel and unusual punishment" is really all about - and if he needs a little help understanding, there are many people available to explain, including Ernest Dewayne Jones' 1st victim, "Kim J."

On May 28, 1984, Kim J. attended a barbecue party given by the sister of Ernest Dewayne Jones. After the party, Ernest went home with Kim, who reportedly considered him to be "like a brother." When she suggested it was time for him to leave, he grabbed her by the throat, told her he would kill her if she screamed, and then raped her at knifepoint. Kim later called the police and testified against him at a preliminary hearing but dropped the charges because she had believed he needed a "2nd chance."

Ernest's "2nd chance" led to his 2nd victim.

Approximately 10 months after raping Kim J., Ernest lived with his girlfriend Glynnis and their infant son in a garage behind the home of Glynnis' mother, Dorothea. In early March 1985, the couple broke up and Ernest moved out.

According to court documents, on March 29, 1985, around 6:30 a.m., Dorothea heard the gate to her backyard rattle and then heard a window break. She found Ernest standing in her hallway. He told her not to scream, then took Dorothea into her bedroom. He bound her arms and legs then raped and sodomized her. When he was finished raping her, he reportedly told her he was not going to kill her because, as a teacher, she would be able to take care of the baby financially.

Ernest Dewayne Jones was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for 1st-degree burglary, residential robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, rape and sodomy. He was released after 6 years.

Again, almost 10 months after his release, Jones repeated his previous offenses almost verbatim, only this time he followed through with murder.

Ernest and his girlfriend Pamela Miller lived with her parents, Julia and Chester Miller. On Aug. 25, 1992, Ernest tied up 50-year-old Julia with a telephone cord and a purse strap. He used rags to gag her and cover her face. After brutally raping her, he stabbed Julia 14 times in her abdomen and once in her vagina. The fatal stab wound, which penetrated to the spine, was in the middle of her chest. He left 2 kitchen knives stuck in her neck.

Shortly after midnight, husband Chester returned home from work and found his wife of 30 years lying dead at the foot of their bed. He died 8 months later at age 53.

At Jones' penalty hearing, Pamela Miller screamed, "I have no mother and father because of that sorry (SOB)! I don't have a family because of him. That bastard needs to be sentenced to death." Pamela believed her father "grieved himself to death."

By overturning Ernest Dewayne Jones' sentence, Judge Carney is potentially opening the floodgates in overturning other death sentences in California. Some of them include:

Scott Peterson, 41, used cement anchors to bind his wife, Laci, pregnant with their son, Connor, and drowned them in the bay.

Richard Allen Davis, 60. After spending most of his life in jail for (among other things) sexual assault and kidnapping, Davis broke into the home of Marc and Eve Klaas and kidnapped their 12-year-old daughter, Polly. Polly's strangled corpse was found with her skirt pulled up and her legs spread.

Serial killer Chester Dewayne Turner, a pizza deliveryman, raped and strangled at least 10 women in South Los Angeles.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Long Beach gang member and former youth pastor, was sentenced to death for his role in murdering Thomas and Jackie Hawks in November 2004. The couple was forced to sign sales documents to their yacht before they were tied to an anchor and thrown overboard while they were still alive.

Theodore Shove was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murders of 81-year-old Hubert Souther and his 79-year-old wife, Elizabeth. The Southers, who had been married more than 50 years, were found dead in their bed having been bludgeoned with a tire iron.

Gene Estel McCurdy, who in 1995 molested and suffocated 8-year-old Maria Piceno.

Alejandro Avila, who kidnapped 5-year-old Samantha Runion, sexually assaulted her, beat her and suffocated her.

Steven Allen Brown, who raped and sodomized 11-year-old April Holley and then drowned her in a bathtub.

There are many others, each convicted of brutal, inhumane crimes.

In addition to Carney, other federal judges have also tried to put California's death penalty on hold. One judge felt that lethal injections would cause the inmate "to suffer extreme pain" while being executed and deemed the injection chamber "too cramped, too dark and too old."

It's a shame Judge Carney and others like him aren't able to hear the victims' thoughts about what "cruel and unusual punishment" is really all about; perhaps then they would have 2nd thoughts about caring for the comfort of their murderers.

Jones' case is expected to be appealed by prosecutors to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.



The Triumph of Dubious Death Penalty Appeals

A - all bow - federal judge has ruled that California's death penalty is unconstitutional because the state's "dysfunctional administration" has meted out the punishment to more than 900 murderers but imposed it on "only 13" since 1978. That's too arbitrary, wrote U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney of Santa Ana. Besides, "the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after (killer Ernest Dewayne Jones) was 1st sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

And: A "death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

It doesn't bother Carney that death row inmates' lawyers have created that preposterous sentence - remote possibility of death - by slowing the wheels of justice with dubious time-sucking appeals. If appellate attorneys think delays are too painful for their clients, maybe they should curb their appeals.

It doesn't matter to the judge that Californians have upheld the state's capital punishment law three times since 1972. In 2012, a majority of voters rejected the well-funded, celebrity-endorsed Proposition 34, which would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole. Clearly, voters think it is rational to hang on to a death penalty that is admittedly too slow and obscenely pricey because it makes less sense to allow capital punishment opponents to subvert the rule of law.

It doesn't bother Carney that another federal judge, Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, effectively stopped the death penalty in California when he ruled in 2006 that the state's three-drug lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional.

Nor does it bother the judge that the court did not correct Fogel's outlier ruling in 2008 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Kentucky's 3-drug death penalty concoction passes constitutional muster.

You may be wondering what Jones did to earn a cell on death row. Though Carney's opinion included no shortage of political arguments, he neglected to document the ugly details of Jones' 1992 crime. He failed to mention Julia Miller - the mother of Jones' girlfriend - who was found bound, stripped to the waist and dead from multiple knife wounds. Carney didn't use the word "rape" or "stab." He didn't mention that, as the Los Angeles Times reported, investigators found Jones' semen and DNA at the scene or that Jones admitted to killing Miller on the stand, although he denied planning it.

Carney, however, did find room to reject any notion that endless frivolous appeals cause the delays. The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that Jones' attorneys have submitted hundreds of pages of legal briefs with a host of complaints. Ergo the delays. The strongest legal argument - the one that moved Carney to vacate Jones' death sentence - was the creative claim that the "psychological impact" of legal delays is cruel and unusual.

Kent Scheidegger of the tough-on-crime Criminal Justice Legal Foundation faults a system that nonsensically pays lawyers to undermine the law. A criminal attorney, argued Scheidegger, doesn't go to court to argue that it is unconstitutional to imprison a rapist, but the Habeas Corpus Resource Center sees its job as doing "everything it can do to stop the death penalty."

Guilt is irrelevant.

"For a law to work," Scheidegger added, "people in the trenches have to take it seriously to implement it."

Some federal judges also apparently think it's their job to stop the death penalty. They are not restrained by Supreme Court precedent; they are political actors trying to pretend they are not political actors.

In upholding Kentucky's death penalty, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, "It is not a little ironic - and telling - that lethal injection, hailed just a few years ago as the humane alternative in light of which every other method of execution was deemed an unconstitutional relic of the past," became subject to a constitutional challenge on the grounds that it may induce pain. When that fails, he noted, in "an exercise of raw judicial power," opponents choose the next best option, "never-ending litigation."

Now a federal judge has ruled essentially that "never-ending litigation" produces unconstitutional psychic pain to convicted killers.

Cheap date.

(source: Column, Debra Saunders,


Times are changing for California's death penalty

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney's recent ruling on California's death penalty validated what those in opposition have known for decades: The process is unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The arbitrary implementation and delay of California's death penalty system led Carney to opine that it was a sentence that "no rational jury or legislature could impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

What was once unimaginable is methodically making its way toward mainstream orthodoxy. There has not been an execution in California since 2006, which has provided ample time to lessen the cacophony of support on which capital punishment depends.

Since 1978, of the more than 900 individuals who have received the death sentence, California has executed 13. Roughly 40 % of California's 748 death row inmates have served at least 19 years.

Death penalty advocates have responded by calling for a reduction in the appeals process, which diminishes due process and increases the likelihood of executing an innocent person.

Whenever capital punishment is placed under the light of judicious scrutiny it is seen for what it is, a barbaric emotion-based policy that is unable to deliver on any of its promises.

For several decades the death penalty served as the tough-on-crime litmus test. It was nearly impossible for anyone to win statewide office in California without unbridled allegiance.

It was widely accepted that the death penalty saved lives, was a deterrent, cost effective and provided the victims' surviving family members closure.

Studies claiming that executions save lives typically use a mathematical formula to conclude that for every execution, 3 to 18 murders are prevented. Those studies fail to show how life without the possibility of parole would be any less effective. Myriad reports indicate capital punishment is more expensive than life without parole.

As for it being a tool that brings closure, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, back in 2011, wrote:

"Many of these victims were happy when my office sought the death penalty, and if the jury returned a death verdict, a result that never came quickly. It was unusual for a capital case to be resolved within a year from the date of the original crime, 2 to 3 years was not uncommon. The living victims of a particular crime might think that a death verdict provides closure, but for most, there was no such closure."

Capital punishment has long been the Teflon issue in California that fed on the toxins of ambitious politicians and public titillation; it was impervious to logic and reason.

So fevered was the collective support for the death penalty that little time was given in the public discourse to address a simple question: What error percentage would be acceptable for people remain comfortable with capital punishment?

If every other human endeavor carries some measure of imperfection, would it not stand to reason that the death penalty would not be immune?

Grappling seriously with a comfortable error percentage would also lead to examining the death penalty's unequal application, based in particular on one's economic status.

In this context, the taxpayers of California assumed the role of ancient Rome symbolically gesturing a thumbs up or down as to who is worthy of death.

Carney's ruling is expected to be appealed. But in the words of Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin'!" Carney's ruling raises an additional question: How strong is the public mood to maintain a system that beyond appealing to the primordial thirst for revenge has been ineffective by every measure it set?

Carney's decision could create a ripple effect for similar arguments to be made in death penalty appeals nationwide. Hopefully, California and the rest of the nation will reach the age of enlightenment by joining the fraternity of countries like Angola, Mozambique, and Rwanda that see the death penalty for what it is - an abject failure.

(source: Column, Byron Williams, Contra Costa Times)


Death Penalty - resumes executions

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty Statement on executions carried out on the 18th of July 2014.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty deeply regrets, and is gravely disappointed at the executions of 2 individuals that took place today, 18th of July 2014. Inmates Foong Chee Peng, 48, and Tang Hai Liang, 36, were hanged at dawn this morning. Both men were convicted of drug trafficking.

These 2 executions brings to an end the moratorium that has been in place since July 2011, when the government commenced an internal review of the mandatory death penalty laws. This review took place without any public consultation nor has it been made available for public scrutiny. Subsequently, the changes were passed by Parliament in the exact form proposed by the government in July 2012, despite various warnings about their potential problems.

We also wish to highlight that there is an ongoing application filed by another drug offender before the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act because it violates Article 12 of our Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on the 18th of August later this year.

Given the fact that the constitutional challenge to the amendments could have a potential bearing on the lawfulness of Foong and Tang's executions, it was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided.

The injustice is compounded by the fact that we had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday to highlight this situation and urged for an urgent stay of execution until our courts have decided on this constitutional challenge at the very least.

Finally, the executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore. The death penalty has not been proven to be a more useful deterrent against crime than alternative forms of punishment. Moreover, once carried out, miscarriages of justice cannot be remedied.

We therefore reiterate our calls for the government to impose a moratorium on all executions and move towards the abolition of capital punishment in Singapore.

We believe in Second Chances

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign

Think Centre

(source: Asian Human Rights Commission)


End of the rope: last man to hang The last killer to be executed in Ireland might have fallen through the trapdoor 60 years ago, but the death penalty wasn't abolished until 1990. How times have changed...

The lever-operated trapdoor opened and the prisoner fell nearly 8 feet with the hangman's noose tied around his neck. Convicted murderer John Toole dropped, the rope tightened, and at 8am on March 7 he was executed at Dublin's Mountjoy Prison. He had slit the throat of his lover, Elizabeth Brennan, as she'd slept. Outside, a crowd of around 500 heard the prison bell toll and a black flag rose slowly to signal the passing of the prisoner.

In the execution chamber or hang house as it's become known, I pull back the lever to open the door beneath as the executioners had done across 6 decades during the last century.

It was here that prisoners such as Kevin Barry took their last few steps before the double-doors below opened. Glass panels above would have provided their last glimpse of the skies outside.

Few have been allowed back into this building, which for decades was locked and off-limits. It remains as it was left in the middle of the last century save for a bricked-up doorway leading to the condemned cells.

Curator at the Mountjoy Museum Sean Reynolds, who worked here as an officer for 34 years, tells me the hangings were carried out quickly.

"From the moment the condemned entered the hang house to the moment they died took no more than 10 seconds - often less," he says.

"The executioners became experts at planning the hangings, estimating how much rope to give based on the prisoner's height and weight and ensuring the killings were as close to instant as possible." In the museum I hold nooses used to kill prisoners and a hood to cover their faces.

In all, 163 people were executed in the Republic of Ireland in the last century - 49 of them here in Mountjoy and many during the various wars linked to the republican struggle, most notably the execution of the Easter Rising leaders in 1916.

But between 1924 and 1954, the State executed 31 people. 2 of these were killed by firing squad in Portlaoise Prison - Richard Goss in 1941 for shooting at Free State forces, and IRA member George Plant a year later for murdering a suspected informer.

Women too fell foul of the dreaded hangman's noose.

In January 1903, Mary Daly was executed in Tullamore the day after the execution of her lover Joseph Taylor in Kilkenny for the murder of John Daly, Mary's husband. The lovers were convicted largely on the evidence of Mary's 11-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

22 years later, a similar tragic tale unfolded when Annie Walsh of Limerick was hanged for the murder of her husband. His nephew, Michael Talbot, was hanged about 15 minutes before her. Walsh and Talbot had been having an affair.

It has been 50 years since the death penalty was abolished in Ireland (1964) for all crimes but the murder of gardai, diplomats and prison officers. Amazingly, it was not until 1990 that it was abolished for these remaining offences.

The last state execution took place in 1954 when 25-year old Michael Manning from Limerick was hanged after he was found guilty of the rape and murder of Catherine Cooper, a 65-year-old nurse.

Manning's execution was carried out in Mountjoy by Albert Pierrepoint, who had travelled from Britain. Pierrepoint executed at least 400 people in his career as a hangman - 13 of those in Mountjoy.

Albert's Uncle Tom carried out the majority of executions from 1923 to 1944 in Ireland. Included in his list of victims was Charlie Kerins, who was executed on December 1, 1944, for the murder of detective sergeant Denis O'Brien at his home in Rathfarnham. Though Kerins was an IRA member, the Taoiseach of the day, Eamon de Valera, was determined to make an example of him by executing him as a regular criminal. So instead of facing a firing squad, like other IRA men, Kerins was hanged at Mountjoy.

The youngest person to be executed in the last century in Ireland was 18-year-old Gerard Toal. The chauffeur was convicted of the murder of housekeeper Mary Callan (36) in Faughart, Co Louth, in the summer of 1927. Toal confessed that he had strangled her after a quarrel and then thrown her body into a water-filled quarry. He was hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint in Mountjoy on August 29 1928.

Also executed, in 1941, was Harry Gleeson, who was hanged for the murder of his neighbour Mary "Moll" McCarthy, a mother-of-7 in Tipperary. Last November, the then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, ordered a review into the case. Mr Gleeson found Moll McCarthy's body but denied her murder. Between 1954, when the last prisoner was executed by the State, and 1990, when the death penalty was abolished entirely, 11 people were handed death sentences but none were executed.

In 1976 Noel and Marie Murray were convicted of the murder of Garda Michael Reynolds following a bank robbery in Killester. The off duty garda had chased the criminals into St. Anne's park in Raheny but was shot in the head as he attempted to stop them from fleeing with their loot of 7,000 pounds. They were sentenced to death, but as the garda was not in uniform or on-duty, the Supreme Court overturned the punishment. It sent shock waves throughout the country, but Noel and Marie Murray were instead sentenced to life in prison and were both released in 1992.

The Dail finally abolished the death penalty completely in 1990 and replaced it with a 40-year minimum prison term for exceptional murders.

The death penalty: Alive and well

While it's been 6 decades since the last execution was carried out here there are still 21 countries across the globe which continue to use the ultimate punishment tool.

Among those nations that still execute prisoners are China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan and, of course, the US.In those US states that continue to use capital punishment, the method of execution varies from hanging to lethal injection, firing squad, electric chair and gas chamber.

Between 2007 and 2012, it's thought that thousands of people were executed in China, making it the world leader in the gruesome act.

In 2nd place was Iran with 1,663 executions, followed by Saudi Arabia (423), Iraq (256) and the US (220).

And just earlier this year, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death after an 8-minute trial following the coup in the country.

In August 2011, a survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in the UK showed that 65pc of Britons supported reinstating the death penalty for murder.

Closer to home, the outgoing Mayor of Limerick Kevin Kiely advocated in 2010 that the death penalty should be given to "anyone involved in the planning and premeditation of a murder".

(source: The Independent)


33 Indonesians currently on death row

A senior Indonesian diplomat called for "intensified efforts and closer coordination" with Saudi officials to save the lives of domestic workers currently on death row in Saudi Arabia.

Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir said here Saturday that "there are 33 death row inmates, mainly Indonesian maids, currently languishing in different Saudi jails across the Kingdom as of today."

"The embassy has stepped up efforts to save the housemaids, who have been handed down death penalty in the Kingdom," said Fachir, while making an appeal to work in unison to resolve the cases. The envoy also contradicted reports about the large number of death row cases and said that "there are only 2 critical cases out of the 33 cases."

In many cases, we have challenged the lower court judgments in higher courts, asked for judicial review and even made appeals in courts, as well as appeals for royal clemency, he added.

The number of death row inmates fluctuates periodically with new convictions, royal pardon, appellate decisions and sentence commutations. Asked about the developments in the much-publicized case of Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad, the ambassador said: "The victim's family has accepted the blood money ... we are waiting for the case to be closed on the Saudi government side."

Satinah, 40, who worked as a housemaid, was sentenced to death in 2011 after she reportedly admitted to killing her 70-year-old female employer and stealing approximately $10,000.

Satinah claimed that this was an act of self-defense, as her boss had tried to attack her at the time. She had been facing execution unless the victim's family received $1.8 million in financial compensation, known as diya or "blood money." Ambassador Fachir thanked the Saudi officials and the members of the victim's family, who have been helping to secure the release and speedy repatriation of Satinah to Indonesia.

The embassy has been trying to help the workers with all kinds of support, including legal aid, said the envoy. Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

A report released by the Jakarta government said that the embassy, as well as the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Task Force constituted by the Indonesian president, have taken several initiatives to rescue workers in distress.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately managed to walk free because of the efforts undertaken by the task force. In Saudi Arabia alone, 37 workers managed to avoid execution during the last few years, said the report, adding that efforts to improve communications with the leaders of the countries where workers were employed had also helped the workers receive lighter sentences.

(source: Arab News)


Indonesia makes efforts to save its nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to save 33 of its nationals, mainly maids, on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to Arab News Sunday.

Among the death penalty cases, there are only two serious ones, while the embassy has asked for judicial review, made appeals in courts, and appealed for royal clemency, Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately have managed to walk free under the efforts of Indonesian government.

(source: Global Post)


Man faces gallows in Malaysia 'drug bust', Delhi Police smell a racket

A 24-year-old from Dehradun is facing the death penalty in Malaysia over charges of drug peddling, but his father claims he was the victim of a drug-smuggling racket functioning near the Delhi airport.

Sanjay Chauhan is in jail and on trial after getting caught with drugs at the Kuala Lumpur airport. He told his father, Tikam Singh, who visited him recently, that he had been set up.

In May, Singh approached the Delhi Police, who suspect Chauhan may have, without his knowledge, been used as a drug carrier by a gang. They also suspect the gang of trapping at least 12 other young professionals for similar purposes.

Singh told the police he didn't have the money to fight his son's case and urged the government to help them.

The police said they were doing their best to bust the 'racket' and get an investigation report from their Malaysian counterparts. This, however, required the intervention of the ministry of external affairs.

"We have written a Letters Rogatory (LR) - used to obtain judicial assistance from foreign countries - to the Malaysian government. So far, we have Chauhan's letter to his father and the father's version of the case. We are constantly reminding MEA to intervene," said a senior Delhi Police official.

Chauhan was offered a job last September by a company based at the Delhi airport. "He was sent to Malaysia on September 28, after the family paid the company "50,000 in 2 installments," said Anand Chauhan, the 24-year-old's uncle.

He was given a briefcase, to be delivered at the company's Malaysia office," the uncle added.

The bag was checked by Chauhan but nothing suspicious was found since the drugs were hidden inside a false cavity in the suitcase, the family said. Nothing was picked up during the baggage screening at Delhi airport either. "We got to know about the drugs when my nephew wrote to us from jail," said Arjun Singh, Chauhan's uncle.

In the letter - written in Garhwali language - Chauhan expressed his helplessness. Claiming innocence, he urged his father to arrange for the lawyer's fee. "We don't have money to fight the case as the fee for a lawyer is Rs. 8 lakh. We expect the government to help us," Tikam Singh said.

The police are also trying to identify the gang and find other victims of the ring. "We have interrogated Danish, who was named in the letter. Danish is cooperating with the investigation and had arranged Chauhan's meeting with the person who sent him to Malaysia. But we haven't been able to trace the person concerned, whose office was in Mahipalpur," the police official added.

(source: Hindustan Times)

JULY 19, 2014:


Harlem Lewis guilty in slaying of Bellaire police officer

The question prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over in court Friday was: What happened in the minute before a Bellaire police officer was shot to death?

Prosecutors said Harlem Harold Lewis III executed the veteran officer 2 years ago as he was trying to pull Lewis out of his car and arrest him.

"You knew you had that gun, and you went for it," assistant Harris County District Attorney Anna Emmons told Lewis when cross-examining him.

Defense attorneys said the 23-year-old had not meant to kill Jimmie Norman. Lewis testified that the gun "went off" as he was struggling with the corporal.

"What matters is what happened in that car in those few moments of struggle," defense attorney Pat McCann told jurors.

After 2 hours of deliberating, jurors sided with prosecutors, finding Lewis guilty of capital murder in the deaths of Norman and businessman Terry Taylor in the Christmas Eve 2012 shootings.

Lewis showed little emotion as the jury verdict was announced about 3:40 p.m.

Moments earlier, district Judge Mark Kent Ellis warned the gallery in the packed courtroom not to react. A classmate of Lewis' waited with her hands clasped as the jurors filed into the courtroom after deliberating.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who presented closing arguments, has declined to comment. She had said earlier that she would personally try the case, fulfilling a promise her late husband made when he was the DA to personally prosecute accused cop killers.

McCann said that Lewis was in shock after the verdict. McCann also said he hoped to avoid a death penalty in the sentencing phase of the trial, set to begin Monday.

"There doesn't need to be another death in this tragedy," he said.

Began with traffic stop

Closing arguments earlier Friday from both prosecutors and defense attorneys lasted just more than 30 minutes.

"What kind of man puts a gun to the head of a uniformed police officer and pulls the trigger?" asked Anderson, her voice quavering slightly as she described the risks police officers deal with every day.

"Every time they pull a car over ... they know they could die. And they take that on," she said.

Shortly after Anderson finished speaking, a Bellaire police officer left the courtroom in tears.

McCann and Tyrone Moncriffe, another of Lewis' lawyers, said their client panicked when he was being pulled over because he had been raised to fear police.

The day of the shooting, Lewis was driving in a residential area of Bellaire when Norman tried to stop him.

After fleeing and rear-ending a white pickup, Lewis pulled in at Taylor's body shop. Norman approached the car and wrestled with Lewis for about a minute in an attempt to get him out of the vehicle and place him in cuffs.

Then, Norman was fatally shot in the head.

Tracked by blood trail

Witnesses testified Taylor came out to see what was going on and to try to help Norman, a 24-year law-enforcement veteran. But Lewis, who had stepped out of his car, also shot him, witnesses said, then pointed his gun at the driver of the pickup, who had followed him until he stopped at Taylor's Maaco body shop.

Other officers arrived in the middle of the confrontation and shot at a fleeing Lewis 23 times, hitting him twice. Police followed a trail of blood to find him hiding under a truck about a block away.

Lewis appeared in court dressed in slacks and a light-blue dress shirt and tie, with a combed-out Afro. He spoke quietly, in succinct "yes ma'am" or "no sir" responses to questions, but contradicted himself repeatedly.

When questioned by his defense team, he told them that the gun "went off" as he and Norman wrestled. But later, Emmons, the prosecutor, asked him if he'd "executed" the police officer, to which he replied, "Yes ma'am."

McCann explained the testimony by saying that Lewis had difficulty communicating and had a low IQ.

"He's easy to trap, it's why we were reluctant to put him up (on the stand), but if we didn't, no one would understand what happened in that vehicle," he said.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Morva can't lead his own death penalty appeal, judge rules

William Charles Morva, a former Blacksburg man convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in the New River Valley in 2006, learned Friday he won't be permitted to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.

Morva sought to dismiss his court-appointed attorneys, criticizing their honesty and legal work, but U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski ruled otherwise in a 2-hour hearing, with Morva participating through 2-way video from prison.

Urbanski said the technicalities of a federal appeal are too complex for a lay person to manage. Urbanski also denied Morva's request for new attorneys. The judge said the condemned don’t get to choose their publicly funded lawyers, and that the attorneys Morva has been furnished are capable and doing their best.

The case, pending in Roanoke federal court, is scheduled to delve deeper into the main issues this fall. The warden of Sussex I State Prison south of Petersburg, where Morva is being held, has asked that the judge dismiss the federal appeal and lift an earlier postponement of Morva's execution.

When it was his turn to speak, Morva extensively criticized his legal team, led by Fairfax-based Jonathan Sheldon, and its filing that initiated his federal appeal.

"I was horrified by the contents," declared Morva, who spoke in a loud and assertive tone and who wore an enormous beard and hair descending below his shoulders.

Urbanski told Morva that, if the filing was incomplete, that was partly because Morva declined to undergo an evaluation to probe his mental health as a possible appeal issue.

"You're the one that caused the problem," the judge told Morva.

In August 2006, when he was 24, Morva was jailed in Montgomery County on burglary and attempted robbery and other charges, but he escaped on a trip for medical care at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

The incident began with Morva beating a sheriff's deputy in a hospital restroom and taking his gun, with which he shot and killed an unarmed hospital security guard. After initially eluding police, Morva shot and killed a deputy who had joined the manhunt the next day.

Morva was caught a short time later, convicted of multiple counts of capital murder and sentenced to death. The Virginia Supreme Court has affirmed his conviction and sentence.

The federal appeal filed on Morva's behalf argues, among other things, that an earlier attorney team mishandled Morva's defense at trial. They failed to adequately investigate his background, didn't sufficiently challenge the evidence and made other errors including allowing Morva to be restrained in the courtroom in a fashion seen by some jurors, the filing said.

After listening in silence as Morva criticized him and his legal work, Morva's lead defense lawyer asked Urbanski to declare Morva incompetent and have him evaluated and treated.

Sheldon said he predicted Morva would be found to have a serious mental health disorder and added that such a finding at an earlier stage in the case could have resulted in a different outcome. For that reason, it could be significant in the appeal case, Sheldon said.

In addition, if treated, Morva would be more likely to help with his own defense, Sheldon said.

The judge ordered a mental health evaluation of Morva, for starters, saying he will rule on Morva's competence later. His mother, Elizabeth Morva, said in a statement filed in court that she has suspected her son is mentally ill for 15 years and that, these days, he mistrusts everybody including her.

Sheldon also asked to investigate the conditions under which Morva was being held at Montgomery County Jail when he escaped. Morva told Urbanski police beat him to get information about drug trafficking in Montgomery County.

Alice Armstrong, with the office of the Virginia attorney general, said the Virginia Supreme Court already ruled that no matter what the conditions in jail were, they didn't justify Morva killing 2 people to escape.



Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Murder Case

It took less than 1 hour for jurors to come back with a 10 to 2 vote recommending the death penalty for 29-year-old Kevin Jeffries.

Prosecutors listed 4 aggravating circumstances to justify the death penalty.

"This capital crime was heinous, atrocious and cruel," said Larry Basford, Prosecutor.

Prosecutors say Jeffries, his cousin 28-year old David Ian Challender and his fiance 29-year old Nicole Griffin, broke into 90-year old Wallace Scott's Lynn Haven home in April 2013, planning to rob him.

They say Jeffries and Challender beat and tortured Scott for 3 hours trying to get the pin to his atm card. Scott died of strangulation.

"What we intend to do is enlighten you a little bit about his background. You have sort of a taste of it where he discusses growing up hard," said Walter Smith, Defendant.

Defense attorneys attempted to argue that Jeffries was tricked into the situation.

Jurors heard testimony from six people during Friday's penalty phase.

"The boy that I knew was a very loving, beautiful baby boy. I think he was poisoned from his mother. He never knew love," said Verna Christopherson, Jeffries Aunt.

But Jeffries mother Mary Goldsmith says otherwise.

"Have you demonstrated this love for him, his entire life? Yes," said Mary Goldsmith, Jeffries Mother.

Others including Bay County Sheriff's deputy Chad King, Morris Spense from the Inn Paradise and stepfather Darrel Goldsmith took the stand.

Finally, Sherri Mercer, Jeffries aunt came out to speak.

She's accused of motivating the robbery at Scott's home.

She's serving jail time for grand theft of Scott's credit cards.

Jeffries decided not speaks on his own behalf.

The attorney's addressed the jury one last time before they began deliberations.

The juror's recommendation is not final. It's up to the judge.

Judge Brantley Clark has scheduled a Spencer hearing for august 29th, when he'll sentence Jeffries on amid robbery and armed burglary, and decide if Jeffries will get life in prison or the death penalty.

Griffin has already cut a deal with the state, pleading guilty to 2nd-degree murder in exchange for her testimony and a 20 year sentence.

Challender is scheduled to go on trial in September.

(source: WJHG news)


Victims' rights groups opposed to retaining TN Supreme Court judges

For the 1st time in state history there is organized opposition to retaining state Supreme Court judges.

Many groups are lining up to retain the judges, but many victims' rights groups believe the three judges in question are hurting victims with their rulings.

The victims' groups are creating Facebook pages and holding meetings. They have decided that Justices Sharon Lee, Cornelia Clark and Gary Wade must go because they have damaged victims' rights.

Longtime victims' rights advocate Verna Wyatt says the 3 judges tend to form an opinion block, 3/5 of the court, a majority, and often, she says, against victims.

"Many times, what they're doing in these opinions, they're narrowing the rights of victims. Victims don't have very many rights, and the ones that they do, now are being narrowed," Wyatt said.

Victims and support groups met in Knoxville on Wednesday to urge the public to vote the judges out. They point to the death penalty cases that have been sent back to trial and say DUI suspects now have more rights.

Perhaps their biggest complaint, though, are the decisions that have limited victims to show photographs of murdered loved ones.

"If somebody has murdered your child, that's going to be emotional. But we have judges now who say when you give your victim impact statement, if you're emotional, we might stop you right there in your tracks and won't let you finish," Wyatt said.

Justice Clark suggested that victims' families should not be allowed to show too much emotion and give only a brief glimpse of the victim.

"Where does it say in the law that you only give a brief glimpse? I didn't read that anywhere. That's the opinion of our Supreme Court justice. And now, it's not just an opinion, it's a rule," Wyatt said.

The Tennessee Bar Association supports retaining Wade, Lee and Clark, saying their decisions are being taken out of context.

"I think it sets a dangerous precedent to pick one particular opinion out of the thousands of opinions the Supreme Court does and focus on that and fight to have someone removed because of that," said defense attorney Jim Todd.

(source: WSMV news)


Likelihood of innocence too great to allow executions

Oklahoma's heinously botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April of this year has engendered considerable debate about government's ability to implement capital punishment in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution. Unfortunately, however, lost amid the discussion about the manner in which we execute the condemned has been a far more important question: Can government even be trusted to identify the perpetrators of heinous crimes correctly?

Although government has never been quick to acknowledge its own mistakes, the sheer number of innocent people who have been wrongfully sentenced to death in the United States is staggering. Since 1973 alone, 144 people - including 3 here in Tennessee - have been released from death row after being proven innocent. According to a recent study published in the highly prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "A conservative estimate of the proportion of erroneous convictions of defendants sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 (is) 4.1 %." If true, this would mean that we have identified only about half of the innocent people who have been sentenced to death since 1973, and that perhaps 125 more innocent people are still sitting on death row today waiting to be executed for a crime that somebody else committed.

In total, for every 9 people who have been executed in the United States, 1 death row inmate has been fully exonerated. Many of these exonerees also spent several decades on death row challenging their convictions, rendering the growing criticisms of the "frivolous" appeals that lead to a lengthy appellate process in capital cases both misguided and extremely dangerous.

Sadly, however, despite the rash of recent exonerations in other states and here at home, all three branches of Tennessee government have been delinquent in addressing the problem. Gov. Bill Haslam - whose prosecutors have been caught suppressing evidence with alarming frequency - has consistently deflected the issue. The Tennessee Supreme Court, for its part, has also contributed to the problem, recently electing to "punish" a Memphis prosecutor who openly admitted that he had withheld evidence in a capital case with "a rebuke and a warning to the attorney (that) does not affect the attorney's ability to practice law." Similarly, most of the General Assembly has done nothing but call for blood, eschewing much-needed reform efforts in favor of injecting inflammatory sound bites such as: "It's not our job to judge. That's God's job to judge. Our job is to arrange the meeting."

According to the authors of the PNAS study: "With an error rate at trial over 4 %, it is all but certain that several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent." Even for those of us who support the death penalty in theory, that's a terribly unsettling realization. With an error rate in capital cases of more than 1 in 25, at what point do we as a society finally acknowledge the grim reality that our government is simply too incompetent to be trusted with the power to carry out the ultimate, irreversible punishment? Given that our leaders refuse to address the problem, when do we finally begin demanding that our government stop executing our fellow citizens in our name?

(source: Daniel Horwitz is an attorney in Nashville and a former judicial law clerk for Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee; The Tennessean)


State seeking death penalty in Sedalia homicide

The state will seek the death penalty against Joseph Arbeiter, the man charged for 1st degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 35-year-old Mandy Black earlier this year.

Black's remains were found in a trailer park south of Sedalia in early May.

Joseph Arbeiter confessed to law enforcement that he stabbed Mandy Black several times in the chest in January, but did not dismember her body until spring.

The case was sent to Clay County for trial, and the Pettis County Prosecutor filed a notice of aggravating circumstances.

In order to impose the death penalty, there must be supporting evidence of at least 1 other aggravating circumstance, among other facts.

The state's notice alleges that Arbeiter committed murder in St. Louis in 1963 and sexual assault in Pettis County on April 30. The sexual assault case is a separate case to be tried in Clay County.

The state said "the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind."

(source: KMIZ news)


Ruling Against California Executions Could Be Used in Missouri Cases

A federal judge in California has ruled that state's death penalty takes so long to be carried out it breaks the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling could have an impact on cases in Missouri.

The judge ruled that delays of 25 years or more for appeals and the rarely carrying out of executions by California mean that state's death penalty has become arbitrary and pointless.

Washington University Law Professor Peter Joy says the ruling could come up in Missouri cases.

"Any lawyer representing somebody on death row who's been on death row for a lengthy period of time should raise this argument now because there is this decision out there," says Joy.

About 40 % of California's death row inmates have been there more than 19 years. 3 Missouri inmates have been awaiting execution for 25 years, and about 22 % of condemned Missouri inmates have been waiting 19 years or more.

Not all the delays cited by the judge stem from appeals.

Joy says also noted were, "delays [related to] the system itself, and have nothing to do with the person filing a lot of appeals."

"Out in California," says Joy, "There's a much lengthier time before the court finds someone to appoint as a lawyer to represent people that have been convicted in their appeals and post-conviction relief. There isn't that lengthy a time here in Missouri but there are still issues with the way the process works that take a long time."

The issue could be raised by attorneys for Michael Shane Worthington, who Missouri is scheduled to execute August 6 and who has been awaiting execution for 15 years.



Judge: Nikko Jenkins not competent for death penalty phase

A judge has ruled Nikko Jenkins is not competent for the death penalty phase of his case.

The decision comes after at least 2 incidents of self-mutilation in the past 2 months.

There were some key factors on the judge's decision this time.

One was Jenkins' deteriorating mental health.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon said he weighed the testimony of 7 doctors, 2 of which testified at the last 2 competency hearings, regarding Jenkins' mental state.

"This Court must be satisfied that the Defendant is competent to proceed with the sentencing phase of a death penalty case. The fact that this is a death penalty case heightens the concern and consideration of this Court. Therefore, based upon evidence before the Court and the recent deterioration of the Defendant, this Court does not find that the Defendant is competent to proceed further," Batailon wrote in his ruling.

The judge said, in the end, 2 doctors said he was malingering, while 5 others said he has a severe mental illness.

The most common diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

Bataillon also had concerns because the 2 psychiatrists who said jenkins was competent also said he had no major illness, leading him to think that could be in error.

Jenkins will have to be treated before he has his death penalty hearing.

"I have no doubt that he is competent right now. That's obvioulsy the evidence we put forward. That evidence hasn't changed. In fact, I think it only improved in the 2nd hearing," said Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle.

Beadle said a hearing with a 3-judge panel for the death penalty phase previously scheduled for Aug. 11 will have to be pushed back.

The ruling also noted Jenkins' competency to stand trial was valid and the change in competency reflects a dramatic deterioration in his mental condition in just the past few months.

(source: KMTV news)


Judge Refuses Sanctions in Mass-Murder Case

The judge in the case of accused mass murderer James Holmes has denied the defense's call for sanctions against the prosecution, finding no evidence that prosecutors interfered with the defense.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 criminal counts, including murder, in the July 20, 2012 massacre at an Aurora, movie theater midnight premiere of a Batman movie. 12 people were killed and dozens more were injured.

Prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty.

The defense in late June filed a motion in Arapahoe County District Court, claiming the prosecution was interfering with the defense's investigation by telling witnesses not to talk to any member of the defense team. They claimed they had proof, including an email from Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Teesch-Maguire which the defense claimed "contains significant factual and legal misrepresentation, clearly discourages victim-witnesses from speaking with the defense, and constitutes a serious violation of several legal and ethical rules," the defense motion stated.

The prosecution fired back 2 weeks later, claiming they had sent that email because members of the defense team were emotionally overwhelming victims while trying to communicate with them.

On Wednesday, Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour published an order denying the defense calls for sanctions.

"The defendant now asks for severe sanctions, contending that he 'has documented evidence that the prosecution ... has interfered with defense preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of the defense, impeded and obstructed defense counsel's investigation through improper influence, and ... compromised [the prosecution's role] as an impartial advocate for justice,'" the 37-page order states. "The defendant asks the Court to preclude the death penalty as a sanction. In the alternative, the defendant requests that the Court either prohibit victim impact evidence at any capital sentencing hearing or disqualify the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office from this case.

"The Court concluded that none of the drastic sanctions requested is warranted. The email on which the defendant relies does not establish that the prosecution has compromised its role as an impartial advocate for justice, interfered with the defense's preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of defense counsel, or impeded and obstructed defense counsel's investigation through improper influence. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, to address a concern raised by the defendant, the Court requires the prosecution to send a clarifying email in accordance with this order."

This is not the 1st time the defense accused prosecutors of interfering. Last year, Holmes' attorney filed a similar motion that was dismissed without prejudice because it could not provide a specific example of interference.

There will be 2 hearings, on July 22 and 23, for a pretrial status conference and to address several other motions.

Also on Wednesday, Samour pushed back the trial date to December. In compliance with a pretrial publicity order, neither side is available to comment on the case.

(source: Courthouse News Service)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Appeals court considers whether to delay execution in Arizona

A federal appeals court on Friday began considering whether to grant a reprieve in the upcoming execution of an Arizona inmate after his lawyer sought information about the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The request came during a hearing in the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Wood is set to be executed on Wednesday after being convicted in the deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father nearly 25 years ago.

Wood contends his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to reveal the drugmakers and other details. An attorney for the state argued that Wood has no right to the information he is seeking.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys reflect a legal tactic being used in a number of death penalty cases as states face problems getting lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. States then started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

Robin Konrad, an attorney for Wood, said the access to executions that the public and journalists have received in the past extends to information connected to the procedure. She also said the information on the drugs is needed as part of an informed public debate about capital punishment.

"It is not a stretch to ask for the limited information that Mr. Wood has asked for about the process," Konrad said.

Jeffrey L. Sparks, an attorney for the state, was asked by a judge why Arizona opposes the release of the information.

"Experience has shown that when this type of information becomes public, it becomes almost impossible for the state to obtain the drugs it needs," Sparks said.

It's unclear when the 3-judge panel will issue a ruling.

Concerns about the death penalty have mounted after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

Arizona prison officials intend to administer the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, is scheduled to be executed in Florence for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)


Fiancee of slain Manhattan Beach police officer Martin Ganz recoils at death penalty ruling

Pam Schultz didn't know what to say July 16 when a caller told her a federal judge declared the California death penalty unconstitutional in overturning a 1995 case.

She fell silent for a moment, then stammered as she tried to put her thoughts together, clearly rattled that her fiance's killer might not ever face the punishment jurors recommended for him in 1998.

"I've always been a firm believer in our justice system, and especially the jury system and a jury verdict, and what the conclusion that 12 people come to is a just punishment. And it saddens me that that can change," Schultz said.

She said she never really was sure Roger Hoan Brady would be put to death for killing her fiance, 29-year-old Manhattan Beach police Officer Martin Ganz, on Dec. 27, 1993. Brady, a convicted bank robber who was preparing to rob the Ralphs store on Sepulveda Boulevard, shot Ganz to death when the officer pulled him over for a traffic violation at the entrance to the Manhattan Village parking lot. After the wounded officer retreated, Brady chased after him, stood over him and fired the fatal shots.

In 1998, a Torrance jury that had found Brady guilty recommended that Judge Stephen O'Neil sentence Brady to death. O'Neil did just that in 1999. Since then, the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 2010, but Brady isn't close to being executed more than 20 years after he killed Ganz.

Delays are partly why U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney ruled the California death penalty unconstitutional. Calling it dysfunctional and arbitrary, Carney wrote that the sentence carries a promise with it that it will be carried out, but it is an empty promise for citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones, as well as the inmates on death row.

Schultz said the decision is "almost like a victory on Brady's part, even though he's not involved in this."

"It's tough because I work for the courts and there's a common-sense part of me that always knew that even when Brady got the death penalty, he would probably outlive most of us, just because of the way the system is set up," Schultz said. "I never really took solace in the fact he was going to die, but I think it just gave me some little bit of solace that he got the death penalty."

Schultz said the people of California voted for the death penalty, and it should be the people who vote to change it. 1 person, she said, should not make the decision for all of California.

"There has to be a way to make it fair for everyone," she said. "Make it fair for the convict, make it fair for the victim, make it fair for the families. Death is never fair."

If the state appeals Carney's ruling through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and that court affirms the ruling, the ruling would apply throughout the state, according to former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti. If the state does not appeal, the ruling only applies to Jones' case.

(source: The Beach Reporter)


California's death penalty isn't really about death at all

When I was young I opposed the death penalty because I believed that everyone - even the most brutal killers - had a flicker of humanity that shouldn't be extinguished.

I'm not so sure about that anymore.

In 3 decades as a reporter I've encountered criminal depravity that's impossible to forgive, and met families whose lives were ruined by patently evil deeds. I understand the instinct for vengeance that pain and horror breed.

But I'm still against the death penalty - for reasons more practical and less naive.

That's why I'm heartened by this week's ruling by an Orange County federal judge, who declared California's death penalty system so dysfunctional, it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Cormac J. Carney overturned the death sentence of a Los Angeles man who has been on death row for almost 20 years for raping and murdering the mother of his girlfriend. The delays and uncertainty the inmate has endured on the path to execution constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Carney ruled.

The judge's ruling applies to just that case, and will almost certainly be appealed. But Carney's detailed dissection of the state's death penalty system makes its failures clear:

Capital punishment in California has become mired in legal challenges that the state mandates but doesn't manage properly. That's made death by execution so random and rare, it's little more than an empty threat.

The system has become such a charade that convicted killers are asking juries to sentence them to death; the cells are bigger, the privileges are better and death row prisoners are more likely to die of natural causes than from an executioner's lethal injection.

Since 1978, when California voters approved the death penalty, more than 900 individuals have been sent to death row. But only 13 have been executed in those 36 years.

Most are still slogging through an appeals process that takes about 25 years to complete. That's twice as long as the national average and has given California the country's largest death row population - nearly 750 inmates.

We'd have to kill someone every week for the next 14 years just to clear death row of its current detainees.

California hasn't put anyone to death since 2006, when a federal judge ordered executions halted until the state reforms its lethal injection protocol. That's stalled and could take years.

In the meantime, public support for the practice seems to be fading. For decades, polls showed that 2/3 of Californians supported capital punishment. But in a 2012 election almost 1/2 the state's voters - 48% - were willing to scrap the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

Economics undoubtedly drive some of that shift. Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978. That translates to $308 million for every execution.

The ruling stated that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Let's look forward to November. There's suppose to be a prop to speed up the process to put these criminals to death faster. That's what the state needs. Not the hand-wringing by Banks and other Libs.

The state's tab for security and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year. It would cost an extra $85 million annually to remedy the delays cited in Carney's ruling.

California law requires death sentences be automatically reviewed by the state Supreme Court; inmates can also file appeals in other state and federal courts. But they often wait years to be assigned an attorney. Public defenders are overloaded and there aren't enough private lawyers prepared to handle high-stakes appeals.

That's transformed a death sentence "into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose," Carney wrote. "Life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

That makes a mockery of a penalty that the U.S. Supreme Court declared a righteous "expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct."

Exhibit A is serial killer Richard Ramirez, who raped, murdered and mutilated 13 people during the months-long Night Stalker rampage that terrorized Southern California in the mid-1980s. Ramirez mocked his victims and crowed about his crimes in the courtroom. He was sentenced to death in 1989.

It took 17 years for his initial appeal to reach the court. He died in June 2013 - from cancer, not lethal injection - 24 years into his death row stint, with legal challenges still pending.

The appeals aren't the problem. In fact, they are a moral necessity. In more than half the California cases reviewed by federal courts, inmates' death sentences were voided.

Dozens of death row inmates across the country have been freed because evidence supported their innocence. For others, that evidence surfaced too late, after they'd been put to death.

That's what grounds my opposition to executions. Our justice system is not perfect; it's tilted against the poor, riddled with racial bias, dependent on the judgment of fallible human beings. The death penalty, even long-delayed, leaves no room for human error.

Yes, California voters approved it. But they also voted to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry and undocumented children the right to attend public schools.

Sometimes we need to reconsider our ballot box decisions. It's time to give up the pretense; we're not executing anyone. A sentence of life without parole would be more honest and less expensive.

We've created a system that's not just unconstitutionally arbitrary and cruel to inmates. It's an insult to jurors who sit through heart-wrenching testimony and agonize over their verdicts; to victims who rely on the finality of punishment for moral and emotional closure; to taxpayers who've invested billions in a system that's fundamentally broken.

We don't have a death penalty in California. We only have a death row. Is that really what we want?

(source: Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times)


Is Oregon's death penalty as 'cruel and unusual' as California's?

Oregon death penalty foes found a lot to like in a federal court decision handed down this week in California.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, condemned to death on April 7, 1995, ruling that capital punishment in California violates the constitutional right of prisoners not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Carney's Wednesday ruling noted that more than 900 prisoners have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

"For the rest," Carney wrote, "the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

Jeff Ellis, a criminal defense attorney on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, boiled the order down in a dozen words:

"California has nothing on Oregon. Our death penalty system is even worse."

Ellis noted that Oregon has executed just 2 men - both volunteers, both executed in the late 1990s after waiving their appeals - since the latest incarnation of capital punishment was passed into state law.

"Of the individuals currently under a death sentence in Oregon, 8 have been on death row for over 25 years," Ellis wrote. "The last person to die on death row was Gary Zweigert in 2013. He died of natural causes.

"In reality, Oregon pays for the most expensive version of life in prison imaginable. It is the opposite of being smart on crime."

Death penalty advocates also find fault in Oregon's law, blaming sloth by the state Supreme Court and Gov. John Kitzhaber's moratorium on capital punishment for the delays.

No matter where you stand on capital punishment, it will be interesting to see if judges in the U.S. District of Oregon find themselves poring through the appeals of prisoners arguing the Eighth Amendment points raised by Ernest Dewayne Jones.

(source: The Oregonian)


The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity

I have wondered countless times over the past 30 years whether I would live to see the end of the death penalty in the United States. I now know that day will come, and I believe that the current Supreme Court will be its architect.

In its ruling in Hall v. Florida in May, the court - with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the helm - reminded us that the core value animating the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishments clause is the preservation of human dignity against the affront of unnecessarily harsh punishment. Hall, which prohibited a rigid test in use in Florida for gauging whether a defendant is intellectually disabled, was the most recent in a series of opinions in which the court has juxtaposed retribution - the idea of vengeance for a wrongdoing, which serves as the chief justification for the death penalty - with a recognition of our hopelessly complex and fallible human nature.

What was important about Hall is the way Kennedy described the logic behind exempting intellectually disabled individuals from execution: "to impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being" because the "diminished capacity of the intellectually disabled lessens moral culpability and hence the retributive value of the punishment." Though the court previously barred imposition of the death penalty upon intellectually disabled people, as well as juvenile offenders, Hall marked the 1st time that it went so far as to claim that imposing the death penalty upon offenders with these kinds of functional impairments serves "no legitimate penological purpose."

This is why I see an end coming to the death penalty in this country. The overwhelming majority of those facing execution today have what the court termed in Hall to be diminished culpability. Severe functional deficits are the rule, not the exception, among the individuals who populate the nation's death rows. A new study by Robert J. Smith, Sophie Cull and Zoe Robinson, published in Hastings Law Journal, of the social histories of 100 people executed during 2012 and 2013 showed that the vast majority of executed offenders suffered from one or more significant cognitive and behavioral deficits.

1/3 of the offenders had intellectual disabilities, borderline intellectual function or traumatic brain injuries, a similarly debilitating impairment. For example, the Texas Department of Corrections determined that Elroy Chester had an IQ of 69. He attended special education classes throughout school and never functioned at a higher level than 3rd grade. The state had previously enrolled Chester into its Mentally Retarded Offenders Program. Despite these findings, Texas executed him on June 12, 2013.

More than 1/2 of the 100 had a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis. For example, for more than 40 years, Florida's own psychiatrists found that John Ferguson suffered from severe mental illness. Ferguson had a fixed delusion that he was the "Prince of God" who could not be killed and would rise up after his execution and fight alongside Jesus to save the United States from a communist plot. When Ferguson was executed on Aug. 5, 2013, his last words were: "I just want everyone to know that I am the Prince of God and I will rise again." A Florida court had called Mr. Ferguson's delusions "normal Christian beliefs."

Many other executed offenders endured unspeakable abuse as children. Consider Daniel Cook, whose mother drank alcohol and abused drugs while she was pregnant with him. His mother and grandparents molested him as a young child, and his father physically abused him by, for example, lighting a cigarette and using it to burn Daniel's genitals. Eventually the state placed Daniel in foster care, but the abuse didn't stop. A foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a 1-way mirror. The prosecutor responsible for Cook's death sentence stood behind him during the clemency process, telling authorities that he would have taken the death penalty off of the table had he known of his torturous childhood. Arizona refused to commute Cook's sentence, however, and he died by lethal injection on Aug. 8, 2012.

As the execution of Elroy Chester, John Ferguson, Daniel Cook and many more like them illustrates, barring the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile offenders did not solve the death penalty's dignity problem. Rather, those cases gave us cause to look more closely at the people whom we execute. And when you look closely, what you find is that the practice of the death penalty and the commitment to human dignity are not compatible.

(source: Opinion; Charles J. Ogletree Jr. is a professor at Harvard Law School----Washington Post)


Here's Why 2014 Has Been a Big Year for the Death Penalty Debate

Capital punishment remains a controversial practice, but one that remains in the U.S. despite its removal in other nations. That said, public opinion has changed over the last few decades, and while there's still a majority in support of capital punishment, the numbers are dropping. Pew Research put approval at 78 % in 1996 and 55 % in 2013, and Gallup was slightly higher with 80 % approval in 1994 and 60 % in 2013.

However, 2014 has seen major attention drawing legal efforts on behalf of death penalty cases. The most recent ruling highlights one of the biggest systematic problems with our death penalty process - and it's no longer about public opinion, at least in California. It's back to the basics of cruel and unusual punishment, but instead of focusing on the method of execution, the California District Court case is instead looking at the wait time - the delay before death rather than death itself.

The case was brought by petitioner Ernest Dewayne Jones who, in 1995, was sentenced to death. Jones is still being held in wait, with no idea if or when his execution will take place. The order, from Judge Cormac J. Carney, finding California's death penalty system unconstitutional, noted that 900 people have been sentenced to death since 1978 and only 13 of those 900 have been put to death. More inmates on death row have died from suicide or other natural causes than have been executed as per their sentencing. "Systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," write Carney.

Based on the Condemned Inmate Summary List as of June 2014, the court finds that 40 % of inmates awaiting execution - Jones being one of them - have been waiting for more than 19 years, and as the size grows, the wait time and delays are exacerbated. Elisabeth A. Semel, director of the death penalty clinic at Berkley University of California law school, told The New York Times that the case would likely be referenced in cases to follow, both in California and in other U.S. states. She said Carney's decision is "a stunningly important and unprecedented ruling," and calls the opinion both "factually dense" and "well-reasoned." Even so, she believes the ruling is almost certainly going to see state appeal at the Ninth Circuit level.

A botched lethal injection earlier this year also drew national attention to the issue of capital punishment, specifically on the drugs being administered today. Clayton Lockett, the inmate in question, survived 43 minutes longer than the drugs should have allowed him to, and died after convulsions of a heart attack. Madeline Cohen, an Oklahoma assistant federal public defender, said that people feel little need to give people like Lockett "a human death when they didn't give their victim a humane death," but that "states have turned to secrecy in the face of drug shortages," according to Tulsa World.

Drug shortages are in part a result of the fact that overseas drug companies are hesitant to ship drugs to the U.S. with the knowledge that said drug might be used for executions. Sodium thiopental - the drug used to render the person unconscious before pancuronium bromide stops their breathing and potassium chloride is administered to stop their heart - is no longer produced in the U.S., with American companies concerned that business with European companies might suffer as a result. However, lawsuits on that front have not yielded the sort of ruling for systematic change as we see in Carney's decision.

Whether the ruling will actually survive an appeal to a higher court is arguable, and Semel admits, according to Time, that "prosecutors will argue that the order does not have the effect of 'automatically' invalidating the death penalty in the ceases of other individuals who have been sentenced to death or who are facing capital prosecution." Even so, should it stand, the ruling would be a major weapon in anti-death-penalty arsenals, or at the very least will demand reform to the present system. This is a positive step towards prison reform, but arguably will push systematic improvements in one area, potentially at the cost of other areas needing attention and affecting much larger groups of inmates. Reallocation of resources and funds in the already taxed correctional system will be necessary. Even so, the ruling may spark change within the system that has been a long time and coming, even if it doesn't change the status of capital punishment within the United States as some might hope.



Life in Prison, With the Remote Possibility of Death

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that California's use of capital punishment was unconstitutional because the system was excessively arbitrary.

The arbitrariness that United States District Court Judge Cormac Carney highlighted is not that too many prisoners are being executed with insufficient due process, but that prisoners on death row are rarely executed, and when executions do occur, it is only after a lengthy and unpredictable delay.

This is unconstitutional, he argues, because a system "where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed" is so arbitrary as to violate the Eighth Amendment's protections against "cruel and unusual punishments."

Judge Carney's ruling calls into question a delicate political equilibrium that allows the public both to demand that their lawmakers pledge fealty to the death penalty when running for election, while not actually having to stomach the enormous number of executions that a systematic program of capital punishment would entail. The result is that death penalty statutes remain on the books in most states as death row continues to expand, yet relatively few are actually executed.

An Excessively Arbitrary Punishment? Prisoners on death row are rarely executed. Many die of natural causes while waiting.

Some numbers put all this in perspective. The F.B.I. reports there were 14,827 cases of homicide or non-negligent manslaughter in 2012, of which 11,298 occurred in jurisdictions that have the death penalty. Research indicates that around one-fifth to a quarter of these homicides were for capital-eligible crimes, suggesting there were around 2,500 capital-eligible homicides in 2012, which is both high by global standards and much lower than in previous decades.

Yet there were only 45 executions last year. When fewer than one in 50 capital-eligible homicides leads to the death chamber, it is clear that capital punishment is rare.

Capital punishment is not only rare, but it's also an extraordinarily long and drawn-out process. In total, there were 3,033 prisoners on death row at the end of 2012. The fact that so many receive death sentences but so few are killed tells us that many prisoners are living decades on death row.

A simple thought experiment makes the point: If a death sentence puts you at the back of the queue of 3,000 prisoners to be executed, and only 50 people are executed each year, then it would take you, on average, 60 years to reach the front of the line. Not surprisingly, many die of natural causes while waiting their turn.

The rate of executions is sufficiently low relative to the number of death sentences handed out that the economists Lawrence Katz, Steven Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich have calculated that "the execution rate on death row is only twice the death rate from accidents and violence among all American men." Once you take account of the violent life circumstances of many murderers, they argue, death row may actually be safer than life on the street.

The numbers are particularly striking in California, where over 900 people have been sentenced to death since 1978, with only 13 executions. 94 of these prisoners have died of other causes (suicide or natural causes), while 39 others were released from death row.

Although California is a particularly striking example, it's by no means an exception. Pennsylvania has 185 prisoners on death row but hasn't executed any since 1999.

Even in the states with active death chambers, the pattern isn't that different. Florida had 403 prisoners on death row in 2012 but executed only 3 of them. Although Texas is the most active executioner, it still only executed 15 of the 290 people on death row. The closest we have to exceptions are Oklahoma and Mississippi, which each executed 6 prisoners, from relatively small death row populations of 55 and 49. In a typical year, fewer than a dozen of the 32 states with active death penalty statutes will perform any executions.

And so we continue with our odd political compromise of sending people to death row, but rarely executing them. The result, as Judge Carney observed, is that in the United States, the death sentence is effectively a sentence of "life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

(source: Op-Ed; Justin Wolfers is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan----New York Times)


Does America Execute the Innocent? You Decide

Every day now, myths about the death penalty explode.

Glenn Ford's exoneration in March, after 30 years on Louisiana's death row, gave the lie to 2 urban legends: There are no innocent people on death row, and if a death-row prisoner were innocent, we would set him free right away and compensate him generously for his lost years.

In April, Oklahoma's gruesomely induced heart attack on a sentient and terrified Clayton Lockett did in another myth: When we execute bad guys, it's quick and painless.

Then there's the whopper that the Supreme Court exposed in May: The nation no longer executes mentally disabled inmates. Florida, it turns out, continues to do exactly that.

A June Washington Post/ABC News poll brought down another shibboleth: The public supports the death penalty. In fact, a majority prefer life without parole to executions.

Still, one seemingly soothing claim about the death penalty persists. Yes, some capital-defense lawyers are obviously incompetent, and their clients are seriously mentally challenged. Yes, prosecutors sometimes hide evidence of innocence. Yes, some defendants are put on death row by erroneous eyewitness identifications. And, yes, every so often, a death-row inmate turns out to be innocent. But, because of painstaking appeals and clemency reviews, no innocent person is ever executed.

A few years ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia proclaimed this assurance "from the rooftops," and it still stands today.

But before accepting Scalia's guarantee, consider Carlos DeLuna, the subject of The Wrong Carlos, a book colleagues and I recently published following an exhaustive investigation of his criminal case and subsequent execution.

Texas sentenced Carlos DeLuna to die for the murder of a convenience-store clerk in 1983. DeLuna's attorney had never before tried a felony case, and he got no help from DeLuna, who was too mentally disabled to have made it through the 8th grade.

The key evidence against DeLuna was an identification by an Anglo eyewitness who later said he couldn't tell one Hispanic person from another. The witness admitted he was only 50 % sure when police brought him face-to-face with DeLuna in a dark parking lot at night, but, terrified, he ID'd DeLuna as the killer anyway.

DeLuna testified that he had seen another Carlos - Carlos Hernandez - wrestling with the victim moments before she died. But DeLuna was violating parole for an earlier crime, so he ran away when he heard police sirens, only to be swept up in the manhunt that followed. Prosecutors told the jury that they looked high and low for Carlos Hernandez and determined that DeLuna had invented him. As DeLuna's case raced through the appellate and clemency process, state attorneys also assured the judge and governor that Carlos Hernandez didn't exist.

But he did exist. As the homicide detective and a prosecutor in DeLuna's case knew, Hernandez had already knifed one woman to death, and he later confessed to doing the same to another woman, though he never was convicted of either crime. Only months before DeLuna was executed, Hernandez came within an inch of killing a neighbor with a knife.

All these victims - including the convenience-store clerk Carlos DeLuna was executed for killing - were poor, young, Hispanic women whom Hernandez had romantically pursued.

Immediately after the clerk's murder, and for years afterwards, Hernandez told family and friends that he had killed her and let his "tocayo" - his twin - "take the rap." The 2 Carloses were the same height and weight. Relatives described them as dead "ringers" for each other and repeatedly mistook pictures of 1 for the other.

With Carlos Hernandez still prowling the streets of Corpus Christi, Carlos DeLuna was executed on Dec. 7, 1989. Several minutes into his "lethal injection" - long after he was supposed to be unconscious and unfeeling, and as a painful, heart-attack-inducing drug began flowing into his veins - DeLuna sat up. Just as Clayton Lockett did in April, DeLuna fearfully looked an attending witness in the eye.

Informed of the Columbia investigation, the district attorney in DeLuna's case wrote in the Houston Chronicle that he had come "face to face with the hard truth" that he had been "involved in the execution of a man who may well have been innocent."

No innocent person is ever executed. Don't take my word for whether this last remaining assurance about the death penalty is the biggest lie of all. Our book about DeLuna just presents the facts. Every claim made is supported by primary sources linked on our website, where you can read them for yourself.

You decide.

(source: James S. Liebman; Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia Law School----Huffington Post)


Airman charged with killing AFN broadcaster could face death

The American airman accused of killing Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov could face the death penalty if his case goes to trial, military officials said Friday.

Staff Sgt. Sean M. Oliver is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly strangling Chepusov, an American Forces Network broadcaster and Oliver's colleague, with his hands at the house of another AFN airman in December. Chepusov's body was found in the passenger seat of Oliver's car early in the morning of Dec. 14, after German police pulled Oliver over for driving erratically in Kaiserslautern.

Oliver, who worked as a broadcast engineer at AFN and had been romantically linked to Chepusov's wife, appeared in court Friday at Ramstein for an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury. He was charged in March.

Investigating officer Lt. Col. Christopher Leavey, who presided over the hearing and heard more than 6 hours of testimony Friday, will recommend whether Oliver should face a court-martial, on what specific charges and whether the death penalty should be sought. The convening authority, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, will make the final decision, lawyers for the government said.

In addition to murder, Oliver is charged with making 2 false official statements, aggravated assault and 2 counts of obstructing justice.

Another AFN broadcast engineer, Army Spc. Cody A. Kramer, could also be tried for his alleged involvement in Chepusov's death. Prosecutors alleged at Kramer's Article 32 hearing in April that he helped Oliver plan and carry out the murder and assisted Oliver in trying to cover it up.

Kramer did not testify Friday.

Leavey heard testimony from Maj. Dori Mitchell Franco, an Army pathologist and the Armed Forces regional medical director.

Franco performed an autopsy on Chepusov's body on Dec. 20, after German medical examiners had conducted an initial autopsy. Franco concluded Chepusov died from injuries to the head and neck "consistent with strangulation."

But she testified that the procedure was hindered by German authorities' decision not to turn over a part of Chepusov's throat. She also said she was not able to collect any DNA evidence because her autopsy was conducted a week after Chepusov's death.

On the night that he died, Chepusov was at Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Skinkle's apartment in Kaiserslautern with Skinkle, Oliver, Kramer and Air Force Staff Sgt. Shao-Lung Ping. Skinkle and Ping also worked at the AFN office on Ramstein.

The group had been drinking at a downtown bar before going to Skinkle's house to celebrate Skinkle's birthday.

Oliver changed his story twice about what happened that night, according to testimony. He initially said he put Chepusov in his car after finding him walking "like a zombie" around Kaiserslautern and that he did not know that he was dead when he was stopped by German authorities. He later said he pushed Chepusov at Skinkle's and that Chepusov hit his head and was knocked out, according to the lead investigator on the case, Deric Hiscock of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Oliver, according to Hisock, said that he put Chepusov in the bathroom and that when he went back to get him, Chepusov attacked him, so Oliver strangled him to try and subdue him. Oliver told Hiscock that he felt Chepusov was still alive when he put him into the car, Hiscock testified.

Ping testified that he saw Chepusov lying limp on the kitchen floor while Oliver kicked him twice in the side like a soccer ball. He later left the apartment; he didn't see Chepusov again and didn't ask Oliver about him.

Ping didn't disclose he was at the apartment that night until three weeks later, when military investigators contacted him.

Leavey asked him why he didn't come forward after learning the next day that Chepusov was dead.

"I was afraid," Ping said.

"What were you afraid of?" Leavey asked.

"Reprisals. Getting in trouble because I was there," he said.

Chepusov's wife, Karla Alejandra Zolezzi, who now lives in Brownsville, Texas, testified that Chepusov had asked for a divorce and that he consented to her relationship with Oliver.

She said she didn't recall who said "wouldn't you want Dmitry to be in an accident?" while dining with Skinkle, Kramer and Oliver days before Chepusov's death.

(source: Stars & Stripes)


FNC debates counter-terror draft law behind closed doors; A person need only threaten, incite or plan any terrorist act to face penalty of perpetrators

Called back from its summer recess for an extraordinary session, the Federal National Council will discuss behind closed doors tomorrow (Monday) a draft law stepping up the fight against terrorism.

Convicted terrorists will face capital punishment, life imprisonment and fines of up to Dh100 million, according to a new legislation.

The 70-article bill establishes "terrorist" capital offences which result in the death of a victim including attacks on a head of state or his family or a representative or officer of a state; coerced recruitment of individuals into a "terrorist" organisation; hijacking; hostage-taking; infringement of diplomatic or consular premises in committing a "terrorist" act; use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and assaulting security forces.

For equal criminal acts, offenders with terrorist intent will receive much greater penalty than those without.

A person need only threaten, incite or plan any terrorist act to be prosecuted as a terrorist and punished with the same penalty for perpetrators of these acts, states the bill, fast-tracked by the government.

Sources said the UAE, a signatory to 13 international treaties on terrorism, is revising its counter-terrorism law, issued in 2004, to better combat evolving threats.

Signing up to a terrorist organisation will be punished with the death penalty, while an attempt to join any such organisation will cost the offender a life imprisonment, states the draft law, of which a copy has been obtained by Gulf News.

Capital punishment or life imprisonment is the penalty for a person who commissions or runs a training centre for terrorist operations.

"Whoever seeks or communicates with a foreign state, terrorist organisation or with anyone who works for their interests, to commit any terrorist act shall be punished with imprisonment for life while the death penalty will be imposed if the terrorist act has been carried out," the bill suggests.

The draft law states that an attempt on the life of the president of the State, the vice-president, members of the Supreme Council, crown princes, deputy rulers or members of their families will be punishable with the death sentence.

The same penalty will be inflicted on those convicted of committing an attempt on the life of persons covered by international protection.

The penalty for compelling the President of the State, the Vice-President, the prime minister, a minister, speaker and members of the FNC to take or refrain from an action will be life imprisonment.

Taking or refraining from carrying out an action that threatens the security of the country, its integrity or sovereignty will be a crime punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. The same penalty will be inflicted on those convicted of committing or refraining from taking any such action with the intent to overthrow the government, suspend any article of the constitution, stop any public institution from discharging its responsibilities or harm national unity or social peace.

The draft law will also authorise the Cabinet to set up lists of designated terrorist organisations and persons.

The Cabinet will also establish counselling centres where convicted terrorists will receive intensive religious and welfare counselling in jails in a programme targeted against future threats posed by those holding extremist views, according to the draft law.

Every legal person whose representatives, managers or agents commit or contribute in the commission of any of the terrorist offences provided in the draft law, would receive a fine ranging between Dh1 million and Dh100 million.

Establishment of a committee to be named "The National Committee for Combating Terrorism" has been suggested, and a decision in this regard will be made by the Cabinet.

The bill makes it a crime punishable with up to 10 years' jail for any person who does not provide authorities with information relating to any terrorist activity.

(source: Gulf News)


President rejects mercy pleas of Nithari killer, 5 others

It's the gallows for Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli and 5 other death row convicts with President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting their mercy petitions as advised by the home ministry. The files relating to the 5 mercy pleas, 1 of which involves 2 sisters, were cleared by the President and returned to the home ministry last week.

Sources indicated that the home ministry has already written to the states concerned - Maharashtra (from where 2 petitions relating to 3 convicts were received), UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam (1 case each) - to set in motion the process of execution of the death row convicts.

Apart from Koli, awarded death in the bone-chilling case of abduction, abuse and murder of several minors in Noida's Nithari village, the others whose clemency pleas were rejected are Renukabai and Seema, 2 sisters from Maharashtra convicted of kidnapping and brutally murdering several children; Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik of Maharashtra, convicted of raping and murdering a minor girl; Jagdish of Madhya Pradesh who killed his wife and 5 children; and Holiram Bordoloi of Assam, who had burnt 2 people and hacked another to death in public in 1996.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh had recommended to the President on June 18 to reject the mercy petitions in all 5 cases.

Though the 6 death row convicts may still challenge the rejection of their mercy petition, the gap of 3 years and less between upholding of death sentence by the apex court and scrapping of clemency plea in three cases may not qualify for relief.

The Supreme Court had in February this year commuted the death sentences of 15 death row convicts to life imprisonment on grounds of inordinate delay - which it did not quantify, though in the relevant cases it ranged from 7 to 11 years - and mental illness.

Incidentally, the government has decided to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court seeking reconsideration of the February order.

Koli, in any case, may have little room for judicial reprieve on grounds of delay as his death sentence was confirmed only in 2011. The same fate may await Wasnik, whose death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2012, and Jagdish, whose capital punishment was upheld in 2009.

As for the other cases, the death penalty for the 2 sisters was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2006 and that Holiram Bordoloi in 2005. It will be interestingly to see whether this is viewed as "inordinate" delay on part of the Executive in deciding their mercy pleas.

(source: The Times of India)


The death penalty rises

This week's reshuffle gained a huge amount of media and airtime, as it was surely meant to, and coincidentally prevented much coverage of the on-going investigation of paedophilia among the establishment and also prevented proper scrutiny of the DRIP intelligence intercepts legislation.

It was cast as a triumph for women in the Cabinet, though in reality there was an increase of a sole post going to a woman over that which we had back in 2010. Beyond the manufactured plaudits and preening for the cameras, the reshuffle introduced something that the country has not seen for some while.

Extremist views

In promoting Priti Patel to the Cabinet, in a Treasury role, David Cameron rewarded someone who has views that many categorise as extremist. Priti Patel is an advocate for the re-introduction of the death penalty.

After starting her working life in Conservative Central Office as part of the Research Department, Patel moved into a succession of PR roles, culminating in a job at super-agency Webber Shandwick, where one of her client list was British American Tobacco. This later led to some controversy as to her impartiality on the decisions for plain packaging for cigarettes being put before the Commons.

In September 2011, on an appearance on BBC's Question Time, she argued passionately for the re-introduction of capital punishment.

Background and influences

Her parents were Ugandan immigrants from Navsari in India, and were subjected to Idi Amin's ill-treatment and subsequent expulsion of naturalised Ugandans originally from the Indian sub-continent. This expulsion was rapid, those being expelled being given only 90 days' notice and sometimes brutal. It would be easy to write off Patel's predisposition towards capital punishment as being a product of what she witnessed first-hand at this time, but her family's transit to a new life in Britain was completed before she was 6 months old.

Her clash with Private Eye's Ian Hislop is well documented and available on YouTube, where he comprehensively demolishes her arguments for capital punishment's re-introduction. Yet her beliefs appear sincerely held.

If the right wing of the Conservative Party, this week markedly in the ascendancy, are resurgent, the death penalty will certainly be promoted as a policy.

Arguments against

So what are the arguments against its re-introduction?

Ignoring the obvious arguments of injustice, such as the Derek Bentley case, where the ambiguous plea to a co-conspirator to burglary to give up the firearm his accomplice was pointing at a police officer, of "let him have it", was enough to see Bentley sentenced to death by hanging, the most compelling argument against the re-introduction of the death penalty comes from an unexpected quarter.

The 16th of December 1969 saw 185 MPs vote for the abolition of capital punishment with 158 voting against its being struck from the statute books. The final executions in the UK were those of Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans on 13 August 1964, for the murder of John West.

Fred West

2 years prior to the abolition, Frederick Walter Stephen West's 1st wife introduced a friend, Anne McFall to her husband. McFall became inexplicably infatuated with West and became pregnant by him. In August 1967, McFall went missing. Her remains were not discovered until 1994. So began a 20 year reign of terror, rape and murder at the hands of Fred West. 11 known victims and 13 probable victims of Fred and Rosemary West have been identified. Following the sexual exploitation of his own daughter and her complaints to friends at school, Fred West was investigated and arrested.

On New Year's Day 1995, while on remand awaiting trial, Fred West committed suicide by hanging himself.

Harold Shipman

In an overlapping period, of between 1975 and 1998, Harold Shipman - a GP based in Hyde, Manchester began systematically murdering elderly and infirm patients that he was called to attend. He is on record as the most prolific of serial killers in the UK, with his victims simply being estimated at 250+, as he was able to kill and then certify their death through conceivable events himself.

At around 6:20am on 13 January 2004, Harold Shipman was found dead in his cell at Wakefield Prison, through hanging by a noose he had fashioned through bedsheets, tied to the bars of the window to his cell.

The Home Secretary at the time, David Blunkett, said of being notified of Shipman's suicide, "You wake up and you receive a call telling you Shipman has topped himself and you think, is it too early to open a bottle? And then you discover that everybody's very upset that he's done it." Justice and understanding of the motivation for the death of their relatives would be denied forever to the relatives of Shipman's victims.

Fred West was on remand awaiting trial and was expecting a hefty prison sentence, while Harold Shipman had already received a whole-life term, meaning that he would never again be a free man. It is likely that Fred West would also have received a whole-life term, given the danger to the public that he represented. Neither man could live with either the guilt of reflecting upon their crimes, or the prospect of spending every moment of the rest of their lives incarcerated. For them, death by suicide was an easier and preferable option to prison; death no longer held the primary spot in their fears.

Celebrity endorsement

So, when a rising star of the Conservative Party's right wing, a proponent of the death penalty is promoted despite having views that are at odds with the current judicial system and with the majority of the electorate, it is time to reflect on who we have representing us.

To have your policies endorsed, through action, by Fred West and Harold Shipman should bring your fitness to govern into question by your constituents.

(source: The London Economic)


Bangladesh metes out harsh punishments for Ramna perpetrators; 8 radical Islamists receive death penalties and 6 more get life sentences for the 2001 bombings that killed 10.

Jannatul Ferdousi Shilpi, 17, yearned to witness the annual cultural show heralding Pohela Boishakh, the 1st day of the Bengali calendar, in Dhaka's Ramna Park.

13 years ago to get ready for the programme, she and her 2 cousins, Reazul Haque, 20, and Mamun Gazi, 22, travelled from their remote home in southwestern Baufal to her brother's house in Dhaka.

They woke up early April 14th to secure a vantage spot 10 metres from the stage where the singers performed.

At around 8.15am, an explosion in the jam-packed audience sent everyone running for cover.

15 minutes later another blast ensued. Shilpi, Haque and Gazi were among the 10 people killed in the explosions.

After a 7-year investigation, police confirmed the heinous act was the work of outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI).

More than 13 years after the grisly attacks, the victims' family members rejoiced as a Dhaka court on June 23rd handed down capital punishment to 8 militants and life sentences to 6 others.

Mastermind Mufti Abdul Hannan and his accomplices Akbar Hossain, Arif Hasan, Maulana Tajuddin, Hafez Jahangir Alam, Maulana Abu Bakr, Mufti Abdul Hye and Mufti Shafiqur Rahman received the death penalty.

Tajuddin, Alam, Bakr, Hye and Rahman remain at large.

Shilpi and her cousins "left the village to be present at the Ramna Botomul to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh . But we never thought they would leave us forever," Kamrul Hasan, a cousin living in Baufaluakhali, told Khabar South Asia. "They went to enjoy the performance. Was it their sin?"

Shipli's mother died around 5 years ago. Her blind father Hashem Gazi, is still alive. "I can die in peace if I could see their execution," he told Khabar about the perpetrators. "They are the enemy of Islam."

In the chargesheet, the police said the militant group targeted the Ramna Botomul - an area of the park - because it considered the cultural activities "unIslamic".

Judge Ruhul Amin said in the verdict the attack was "brutal, barbaric, heinous and unpardonable". "This is not a political case. ... Those who died in the attacks were commoners," he said. "People of all faiths and ethnicities came to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh."

Sanjida Khatun, president of hosting event and cultural organisation Chayanaut, was satisfied with the judgment.

"This is an attack against our culture. We never thought that there will be an attack on the traditional cultural event," Khatun said.

Former Inspector General of Police Abdul Quayum told Khabar that HuJI launched attacks on cultural gatherings until Hannan's arrest in 2007.

"The militants and terrorists are the enemy of everyone," he said. "All political parties must stand against them and the terrorists must be punished."

(source: Khabar South Asia)


2 hanged after forsaking chance to escape gallows

2 convicted drug traffickers who chose to forsake their legal avenues to escape death row were hanged yesterday, becoming the Republic's 1st executions since all capital sentences were put on hold 3 years ago as death penalty laws underwent review.

Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, could have gone through a re-sentencing process and possibly be handed a life imprisonment term and caning.

But both Singaporeans opted out of the process, telling an Assistant Registrar in the High Court they "understood the consequences of their respective decisions" the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said, in a statement yesterday. They also elected not to petition the President for clemency, it added.

Why they did not want the chance to be considered for re-sentencing was not stated. But the CNB said both of them had been accorded full due process, adding that they were represented by counsel throughout the process.

All 9 death-row inmates who have undergone re-sentencing since new laws allowing judges the discretion not to pass the death sentence came into force last January have escaped the gallows, said a separate statement yesterday from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). These included convicted murderers and drug offenders, including Yong Vui Kong, the 1st drug trafficker to be handed a reprieve last November.

Tang and Foong had, in separate cases, been sentenced to death for trafficking diamorphine - the pure form of heroin - in November 2010 and April 2011, respectively, the CNB said.

At that time, those convicted of trafficking 15g or more diamorphine are automatically handed the death penalty under the Misuse of Drugs Act - Tang was found with 89.55g, while Foong had 40.23g.

But in July 2011, the Government placed a moratorium on all executions as it reviewed mandatory death penalty laws here. When the changes were passed and kicked in last year, it was announced that all drug offenders on death row then would be given the opportunity to elect to be considered for re-sentencing. Tang and Foong gave up the chance, however - although both had appealed against their convictions previously.

When Tang learnt that his family had submitted an unsigned petition for clemency without his knowledge, he indicated that he did not wish to make the appeal, the CNB said. The petition was turned down and his family was informed, it added.

Tang's and Foong's death sentences were carried out at Changi Prison Complex yesterday. The last hanging was carried out in July 2011.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Working Group for the Death Penalty issued a statement last night saying they were "gravely disappointed" at the executions.

They argued that an ongoing constitutional challenge filed by another drug offender at the Supreme Court - which will be heard on Aug 18 - could have a bearing on the lawfulness of Foong's and Tang's executions and thus it was "deeply unjust" to have executed them before the hearing.

The group, which is made up of We Believe in Second Chances, Think Center and Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, also claimed that it had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs on Thursday to highlight the situation and ask for an urgent stay of execution.

The MHA did not respond to queries by press time. In its statement, the ministry said: "Capital punishment applies only to the most serious offences that cause grave harm to others and to society.

"All persons who are sentenced to capital punishment are accorded full due process under the law, including the opportunity to appeal to the Court of Appeal. They can also submit a petition for clemency."

It also gave an update on the 35 cases - 7 for murder and 28 for drug offences, including Tang and Foong - awaiting capital punishment as of Jan 1 last year.

Since then, 1 more person has been sentenced to death. 1 inmate has had his conviction overturned, while another passed away from natural causes, MHA said.

As for the 9 persons who have escaped the death penalty after re-sentencing, the Attorney-General's Chambers has filed appeals in 2 of the cases, it added.

The remaining 22 cases are at various stages of the appeal, re-sentencing or clemency processes, or have filed other legal challenges, said MHA.



Call to save the lives of 5 political prisoners on hunger strike

The Iranian Resistance calls to save the lives of 5 political prisoners in Ghezel-Hessar and Gohardasht prisons in Karaj. It also asks all international authorities and human rights organizations to take urgent action to consider the demands of these prisoners, to stop antihuman pressures against them, and to abolish death sentence for 4 of them.

4 Kurdish Sunni prisoners by the names of Hamed Ahmadi, Kamal Malai, and Jamshid and Jahangir Dehghani (2 brothers) are in dire physical conditions due to having been on hunger strike for 35 days. They were accused and sentenced to death only for their religious beliefs and being charged with 'propagating against the state, corrupt on Earth and Moharebeh (waging war on God)' by the mullahs' judiciary. They went on hunger strike after they were transferred from Gohardasht to Ghezel- Hessar prison to be executed. These 4 prisoners had also gone on hunger strike for 75 days 4 1/2 months ago in protest at issuing their death penalty.

The 4 prisoners on hunger strike have lost weight for 10-15 kilograms and their blood pressure has dropped to 6-8. Each of them has already gone unconscious several times and the period of their unconsciousness has also increased. In addition to psychological tortures, they suffer pain in their waist and kidneys, blurred vision and severe stomach hemorrhage. Having on the clothes of prisoners on death row and being humiliated, they are kept in dark and narrow crypts without minimum facilities. In the hot summer weather, the prison guards avoid giving cold water to these prisoners who are also fasting, even at the time of breaking their fast. In order to justify their antihuman behavior, the prison guards say to the prisoners, "we have no responsibility before you, because you were brought here temporarily and just for executing your death penalty."

The regime's agents such as Khodabakhshi, the judge supervising the prison; Sohrab Soleimani, General Head of Tehran prisons; and Ali Hosseini, head of Ghezel-Hessar prison; do not give any response to the follow-ups by the afflicted families of these prisoners, and just waste their time by giving false answers.

The physical condition of Reza Shahabi, a political prisoner and a member of Tehran Bus Company Syndicate, has also deteriorated due to being on hunger strike for 48 days. During past days when he was taken to hospital for his very poor condition, his hands had been cuffed to his bed. Reza Shahabi is on hunger strike since June 1st in protest at transferring him from ward 350 of Evin prison to Gohardasht prison. Mullahs' intelligence agents have barred his visitation with his family members. His waist and neck have been harmed seriously due to tortures, yet the torturers prevent him from going under surgery despite doctors' recommendation.

In the meantime, Mr. Mohammad Amin Agoushi, a political prisoner and a retired teacher, has been transferred to the confinement cell of isolation ward, where is nothing but a torture chamber, since last week. He has been on hunger strike since July 8th in protest at being exiled to Zahedan central prison.

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


No death penalty upsetting law enforcement agencies

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and the top military command have though expressed "serious concern" over the courts' inability to punish terrorists, they have conveniently ignored the fact that thousands of those sentenced to death by the judiciary are not being executed because of the government's moratorium on death penalty.

While the government tried to shift the responsibility to the courts for poor prosecution and non-implementation of death sentence, the law-enforcement agencies are generally seriously upset by the moratorium on death penalty, which has been continuing since 2008.

According to reports, thousands of criminals, including terrorists, target killers, murderers and those involved in other heinous crimes, are not being executed for the last 6 years because of the government's decision to informally suspend death punishment on the EU pressure. Some recent media reports have been showing the number of such convicted prisoners at around 8,000. These prisoners have already exhausted all their judicial appeals and their conviction has even been endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Like the PML-N government, the last PPP regime that placed the unofficial moratorium on death penalty in 2008 had also been accusing the judiciary of releasing the accused terrorists but never saw the wrong on its part.

As against the government's stance, the judiciary has also been pointing out how crime could be controlled when convicted killers and murderers are not being hanged. In particular, senior Sindh High Court judges have been pressing for the implementation of death convictions. According to sources, law-enforcement agencies in the recent years have been repeatedly asking the governments to lift the informally imposed moratorium on death penalty but it was never done. When the Nawaz Sharif government came into power, it once announced the resumption of death penalty but soon got it reversed.

It is said that moratorium on death penalty has been imposed by Pakistan following pressure from the European countries. It is said that one of the unwritten conditions attached to the GSP Plus status offered to Pakistan by the EU was the continuation of moratorium on death penalty.

Poor police investigations and ineffective prosecution are also considered major reasons for the release of a large number of accused terrorists.A few years back, an official report of the Rawalpindi district prosecutor showed that the pathetic performance of police, intelligence agencies, indifference of the military officials and public prosecutors concerned had actually led to the release of suspects involved in the otherwise high-profile murder of the then serving Surgeon General Lt Gen Mushtaq Beg in a Rawalpindi terrorist attack.

For similar reasons, the accused involved in certain other high-profile cases, including the Marriott Hotel attack and failed attempt on the life of ousted military dictator Musharraf, too have been released by the courts. Without keeping their own house in order, some of the provincial ministers and federal authorities have been trying to pass the buck to the judiciary.

Pakistan is among those countries where the conviction rate is poor. But despite the poor conviction rate, it is believed that the pronounced execution of convicted terrorists and those involved in heinous crimes would help create the much-needed deterrence against crime. Generally, people believe that terrorists and criminals are having a field day in today's Pakistan as they freely choose their targets and hit and kill innumerable innocents but are never caught. Many of those caught are released by the courts for want of evidence whereas those convicted and sentenced to death are not executed because of foreign pressure.

(source: The News)


Death penalty: Lebanon and Qatar now among abolitionists

Executions have resumed in Kuwait and Egypt while Lebanon and Qatar are now de facto among abolitionists - countries in which no court has sentenced anyone to death for at least a decade - along with Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, according to the 2014 report on the death penalty worldwide presented Friday in Rome by Italian NGO "Nessuno Tocchi Caino" (May nobody touch Cain).

According to the report, the countries with the highest rate of executions in 2013 and the first 6 months of 2014 were China - where at least 3,000 of the world's reported 4,106 executions were carried out - followed by Iran (687), Iraq (172) and Saudi Arabia (78).

Palestine, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Syria and Yemen also maintained the death penalty. Algeria is carrying out a moratorium on executions.

Among the 8 countries which resumed executions over 2013 or in the first semester of this year were the United Arab Emirates (1), Egypt (at least 8 in 2014) and Kuwait (5).

Most death penalties were handed down in connection with terrorism charges: hundreds of executions are carried out in the Arab world and, more in general, in Muslim countries, the NGO said. Often executions vie to eliminate regime opponents. There were at least 233 such executions across 6 Muslim countries last year, including Iran (33) and Iraq (168). Overall, the NGO pointed out that the situation has sensibly declined in these 2 countries. Last year and in the first 6 months of 2014, though the "moderate" Rohani took power, hundreds of executions were carried out in Iran as well as in Iraq, which "chose to adopt the Iranian model", said the organization's leader, Sergio D'Elia.

"Such a high number of executions had not been registered" since Saddam Hussein was in power, he continued. "The executions were necessary, according to Iraqi authorities, to counter political violence and terrorism". Many were also executed on drug-related charges in Egypt, the UAE, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.

Concern is high over the situation in Egypt, D'Elia told ANSAmed, where the death penalty has resumed this year after a moratorium which lasted a number of years. "No executions had been carried out since 2011", recalled D'Elia. Mass death sentences against hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood are worrying the international community. Minors are also increasingly being sentenced to death.

A reported 13 people aged under 18 were executed in 3 countries: at least 9 in Iran, 3 in Saudi Arabia and 1 in Yemen. There is no data on Libya and Syria, the report noted.

(source: Reuters)

JULY 18, 2014:


Randall Mays gets execution date

Less than 2 weeks after convicted killer Randall Wayne Mays was denied his latest challenge to his conviction by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Carter Tarrance of the 392nd District Court set his execution date for March 18, 2015. Tarrance, who presided over the trial, signed the execution order and death warrant on July 10.

Mays was not brought in from death row, nor was there a court hearing. "The law does not require the judge to hold a hearing in order to set an execution date," District Attorney Scott McKee said. "As soon as notice that the Fifth Circuit refused to grant Mays a Certificate of Appealability (COA), we filed a motion to set an execution date," he explained. McKee indicated that this was the 1st available date provided to him from TDCJ through the Texas Attorney General's Office.

The United States Supreme Court refused to grant a review of Mays' appeal in October of 2011 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied his Federal writ of habeas corpus in December of 2013.

Mays' latest legal challenge involved a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Federal court last December in an attempt to gain what's known as a Certificate of Appealability (COA) for his case. The suit was partly based on assertions that Mays is mentally handicapped, therefore, the State of Texas should not be allowed to execute him.

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prior cases establish a precedent that the mentally handicapped do not receive an absolute constitutional protection from death penalty laws. As a result, the judges denied his request for a COA.

This is the 2nd execution date set for Mays. Texas law mandates that a court cannot set an execution date until the convict has exhausted his State Appeals and State writ of habeas corpus. In May 2011, the District Attorney's Office filed a motion to set the execution date before Mays filed his Federal writ of habeas corpus. Although his defense team fought the motion, the Court set the date for Aug. 23, 2011.

Mays is convicted of killing Henderson County deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn, when they responded to Mays' Payne Springs ranch on a domestic call May 17, 2007.

(source: The Monitor)


Virginia executions down over the last 5 years

The death penalty is nothing new for Virginians.

Since 1976, only Texas and Oklahoma have executed more people than the Commonwealth. However, those numbers are dropping fast.

Virginia executed 3 death row inmates in 2010, but only 2 have been executed in the nearly 4 years since.

"We just aren't putting people on death row now the way that we were a decade ago in Virginia," said Professor Matthew Engle, the interim director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse which serves as a resource for defense attorneys in death penalty cases. The program is run through Washington and Lee Law School.

"I think it will be something that for the foreseeable future will always be on the radar screen and it should be," said Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem). "When citizens decide to enact the ultimate punishment by taking someone's life it should be debated." Virginia currently has 8 inmates on death row, although no executions are scheduled.

Another factor in the debate is the cost.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center it costs an average of $50,000-$60,000 per year to house an inmate on death row.

It only costs around $25,000 to hold a regular inmate.

Much of that cost is connected to keeping death row inmates in isolation, which is required by law.

It also doesn't take into account the expensive appeals process, which is automatic in Virginia and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

(source: WSLS news)


Lawmakers move to put N.C. in line with Supreme Court ruling

N.C. House Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, is sponsoring a measure that would put North Carolina statute in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that says an IQ score alone cannot be used by a court to determine if someone is intellectually disabled.

That could affect a handful of North Carolina inmates on death row whose sentences could be commuted to life without parole, as it is unlawful to use the death penalty in cases where a person has been determined intellectually disabled.

Senate Bill 594, as amended in the House, also updates the language in that section of the law from "mentally retarded" to "intellectually disabled."

"A lot of people view the term 'mental retardation' as offensive," said Ken Rose, staff attorney for the Durham-based The Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

The Supreme Court also said that the lower courts must consider, in addition to IQ scores, clinical standards, such as the standard error of measurement.

For example, a 70 or below on an IQ test is considered intellectually disabled. However, if someone scores a 71, that does not necessarily mean they are not intellectually disabled, as even with the best tests there is a confidence range of plus or minus 5 points. Additional evidence can also be entered to show one is intellectually disabled.

"However," Rose said, "the courts in Florida hadn't applied it in that way. What the U.S. Supreme Court says is the Florida courts were acting unconstitutionally ... A lot more people than should have been were getting the death penalty in Florida with intellectual disabilities."

Even before the Hall v. Florida March ruling by the high court, states were supposed to look at adaptive functioning in addition to IQ tests in determining intellectual disability, said Greda Stein, the center's director for public information.

Some North Carolina judges did and others did not, she said.

"We too have a lot of cases that might otherwise be excluded where they used an improper definition," Rose added.

Rose said that while the center has not researched the matter thoroughly, he estimates that a couple of people currently on death row could be affected by the retroactive ruling.

Davis, a Wilmington attorney, said he sponsored the language to make North Carolina's statute in line with the Supreme Court ruling.

"So the bill basically puts into our state statute what the U.S. Supreme Court has already clarified so that judges have clearer guidelines to follow," said Corye Dunn, director of public policy for Disability Rights North Carolina.

The bill, which includes a number of other measures, passed the House but has stalled in the Senate.

(source: Star News Online)


California court confirms futility of the death penalty

Yesterday, a California court confirmed what we have known in North Carolina for years: The death penalty is so dysfunctional as to be not just unconstitutional, but futile.

The ruling said of a system in which inmates sit on death row for decades, and only a tiny percentage of those sentenced to death are ever executed:

"... for too long now, the promise has been an empty one ... It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed."

Lest anyone offer the "simple" solution of executing people more quickly, let's pause to remember the more than 140 innocent people who have been freed from death row. 7 of them were in North Carolina, and some spent more than a decade on death row before their innocence was recognized.

North Carolina's system is no different from California's. Since 1977, when the modern death penalty began, nearly 400 men and women have been sentenced to death, and only 43 have been executed.

Of the 153 people currently on death row, 126 - more than 80 %! - have been there over a decade. Of those, 34 have been there more than 2 decades.

And we can guarantee this: If any of those 153 is executed, it won't be because of rational factors such as the severity of the crime. Instead, the candidates will be chosen based on such random criteria as: Who is so mentally ill as to have given up his appeals? Whose lawyer made a mistake or missed a deadline that doomed him?

The California judge - who, we should note, is a conservative Republican appointed by George W. Bush - gave voice to what those who work on death penalty cases have seen for years: Who lives and who dies in this system becomes more arbitrary at every step of the process.

The threat of a possible execution sometime in the distant future does not prevent crime. (But it does cost millions of dollars a year.)

North Carolina has rightly become queasy about executing people, which is the reason we haven't had an execution since 2006. The California decision is yet another sign that we should pay attention to that gut feeling and end the farce of capital punishment.



Man faces death penalty for torture, robbery

An Alabama man is facing a possible death sentence after being convicted of torturing an elderly Florida Panhandle man to death.

A Bay County jury found 29-year-old Kevin Jeffries guilty Thursday of 1st-degree murder, armed robbery and armed burglary. The same panel will reconvene to recommend life in prison or the death penalty. A judge will make the final decision.

Authorities say Jeffries, his fiancee 29-year-old Nicole Griffin and his cousin 28-year-old David Ian Challender broke into 90-year-old Wallace Scott's Lynn Haven home in April 2013. Prosecutors say Jeffries and Challender tortured Scott to get his ATM card pin before killing him.

The News Herald ( ) reports that Griffin previously received 20 years for 2nd-degree murder as part of a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Jeffries and Challender.

Challender's trial is scheduled for September.

(source: Associated Press)


Justices have outstanding records, should be retained

As a prosecutor in this state now for more than 37 years, I have seen more victims of crime than I care to count. These are victims of terrible crimes, and many times these victims have no one to speak for them but the state and nothing else to protect them but our Tennessee and U.S. constitutions.

Sometimes victims feel the courts fail them, because laws don't rise up to meet the crime. For many years my fellow prosecutors and I have pleaded with our lawmakers for harsher penalties to ensure that those who commit crimes are properly penalized. The enactment of those penalties and of all of our laws lies within the General Assembly.

Our police and sheriffs' departments, we prosecutors, and those in the judiciary don't make the laws. We must all follow them and do our best to enforce them.

That is exactly what Justice Connie Clark, Justice Sharon Lee and Chief Justice Gary Wade have done in our Tennessee Supreme Court. They each took a solemn oath to uphold our state and federal constitutions and the laws passed by our General Assembly, including the penalties for capital crimes.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of current and retired prosecutors from across Tennessee joined to announce our support for these three justices, and perhaps more importantly, a Tennessee Supreme Court that is fair, impartial and free of politics. We know these three justices to have outstanding records, and we also know that when the other side launched a political attack saying they are "soft on crime," that is just not true.

While as prosecutors we may have different views on some of the cases or rulings, we can all agree that Justices Clark, Lee and Chief Justice Wade have upheld about 90 % of the death penalty cases that have come before them. That is 9 out of 10, and by anyone's math, that is a high rate. They have protected our individual rights as Tennesseans, and they have protected our rights to be safe in our homes and in our communities.

Personally, I understand that all 3 of these justices protect our rights under our Tennessee and U.S. constitutions and they are tough on criminals. They are fair and impartial judges. They have kept our Supreme Court a politics-free zone. That is all I need to know. All 3 of these justices should be retained.

(source: Column; Tom P. Thompson Jr. of the 15th Judicial District is Tennessee's longest-serving district attorney general at 37 years, possibly making him the nation’s longest-serving prosecutor. He is currently running unopposed for another 8-year term serving Wilson, Smith, Macon, Jackson and Trousdale counties----The Tennessean)


Jury gives former death row inmate life sentence

A former death row inmate was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Wednesday.

The jury of 9 women and 3 men settled on the sentence for Frank Williams Jr., 47, the Texarkana Gazette reported ( ). Williams was convicted more than 20 years ago for the 1992 fatal shooting of farmer Clyde Spence in Lafayette County. The state's highest court overturned Williams' original death sentence in 2011, citing problems with the original sentencing, and sent the case back to the trial court for another look at the punishment.

"We respect the jury's decision and appreciate their service," prosecuting attorney Carlton Jones said.

The jury in Miller County was only charged with deciding Williams' punishment. The case was moved there from Lafayette County because of pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors sought another death sentence for Williams, saying the Spence family was still suffering from the killing.

But attorneys for Williams argued earlier this week that their client was mentally disabled. State and federal laws prohibit the death penalty for offenders who are mentally disabled.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys differed slightly in their accounts of what happened the night Spence died in Bradley.

Prosecutors said Williams killed Spence after Spence fired him for damaging a tractor. Defense attorneys said Williams had gone to Spence's house to talk to him, then made a bad decision when he saw handgun on the counter inside.

(source: Associated Press)


Court vacates death penalty in Great Bend murder, orders resentencing

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday vacated the death penalty sentence of Sidney Gleason for a 2004 double murder in Great Bend, sending the case back to the lower court for resentencing.

The court also threw out Gleason's 1st-degree murder conviction in the case, finding it duplicative, thus also vacating Gleason's "hard 50" sentence.

Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts sentenced Gleason to death in August 2006 for the 2004 shooting deaths of Mikiala "Miki" Martinez and Darren Wornkey. Gleason shot and killed Wornkey outside of his home in Great Bend Feb. 21, 2004. Then he and Damian Thompson kidnapped Martinez from the scene and drove her into the country, where Thompson strangled and shot her, dumping her body in a tree row.

Prosecutors had argued during Gleason's 3 week trial that he and Thompson became fearful that Martinez planned to talk to law enforcement about an earlier botched robbery attempt in which Martinez was a witness.

Thompson reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that resulted in a life sentence, avoiding the death penalty.

The court, in a 106-page divided opinion, found aggravating circumstances supporting Gleason's death sentence legally valid and the evidence sufficient, but found the district court failed to properly instruct the jury on mitigating circumstances and that "a reasonable likelihood exists that this erroneous instruction precluded the jury from considering relevant mitigating evidence."

Because it vacated the death sentence, remanding it back to the lower court, the justices declined to consider Gleason's "constitutional and statutory challenges to his death sentence."

In Kansas, the death penalty may be imposed only if the jury "unanimously finds beyond a reasonable doubt" that there are aggravating circumstances, and that the aggravating circumstances aren't outweighed by mitigating circumstances.

The state presented four aggravating circumstances, while the defense offered at least nine mitigating circumstances.

At issue was whether the jury understood the level of burden attached to the mitigating circumstances, which is less than required for the aggravating circumstances.

Specially, the court found the jury, during the penalty phase of the capital murder trial, should have been instructed that: "(1) mitigating circumstances need to be proved only to the satisfaction of the individual juror in the juror's sentencing decision and not beyond a reasonable doubt, and (2) mitigating circumstances do not need to be found by all members of the jury in order to be considered in an individual juror's sentencing decision."

"Further, we agree with Gleason that... the instructions as a whole in this case exacerbated rather than cured the instructional error. Namely, the instructions repeatedly emphasized the State's burden to prove the existence of aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt and to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the death penalty should be imposed. Conversely, the instructions never informed or explained to the jury that no particular burden of proof applied to mitigating circumstances. Thus ... Gleason's jury was left to speculate as to the correct burden of proof for mitigating circumstances, and reasonable jurors might have believed they could not consider mitigating circumstances not proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

The jury also convicted Gleason of separate charges of 1st-degree premeditated murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and criminal possession of a firearm, and Kitts sentenced Gleason to a consecutive sentence of life with no possibility of parole for 50 years.

The Supreme Court affirmed the other convictions except 1st-degree murder, which it noted is a lesser-included offense of capital murder, and when arising from a double murder is "multiplicitous" with capital murder. It vacated that conviction and the corresponding life sentence with no parole for at least 50 years.



No humor in wrongful execution

Missouri has received growing criticism of its secrecy laws around the lethal injection procedure. Recently Governor Jay Nixon was the recipient of the "Golden Padlock" award by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). The designation by the national journalism organization is given to a U.S. agency or individual deemed most secretive in its dealings.

Missouri has shrouded its execution process in secrecy, and the state Legislature backed it up with laws that mete out punishment to those who dare expose any aspect of the protocol, from what types of drugs are used to who administers the drugs.

IRE used satire to raise the unethical and maybe unconstitutional claims about Missouri's execution protocol. The satirical honor is just part of what has now become a national obsession – demanding transparency of a process that is paid for by public dollars.

The Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Springfield News-Leader, Associated Press and The Guardian U.S. joined forces earlier this year to file a suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections. They argued that the department violates the First Amendment in its refusal to identify the sources of lethal drugs the state uses to execute citizens.

Meanwhile, the death machine keeps on cranking. There was a pause in the action when Russell Bucklew and his attorneys were successful in their efforts to halt his execution because of a rare birth condition that in essence creates exploding veins. This could've been disastrous during his execution, given that we don't know what's in the drugs used for lethal injection. It could be anti-freeze for all we know. After the botched execution in Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court didn't want to take any chances and halted Bucklew's execution.

Should John Middleton be executed, legitimate issues were ignored. Middleton was scheduled for execution on July 16.

New evidence shows that Middleton couldn't have killed Alfred Pinegar in 1995. His lawyers argue that a state highway patrol provided a forensic scientist with the wrong date on which insect remains were taken from the body. This is key to determining the time of death.

The scientist now says his calculations would show that Pinegar died a day later. One little problem - Middleton was in jail in Iowa on an unrelated charge at that time.

In addition, a new witness has come forward to disclose that he was beaten in front of Pinegar's dead body by some bad guys who told the shaken witness that three people has already been killed and he could be the 4th.

Since each death row case is both unique and complex, they require additional scrutiny, especially when you get to this stage of the deadly game.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other anti-death penalty groups have been on the case to halt executions in any way they can. The state of Missouri has given them ample fodder, with tactics such as meeting execution drug suppliers with a suitcase of cash money at a designated location because the drug dealer was not licensed in Missouri.

I don't believe that you can sanitize the death penalty; for me, it's wrong on so many levels. But for the people who believe it has some value in a civilized society, they have to be just as committed as I am to making sure the correct person has been identified to die for the crime for which they were convicted and sentenced. Right now, there's reasonable doubt that the grim reapers of Missouri have the right man in their clutches.

What happens next will determine if the state is about justice – or misplaced vengeance.

(source: Jamala Rogers, Column, St. Louis American)


Judge sets new Dec. 8 trial date for James Holmes

Defendant James Holmes had been scheduled go on trial in October, but District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. ordered a delay because a doctor requested more time to complete Holmes' 2nd sanity evaluation.

Samour announced the new date Wednesday.

Separately, Samour ordered prosecutors to clarify a statement they made to victims, saying it could be misinterpreted as telling them there was no need to speak to defense lawyers, even if they had something to tell them.

Holmes, 26, a former graduate student in neuroscience, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack.

Holmes' lawyers acknowledge he was the shooter but argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

More than 400 people were watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora at the time.

Holmes underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last year. The key findings haven't been released, but prosecutors charged that the doctor who conducted it was biased.

After a closed-door hearing in January, Samour concluded that the first evaluation was flawed and ordered a new one.

This is Holmes' 4th trial date. The 1st date, in August 2013, was canceled after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty, raising numerous issues that had to be resolved before trial. The 2nd, in February of this year, was scratched after prosecutors asked for the 2nd sanity evaluation.

The 3rd was Oct. 14, which the judge vacated last week after the doctor requested an extension.

Samour ordered the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office to clarify a May 8 email that one prosecutor sent to victims, telling them they could express their opinions through the DA's office as well as - or better than - they could by speaking to the defense.

The judge rejected defense attorneys' allegation that this was improper interference by prosecutors, but he said the email should have been worded better and must be clarified.

Prosecutors wanted Samour to punish prosecutors by ruling out the death penalty, prohibiting victims from testifying at the punishment phase of the trial if Holmes is convicted or by disqualifying the Arapahoe County DA's office from the case.

Samour also rejected a defense request to see all the emails and letters prosecutors sent to victims.

In a letter to Samour released Thursday, the doctor who will conduct the 2nd evaluation said he wants to videotape the examination because it will provide a more accurate and thorough record than handwritten notes.

The doctor, whose name has not been released, also said the videotape could be destroyed after his report is complete.

Holmes' lawyers don't want the doctor to videotape the examination, arguing state law doesn't authorize it and that it could "interfere with the integrity" of the exam.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Death row inmate seeks reprieve from execution

Attorneys for an Arizona death row inmate have asked a federal appeals court to give their client a reprieve from his July 23 execution while they litigate an appeal on his behalf.

Inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a decision last week from a lower court judge who rejected arguments that his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to reveal the drugmakers and other details.

Wood's lawyers say the information will promote confidence in the courts system.

The state's lawyers say Wood doesn't have a right to the information he is seeking.

Wood is scheduled to be executed for the 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)


AZ Death Row Inmate Appeals To 9th Circuit

A federal court of appeals will hear an Arizona death row inmate's case tomorrow. Attorneys for the man said they want the state to reveal details of the execution process.

On Friday morning, Joseph Rudolph Wood's attorneys will argue before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to delay his execution while they file an appeal on his behalf. They want the federal court to overturn a lower court's decision.

A judge last week rejected the 55-year-old's argument that his First Amendment rights were violated when Arizona refused to reveal the maker of the state's lethal injection drugs and other details of his execution.

State prosecutors say Wood does not have a right to the information. He's scheduled to be executed July 23rd for the 1989 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father Eugene Dietz in Tucson.

(source: KJZZ news)


Discourse on the death penalty

Utah Valley University's English and philosophy departments hosted a one-day conference for Lawrence Schiller, photojournalist, acclaimed filmmaker and director of the Norman Mailer Center.

The conference included a screening of Schiller's film, The Executioner's Song, an Emmy award winning film that details the execution of Gary Gilmore, the 1st person to receive capital punishment after a national moratorium on the practice was lifted.

Nearly 40 years ago (July 19 and 20, 1976) Gary Gilmore robbed and murdered a gas station attendant and a motel manager in Utah Valley. Schiller, working independently of a network, contacted Gilmore after the announcement of the verdict and negotiated to purchase his life rights. With help from Norman Mailer, Schiller wrote the book The Executioner's Song and later directed and produced the film.

In 1976, the United States Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constitutional and states rewrote their capital punishment statutes. Gilmore was the first in the US to receive the death penalty after the reinstatement. Gilmore refused an appeal and accepted his fate. He and his girlfriend, a mother of 2, further shocked the valley with a failed suicide pact. His life ended by firing squad on January 17, 1977.

"For some reason, I was drawn to the edge of anti-social behavior," said Schiller, of his story choice. Anti-social behavior has been a theme in many of his films. At the end of Gilmore's life and in the months after the execution, Schiller conducted 2 or 3 interviews a week for weeks with people close to the case to get enough details. He fought against standards and practices to keep in brands and obscene language to make each scene "smell right."

A panel entitled, "Why Utah Valley Cannot Forget The Executioner's Song" featured UVU Professor Karin Anderson; Michael Palmer, PhD candidate at Texas Tech University; UVU Associate Professor Nancy Evans Rushforth and Attorney Rich Roberts. After the screening, Schiller addressed the audience and answered questions.

"As a region, we are obsessed with genealogy and inheritance and we like to know the way the past forms the present," said Palmer. Utah Valley is not known for high crime, but it cannot forget the violent crimes that have been committed.

Rushforth discussed the national history of the death penalty and said that Utah Valley is not exempt from the discussion of the death penalty. "Especially in this beautiful, peaceful valley embraced by mountains, we believe we are protected here - by our geography and our philosophy. We believe that we are safe," said Rushforth.

Roberts discussed the organic intellectual, the humanity of the case in detail and said that the legality of capital punishment should be reconsidered. 2 of the Supreme Court Justices, Lewis F. Powell and Harry A. Blackmun, who had supported capital punishment in 1976 have since recanted their support.

"A serious study of the text provides meaningful, relevant paths to further the analysis of difficult, ethical, political, theoretical issues; to question our own morality, to challenge our continued complicity in systematic failures," said Roberts, of the book.

In Utah, death row inmates are executed by lethal injection. A law change abolished the firing squad in 2004, but an inmate can still be executed by that method if they selected it before May 2004. 31 states currently allow the death penalty (a federal judge ruled California's death penalty unconstitutional on July 16, 2014, and an appeal is expected).

The film will be shown again at the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E. 400 S.), Friday, July 18, at 7:00 p.m.

(source: Utah Valley University Review)


Death penalty ruling raises questions, worries for local family

Danielle Gonzales is confused, and she admits she's worried about a ruling by a federal judge that found California's death penalty system to be unconstitutional.

"What does that mean for my case?" said Gonzales.

Ruling in the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones of Los Angeles, a prisoner who was condemned in 1994 for the rape and murder of Julia Miller, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney found that California's death penalty system is riddled with disproportionate and unpredictable delays resulting in a system that is arbitrary.

Carney said the death penalty system is unconstitutional and overturned Jones' death sentence.

Kern County woman Gonzales is worried if the ruling may impact the murder case of her sister, 36-year-old Yvette Pena.

In November 2011, Pena was found dead at the El Morroco Motel on Golden State Avenue. Pena, a mother of 6, had been stabbed numerous times.

A few days later, 23-year-old Jaime Osuna was arrested and charge with Pena's murder.

Osuna is awaiting trail and is facing the death penalty. Gonzales worried Osuna might find a way to escape the death penalty if he is convicted in the murder of her sister.

"I feel it sets a precedent and opens up a Pandora's box," said Gonzales. "If they considered it unconstitutional for this one case, everyone else whose sitting on death row wants to jump in on that."

More than 900 inmates have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but just 13 have been executed. Several inmates on death row are from Kern County.

"I would assume that individuals who believe that the death penalty should not be imposed will use this case as a starting point to make arguments in other cases," said Mike Yraceburn with the Kern County District Attorney's Office.

But, it's unclear if others on death row or those awaiting sentencing to death row will be directly impacted by the recent court ruling.

"Those impacts are unknown," said Yraceburn, who expects the state to appeal in a case that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Until the Supreme Court speaks, I don't think this issue will be resolved."

(source: Bakersfield Now)


End the death penalty

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney has ruled that California's death penalty system is unconstitutional because executions are now so rare as to be arbitrary.

Of the approximately 900 people sentenced to death in California since voters reinstated the death penalty is 1978, only 13 have been killed. Judge Carney concludes the dysfunctional system violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

I found the 29-page ruling fascinating. Here's the ending:

"When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it an implicit promise from the State that it will actually be carried out. That promise is made to the citizens of the State, who are investing significant resources in furtherance of a punishment that they believe is necessary to achieving justice.

"It is made to jurors who, in exercise of their civic responsibility, are asked to hear about and see evidence of undeniably horrific crimes, and then participate in the agonizing deliberations over whether the perpetrators of those horrific crimes should be put to death.

"It is made to victims and their loved ones, for whom just punishment might provide some semblance of moral and emotional closure from an otherwise unimaginable loss. And it is made to the hundreds of individuals on death row, as a statement their crimes are so heinous they have forfeited their right to life.

"But for too long now, the promise has been an empty one. Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State.

"It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional."

It takes an average of 25 years after a death row inmate is sentenced before he can make it through the appeals process and become eligible to be executed. If by some miracle the state could fix the system, Judge Carney notes, California would have to execute 1 inmate every week for 14 years to kill the 748 inmates now of death row.

(source: Opinion, James Folmar; The Desert Sun)


Our Voice: California's death penalty system is unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney has ruled that California's death penalty system is unconstitutional because executions are so rare.

Of the approximately 900 people sentenced to death in California since voters bolstered the death penalty in 1978, only 13 have been killed. Judge Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, concludes the dysfunctional system violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Judge Carney ruled on a case brought by an inmate against the warden of San Quentin state prison, where death row is located. He found it takes 3 to 5 years for a death penalty inmate to be assigned an attorney, and years for the attorney to analyze the trial record - which can be as long at 9,000 pages - and prepare an appeal to the California Supreme Court. He cites a 2008 state commission report that concludes the attorneys are underpaid, which adds to the delay.

"Systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," the ruling says. "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

It takes an average of 25 years after a death row inmate is sentenced to get through the appeals process. If the system could be fixed, Judge Carney notes, California would have to execute one inmate every week for 14 years to kill the 748 inmates now on death row.

In 1978, more than 71 % of California voters supported a proposition to expand the death penalty.

But in 2006, another federal judge ruled that the state's lethal injection system created the risk that an inmate would suffer extreme pain while being executed. He also ruled that San Quinten's gas chamber was too cramped and dark for the injections to be carried out properly.

8 years later, a new execution chamber has been built and procedures have been modified, but the courts have not approved them. No executions have been held since.

Where Judge Carney's decision goes from here is uncertain. Attorney General Kamala Harris could ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case. If that court upholds the decision, it could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

2 years ago, California voters rejected a proposition that would have replaced the death penalty with an ironclad guarantee of life in prison - 48 % yes and 52 % no. The Desert Sun supported the End the Death Penalty Initiative and we still believe it's better than California's dysfunctional system. Since 1978, California has spent $4 billion on death penalty cases. Ending the death penalty could save the state more than $100 million a year.

Inmates spend an average of 34 years on death row. Most die of old age. In the absence of timely justice, California may as well join 17 states, the District of Columbia and 139 countries that have outlawed the death penalty.

Judge Carney is right. The long-delayed and abysmal rate of executions provides no deterrent to offenders and no closure for the victims' families.

(source: The Desert Sun Editorial Board)


Supposed murder victims turn up alive in South Sudan

2 refugees have identified themselves in Maban County of South Sudan as men whom Sudanese prosecutors said were murdered.

During the trial of an alleged SPLM-N rebel supporter in Sudan, Min Allah Husain, prosecutors said that he killed 2 men called Sard Wed El Jamel and Mohamed Englizi.

Min Allah earlier this month was sentenced to death by a court in Sennar.

But the 2 refugees denied that Min Allah was a murderer, saying they are still alive and currently living in refugee camps in Maban County in South Sudan's Upper Nile state.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj from 1 of the camps, the 2 men said they hadn't been killed by Min Allah Hussein who is still behind bars in Kober Prison waiting for the execution of the death penalty.

Mohammed Englizi explained that they have a blood relationship with the accused, saying he does not have any problem him at all.

For his part, Sard Wad El Jamel confirmed that he is living in Jendrasa camp, saying he had not been killed by the convict.

"I assure you that nobody from my relatives went to open to the authorities to open a case on the matter against Min Allah," he explained.

The 2 men on the victims list called on the Sudanese security operatives and the judiciary to release Min Allah immediately.

Another 4 persons whom prosecutors said Min Allah had killed reportedly actually attended the trial to prove that they are still alive and none of them was killed.



Singapore hangs 2 drug traffickers, first executions in over 3 years

Singapore hanged 2 men convicted of drug trafficking on Friday, the 1st executions carried out in the city-state for more than 3 years while the country reviewed its use of the death penalty.

Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, both from Singapore, were executed at Changi Prison according to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), having been convicted of trafficking heroin.

Singapore put a halt to all executions in July 2011 while it reviewed its use of the mandatory death penalty and now allows judges to have more discretion in certain cases.

Last November, it lifted the death penalty on a convicted drug trafficker for the 1st time.

When the review took place, all people on death row were allowed to ask to be considered for re-sentencing, though the CNB said Tang and Foong both said they did not want to be considered.

"Tang Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng had been accorded full due process," the CNB said.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty, a group of non-governmental organisations, said they believed the executions should not have taken place given another drug offender is making a constitutional challenge against the anti-drug laws.

"It was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided," they said in a statement.

"The executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore," they added.

Singapore has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world, and its customs forms warn arriving travellers of "death for drug traffickers" in no uncertain terms.

It has hanged hundreds of people - including dozens of foreigners - for narcotics offenses in the last 2 decades, Amnesty International and other groups say.

(source: Reuters)


Convicts executed despite constitutional challenge in the courts

On Friday, 18 July 2014, the Singapore Government carried out the execution of 2 convicts at the Changi Prisons Complex.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) confirmed the hanging today.

The executions were carried out despite The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty, a coalition of non-governmental groups, having written to the President to grant a stay of execution, pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge currently before the courts with regards to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The group says it is "deeply unjust" to have the two men executed before the constitutional challenge was decided.

Here is the statement by the Working group on the executions:

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty deeply regrets, and is gravely disappointed at the executions of 2 individuals that took place today, 18th of July 2014. Inmates Foong Chee Peng, 48, and Tang Hai Liang, 36, were hanged at dawn this morning. Both men were convicted of drug trafficking.

These 2 executions bring to an end the moratorium that has been in place since July 2011, when the government commenced an internal review of the mandatory death penalty laws. This review took place without any public consultation nor has it been made available for public scrutiny. Subsequently, the changes were passed by Parliament in the exact form proposed by the government in July 2012, despite various warnings about their potential problems.

We also wish to highlight that there is an ongoing application filed by another drug offender before the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act because it violates Article 12 of our Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on the 18th of August later this year.

Given the fact that the constitutional challenge to the amendments could have a potential bearing on the lawfulness of Foong and Tang's executions, it was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided.

The injustice is compounded by the fact that we had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday to highlight this situation and urged for an urgent stay of execution until our courts have decided on this constitutional challenge at the very least.

Finally, the executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore. The death penalty has not been proven to be a more useful deterrent against crime than alternative forms of punishment. Moreover, once carried out, miscarriages of justice cannot be remedied.

We therefore reiterate our calls for the government to impose a moratorium on all executions and move towards the abolition of capital punishment in Singapore.

We believe in Second Chances

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign

Think Center Singapore


Below is an email sent by the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty to the President at 8.30 pm, Thursday, 17th of July 2014, urging the President to exercise his powers to stay the executions of the death row inmates:

Your Excellency,

We are a coalition of local non-governmental organizations that work closely with the families of death row inmates and advocate against capital punishment in Singapore.

We have been just informed from various sources that there are 2 death row inmates condemned to death arising from drug trafficking who will be executed tomorrow morning at 6am. We wish to highlight to your excellency that there is an application before the court (criminal motion 40/2014) that seeks to challenge the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act - that it violates Article 12 of the Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on 18th August at 10am.

In light of the above constitutional challenge which will have a bearing on the lawfulness of the impending executions tomorrow, we strongly urge your excellency to stay their executions pending the outcome of the above application, failing which the 2 executions scheduled will be deemed unlawful.

We would appreciate if you could respond to us, concerned citizens, on an urgent basis as we wait with anxiety for your confirmation that you will stay the execution.

Yours Sincerely,

1)We believe in second chances

2)Singapore Anti Death Penalty

3)Think Center

(source: The Online Citizen)


Tanigaki vows internship revamp, foreign-friendly policies

Addressing the foreign press, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to revamping the foreign trainee program, which critics say is rife with human rights violations.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Tanigaki trumpeted a range of initiatives Japan is undertaking to turn itself into a less discriminatory country, including one to lure more "highly skilled foreign professionals" to the world's 3rd-largest economy and an overhaul of the so-called technical internship program.

Tanigaki said the Justice Ministry began reviewing proposals submitted by a private panel of outside experts last month, including suggestions to stiffen penalties for any employers found to be mistreating interns, such as by underpaying or abusing them.

Another proposal suggested allowing rule-abiding, conscientious employers to bring in larger volumes of trainees and having them stay longer.

"I'd like to assure you that the Justice Ministry will work with other related ministries as closely as possible to overhaul the system swiftly," Tanigaki said.

He also emphasized that a bill that cleared the Diet in June will allow foreigners certified as "highly skilled professionals" to qualify for permanent residency after just 3 years.

"We'd like to encourage more foreigners to study and work in Japan because we believe that the contributions of those people from abroad will greatly help invigorate Japan's economy," he said.

But while Tanigaki pledged to roll out the red carpet for non-Japanese, the recent rise in hate speech directed at ethnic Korean residents has cast doubt on the nation's ability to make them feel welcome.

Tanigaki said that such incidents are "very embarrassing," and described the phenomenon as a sign that Japanese are becoming less confident in themselves.

The Osaka High Court handed down a verdict earlier this month in which it ordered a right-wing organization that repeatedly vilified Korean schoolchildren in Kyoto from 2009 to 2010 to pay 12 million yen in damages, and denounced its hateful rallies as "vulgar."

Japan has no law that specifically bans racial discrimination or hate speech.

Tanigaki, who is a Kyoto native, said he would carefully consider the ruling in deciding whether Japan should attempt to outlaw racist speech.

As for the death penalty, he reiterated that the government doesn't intend to review the system anytime soon because of its solid public support. But he said he is aware the global trend is shifting toward abolishment.

Asked what crosses his mind each time he signs off on an execution, Tanigaki said: "It's true what those people did is unforgivable and extremely cruel. But I've noticed, as I leaf through their records, that those criminals often come from a very unhappy childhood."

(source: The Japan Times)


EU Moves to Abolish Death Penalty in Nigeria

The European Union, EU, yesterday, urged Nigeria to explore other alternatives to death penalty, saying it had commenced moves to secure the release of 88 inmates sentenced to death by different courts across the federation.

The EU, which made the call at the official release of a report on cases of death penalty in Nigeria from since 2011 by an international human right body, Avocats Sans Frontieres France, ASFF, also known as Lawyers Without Borders, said it had, through the Saving Lives, SALI, project, succeeded in securing freedom for 35 inmates facing the death penalty.

The Head, Political Governance and Democracy Section of the EU delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Mr. Alan Munday, insisted that the death penalty ought to have been abolished in the country, "especially in view of the imperfect legal system in existence.

"Under the SALI project, the enforcement of certain rights has been brought to the fore.

"The case of Maimuna Abdulmumini, accused of murder when she was 13 years old and sentenced to death while nursing an infant emphasises this."

"Her case highlighted the rights of minors under both regional and international laws and secured a victory through the judgment awarding damages as given by the ECOWAS Court of Justice."

(source: The Vanguard)


Law Commission Report on 'Death Penalty'----A Chance to Overcome Incoherence in Indian Jurisprudence?

Vol - XLIX No. 29, July 19, 2014 | Suhrith Parthasarathy----Commentary

Indian jurisprudence is at a place today where we are neither sure of the deterrent effect of the death penalty nor as to when it ought to be awarded. Whichever way one wants to look at it, the death penalty serves no reasonable penological purpose. The only objective that it seems to fulfil is the aberrant sense of catharsis that it offers to a public baying for blood. Perhaps, the Law Commission's new report will serve to provide the research for a fresh constitutional challenge. And perhaps the Supreme Court will, on this occasion, play its true role as a counter-majoritarian institution.

The penalty of death differs from all other forms of criminal punishment, not in degree but in kind. It is unique in its total irrevocability. It is unique in its rejection of rehabilitation of the convict as a basic purpose of criminal justice. And it is unique, finally, in its absolute renunciation of all that is embodied in our concept of humanity. - Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court in Furman vs Georgia.1

Of all the arguments to be made against the death penalty it is the punishment's inglorious irrevocability that is most resonant. On 4 May 1996, Ravji Rao was hanged to death by the state of Rajasthan just over three years after he had committed the murder of his pregnant wife and 3 children. Rao's sentence had been confirmed by the Supreme Court of India, only months earlier. The Court in Ravji alias Ram Chandra vs State of Rajasthan2 had found Rao's crime so brutal that his economic and social status was, to it, irrelevant in determining his sentence. "It is the nature and gravity of the crime but not the criminal", wrote the Court, "which are germane for consideration of appropriate punishment in a criminal trial." Only, the Court was wrong.

In 2009, in Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs State of Maharashtra,3 the Supreme Court declared its judgment in Ravji per incuriam. According to justice S B Sinha, Ravji was rendered in ignorance of law and binding precedent. The conclusion in Ravji's case that it is only the characteristic of a crime, to the complete exclusion of the social and economic status of a criminal, which ought to be relevant in sentencing a convict, was, according to Sinha, palpably erroneous. It ran counter, Sinha noted, to the diktats of Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab,4 which remains the central law governing capital punishment in India. Here, the Supreme Court had ruled that in fixing the degree of punishment or making the choice of sentence for various offences... the court should not confine its consideration 'principally' or merely to the circumstances connected with the particular crime, but also give due consideration to the circumstances of the criminal.

The consequences of Ravji were disastrous. At least 15 criminals had been sentenced to death as a result of the decision, and for 2 of them - Rao and Ram - the Supreme Court's admission of its own error had come too late.

Since Bariyar, which brought out the inherent flaw in Ravji, the court has observed in several decisions that the effects of following Ravji had deeply blemished the court's sentencing policy.5 In Sangeet vs State of Haryana,6 for example, the court pointed out that even after its declaration that Ravji had been erroneously decided, it had continued to render irrelevant a criminal's socio-economic background in determining the sentences of numerous convicts. For instance, in Mohd Mannan vs State of Bihar,7 the court, in referring merely to the nature of the crime - which in this case was a brutal rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl - confirmed the award of the death sentence. "When the crime is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community and when collective conscience of the community is petrified", wrote the court, "one has to lean towards the death sentence".

The penological disaster brewed by Ravji even promoted a group of 14 former judges of the Supreme Court and various high courts to make an extraordinary appeal to the President of India.8 In a letter dated 1 July 2012, the group implored the government to commute the sentences of 13 persons in seven different cases to life imprisonment. Capital punishment in each of their cases, the retired judges pointed out, had been awarded based on a now-admittedly flawed application of the law. "This matter goes to the very heart of our Constitution and the system of democratic government", they wrote, "because it involves the taking of lives by the state on the basis of judgments admitted to be erroneous by the Supreme Court."

The moral confusion wrought in the minds of India's judges by decisions such as Ravji has since extended to other areas of bureaucratic concern. Recently, the Supreme Court had to intervene to commute to life imprisonment the sentences of 15 convicts on the death row. In Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India9 the Court ruled that an unreasonable delay in disposing a mercy petition filed by a person on the death row was tantamount to torture, and was valid ground for commuting his or her death sentence.10 For instance, in the case of Gurmeet Singh, one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court, there had been a delay of more than 7 years in the disposal of his mercy petition by the governor and the president. As a result, Singh had spent 26 years in custody - more than double what most convicts sentenced to life imprisonment undergo.

Law Commission Report

It is these decisions - in Chauhan, which shows that the process adopted by the executive in disposing mercy petitions filed by death row convicts is often arbitrary and capricious, and Bariyar and Sangeet, which show the vagaries and uncertainties of India's penology - that have now prompted the Law Commission of India to review the country's capital punishment laws. There is, the commission believes, a woeful lack of research on the issue of death penalty in India in spite of the glaring iniquities highlighted in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. In a consultation paper released on 24 May, the Commission notes,

The state of research on the application of death penalty law by the judiciary is so inadequate that chances of an informed and rigorous policy analysis on this issue are seriously impeded. A constitutional challenge if and when taken up by the Supreme Court or a legislative change in the law will be ill served in the present environment of lack of study on the issue.

With a view to furthering the analysis on the subject, the commission has invited views from the general public. Once it receives these views, it will proceed to study data relating to the death penalty collected from various trial courts, high courts and the Supreme Court to arrive at its final report.

The commission's work is likely to be of particular importance because a previous constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court ended in failure. It is this decision in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab,11 which serves as bedrock to the entire gamut of death penalty jurisprudence in India. Here, the validity of 2 provisions was in question: Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 insofar as it imposed the sentence of death for crimes of murder, and Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, which in prescribing the procedure for the award of a death sentence, according to the petitioners, invested the Court with unguided and untrammelled discretion.12

The challenges in Bachan Singh were made on three primary grounds. First, the death penalty infracted the six freedoms comprised in Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Since capital punishment served no clearly identifiable social purpose, and since its deterrent effects were unproven, at best, it was argued that it could not represent a reasonable restriction on the right to human dignity of an individual. Second, it was contended by the petitioners that capital punishment contravened the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21. Post Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India,13 the procedure established by law through which the right to life and personal liberty could be curtailed had to be just, fair and reasonable. In other words, our Constitution, according to the Supreme Court, guaranteed not merely procedural but also substantive due process. And the death penalty, the petitioners in Bachan Singh argued, was opposed to the fundamental tenets of due process - which required the state to treat each person's life with equal importance. Third, and finally, it was argued that the vice of arbitrariness permeated the law of capital punishment in India. In bestowing the court an unhindered discretion in determining when to grant the ultimate sentence, the law, according to the petitioners, violated Article 14 and its guarantee of equality.

The majority of judges in Bachan Singh, however, rejected each of these submissions.14 Curiously, the Court concluded that penal laws could almost never infract the rights mentioned in Article 19(1). As Justice Sarkaria wrote,

It cannot, reasonably or rationally, be contended that any of the rights mentioned in Article 19(1) of the Constitution confers the freedom to commit murder or, for the matter of that, the freedom to commit any offence whatsoever. Therefore, penal laws, that is to say, laws which define offences and prescribe punishment for the commission of offences do not attract the application of Article 19(1).

Second, the Court held that neither Section 302 of the IPC, which allowed courts to sentence people to death for committing murder, nor Section 354(3) of the CrPC, violated Article 21. The Constitution's framers, Sarkaria wrote, were conscious of the existence of death penalty for murder.15 Therefore, even if the death penalty violated a person's right to life, it would be justified so long as the procedure fixing such punishment was just, fair and reasonable, in accordance with Article 21. Here, the procedure encompassed in Section 354(3), which required a judge granting a death sentence to record special reasons for doing so, was, according to the majority in Bachan Singh, in conformity with the Maneka-principles. The guidelines, wrote Sarkaria, were neither arbitrary nor unfair, and they required the court to exercise its discretion in a manner known to law. As a result, neither Section 302 of the IPC nor Section 354(3) of the CrPC violated the fundamental guarantees of Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution.16

However, with a view to guiding the sentencing process, the majority in Bachan Singh further ruled that in cases of murder, the death penalty ought to be the exception as opposed to the rule. Capital punishment, according to the Court, could be inflicted only in the gravest cases of extreme culpability, and in making the choice of the sentence, in addition to the circumstances of the offence, due regard must be paid to the circumstances of the offender, also. "A real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking a life through law's instrumentality", wrote Sarkaria. "That ought not to be done save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed."17

'Rarest of Rare'

This "rarest of rare" doctrine has since transfused death penalty literature in India like a brooding omnipresence. But the doctrine's chief proposition - that the death penalty ought to be awarded sparingly - was diminished by the Supreme Court only a year after Bachan Singh. In Machhi Singh vs State of Punjab,18 a 3-judge bench of the Court fell into a trap that the majority in Bachan Singh had been careful to avoid. It sought to define a "rarest of rare" case by providing concrete examples of different categories of cases where the community's "collective conscience is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty". Each of these categories, however, quite opposed to the diktats of Bachan Singh, focused only on the crime, as opposed to the criminal. These were, respectively, the "manner of commission of murder", the "motive for commission of murder", the "anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime", the "magnitude of crime", and the "personality of victim of murder". In the decades that followed, therefore, although the courts often paid their homage to Bachan Singh's central thesis, they nonetheless relied on Machhi Singh to determine what a rarest of rare case was. Consequently, as opposed to the death sentence being awarded only in cases where the alternative option was foreclosed by a supposed inability to reform the offender, capital punishment was considered the appropriate penalty for murder purely on the basis of the nature and characteristic of the crime.

The Machhi Singh doctrine, as we have seen through cases such as Ravji, quite apart from being contrary to Bachan Singh's edicts, has also ingrained in India's death penalty jurisprudence a confused arbitrariness. In Swami Shraddananda (2) vs State of Karnataka,19 the Supreme Court, for the 1st time, recognised the flaws in Macchi Singh's decision. Justice Aftab Alam, writing on behalf of a 3-judge bench, ruled that the categories framed in Machhi Singh, while useful, could not be taken as "inflexible, absolute or immutable." A year later in Bariyar, Justice Sinha highlighted the particular incoherence bred by Machhi Singh, which had given rise to a state of uncertainty in capital sentencing law that was clearly in foul of constitutional due process. Yet, even after Swami Shraddananda (2) and Bariyar, the courts continue to apply Machhi Singh's conditions as a litmus test, while giving the "rarest of rare" doctrine a complete go-by.

In 2011, for instance, in Ajitsingh Harnamsingh Gujral vs State of Maharashtra,20 a 2-judge bench of the Supreme Court confirmed the award of the death sentence by altogether ignoring the social and economic status of the criminal. Justice Markandey Katju, who wrote the court's opinion, said, in conclusion, that burning living persons to death is a horrible act which causes excruciating pain to the victim, and this could not have been unknown to the Appellant...In our opinion, a person like the Appellant who instead of doing his duty of protecting his family kills them in such a cruel and barbaric manner cannot be reformed or rehabilitated. The balance sheet is heavily against him and accordingly we uphold the death sentence awarded to him.

Curiously, the court in Ajitsingh's case neither cited Bariyar nor thought it fit to justify how the offender in the case was incapable of being reformed. Going by Katju's logic, it is difficult to envisage any rationale for implementing a reformatory system of criminal justice.

Incoherence Persists

The fundamental incoherence in India's death penalty jurisprudence has now been further exacerbated by a new series of Supreme Court verdicts. In February 2013, in Gurvail Singh vs State of Punjab,21 a 2-judge bench of the court supplied a completely new interpretation to Bachan Singh to hold that "to award death sentence, the aggravating circumstances (crime test) have to be fully satisfied and there should be no mitigating circumstance (criminal test) favouring the accused." In other words, unless the crime has been proved to be particularly reprehensible and dastardly, and unless there is nothing in the criminal's background to suggest that he is incapable of being reformed, the death penalty ought not to be awarded. This conclusion in Gurvail Singh has been seemingly augmented by the Supreme Court through its decision in Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs State of Maharashtra.22 However, the opinion of the Court, written by Justice K S Panicker Radhakrishnan, has only confused matters further. Radhakrishnan writes:

To award death sentence, the 'crime test' has to be fully satisfied, that is 100% and 'criminal test' 0%, that is no Mitigating Circumstance favouring the accused. If there is any circumstance favouring the accused, like lack of intention to commit the crime, possibility of reformation, young age of the accused, not a menace to the society no previous track record, etc, the 'criminal test' may favour the accused to avoid the capital punishment. Even, if both the tests are satisfied that is the aggravating circumstances to the fullest extent and no mitigating circumstances favouring the accused, still we have to apply finally the Rarest of Rare Case test (R-R lest). R-R Test depends upon the perception of the society that is 'society centric' and not 'Judge centric' that is, whether the society will approve the awarding of death sentence to certain types of crimes or not. While applying that test, the Court has to look into variety of factors like society's abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to certain types of crimes like sexual assault and murder of minor girls intellectually challenged, suffering from physical disability, old and infirm women with those disabilities, etc. Examples are only illustrative and not exhaustive. Courts award death sentence since situation demands so, due to constitutional compulsion, reflected by the will of the people and not the will of the judges.

Justice Radhakrishnan in his topsy-turvy verdict appears to have misread Bachan Singh's dictum. He seems to hold that the test to determine what constitutes a rarest of rare case is distinct from one which takes into account the socio-economic characteristics of the criminal. He first rules that there ought to be no mitigating circumstance favouring the criminal to award the death penalty, and then, intriguingly, finds that a so-called "R-R test" ought to nonetheless be conducted to see whether society"s abhorrence demands the award of the penalty. Justice Radhakrishnan's conclusion, therefore, contradicts the fundamental thesis that he seeks to originally endorse.

In any event, in a move that seeks to revert the theory of death penalty in India to the Machhi Singh doctrine, the Supreme Court has now held, in Mahesh Dhanaji Shinde vs State of Maharashtra, that the decision in Shankar Kisanrao Khade treads beyond the mandates of Bachan Singh.23 Where this leaves us is not only questionable but also perplexing. We are at a place today where we are neither sure of the deterrent effect of the death penalty nor are we sure of when it ought to be awarded. Whichever way one wants to look at it, the death penalty serves no reasonable penological purpose. The only objective that it seems to fulfil is the aberrant sense of catharsis that it offers to a public baying for blood. The death penalty, howsoever implemented, can never fulfil the demands of constitutional due process. Perhaps, the Law Commission’s report will serve to provide the research for a fresh constitutional challenge. And perhaps the Supreme Court will, on this occasion, play its true role as a counter-majoritarian institution.


1 Furman vs Georgia, 408 US 238 (1972).

2 Ravji alias Ram Chandra vs State of Rajasthan (1996) 2 SCC 275.

3 Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs State of Maharashtra (2009) 6 SCC 498.

4 Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684.

5 See for example: Dilip Tiwari vs State of Maharashtra (2010) 1 SCC 775, Rajesh Kumar vs State (2011) 13 SCC 706, Sangeet vs State of Haryana (2013) 2 SCC 452; Mohinder vs State of Punjab (2013) 3 SCC 294.

6 Sangeet vs State of Haryana (2013) 2 SCC 452.

7 Mohammad Mannan vs State of Bihar (2011) 5 SCC 317.

8 V Venkatesan, "A Case against the Death Penalty", fl2917/&prd=fline& (last visited: 18 June 2014).

9 Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India (2014) 3 SCC 1.

10 The dictum in Chauhan was followed by the Supreme Court in V Sriharan vs Union of India (2014) 4 SCC 242. Here, a 3-judge bench commuted to life imprisonment the death sentences awarded to 3 individuals who had conspired and murdered the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

11 See: supra note.

12 See: A G Noorani (1982), "Death Penalty and the Constitution", EPW, Vol XVII, No 36, 4 September.

13 Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India (1978) 1 SCC 248.

14 Justice R S Sarkaria wrote on behalf of himself, Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud, and Justices N L Untwalia, and A C Gupta. Justice P N Bhagwati wrote a dissenting opinion.

15 Articles 72 and 161, which respectively empower the President and the Governor to commute sentences including death sentences, shows that the framers were quite cognizant of the existence of the death penalty for certain offences when drafting the Constitution.

16 Justice P N Bhagwati famously dissented from the majority's decision in Bachan Singh. However, his opinion was rendered nearly 2 years after the majority's verdict was announced. In his dissent, Bhagwati holds that the death penalty violates both Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

17 The emphasis here is mine.

18 Machhi Singh vs State of Punjab (1983) 3 SCC 470.

19 Swami Shraddananda (2) vs State of Karnataka (2008) 13 SCC 767,

20 Ajitsingh Harnamsingh Gujral vs State of Maharashtra, AIR 2011 SC 3690.

21 Gurvail Singh vs State of Punjab (2013) 2 SCC 713.

22 Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs State of Maharashtra (2013) 5 SCC 546.

23 See: Mahesh Dhanaji Shinde vs State of Maharashtra 2014 (3) SCALE 96.

(source: Economic & Political Weekly)


Shakti Mills gang rape case: Bombay high court to hear confirmation petition on Oct 31

A division bench of justices VK Tahilramani and Ajey Gadkari of the Bombay high court will hear on Oct 31 the confirmation petition on the death sentences awarded to the 3 convicts - Vijay Jadhav (19), Kasim Bengali (21) and Mohammed Salim Ansari (28) - in the Shakti Mills gang rape case.

They adjourned the hearing in the case after being informed by public prosecutors Sandeep Shinde and Poornima Kantharia that the convicts' petition challenging the invocation of amended section 376(e) on them was to be heard by another division bench on Oct 28.

Section 376(e) was added after the 3 were convicted in the gang rape case (of a telephone operator) in July 2013. The amended charge provides for a maximum sentence of death in the case of repeat offence of rape.

The sessions court had on March 21 sentenced them to life imprisonment for the crime.

The confirmation petition was filed by the state on April 15. It sought confirmation of the death sentence awarded to the three who figured in both the gang rapes that took place in Shakti Mills compound in 2013.

As per the law, a death sentence awarded by a trial court has to be confirmed by the high court. The convicts have still not filed any appeal against their death sentence.

On April 4, the sessions court convicted Jadhav, Bengali, Ansari and Siraj Khan for raping a photojournalist on the deserted premises of the defunct Shakti Mills in central Mumbai on Aug 22, 2013.

Siraj was awarded life imprisonment; the other 3 were given death penalty under IPC section 376 (e).

Jadhav, Bengali and Ansari were earlier convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the court for gang raping a telephone operator in the same premises in July, 2013.

Since it was their 2nd conviction in a gang rape case, the prosecution sought death penalty for the trio by framing the additional charge of repeat offence under section 376 (e). This section was introduced in the IPC after the Dec 2012 Delhi gang rape.

The sessions court, while awarding death, had observed that the offence was a pre-planned one and that the accused had shown no mercy to the victim and had no remorse afterward.

"Such offences must not be tolerated. If leniency is shown, it will be misplaced sympathy and travesty of justice," the court had said.

(source: Daily News & Analysis)


Report: Iran, Iraq lead a slight global rise in executions despite trend toward abolition

The number of executions worldwide rose last year despite a general global trend toward capital punishment abolition, according to a report released Friday by an Italian anti-death penalty group.

The organization Hands off Cain, based in Rome, said Friday that at least 4,106 people were executed in 2013, up from 3,967 in 2012, due to increases in Iran, which recorded the highest number of executions in 15 years, and Iraq, which had the highest number since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.

China remains the world's top executioner, with more than 3,000 executions carried out last year, about equal to 2012. Still, the report noted that executions in China have halved since 2007 - largely due to a legal reform requiring a high court review of death penalty sentences.

Hands off Cain said 12 states were considered to have abolished the death penalty in 2013 or so far in 2014, either through a moratorium or de facto by not carrying out an execution in a decade.

Emma Bonino, one of the group's founders and a former Italian foreign minister, expressed concern about hundreds of death sentences that have been imposed this year against supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, though still pending legal appeals.

"The fact that there are hundreds sentenced to death after completely summary trials does not help," Bonino said by telephone from Rome.

In the United States, the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last April has helped galvanize public opinion against capital punishment, Bonino said.

(source: Associated Press)

JULY 17, 2014:


Volunteers for Execution: Directions for Further Research into Grief, Culpability, and Legal Structures

Meredith Martin Rountree

Northwestern University - School of Law

82 University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 295 (2014)

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 14-24


About 11% of those executed in the United States are death-sentenced prisoners who sought their own execution. These prisoners are commonly called "volunteers," and they succeed in hastening execution by waiving their right to appeal their conviction and sentence. Certain interpretations dominate. Those who oppose a condemned prisoner's request for execution often cite the prisoner's history of mental instability and frame the prisoner's decision as a product of suicidal depression. Related to this narrative is one that links death row conditions to the prisoner's decision to hasten death. Conditions, in this account, contribute to the decision to abandon appeals by wearing the prisoner down to the point that he loses the will to live, or by contributing to "death row syndrome," an evolving (and controversial) psychiatric diagnosis describing a mental condition that some prisoners develop as a result of living under a death sentence in highly socially isolating and stark conditions of confinement. Other narratives focus on ideas of rational choice and personal autonomy. This account emphasizes prisoners' desire to control their own destiny and the civic virtue of respecting autonomy and choice, even for the least among us.

The empirical support for these explanations is sparse, and this article emerges from a larger effort to test the hypothesis that prisoners who seek execution resemble those who take their own lives in prison. The prison suicide literature has identified certain characteristics - such as race, sex, age, mental illness, and prison conditions - as increasing the risk of suicide behind bars. My research on Texas volunteers generally suggests many, but not all, of those traits characterize that volunteer population as well. This article focuses on findings that point to areas for future research not only on volunteers but also on larger questions of processes of hopelessness and culpability among criminal offenders, and how the criminal justice system may influence life-ending decisions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41


MISSISSIPPI----new execution date//NOT serious

Jones County man execution date set for November

On Friday, a Greene County jury found Justin Blakeney guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to death. His execution date was set for November 19, 2014 by Judge Billy Joe Landrum.

"Mr. Blakeney finally told the truth about something, it ain't going to happen that quick," said Jones County Assistant District Attorney J. Ronald Parrish.

Parrish said the appeals process in death penalty cases usually seem to take some time to complete.

According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, there are currently 49 inmates sentenced to death in the state, 50 now with Blakeney. The longest serving death row inmate is Richard Jordan with 37 years. Jordan's original conviction date was in 1977, he was convicted of capital murder and kidnapping in the death of Edwina Marta in Harrison County January 13, 1976.

"With the length of time some people have been on death row in Mississippi it's turned into a joke," said Parrish. "You either need to do it or don't do it within a reasonable time."

Parrish said he agrees with Blakeney's death sentence, but that doesn't mean he gets a personal satisfaction out of it.

"I feel compassion for Mr. Blakeney's family because they weren't responsible for what he did."

For now, Blakeney will remain on death row until his execution, which could take decades.

"I think that Victoria Viner, and that's who I'm concerned about, received a measure of justice in this case as much as anybody on earth can give her," said Parrish.

(source: WDAM news)


Missouri executes convicted murderer John Middleton after delays

Missouri inmate John Middleton has been executed after a series of final hour requests for stays and a delay were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy witnessed Middleton's execution and reports the time of death was 7:06 p.m.

His execution for the murder of Alfred Pinegar in Northwest Missouri in 1995 was scheduled to have happened at 12:01 Wednesday morning but was delayed through the day by various court filings.

Middleton was also convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Randy Hamilton and Stacey Hodge that same year.

After the Missouri Supreme Court strongly rejected Middleton's claim that he was incompetent to be executed, his 3 requests for stay to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito were rejected.

Middleton becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 76th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Middleton becomes the 25th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1384th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. By this date last year, the USA had carried out 20 of its 39 national executions for the year.

(sources: Missourinet News & Rick Halperin)


California's death penalty ruled unconstitutional

In ruling California's death penalty unconstitutional, a federal judge said Wednesday the system is so broken it unfairly leaves inmates with uncertain fates - often for decades.

In his decision, Santa Ana-based Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the 1995 death sentence of Ernest D. Jones, who petitioned the court to determine whether his death sentence was valid.

Carney wrote: "Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

A federal judge in California vacated the 1995 death sentence of Ernest D. Jones on Wednesday.

The decision will certainly be appealed, said CNN legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Mark Geragos. Toobin said no executions could proceed in California while the decision stands.

In California, there are 748 people on death row, the most of any state.

No executions have been carried out since California put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2006. 4 years later, the state sought to execute a man who raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl, but it was blocked by state and federal courts over concerns about lethal injections.

In Wednesday's ruling, Carney called the administration of the state's death penalty system "dysfunctional."

"In California, the execution of a death sentence is so infrequent, and the delays preceding it so extraordinary, that the death penalty is deprived of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had," he wrote. "Such an outcome is antithetical to any civilized notion of just punishment."

Since 1978, more than 900 people in the state have been sentenced to death row, where inmates spend 23 hours alone in their cells. Of those people only 13 have been executed; 94 have died of other causes. Carney said about 40% have been on death row longer than 19 years.

"California's death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death," Carney said, noting that it takes an average of 3 to 5 years for a death row inmate just to get an court-appointed attorney for an appeal.

The judge noted 285 of the people on death row have been there longer than Jones.

"There clearly was a crisis coming. A lot of people have recognized there is a problem with hundreds of people of death row and hardly any executions," Toobin said. He noted the situation in California is so unusual it wouldn't affect death penalty cases in other states.

California's most recent execution was on January 17, 2006, according to the website for the state's Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

Clarence Ray Allen, 76, spent 23 years and 1 month on death row before dying from a lethal injection. He was convicted of orchestrating a triple murder from prison in 1982.

Michael Laurence, executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and Jones's lead attorney, said he was glad that a federal judge reaffirmed what a state commission found in 2008.

"There is no rational explanation, much less any moral or societal justification, for which people are ultimately executed," Laurence said in a written statement. "The execution of Mr. Jones, and the others like him whose meritorious legal claims have gone unheard for decades, serves no valid state interest."

The executive director of Death Penalty Focus said the law in California needs to be changed.

"Justice requires that we end this charade once and for all," said Matt Cherry. "It's time to replace California's broken death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. That's the best way to ensure that convicted killers remain behind bars until they die, without wasting tens of millions of tax dollars every year on needless appeals."

Jones' case is expected to be appealed by prosecutors to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said.

Nick Pacilio, a spokesman for state Attorney General Kamala Harris, said her office is reviewing the decision.

Jones' case

Jones was tried and received his death sentence at a time when the attention of the world was focused on another case unfolding on the same floor of Los Angeles downtown courthouse - the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Simpson, who had assembled a legal "dream team," was acquitted; Jones was represented by a public defender.

Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother, Julia Miller, a 50-year-old defense industry accountant.

During the trial, Jones was portrayed as the product of a broken home with alcoholic parents. An aunt described his childhood as "a living hell." He grew up in poverty, and his parents used drugs in front of the children and battled violently. His mother beat him and his siblings. He developed a drug habit of his own, which included marijuana and cocaine.

He told witnesses that he had heard voices and experienced flashbacks during the year before the slaying. He said the victim confronted him over his treatment of her daughter and pointed a rifle at him, which caused him to flash back to violent incidents in his childhood, according to the state Supreme Court opinion affirming his conviction.

The court record indicates that Jones had spent several years in prison for raping the mother of a previous girlfriend.

The California Supreme Court in 2003 upheld the conviction of Jones on 1st-degree murder and rape charges.

(source: CNN)


Death penalty supporters predict challenge to ruling, vow reform

Despite a federal judge's serious blow Wednesday to the state's death penalty, backers of capital punishment predicted an immediate challenge to the ruling and vowed to bring a reform effort to the ballot in 2016 that they say would streamline the system.

That effort was kicked off in February, when former Governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis announced their initiative. It rested on 3 issues: the appeals process, which would mean no more "frivolous" appeals from death row inmates who have avoided execution for as many as 30 years; death row housing and victim restitution, which would include doubling up death row inmates in one cell and making them work to repay victim's families; and the appointment of a appellate counsel and an oversight agency.

The goals of reforming the death penalty process, they said, would be to save money, reform the system and bring closure more quickly to victims' families. Backers of the effort were undeterred Wednesday after U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that inordinate and unpredictable delays have resulted in a death penalty system in which arbitrary factors determine whether an individual will actually be executed.

"I know it's going to be challenged," said San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who joined with the trio of former governors back in February. "I've already been talking to my colleagues across the state, and we believe it's going to be challenged. We will be successful in reversing this decision."

Historically, he said, "the death penalty has been found to be constitutional. I don't believe there is a constitutional violation, and that's basically our position."

Deukmejian echoed Ramos.

The decision will almost certainly be appealed, he said, citing other rulings like this that have been overturned on appeal.

"Right now I really can't comment until I read the full decision," he said. "For the moment, I will file this under 'wait and see what happens on appeal.'"

He said efforts to get the death penalty reform initiative on the ballot were still alive.

Those efforts were put on hold this year, Ramos said, because supporters were unable to raise enough funds toward signature-gathering efforts.

"We weren't getting the funding to get those signatures and instead of coming to a deadline and not being able to get it on the ballot, we decided, let's really get a strategic plan in place to get this one on the ballot in 2016, and get all of our law enforcement supporters, our victims rights groups and those in the business world that believe in justice and capital punishment to assist us in the fundraising efforts," Ramos said. Among those in support of Ramos and his efforts to support the death penalty in California is Chino Hills resident Mary Ann Hughes, the mother of a victim of death row inmate Kevin Cooper.

Cooper was convicted for the 1983 murders of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and a neighbor boy, Christopher Hughes, 11. The 4 were brutally slain with a hatchet and knife in the Ryen home in Chino Hills. The Ryens' 9-year-old son, Joshua, survived, despite having his throat slashed.

Hughes said she was disappointed in the ruling and hopes the California Attorney General's Office does put up a fight against it.

"The state of California has voted continuously in favor of the death penalty and there are some crimes, such as something as horrendous as my son's death, and the Ryen family's deaths, where that was the only sentence that could be handed down," she said. "I feel sure that the 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court will uphold it because they have upheld everything in the past. Even though they're not sure about how to carry out the sentence, just because it's a long wait, I don't see how that could be considered cruel and unusual punishment, because so was my son's murder, and the murder of all the other victims whose murderers are sitting on death row."

(source: San Bernardino Sun)

JULY 16, 2014:


Judge discounts condemned man's impact of new DNA tests

A Texas judge has ruled that DNA evidence probably would not have cleared convicted killer Henry Skinner of the 3 murders that sent him to death row.

Skinner, 52, was condemned for the 1993 New Year's Eve murders of his live-in girlfriend Twila Busby and her 2 adult sons, Elwin Caler and Randy Busby. Skinner, a verbally combative paralegal whose case gained international attention in anti-death penalty circles, consistently argued he had been incapacitated by alcohol and codeine when the killings occurred.

Skinner twice received last-minute stays of executions as his lawyers sought to obtain testing of dozens of pieces of crime scene evidence not previously tested. Among them were a bloody knife and bloodstains found throughout the victims' Pampa home.

A windbreaker that Skinner's lawyers contended might have been worn by the killer disappeared from police custody and was not subjected to DNA testing. Earlier this year, Skinner's legal team argued to Pampa state District Judge Steven Emmert that the killings had been committed by Twila Busby's uncle, who reportedly accosted her at a party shortly before her death.

In a 1-page ruling, Emmert ruled that it was "reasonably probable" that the new DNA test results would not have led to acquittal if they had been presented at Skinner's trial.

Skinner's attorney, Robert Owen, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Associated Press Wednesday reported the judge's ruling would be appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Donald Smith trial is on schedule for Oct. 6 in death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle



A look at the events surrounding the abduction and death of Cherish Perrywinkle (Times are approximate).

Friday morning: Police make contact with Donald James Smith at the San Jose neighborhood home where he is a registered sexual offender.

7 p.m. Friday (Dollar General): Jacksonville police say Cherish Perriwinkle's mother met Donald James Smith, 56, at Dollar General.

11 p.m. Friday (Walmart Supercenter): Cherish's mother reports the 8-year-old girl missing to police. Authorities say the mother and Donald James Smith went to Walmart after Smith offered to buy the family some clothes.

9 a.m. Saturday (I-95/I-10): Police pull over and surround Donald James Smith's white 1998 Dodge van on I-95 South near the I-10 split.

10 a.m. Saturday (Highlands Baptist Church): The body of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle is found near the church.

[source: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office]


The man accused of killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was back in court Wednesday for a hearing that took less than 5 minutes.

Donald James Smith, 57, remains on schedule to have his criminal trial Oct. 6 with a potential death-penalty phase the week of Oct. 13. Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper said she also is leaving her schedule blank the week of Oct. 20 in case the trial or penalty phase runs long.

Smith is accused of kidnapping Cherish at a Northside Walmart, sexually abusing her and then killing her.

The girl's mother, Rayne Perrywinkle, was in court Wednesday but declined to comment.

Smith is a registered sex offender released from prison 3 weeks before Cherish was killed. He is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery.

He is accused of befriending Perrywinkle and her young children at a Dollar General store in June 2013 and convincing them to go to Walmart in his van after offering to buy them clothes and food.

Perrywinkle told police that Smith offered to buy the family hamburgers at the McDonald's inside the Walmart on Lem Turner Road. She let Cherish go with him, and they did not return.

Cherish's body was found near a creek off Broward Rod in the morning. Police found her wedged underneath an old tree that had fallen in the grassy marsh area of the creek.

Smith was arrested after his van and photo were broadcast in a statewide alert. He was stopped on Interstate 95.

The case led to a tightening of the civil commitment laws in Florida.

(source: Florida Times-Union)


Florida inmate still on death row despite DNA proof of innocence discovered years ago

Years of legal wrangling over conclusive DNA evidence proving his innocence led the Florida Supreme Court to overturn Paul Hildwin's murder conviction and death sentence two weeks ago. Yet Hildwin remains on death row.

28 years after his conviction for a 1985 murder, Hildwin, 54, must wait - possibly for several months - for state prosecutors to decide whether to retry the case or drop the charges.

2 weeks ago, in a 5-2 ruling, the majority of the Florida Supreme Court said that "we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a significant pillar of the state's case, as presented to the jury, has collapsed."

Hildwin's case shows how a severe court backlog and legal maneuvering by state prosecutors can delay justice in the face of strong DNA evidence. Moreover, the case adds to the list of around s dozen death row inmates in Florida who have been found innocent - more than any other state. Hildman's is the snd death row case in a month overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.

"Hildwin really is a report card that there is a serious problem in the system that took this long," said Martin McClain, his attorney, Reuters reported. "They were hoping he would die, and it would go away."

Following the court's ruling, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said it would not challenge the decision ordering a new trial for Hildwin. The inmate is set to be transferred from a state prison to a local jail in northern Florida.

Florida, with the 2nd-largest roster of death row inmates in the United States (395), has had difficulty handling appeals to such cases, experts say. Florida is one of the few states where a jury can recommend a death sentence without a unanimous vote.

A study released in April estimated that no less than 4 % of the approximately 3,000 US prisoners waiting to be put to death are in fact innocent of the crimes they committed, a shocking number that is far less than the inmates who are freed before execution.

Researchers determined that if all of those wrongfully convicted had their sentences cleared, the exoneration rate would jump from its current 1.6 % to no less than 4.1 %. By that logic, around 340 prisoners should have been released over the 30 years analyzed in the study, whereas only 138 were exonerated in that time.

Hildwin was put on death row for the death of Vronzettie Cox, a 42-year-old woman who was raped, strangled to death, and left in the trunk of a car in the woods of west-central Florida.

Hildwin had accepted a ride from Cox and her boyfriend, William Haverty, then later was found with a forged check he had stolen from her, as well as some of her possessions including a radio and money. He said he left the pair on a roadside once they got into a violent argument.

Yet prosecutors linked a pair of semen-stained underpants found in Cox's car to Hildwin. Using available science at the time, the prosecution was able to pass Hildwin off as the likely suspect despite protests from the defense, which called Haverty the likely culprit.

In 2003, DNA tests proved Hildwin was not the source, yet the state avoided running evidence through a DNA database to search for a match, arguing the evidence was not eligible.

"It was just a stunning instance of foot dragging," said Nina Morrison, an Innocence Project attorney representing Hildwin.

In 2011, after the state Supreme Court ordered a DNA check, it was shown that Haverty, in jail for a child sex abuse charge, was responsible for the semen.

Yet over 2 years later, Hildwin still waits. He has spent around half his life in prison - largely in isolation - for a crime he did not commit.

"It just keeps seeming to get closer, but it just keeps being out of reach," said McClain.

Outside of wrongful death row convictions, several states eager to enact capital punishment have resorted to using controversial, some say inhumane, drug cocktails to execute inmates.

Ohio and Oklahoma have used the drugs, whose sources are shielded from the public, to execute inmates who have visibly writhed in pain during the lethal injection process, calling into question the validity of using such untested concoctions.

Despite the drug controversy, polls show a majority of Americans still support the death penalty.

According to a new YouGov/Huffington Post survey of 1,000 US adults after the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton D. Lockett at the end of April, 65 % of respondents said they either strongly favor (36 %) or somewhat favor (29 %) the death penalty for people convicted of murder. However, a Pew Research poll conducted in February found that only 55 % of Americans favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder.



Federal appeals court orders new sentencing for Alabama death row inmate convicted in 1991 execution-style shooting in Talladega

A federal appeals court has ruled that an Alabama death row inmate convicted of killing a customer during a robbery at a Talladega AutoZone store in 1991 should be resentenced.

Derrick Anthony DeBruce, now 43, was convicted in the Aug. 6, 1991, death of Doug Battle. DeBruce was sentenced to death for the execution-style shooting and has served more than 22 years on Alabama's death row at Holman Correctional Facility.

DeBruce appealed after a federal judge in the Northern District of Alabama rejected a request for resentencing. He contended that his trial attorney, Erskine Mathis, was ineffective in both the guilt and penalty phases of his trial.

Mathis took on DeBruce's case less than a month before the trial began in February 1992.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Tuesday stating DeBruce is entitled to resentencing. The justices rejected his argument that his attorney was ineffective during the guilt phase of the trial, but found that the evidence presented during the penalty phase was incomplete and that DeBruce's mother offered "grossly inaccurate" testimony about his upbringing and education.

DeBruce is represented on appeal by Legal Aid Society attorneys Arthur Hopkirk, Marlen Bodden and Bruce Rich.

"We're glad that the 11th circuit agreed with our arguments on why Mr. DeBruce was deprived of effective counsel and that they ruled he's entitled to a new sentencing proceeding," Hopkirk said.

The case will return to the Northern District of Alabama for a judge's review and ultimately for resentencing in Talladega County Circuit Court, unless the 11th Circuit ruling is successfully challenged by the state.

DeBruce argues that he suffered undue prejudice because his attorney failed to investigate several issues that could have been presented during his sentencing.

During the sentencing phase, DeBruce's mother, Jessie DeBruce, testified that her son completed high school, attended college at the University of Alabama and, though impoverished, had an unremarkable childhood.

In his appeal, Derrick DeBruce also argues that the jury should have heard the testimony of 2 of his sisters and 3 expert medical witnesses.

"The sentencing jury heard nothing of the daily beatings that DeBruce suffered as a child at the hands of his older sister, his resistance to joining gangs despite their assaults and intimidation, the pervasive violence in his neighborhood that caused him to witness the stabbing of a neighbor and his brother being shot, his one or more suicide attempts, DeBruce's efforts to nurse his sister while she recovered from an incapacitating stroke, DeBruce's alcoholic and disengaged father, or his struggles in school and his low-average intelligence," the decision states.

Instead, the justices said, the pleas of DeBruce and his mother would have been unlikely to resonate without further evidence that could convince jurors to spare his life.

Justices Charles R. Wilson and Beverly B. Martin joined in the majority decision, with Justice Gerald Bard Tjoflat submitting a dissenting opinion.

In his decision, Tojflat says DeBruce's claims against his attorney are selective and circumstantial.

No one can determine whether his attorneys were effective because "DeBruce failed to develop a record of what his attorneys did "or did not do" in preparation for the penalty phase" of his trial.

Despite DeBruce's claims that the attorneys' investigation was inadequate, the record is "almost laughably thin," Tojflat writes.

The Alabama Attorney General's office handles appeals in capital cases. As of Wednesday afternoon, they had not issued a response to the decision.

In December 2003, a state appeals court upheld Debruce's conviction, despite his arguments that several jurors did not give complete information. The court ruled that DeBruce did not show that jurors were prejudiced and turned down his claim that his trial attorney did an inadequate job.

Since then, DeBruce's attorneys have continued efforts to appeal his conviction and sentence in both state and federal courts.


MISSOURI----impending execution

U.S. appeals court lifts stay of execution for Missouri inmate

A U.S. appeals court has vacated a stay of execution for a triple murderer and ruled that Missouri can proceed with plans to execute him Wednesday night.

The ruling, issued by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned the decision issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry. She had ruled that the condemned man, John Middleton, 54, met a standard for mental incapacity and should be given a chance for a new hearing.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute inmates with mental disabilities.

Middleton's attorneys petitioned the appeals court for a rehearing en banc but that was denied. They also filed a motion Wednesday afternoon with the Missouri Supreme Court seeking a stay of execution and appointment of a "special master" to conduct a hearing on his competency.

In vacating the stay Wednesday, the appeals court set the effective time of its ruling for 6 p.m. and gave Middleton time to petition for a rehearing.

Middleton is a former methamphetamine dealer who was convicted of the 1995 murders of 3 people who had ties to the drug trade and who prosecutors said Middleton feared would inform on him to police.

The death warrant for Middleton allows for the state to put him to death any time on Wednesday. He had been scheduled to die by injection shortly after midnight on Wednesday at a state prison in Bonne Terre but the execution was called off after Perry's late-night ruling.

The federal judge and the appellate court have gone back and forth on Middleton's fate. Perry had issued a stay of the execution early Tuesday but it was lifted by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday evening.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to stay the execution but lawyers for Middleton filed a new motion, which Perry granted before he could be executed.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster argued in court documents on Tuesday that Middleton was trying to manipulate the court system with the flurry of appeals.

Apart from claims of mental incapacity, Middleton's lawyers have argued new evidence shows he is innocent of the killings of Randy Hamilton, Stacey Hodge and Alfred Pinegar in the summer of 1995.

(source: Reuters)


Federal judge says California's death penalty system is 'unconstitutional'

A federal judge in California called the state's death penalty system "unconstitutional" in an order issued Wednesday, excoriating the system as "arbitrary" and "completely dysfunctional."

In the sternly-worded order, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said the state's system is so riddled with delays that the death penalty has been stripped "of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had."

"California's death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death," he wrote.

Carney's order was related to the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and killing Julia Miller in 1992. The judge vacated Jones's death sentence in the order, writing that letting California's system threaten Jones with death nearly 2 decades after his sentencing "violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

California has the largest number of inmates on death row, but it does not carry out nearly as many executions as the states that have fewer people there. The state had 742 people on its death row at the beginning of 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, significantly more than Florida (410 inmates), Texas (278 inmates) and Missouri (48 inmates). But California has not executed anyone this year - the state hasn't put an inmate to death since 2006 - while Florida and Texas have each put 7 inmates to death and Missouri has carried out 5 executions.

Since 1976, California has executed 13 people. This number is relatively low, trailing 16 other states over that span. Texas, which executes the most inmates annually, has put at least 13 people to death in each of the last 4 years and has executed 515 people since 1976. (California, 1 of 32 states in the U.S. that has the death penalty, executes inmates with lethal injection unless an inmate asks for the gas chamber.)

While inmates often work to delay executions through the appeals process, the delays in California's system are inherent to that state's actions, not due to the actions of most individual inmates, Carney wrote.

Voters in California rejected an attempt to eliminate the state's death penalty in 2012. There was a push this year to speed up the execution process and shorten appeals (an initiative supported by 3 former California governors), but it failed to make it on the ballot, so organizers are planning to make a push for November 2016.

There has been a shift in recent years away from the death penalty, with 1/3 of the states that have banned capital punishment doing so since 2007. The last state to abolish the death penalty was Maryland last year, though New Hampshire came very, very close earlier this year.

Still, executions are happening less often than they did even 2 decades ago, a decline that has occurred as American support for capital punishment has also fallen.

A botched lethal injection in Oklahoma earlier this year drew renewed attention to executions. That high-profile episode was followed by 7 weeks without any executions in the U.S., after which 3 states carried out 3 in less than 24 hours.

(source: Washington Post)


Federal Judge Rules Death Penalty Unconstitutional in California

A federal judge in Orange County on Wednesday declared the death penalty "unconstitutional" in the State of California.

In the 1st ruling of its kind, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in Orange County made the ruling, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

ACLU of Northern California Associate Director Natasha Minsker tweeted from court that the judge said the current system is so plagued by delay that sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced.

The case stems from a 1995 case of Ernest Dewayne Jones who sued Kevin Chappell, the warden of the California State Prison at San Quentin.

(source: NBC Bay Area news)


Supreme court reserves order in Yakub Memon case

The supreme court on Tuesday reserved its order on the plea of Yakub Razzak Memon, a death-row convict in the 1993 Bombay serial blasts case, seeking to convert death penalty into life imprisonment.

A 5-judge constitution bench headed by chief justice RM Lodha reserved the order after hearing arguments from the counsel of Memon and the Centre on his plea challenging the government's decision rejecting his mercy plea in May.

President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected Memon's mercy plea following recommendations of the Maharashtra government and the Union Home Ministry.

Memon's counsel argued that his client has been lodged in the jail for past 20 years and death would be a "harsher punishment", which is longer than the 14-year jail term awarded in cases of life imprisonment.

He also held the ground that the review petition filed by death row convicts should be heard in an open court after hearing the arguments from the parties concerned.

Memon sought the bench to declare the existing SC rule of deciding the review plea of death convicts in the judges chamber unconstitutional.

Appearing for the Centre, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar opposed the plea of Memon saying the convicts get several chances to place their defence before the court.

An open hearing of a convict's review plea will reopen the case and rehearing of the whole case, which the top court should not allow to take place.

The bench also reserved its order on a similar plea of Red Fort Shootout convict Ashfaq. The bench also already granted a stay on their execution of death penalty.

Memon, a chartered accountant and brother of fugitive terror mastermind Tiger Memon, was sentenced to death by a special court under TADA in 2007, after being found guilty of charges of criminal conspiracy and for arranging finances and managing its disbursement through the co-accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

The top court upheld the TADA court's verdict in March, 2013. In October that year, Memon had applied for a presidential pardon, following which a report from the state government was sought by the home ministry.

(source: Daily News & Analysis)


Texas sets a date to murder an innocent man

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty, along with the family and supporters of Rodney Reed, rejects the decision to issue a death warrant for innocent Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed for January 14, 2015.

We have long believed in Rodney's innocence, and during a hearing today in Bastrop County, we once again heard of the multitude of evidence that could prove Rodney's innocence if given a fair hearing, either through a new trial or through the appeals process.

We learned today that the state has agreed to important but limited new DNA testing of some crime scene evidence - and that the defense is asking for even more DNA testing of several other items related to the crime scene.

While important evidence is being tested and interpreted, and while other testing is being considered, it is both irresponsible and cruel for the state to seek an execution date and for the warrant to be issued by any judge. This amounts to torture for both Rodney and his family, who now have to live under the threat of an specific execution date, even as Rodney's defense team and supporters fight to prove his innocence.


What you can do

Here's what you can do now to help call attention to Rodney Reed's case:

Sign and share the petition calling for Rodney's execution to be stopped.

Stay updated about Rodney's case through social media. Follow the Justice for Rodney Reed page on Facebook for updates on activism and plans for fundraising for Rodney's defense.

Share the recent New Abolitionist article about Rodney's case, as well as the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's statement on the execution date.

Read up on the case - Jordan Smith, a reporter for the Austin Chronicle, has written extensively about Rodney's case.

Read and share the Justice for Rodney Reed blog. Rodney's friend, Caitlin Adams, wrote beautiful stories about her visits with Rodney before she passed last year.

Host a screening of the documentary State vs. Reed, which streams online at The film is an incredible resource for showing the facts of the case.

Get involved with Texas activists who are fighting for Rodney's freedom. E-mail for more information.


Rodney's mother Sandra said of the decision to grant the death warrant:

We're very disappointed...We were thinking everything was possibly going to be positive about the hearing today, but it was a very disappointing outcome. But the thing is that we remain strong...Rodney is strong, and the truth keeps us strong. It's not over until it's over.

Despite the obscene injustice that took place in Bastrop today, Rodney's family and supporters stand strong in our determination to fight to save the life of Rodney Reed.

Rodney's defense will continue to work on getting all the DNA tested, as well as still working for appellate relief on issues around the misinterpretation of scientific evidence. There is a chance that the Supreme Court could hear the case--an announcement would likely be made in late October if that were to happen.

And Rodney's family and supporters have vowed to keep up the fight outside the courthouse. We are planning a rally on July 24 at 11 a.m. outside the Bastrop County Courthouse to call the state of Texas to account for its role in seeking the death warrant and to demand that all the DNA be tested in this case.

Now is the time to get involved in the struggle for justice and to save Rodney Reed! We have seen to many times how innocent people are caught up by an unjust system. People like Anthony Graves, released off death row after years of struggling to prove his innocence; like Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas despite proof of his innocence revealed long before his execution took place.

Or people like Yusef Salaam, who was exonerated decades after being wrongfully convicted of rape in the infamous Central Park Jogger case in New York. Today, Yusef offered these words in support of Rodney:

My brother Rodney, like too many others, has been railroaded onto death row by the racist system of criminal injustice. Corruption and vengefulness has turned Rodney's life--and that of his family into a living nightmare, one the thousands on death row know all too well - the innocent and guilty alike. We must shout Rodney's name from the rooftops: We will not let the state of Texas take him from us!



What If You Could Keep A Current Teenager From Landing On Death Row?

Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas is accurately dubbed the state's "death row," and given the percentage of American executions that take place in the Lone Star State, it might be better described as America's Death Row.

Polunsky is spartan and remote. It's located just more than an hour north of Houston, near the state's Piney Woods region, and across a large lake from Huntsville, where death row prisoners meet their match in the similarly notorious Walls Unit. In building 12 of Polunsky, death row inmates "enjoy" 60-foot cells adorned with a bean slot just large enough for a daily transfer of meal-time slop. Each cell has a small window, a menacing reminder of the outside world that these prisoners, barring some miracle, will never enjoy again. According to Wikipedia, prisoners "receive individual recreation in a caged area." In reality, the prisoners are afforded one hour per day to walk around.

Polunsky has around 290 death row inmates, a figure that makes up almost the entirety of the state's condemned population. The vast majority of those are men, and while their individual markings might look different, these offenders quite often have something in common. Mental health issues abound on death row, of course, with some landing on death row because of them and others developing their issues after years of awaiting death in solitary confinement. Some are black, while many are white. All are there for murder of some kind or another, even though Texas's death penalty often fails to discriminate between those who were attendant to a murder and those who pulled the trigger multiple times.

The tragic middle portion of a death penalty story is always the same. It revolves around the death of an innocent. Quite often, the first chapter of that death penalty story is the same for each man housed in Polunsky.

Texas death penalty lawyer David R. Dow has written in his books and argued in his talks that he could write the life story of every death row inmate without ever meeting that person, and he'd be right roughly nine times out of ten. In a TED talk on the subject, Dow noted that in almost every case, the offender experienced some form of abuse or abandonment at home, and while this does not excuse the actions of the offender, it can help us through the difficult task of explaining why the crime took place.

He has also observed that for the bulk of his clients, seeing a judge on a capital murder charge was far from their 1st interaction with the criminal justice system. Many were fast-tracked through the criminal justice system at an early age, experiencing the harshness of its directives and having their lives thrown off course by draconian sentencing and certification policies that make it increasingly easy for Texas judges to charge young offenders with adult crimes.

While statistics on juvenile recidivism are difficult to come by, one report suggests that in Texas, roughly 2 out of every 3 juveniles released from detention will be re-arrested within two years. For males, the number is even higher.

Some might suggest that this is simply the justice system ensnaring offenders who have some innate criminal mindset. Others note that interaction with the criminal justice system, as it is currently constituted, creates a higher likelihood that young people will turn to crime in the future.

When young people are arrested, a phenomenon that is happening more often for less serious offenses in states like Texas, they are removed from school. In the worst cases, they never return. Even in cases where young people are able to secure probation or a truncated sentence, they miss valuable time in their classes. Beyond that, they are exposed to jail and the trauma that accompanies that experience. Depending upon the crime, they might be tagged with criminal records that will follow them for years to come. While it is typical for states to offer young people the opportunity to expunge arrests and convictions from the records after a certain amount of time has passed, the process can often be both expensive and cumbersome. One law firm that handles such matters suggests that it can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 to have one's record expunged, putting it effectively out of reach for families in which a four-figure windfall represents groceries for a few months. Without the help of an attorney and without the resources to do so, many young people are left with criminal records that will prevent them from getting apartments and jobs in the future.

The moral imperative lurks, as Texas and its citizens have a responsibility to look out for the well-being of the state's youth. But as Dow and others have found, there's something more important at play, as well.

Death penalty lawyers lament that their field must exist, and it's not just because they oppose capital punishment. For those of us who have worked in this field, the existence of a capital client represents at least two lives ruined and two families ripped to pieces. It represents the worst possible scenario, and one that should be prevented if at all possible. It's not enough as a capital defender to lament the situation. It's incumbent upon us, and all who care, to do something about the issue.

Removing the barriers that stand in the way of young people and successful re-entry into society is a first step that seeks to intervene during the 1st chapter of the death penalty story, potentially steering a would-be Polunsky resident back onto the lawful path before the state ever has reason to exert its brand of controversial justice.

With that in mind, Dow and his team have established the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project, or JCAP for short. JCAP is the brain child of Dow and his skillful team, and erupts from a career spent wondering what might have been if someone had simply gotten to a few of Dow's clients a little bit earlier. It's a project that seeks to provide both legal services for young people and mentoring to help those young people navigate the unique challenges that they are bound to face.

From the website's mission statement:

JCAP's mission is to reduce juvenile crime and delinquency and improve the long-term educational success rates and life outcomes of socially and economically disadvantaged juveniles.

In a 2012 TED talk that has been viewed more than 1.4 million times, Professor David R. Dow observed that more than 80% of the inmates on death row had previous contact with the juvenile justice system. Dow therefore proposed early intervention in the lives of at-risk juveniles as part of a strategy to improve the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged youth and thus decrease adult crime. JCAP is being developed to implement that strategy.

JCAP's mentoring program will match young people with interested adults willing to offer a few hours of their time each month to make a difference. Based out of Houston, it presents the perfect opportunity for many of you to fill any spare hours with a cause that will be both rewarding to you and meaningful for the Houston community. Mentors will receive training, and will be asked to help young people deal with some of the emotional and logistical issues that come with trying to make a life after committing a juvenile crime.

I will be volunteering with JCAP, and I hope that some of you will join me. There is tremendous need, and I suspect that those who choose to get involved will gain from the experience nearly as much as those young people being helped.

Those who are interested in volunteering their time can contact Erin Osborn, JCAP's Mentorship Program Director, at

The organization is also in need of financial support as it seeks to get off the ground and later, continue its growth. Those interested in making a financial contribution can do so here. I have worked closely with Professor Dow in my time as a student at UH and in the time that's followed, and I can attest that he and his group are targeting a strategy that will not only improve the lives of disadvantaged youth in the Houston community, but also improve the quality of life for all that live in Houston by reducing violent crime rates there.

(source: Coby DuBose, Daily Kos)


Mom of Child Who Died in Hot SUV Is Living a 'Nightmare': Lawyer

The Georgia mom whose husband is accused of killing their son by leaving him in a scorching SUV is "living every parent's nightmare," her lawyer said today.

"The child she bore and loved every moment has died," attorney Lawrence Zimmerman said in a statement of his client Leanna Harris, whose 22-month-old son Cooper died on June 18. "For most parents, it is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend such a thing. But for Leanna, that nightmare is all too real. She will never be able to tuck him into bed at night and return later to check on him."

"She mourns Cooper's death deeply, in her own private way," the statement continued. "She takes comfort from a strong faith in God, but the loss is still overwhelming. Getting through each day seems almost impossible."

Harris' husband Justin Harris, who has a separate attorney, faces murder charges after he said he forgot their son while he was at work at Home Depot last month. The boy died of hyperthermia, a medical examiner said.

Justin Harris remains behind bars and could face the death penalty, a judge said during a probable cause hearing earlier this month.

Zimmerman compared criticism of Leanna Harris to the way the media "unjustly harassed and hounded" Richard Jewell, the police officer who was temporarily, and wrongly, suspected in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta.

"Reporters have delved into Leanna's upbringing, her employment, quizzed people for information about her marriage, and her sex life," he said. "The constant attention has prevented her from returning to work."

While she has not been charged with a crime, authorities have questioned her behavior surrounding her son's death.

A detective who testified at the hearing on June 3 said she seemed unmoved after learning the boy died, and was quick to say that he must have been left in her husband's SUV after being told he wasn't at daycare.

Justin Harris' attorney, Maddox Kilgore, maintains his client is also innocent. He says he forgot to drop the boy off at daycare and left him in the backseat by accident.

(source: ABC news)


Prosecutor seeks death penalty against man charged with Indianapolis quadruple murders

A prosecutor filed a request for the death penalty Tuesday against 1 of the defendants in the drug-related slayings of 4 people in a crime that has come to symbolize a year of violence in Indianapolis.

Kenneth "Cody" Rackemann was the primary triggerman in the slayings Feb. 20 on the city's south side and had worked security for one of the victims, drug dealer Walter Burnell, 47, court documents have said.

"4 individuals were executed, we allege, for no good reason," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said at a news conference with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite by his side.

Burrell sold methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and prescription narcotics, taking in as much as $60,000 in single day, investigators have said, but Rackemann and his co-defendants only took a few dollars from 1 of the victims.

3 aggravating circumstances in the request for the death penalty are the multiple slayings, the intentional killing of each victim while committing a robbery, and that Rackemann was on parole at the time of the offenses, Curry said.

Rackemann, 24, faces 4 counts each of murder and felony murder as well as robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery counts. He is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 15.

Rackemann allegedly was searching for a safe inside the home shared by Burrell and victim Jacob Rodemich, 43, when he started shooting those inside, prosecutors have said. Rackemann fatally shot the two men and Kristy Mae Sanchez, 22, and wounded Hayley Navarra, 21, before he ran out of bullets, they said.

Rackemann then allegedly called in 21-year-old Valencia Williams, who was sitting in a car outside, to kill the 4th victim, a probable cause affidavit said. Williams killed Navarra as she begged for her life, according to the affidavit.

Williams faces 1 count of murder, 4 counts of felony murder and charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Samantha Bradley, 20, faces 4 counts of felony murder and charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. A 4th defendant, Anthony LaRussa, 26, was not at the home during the shootings, but helped set up the robbery, according to court records. He faces 4 counts of felony murder as well as robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery counts.

The slaying were among 8 homicides in Indianapolis within a 24-hour period and occurred early in a year marked by more than 70 slayings in the city.

Hite said pursuit of the death penalty in the case should send a message to others.

"We are asking others who consider this life of crime to reconsider," Hite said. "We don't want you to face a similar fate."

Indiana last executed an inmate on Dec. 11, 2009.


Slaying may lead to death penalty

Indiana's largest county has twice sought the death penalty in police officer slayings in the last 12 years, and it is considering doing so a 3rd time.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they may seek the death penalty against Major Davis Jr., who is charged with killing Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Perry Renn in a shootout July 5. The 25-year-old, who also was wounded, was pushed into court in a wheelchair, and a judge entered an automatic not-guilty plea for him.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson said prosecutors had not decided whether to seek the death penalty against Davis but were evaluating it.

"This will not be a quick or easy process," she said, and Renn’s family's wishes will be taken into account.

Davis' public defender, David Shircliff, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Capital punishment has been an option before for Marion County prosecutors.

In 2011, they sought the death penalty for Thomas Hardy in the killing of Indianapolis police Officer David Moore. After several months, Hardy pleaded guilty in return to a sentence of life without parole.

And in 2002, Benjamin Donnie Ritchie was sentenced to death in the slaying of Beech Grove Police Officer William Toney.

Prosecutors' pursuit of death penalty sentences has declined overall because of the cost of such trials, the testimony of expensive expert witnesses and the rise of DNA evidence that has made juries more skeptical.

But it is still commonly sought in cases where a police officer has died, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, which advocates for the end of capital punishment.

"I will say that's a very common death penalty case, Dieter said. "It would be more likely than a lot of other kinds."

(source for both: Associated Press)


Prosecutor: Cost is factor in decision to seek death penalty

A decision to seek the death penalty in a central Indiana murder case was meeting mixed reactions Tuesday evening.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said many factors went into the decision to seek the death penalty for 24-year-old Kenneth Rackemann. One was cost - Curry said it isn't unusual for the taxpayers' tab in death penalty cases to reach the millions - even if the case doesn't go to trial.

Rackemann was charged in the murders of 2 men and 2 women in a house on South Parker Avenue on Feb. 20.

A neighbor who lived nearby said he agreed with the decision to seek the death penalty.

"Just because of the viciousness of it, and the fact it was surrounding drugs, illegal activity, things like that," the neighbor said.

He said he remembered when police discovered the bodies of Walter Burnell, Jacob Rodemich, Kristy Mae Sanchez and Hayley Navarra on his street.

"It happened early in the day on a nice day when the kids were playing. It's scary," he said.

Monica Foster has spent almost her entire 33-year career defending clients in death penalty cases.

The Chief Federal Defender for Indiana's southern district was not expecting the decision. Foster said she was stunned.

A report from the Legislative Services Agency shows the average death penalty case costs more than $450,000.

Foster said 2 of the most recent death penalty cases in Indiana, including the Hamilton Avenue murders , cost almost double that amount.

"The Indiana legislature has determined that seeking the death penalty in Indiana costs 10 times more than seeking life without the possibility of parole, 5 times more costly when you add in the cost of incarceration," Foster said.

Curry said he can't speculate on the cost in this case.

"Certainly it is not unusual that in the past, the combined cost to the courts, the public defender exceed 7 figures. That is just one of the many reasons why we need to exercise significant discretion in making this decision," Curry said.

The only other time Curry has filed a request for the death penalty was in the killing of Indianapolis Officer David Moore in 2011.

The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has yet to determine if it will seek the death penalty against Major Davis II, who is accused of fatally shooting Officer Perry Renn.

(source: The


Lawyers Seek Life For Arkansas Death-Row Inmate Convicted In 1993

Lawyers for a man sentenced to die for killing a farmer in southwest Arkansas more than 20 years ago are asking that he get life in prison instead because he has a mental disability.

The Texarkana Gazette reports that Frank Williams Jr.'s case is back in trial court after the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new penalty hearing, citing problems with his original sentencing.Williams, 47, was found guilty of capital murder in 1993 for the 1992 death of farmer Clyde Spence in Lafayette County.

California psychologist Ricardo Weinstein testified this week that Williams is mentally disabled.

A jury of 9 women and 3 men will determine whether Williams should receive a new sentence of life without parole instead of death by lethal injection. State and federal laws prohibit the death penalty for offenders who are mentally disabled.

The jury heard last week from police who were involved in the 1st investigation into Spence's death and from people who witnessed the shooting.

Witnesses said Williams was angry at Spence for firing him from his job after Williams purposely damaged a tractor. Williams had been released from prison and Spence sponsored his job as part of a program that allowed inmates to work in the community. A firing could have sent Williams back to jail.The case was moved to Miller County from Lafayette County because of pretrial publicity.

(source: Associated Press)


Appeals court to take up Missouri inmate's case after last-minute stay puts execution on hold

A last-minute stay from a federal judge has put a Missouri inmate's execution temporarily on hold.

John Middleton was scheduled to die one minute after midnight Wednesday for killing three people in rural northern Missouri in 1995. With less than 2 hours to go before the execution, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry granted a stay, ruling there was enough evidence of mental illness that a new hearing should be held.

Courts have established that executing the mentally ill is unconstitutional.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court adjourned for the night without a ruling.

It was a confusing end to a day that saw a flurry of court actions. Perry first granted a stay early Tuesday, but that was overturned by the appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the appeals court ruling and declined to halt the execution on several other grounds, including the contention by Middleton's attorneys that he was innocent of the crimes.

Middleton's attorneys then went back to Perry, who once again granted a stay.

However the appeals court eventually rules, the case is likely to end up again in the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the stay is lifted, the state could execute Middleton at any time Wednesday. The death warrant expires at midnight Thursday and if Middleton is not executed by then, the Missouri Supreme Court would have to set a new date. State witnesses and media were told to report back to the prison by 10:30 a.m.

Middleton, 54, would be the 6th man put to death in Missouri this year - only Florida and Texas have performed more executions in 2014 with 7 each.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy "Happy" Hamilton, Stacey Hodge and Alfred Pinegar out of concern that they would tell police about his methamphetamine dealing. Middleton's girlfriend, Maggie Hodges, is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to 2nd-degree murder in all 3 cases.

Middleton's attorneys contend that the wrong man was arrested, citing new evidence that included a witness who came forward in February.

"We're looking at a situation where if (Middleton) had zealous representation at trial he likely would have been acquitted," attorney Joseph Perkovich said.

Koster disagreed.

"The time for enforcement of Missouri's criminal judgment against John Middleton is long overdue," Koster wrote in a court response on Tuesday.

Middleton was a meth dealer in sparsely populated northern Missouri in the mid-1990s. After several drug suspects were arrested on June 10, 1995, he allegedly told a friend: "The snitches around here are going to start going down."

A day later, according to court records, Middleton and his girlfriend met Hamilton and Hodge on a gravel road. Prosecutors said Middleton shot and killed them both and hid the bodies in the trunk of Hamilton's car.

Pinegar, another meth dealer, was shot in the face on June 23, 1995. His body was found in a field near Bethany.

Middleton allegedly told acquaintances about his exploits. He was charged in all 3 killings and convicted in 1997.

But in February, a man whose name has not been disclosed because he fears retribution signed an affidavit saying that 2 rival meth dealers drove him to a rural area soon after Pinegar's death and accused him of being a snitch. He said the men showed him Pinegar's body, saying: "There's already been 3 people killed. You want to be number 4?"

The new witness said the dealers then beat him unconscious with a baseball bat and raped his girlfriend.

Harrison County Sheriff Josh Eckerson agreed to take a new look at the case, but said his investigation found no evidence to back up the new assertions. He is convinced that Middleton is the real killer.

(source: Associated Press)


Woman's boyfriend charged with murder in her death

The boyfriend of a Springfield woman whose body was discovered in April with multiple stab wounds was charged today with 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with her death.

Lorenzo Roy, 50, is accused in the homicide of Jessica Conner, 26, according to documents filed in Greene County Circuit Court. If convicted, Roy could face life in prison or death if the case becomes a death penalty level prosecution.

Conner was discovered on her back on the floor of the kitchen of 1121 N. Sherman Ave. on April 11 with what appeared to be multiple stab wounds to her torso and upper body, according to a search warrant report filed in Greene County Circuit Court. Police wrote that her eyes appeared to be blackened, and dried blood was under her nose.

Conner's mother, Kimbrly Candie, has said she discovered her daughter's body after Conner's boyfriend called her and asked her to check on her daughter. Candie has been describing her daughter as four months pregnant in accounts to area media; an autopsy found that the mother was mistaken and Conner wasn't pregnant, according to the court records released today.

The search warrant indicates a steak knife was found in the kitchen sink. DNA swabs were taken from the handles of doors of the home. Other knives were found in a vehicle in the backyard of the home, where a wet, gray shirt was recovered from a hole.

Dan Patterson, the Greene County prosecuting attorney, has said Conner had been the reported victim of domestic violence many times over the years at the hands of several different suspects.

Patterson said that in recently filed cases, Conner wouldn't cooperate with the prosecution. He said the most recent case was set for trial Feb. 19 and was dismissed by the court when Conner failed to appear.

Springfield police provided documents to the News-Leader detailing four 2013 domestic violence reports in which Conner is named. Records from a fifth incident naming Conner were closed. All released reports refer to the same man.

Springfield reported 2,660 domestic violence incidents in 2013, almost three times as many as Columbia, according to the Missouri Uniform Crime Reporting Program. More domestic violence was reported in Springfield in 2013 than in St. Louis, about twice Springfield's size.

Local authorities have formed a task force on domestic violence because of the high numbers. They've talked about reviewing domestic violence fatalities to see how agencies handling prior complaints communicated and what could have been done differently.

A bill to establish a review of domestic violence deaths in Missouri was considered by the General Assembly in 2011 but didn't pass. Missouri currently reviews all child fatalities.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)


A deeper look at the death penalty in Kansas and Missouri

We're taking a deeper dive on the execution story, because it's the 2nd stayed execution in Missouri in just 3 months.

Russell Bucklew's execution is still on hold.

A judge granted his stay after his lawyer said a rare birth defect would make his execution excruciating. That birth defect causes him to regularly bleed from the nose and mouth. His execution would have been the first after the botched Oklahoma execution that made national headlines.

But Missouri has executed 5 inmates so far this year - that's according to the death penalty information center.

January - Herbert Smulls

February - Michael Taylor

March - Jeffrey Ferguson

April - William Rousan

June - John Winfield

Right now in Kansas - 9 men face the death penalty. But Kansas has not executed an inmate since 1965. In fact the US military's death row is located at Fort Leavenworth. That's according to the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

(source: KSHB news)


Oklahoma lawmaker suggests bringing back firing squad----Study to examine different methods of legal execution

An Oklahoma representative will study different methods of legal execution, suggesting the possibility of bringing back the firing squad, hangings and the electric chair.

District 93 Rep. Mike Christian is heading the study, after calling for a legislative hearing on the state's death penalty procedures.

Christian got involved after Oklahoma's April 29 botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. Lockett, convicted of killing Stephanie Nieman in 1999, suffered a massive heart attack that killed him during his lethal injection.

"People say that Clayton Lockett suffered, but people tend to forget about the victim," Christian said. "It's our job as a government to give the people what they want, and they support capital punishment."

Christian said the study will look at possibly striking lethal injection as a method of capital punishment.

"We're going to look at protocol, procedures, alternatives, but one of the alternatives that I think would almost be more humane, if you may, would be firing squad," Christian said. "I don't know if you read my quote, but I said I don't care if it's about lethal injection, by hanging, guillotine, gas chamber or feed them to the lions; justice needs to be served."

Christian also examined the idea of letting the victim's family have a say on how a death row inmate is executed.

"I've called them animals, and I think it's almost being critical of the animal kingdom to call them animals because animals don't act the way some of these monster do, these demons," Christian said. "I don't have a lot of sympathy for these people that commit these kinds of crimes."

But District 48 State Sen. Constance Johnson, who is against the death penalty, said the way Lockett died was inhumane, and said she doesn't agree with bringing back any of the alternative methods suggested by Christian.

"It surely speaks to what I believe is the devolution in our environment and our society in Oklahoma, when we're intent on hating and killing and punishing as the way to show that killing is wrong," Johnson said.

Johnson, who serves on the board for the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said she hopes that Christian's study will serve a different purpose.

"There's so many factors at play here, I wish and I hope that Representative Christian will consider all of those," Johnson said. "The best outcome would be what I have tried to achieve in legislation and that is to conclude that it costs more to put someone to death, and therefore the alternative should be life without parole."

(source: KOCO news)


Garcia-Soto death penalty trial set for early 2016

A man charged with murder in the death of his son in 2008 will go to trial 8 years after the incident.

Cesar Garcia-Soto, 33, was arrested in February 2008 and charged with 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of child abuse in connection with the death of his 3-month-old son.

Sedona firefighters were called to his apartment in the Village of Oak Creek the night of Jan. 23, 2008, and discovered the child, Edwin Alejandro Garcia, was unconscious and not breathing. Garcia-Soto was the only adult at the apartment.

Edwin was taken to St. Joseph's hospital in Phoenix, where he died 3 weeks later.

Doctors said he had "highly suspicious" injuries: a fractured skull and pelvis, according to YCSO investigators, and a broken arm and several broken ribs that appeared to be a result of older incidents.

Deputies also arrested the child's mother, Gladys Yamileth Rodriguez-Paz, who was not home at the time of the 911 call, saying she could have acted to stop the abuse.

Rodriguez-Paz pleaded guilty to 1 count of child abuse in 2008 and was sentenced to a year in prison.

But for years, Garcia-Soto's legal team argued that it was too dangerous to travel to Cuidad Juarez in Mexico to do required evidence research. The lawyers, John Napper and Dennis Jones, tried to quit, but Superior Court Judge Cele Hancock, saying it would set a bad precedent, wouldn't let them. They tried to have the death penalty taken off the table, saying that would solve the required research problem, but she refused. They asked the Presiding Judge, David Mackey, to replace Hancock, but he would not.

The case was stalled. Then Jones withdrew for health reasons, and the Yavapai County Public Defender at the time, Dean Trebesch, said he couldn't find anyone to replace him because of comments Napper had made.

Finally, Trebesch took Napper off the case. He was replaced by Michael Terribile, a Phoenix attorney who had been working on the case with Napper, and Treasure VanDreumel, also of Phoenix.

The case was reassigned to Judge Jennifer B. Campbell when Hancock moved to mental-health court.

Napper is now the county's public defender, with Trebesch having retired in May.

Campbell asked the lawyers how long the case would take to present at trial. Deputy County Attorney Paul Ahler said about 12 days; VanDreumel said about 21 days.

Campbell set the trial for January 2016.

She also set a settlement conference, when the parties will see if a plea agreement can be reached, for the week of October 6, 2014, to be heard before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Ryan at the Camp Verde courthouse.

Asked if he had any questions, Garcia-Soto thanked Campbell for pushing to get the trial underway.

(source: The Daily Courier)


Pasadena triple homicide suspect charged with 3 counts capital murder

Prosecutors Tuesday said the man linked to a weekend shooting spree could face the death penalty.

John Izeal Smith, 44, could stand trial for 3 counts of murder and 3 counts of attempted murder, including the attempted murder of a police officer, officials said.

Attorneys Tuesday morning delayed Smith's arraignment in Pasadena Superior Court until Aug. 7.

Smith appeared in court for the brief proceeding. He wore a bright yellow jumpsuit top with blue pants and his hands were shackled at his waist.

Smith is charged in the murders of Maria Aguiar, 59, her 91-year-old father, Luis Aguiar and Jose Hernandez Iribe, 31.

Prosecutors have not yet decided if they will seek the death penalty, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The charges also carry the special circumstance of multiple murders and the special allegation Smith intentionally discharged a rifle.

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said Smith allegedly fired more than 40 rounds from an assault rifle during the shooting rampage and police standoff Saturday afternoon in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue. Smith surrendered after a 20-minute standoff with police officers.

Judge Terry Smerling granted the prosecution's request to continue to hold Smith without bail.

Attorney Michael R. Coghlan, a public defender, said given the seriousness of the charges, it was standard procedure to request a delay in arraignment until an attorney from his office was permanently assigned to the case.

Coghlan said he did not interview Smith or discuss any of the facts of the case with him.

2 women who identified themselves as Smith's family attended the proceeding, but declined comment.

Police believe the shooting stemmed from a landlord and tenant dispute and that Smith may have had a long-term relationship with some of the victims. Sanchez did not describe the nature of the relationship.

Iribe was described as a "Good Samaritan" who ran towards the gunfire and tried to help Maria Aguiar as she lay mortally wounded on the sidewalk. He was staying at a home about a half-block away from where the shooting rampage erupted.

Claudia Haro and Antonio Nieves were injured during the shootout, according to the felony complaint filed by the district attorney's office.

Haro and Maria Aguiar escaped from the house where Luis was killed, but Smith hunted down the 2 women, Sanchez said. Haro suffered graze wounds to her arm and head. Police described Nieves' injuries as moderate.

Prosecutors identified John Yoo as the Pasadena police officer who became the target of Smith's gunfire. Police said the officer arrived on scene and attempted to render aid to Maria when Smith began firing at him. Yoo retreated behind his SUV police cruiser.

Sanchez said 8 to 10 bullets hit the cruiser.

Yoo, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, graduated from the Rio Hondo Police Academy last year, according to city documents.

(source: Contra Costa Times)


Lawyers push to move marathon bomber trial

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a judge on Tuesday to allow them to bolster their request to move his trial outside of Massachusetts.

In a written motion, Tsarnaev's lawyers asked U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. to give them until Aug. 7 to present an expert's analysis of survey data and media coverage of the case to support their argument that Tsarnaev cannot get a fair trial in Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev, 20, a former UMass Dartmouth student, is awaiting trial and faces the possibility of the death penalty in the deadly attack. Twin pressure cooker bombs placed near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killed 3 people and injured more than 260.

In a change of venue motion filed last month, Tsarnaev's lawyers asked to move his trial from Boston to Washington, D.C. They said preliminary survey results of potential jurors in Massachusetts showed "an overwhelming presumption of guilt."

Prosecutors have opposed the request, saying the poll results cited by Tsarnaev's lawyers are "an unreliable indicator of actual jury bias." A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz declined to comment on the defense request to supplement their argument to move the trial.

(source: Associated Press)


Do you want the Death penalty abolished?

Ghanaians will answer two questions during the upcoming referendum expected to be held later this year as part of the amendment processes of the existing Republican Constitution.

The 2 questions to be posed are whether or not the Death Penalty in the Constitution should be abolished while the 2nd question will be whether or not the citizens agree to the proposed amendment of some of the entrenched provisions in the supreme law of the land.

Addressing a well attended forum in Kumasi, the Chairman of the Constitution Review Implementation Committee, Professor Emmanuel Victor Dankwah explained that the decision for the electorate to answer 2 questions during the referendum has been necessitated by the 2 strong views expressed by the people on the death penalty.

Residents in the Ashanti region are upbeat about the proposed referendum later this year to amend portions of the existing Republican Constitution.

All the people whose views were sampled by Radio Ghana after a forum in Kumasi on the proposed Constitutional amendment expressed satisfaction with the processes involved in the amendment so far.

They were also happy about most of the issues raised in line with the scheduled referendum.

Opinions were however sharply divided about whether or not the death penalty should be abolished.

The Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association, Listowel Yesu Bukarson was happy that eventually, the National Media Commission would have the capacity to instill decorum within the media landscape.

According to Mr. Bukarson, media practitioners and their organizations have had too much room to infringe on the law.

He maintained that if the amendment is implemented, the media industry would be revolutionized.



Group Calls For Abolition Of Death Penalty In Nigeria----International Human Rights group, Avocats Sans Frontieres, has called on Nigeria to abolish death penalty in the country's laws.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the group's Country Head, Ms Angela Uwandu, said that Nigeria needs to adopt a restrictive pronouncements on death penalty since several cases have shown that it has not served as a deterrent to crimes.

Ms Uwandu disclosed that the goal of the group was to ensure abolition of capital punishment in the Nigeria.

In pursuit of this goal, over 100 inmates have had their cases reviewed and ultimately regained freedom following the completion of the Save Lives Project by the Avocats Sans Frontičres.

Former death row inmate, Calistus Ike, was one of the freed inmates. He spent 23 years of his life in prison, first, he was on the list of inmates awaiting trial for 7 years and thereafter, he was placed on death row for another 16 years. He was said to have gone through all these for a crime he did not commit.

According to the human rights group, the case of Calistus Ike was similar to that of many inmates in the Nigerian prison system. In worse cases, some of them are awaiting trial for crimes that should not attract death penalty.

This has been the argument of the opponents of death penalty in Nigeria, according to Ms Uwandu, as the debate over whether death penalty should be abolished or not continues to be in public discourse in Nigeria.

However, miscarriage of justice remains a problem in criminal justice in many countries around the world.



Ruling In Sandiford Funding Appeal

The UK's highest court rules today on an appeal by a woman on death row in Indonesia over the lawfulness of a government policy not to provide funding for legal representation to Britons facing capital charges abroad.M

5 Supreme Court justices in London were told at a hearing last month that the situation of grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, 57, from Cheltenham, Gloucester - who was convicted last year of trafficking drugs into the resort island of Bali - is that she is effectively without legal representation in Indonesia to allow her to pursue a further hearing of her case, and has "no access to any further private funding". Her QC Aidan O'Neill said that previously Sandiford had been able to fund her legal fight against the death sentence in the Indonesian courts through the "kindness of strangers".

But he told Lords Mance, Clarke, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson: "The current situation of the appellant is that she has one last chance of seeking review or appeal through the courts against the death penalty being carried out on her - by way of application for judicial review to the Indonesian Supreme Court. This requires a detailed knowledge of Indonesian law."

There was also the possibility of her submitting a petition for clemency to the Indonesian government, which also "requires a close knowledge of the Indonesian judicial and political situation and environment".

He added: "The appellant is, however, effectively without legal representation in Indonesia to allow her to pursue this line of judicial review, and she has no access to any further private funding which might otherwise allow her to instruct a suitably qualified lawyer."

In April last year, three Court of Appeal judges in London ruled that the UK Government's policy of not providing funding for legal representation to any British national who faced criminal proceedings abroad - even in death penalty cases - was not unlawful.

That decision followed an earlier High Court ruling that the Government was not legally obliged to pay for "an adequate lawyer" to represent Sandiford, who was sentenced to death by firing squad after being found with cocaine worth an estimated 1.6 million pounds as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, in May 2012.

Appeal judges heard at the time of the hearing before them last year that she needed around 8,000 pounds for her legal fight against the sentence.

Following those proceedings she received donations covering the sum needed.

Dismissing her challenge at the Court of Appeal, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said the question was not whether the Foreign Secretary could produce a different policy "which many would regard as fairer and more reasonable and humane than the present policy", but whether the policy he had produced was "irrational".

He concluded: "I am in no doubt that the policy is not irrational.

"It is based on reasoning which is coherent and which is neither arbitrary nor perverse."

Sandiford, originally from Redcar, Teesside - who claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to protect her children, whose safety was at stake - was sentenced to death in January 2013 by judges of the District Court of Denpasar in Bali.

She appealed but her case was rejected by the High Court of Denpasar.

Last August, a 3-judge panel at the Indonesian Supreme Court in Jakarta also rejected her appeal.

In written submissions opposing Sandiford's appeal at the UK's Supreme Court, Martin Chamberlain QC, for the Foreign Secretary, said: "The death penalty is among the punishments to which the Government is opposed in all circumstances as a matter of principle."

It supported initiatives designed to encourage states which retained the death penalty to change their position and makes grants to charities such as Reprieve, which assisted individuals who were charged with capital offences.

In "appropriate cases" it also made "state to state representations".

Mr Chamberlain said the statutory legal aid scheme extended only to legal proceedings in the UK, and the Government "has not established an analogous scheme to cover legal expenses for British nationals involved in criminal proceedings abroad, even where the proceedings may result in the imposition of punishments to which it is strongly opposed".

He told the judges that the policy did not allow funding to be given, even in exceptional circumstances, but added: "However, that does not mean that the appellant's individual circumstances have been ignored."

Specific consideration was given to the question whether the policy should be changed in the light of those circumstances.

"The conclusion was that the appellant's case could not be regarded as more compelling than many others and that the policy should not be changed to allow payments in this case," he said.

(source: Daily Mail)


Those who leave Islam in Malaysia face fines, whippings and death sentence----In the South Asian nation of Malaysia, those who wish to leave Islam - or no longer wish to be associated with Islam - can go to court to have their status changed. There is a catch: Malaysians must make their cases known in courts where Sharia law is in effect - and face prison, fines, whippings and even a death sentence for doing so.

The Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia, or JKSM in a recent newspaper interview said that the Islamic courts are the only place according to current laws for Malaysians seeking to be no longer known as Muslim.

The department identified 2 types of applications at the Sharia courts. One is to renounce Islam, and secondly for a declaration that one is no longer Muslim.

For the former, practicing Muslims - regardless of ethnicity who want to renounce Islam and convert to other faiths, could not be found for the department.

For the 2nd type of application, JKSM puts these applicants into 3 categories: The 1st subgroup are those mistakenly listed as Muslims because of naming conventions, typically involving residents of Sabah and Sarawak.

Another group covers those who embraced Islam but now wish to revert to being non-Muslims, which includes applicants who had converted when marrying a Muslim but want out of the religion after the marriage fails.

The last includes non-practicing Muslims who want to be recognized as non-Muslims. This 3rd group cuts across ethnicity. This designation includes those who were born as Muslims and "by virtue of the documents are Muslims, but never practice the religion of Islam," it said.

Children from an initial non-Muslim marriage who were unilaterally converted by one of the parents who had converted to Islam also fall within this 3rd group. These children may apply personally to be recognized as non-Muslims once they are 18 years old.

Sharia Courts have reportedly only approved a total of 135 out of 686 applications by Muslims seeking to change their religious status for the 2000-2010 period.

There is "no penalty" and no mandatory counseling session if the Sharia court rejects the application, while applicants also have the right to appeal, - JKSM said.

However - 5 states in Malaysia have laws that prohibit apostasy or attempted apostasy. "Apostasy" in a Muslim nation means choosing to embrace a different religious faith.

Those found guilty of attempted apostasy will be detained in Islamic Rehabilitation Centers until they repent or for up to 36 months, while those in Malacca would face up to 6 months of detention in such centers.

Those who were raised in a professing Muslim family and choose to convert to Christianity face horrid opposition. So much for religious freedom in Muslim Nations.



Family of Indian on death row seeks verdict repeal----Indian driver faces death squad for running over an 8-year-old Sudanese boy; lawyers file review petition

An Indian family has approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Delhi and the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi seeking help to repeal a death penalty handed to their kin by the Appeals Court in Abu Dhabi.

Charavattayi Krishnan Becks, 37, has been sentenced to face the firing squad on charges of pre-meditated murder of an 8-year-old Sudanese boy.

As per the case file, Becks who works as a driver, was playing on his laptop sitting in his car near a kerb close to his house in Mussafah on September 14, 2012. Some children who were playing in the area kept disturbing him by knocking on the window. They also threw stones and paper at the accused when he rolled down the window. An irate Becks drove off to a parking lot a few metres away where he ran over the victim.

The public prosecutor who appeared for the victim's family had argued that the accused was chasing the boys in a fit of rage and drove his car over the boy with the intention of killing him.

Beck's lawyer defended him arguing it was an accident caused when the victim jumped across the vehicle from behind a transformer.

Court verdict

But the Court of First Instance found Becks guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The court also ordered the culprit to pay the boy's family Dh200,000 as blood money.

When the case was brought before the Appeals Court, it upheld the verdict. The victim's family approached the Court of Cassation, which again referred the case back to the Appeals Court for retrial. Becks was sentenced to death by firing squad at the retrial by the Appeals Court, which was once again upheld by the Court of Cassation.

Lawyers representing Becks told XPRESS they have filed a review petition of the death penalty on the grounds that the second verdict by the Appeals Court was given by the same panel of judges who gave the 1st verdict.

"As per the UAE laws, a different panel of judges should hear the review petition when it is referred for a second time to the Appeals Court," said the legal source.

Krishnan Binson, brother of the accused, told XPRESS that their family in India does not know Becks has been awarded death penalty. "I cannot tell his wife and his 4-year-old son. We are just hopeful because my brother is not a murderer," said Binson, who works in a shipping company in Abu Dhabi.

An Indian embassy official said the petition submitted by the family has been forwarded to the UAE authorities. "The role of the embassy is to forward the petition to the local authorities. We do not interfere in the judicial procedures of the host country. Nor do we judge the merits or demerits of the case," said the embassy official.

(source: Gulf News)

JULY 15, 2014:


After officer is slain, lawmaker seeks N.J. death penalty for cop killers

The fatal shooting of a Jersey City police officer Sunday has prompting a New Jersey lawmaker to again call for restoring the death penalty for killing police.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer says the ambush killing of officer Melvin Santiago, 23, shows why the legislature should act, said Assemblyman Ron Dancer.

"These criminals can have life in prison with health care, with 3 meals a day, with all the activities recreational and social," said Dancer, R-Ocean. "I just think there needs to be a deterrent, and that deterrent is the death penalty."

New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.

Dancer's bill would also restore capital punishment for the murder of a child and murders committed by terrorists.

Similar legislation has been proposed for the last 3 years but has failed to advance through the legislature.

Santiago died early Sunday, after he responded to a report of a robbery at a 24-hour drugstore.

Authorities say the gunman, Lawrence Campbell, never tried to rob the drugstore and instead lay in wait for police to arrive.

Mayor Steven Fulop said Campbell told a witness before he shot Santiago to watch the news because he was "going to be famous."

Campbell, who was also wanted in connection with a recent homicide, was killed by police after shooting Santiago.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty sought in quadruple killings

Marion County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against 1 suspect in a February quadruple murder.

Kenneth Rackemann, 24, is facing charges of murder, felony murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for his suspected role in the Feb. 20 fatal shootings of Hayley Navarra, 21, Kristy Mae Sanchez, 42, Jacob Rodemich, 43, and Walter Burnell, 47.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they planned to pursue the death penalty in Rackemann's case.

Samantha Bradley, 20, Valencia Williams, 21, and Anthony Larussa, 26, were also arrested and charged in the case.



Federal judge grants stay in Missouri execution; state attorney general appeals

A federal judge on Tuesday granted a stay of execution for a Missouri man hours before he was scheduled to be put to death for killing 3 people in rural Missouri out of fear that they would tell police about his drug dealing.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled that there was enough question about John Middleton's sanity that a hearing should determine if he is fit to be executed. Courts have established that executing the insane is unconstitutional.

"(Middleton) has provided evidence that he has been diagnosed with a variety of mental health disorders, and has received a number of psychiatric medications over the years," Perry wrote, adding that other inmates "indicate that he frequently talks to people who are not there, and tells stories that could not have had any basis in reality."

The Missouri Attorney General's office immediately asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the execution to go ahead.

"The time for enforcement of Missouri's criminal judgment against John Middleton is long overdue," Attorney General Chris Koster wrote.

Middleton, 54, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He would be the 6th man put to death in Missouri this year - only Florida and Texas have performed more executions in 2014 with 7 each.

The appeals court had late Monday refused to halt the execution because Middleton says he is innocent of the killings. That case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Richard Sindel, one of Middleton's attorneys.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy "Happy" Hamilton and Stacey Hodge in early June 1995. He then killed Alfred Pinegar several days later, out of concern that they would tell police about Middleton's methamphetamine dealing. Middleton's girlfriend, Maggie Hodges, is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to 2nd-degree murder in all 3 cases.

Middleton's attorneys contend that the wrong man was arrested, citing new evidence that included a witness who came forward in February.

"We're looking at a situation where if (Middleton) had zealous representation at trial he likely would have been acquitted," said Joseph Perkovich, another attorney for Middleton.

Middleton was a meth dealer in sparsely-populated northern Missouri in the mid-1990s. After several drug suspects were arrested on June 10, 1995, he allegedly told a friend, "The snitches around here are going to start going down."

A day later, according to court records, Middleton and his girlfriend met Hamilton and Hodge on a gravel road. Prosecutors said Middleton shot and killed them both and put the bodies in the trunk of Hamilton's car.

Pinegar, another meth dealer, was shot in the face on June 23, 1995. His body was found in a field near Bethany.

Middleton allegedly told acquaintances about his exploits. He was charged in all 3 killings and convicted in 1997.

A witness with another story emerged this year.

In February, a man whose name is not disclosed because he fears retribution signed an affidavit saying that two rival meth dealers drove him to a rural area soon after Pinegars's death and accused him of being a snitch. He said the men showed him Pinegar's body, saying, "There's already been 3 people killed. You want to be number 4?"

The new witness said the 2 dealers then beat him unconscious with a baseball bat and raped his girlfriend.

Harrison County Sheriff Josh Eckerson agreed to take a new look at the case, but said his investigation found no evidence to back up the new assertions. He is convinced that Middleton was the real killer.

Perkovich said police and prosecutors botched the initial investigation, working closely with the rival meth dealers rather than considering them suspects.

They also say that a Missouri trooper provided a forensic scientist with the wrong date on which insect remains were retrieved from Pinegar's body - a method used to determine the time of death. That scientist said in an affidavit earlier this year that his revised calculations show that Pinegar died one day later than originally thought - when Middleton was in jail in Iowa on an unrelated charge.

(source: Associated Press)


Trial set for man facing death penalty in elderly woman's slaying

A man facing the death penalty in the robbery, pistol-whipping and fatal shooting of a 75-year-old woman will be tried next year in Clark County District Court.

Bayzle Morgan, 22, is accused of cornering and killing Jean Main at her home in the 8000 block of Green Pasture Avenue on May 21, 2013. Metro Police allege he shot the woman in the head, leaving her lifeless body inside a bathroom as he made off with $800, a Kindle Fire, a laptop, and Main's purse.

Authorities said Morgan left Main's house with the help of suspected getaway driver Keith Smith, who faces a gross misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to commit burglary and a felony burglary charge.

Police tracked down Morgan, an ex-convict, after finding his blood at the crime scene, authorities said. He faces felony charges of 1st-degree murder, robbery, burglary and kidnapping.

District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt scheduled the trial of Morgan and Smith for Feb. 3. It had previously been scheduled for June 24, but defense attorneys Dayvid Figler and John Parris asked for an extension.

Morgan is also facing a felony charge of robbery with a deadly weapon in the theft of a motorcycle in an unrelated case.

That trial is slated for Nov. 17. Morgan pleaded guilty in 2010 to a charge of receiving or transferring stolen vehicles.

(source: Las Vegas Sun)


The 2014 Report on Death Penalty Worldwide and the 2014 Abolitionist Of The Year Award by Hands Off Cain

On Friday 18 July 2014 at 11:45 in Via di Torre Argentina 76, Rome, the anti-death penalty association Hands Off Cain will present the 2014 Report The Death Penalty Worldwide and the Award Abolitionist Of The Year 2014. Participants include: Emma Bonino, Nassirou Bako Arifari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Benin, Ben Crair, Editorialist at The New Republic, Father Guido Bertagna, Benedetto Della Vedova, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary, Marco Pannella, Sergio D'Elia, Elisabetta Zamparutti, President, Secretary and Treasurer of Hands Off Cain respectively.

Hands off Cain's 2014 Report, edited by Reality Book, accounts of the most important facts regarding the practice of the death penalty in 2013 and the first 6 months of 2014. Data shows that China, Iran and Iraq were the top 3 "Executioner-Countries" in the world in 2013, even if Iran is the absolute record holder of capital punishment by population. However, the most negative aspect to emerge from the 2014 Hands off Cain Report concerns the so-called liberal democracies, where the number of executions increased and the system of capital punishment is, for many aspects, covered by a veil of secrecy.

During the event, Hands off Cain will also present the objectives of its ongoing campaign for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Africa, and proposals to strengthen the new Pro-Moratorium Resolution that will be voted by the UN General Assembly in December 2014.

"The Abolitionist of the Year 2014" Award, which is promoted by Hands off Cain to recognize the person, who, above all others, has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment in the struggle for a moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty, is conferred this year upon Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin who will participate in videoconference.



Group Calls For Abolition Of Death Penalty In Nigeria----International Human Rights group, Avocats Sans Frontičres, has called on Nigeria to abolish death penalty in the country's laws.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the group's Country Head, Ms Angela Uwandu, said that Nigeria needs to adopt a restrictive pronouncements on death penalty since several cases have shown that it has not served as a deterrent to crimes.

Ms Uwandu disclosed that the goal of the group was to ensure abolition of capital punishment in the Nigeria.

In pursuit of this goal, over 100 inmates have had their cases reviewed and ultimately regained freedom following the completion of the Save Lives Project by the Avocats Sans Frontieres.

Former death row inmate, Calistus Ike, was one of the freed inmates. He spent 23 years of his life in prison, first, he was on the list of inmates awaiting trial for 7 years and thereafter, he was placed on death row for another 16 years. He was said to have gone through all these for a crime he did not commit.

According to the human rights group, the case of Calistus Ike was similar to that of many inmates in the Nigerian prison system. In worse cases, some of them are awaiting trial for crimes that should not attract death penalty.

This has been the argument of the opponents of death penalty in Nigeria, according to Ms Uwandu, as the debate over whether death penalty should be abolished or not continues to be in public discourse in Nigeria.

However, miscarriage of justice remains a problem in criminal justice in many countries around the world.



Youth at risk of hanging amid disturbing rise in juvenile executions

The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of a young man who was still a child at the time of his alleged crime, and reverse a disturbing rise in the execution of juvenile offenders which has resulted in at least 8 individuals being put to death in the 1st half of 2014, for crimes allegedly committed when they were below the age of 18, Amnesty International urged today.

Rasoul Holoumi, now 22, was sentenced to death in October 2010 for the alleged killing of a boy during a group-fight in 2009, when he was 17 years old. The execution could be carried out at any time at the request of the victim's family, under the Islamic law principle of qesas (retribution-in-kind).

"It is cruel and inhumane to hang any person but it is particularly reprehensible for Iran to do so when the person was a child at the time of the alleged crime, and the execution takes place after a flawed investigation process that violates fair trial standards," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Iran is among a handful of countries that still execute juvenile offenders. Amnesty International has recorded at least 8 juvenile executions in the 1st half of 2014; equivalent to the total number of juvenile executions in Iran during the whole of 2013.

"The execution of Rasoul Holoumi will be a deplorable addition to Iran's grim tally of executions. Whatever argument the authorities might use, this is a flagrant violation of international law. Rasoul Holoumi was a child at the time of his alleged offence and his death sentence must be quashed," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Branch 17 of the Criminal Court in Iran's western Khuzestan Province sentenced Rasoul Holoumi to death in October 2010 for murder. The conviction was based on allegations that, during a fight involving multiple people in September 2009, he had thrown a hard object at Nasim Nouri Maleki, resulting in fatal head injuries. The allegations appear to have been made by several of the people who were themselves involved in the fight.

Rasoul Holoumi was not given access to a lawyer during the investigation nor was he given adequate time and resources to prepare and defend himself before and during trial. Although he admitted to the charges when he was first summoned by the police, he retracted this admission after several weeks, making statements which raised doubts about the events leading to the victim's death - or whether he was even there at the time.

On 30 September 2009, Rasoul Holoumi said that he had been at home when the fight broke out and had only confessed to the crime because he felt sorry for another child who had confided to him that he had hit Nasim Nouri Maleki during the fight. On 2 October 2009, he said that he had picked up and thrown a hard object when he saw some of the people involved in the fight coming towards him, but the blow was not intentional. On 5 October 2009, he denied that he had ever thrown the hard object. Additional doubts have been raised by reports that there was a history of hostility between the family of Rasoul Holoumi and the principal witness in the case who testified against him.

In spite of all this, Iran's Supreme Court upheld Rasoul Holoumi's death sentence in 2010 without explaining its reasoning.

The Iranian authorities were due to execute him on 4 May this year, but stopped it after the victim's family agreed to forgo their request for retribution if Rasoul Holoumi's family paid them 3.5 billion Rials (equivalent to US$135,323) as diyah (blood money) and transferred the deeds of their house and farm to them. The diyah amount of 3.5 billion Rials appears to be beyond his family's means, leaving the 22 year old man vulnerable to imminent execution at any time.

Sentences of qesas are not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader in breach of international law.


Iran continues to be one of the world's most prolific executing states. According to Amnesty International's Death Sentences and Executions 2013 report, Iranian officials acknowledged the execution of at least 369 people in 2013, while reliable sources reported at least 335 additional executions. Reports indicate that at least 11 of those executed may have been under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes.

As of 26 June 2014, 171 executions this year have been acknowledged by the authorities or state-sanctioned media and at least 233 additional executions have been reported by other reliable sources.

The execution of people for crimes committed when they were under 18 is strictly prohibited under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified.

Under Article 6(4) of the ICCPR, anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.

(source: Amnesty International)


Priti Patel MP: Who is the new Treasury minister who supports death penalty

The 42-year-old is one of the big winners in the Prime Minister's reshuffle, moving up from a Downing Street policy board to the middle-ranking ministerial position of exchequer secretary dealing with tax policy.

Born in the London borough of Harrow, she became the Conservatives' 1st female Asian MP when she won her Essex seat in 2010.

Ms Patel has a history of supporting campaigns for small businesses, transport infrastructure investment and affordable homes - but it is her views on the criminal justice system that make her promotion into the heart of George Osborne's ministerial team controversial.

She famously clashed with Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye and team captain on the BBC's Have I Got News For You, in a Question Time debate on the US's execution of Troy Davis.

She said at the time that she would "support the reintroduction of capital punishment" on the grounds that "murderers and rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes go into prison but then are released back into the community to do those crimes again and again".

Disagreeing with other panel members including the Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable and Labour's Harriet Harman, she said: "Capital punishment [could] serve as a deterrent. I do not think we have enough deterrents in this country for criminals - let's not forget that murders, rapists and criminals of that nature choose to commit the crimes that they commit."

(source: The Independent)

TEXAS----new execution date

Rodney Reed has been given an execution date of January 14, 2015; it should be considered serious.


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

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

277------------Aug. 6--------------------Manuel Vasquez-------516

278------------Sept. 10-----------------Willie Trottie--------517

279------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------518

280------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------519

281------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------520

282------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------521

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

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

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Convicted killer set to die March 18

Convicted cop killer Randall Wayne Mays' date with death has been set less than 2 weeks after he lost his challenge to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee said Judge Carter Tarrance of the 392nd District Court set Mays' execution date for March 18.

Mays was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the deaths of Tony Price Ogburn, 61, a 5-year veteran from Log Cabin, and Paul Steven Habelt, 63, a 13-year-veteran from Eustace, after they came to the aid of a fellow officer.

Mays also shot and injured deputy Kevin Harris during the ordeal, which began as a domestic dispute between Mays and his wife.

McKee said Mays was not brought in from death row, nor was there a court hearing.

"The law does not require the judge to hold a hearing in order to set an execution date," McKee said. "As soon as we received notice that the Fifth Circuit refused to grant Mays a Certificate of Appealability (COA), we filed a motion to set an execution date."

McKee indicated this was the 1st available date provided to him from TDCJ through the Texas AG's Office.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a review of Mays' appeal in October 2011 and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied his Federal writ of habeas corpus in December.

Mays' latest legal challenge to his conviction involved a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Federal court last December in an attempt to gain what's known as a Certificate of Appealability for his case. The suit was partly based on assertions that Mays is mentally handicapped, therefore, the State of Texas should not be allowed to execute him.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prior cases establish a precedent that the mentally handicapped do not receive an absolute constitutional protection from death penalty laws. The judges denied his request for a Certificate of Appealability as a result.

This is the 2nd execution date set for Mays. Texas law mandates that a court cannot set an execution date until the convict has exhausted his State Appeals and State writ of habeas corpus. In May 2011, the District Attorney's Office filed a motion to set the execution date before Mays filed his federal writ of habeas corpus. Although his defense team fought the motion, the court set the date for Aug. 23, 2011.

Patricia Ogburn said recently that she has asked God to forgive Mays, but it was difficult.

"I mean, he killed my husband, so it is hard," the 65-year-old widow said. "I just want this all to be over. This has been going on for 7 years."

Mrs. Ogburn said she will continue to pray about the situation, and though she might forgive, she said she would never forget.

(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)


Tearful testimony wraps up 1st day of accused cop killer's trial----Defense seeks life in prison for man accused of fatally shooting Bellaire police officer and body shop owner

From outside the auto parts store where Stephanie Pacheco worked, she saw the deadly shootings unfold.

She saw Bellaire Police Officer Jimmie Norman struggle with a man who was halfway out of the driver's seat of his black Honda Civic. She saw the man, Harlem Lewis III, reach into his car to pull out a gun as the police officer wrestled with him.

Then, she told a Harris County jury on Monday, she froze as gunshots echoed across the Bellaire parking lot.

"I saw him hit ground outside of the car," the sobbing Pacheco said of the fallen officer. "Then (Lewis) stood up and started shooting at the people at Maaco."

The gunshots would claim another life - Terry Taylor, who owned the body shop.

Pacheco and several other people were brought to tears during the first day of testimony in Lewis's death penalty trial, including members of the victims' families as well as another witness.

While listening to witness accounts of the shooting, Lewis put his head in his hands and started to sob.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson had told jurors earlier in the day they would see video evidence of the entire crime, captured on the police officer's dashboard camera.

"This capital murder is caught from beginning to end on video," said Anderson, who is personally prosecuting the case. "It's not easy to watch."

She said Lewis "calmly and deliberately executed" Norman and Taylor, whose body shop was next to the Carquest where Pacheco worked.

"On Christmas Eve 2012, those 2 men got up, got dressed, went to work, and then were brutally and senselessly murdered by this defendant," Anderson told jurors as she pointed to Lewis. "And you're going to watch it happen."

In other testimony, Selvin Romero, 20, testified in Spanish that he was standing between Norman and Taylor when they were shot.

Minutes earlier, Romero's Ford F150 pickup was rear-ended by Lewis, who was fleeing police.

Not realizing he was in the middle of a police chase, Romero starting following Lewis to exchange insurance information. He had been victimized in a hit-and-run in the past.

Lasted just seconds

Because his car was damaged, Lewis stopped in the parking lot of the Maaco auto body shop.

Taylor, a businessman who knew Norman, apparently came out because of the commotion and was trying to help the officer.

Romero said the altercation lasted just seconds. He watched Norman try to get Lewis out of the car as Lewis was reaching for something inside. Then, Romero said, he saw Norman fall back, mortally wounded from a gunshot.

Romero dropped to the ground when the shots rang out. The 20-year-old broke down in tears as he described the scene, especially watching Taylor fall seconds later.

"The other man tried to leave after the 1st shot," Romero said through a court interpreter. "But he couldn't get away."

Criminal intent

Defense lawyers for Lewis said he did not have the criminal intent required to make the crime capital murder.

"He was stopped by police officers ... all the time," said attorney Tyrone Moncriffe. "He didn't go over there that day to shoot a police officer or anyone."

Moncriffe said Lewis feared that the Honda he was trying to deliver to his girlfriend would be confiscated. Lewis, who worked in his father's auto shop, had been stopped in the past and had other cars impounded, the lawyer said.

"He was just trying to get the car to his girlfriend, who had to be at work at 10 a.m.," Moncriffe said.

Lewis, who appeared in a cobalt blue shirt and a striped white tie, listened intently to opening statements. He took notes as the day went on.

The trial, in state District Judge Mark Kent Ellis' court, is expected to last about 3 weeks. The 12 jurors and 2 alternates are scheduled to return to court Tuesday morning.

Lewis is being defended by Moncriffe and Pat McCann, who are veteran criminal defense attorneys.

They hope to convince jurors to sentence Lewis to life in prison without parole, instead of death.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Prosecutors to re-try 23-year-old homicide case

Delaware prosecutors indicated Monday that the state will be re-trying the 23-year-old case against Jermaine M. Wright for the 1991 slaying of 66-year-old Phillip G. Seifert.

The move comes less than 2 months after the Delaware Supreme Court tossed out Wright's conviction and death sentence, with 4 of 5 justices ruling that Wright did not receive a fair trial in 1992 because evidence had been withheld from Wright's defense attorney.

At the time the state's highest court tossed out Wright's conviction, he was the state's longest-serving inmate on death row. Wright's attorneys had hoped that prosecutors would drop the case given the problems with the prosecution, the Supreme Court ruling and the passage of so much time.

Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood said outside court Monday that "the prosecution continues" and declined further comment.

Defense attorney Herbert Mondros said attorneys are ready to defend Wright, 41, at a re-trial. To that end, longtime criminal defense attorney Eugene Maurer Jr. is joining Wright's defense team.

Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins Jr. did not set a trial date at Monday's proceeding but told attorneys, "This case will be tried next year."

In court, Wood acknowledged the difficulty in re-trying a 2-decade-old case, telling Parkins that prosecutors have been searching for files and physical evidence related to the case but have had difficulty finding both.

Wood noted that since Wright's trial and conviction, both the New Castle County Courthouse and the Delaware State Police have moved locations.

The strongest piece of evidence against Wright, however, is a videotaped confession, and the state still has a copy of that.

Wright's defense attorneys, led in court by James Moreno, said that the defense plans to file a motion to suppress the confession and also plans to file a number of other motions, including a double-jeopardy motion, in the coming weeks.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, filed a motion asking Parkins to recuse himself from the case. In January 2012, Parkins tossed out Wright's conviction - and the videotaped confession - citing the fact that Wright was high on heroin and acting bizarre when he confessed. In his written opinion, Parkins described the conviction as "constitutionally infirm," adding that beyond the confession, the case against Wright was "weak to non-existent" and that given other issues with the case, "the court has no confidence in the outcome of the trial."

Prosecutors argued that those 2012 comments indicated Parkins would not be an impartial judge at a re-trial. The state also argued that Parkins should step aside because he is or was friendly with a Wilmington detective associated with the original 1991 investigation.

Moreno said in court that the defense will be opposing the motion and charged that prosecutors were essentially "judge shopping" because they did not like Parkins' earlier rulings.

He also dismissed the concern about Parkins' friendship with a Wilmington detective, saying the issue had been raised earlier, by the judge himself in a 2009 proceeding, and prosecutors had no problem with it at that time. "They can't change their mind now," Moreno said.

Wood said that the importance of the detective's testimony and role have now changed, given that the case is going to a re-trial.

Parkins did not immediately rule on the motion to step aside and asked Moreno to submit his response to the motion in writing.

Parkins did note that since 2009 he has had little to no contact with the detective. Parkins had represented the detective as a private-practice attorney before joining the bench.

Wright was accused of shooting to death the disabled Seifert during a Jan. 14, 1991, robbery at the former Hi-Way Inn on Governor Printz Boulevard that yielded about $30. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime.

Oddly, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Parkins' 2012 ruling and re-instated the conviction and death penalty only to toss out the conviction and death penalty themselves 2 years later on different grounds. The Supreme Court ruled in May that Wright's attorneys should have been provided information about a nearly identical liquor store robbery that night by a different pair of defendants and that a jailhouse informant against Wright had cooperated with prosecutors previously.

(source: The News Journal)


Waiting to die: Rowan County holds 4 spots on death row

On Friday Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook announced that she would seek the death penalty for murder suspects Khari McClelland and Jalend Turner if they are convicted of killing Rowan County volunteer firefighter Marcus Kauffman.

Kauffman was shot to death with his own gun when he discovered 2 men breaking into and stealing from his Cleveland home in December.

If McClelland and Turner were to be convicted and placed on death row, they would join 153 other convicts, including 4 from Rowan County who are awaiting execution.

James Adolph Campbell has been on death row since his conviction on 1st degree murder in July 1993.

Campbell stabbed Katherine Price in the neck 22 times and left her body in a field in the Millbridge area of Rowan County. Price had also been raped twice by Campbell, according to court records.

During his time awaiting execution, Campbell has racked up 57 infractions in prison, including several drug charges, assaults, and just this past April, attempting to bribe a guard.

Frank Chambers and William Barnes have been on death row since March of 1994. The 2 were convicted in the brutal murder of B.P. and Ruby Tutterow during an armed robbery at the couple's home on Park Avenue in Salisbury.

The murder of the well known elderly couple shocked the community. Both were shot multiple times.

During the trial Barnes actually showed up in court wearing jewelry stolen from the Tutterows during the crime.

Barnes has committed 112 infractions in prison, most of which came after his murder conviction in 1994. The infractions include gang involvement, fighting, weapon possession, faking illness, setting a fire, flooding his cell, and committing 33 sexual acts.

The most recent Rowan County entry on death row is Wesley Toby Smith, Jr.

Smith stabbed Margaret Martin more than 60 times in the back, head, and chest on September 12, 2001. Smith was convicted and given the death penalty in May of 2002.

State records show that North Carolina carried out its 1st execution in 1910. Walter Morrison of Robeson County was put to death in the electric chair for a rape conviction.

The last person to be put to death in North Carolina was Samuel R. Flippen of Forsyth County. Flippen was convicted of beating his 2 year old stepdaughter to death.

Flippen was executed in August of 2006.

Sidney T. Finger was the 1st person from Rowan County to be executed.

Finger was convicted of murder and executed in 1914. Others from Rowan who have been executed include Jim Cooper in 1916, Baxter Cain in 1918, David Devlin in 1928, and Bernice Matthews and J. W. Ballard in 1931.

The inmate who has been on North Carolina's death row for the longest period of time is Wayne Laws of Davidson County.

Laws was sentenced to death on August 20, 1985 after being found guilty of 1st degree murder.

It is unknown when and if the death penalty will be ever be carried out again in North Carolina.

North Carolina has had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2006 due to various lawsuits that have challenged the legality of the death penalty, and litigation over the Racial justice Act is continuing for some cases.

In 2013 there were only 5 capital cases tried across North Carolina, with only 1 actually resulting in a death sentence.

Capital punishment is legal in 32 states. Maryland became the most recent state to do away with the death penalty.

Across the country there are slightly more than 3000 inmates on death row in those 32 states.

(source: WBTV news)

GEORGIA----2, including female, face death penalty

Parents Enter Not Guilty Pleas in Death of Emani Moss

The 10-year-old was found burned and malnourished in a trash can in Lawrencenceville in November.

The parents of Emani Moss have pleaded not guilty in the 10-year-old girl's death late last year.

Eman Giovanni Moss and Tiffany Nicole Moss are facing the death penalty for the death of Emani, whose burned and malnourished body was found in a trash can at the Coventry Pointe apartment complex in Lawrenceville in early November, 2013.

The couple entered their pleas Friday in Gwinnett County superior court, the Gwinnett Daily News reported.

Their charges include felony murder, 1st-degree cruelty to children and concealing a death.

Detectives believe the girl's body was burned after she died in an effort to hide the crime. She may have been dead for several days before her body was discovered.

Investigators say there were signs of abuse. The young girl was denied food for several days before she died and she was severely underweight.

(source: Buford Patch)


Jury selected for murder trial

The trial of an Alabama man facing the death penalty for the torture and strangling death of a 90-year-old Lynn Haven man began Monday.

Jurors were selected in the murder trial of Kevin Jeffries, 29, of Hartford , Ala. , 1 of 3 people implicated in slaying Wallace Reid Scott in April 2013. Police discovered Scott’s body bound, beaten and strangled at his Lynn Haven home, initiating a manhunt for 3 suspects that spanned 3 states. Jeffries and an accomplice face the death penalty if convicted.

Jeffries also faces charges of armed robbery and burglary of a dwelling while armed, each of which can carry life sentences.

The trial will continue Tuesday.

A grand jury charged Jeffries and David Challender, 28, with premeditated murder in the case. A 3rd person, Ashley Griffin, 29, also of Hartford, admitted to driving the 2 men to Scott's home to coerce bank account information from him.

Officials said Scott was bound and beaten when he refused to provide personal identification numbers, and there was evidence of torture.

Griffin pleaded to a reduced charge of 2nd-degree murder, armed robbery and burglary of a dwelling while armed in June. Part of the agreement, prosecutors said, is contingent on her cooperation. Her sentencing is in October, following the 2 murder trials, and a maximum penalty of life in prison is still on the table. Challender's trial is scheduled for September.

Police records indicate each of the three were found with stolen items belonging to Scott in their possession.

Griffin was located in Donalsonville, Ga., on April 13, 9 days after Scott was killed, and brought back to Bay County. She was wearing a ring that belonged to Scott, authorities said. Investigators developed her, Jeffries and Challender as suspects the previous day.

Jeffries and Challender, both of Vernon, were arrested later the same day; Jeffries was in Holmes County and Challender was in Caryville.

Sherri Mercer and Deborah Cupp, 2 women Scott employed as caretakers, were arrested on suspicion of credit card fraud for allegedly using Scott's credit cards without authorization. Challender is Mercer's son and Jeffries is her nephew.

Investigators told The News Herald that Scott learned of the fraud and had an appointment to remove Mercer as a beneficiary in his will. She has been cleared of suspicion of being in the house at the time of the killing.

(source: The News Herald)


Decades to justice for Florida man on death row for 1985 murder

From his cell on Florida's death row, Paul Hildwin has spent 28 years fighting for his life, waiting between cancer treatments for the state to acknowledge decade-old DNA evidence supporting his claims of innocence.

More than 2 weeks after the Florida Supreme Court threw out his death sentence for a 1985 murder, Hildwin remains in a cell measuring 6 by 9 feet (1.8 by 2.7 meters), 1 of 395 inmates on the nation's 2nd-largest death row.

In Florida, 2 dozen death row inmates have been found innocent, the most in any state. But as Hildwin's fight shows, a court backlog can delay justice even when strong DNA evidence exists.

"Hildwin really is a report card that there is a serious problem in the system that took this long," said Martin McClain, his attorney. "They were hoping he would die, and it would go away."

McClain visited with Hildwin on Monday at a state prison in Raiford, in northern Florida, where he is waiting to be transferred to a local jail. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said last week it would not challenge the 5-2 state Supreme Court decision ordering a new trial for Hildwin.

Prosecutors say it may take several months to decide whether to retry the case, or drop the charges.

"We are literally back to square one," said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney for Florida's Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

Now 54, with his blood cancer in remission, Hildwin was the 2nd death row case in a month overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.

Experts blame the backlog in addressing such appeals on the size of Florida's death row and limited resources. The state, one of a very few where juries can recommend a death sentence without a unanimous vote, adds more new death sentences each year than almost any other.

"If you are innocent, delay is bad and justice is not being served," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.


Hildwin was arrested after forging a check from Vronzettie Cox, a 42-year-old woman found strangled in the trunk of her car hidden in the woods in west-central Florida.

Hildwin said he hitched a ride with Cox and her boyfriend several days before the body was found, but said he left them by the roadside after the 2 got into an argument.

He was convicted after prosecutors linked Hildwin to a pair of semen-stained underpants in her car. Using available science, prosecutors argued it could not have come from boyfriend William Haverty, the person the defense said should have been the suspect.

A 2003 DNA test proved Hildwin was not the source. But the state opposed running the evidence through a DNA database to search for another match on procedural grounds, arguing the evidence was not eligible.

"It was just a stunning instance of foot dragging," said Nina Morrison, an Innocence Project attorney representing Hildwin.

In 2011, the results matched the DNA to Haverty, who is finishing a 20-year sentence for child sex abuse. Hildwin thought his ordeal was done, his attorneys said.

2 1/2 years later, he is still nervous after nearly 3 decades spent largely in isolation, imagining the night sky.

"It just keeps seeming to get closer, but it just keeps being out of reach," said McClain.

(source: Reuters)


Abolish death penalty

Many folks are pleased that Brandon Bradley was sentenced to death last month for the deliberate and horrible murder of Brevard County Sheriff's Deputy Barbara Pill. If anything would justify capital punishment, this would be at the top of the list.

About the same time that Bradley was being sentenced, another ruling came down from the Florida Supreme Court ordering a new trial for death row denizen Paul Hildwin, after DNA tests showed that the real killer of Vronzettie Cox in Hernando County was the victim's boyfriend, not Hildwin, who had claimed innocence since his arrest. Hildwin has spent nearly 30 years in a 6-by-9 cell, 24 hours a day for nearly 30 years, ostensibly an innocent man.

Having served most of my 30-year police career in Miami-Dade County homicide, I am usually more conservative than liberal. However, these kinds of cases, plus other factors, have swayed my thinking. Capital punishment must be abolished. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Cost. Death penalty cases cost the taxpayer far more for defenses and appeals over a period of years. A Palm Beach Post study showed that the state would save $51 million a year by imposing life- without-parole sentences to killers, rather than death. Since 1976, 44 executions have cost Florida taxpayers an average of $24 million each.

2. No Deterrent. Every study conducted across the nation has revealed that the death penalty has no significant impact on the thinking and motivations of potential murderers. Brandon Bradley thought nothing about the death penalty when he pumped those bullets into Deputy Pill.

3. Economic Inequities. Poor defendants who rely on court-appointed attorneys simply cannot afford independent investigators or costly extended evidence testing to work on their behalf. Compare the O.J. Simpson case, where evidence abounded pointing toward his guilt, yet he was able to afford a dream team.

4. Violates the Eighth Amendment. The average time inmates spend on death row before execution is nearly 16 years. Many remain on death row for decades. Gary Alvord spent 40 years on death row until he passed away of natural causes in May. This is tantamount to life, plus death, i.e., cruel and unusual punishment.

5. Executing the Innocent. Punishing a vicious killer is important. But protecting innocent people is equally, if not more, important. Sadly, the criminal justice system makes mistakes. Since 1976, 144 death row inmates have been exonerated in America, some because of faulty testimony, others through DNA testing, and more. With the count at 24, Florida ranks number 1 in exonerations from death row, followed by Illinois and Texas. The Death Penalty Information Center has published a list of 10 inmates, already executed, whose innocence was likely. Death ends the appeal process.

It's not worth the life of any innocent person to gain retribution by executing the guilty. We cannot trust a system that has proven itself so fragile.

Consider also that death is an escape from punishment for those who are guilty. Life in a 6-by- 9 cell is far more terrifying.

Time to say goodbye to capital punishment.

(source: Marshall Frank is an author and retired Miami police detective who lives in Melbourne)


Suspect in Indiana officer death pleads not guilty

Prosecutors said Tuesday they may seek the death penalty against the man charged in the shooting death of an Indianapolis police officer.

A judge entered a not guilty plea for Major Davis Jr., whom sheriff's deputies pushed in a wheelchair to a Marion County courtroom for his 1st court appearance on murder charges. Authorities say Davis, 25, was wounded during the July 5 shootout that killed Officer Perry Renn but they haven't detailed his injuries.

"We've been getting updates each day since this happened so I wasn't surprised to see him in court today," said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson.

Police say Renn and other officers were responding to a call of shots being fired on the city's north side when he exchanged gunfire with Davis, who hit Renn with 3 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle.

About 20 police officers lined up around the perimeter of the standing room-only audience in the courtroom.

"That was for the family," Indianapolis police spokesman Chris Bailey said.

Robinson said prosecutors had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Davis, but were evaluating it.

"This will not be a quick or easy process," she said.

The last time prosecutors in Marion County sought or obtained the death penalty came in the separate deaths of 2 police officers.

In 2011, prosecutors sought the death penalty against Thomas Hardy in the killing of Indianapolis police Officer David Moore, but Hardy later pleaded guilty in return to a sentence of life without parole. In 2002, Benjamin Donnie Ritchie was sentenced to death in the slaying of Beech Grove Police Officer William Toney; Ritchie remains on Indiana's death row.

The death penalty is commonly sought in cases where an officer has died, according to Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, which advocates for the end of capital punishment.

Davis' public defender, David Shircliff, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

(source: Associated Press)


Psychologist testifies man sentenced to death for Arkansas murder is mentally disabled

Lawyers for a man who was sentenced to death for an Arkansas murder more than 20 years ago argue their client has a mental disability.

The Texarkana Gazette reports ( ) that a California psychologist testified that 47-year-old Frank Williams Jr. is mentally disabled. Williams was found guilty of capital murder in the October 1992 shooting death of farmer Clyde Spence in Lafayette County.

State and federal laws prohibit the death penalty for offenders who are mentally disabled. A jury will determine whether Williams should receive a new sentence of life without parole instead of death by lethal injection.

The state's supreme court recently overturned his sentence and sent the case back to trial court for another look at punishment.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri Governor asked to intervene ahead of inmate's Wednesday execution

As Missouri prepares to execute its 6th inmate this year, new evidence has surfaced leading defense attorneys to declare the convicted murderer on death row innocent. So far, the state has not budged.

The case revolves around 3 murders which took place in 1995 in Harrison County and Mercer County, Missouri. Although 54-year-old John Middleton was then convicted and sentenced to death - primarily on circumstantial evidence - his attorneys claim they have uncovered new forensic evidence showing that when the third murder took place, Middleton was already in custody on misdemeanor suspicions dozens of miles away.

If that's the case, attorney Joseph Perkovich said the prosecution's timeline of events is incorrect and that Middleton has an "iron-clad alibi."

"The case against my client is a circumstantial case based on witnesses identifying him at certain points on a certain day," he said to the Guardian. "If the state is wrong about the date of death by 24 hours, its case is completely dismantled as my client was 40 miles from the crime scene in custody."

Specifically, forensic entomologist Robert Hall originally determined the 3rd victim's time of death by way of an analysis of insect larvae, which was collected from the body. Under the assumption that this larvae was collected the day the body was discovered (June 26), Hall worked backwards to calculate the time of death to be June 23. However, Harrison County's then-coroner Carl Slaughter recently testified that no larvae could've been collected until June 27, because he kept the body in a padlocked body bag the entire day of the 26th.

If true, Hall said that would mean the 3rd victim could not have died on the 23rd, as previously believed.

"For almost 20 years we thought that my analysis had been accurate," Hall told the Guardian. "But now we find that the time of collection of the insects was about 24 hours later than I had been informed. I went back and did the analysis again and found that it pushed the time the victim had to be dead, similarly, by a day to [June 24]."

Additionally, the lawyers said they have new testimony from a witness who claimed he was beaten by the 2 drug dealers who testified against Middleton but may have actually been responsible for the murders themselves. All 3 murders are believed to be the result of local meth dealers attempting to crush the possibility that someone might cooperate with the police, and the unidentified witness said he was shown what looked like the 3rd victim's body before being beaten.

"They thought I was a snitch and brought me to the body" to demonstrate what would happen if he went to the police, the man said in February. "There's already been 3 people killed. You want to be number four?"

So far, however, the justice system has yet to be swayed. The Missouri Supreme Court has already rejected the new evidence without explanation, but lawyers have filed a petition with the eighth circuit federal court of appeals. Without an intervention, Middleton - who was a meth dealer himself - will be executed just after midnight on Wednesday morning.

"Middleton has always professed his innocence," reads a column in the Columbia Tribune that suggests Gov. Jay Nixon to intervene. "Emerging evidence certainly does implicate others, and a troubling cloud of doubt hangs over this case. Law enforcement officers appeared to have conducted a rather shoddy and narrow-focused investigation. No physical evidence ties Middleton to the murders. Prosecutors relied almost exclusively on the testimony of witnesses, many with something to gain by cooperating."

According to local news outlet KSPR, Middleton has also asked Nixon for an independent panel to review his case. In the meantime, the Springfield Chapter of the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is planning to protest the inmate's execution Tuesday afternoon.

"Our evidence is that the authorities, due in part to the manipulation by the actual perpetrators, pinned the murders on our client, who was in no fit state to handle the criminal justice system because of brain damage from his drug use," Perkovich told the Guardian.

"I don't believe that any fair-minded person could be 100% certain about John Middleton's guilt at this point. Anyone looking at this case should be deeply troubled by it."

The case once again highlights potential problems with the death penalty, since an April study found that about 4 % of death row inmates are not guilty of the crimes they were convicted for. Meanwhile, another report from February revealed that in 2013, a record number of Americans were exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of a crime.



New evidence arises, so stop execution

To the editor:

John Middleton, who is to be killed by the state of Missouri on Wednesday, is entitled to an independent board of inquiry since new evidence casts grave doubt on his guilt. Please urge that John Middleton be granted a true independent board of inquiry.

Doug Myler----Blue Springs

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Examiner)


John Middleton, scheduled for execution on Wednesday in Missouri, says he's innocent

Missouri is about to execute its 6th prisoner this year, but John Middleton's date with the executioner may not be like all the others.

Preceding executions in the state's increasingly busy death chamber have involved inmates whose guilt for their crimes was in little or no doubt. The controversy over those executions centered mainly on the shadowy means through which the state carried out its capital punishment.

Middleton's lawyers, however, contend they've found evidence that suggests their client was in jail in Iowa the day his supposed victim, Alfred Pinegar, was murdered.

Middleton is scheduled to receive a lethal dose of pentobarbital one minute after midnight on Wednesday unless courts intervene. An 11th-hour volley of appeals by his attorneys was rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court and now rest before federal appellate court judges in St. Louis.

They insist that new evidence not available at the time of his 1997 conviction, for Pinegar's gunshot slaying in June of 1995, shows that the state's timeline for Pinegar's death was wrong, and that Middleton was behind bars when it happened. Middleton's lawyers also imply that 2 others killed Pinegar. One is in prison in St. Joseph (he denies involvement), and another lives freely in rural Missouri.

Middleton was a meth user and occasional dealer in Harrison County, Missouri, in the mid-1990s. The summer of 1995 was a jittery time for rural meth users and peddlers as state authorities were cracking down on organized meth rings. People accused of being informants, like Pinegar, started turning up dead.

Middleton was convicted of Pinegar's death without direct evidence, like DNA, linking him to the crime. He was also convicted on the belief that Pinegar died on June 23, 1995. Middleton's lawyers, with the support of an expert who originally testified on the prosecution's behalf, now say Pinegar died the next day, the same day that Middleton was in the custody of Iowa authorities for a misdemeanor crime.

Robert Hall, a University of Missouri entomologist, reversed his earlier conclusions about when Pinegar died after finding out recently that Pinegar's autopsy occurred a day later than he was told by state investigators prior to the 1997 trial. Hall was asked to analyze insects that were collecting on Pinegar's body, which was left on the side of the road in Harrison County. Hall could deduce the time that Pinegar died by evaluating the degree to which those insects were developing in his flesh. That discrepancy shifted the timeline that supported Hall's original theory on the time that Pinegar died.

Middleton's attorneys have also produced an affidavit from an unnamed Harrison County resident who says he was taken to a country road by the 2 men Middleton's attorneys think killed Pinegar. The affidavit says the unnamed man was shown Pinegar's body before he himself was beaten unconscious with a baseball bat. The new witness says one of the men (not Middleton) took credit for Pinegar's death.

What's more is Middleton's attorneys say this new witness told investigators the same story back in 1995, but prosecutors never mentioned it to Middleton's defense attorneys like they're supposed to.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster isn't impressed by these new revelations. Koster's office told The Guardian that Hall's new claims are without merit and that the new witness isn't credible for waiting nearly 20 years to make his statement.

(source: The Pitch)


Can we join the civilized world and end the death penalty?

In January 1992, the last time the state of Wyoming executed a man, I was at the Capitol Building in Cheyenne before the scheduled midnight lethal injection in Rawlins, interviewing people who opposed killing Mark Hopkinson.

I agreed with them. As a newspaper editorial writer at the time for The Wyoming Eagle, I had implored Gov. Mike Sullivan to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. So did many others, including Amnesty International. I saw the light still on in the governor's office, and though we all knew he wasn't going to stop Hopkinson's imminent demise, he was at work, doing his duty, just in case something happened to stall things.

Snow was falling lightly, and there was only a small band of protesters. Even if the weather had been nicer, I doubt it would have attracted much more of a crowd. Few people in Wyoming were sympathetic toward Hopkinson, an Evanston businessman who had ordered the murders of an attorney and his family as well as a former associate, Jeffrey Green, who turned him in to authorities. Most residents believed he was getting what he deserved. I understand that feeling.

It isn't necessarily the person being executed that makes me oppose capital punishment; I just don't feel the state has the right to take a life in the name of its citizens. Killing Hopkinson wasn't going to bring back his victims. Given that more than 140 nations feel the same way and have abolished the death penalty, I'm in agreement with the vast majority of people in the world.

Generally, keeping a convicted killer locked up for the rest of his or her life is enough to protect the public, though in Hopkinson's case the prosecution had a valid point in arguing for the death penalty. Hopkinson himself didn't kill Vincent Vehar and his family or Green, but he'd managed to order the latter's murder while incarcerated at a federal penitentiary in Lompoc, Calif.

Given that history, there should have been a way to monitor his contact with others and prevent another murder plot from being carried out while he served a life sentence.

I bring up Hopkinson's execution because of the Legislature's interest in finding an alternative way to kill condemned prisoners besides lethal injection, now that the manufacture and sale of drugs used in the process have been banned almost everywhere.

After horrendously botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma using different chemicals that caused inmates to die agonizing deaths, Wyoming is one of several states considering using a firing squad instead. A bill has been drafted similar to one sponsored earlier this year by Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan), which failed to garner the required 2/3 support for introduction during a budget session. A simple majority might be easier to receive next year, after lawmakers are further educated about the problems with the lethal injection process.

I believe a much better solution - on many levels - would be to pass a measure like one sponsored last session by Rep. Stephen Watt (R-Rock Springs), which would abolish the death penalty in Wyoming. I rarely agree with Watt, an extremely conservative former state highway patrol trooper. He managed to get 19 others in the House to vote for introduction, falling far short of the 40 votes needed to even get the bill considered.

I understand why politicians are afraid to appear soft on crime and avoid anti-death penalty bills like the plague, but I don't think it has any basis in reality. Commuting a sentence from death to life without the possibility of parole - forcing a prisoner to spend the rest of his life alone in a small cell until he dies a natural death - is in many ways a far worse punishment than simply killing them. It's not an easy way out.

Quite a few inmates on death row have dropped their appeals rather than rot in prison, including Gary Gilmore, the last killer executed by a firing squad in the nation. He told the shooters, "Let's do it," and the state of Utah was happy to oblige.

But not all politicians view opposing capital punishment as a sure way to end their careers. Republican Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson quickly let it be known after notorious mass murder suspect Charles Starkweather was captured in Douglas in 1958 that if he was convicted and sentenced to death by a Wyoming jury, he would commute the sentence to life.

It was a moral stand, and even though it was tempered by Simpson's willingness to let Nebraska extradite Starkweather for the beginning of his killing spree and send him to the electric chair, the governor made sure it wasn't going to happen in his state on his watch. Simpson lost his bid for re-election, but later won a special election to the U.S. Senate.

If Starkweather had spent the rest of his years in a Wyoming prison, he likely would have faded into obscurity, instead of forever becoming the iconic young killer.

Now Wyoming has Dale Wayne Eaton as its only death row resident. The former Moneta resident was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1988 murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell, which took years to solve through a DNA match and the discovery of her car buried on his property. If the Legislature decides to approve a firing squad, it's on his chest the target will first be pinned.

Eaton is a scumbag who was found guilty, and the planet will be better off when he's no longer around. But I don't think the state of Wyoming needs to execute him by any method.

In Eaton's case, there's a strong argument to be made that it's much less expensive to house an inmate until his natural death rather than go through the exhaustive but legally necessary series of capital appeals in state and federal courts. Since he has no financial means, the state has racked up huge legal bills both prosecuting and defending him.

I've interviewed Kimmell's family and have a huge amount of respect for each of them and what they went through to see Lisa Marie's killer brought to justice. But every time his case comes up again, they have to relive their worst nightmares about her final days at Eaton's hands. I don't think Eaton’s death will provide them any sense of closure. The criminal justice system would have treated the family far better if it had forever locked up the killer after a reasonable number of appeals.

The argument that should end this barbaric practice in the United States is the finality of the punishment and the fact we know some men and women put to death were innocent.

Through the Innocence Project and other initiatives, DNA evidence has exonerated 143 people who were wrongly sentenced to death. The penalty is applied in an unfair and unjust manner, since minority defendants are far more likely to be executed than white ones, especially if the victim was white. Whether a person lives or dies shouldn’t be based on whether they are rich or poor, how good of a defense they can buy or what state they live in, but far too often, it is.

Wyoming can develop a better way to kill prisoners than lethal injection, by coming up with a method sure to get the job done in a more humane, quicker and reliable manner. That's one way to look at it.

Or it can join 6 other states that have ended the practice. This isn't kill-happy Texas or Florida; Wyoming has had only 2 executions in the past 50 years, and one person waiting who will probably die before the state takes away his final breath.

If American supporters could prove the death penalty was always fairly and justly applied to all defendants, and judges and juries never made uncorrectable mistakes by condemning and killing the innocent, they might have a case. But they can't, so they propose firing squads instead of abolishing a practice that dehumanizes us all.

(source: Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is a contributor to ----


Abra detainees' trial postponed

Lebanon's Military Court, headed by Maj. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim, announced Tuesday that it would postpone the trial of 71 people, including radical preacher Ahmad al-Assir, charged over last year's Abra clashes until Aug. 26.

The suspects, including Assir and 24 other fugitives, are accused of murdering and attempting to murder soldiers and civilians, of committing terrorist operations, possessing weapons and explosives, instigating sectarian tension and calling for sectarian fighting.

If convicted, many of the detainees could face death penalty.

The absence of Naim Abbas, a major name among the detainees, was one of the reasons behind postponing Tuesday's scheduled session. Abbas's name was either not included on the court list by mistake, or he might have been missed by the officers responsible for driving the detainees to court, according to a judicial source.

A number of attorneys representing other detainees were also absent.

In addition, the military court was supposed to inform the fugitives, through direct or indirect contact, of Tuesday's session. Because such notice was not sent earlier, the court session was postponed and stickers were pasted on the doors at each fugitive's last residence.

The anti-Hezbollah preacher, whose followers clashed with the Lebanese Army in June 2013, is still on the run, while many of his followers were arrested after the clashes.

Assir was the imam of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Abra, near which the clashes occurred, and a critic of Hezbollah's activity in Sidon. He claimed that the Lebanese government is controlled by Hezbollah and that state institutions, especially its security forces, were biased against Sunnis.

The attacks resulted in the death of 18 Army soldiers and around 40 of Assir's followers. The Army was able to arrest 46 suspects.

The families of the detainees have demonstrated on several occasions to demand the quick and fair trial of their sons, after the case has been delayed multiple times.

The detainees went on hunger strike June 2, and the strike was not suspended until they received a promise that the trials would start soon, according to the National News Agency.

The Committee of Abra Detainees had released a statement calling for the improvement of their conditions in detention, and for the release of 2 sheikhs, Assem al-Arefi and Alaa al-Saleh.

The statement said the 2 sheikhs were innocent and "had no role in the clashes."

(source: The Daily Star)


New evidence shows UK government error led to Kenya death sentence

The government's support for a flawed Kenyan prosecution was based on an incorrect analysis that may put it in breach of its own death penalty policy, it has emerged.

UK officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Home Office and Metropolitan Police offered police support in 2013 to Kenya's public prosecution in the case of Ali Babitu Kololo - a 35-year-old father of 2 from a village in Lamu, Kenya. Mr Kololo was sentenced to death for robbery with violence by a Kenyan court in August 2013; the trial followed his torture by local police into 'confessing' to a role in the 2011 kidnapping of British tourist Judith Tebbutt and the murder of her husband David.

The FCO said last week that the government had offered support based on its analysis that in Kenya, the death penalty is 'discretionary' for Kololo's alleged crime of 'robbery with violence'. In fact, it is mandatory. The claim was made in response to questions from legal charity Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day, who are seeking a judicial review of the government's decision to support the Kenyan investigation.

The Foreign Office also dismissed concerns that Mr Kololo's trial was flawed, despite the fact that he had no access to a lawyer for much of it, and was forced to cross-examine witnesses, including key witness DCI Neil Hibberd, on his own. The proceedings were carried out in English and Swahili, languages that Mr Kololo does not speak fluently.

In correspondence with Leigh Day, Scotland Yard has admitted that evidence used in the trial, and presented by DCI Hibberd in his testimony, was circumstantial.

Reprieve has also discovered that the specialist Metropolitan Police investigators sent to Kenya failed to interview Mr Kololo after his arrest. The police claim not to have known Mr Kololo had been tortured, despite widespread reports.

The government's own guidelines prohibit support for public prosecutors in countries where there is a high risk of receiving a death sentence, while the FCO's Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty designates it a 'priority country' for UK abolition efforts.

Responding to reports about the case, a Foreign Office spokesperson said today that the government Britain opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, and that the government would "continue to call on all countries around the world that retain the death penalty to cease its use."

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve's death penalty team, said: "Despite the government's protestations, the fact remains that UK officials willingly assisted the Kenyan prosecution in sending a man to his death, based on a confession extracted under torture. Ignorance is not a defence, and the government should have known better than to assist the prosecution in a country where the death penalty is a mandatory punishment for the alleged offence and police torture is common. There are strong indications that Ali Kololo is innocent of this crime. If the UK government is serious about its commitment to promoting justice overseas, it must right the wrongs and ensure real justice is done."



Beware of the Gallows, Drug Dealers Warned

For the drug peddlers, both practising and aspiring, the writing is on the wall. Already there are about 30 Tanzanians on death row in Hong Kong and Macau, 2 administrative regions of the People's Republic of China, according to statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The ministry's spokesperson, Mr Mkumbwa Ally, said there are 183 suspected drug dealers in custody in China, with 6 other condemned persons having had their sentences reduced to life in jail.

Mr Ally reiterated that China has not executed any Tanzanian yet, refuting earlier claims on the execution of several Tanzanians in the far-east nation.

Such claims were recently fuelled by reports in Ugandan local media on the execution of 2 Ugandans convicted of drug trafficking in May 21 and June 24, this year in China.

According to the official, information on any execution of Tanzanians in China and other nations must be communicated to the ministry through the country's missions abroad.

Out of the 183 suspected drug peddlers, 79 are serving jail terms ranging from 5 to 23 years while over 70 others are still undergoing trial. Mr Ally told the 'Daily News' that there are also 64 Tanzanians serving jail terms and others who are undergoing trial in Brazil, out of whom 9 are women.

There have not been any reports of execution of drug suspects in Brazil, because the South American country has brushed aside capital punishment, the last one being reported in 1876.

Acting Tanzania Drug Control Commission (TDCC) Commissioner Aida Tesha acknowledged that there are Tanzanians on death row in China, while others are being held in various prisons worldwide on drug trafficking charges.

She, however, noted that the commission does not get information on executions of Tanzanians on drug charges directly but stressed that Tanzanians arrested on drug offences in China face the maximum death penalty, in accordance with Chinese laws.

Mrs Aida cautioned Tanzanians against engaging in drug trafficking as arrest and conviction could lead to life imprisonment and capital punishment.

According to the "Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview report of 2012," executions for convicted drug traffickers have escalated in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia amidst an international campaign against the death sentence.

When marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking last month, the Minister of State - Prime Minister's Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliament), Mr William Lukuvi, said there are over 400 Tanzanians being held in 21 countries on drug trafficking allegations.

He reported that there are 65 Tanzanians being detained in China, 108 in Brazil, Kenya (34), Hong Kong (108), Pakistan (16), United Arab Emirates (12), Japan (7), Mauritius (6), UK (5), Malawi (5), Uganda (4), Oman (3), Switzerland (2), Italy (2), US (2), Argentina (2), Turkey (1), Portugal (1), Botswana (5), Chile (1), South Africa (3) and Mozambique (1).

(source: All Africa News)


Pakistani man given death penalty for blasphemy

A Pakistani sessions court has sentenced a man to death and fined him Rs.1,00,000 on charges of blasphemy. The accused, Zulfikar, was caught writing blasphemous comments on the Afghan Park Wall in Lahore's Islampura area in 2008.

Area residents had reportedly filed a case against Zulfikar. According to the Dawn, he was also accused of using offensive language during the prayer session, the Azaan.

It is the 1st case of blasphemy in Pakistan where a death penalty has been handed down.

In Pakistan, blasphemy is a crucial issue and the related laws lack procedural safeguard. Pakistan had earlier suggested the United Nations to make blasphemy laws internationally recognized.



Newspaper editor convicted of murdering 3 employees

A newspaper editor in Tripura in India's northeast has been convicted of murdering 3 of his employees.

Sushil Chowdhury, 76, the owner and editor of regional daily Dainik Gandoot, was found guilty on Monday of killing his driver, a proof-reader and manager last year.

Kripankur Chakraborty, additional district and sessions judge of west Tripura district, held Sushil Choudhury guilty of killing 3 of his employees May 19, 2013.

The court will sentence him on Thursday. He faces death penalty or life in jail.

"Choudhury is found guilty under sections 120 (B), 109, 302, 113, 111 and 201. Under these sections, the maximum punishment could be either death sentence or life imprisonment," special public prosecutor Dilip Sarkar told reporters after the judgment in a packed court.

He said the judge would announce the quantum of punishment July 17.

Choudhury, 72, editor-cum-owner of Bengali daily Dainik Ganadoot, along with one of his woman employees was arrested weeks after the murder of 3 employees.

A large number of journalists and others were gathered in the court complex.

Choudhury was the main accused. Niyoti Ghosh, wife of Balaram Ghosh, the slain driver of the newspaper's office vehicle, turned approver in the case and was let off.

Niyoti's husband, manager Ranjit Choudhury, a former BSF employee, and proof reader Sujit Bhattacharjee were murdered in the newspaper's office in the heart of the capital city.



Juvenile rapists may be treated as adults, but no death penalty

Juveniles above 16 years of age who are guilty of murder, rape, acid attack, kidnapping or gang-rape could be liable for harsher punishment than the 3 years mandated under the present law, if the proposed changes in the Juvenile Justice Act come through.

Minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi, who is spearheading the changes, had recently said that she is in favour of treating juveniles who have committed heinous crimes at par with adults. Speaking on the issue, Gandhi said according to police data, 50% of all sexual crimes were committed by "16-year-olds who know the Juvenile Justice Act so they can do it".

"But now for premeditated murder and rape, if we bring them into the purview of the adult world, it will scare them," she said.

However, the offender will not be handed either life imprisonment or capital punishment. The ministry has come under fire from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and child rights activists for acting against international trends and in violation of the UN convention that India has signed.

According to the ministry, juveniles who fall in the age bracket of 16-18 years and are guilty of heinous crimes or found to be repeat offenders of crimes like kidnapping, trafficking, attempt to murder or outraging the modesty of women may be liable for a longer prison term than the three years mandated under JJ Act. The decision on whether the juvenile will be tried under IPC or the JJ Act will be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB).

The amendment says that "nothing contained in any other law for the time being in force, the provisions of this act shall apply to all cases involving detention, prosecution, penalty or sentence of imprisonment of juveniles in conflict with law under such other law'' with the added proviso that the Board will conduct this assessment within a month. The assessment will be based on mitigating circumstances which will be brought out by the social investigation report, nature, seriousness of the offence and the juvenile's culpability and ability to understand the consequences of the offence committed. The amendment also clarifies that juveniles will not be given capital punishment or life imprisonment.

According to NCRB data, involvement of juveniles in murder has increased by over 86% in 2002-2012 while incidents of rape by juveniles had increased by 142% in the same period. In all, juveniles are responsible for only about 1.2% of the total crime committed in the country in 2012. The proposed amendments have been placed in the public domain for consultation by stakeholders.

(source: The Times of India)

JULY 14, 2014:


DA files 'pre-emptive strike' in execution of mass murderer Michael Ballard

Northampton County prosecutors want a judge to rule on the competence of mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard, who has said he wants to be executed for the killings, and to bar federal defenders from blocking the death penalty, according to court records filed Monday.

District Attorney John Morganelli called the filing a "pre-emptive strike" to any challenges in the death sentence Ballard received for massacring 4 people in 2010 in a Northampton home.

In the filing, Morganelli asked for a judge to reconfirm Ballard's competency ruling made 3 years ago and to stop any potential appeals by defenders.

In a previous filing, the U.S. Supreme Court said it wanted an attorney who filed an appeal for Ballard to explain why he apparently did so without his client's knowledge. Philadelphia attorney Marc Bookman has been ordered to address Ballard's allegation that the appeal was made against his wishes.

Ballard charged in a June 2 letter to the court that he only learned of Bookman's effort through the news media.

In the letter and another that he sent to The Morning Call, Ballard said he does not intend to continue to fight his execution, a decision that - if he sticks to it - could set the stage for him to be the 1st Pennsylvania inmate put to death since 3 men abandoned their appeals in the 1990s.

"I never authorized anyone to file anything on my behalf," Ballard wrote the high court. "I am not appealing this sentence any further than it has been."

The filing, Ballard said, was done by attorneys who are "acting against my own wishes to waive my appeals."

Bookman is executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a Philadelphia nonprofit that is part of the anti-capital punishment community. Bookman could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Ballard stabbed to death his former girlfriend Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who heard screams at their Northampton home and tried to help.

(source: The Morning Call)


Indian-origin multimillionaire Krishna Maharaj languishes in a Florida jail for 27 years for a crime he didn't commit

It seems straight out of a Bollywood film, but is scripted in Florida: an innocent man incarcerated on charges of a double murder ordered by a drug cartel, with the police, justice system all cooperating to mask the real culprits and ensure that their complicity is never discovered.

That convicted man, Krishna 'Kris' Maharaj, a British citizen of Indian origin originally from Trinidad and Tobago, who once was a famous exporter, a self-made multi-millionaire who dined and wined with royalty, had luxury cars and 100 race horses that competed against thoroughbreds held by Queen Elizabeth II - he was the second biggest racehorse owner in the UK then, and planned to spend his winters in America, is now a pauper; has been in a Florida jail - the South Florida Reception Center - for the last 27 years, having escaped a death penalty judgment. He is now 75 years old.

Maharaj's riveting story was the 1st case explored by CNN's original series "Death Row Stories" on how the capital punishment system works in America, that began on July 13th. The hour-long documentary made it amply clear that Maharaj was framed in the murders of his business partners Derrick Moo Young and his 23-year-old son Duane - both American citizens - in October, 1986, at the Dupont Plaza hotel in Miami. Maharaj had accused the Youngs of embezzling him of more than $400,000, and had gone to meet them at room in the hotel. According to Maharaj, he went to the room, but never met the Youngs, and left, to have lunch with an employee of his at a public eatery, where witnesses say he was present. The Youngs were later found murdered - shot dead inside the room. 19 unidentified fingerprints found in the room were never investigated. Blood stains were found on the door of a room opposite the room where the murders took place. It was occupied by a Colombian man. He was let go after the investigating officer spoke to him for a few minutes in the corridor of the hotel, and never interrogated again. Maharaj was also shown by the prosecution to be in possession of a gun, but in the documentary he makes it clear that he had a gun in Trinidad and in the UK, not in the US.

That hotel guest who was briefly interrogated was later revealed to be Vallejo Mejia, a veteran money launderer and senior executive of the infamous Pablo Escobar drug cartel mafia.

The overwhelming evidence presented in the documentary suggested that Escobar ordered the killings. The Youngs were allegedly involved in money laundering for the cartel, but were skimming money off the operations. The documentary also clearly brings out shocking facts that the defense lawyer of Maharaj didn't put up a single witness to counter the allegations against his client, and rested his case after the prosecution laid out their case, and an order written to pass the death penalty against Maharaj was in fact not written by the judge handling the case, but by somebody else, days before the actual case came to a close. Also, a disgraced former cop, who was at the scene of the crime, has confessed that the Escobar ordered the killings and the officers investigating the case decided that they would frame Maharaj, and overwhelmingly, several former gang members of the Escobar mafia have confessed that Pablo Escobar ordered the killings.

Marita and Krishna Maharaj

The human rights organization Reprieve has termed the case of Maharaj as "an epic miscarriage of justice."

Maharaj's death sentence was commuted to life in prison with parole at the age of 101, in 1997, when facts like the order of his death penalty being written not by the judge presiding over the case, came to light. But at that re-trial too, no fresh evidence was allowed for the jury to consider. A plea for clemency and retrial was denied by the then Governor of Florida Charlie Crist. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the verdict of life in prison.

Escobar was the king of the underworld narcotics, especially cocaine, trade in the US in the 1970s and 80s, leading the Medellin Cartel. He was responsible at one point for almost 80% of Colombia's cocaine exports, and was the 7th richest man in the world, with an estimated wealth of $30 billion. Miami in those decades was also known as the crime capital of the US, with murders, rapes and mafia killings so rampant that the police force was unable to cope with the violence. Escobar was killed in a rooftop shootout with authorities in 1993, although some of his family members say he committed suicide.

CNN's fine new documentary 'Death Row Stories', which is sure to give a run in popularity to Anthony Bourdain's series 'Parts Unknown' also interviews Maharaj in prison, and shows footage of how he collapsed in court when his defense lawyer - who has now been promoted a judge in Florida - didn't put up any of his witnesses, and instead rested the case.

"When the verdict took place that I was found guilty, I thought...This can't be real. It is unreal," says Maharaj in the interview. "I couldn't believe in America you could get found guilty for something you didn't do."

He describes his ordeal in prison: "Put it this way I went from living like a prince to existing like an animal."

The documentary also brings out the strong vital support Maharaj has received from his wife Marita Maharaj in prison all these 27 years. They talk to each other every day over the phone, and she goes to see him every Sunday - in an empty room with only a guard watching over them.

In an article for the New Statesman earlier this year, titled 'I have been waiting for him to come home for 27 years, 3 months and 10 days', Marita writes: "I pretend to myself that Kris is travelling. When I have 5 minutes on the phone with him in the evening, I pretend to myself that he is talking to me from a trip, not from a cell."

She also writes: 'In my small cottage, I never sit down for a meal without laying out a place setting for Kris. I always think that he might walk in the door. I left the Christmas dinner table untouched for 3 weeks, as I hated the thought of yet another Christmas gone by without him.'

Now, finally, there may be respite for Maharaj, and a chance to be a free man again.

In April of this year, Florida 11th Judicial Circuit Judge William Thomas ordered a hearing this November to determine if new evidence from Maharaj's lawyers "undermines confidence in the verdict," according to court documents, and reported by CNN. Defense attorneys also must establish that the new "evidence would probably produce an acquittal or less severe sentence on retrial."

Maharaj's lawyers say they have 53 witnesses and 498 fresh documents to prove his innocence.

The question is: is that enough for the Florida justice system to let Maharaj be a free man again?

(source: The American Bazaar)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri poised to execute 6th inmate in 2014 despite fresh doubts----Attorneys claim evidence shows John Middleton, 54, was in jail 40 miles away when Alfred Pinegar was murdered in 1995

The state of Missouri is hours away from executing its 6th prisoner this year despite new evidence that raises doubts about the inmate's culpability in the 3 1995 murders for which he was put on death row.

Barring 11th-hour intervention by the courts, John Middleton, 54, will be killed by lethal injection at 12.01am on Wednesday morning for crimes that he insists he did not commit. His legal team has uncovered new evidence that they believe not only gives him a rock-solid alibi but also incriminates 2 other men who they name in legal documents.

A petition has been lodged on Middleton's behalf with the 8th circuit federal court of appeals calling for his execution to be halted while the new evidence is digested. It argues that on the day that 1 of the 3 victims was murdered, Middleton was in fact locked up in jail in Iowa, 40 miles away from the crime scene.

"It's hard to think of a more iron-clad alibi than that," the prisoner's co-counsel, Joseph Perkovich, said.

Middleton was sentenced to death for a spate of murders that took place in 1995 in Harrison County related to methamphetamine trade that at the time was ravaging Missouri's small towns. Fears were running high among meth addicts and dealers in the area of an imminent police crackdown, and 3 people suspected of acting as informants or "snitches" were murdered in close succession - first Randy Hamilton and Stacey Hodge, and then in a 2nd shooting a few days later, Alfred Pinegar.

At 2 separate trials, the 1st in 1997 relating to the Pinegar murder and the second the following year dealing with the Hamilton and Hodge murders, Middleton was convicted and sentenced to death largely on circumstantial evidence, with no DNA or other forensic proof to back it up. The state's case in the Pinegar trial depended on the murder having taken place on a particular day, 23 June 1995, yet the new evidence suggests that in fact Pinegar was killed a day later - on 24 June, when Middleton was in the custody of the sheriff of Decatur county, Iowa.

Pinegar's time of death was deduced in the original investigation by forensic analysis of insect larvae collected from the victim's body. At trial, the jury was told that the insects were gathered on the day the body was found, 26 June, and from that date a forensic entomologist was able to work backwards, based on the developmental stage of the larvae, to determine that Pinegar in all probability was killed on 23 June.

But Middleton's legal team has heard new testimony from the Harrison County coroner of the time, Carl Slaughter, that suggests the insects could not have been gathered on 26 June. That day he kept the corpse secured in a padlocked body bag and there was no opportunity for police to inspect it.

In an affidavit sworn this February, Slaughter says that he watched law enforcement officers collect evidence from the body only once the autopsy had begun on the following day - 27 June.

That discrepancy of a day is significant because when you work back from it, based on examination of the insects, it takes you not to 23 June - the day on which the prosecution based its case - but to 24 June, when Middleton was in custody in Iowa. Professor Robert Hall, the forensic entomologist who carried out the original insect analysis on behalf of the state, told the Guardian that he had changed his opinion on the likely date of death.

"For almost 20 years we thought that my analysis had been accurate," Hall said. "But now we find that the time of collection of the insects was about 24 hours later than I had been informed. I went back and did the analysis again and found that it pushed the time the victim had to be dead, similarly, by a day to 24 June."

Despite Hall's new testimony and analysis, the highest judicial panel in the state, the Missouri supreme court, rejected Middleton's petition without explanation. Hall said he was disappointed by the court's decision: "When we are talking about a capital case and someone is in a position of losing his life, you don't undertake this kind of analysis trivially."

Middleton's lawyers believe the discrepancy of a day crucially undermines the state's case. "The case against my client is a circumstantial case based on witnesses identifying him at certain points on a certain day. If the state is wrong about the date of death by 24 hours, its case is completely dismantled as my client was 40 miles from the crime scene in custody," Perkovich said.

Middleton's lawyers believe they have also found a 2nd piece of compelling new evidence that points to the condemned man's innocence. In February, they took an affidavit from another small-time methamphetamine dealer in the area.

The man, who the Guardian is not identifying to protect him from possible reprisals, recalled that in the summer of 1995 he was driven out into the countryside by two prominent meth dealers who beat him with a baseball bat and then showed him a body lying on the gravel.

"They thought I was a snitch and brought me to the body to show me what they would do to me if I talked about their meth business," the man said in the affidavit. 1 of the 2 dealers told the man: "There's already been 3 people killed. You want to be number 4?"

Shortly after, Pinegar's body was found. The man said the body he had been shown matched Pinegar.

Middleton's lawyers have named the 2 prominent dealers who allegedly carried out the beating, and suggested that they are the true perpetrators of the Harrison County murders. The Guardian is not naming the 2 men, though their identities have been revealed in court documents. One of the men is in prison serving a 7-year sentence; the other is living freely in the local community.

Perkovich said that prosecutors had been aware of these allegations before Middleton's trial, but had improperly failed to pass on the information to his trial lawyers at the time in breach of rules of disclosure.

In its response, to Middleton's petition for a postponement of his execution, Missouri dismisses the new evidence as without merit. The state's attorney general Chris Koster disputes the claim that the date of death was misplaced by 24 hours, stating that the insect larvae were collected on 26 June as originally presented to the jury. "There is no real discrepancy ... Middleton has manufactured the alleged discrepancy nearly 2 decades after the events."

Koster also dismisses the new testimony of the small-time dealer who said he had been beaten up and shown a body by 2 other dealers. The attorney general said the man "is not credible after having waited nearly 2 decades to make his current statement."

But Middleton's lawyers insist that the new information should merit another look at the case, even at this late stage, and are determined to take their appeal for a stay of execution right up to the US supreme court if necessary. "Our evidence is that the authorities, due in part to the manipulation by the actual perpetrators, pinned the murders on our client, who was in no fit state to handle the criminal justice system because of brain damage from his drug use," Perkovich said.

The lawyer added: "I don't believe that any fair-minded person could be 100% certain about John Middleton's guilt at this point. Anyone looking at this case should be deeply troubled by it."

(source: The Guardian)

TEXAS----new execution date

Court sets execution date for convicted killer

Less than 3 weeks after convicted killer Randall Wayne Mays was denied his latest challenge to his conviction by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Carter Tarrance of the 392nd District Court set his execution date for March 18, 2015. Judge Tarrance signed the execution order and death warrant on July 10. Judge Tarrance also presided over the trial.

Mays was not brought in from death row, nor was there a court hearing. "The law does not require the judge to hold a hearing in order to set an execution date." Said District Attorney Scott McKee. "As soon as we received notice that the Fifth Circuit refused to grant Mays a Certificate of Appealability (COA), we filed a motion to set an execution date." McKee indicated that this was the first available date provided to him from TDCJ through the Texas AGs Office.

The United States Supreme Court refused to grant a review of Mays' appeal in October of 2011 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied his Federal writ of habeas corpus in December of 2013.

Mays' latest legal challenge to his conviction involved a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Federal court last December in an attempt to gain what's known as a Certificate of Appealability (COA) for his case. The suit was partly based on assertions that Mays is mentally handicapped, therefore, the State of Texas should not be allowed to execute him.

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prior cases establish a precedent that the mentally handicapped do not receive an absolute constitutional protection from death penalty laws. The judges denied his request for a COA as a result.

This is the 2nd execution date set for Mays. Texas law mandates that a court cannot set an execution date until the convict has exhausted his State Appeals and State writ of habeas corpus. In May 2011, the District Attorney's Office filed a motion to set the execution date before Mays filed his Federal writ of habeas corpus. Although his defense team fought the motion, the Court set the date for August 23, 2011.

(source: KLTV news)


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

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

277------------Aug. 6--------------------Manuel Vasquez-------516

278------------Sept. 10-----------------Willie Trottie--------517

279------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------518

280------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------519

281------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------523

285------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays--------524

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


James Holmes case: Death penalty foe Bob Autobee's letter to victims stirs controversy

Does the father of a victim in 1 death-penalty case have the right to contact family members in another capital case? And, under Colorado law, do prosecutors have any obligation to facilitate that conversation - even if the discussion isn't going to help their cause?

The questions are key to a new controversy in the case of accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.

The current subject of raging debate in local criminal justice circles is DIVO - not the pioneering weird-rock band, but an acronym for Defense Initiated Victim Outreach, a program that's assuming a growing role in high-stakes cases. As Melanie Asmar recently reported, the defense team representing Holmes has accused prosecutors of impeding their attempts to contact victims of the 2012 Aurora theater shootings, while prosecutors have claimed that the defense is improperly using the DIVO process to try to sway victims to oppose the death penalty.

But what hasn't been publicly disclosed - thanks largely to Judge Carlos Samour's insistence on redacting the blank out of public pleadings in the Holmes case - is that one of the people seeking to reach out to victims is Bob Autobee, whose own views on the death penalty underwent a dramatic reversal as the effort to execute his son's killer dragged through the courts for almost 12 years.

In 2002, Autobee's son Eric, a 23-year-old correctional officer, was fatally attacked in the kitchen of the Limon prison by inmate Edward Montour Jr., who was already serving a life sentence for killing his 11-week-old daughter. Montour pleaded guilty to murder, but the Colorado Supreme Court threw out his death sentence in 2007 because it hadn't been imposed by a jury. Bob Autobee, initially a strong supporter of the death penalty, gradually became disheartened by the numerous delays in the case and began to push for a life sentence instead.

After meeting with Montour in a restorative justice session, Autobee began picketing the Douglas County courthouse to protest Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler's insistence on pursuing Montour's execution; Brauchler's office even filed a motion in the case seeking to prevent Autobee from addressing the jury at trial. But the case never got that far. Last March, just as the trial was starting, startling new evidence suggested that Montour may have been wrongly convicted in the infant death that put him in prison in the first place. Shortly thereafter, prosecutors agreed to let Montour plead guilty to 1st-degree murder and receive a life sentence.

A few weeks ago, Montour attorney David Lane, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, forwarded a letter from Autobee to one of the victims in the Holmes case, urging the victim to distribute it to others. In the letter, Autobee invites victims to meet with him so he can "offer my insights into this emotional roller coaster in hopes that it may help you to both understand the process you are going through with the prosecution and trial of James Holmes, and to share with you how I finally came to a place of peace and tranquility after fighting the pain and torment I was undergoing for 10 years."

Lane says the 1st victim he contacted evidently decided not to distribute the letter. A 2nd contact sent the letter to a victim's advocate in the DA's office, "who never distributed it to anyone," Lane says. And that, the attorney suggests, is part of a deliberate effort by prosecutors to squelch DIVO efforts in the Holmes case.

"There's a statute in Colorado that says victims must be informed of their right to participate in restorative justice processes," Lane notes. "The DAs never tell victims that they have that right or explain what the process is. They're doing everything in their power not to expose any of the [theater shooting] victims to DIVO - because they saw what happened in the Montour case. When Bob Autobee was exposed to DIVO, he did a complete turnaround on the death penalty."

Autobee's letter merely offers to share his "journey" with other victims in the hope that it may aid their healing process, Lane adds. It's an offer any individual is free to decline, but Lane insists that Brauchler's office is still trying to muzzle Autobee and "hide this stuff from victims." In court filings, the prosecution has denied interfering with the defense's efforts to communicate with victims, while contending that the DIVO process exists primarily to advance the interests of the defense.

"That's complete bullshit," Lane retorts. "DIVO is not sinister. These are people trained in restorative justice. It's defense-initiated because the DAs are all about retributive justice. They're saying, 'If we can only kill James Holmes, you'll feel so much better.' The DA's victim advocates are not victim advocates -- they lie to victims to get them fired up to kill.

"The fact is, DIVO is a source of information for the victim that doesn't violate the attorney-client privilege. Their client is the victim; they're paid for by the defense teams because the defense teams think that ultimately good things will happen. But their loyalty is to the victim, not the defendant. We can't ask them to go do things if they don't think it's in the best interest of the victim."

Lane, of course, isn't shy about his own objectives: "I want to end the death penalty. I want to see James Holmes get a life sentence. I never hide that.... If victims start getting off the death-penalty bandwagon, if they start picketing in front of the courthouse like Autobee did, then George Brauchler has a serious problem."

Who speaks for victims? Traditionally, it's been the representatives of "the people" - the DA's office. But as our 2011 feature "The Victim Lobby" pointed out, the options available to crime victims have become more complex and conflicting as the victim-rights movement has gained in numbers and influence. And the DIVO process is emerging as one more milestone - or stumbling block, depending on your point of view - in the long road to justice.



AMA Votes on Capital Punishment

The AMA reaffirmed already-adopted policies prohibiting a physician's involvement in capital punishment. That action was taken by the House of Delegates after rejecting a resolution that would have requested all states to cease the execution of prisoners until problems with medicalized executions are solved or a nonmedical model of execution that is neither cruel nor unusual is adopted.

Those testifying against this resolution stated that the AMA already has policies prohibiting a physician's involvement in capital punishment. "AMA has policies that address medical issues associated with the death penalty," said Barry Wall, M.D., a member of the Section Council on Psychiatry, in testimony about the report during reference committee hearings. "We have a policy opposing physician participation in execution, and we have a policy against trying to make physicians participate in executions, as well as against attempts to hide the identity of physicians participating in execution. Psychiatrists involved in correctional mental health systems know the weaknesses of the current capital sentencing process, including for [people who are mentally ill or] developmentally disabled. Treating inmates on death row raises a number of complex issues, and the AMA already has a policy addressing ethical nuances pertaining to medical issues related to persons facing execution."

Wall also noted that APA has a position statement supporting a moratorium on capital punishment, but that it is intended neither as an endorsement of the death penalty nor a statement of disapproval.

"The fair administration of the death penalty, and/or the decision to suspend or abolish it, is a moral, not a medical, issue," Wall said. "It is important to have policy supporting the myriad medical issues associated with assessing and caring for persons on death row, and it is also important to not cross the line into social issues relating to the death penalty."

(source: American Medical Association)


Rodney Reed may get execution date at hearing

Rodney Reed was convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of Stacy Stites in Bastrop County. He's been on death row since 1998.

A hearing is set for today where visiting judge Doug Shaver may set a date for his execution.

Lily Hughes is the national director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The group believes Reed is innocent.

"His defense attorneys are going to be asking for DNA testing on a couple of different things. And we believe that it's crucial that this DNA testing happens...that the judge and the state sign off on the testing," Hughes said.

Reed has admitted to having an affair with Stites who was engaged to a police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Fennell is the man Reed's family and attorneys believe is actually responsible for the murder.

In 2008, Fennell was sent to prison himself for improper sexual activity with a woman in his custody while working for the Georgetown Police Department.

Fennell's attorney told FOX7 at the time, that situation doesn't reflect on his role in the Rodney Reed case.

Hughes' group, Rodney Reed's family and his attorneys have tried many times in the past to appeal the case and get a new trial but nothing's worked. They've also had rallies and marches to bring awareness to the situation.

Hughes says the defense believes the scientific basis for the conviction was flawed at the time of the trial.

"The medical examiner claimed at trial that the semen DNA could not be more than 24 hours old. And he has since recanted that testimony and many other experts have said that you actually can't say that about semen DNA, it could've been even several days old," Hughes said.

Hughes says depending on what happens at the trial, taking the case to the supreme court may be the next step.

"We are hoping that ... the judge will agree to all the DNA testing that the defense is asking that he will write an order for that testing and that he will not set an execution date at this time," Hughes said.

Recently, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected the idea that Reed was not responsible for the murder.

They also rejected claims that critical evidence was withheld in the original trial and that Reed's family and friends knew he was involved with Stacy Stites.



Client's wish for death penalty doesn't justify defense lawyer's withdrawal, Fla. supreme court says

The Florida Supreme Court has refused a defense lawyer's request to withdraw from the appeals of a client who wants to argue in favor of his death sentence.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 opinion (PDF) last Thursday, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Lawyer Steven Bolotin had maintained he was ethically obligated to abide by the wishes of his client, convicted murderer James Robertson.

But the Florida Supreme Court majority said Bolotin should continue to represent Robertson during mandatory direct appeals. Florida Supreme Court review of death sentences is automatic and doesn't depend on the defendant's acquiescence, the court said.

Robertson can seek leave to file a supplemental brief explaining his own positions and interests, the court said.

In a concurrence, Justice Barbara Parienti argued that ABA standards consider a lawyer's acquiescence in a client's desire to be executed to be ineffective assistance. "In other words," she wrote, "not only does the client have no right to commit state-assisted suicide, but it is actually ineffective - and therefore unethical - conduct for an attorney to accede to this request." Her opinion was joined by 2 other justices.

The dissenters argued that the majority infringes on Robertson's right to decide whether to appeal his death sentence and his right to a lawyer who will abide by his decision regarding the objectives of representation.

"An automatic appeal is not equivalent to a nonwaivable appeal," the dissent argued.

The dissent said the case should be remanded to the trial court for a determination whether Robertson made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right of appeal.

(source: ABA Journal)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Local group plans protest of scheduled execution

Death penalty opponents will march on Park Central Square this week as Missouri prepares to execute another death row inmate.

The Springfield Chapter of the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will sponsor a peaceful execution vigil and ecumenical remembrance for victims of violent crime on Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m.

The event is planned the day before the scheduled execution of John Middleton, who was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of Alfred Pinegar in Harrison County.

Middleton has asked Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint an independent panel to review his clemency request. The petition for an independent Board of Inquiry says the governor cannot impartially rule on Middleton's request to commute his death sentence since Nixon was the state's attorney general when Middleton stood trial.

That alternative is allowed under Missouri law but has been rarely invoked, most recently in 1997 by former Gov. Mel Carnahan. He convened a similar panel 3 years earlier, but Nixon has rejected similar requests as governor.

If Middleton is executed, it would be the 8th man put to death in Missouri since November 2013. There are currently 39 prison inmates on death row in Missouri. Death row inmate Michael Worthington is scheduled for execution on August 6.

(source: KSPR news)


St. George slaying: Self-defense or coldhearted murder? Defense says Brandon Perry Smith shouldn't face a potential death penalty charge.

When Brandon Perry Smith allegedly killed a woman one December night in 2010, was it because his own life was threatened - or is he a coldhearted murderer who relished taking the life of a stranger?

The prosecution and defense cast the 32-year-old Washington County man in different lights in recent court filings, in which Smith is asking a judge to reverse the decision to send him to trial on a capital aggravated-murder charge.

Smith is charged in 5th District Court with aggravated murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing death of 20-year-old Jerrica Christensen. Prosecutors announced in January that they are seeking the death penalty for Smith.

In court papers filed in May, defense attorney Gary Pendleton implied that Smith killed the woman because he felt threatened by his friend Paul Clifford Ashton, who had just shot and killed 1 woman and shot and wounded another man. But prosecutors argued in a response motion filed in late June that Smith should be charged with aggravated murder because he independently decided to beat, strangle and ultimately slice Christensen's throat with a pocketknife.

The slaying was especially heinous, Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter argued, because Smith had a loaded handgun at his side that he could have used to end the woman’s life more quickly.

After a 3-day preliminary hearing in October, 5th District Judge James Shumate - who has since retired - ruled that prosecutors had shown probable cause that Smith murdered Christensen. He also found that several aggravating factors justified the aggravated murder charge: that Christensen was killed during a criminal episode in which 2 or more people were killed, that the homicide was committed incident to attempted kidnapping, that Christensen was killed to prevent her from testifying and that the homicide was committed in an "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or exceptionally depraved manner."

Pendleton argued in his motion that this decision should be reversed because there was no evidence presented by prosecutors that supported the aggravating factors.


Pendleton wrote in the motion that Smith went to Ashton’s St. George apartment Dec. 11, 2010, after Ashton had texted him, asking for a gun and saying he needed to "defend himself."

Smith came to the apartment with two guns, but Pendleton wrote that it quickly became apparent to his client that Ashton was not in any grave danger. 3 people - Christensen, Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden and James Fiske - were at the apartment moving Jerden and Fiske's things out, but there was no "real tension" between the parties, according to the defense motion.

At some point, Ashton began using Smith's knife to cut tie-down straps into shorter lengths, according to Pendleton. Later, Smith told police that he eventually came to the conclusion that Ashton "was thinking about tying them up and taking them out in the desert somewhere and then ... yeah."

Pendleton wrote that Smith told police that after Christensen and Fiske had left for a short time, Ashton repeatedly urged him to go up behind Jerden and hit her in the back of the head with the handle of a socket wrench - but Smith refused.

Prosecutors noted that Smith later told a detective he did not refuse because he was opposed to the kidnappings or murder but because he didn't think the socket wrench was heavy enough.

"It was not that he refused to knock out Jerden because he did not agree with the criminal objective," Filter wrote. "He refused to carry out this plan because he did not think that the plan would succeed. Smith rejected the means, not the objective."

Sometime later, after Christensen and Fiske were back in the apartment, Jerden confronted Ashton - who was seated in an electric wheelchair because of an accident that injured his leg - about a missing mountain bike. Jerden struck Ashton in the face with a plastic clamshell toolbox, according to the defense motion, and, at that point, Smith pulled out a gun he was carrying. Ashton pulled out a gun as well.

"Ashton simultaneously produced the firearm [Smith] had given him and shot Brandie Jerden in the face," Pendleton wrote. "She was apparently killed instantly."

Ashton then shot at Fiske, a bullet hitting him in the right shoulder. Fiske testified during the preliminary hearing that before he left the apartment, he heard Ashton order Smith to "go get the other one," in reference to Christensen.

"Smith had just witnessed Ashton shoot 2 individuals," Pendleton wrote in the motion. "Ashton was no longer in the wheelchair talking to Smith. He was on his feet halfway back to the bedroom holding the firearm he had just used on Jerden and Fiske, shouting directives at Smith."

Smith later told police that Christensen had locked herself in the bathroom after the shooting. He kicked in the door, he told a detective, while Ashton yelled at him to "get her" and "do it."

Smith told police that he "just wanted to knock her out, because - that didn't work, and then she was in, yeah, a lot of pain. And then I was like, 'Oh crap.' And I think somewhere along the line it was like - gone too far. It was like, might as well just - yeah."

Smith admitted to police that after he beat Christensen with the socket wrench handle, he tried to choke her, and ultimately cut her throat with his pocketknife, according to attorneys.

"He did not even know her name!" Filter wrote in his response. "What makes this killing especially disturbing is that he chose not to just kill but to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on a stranger, on a woman whose name he did not know and with whom he had never before interacted. He could not possibly have had any reason to want her to suffer other than to have the thrill of killing her slowly with his own hands."

Jail letters

After Ashton was arrested, he claimed that he shot Jerden and Fiske in self-defense and had nothing to do with Christensen's murder, but Pendleton wrote in his motion that jail letters seized in 2011 indicate that Ashton was more involved with Christensen's death than he let on.

"Brandon is my homie and I've known him for a long time," the note purportedly from Ashton reads. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm not taking the fall for it all! He had to do Jerico [Jerrica Christensen] or I was doing him. He didn't even know how to slice [her] throat! I had to show and tell him. I should have just shot him, too. Do em all!"

Ashton also said in the note that he wished he would have killed Fiske and Smith - "Instead of 14, I would have 17," he wrote, seemingly in reference to the number of people he has claimed to have killed.

Ashton - who had faced the possibility of the death penalty - is serving 2 life sentences in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in the apartment killings, and also admitted to kidnapping and aiding in the murder of a homeless man, also in October 2010.

Pendleton argues in his motion that prosecutors failed to show that Smith planned the killings with Ashton, that Smith had any intention of kidnapping Christensen, that Christensen was killed to keep her from testifying or that Smith tortured or caused unnecessary suffering to the woman. Because prosecutors did not prove these aggravating factors, Pendleton argued, his client should not go to trial for aggravated murder and should not face the death penalty.

Pendleton further argues that prosecutors have "conscientiously avoided any meaningful examination of exculpatory evidence," including the text messages between Ashton and Smith and the jail letters believed to have been written by Ashton.

Filter would not comment about the defense team's motion, but said in his response motion that prosecutors "absolutely deny" the allegation. He wrote that the jail "kites" from Ashton are of little value "because there was no evidence that Paul Ashton ever pointed a gun at or communicated a threat to Brandon Smith."

Filter has asked 5th District Judge Michael Westfall to allow the case to go to trial on the aggravated murder charge, arguing that the issues presented by defense attorneys should be decided by a jury, not a judge at the preliminary hearing stage.

No date has been set for oral arguments regarding Pendleton's motion, according to court records.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Let's execute the monsters

Let's be honest.

There are, in fact, real, live monsters that we live with every day.

Sometimes the monsters inspire us to be better people.

Sometimes the monsters motivate us to come together.

Sometimes monsters even seem to help us come up with ideas that allow us all to live better lives.

But in the end, the monsters have to go.

We all know that the world is a better place without them.

That is why we have the death penalty. Not to empower us, but to soothe us.

My main question I ask myself is, Why is it that we don't use the same drugs to kill convicted murderers that we use to kill our pets?

Let's not candy coat it.

If it's humane enough for my best friend, who has always been by my side, wagged his tail when I came through the door, unconditionally loved me when I was having a bad day and guarded over me while I was sleeping, I think that I would be able to sleep at night if the same method were used on someone who murdered an innocent person, right?

Some of the anti-death penalty proponents will refer to cost.

This is simply more of a "stall" method than reality.

When my BFF was euthanized, it cost me $100, and I got to keep the collar.

Now, he didn't exactly get to fight the inevitable, but if he did, I am sure that cost vs. keeping him alive for a few more months would've brought an inevitable outcome that told me keeping him alive would not make sense.

I would never have a discussion of a dog vs. a human life.

The fact is, my BFF that I had to have put down last year never murdered a little girl, never killed a retired old couple who worked hard all of their lives, and he never once searched on Craigslist for a lonely person he could kill on a date.

The Bible tells us that one day we will all be held accountable.

I don't know if it's true or not, but I can tell you that if it is true, for the most part, most people are doomed in the end.

All I know for sure is that it's our job as stewards of our most precious resources to make sure that, in the end, monsters don't prevail.

No matter how hard some people deny that there are, in fact, monsters among us, it is someone's job to protect the innocent.

Closing our eyes really hard and wishing the monsters are gone when we open them doesn't always work.

Sad but true.

Joey Snider lives in Republic.

(source: letter to the Editor, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader)


Delhi gangrape case: SC stays death sentence of 2 convicts

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the death sentence of 2 convicts in Delhi gangrape case. The move came after Akshay and Vinay approached the apex court challanging Delhi High Court order giving death penalty.

A 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court will hear the arguments of both the sides and then it will decide whether it is a rarest of rare case and death penalty should be awarded to the convicts.

The apex court had earlier stayed the dearth sentence of 2 of the convicts.

Defence lawyer AP Singh said, "The Supreme Court had stayed the death sentence of Akshay and Vinay till the final order. A 3-judge bench will hear the case. Death sentence for 2 accused was stayed earlier and now the Supreme Court has stayed the death Sentence of these 2 accused."

Delhi gangrape victim's father said that his family still demands death penalty for all the convicts. "My family wants death penalty to be given to the convicts. I will not get justice if death penalty is not given to these 2."

The high court had upheld the death sentence awarded to the 4 convicts on March 13.

In the horrific gangrape, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gangraped by 6 men inside a private bus on the roads of Delhi.

A trial court held Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur guilty on September 10, 2013 and they were awarded the death sentence after being charged with murder, attempt to murder, gangrape, kidnapping and unnatural acts.

While the 5th accused, Ram Singh, committed suicide in Delhi's Tihar jail, the juvenile was sent to a correctional home for 3 years, the maximum under the Juvenile Justice Act.

Following is the chronology of events in the keenly watched trial of the December 16 gangrape and murder case:

December 16, 2012: Paramedic student gangraped and brutally assaulted by 6 persons in a private bus and thrown out of the moving vehicle along with her male friend. They were admitted to Safdarjung Hospital.

December 17, 2012: Widespread protests breakout demanding strict action against the accused.

December 17, 2012: Police identifies 4 accused - bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta.

December 18, 2012: Ram Singh and 3 others are arrested.

December 20, 2012: Victim's friend testifies.

December 21, 2012: Delinquent juvenile nabbed from Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi. Victim's friend identifies Mukesh as one of the culprits. Police conduct raids in Haryana and Bihar to nab the sixth accused, Akshay Thakur.

December 21-22, 2012: Thakur arrested in Aurangabad district of Bihar and brought to Delhi. Victim records statement before the SDM in hospital.

December 23, 2012: Protesters defy prohibitory orders, take to streets. Delhi Police Constable Subhash Tomar, on duty to control protests, rushed to hospital with fatal injuries.

December 25, 2012: Girl's condition declared critical. Constable Tomar succumbs to injuries.

December 26, 2012: Following a cardiac arrest, victim flown to Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital by the government.

December 29, 2012: Victim succumbs to injuries and other medical conditions at 2:15 am. Police add murder charge in the FIR.

January 2, 2013: The then Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir inaugurates fast track court (FTC) for speedy trial in sexual offence cases.

January 3: Police files charge sheet against 5 adult accused for offences including murder, gangrape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences and dacoity etc.

January 5, 2013: Court takes cognisance of the charge sheet.

January 7, 2013: Court orders in-camera proceedings.

January 17, 2013: FTC starts proceedings against 5 adult accused.

January 28, 2013: JJB says minority of juvenile accused is proved.

February 2, 2013: FTC frames charges against 5 adult accused.

February 28, 2013: JJB frames charges against the minor.

March 11, 2013: Ram Singh commits suicide in Tihar jail.

March 22, 2013: Delhi HC allows national media to report trial court's proceedings.

July 5, 2013: Inquiry (trial) in JJB against juvenile in gangrape-cum-murder case and robbery matter concludes. JJB reserves verdict for July 11.

July 8, 2013: FTC completes recording of testimonies of prosecution witnesses.

July 11, 2013: JJB holds minor guilty of illegally confining and robbing a carpenter on December 16 night before allegedly taking part in the gangrape.

Delhi High Court allows 3 international news agencies to cover the trial of the case.

August 22, 2013: FTC begins hearing final arguments in trial against 4 adult accused.

August 31, 2013: JJB convicts the minor for gangrape and murder and awards 3 years term at a probation home.

September 3, 2013: FTC concludes trial. Reserves verdict.

September 10, 2013: Court convicts Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay, Pawan,

Mukesh of 13 offences including gangrape, unnatural offence and murder of the girl and attempt to murder her male friend.

Septmber 11, 2013: Court fixes September 13 for pronouncing sentence after hearing arguments on quantum of punishment to be awarded.

September 13, 2013: Court awards death to all 4 convicts.

March 15, 2014 : The Supreme Court stayed till March 31 the execution of death penalty of 2 of the 4 convicts in the December 16 gang-rape and murder case, a couple of days after the Delhi High Court upheld their punishment awarded by the trial court.

July 14, 2014 : The Supreme Court stays the death sentence of 2 of the 4 convicts.

(source: IBN Live)


Death penalty sought for Azzam Brigades members

A Lebanese judge Monday requested the death penalty for 23 suspects including 2 Abdullah Azzam Brigades members.

Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan recommended the sentence for Palestinian national Naim Abbas, Lebanese nationals Jamal Daftardar and Joumana Hmeid, and the Azzam Brigades’ religious guide Sirajeddine Zorayqat, who is a fugitive along with 14 others named in the decision.

Zorayqat is the spokesperson of the group, which has claimed responsibility for a number of car bombings in Lebanon, including two suicide attacks against Iranian interests.

The suspects are accused of belonging to an armed terrorist group with the aim of detonating explosive-rigged vehicles, as well as preparing explosive belts for suicide attacks in an attempt to kill civilians.

The charges against the group include forging documents and official identification cards.

Abbas, arrested Feb. 12, was charged in connection to 2 bombings in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik earlier this year that were also linked to Daftardar. The latter is a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Azzam Brigades and was accused of having a role in the 2 bombings, as well as the recent foiled plot to assassinate General Security official Lt. Col. Khattar Nassereddine.

Abbas is also linked to the Nusra Front in Lebanon, the offshoot of the radical group fighting in Syria.

Hmeid was apprehended earlier this year when she was driving a vehicle, packed with explosives, from the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh to the northeastern town of Arsal.

A judicial source told The Daily Star that the group were accused of having a role in several attacks - the suicide bombing in Shoueifat, Hmeid's explosive-rigged vehicle, the discovery of an explosive-laden vehicle in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa, firing rockets into Beirut's southern suburbs and an attempt to launch rockets into the same area from Aramoun.

The detainees confessed to being involved in the attacks, which primarily targeted the capital's southern suburbs, in retaliation for Hezbollah fighting in Syria alongside regime troops.

(source: The Daily Star)


Man Given Death Sentence Under Blasphemy Law

A 35-year-old man was today sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, in the latest case highlighting religious intolerance in the country.

Lahore's additional session's court awarded the capital punishment to Zulfiqar Ali and also imposed a fine of Rs 1,00,000 on him in a case filed in 2008.

A complaint was filed against him that year for allegedly writing blasphemous messages on a wall in the city's Islampura area.

Ali was later arrested and charged for blasphemy. The trial continued for 5 years.

Judge Naveed Iqbal announced the verdict after a number of Ali's neighbours testified against him. He denied the charges and said the complainant has implicated him as he has a monetary dispute with him.

Blasphemy is a highly-sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 % of the 180 million population is Muslim.

And the notorious blasphemy law, with a lack of procedural safeguards, has contributed to an alarming number of mob attacks and vigilante violence.

On many occasions, mostly non-Muslims have been convicted under the law, which rights groups say must be reviewed so that it is not misused to settle personal enmity or disputes or for persecution of religious minorities.

Pakistan, which has in the past urged the UN to make blasphemy a globally recognised offence, has never carried out the death penalty for blasphemy, according to the Dawn daily.

But it is one of the countries to have the most people jailed under the law.

(source: Outlook India)


Fewer Russian citizens support death penalty

The number of people supporting death penalty gradually decreases in Russia, sociologists of Levada Center told Interfax on Monday upon presenting its poll. According to the survey held on June 20-23 in 134 cities, towns and villages in 46 Russian regions among 1,600 respondents, currently 52 % Russians support death penalty, and 61 % and 73 % people shared this stance in 2012 and 2002 respectively.

A total of 34 % Russian citizens said that death penalty application should be left the way it is now, while 18 % said they were in favor of expanding it.

In the past 2 years the share of death penalty opponents grew from 24 % to 33 %, sociologists said. The number of people absolutely opposed to capital punishment remains almost unchanged - 9 % respondents said in December 2010 they supported cancelling the death penalty completely, 10 % in 2012 and 7 % share this stance now, the poll showed.

At the same time, more respondents support gradual capital punishment cancellation - from 14 % in 2012 to 26 p% in 2014, sociologists said. 15 % respondents still fail to respond in this regard.

According to Levada Center, death penalty is generally more supported by people aged 18-25 (54 %) and 40-55 (52 %), men (56 %), respondents with at least secondary education (57 %), rural residents (57 %) and those living in towns (52 %).

Meanwhile, 49 % Moscow residents said they supported the idea of returning the capital punishment and expanding its application.

The Russian Criminal Code foresees the punishment of life imprisonment to death penalty for a number of especially serious crimes against a person - murder amid mitigating circumstances, making attempt at the life of a state of public figure, law enforcement officer, and genocide.

Death penalty moratorium was introduced in Russia by a presidential order in August 1996 and the country signed a relevant protocol of the European convention on human rights in April 1997. However, the document has not been ratified by the State Duma, so capital punishment has not been cancelled officially but its application is possible in accordance with the Vienna convention on international treaties, which obliges the states signed to comply with it even without ratification.

The moratorium was to end on January 1, 2010 but in November 2009 the Russian Constitutional Court extended it until the Duma ratifies the protocol cancelling the capital punishment and ruled that no courts had the right to return death penalty verdicts.

(source: Russia Beyond the Headlines)


Study sought on default death sentence----It would affect those who abuse kids, sexually hurt women, causing death

The committee reviewing Singapore's homicide laws has been asked to study whether a default death sentence on criminals who sexually assault women or abuse children, leading to the victims' deaths, should be introduced.

The suggestion for this stiffening of the law came from none other than Law Minister K. Shanmugam who elaborated on his view for the 1st time since raising the issue in May.

"My thinking is that there should be a default death sentence for those who rape or sexually assault women, resulting in the victim's death, and for those who hurt a child and the child ends up dead," he had been quoted as saying then.

"The accused in such cases should face the death penalty, unless he can prove why there shouldn't be such a penalty."

(soure: New Straits Times)

JULY 13, 2014:


84 still on Ga. death row, including several from NE Ga.

With the commutation of a Dawson County murderer's death penalty to life in prison last week, Georgia is left with 84 people on death row, according to the latest figures from state officials. The number includes 7 who were convicted in northeast Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) says all but 1 are men. The men are housed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, where the state carries out its executions. The lone woman is incarcerated at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto.

Tommy Lee Waldrip had been, until last Wednesday, on death row for the murder of a Forsyth County store clerk in Dawson County. But the State Pardons and Paroles Board granted him clemency, changing his sentence to life without parole.

Of those men still on death row from northeast Georgia, 2 were convicted in Hall County and 1 each in Towns, Elbert, Jackson and Lumpkin.

David Scott Franks, 53, who has been on death row 16 years, and Scott Morrow, 47, who has been under a death sentence for 15 years, are the 2 inmates who were convicted in Hall County. Donnie Cleveland Lance, 61, was convicted in Jackson County in 1999; Steven Frederick Spears, 48, has been on death row seven years for a Lumpkin County murder; Winston Clay Barrett, 59, was convicted in Towns County in 2005; and, Leonard Drane, 55, has been awaiting execution for 22 years for a murder committed in Elbert County.

The only woman on death row, Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was convicted of murder in Barrow County in 1998.

Of all the death row inmates in Georgia, the one who has been there the longest was convicted in 1976. The oldest death row inmate is 71-years-old.

There are 3 crimes that are punishable by death in Georgia: murder, rape, and kidnapping.



State Supreme Court orders death-row lawyer to stay on case

A sharply divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a death row inmate's lawyer to remain on the case even though convicted murderer James Robertson wants to be executed.

Robertson's public defender, Steven Bolotin, asked to be removed from the case earlier this year, arguing that Florida Bar rules require him to represent his client's wishes. Robertson, who has spent more than 3 decades in prison, was sentenced to death in 2012 for killing his cellmate 4 years earlier.

"If the attorney is required to seek reversal of his client's death sentence when the client adamantly desires affirmance of the death sentence it is a legal fiction, at best, to say that the attorney is acting 'on (the client's) behalf' ... or providing advocacy of the client's interests," Bolotin wrote in a January motion.

But, in a 4-3 ruling echoing previous decisions, the Supreme Court majority ordered Bolotin to continue to represent Robertson in the direct-appeal process required by Florida law in capital cases.

"We conclude that there is simply no reason to depart from our reliable, established, and necessary procedure for requiring current counsel to proceed with diligent appellate advocacy to facilitate our mandatory review in death penalty cases where the defendant, in effect, seeks this court's assistance in being put to death," Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and James Perry agreed in the majority opinion. Justices Peggy Quince, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented.

Allowing Bolotin to withdraw "would be both erroneous and unwise, and would result in a serious threat to the soundness of Florida's capital sentencing scheme - not the least of which is the disruption and delay that would be engendered by granting the motion to withdraw," the majority wrote.

But in a dissent joined by Polston, Canady wrote that forcing Robertson, 51, to appeal his death sentence infringes on his rights. Nothing in Florida's constitution requires those condemned to death to appeal, Canady wrote.

"A defendant under a sentence of death should not be deprived of basic rights that are afforded to all other criminal defendants. Defense counsel in this case has been placed in an untenable ethical position because Mr. Robertson has not been allowed to waive his right of appeal," Canady wrote.

The majority agreed to Bolotin's request that Robertson, first sent to prison at the age of 17, be allowed to file his own pleadings "setting forth his personal positions and interests with regard to the subject matter of the appeal."

In a separate opinion supporting the majority decision, Pariente wrote that American Bar Association guidelines require lawyers to defend their clients regardless of their wishes.

"In other words, not only does the client have no right to commit state-assisted suicide, but it is actually ineffective - and therefore unethical - conduct for an attorney to accede to this request," she wrote.

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)


Moratorium on Death Penalty

I firmly believe that if Americans knew the facts about the death penalty, we would put an end to it as soon as possible. Most people assume that the only argument against the death penalty is a moral one, but it is so much simpler than that.

The death penalty is much, much more expensive than life in prison. America is one of very few countries to still employ execution, and when you see the company we keep, you'll be mortified to be among them.

The death penalty is also racist and classist, displaying an alarming disparity between exactly what types of people receive the sentence.

Perhaps the most frustrating fact hidden about the death penalty is that we have killed, and will continue to kill, innocent people. A lot of innocent people. Our justice system should not abide by collateral damage. And, yes, I believe it is morally reprehensible, putting us on a level with the criminals we seek to hold accountable.

Florida is breaking numerous records where the death penalty is concerned, all of them horrifying. For example, we have the greatest number of death row exonerees - 24. Yay!

Except what that actually means is we placed 24 innocent people on death row before we realized in the nick of time that they had done nothing wrong and generously decided not to murder them. Oh, and sorry about those many years you spent behind bars for absolutely no reason at all. Our bad. We need a moratorium, and we need it now. Lives are literally depending on it.



Blakeney sentenced to death

After a weeklong trial and more than 13 hours in court on Friday, what has been considered a 4 year battle for justice for Victoria Viner, finally came to an end.

"We have actually accomplished at least a measure of justice for Victoria Viner," said Assistant District Attorney J. Ronald Parrish. "For the last almost 4 years now when I have come in this office her picture on this wall is the first thing I have looked at," said Parrish.

Hours of witness testimony presented by the defense, included Justin's parents, Marsha and Tommy Blakeney, along with friends and doctors. Jury instructions were given and both sides presented their closing arguments. The jury returned an hour and 27 minutes later to return a unanimous verdict for the death of 2-year-old Victoria.

"We the jury find the defendant Justin Blakeney guilty of capital murder," said Jury Foreman.

The jury was then presented with the sentencing phase of the trial to determine whether Blakeney was to be given life in prison, life without parole, or the death penalty. The defense recalled 7 witnesses to testify on Blakeney's behalf.

"He doesn't', I don't think he needs the death penalty at all," said Megan Batte.

It took over 2 hours of deliberation to return a sentence. With no expression on his face, Blakeney stared across the room to the jury as the sentence was read.

"We unanimously find the defendant should suffer death," said Jury Foreman.

Judge Billy Joe Landrum set the execution date for November 19, 2014.

Blakeney looked to family members and mouthed "it ain't gonna happen that soon; it ain't gonna happen that soon."

After the verdict was announced, hugs were traded among the Viner family.

"It's been a long time coming, it's been 4 years, and I think now her soul can rest, and I can be a little more at peace than I was," said Vincent Viner, Victoria's father.

As for the photo hanging on the wall at the Jones County District Attorney's office, it now serves as a reminder of a special case in J Ronald Parrish's career.

"When I start something I don't quit, until it's over with, and it's been a nightmare battle with this, but I have seen it through, as I have said before, some of these instances to the better end," said Parrish.

(source: WDAM news)


Double Homicide Suspect Arrested, Charged with Capital Murder

Jefferson County Sheriff's investigators make an arrest in a shocking double homicide that happened in a quiet neighborhood. Detectives don't believe this was a random shooting.

They say a 21-year-old Mississippi man targeted the Jefferson County couple for a specific

Early Friday morning, a family member found the bodies of 62-year-old Anthony Branch and 58-year-old Deborah Moncrief.

Today, authorities found their suspect.

21-year-old William Childress is charged with 2 counts of capital murder.

Major Lafayette Woods says interviews with family, friends and neighbors led to the arrest.

The murders happened down a private drive out in the county.

It's a tight-knit community with only about 6 homes.

Everybody knows everybody, but no one wanted to talk to us today about the arrest including the family members who gathered at their loved ones home.

Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies picked up Childress in another county.

After questioning him, detectives say he led them right to the murder weapon.

Major Woods said, "In this case he was very forthcoming."

Major Woods says Childress is engaged to Deborah Moncrief's niece and that's how he knew the couple.

Detectives say money was Childress's motive in the shootings, but they're not saying much more about it.

Major Woods said, "That's part of the investigation itself. We can't speak to the fact if it was given or he took it."

Childress is behind bars with no bond.

He's expected to be in court on Monday.

Right now, investigators believe he was the only one involved in this crime.

If convicted, Childress could face the death penalty.

(source: Arkansas Matters)


I was 17, on death row -- and innocent


Shareef Cousin: I was once youngest person on death row, for a crime I did not commit

He says prosecutors withheld evidence from jury, and he had an alibi

He says after 4 years on death row, he was exonerated, the prosecutor lightly disciplined It's not "the worst of the worst" who are sentenced to death, he says - just the most powerless

Editor's note: Shareef Cousin is a member of Witness to Innocence, a nonprofit organization that supports people who have been exonerated from death row and their loved ones. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. CNN's original series "Death Row Stories" explores America's capital punishment system Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNN. Join the conversation about the death penalty at or Twitter @CNNOrigSeries using #DeathRowStories.

New York Law School professor Robert Blecker was on the radio the other day, telling NPR's "Here and Now" that we should have the death penalty, even if there is a risk that innocent people might be executed. I wonder if Blecker or other death penalty supporters would sacrifice their lives to keep this broken system going.

I was once the youngest person in the U.S. on death row. And I was innocent.

There was videotape of me in 1995, at 16, playing basketball just before the time of a murder in New Orleans' French Quarter. There was even a clock showing the time on the videotape. My basketball coach was driving me and my teammates home at the time of the crime.

My airtight alibi didn't matter.

The eyewitness to the murder, who was on a 1st date with the victim, told the police she was not wearing her contact lenses or glasses and could only see shapes - critical information that the prosecution withheld from my attorneys. She was pressured to change her story. At my trial, she identified me as the killer and told the jury, "I will never forget that face."

A detective said 2 other witnesses identified me as the killer, but it later came out that he had lied to get the arrest warrant. The prosecution pressured another witness into saying he heard me brag about the murder, which was untrue.

As a teenager on death row, I often had nightmares of my own execution. Even though I was innocent, death seemed very close to me, and my mind would light up with images of my being strapped to a gurney, the sound of poison coming from a machine and being pushed through my veins.

4 years after being sentenced to death, I heard on TV that the murder charge against me was being dropped. The Louisiana Supreme Court later disciplined the prosecutor, Roger Jordan, and gave him a 3-month suspension. The suspension was waived, however, on the provision that he not engage in any more ethical breaches for a year.

Folks who are watching "Death Row Stories" on CNN know that it isn't always clear who is guilty. When I go out to speak to community groups, people are surprised to learn that there are enough people who have been exonerated from death row that we have our own membership organization, Witness to Innocence.

It is hard to argue that the death penalty is applied fairly. Take it from me, someone who lived alongside guys on death row: The system does not identify and sentence "the worst of the worst" to death - just the most powerless.

A new study of the backgrounds of 100 people executed in 2012 and 2013 shows that an overwhelming majority suffered from significant mental impairments. Nearly 9 out of 10 had conditions that made them the same as, or very similar to, people who the U.S. Supreme Court has said are less culpable and constitutionally barred from capital punishment.

I was 17 years old when I was sentenced to death and 20 when I was exonerated in 1999. Six years later, the Court held in Roper v. Simmons that it was unconstitutional to execute offenders aged 17 and younger. The court based its decision, in part, on science showing that the brains of juveniles are still developing. In the study of the last 100 people executed, however, more than 1/3 committed a capital crime before turning 25 - the age at which the brain fully matures. 20 offenders - 1 out of 5 - hadn't yet reached their 21st birthdays.

The study also found that more than 1/2 (54%) of the last 100 people executed had severe mental illness, but the courts did not find them incompetent for execution. 1/3 had intellectual disabilities, even though the court decided over a decade ago in Atkins v. Virginia that people with "mental retardation" cannot be executed because of their diminished capacity.

At least 1/2 the offenders in the study experienced unimaginable abuse as children. Juries may or may not hear about that. Underresourced capital litigators often do not investigate and present all available mitigation evidence.

There is no need to debate people who assert that killing innocent human beings is acceptable or that the death penalty is justified. Those views are fading from the American landscape. In 1999, 20 states carried out executions. In 2013, only 9 states did. 6 states in as many years have abolished the death penalty. In my lifetime, the U.S. Supreme Court will read the national consensus as turning away from capital punishment and end it once and for all.

(source: CNN)


Sudan defends human rights record before UNHRC committee

A committee of experts at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva expressed concern over the continuation of war crimes, torture and arrests in Sudan and criticized Khartoum's insistence on the application of the death penalty, citing the case of Mrs. Mariam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death over apostasy.

Last week the committee listened to a report on Sudan's human rights situation and asserted that Khartoum's efforts to establish human rights is still severely lacking and does not live up to the required standards.

According to reliable sources that spoke to Sudan Tribune], the Undersecretary of the Sudanese Ministry of Justice Ismail Abdel-Kader strongly rejected the report and listed what he said were difficult and challenging circumstances facing his country while stressing Khartoum's commitment to international laws and conventions.

Abdel-Kader noted that Islamic Sharia'a law is the source of legislation in Sudan and addressed what he described as misconception surrounding the death penalty and that Islamic law contradicts international conventions.

The official said that Sudan like the rest of the world has its own assessments and mechanisms that allows the implementation of the death penalty for apostasy in accordance with Islamic Sharia'a law. He went on to say that the death penalty remains controversial when it comes to defining serious crimes and that each state decides it in the way it sees appropriate.

Mrs. Ibrahim was sentenced to death in May for renouncing Islam, but was released last month after what the government said was "unprecedented" international pressure. An appeals court found her not guilty on 2 charges of apostasy and adultery and overturned the lower tribunal's verdict.

She is now reportedly facing forgery charges along with police complaints filed by her alleged siblings. It is not clear what the next legal steps would entail. Ibrahim and her family are currently staying at the US embassy .

Abdel-Kader pointed out that the Sudanese judiciary annulled 10 death sentences out of 227 cases explaining that their legal system guarantees right to appeal capital punishment in the event of sufficient grounds.

A report by Khartoum and another by the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan Mashood Baderin will be submitted to the UNHRC plenary session next September.

(source: Sudan Tribune)


Ethiopia president defends opposition leader's arrest -- Andargachew Tsege, who is also a UK national, was sentenced to death in absetia back in 2009 while in exile for allegedly plotting a coup against the Ethiopian government with his banned Ginbot 7 movement.

Ethiopian leader Hailemariam Desalegn has defended the arrest of opposition leader Andargachew Tsege who was extradited from Yemen last month, calling it a 'moral obligation'.

"Andargachew Tsege is a Trojan horse for the Eritrean government to destabilise this country," he told the BBC.

Tsege, who is also a UK national, was sentenced to death in absetia back in 2009 while in exile for allegedly plotting a coup against the Ethiopian government with his banned Ginbot 7 movement.

"His stooges were there, who were sent to destabilise and bomb this country - they were captured red-handed with their bombs and their detonating elements," President Desalegn told the BBC's Focus on Africa.

Saying he was not sure if the death penalty would be carried out now that Andargachew was in custody, he added "If you ask me to tolerate in the name of democracy those who are engaging [in] destabilising the country and acting as a terrorist and using guns to change government, then you are wrong."

"If you have any connection with terrorists don't think that the Ethiopian government will let you [go] free," he said.

Ginbot 7 (15 May) was named after the date of the 2005 elections, which were marred by protests over alleged fraud that led to the deaths of about 200 people.

Tsege, 2nd-in-command of Ginbot 7 opposition movement, was arrested last month at Sanaa international airport while on his way to Eritrea.

(source: World Bulletin)


Emmanuel Ifeajuna: Commonwealth Games gold to facing a firing squad----The Nigerian high jumper was the 1st black African to win a gold medal but his remarkable story had a tragic end

The 1st time Emmanuel Ifeajuna appeared before a crowd of thousands he did something no black African had ever done. He won a gold medal at an international sporting event. "Nigeria Creates World Sensation," ran the headline in the West African Pilot after Ifeajuna's record-breaking victory in the high jump at the 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. He was the pride not just of Nigeria but of a whole continent. An editorial asked: "Who among our people did not weep for sheer joy when Nigeria came uppermost, beating all whites and blacks together?"

In the words of a former schoolmate, Ifeajuna had leaped "to the very pinnacle of Nigerian sporting achievement". His 9 track and field team-mates won another 6 silver and bronze medals, prompting a special correspondent to write "Rejoice with me, oh ye sports lovers of Nigeria, for the remarkable achievements of our boys".

Ifeajuna, feted wherever he went, would soon see his picture on the front of school exercise books. He was a great national hero who would remain Nigeria's only gold medallist, in Commonwealth or Olympic sport, until 1966.

The next time Ifeajuna appeared before a crowd of thousands he was bare-chested and tied to a stake, facing execution before a seething mob. He had co-led a military coup in January 1966 in which, according to an official but disputed police report, he shot and killed Nigeria's 1st prime minister. The coup failed but Ifeajuna escaped to safety in Ghana, dressed as a woman and was driven to freedom by a famous poet. 20 months later, he was back, fighting for the persecuted Igbo people of eastern Nigeria in a brutal civil war that broke out as a consequence of the coup.

Ifeajuna and three fellow officers were accused by their own leader, General Emeka Ojukwu, of plotting against him and the breakaway Republic of Biafra. They denied charges of treason: they were trying to save lives and their country, they said, by negotiating an early ceasefire with the federal government and reuniting Nigeria. They failed, they died and, in the next 2 1/2 years, so did more than a million Igbos.

The day of the execution was 25 September, 1967, and the time 1.30pm. There was a very short gap between trial and execution, not least because federal troops were closing in on Enugu, the Biafran capital, giving rise to fears that the "guilty 4" might be rescued.

As the execution approached, the 4 men - Ifeajuna, Victor Banjo, Phillip Alale and Sam Agbam - were tied to stakes. Ifeajuna, with his head on his chest as though he was already dead, kept mumbling that his death would not stop what he had feared most, that federal troops would enter Enugu, and the only way to stop this was for those about to kill him to ask for a ceasefire.

A body of soldiers drew up with their automatic rifles at the ready. On the order of their officer, they levelled their guns at the bared chests of the 4 men. As a hysterical mass behind the firing squad shouted: "Shoot them! Shoot them!" a grim-looking officer gave the command: "Fire!" The deafening volley was followed by lolling heads. Ifeajuna slumped. Nigeria's great sporting hero died a villain's death. But he had been right. By 4pm 2 1/2 hours after the executions, the gunners of the federal troops had started to hit their targets in Enugu with great accuracy. The Biafrans began to flee and the city fell a few days later.

Of all the many hundreds of gold medallists at the Empire and Commonwealth Games since 1930 none left such a mark on history, led such a remarkable life or suffered such a shocking death as Ifeajuna.

His co-plotter in the 1966 coup, Chukwuma Nzeogwu, was buried with full military honours and had a statue erected in his memory in his home town. But for Ifeajuna, the hateful verdict of that seething mob carried weight down the years. His name was reviled, his sporting glory all but written out of Nigeria's history. His name is absent from the website of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, appearing neither in the history of the Federation nor in any other section. There is no easy road to redemption for the gold medallist who inadvertently started a war and was shot for trying to stop it.

Nigeria's 1st foray into overseas sport was in 1948, when they sent athletes to London to compete in the Amateur Athletic Association Championships, and to watch the Olympic Games before a planned 1st entry in the next Olympiad. In 1950 there was cause to celebrate when the high jumper, Josiah Majekodunmi, won a silver medal at the Auckland Commonwealth Games. He also fared best of Nigeria's Olympic pathfinders, the 9-man team who competed at Helsinki in 1952. Majekodunmi was ninth, with 2 of his team-mates also in the top 20. Nigerians clearly excelled at the high jump.

With 3 men having competed in that 1952 Olympic final, the Nigeria selectors had plenty of names to consider for the Commonwealth Games high jump in Vancouver 2 years later. Ifeajuna, aged 20, was not a contender until he surprised everybody at the national championships in late April, less than 2 months before the team were due to depart. His jump of 6ft 5.5in, the best of the season, took him straight in alongside Nafiu Osagie, 1 of the 1952 Olympians, and he was selected.

The high jump was on day one of competition in Vancouver and Ifeajuna wore only one shoe, on his left foot. One correspondent wrote: "The Nigerian made his cat-like approach from the left-hand side. In his take-off stride his leading leg was flexed to an angle quite beyond anything ever seen but he retrieved position with a fantastic spring and soared upwards as if plucked by some external agency."

Ifeajuna brushed the bar at 6ft 7in but it stayed on; he then cleared 6ft 8in to set a Games and British Empire record, and to become the 1st man ever to jump 13.5in more than his own height. This 1st gold for black Africa was a world-class performance. His 6ft 8in - just over 2.03m - would have been good enough for a silver medal at the Helsinki Olympics 2 years earlier.

The team arrived back home on 8 September. That afternoon they were driven on an open-backed lorry through the streets of Lagos, with the police band on board, to a civic reception at the racecourse. The flags and bunting were out in abundance, as were the crowds in the middle and, for those who could afford tickets, the grandstand. There was a celebration dance at 9pm. Ifeajuna told reporters he had been so tired, having spent nearly 4 hours in competition, that: "At the time I attempted the record jump I did not think I had enough strength to achieve the success which was mine. I was very happy when I went over the bar on my 2nd attempt."

After a couple of weeks at home Ifeajuna was off to university on the other side of the country at Ibadan. His sporting career was already over, apart from rare appearances in inter-varsity matches. He met his future wife, Rose, in 1955. They married in 1959 and had 2 sons. After graduating in zoology he taught for a while before joining the army in 1960 and was trained in England, at Aldershot. Ifeajuna had first shown an interest in the military in 1956 when, during a summer holiday in Abeokuta, he had visited the local barracks with a friend who later became one of the most important figures in the Commonwealth.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku joined the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1966, the year of Ifeajuna's coup attempt. While his good friend escaped, returned, fought in the war and died in front of the firing squad, Anyaoku moved to London, where he rose to the highest office in the Commonwealth, secretary-general, in 1990. For 4 years at university he lived in a room next door to Ifeajuna, who became a close friend.

Why did the record-breaking champion stop competing? "From October, 1954, when he enrolled at Ibadan, he never trained," said Anyaoku, nearly 60 years later. "He never had a coach - only his games master at grammar school - and there were no facilities at the university. He simply stopped. He seemed content with celebrating his gold medal. I don't think the Olympics ever tempted him. I used to tease him that he was the most natural hero in sport. He did no special training. He was so gifted, he just did it all himself. Jumping barefoot, or with one shoe, was not unusual where we came from."

Another hugely influential voice from Nigerian history pointed out that Ifeajuna, in his days as a student, had "a fairly good record of rebellion". Olusegun Obasanjo served as head of a military regime and as an elected president. He recalled Ifeajuna's role in a protest that led to the closure of his grammar school in Onitsha for a term in 1951, when he was 16. Three years after winning gold, while at university, Ifeajuna made a rousing speech before leading several hundred students in protest against poor food and conditions.

The former president also held a manuscript written by Ifeajuna in the aftermath of the coup but never published. It stated: "It was unity we wanted, not rebellion. We had watched our leaders rape our country. The country was so diseased that bold reforms were badly needed to settle social, moral, economic and political questions. We fully realised that to be caught planning, let alone acting, on our lines, was high treason. And the penalty for high treason is death."

In 1964 the Lagos boxer Omo Oloja won a light-middleweight bronze in Tokyo, thereby becoming Nigeria's 1st Olympic medallist. It was a rare moment of celebration in a grim year that featured a general strike and a rigged election. Another election the following year was, said the BBC and Reuters correspondent Frederick Forsyth, seriously rigged - "electoral officers disappeared, ballot papers vanished from police custody, candidates were detained, polling agents were murdered". 1 opposing sides both claimed victory, leading to a complete breakdown of law and order. "Rioting, murder, looting, arson and mayhem were rife," said Forsyth. The prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, refused to declare a state of emergency. There was corruption in the army, too, with favouritism for northern recruits. A group of officers began to talk about a coup after they were told by their brigadier that they would be required to pledge allegiance to the prime minister, from the north, rather than the country's 1st president, an Igbo. Ifeajuna's group feared a jihad against the mainly Christian south, led by the north's Muslim figurehead, the Sardauna of Sokoto.

The coup, codenamed Leopard, was planned in secret meetings. Major Ifeajuna led a small group in Lagos, whose main targets were the prime minister, the army's commander-in-chief, and a brigadier, who was Ifeajuna's 1st victim. According to the official police report, part of which has never been made public, Ifeajuna and a few of his men broke into the prime minister's home, kicked down his bedroom door and led out Balewa in his white robe. They allowed him to say his prayers and drove him away in Ifeajuna's car. On the road to Abeokuta they stopped, Ifeajuna ordered the prime minister out of the car, shot him, and left his body in the bush. Others say the Prime Minister was not shot, nor was the intention ever to kill him: Balewa died of an asthma attack or a heart attack brought on by fear. There has never been conclusive evidence either way.

Ifeajuna drove on to Enugu, where it became apparent that the coup had failed, mainly because one of the key officers in Ifeajuna's Lagos operation had "turned traitor" and had failed to arrive as planned with armoured cars. Major-General Ironsi, the main military target, was still at large and he soon took control of the military government. Ifeajuna was now a wanted man. He hid in a chemist's shop, disguised himself as a woman, and was driven over the border by his friend Christopher Okigbo, a poet of great renown. Then he travelled on to Ghana, where he was welcomed.

Ifeajuna eventually agreed to return to Lagos, where he was held pending trial. Ojukwu, by now a senior officer, ensured his safety by having him transferred, in April, to a jail in the east. Igbos who lived in the north of the country were attacked. In weeks of violent bloodshed tens of thousands died. As the death toll increased, the outcome was civil war. In May, 1967, Ojukwu, military governor of the south-east of Nigeria, declared that the region had now become the Republic of Biafra. By the time the fighting ended in early 1970, the number of deaths would be in the millions.

Arguably, if either of Ifeajuna's plots had been a success, those lives would not have been lost. The verdicts on his role in Nigerian history are many and varied: his detractors have held sway. Chief among them was Bernard Odogwu, Biafra's head of intelligence, who branded Ifeajuna a traitor and blamed him for "failure and atrocities" in the 1966 coup. Adewale Ademoyega, one of the 1966 plotters, held a different view of Ifeajuna. "He was a rather complicated character ... intensely political and revolutionary ... very influential among those close to him ... generous and willing to sacrifice anything for the revolution."

The last time Anyaoku saw Ifeajuna was in 1963, in Lagos, before Anyaoku's departure for a diplomatic role in New York. He later moved to London and was there in 1967. "I was devastated when I heard the news of the execution," he said. As for Ifeajuna being all but written out of Nigeria's sporting history, he noted that: "The history of the civil war still evokes a 2-sided argument. He is a hero to many people, though they would more readily talk about his gold medal than his involvement in the war. There are people who think he was unjustifiably executed and others who believe the opposite."

One commentator suggested recently that the new national stadium in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, should be named after Ifeajuna. It will surely never happen.

(source: Brian Oliver is a former sports editor of the Observer. This is an edited extract from his book, The Commonwealth Games: Extraordinary Stories Behind The Medals, published by Bloomsbury and priced 12.99 pounds; The Guardian)

JULY 12, 2014:


Jury views graphic autopsy photos from 1986 slaying of Dallas couple

2 former Dallas County medical examiners took the stand Friday in the punishment phase of the trial of a man convicted in the 1986 stabbing deaths of a prominent Dallas civil rights attorney and his wife.

The medical examiners, who both testifed at the initial capital murder trial of Kenneth Wayne Thomas in 1987, detailed for the jury the results of the autopsies conducted on Fred and Mildred Finch.

In 1987, a jury convicted Thomas, 53, of killing the Finches while burglarizing their South Dallas home. He was sentenced to death.

Thomas, whose mental capabilities have long been an issue, won a new punishment phase in 2010 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that previous jurors could not properly consider whether his mental abilities should result in the lesser sentence.

Now, a different Dallas County jury will decide whether Thomas should be given a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

Thomas' defense attorneys hope to persuade jurors to vote for a life sentence. They plan to argue that Thomas' low intelligence, brain damage and mental illness mean he shouldn't be executed. But prosecutors contend that the crime was so gruesome that another death sentence for Thomas is warranted.

During Friday's testimony, prosecutors showed the jury graphic images of the bodies at different stages in the autopsy process. The Finches' clothing was soaked in blood when their bodies were found, Dr. Edward McDonough testified.

Fred Finch had 21 stab wounds, and his wife had between 80 and 90.

A weapon was not found at the scene, but McDonough testified Friday that the wounds appeared to be from a single-edged blade.

Prosecutors also submitted shirts, hats and a light brown satchel that apparently belonged to the dead couple into evidence. James Smith, a former Dallas police detective, testified that investigators found some of the items at a dump site near the Finches' home and Thomas' home a few blocks away.

The prosecution will continue presenting evidence Monday, when the trial is scheduled to resume before state District Judge Ernest White.


In dying act, minister hoped to inspire social justice

From segregated churches of East Texas to destitute slums of India, the Rev. Charles Moore fought for human rights.

He delivered sermons about racism and sexism. He stood vigil against the death penalty. He went on a hunger strike to protest discrimination against gays and lesbians.

But during retirement, the United Methodist minister questioned whether he had done enough. He saw the broken world around him.

On a Monday afternoon in June, Moore, 79, drove from his home in Allen to Grand Saline, the town of his childhood about 70 miles east of Dallas. He traveled along country roads near fields of wildflowers and grazing cattle. In a strip-mall parking lot, outside a dollar store, beauty salon and pharmacy, he knelt down, doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire.

As flames engulfed him, he screamed and tried to stand. Witnesses rushed to put out the blaze with shirts, bottled water and, finally, an extinguisher.

He was flown unconscious to a Dallas hospital, where he died from burn injuries.

Moore had intended his act to be a grand but selfless gesture in the manner of Buddhist monks who have done the same before him.

"I would much prefer to go on living and enjoy my beloved wife and grandchildren and others, but I have come to believe that only my self-immolation will get the attention of anybody and perhaps inspire some to higher service," he wrote in one of the notes he left behind.

He had considered doing it at Southern Methodist University, where he had earned a degree at Perkins School of Theology. He expected that his self-immolation would make national news and hoped his message of social justice would be broadcast along with his funeral.

But his final act drew little notice. A report in the Grand Saline Sun described him as an elderly man who seemed troubled. An article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph asked if he was a "madman or a martyr."

He left his family and friends reeling from grief and trying to make sense of his death. At a memorial service Saturday at Faith Presbyterian Church in Austin, he will be remembered for the work he did - not for the way he died.

Charles Robert Moore was born July 18, 1934, on the outskirts of Grand Saline, home to about 3,000 people, numerous churches and a large salt mine. He saw the ministry as a path out of his family's little frame house and the dusty farmland that felt confining.

In his notes, Moore said he found a home in the academic world of SMU, where he earned degrees in English and divinity. He was mesmerized by his schoolwork and inspired by his teachers at Perkins.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked at churches in suburban San Antonio and then in Carthage in East Texas.

It was a tense time in Carthage. Moore and the Rev. Jack Albright, another United Methodist minister, supported the civil rights movement. But people were afraid of integration, and some churchgoers called them communist sympathizers and racial slurs.

"He did not win a lot of friends - nor did I," Albright said.

The ministers would meet at a coffee shop for a 2-person support group.

"When people are raised and spend their life in an atmosphere of segregation, it's very threatening to make changes," said Albright, who retired in the East Texas town of Jacksonville. "The issue was how hard do you push, especially if you are going to create a lot of confrontation."

But Moore was undaunted by popular opinion.

"He was very clear about where he believed the church should be about opening its doors to African-Americans and treating them like human beings," Albright recalled.

Frustrated and tired, Moore enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University and Harvard Divinity School. In the mid-1960s, he moved with his 1st wife, Linda, and 2 sons to inner-city Chicago, where he worked for the Ecumenical Institute to create economic and educational opportunities in troubled areas.

They opened a preschool, started a job training program and rebuilt a dilapidated neighborhood that had burned during riots after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Later, Moore worked in a slum in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. He traveled to developing nations in Africa and the Middle East.

In his writings, he said his 12 years with the Ecumenical Institute exposed him to "the pallor of illness and poverty on a world scale."

Among a group of optimistic advocates, Moore offered a "heavier and gloomier perspective," said Terry Bergdall, now executive director of the Ecumenical Institute. He said Moore's speeches were inspiring but not rosy. In one, he called himself a "fundamentalist for social justice."

Moore returned to Texas in the 1980s, serving in various churches. In 1990, he went to Austin to lead the 100-year-old Grace United Methodist Church, with its 6-person choir and dwindling congregation.

He fixed up the quaint old building, added stained-glass windows and hired a homeless man to be the groundskeeper. In sermons to the white-haired worshippers, he took up a new cause, welcoming gays and lesbians to the church and condemning their exclusion.

During his decade as pastor, the church started a pumpkin patch on its lawn, hosted a religion school for a Jewish congregation and opened its doors to a chapter of PFLAG, which held meetings for parents, friends and families of lesbians and gays.

The congregation began to grow.

Andy Smith, now of Dallas, attended Moore's church and called him "a major figure of my life."

Moore appointed Smith and other openly gay members to church leadership roles. He prodded the congregation with views that were unpopular or uncomfortable.

"He gave the best sermons of any pastor I've ever known," Smith said. "They weren't always uplifting; that wasn't his style. What he did would challenge you to think."

In 1995, when United Methodist bishops held a worldwide meeting in Austin, Moore went on a hunger strike to protest the church's treatment of gays and lesbians. One of his colleagues, the Rev. Sid Hall, tried to talk him out of it. But Moore dismissed his concerns.

He had "a conviction that if the Bible stood for anything, it stood for radical inclusiveness," Hall said.

"If you ever were on the side of powerlessness, if you were ever on the margins yourself and were looking for someone to help you, Charles was the person," he said.

The hunger strike made headlines. Moore broke his fast after 15 days, when the bishops issued a statement that acknowledged their role in contributing to the the stigma and ostracism of gays and lesbians and encouraged Methodist churches to welcome them. The bishops did not advocate a change to a church policy, which stands today, that calls the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Hall said he struggles with Moore's death. Perhaps, he said, his old friend was so in tune with the pain of others, "for whatever reason, he wasn't able to pull back from it."

Even so, he said Moore left him a final lesson.

"I have no doubt that there will be some people who use this to blow off everything he worked toward. They'll say, 'It's what we knew all along. He was a nut case.' And there will be others who just feel the tragedy and loss of his life," Hall said.

"And there will be those like me, that even though I don't agree with what he did, I'll be able to struggle with and wrestle with the message he believed in and examine my own life. I'll ask myself, 'Am I doing enough?'"

After he retired in 2000, Moore moved back to North Texas to be closer to family. He settled with his 2nd wife, Barbara, near a park in Allen where he visited with his 2 young grandchildren.

In private, he wrote about his inner turmoil. He regretted not taking more risks to fight discrimination during his years in the ministry. He began to contemplate self-immolation as a forceful way to convey his message of social justice.

"I have always felt that death for a cause was my destiny, but never so much as during the past several years - when it has admittedly been a preoccupation," he wrote.

In his typewritten notes, he said that his efforts seemed futile, the progress of the world too slow. He underlined a passage in a New Yorker article about Tibetan monks who set themselves aflame to protest China's rule.

Moore wrote that he attempted the act several times, but fear and the simple beauties of the world tempted him to stay.

"The turning leaves on the trees in my front yard are almost reason enough to keep living," he wrote.

In the end, Moore chose Grand Saline as the place of his last protest. He left a note on his car saying he'd been troubled throughout his life by his hometown's history of racism and the prejudice he witnessed there as a boy.

After his death, Moore's son-in-law, Bill Renfro, found a folder of notes on his study desk, along with letters for his family.

Renfro said he is certain that Moore didn't intend to hurt members of his family, though they can't make sense of his death. "He did this selfless act, this sacrifice for others, but he also did not think thoroughly through the consequences of the act."

Moore left his wife detailed instructions about his death benefits and credit cards to cancel, but he couldn't prepare her to live as a widow.

"He was taking care of the worldly things for her, but what he failed to realize was the emotional turmoil that he would leave behind. And not just her, but his sons, his grandchildren," said Kathy Renfro, his stepdaughter.

One of the saddest parts, she said, is that Moore didn't realize he still had the potential to bring about change.

Bill Renfro said, "I wish I could have sat down and pointed out, 'Charles, look at what your life has meant to the world. Look at what it's meant to individuals. You've changed their lives.'"

The Rev. Lou Snead, a retired Presbyterian minister from Austin who will lead Moore's memorial service, likens his old friend to an Old Testament prophet. He said Moore challenged structures of power and directed people back to the Bible's teachings of social justice.

"He understood almost instinctively Jesus' message - love, justice and peace require an intentional way of embodying that in the world around us," Snead said. "He was about transforming the culture."

(source for both: Dallas Morning News)


Prosecutor deserves inquiry in Anthony Graves case

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said it right. The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Anthony Graves waited decades for a bit of justice. Convicted of murder in 1994 for the killing of 6 people in Somerville, Graves would spend 18 years in prison - a decade of that on death row - before a federal appeals court ruled that the prosecutor in his case used false testimony and withheld evidence to secure that conviction.

Now, the prosecutor, former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta, may get a measure of the justice he denied Graves.

The State Bar of Texas has found just cause to hold a hearing to determine if Sebesta engaged in misconduct in the case.

The outcome of the hearing could be nothing. Or it could cost Sebesta his law license.

Graves filed a grievance against Sebesta in January, a move made possible by a change in state law that extended the time period for exonerees to take action against prosecutors. Now, he will get the opportunity to have the man who denied him a fair trial put before his own peers for scrutiny.

The state can mete out no more dire punishment than death. And in a case with such a serious consequence, the idea that a prosecutor would fail to follow the law, the rules of evidence and his own oath as an attorney is unconscionable.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear 8 years ago when it granted Graves a new trial that Sebesta withheld evidence and offered up false testimony. Graves was formally exonerated and paid $1.4 million in compensation.

On his personal website, Sebesta continues a narrative that implicates Graves in the murders and defends his own handling of the case.

His argument is complicated. It boils down to what another defendant, Robert Earl Carter, said. Carter, who was convicted of the murders, told investigators multiple stories about who was involved in the killings, according to Sebesta. But he insisted to investigators that he had acted alone shortly before testifying that Graves was involved in the killings. Graves' defense attorney later stated that he could not recall Sebesta ever telling him that.

Carter recanted his testimony against Graves after Graves' conviction and again as Carter was put to death.

That Graves did not get a fair trial is clear.

Now the state bar can consider whether it is Sebesta who deserves punishment.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Grandparents of family killed in Houston area: 'You have to forgive'

The California grandparents of the family shot and killed in their Spring home are heading to Houston.

Their response less than 48 hours after the tragedy was nothing short of remarkable.

"I told [our surviving granddaughter] how sorry I was of everything that happened, but we were so grateful she's still here with us," said Joyce Stay, the mother of Stephen Stay, who was killed along with his wife and and 4 of their children. "And she said, 'My mom and dad are in a better place now.' You have to forgive, and that's a process. We can do that even though 6 of our children have been taken from us."

It was Wednesday night when the parents of Stephen Stay received the phone call that their son, his wife Katie, and the couple's 4 children had been shot and killed in their home - allegedly by Ronald Haskell, Katie's ex-brother-in-law.

Tom and Joyce Stay, however, are working to forgive Haskell, who deputies said dressed up as a FedEx delivery man and led police on a chase ending in his arrest later the same night.

The Stays said they are relying on their faith to get them through the tragedy as they head to be with their 15-year-old granddaughter who is the sole survivor of the mass shooting.

Deputies said it wasn't just by chance they stopped Haskell where they did. It was the surviving granddaughter who pointed them to where Haskell was going to possibly carry out another attack at the home of of his ex-wife's brother's.

"He came looking for his family, I'm sure," explained neighbor Andrea Alleweireldt, who attended church with the victims. "It should have never happened. He made threats I've heard. I wish there was a way to apprehend him before he acted on the threats."

Haskell was boxed in by a SWAT team for hours before finally giving up. During most of the standoff, Haskell is described as "just sitting in his car."

Haskell appeared in court Friday morning where he briefly fainted and was carried out in a chair.

Prosecutors said Haskell passed out because he is facing the reality of his actions, while his court-appointed attorney said the defendant is not mentally sound.

A Go Fund Me page was created for the survivor.

(source: WFAA news)


Our shameful death penalty

In Delaware the death penalty now has no moral basis.

If your friend is murdered and you find the murderer and kill him, we consider your action to also be murder. However, we accept killing a murderer as a moral act as long as it is brought about through the justice system because this is a decision sanctioned by the whole.

Without community sanction then, putting to death a murderer is also murder.

Over a year ago our state Senate passed a bill to repeal the death penalty, and yet since that time the bill has not been allowed out of the House Judiciary Committee for a vote by the House. The moral justification for the death penalty in Delaware now rests solely on the shoulders of the House Judiciary Committee.

I suggest that this is not a sufficient basis for the death penalty in Delaware, and that it should be suspended until such time as we have a clear expression of the citizens' decision. It is hardly right to expect our police to put their lives on the line enforcing such an extreme punishment without solid community support.

Alison Wakelin----Ardentown

(source: Letter to the Editor, The News Journal)


Parents Emani Moss plead not guilty to her murder

The father and step-mother of a 10-year-old Gwinnett County girl who died of starvation enter pleas of not guilty in the case.

Both Emon and Tiffany Moss face the death penalty for the murder of little Emani Moss.

Police says the 2 starved the girl to death and then placed her body in a trashcan and tried to set it on fire.

The paternal grandmother of the child, Robin Moss, sat in the courtroom as the pleas were entered and says she's torn by emotion. She raised her granddaughter until she was age 7 when Emon and his then new wife Tiffany took custody away.

"I'm not OK with what they have done, but that's still my son and I love my son," she tells WSB's Sandra Parrish.

She says she has written to Emon Moss in jail and says her heart is open to forgive them both.

More than 100 motions are expected to be filed by defense attorneys in the case. The actual trial could begin next spring.

Meantime, a parental termination hearing is set to begin late next week in Gwinnett County Juvenile Court for Emani's younger half-siblings.

Both grandmothers have been told by a judge that neither will get custody, but Robin Moss is hopeful some of her other family members will.

"Even if...someone in my family gets them, I can still get to see them and get to love on them a little bit," she says.

(source: WSB radio news)

MISSISSIPPI----new death sentence

Blakeney sentenced to death

After nearly 2 hours of deliberation a Greene County jury returned with a unanimous death penalty sentence for Justin Blakeney. Blakney was charged with capital murder in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter, Victoria Viner.

Judge Billy Joe Landrum polled each juror and all replied in agreement to the verdict they reached.

(source: WDAM news)


Capital punishment in Kentucky

I keep reading articles, letters, etc. about (and in favor of) capital punishment. As someone who has lost a relative to murder I should be in favor of the death penalty. I am against it. The man who killed my wife's brother was executed (over her objections as a Christian) only causing her more grief and no "closure." The death penalty is a huge waste of our resources and definitely does not make us safer. It is a major distraction from correcting numerous problems which really do affect the well-being of all of us.

I would love to sit down and have a discussion with persons such as Attorney General Jack Conway (who does much good for Kentucky). I want honest answers from these public servants as to why they want to kill murderers in spite of numerous studies showing it to be ineffectual and harmful. I do not want such trite answers as "I'm only doing my job," or "It's the law." I want concrete, research-based responses. My gut-level reaction is that they are pandering for votes and do not act as true statesmen in both educating and promoting the long term public well-being. We need the money wasted on capital prosecutions for other purposes.

Yet Conway will not even cooperate with calculating these costs. Few of our legislators are pursuing the implementation of the American Bar Association recommendations to make the death penalty more just in our state. I get tired of finger-pointing and blaming rather than positive actions and constructive recommendations, but I feel that we have too many fearful legislators rather than big-picture oriented public servants.

RAPHAEL SCHWERI-----Louisville 40205

(source: Letter to the Editor, Courier-Journal)


Death Penalty Sought For Teen Accused Of Shooting Gas Station Clerk

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a teen accused of gunning down a Lexington gas station clerk.

Travis Bredhold, 18, is charged with murder in last December's shooting death of Mike Patel at the Marathon on Alexandria Drive.

During a hearing in court Friday morning, a judge said they are waiting to set a trial date until evidence testing is completed. That's expected in December.

"They collected clothing. They collected lots of other items, of physical evidence that they need to test," said Joanne Lynch, Bredhold's attorney. "And, obviously, we want to see what those test results are and evaluate them ourselves."

Lynch says the earliest they would be prepared to go to trial would be Sept. 2015.

Bredhold is being held without bond. He was arrested the day after the shooting at Fayette Mall armed with a loaded handgun, marijuana and more than $500 in cash. According to court documents, surveillance video shows Bredhold inside the Marathon station on Alexandria Drive early that Tuesday morning demanding cash and then shooting Patel.



Killer: 'I've always hated myself'----Murder victim's father interrupts Copass at sentencing hearing, urges him to 'hang himself'

Convicted killer Charles Copass, potentially facing the death penalty for robbing and murdering Chelsey Mahaney, delivered a lengthy statement Friday at his sentencing hearing that was interrupted about halfway through by a profane outburst from the victim's father.

By turns rambling, self-pitying, apologetic and matter-of-fact, Copass spoke for about 90 minutes in Allen Circuit Court toward the end of the hearing's 3rd day.

Copass, 36, of Scottsville, pleaded guilty to murder, 1st-degree fetal homicide, 1st-degree robbery, theft by unlawful taking (greater than $10,000) and tampering with physical evidence.

He admitted killing Mahaney, 22, of Scottsville, at his Barren River Dam Road home on June 11, 2012.

Mahaney, who was 4 months pregnant at the time, was stabbed 51 times.

Copass took her cellphone and car and attempted to clean the crime scene, according to prior testimony.

Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker will formally sentence Copass on Aug. 19 after reviewing all the evidence submitted at the hearing.

Allen County Commonwealth's Attorney Clint Willis filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, though he has said Mahaney's family has expressed a preference that Copass be sentenced to life without parole.

Killer speaks

Copass had remained largely silent during the sentencing hearing until notifying Crocker on Friday afternoon that he wished to make a statement.

Copass noted he was acting against the advice of his attorneys, capital trial lawyers Michael Bufkin and Pat Roemer, by giving his statement under oath.

"I'm probably the most hated man in this town ... deservedly so," Copass said near the start of his statement.

From there, Copass read excerpts from love letters written to him by his underage girlfriend, confirmed accounts of his stepfather's abusive behavior that other witnesses gave in court, spoke of his frequent and long-standing suicidal wishes and insisted that he felt tormented by his actions.

Copass, who was sentenced to three years in prison in a 2007 rape case that involved a separate underage girlfriend, said the first thing he wanted to do after he was released from prison in that case was commit suicide and that his troubles finding work as a registered sex offender led him to steal things and sell them for money.

"I've always hated myself," Copass said. "I have felt like a loser for all of my life, and I've proved to be one for most of my adult life."

About 40 minutes into his address, Copass mentioned Mahaney for the 1st time, saying that he knew he was her best friend before apologizing and expressing regret that he could not undo the hurt he has caused.

Copass started mentioning some of Mahaney's relatives by name.

When Copass said he felt her father, Bo Mahaney, probably hated him, Mahaney rose from his seat in the gallery and began yelling and cursing at Copass as other relatives restrained Mahaney and court security officers converged around him.

"He's sitting up there rambling about my kid," Bo Mahaney yelled as another group of officers led Copass out of the courtroom. "Let him do something to me ... he can hang himself tonight."

Copass recounts murder

After a recess, court reconvened and Copass resumed his statement, giving a narrative of events on the day he killed Mahaney.

Copass said he had planned to meet Mahaney at his home to give a box of clothes to Mahaney when his brother called with some news about the underage girlfriend.

According to Copass, his brother relayed to him that his girlfriend was getting tested for the generally sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) after learning that Copass was a carrier. If she tested positive for the disease, she would report Copass to the police, he said.

At some point later, Mahaney's phone vibrated with a message from the same girl, and the day turned violent.

Copass said he felt like he was outside himself during the stabbing and that, while he was aware that Mahaney was pregnant, it did not occur to him at the time.

"I felt like I had no life in me, like I was just floating on air," Copass said. "I don't know what clicked in me."

Copass said he started to leave the house in his car, then drove back, retrieved Mahaney's phone and took her car. A plan to text his girlfriend and claim to be Mahaney in order to lure her into being kidnapped failed to materialize, so Copass contemplated suicide and drove frantically before ending up that night in Hendersonville, Tenn., outside a hospital.

Using a phone he bought at Wal-Mart, Copass called his brother and had him come pick him up, and from there they drove to Scottsville where Copass surrendered to police.

Prosecutor confronts Copass

During his address, Copass admitted he wished for the death penalty, saying he was aware that committing a robbery during the course of the murder qualified as an aggravating circumstance that opened the way for a potential death sentence.

Willis confronted Copass on his account of events, saying that Copass' version having him stealing the cellphone after Mahaney had died made it a theft instead of a robbery and removed the only aggravating circumstance associated with the crime.

Copass disputed the inference that he changed his story in order to save his life, maintaining that taking the cellphone was an aggravator.

"I don't have anything to lose, I just want the death penalty," Copass said. "If you're sitting there and saying I'm trying to say whatever because my life is on the line, I'm trying to get the death penalty."

Willis asked Copass why he waited 41 minutes to mention Mahaney's name, and only after speaking at length about his own grief and his relationship with his girlfriend.

Copass said he planned to save Mahaney for last.

"Do you think the family you've hurt, who have been waiting for 2 years, understood that?" Willis asked, to which Copass replied that he didn't know.

Relatives testify about abuse

Following in the path of a number of family members who took the stand Thursday, Copass' mother, aunt and cousin testified Friday about the abusive environment in the Copass household perpetrated by Billy Copass, Charles Copass' stepfather.

Dena Copass, Charles Copass' mother, said that, when her husband was not arguing with her, he levied the most abuse on Charles Copass.

Charles Copass and his younger brother, Danny Copass, were taken by their mother to a child psychologist once when they were young children and had stood up to their stepfather.

The psychologist who evaluated them said that the children were expressing an honest response to their surroundings, Dena Copass said.

Copass' aunt, Jana Petty and his cousin, Josh Crutcher, also testified about the abusive acts they saw when they lived at the household many years ago.

All 3 relatives also spoke about how Copass' prison sentence for the rape convictions affected his self-esteem and led him to become more emotionally guarded after his release.

David Walker, chief of staff at G.V. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Mississippi, testified about evaluating Copass.

Hired by Copass' defense team to perform the evaluation, Walker said that Copass exhibited signs of anxiety disorder not otherwise specified, a disorder in which patients have a generalized anxiety that does not meet the criteria for other specific disorders.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)


Oklahoma legislators to explore death penalty alternatives

Legislators plan to look at alternatives to lethal injection as Oklahoma's method of execution during an interim study before lawmakers return for the 2015 session.

The study is among more than 80 that were formally approved on Friday by House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.

Former Oklahoma Highway Patrolman and Republican state Rep. Mike Christian of Oklahoma City requested the study following the botched execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate in April.

Christian says he also wants to examine Oklahoma's execution protocols and compare them to those of other states.

Current Oklahoma law calls for electrocution to be used as an alternative method of execution if lethal injection were declared unconstitutional.

Christian says he believes a firing squad would be a better 2nd option.

(source: Associated Press)


Hearing asks again: Is Jenkins mentally ill?

At age 8, Nikko Jenkins drew a picture of himself that showed 2 vastly different sides of his face.

One side, he said, was the bad part of Jenkins - representing the kid who brought a gun to school, who chased his sister around with a knife, who was constantly in trouble.

The other was the good side of Jenkins - the one who felt bad about all of those things, who wanted to behave.

Thursday, attorneys tried to drill down to the 2 sides surrounding the issue of Jenkins' mental state today:

Namely, does he have a mental illness or is he faking it?

Amid dueling doctors' opinions, one report proved stark:

Dr. Natalie Baker, a prison psychiatrist, didn't conclude whether Jenkins' was mentally ill or not. She said she couldn't say for sure but saw signs of possible psychosis, bipolar disorder, delusions or a form of schizophrenia. Or, she said, he just might be faking it.

Even so, on Feb. 4, 2013 - 6 months before Jenkins' release - she sounded this warning:

"Patient currently appears mentally ill as well as an imminent danger to others," she wrote. "Patient will possibly require civil commitment prior to being released to ensure his safety as well as the safety of others."

Just 3 weeks after his release from prison, Jenkins had killed 4 people: Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on Aug. 11, 2013, Curtis Bradford on Aug. 19 and Andrea Kruger on Aug. 21.

Thursday's hearing was to help Judge Peter Bataillon determine whether Jenkins would be competent to understand the Aug. 11 death-penalty proceedings against him. Bataillon took the competency matter under advisement.

But as with all things Jenkins, the hearing veered towards one debatable issue: whether Jenkins suffers from a treatable mental illness.

A commitment to a mental-health facility never came for Jenkins - apparently because Baker's colleagues didn't agree that Jenkins should be committed.

Thursday, 4 psychiatrists sparred over whether Jenkins is mentally ill - proving, as one of the psychiatrists noted, that diagnosing mental illness is more art than science.

2 state psychiatrists said they believe that Jenkins has been lying about mental illness throughout, in part to excuse his behavior or to try to avoid the consequences of his behavior.

A defense psychiatrist testified Thursday that Jenkins is not faking, that he suffers from a form of schizophrenia and perhaps bipolar disorder.

And another state psychiatrist said both.

Called to the stand, Baker first tried to avoid testifying. Her attorneys asked Judge Peter Bataillon to quash her subpoena because she and other state officials have been sued by some of the families of Jenkins' victims. Bataillon refused to do so.

In her February 2013 report, Baker said that Jenkins had just mutilated his face, requiring several stitches.

"He denies any physically aggressive behaviors but does report that he will harm people once he is released," Baker wrote. "He has reported to medical staff that he will eat the hearts of men, women and children."

Jenkins "also continues to request emergency psychiatric therapy and treatment on a daily basis."

The only treatment Jenkins reportedly received: a transfer to a Lincoln prison so he could consult with social workers preparing him for his release.

The state's psychiatrists asserted Thursday that the reason Jenkins didn't get treatment was because they didn't believe he suffers from a treatable mental illness.

Their diagnosis: He's antisocial.

It was a similar diagnosis when Jenkins was 8. Jenkins' childhood psychiatrist testified Thursday that he suffered from bed-wetting and often had nightmares.

Jenkins' attorney, Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley, called several psychiatrists, including the childhood doctor, to try to counter contentions that he was feigning mental illness.

Dr. Jane Dahlke saw Jenkins in February 1995, shortly after the 8-year-old had taken a gun to school. Dahlke said Jenkins had been acting up in several ways. He badgered his sisters, chasing one of them around the house with a knife. He talked of killing people and of killing himself. He acted invulnerable as "if nothing could happen to him."

And the 8-year-old described a family filled with turbulence. He told the doctor he felt like he had to protect his mother, Lori, because he feared his father was going to kill her. One time, he said, his father pounded on the door trying to get in and Lori shot at his father to keep him at bay.

Another time, Jenkins claimed to have saved his mother by hitting his father in the head.

Dahlke further clarified reports that Jenkins, at age 8, reported hearing voices telling him to steal. Further interviews showed that those may not have been hallucinations but were actual voices - of neighborhood children who were urging him to steal stuff, Dahlke testified.

Looking back, Dahlke said, she could have diagnosed Jenkins with bipolar disorder. Instead, she diagnosed him with oppositional defiant disorder.

Dahlke's description of the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder seemed to fit the adult Jenkins to a T: often loses temper, often argues with adults, often refuses to comply, often annoys, often vindictive, often blames others.

Dr. Y. Scott Moore, a state psychiatrist, disputed a defense psychiatrist's diagnosis that Jenkins hears voices.

Moore said Jenkins acts out to try to convince others that he's hearing voices - such as his claims that he killed because of the commands of an Egyptian serpent god.

"He strongly told us, almost endlessly, how psychotic he was," Moore said. "My experience is (people who hallucinate) don't like to talk about it. He goes on at great length.

"I think he has been (lying) from the get-go to try to explain his behavior and to not be held accountable for it."

Dr. Bruce Gutnik, a psychiatrist hired by the defense, disagreed.

In his latest evaluation of Jenkins, Gutnik said, Jenkins displayed "hypomanic behavior" with grandiose visions of himself. Gutnik said Jenkins is consistently delusional. He said he believes Jenkins suffers from a form of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

"He indicated to me he thought he was a god," Gutnik said. "And he essentially was the new Jesus and that he was being offered up as a sacrifice" through the death-penalty process.

Thursday's proceedings were viewed by a frequent critic of the way Jenkins' case has been handled. State Sen. Ernie Chambers spent his 77th birthday in court - and minced no words outside of it.

He said the proceedings were nothing more than "theater" and a "farce" and he urged Judge Bataillon to set aside Jenkins' no-contest pleas.

Jenkins should not go free, Chambers said, but he also should not have been allowed to represent himself, as he did up until Bataillon appointed Riley, the public defender, after the conviction to the death-penalty phase. Chambers predicted that Jenkins will never get the death penalty because of the irregularities of the proceedings.



The Utah-filmed truth behind the gritty story of murderer Gary Gilmore ---- Lawrence Schiller, the controversial character who directed the Gilmore film, returns to Salt Lake City for Norman Mailer-inspired workshops and a screening.

Revisiting the true-crime TV movie "The Executioner's Song," a gritty period piece about the angry love story of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, opens up a time capsule to the seedy small-town Utah life that served as a backdrop to 2 1976 murders.

Gilmore's death by firing squad at the Utah State Prison on Jan. 17, 1977, captured international headlines as the 1st execution in a decade after the death penalty was reinstated in the United States.

The Norman Mailer Center is holding summer writing workshops in Salt Lake City in honor of the setting of Mailer’s 1979 book, "The Executioner's Song," about Gary Gilmore. As part of the programming, the Mailer Center and the Utah Film Center are holding a screening of the 1982 TV film adaptation, which was shot on location in Utah. It stars Tommy Lee Jones, Rosanna Arquette and Christine Lahti. All events are free.

When -- Wednesday, July 16: pre-film panel at 2 p.m., screening at 4 p.m., post-film Q&A with director Lawrence Schiller at 6:30 p.m.

Where -- Utah Valley University Library 120, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem

When -- Friday, July 18, 7 p.m.

Where -- Salt Lake Main Library, 200 E. 400 South

A post-film discussion will be hosted by KUER's Doug Fabrizio with panelists: former Salt Lake Tribune editorial-page editor Vern Anderson, former Associated Press Bureau Chief Bill Beecham, former Deseret News reporter Tamera Smith Allred, Gilmore's attorney Robert Moody and film director Lawrence Schiller.

"The Executioner's Song," written by Norman Mailer and directed by Lawrence Schiller, invites a look back at the tragic crime story that launched careers and catapulted Utah's fledgling film industry. Mailer's Pulitzer Prize-winning book and Schiller's subsequent film anchored Gilmore's reputation as a national cult figure whose execution prompted, among other things, savage "Saturday Night Live" skits and material for a punk band's song, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes." The film starkly depicts Gilmore's words to the firing squad, "Let's do it," which live on as the alleged inspiration for the ubiquitous Nike ad campaign: "Just do it."

This week's public screening of the 1982 movie - which was viewed by 40 million people when it first aired over 2 nights on NBC - comes 38 years after the shootings of Max Jensen, a law student and Orem Sinclair gas station attendant, and Bennie Bushnell, the manager of Provo's City Center Inn.

The screening is timely as part of a national debate about capital punishment and lethal injection. It resurfaces decades-old questions about the for-profit manipulation of a criminal and his friends and family, and the intersection of crime and storytelling.

Gilmore's last months "were expensively, exhaustively covered, covered in teams, covered in packs, covered with checkbooks and covered with tricks," Joan Didion wrote in her glowing 1979 New York Times review of Mailer's book, "covered to that pitch at which the coverage itself might have seemed the only story."

Now Schiller, the controversial dealmaker who directed the film in which he’s also depicted as a character, has returned to town to lead On The Road summer writing workshops for the Norman Mailer Center, which he founded in 2008. As part of the program, he's partnering with the Utah Film Center to host screenings of his movie, which launched his filmmaking career and earned an Emmy for a young Tommy Lee Jones' firecracker performance as Gilmore. Matching Jones, with her own brand of dreamy intensity, is Rosanna Arquette as Gilmore’s girlfriend, Nicole Baker.

"The main thing that's important for me in all of this is I just really hope that Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell are not forgotten," says Tamera Smith Allred, who as a young Deseret News reporter befriended Baker. "There are some children out there that grew up without their fathers, and I think that's the sobering fact that needs to be held onto."

The dealmaker at the center

Reading a Los Angeles newspaper in 1976, Schiller was mesmerized by a story reporting the twisted romanticism of Gilmore and his young girlfriend's suicide pact. That's when the then-photographer committed himself to telling Gilmore's history - for history.

Schiller described himself as an entrepreneur - an aggressive Fuller Brush man or Avon lady - when he parachuted into Utah and for $75,000 sewed up exclusive interview rights with Gilmore, his family and associates, angering local journalists. He, along with Gilmore's uncle and lawyers, was an eyewitness to the execution; reporters had to wait outside. Only 5 people invited by Gilmore were allowed to view the execution, in keeping with prison policy at the time, Schiller says now.

Former Associated Press bureau chief Bill Beecham, now 10 years into retirement, still steams about the questionable ethics of that decision by state officials. "If I were bureau chief then, I would have gone to the governor in a shouting match, because it was so unnecessary to ban the media," he says.

In the months Schiller spent interviewing people in Utah, he generated enough material to keep four transcriptionists busy. He wanted the best writer he could find to turn his material over to. It was the violence embedded in Gilmore's story that piqued Norman Mailer's interest; he and Schiller had previously worked together on a biography of Marilyn Monroe.

"I was a little bit controversial and crazy myself, not only the high profile of the project. I do migrate to antisocial behavior and stories, and this certainly is a story of antisocial behavior," says Schiller before explaining how he later embedded himself in O.J. Simpson's defense team and subsequently co-wrote an account of the case, "An American Tragedy," published in 1996.

During "The Executioner's Song" years, his attention to detail sometimes drove his collaborators crazy, Schiller admits, recounting the 4 ways he interrogated Gilmore - via face-to-face conversations, phone interviews, sending questions through his lawyers, and asking him to write out his responses - to see if the prisoner's answers were consistent. They were, Schiller says now. The only thing Gilmore consistently refused to talk about was his mother, Bessie.

"Mailer screamed at me once: 'Stop interviewing. I've got too much.' And I said: 'Who knows? I might find something to replace what you have,'" Schiller says.

The jailhouse suicide pact

Tamera Smith was a stringer for the Deseret News' Utah County bureau when she was assigned to cover Gary Gilmore's arraignment. At the hearing, at a time before enhanced courtroom security, Smith watched Gilmore, who was manacled, lean over and kiss his girlfriend, Nicole Baker.

After the arraignment, Smith approached Baker and asked her if she wanted to grab a bite to eat, and the pair talked for several hours. "My 1st connection to her was as a human," Smith says of Baker, who was then 19, with 3 failed marriages and 2 children, while the reporter was 22. "Honestly, I felt a little sorry for her."

4 months later, Smith was working in the paper's Davis County bureau when a colleague assigned to the Gilmore story couldn't get Baker to agree to an interview. This was in November, just days before Gilmore's 1st scheduled execution date. The reporter handed the phone to Smith; Baker remembered her, then agreed to a 45-minute interview, which extended into a 6-hour conversation.

Her editor assigned Smith to hang out with Baker and not lose the coveted exclusive. In extended conversations, Baker asked Smith if she'd like to see Gillmore's artwork or read any of the 100 letters - that added up to more than 1,000 pages - he had sent from prison.

Smith suspected something was up and asked Baker directly if she was planning to commit suicide. Baker revealed that she and Gilmore had a suicide pact, and agreed to let Smith print a story after the execution. That permission seemed casually granted from a woman who had worked so hard to avoid reporters, and Smith realized the couple's plans were set for the morning of his scheduled execution date (which would be stayed). "On the day of my story, she thought they would both be dead," Smith says.

Smith told her editors, and they alerted authorities. Smith worked through the night drafting her stories, then learned through a brief on the wire that Nicole and Gillmore had each attempted suicide and were recovering at different hospitals. Smith broke the news of the suicide pact in copyrighted accounts, filled with quotes from Gillmore's letters, published in the Deseret News on Nov. 15 and 16, 1996. ("They did stop the presses," she says.)

Shortly afterward, Smith, now Allred, left the paper and moved to the Pacific Northwest, where she married and had six daughters. She freelanced and wrote a weekly newspaper column, but went on to become a therapist. "I went from reporting stories to helping people work through their stories," she says.

Over the years, Allred heard sporadically from Baker, who had found her way to a more stable life, initially due to money she received from Schiller and Mailer. Allred cooperated with the writer but wasn't thrilled with the title of the chapter about how she gained Baker's trust: "Sob Sisters."

It took Allred years to understand how deeply she had been affected by her small role in the story. "Covering the Gilmore story exposed me to a very dark side of life, resulting in reoccurring intrusive thoughts, despair, and after the story was over, depression," she says. "It also triggered memories and feelings associated with the death of both of my parents while I was young."

Getting the tattoos right

As a period piece, "Executioner's Song" reveals remarkable access in scenes shot on location at the Utah State Prison, the Supreme Court, the Board of Pardons and Parole, and at the murder scenes. "It smells better, it feels better, it comes alive," says Schiller of the art of reality.

For the film, Schiller hired local crews and extras to work under noted British cinematographer Freddie Francis, who had recently shot "The Elephant Man." Utah film crews were able to make contributions to a staff that included British and Hollywood filmmakers, Reed Smoot recalls.

That state officials were willing to cooperate with the film crew was in homage to Mailer's book, Schiller says. "They were saying he treated us in a literary manner that was proper, and they were going to treat the film in the same way."

Several prison guards played themselves in the movie, as did Gilmore attorney Bob Moody and Roman Catholic prison chaplain the Rev. Thomas Meersman. Allred was an extra in one of the scenes of scrums of reporters, and she remembers playing Old Maid with other extras as they waited on set at the prison.

Here's an example of the filmmaker's attention to accuracy: One of Gilmore's buddies was hired as a consultant to the film, but he couldn't remember which arm held Gilmore's tattoo. If the man's best friend couldn't remember, why would it matter? It mattered to Schiller, who admits that his ego was involved in shooting his 1st film. So Tom Lefler, who worked for the Utah State Film Commission, was sent to the Medical Examiner's office to view autopsy slides of Gilmore's body.

Brian Sullivan, a local filmmaker who also worked on the 2nd camera crew, recalls the setup of a scene where Jones, as Gilmore, is playing poker. Schiller launched into a tirade because the actors were holding the wrong cards, even though the camera wasn't recording the cards.

"I've made a lot of movies, and I've never seen anybody get so particular about every little detail," Sullivan says.

Shooting on the location of murders, just 5 years later, made some of the Utahns on the set nervous while the filming opened up barely closed wounds for neighborhood residents. "Many times," Smoot says, "it felt like I was working on a documentary, rather than a scripted narrative film."

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


High court again overrules judge in death-penalty case----The state Supreme Court on Friday again reversed a Superior Court judge's ruling in the death-penalty case of Joseph McEnroe and Michele Anderson, accused of killing 6 family members at Anderson's parent's home near Carnation in 2007.

The state Supreme Court on Friday again reversed a ruling by a King County Superior Court judge presiding over the death-penalty trials of Joseph McEnroe and Michele Anderson, vacating his January order requiring prosecutors to amend charging documents in the aggravated 1st-degree murder case.

But the justices also denied a request from the state to replace Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell - who was assigned the case less than a month after the defendants were accused of fatally shooting 6 members of Anderson's family on Christmas Eve 2007 in Carnation - with a new trial judge. The justices, who heard oral arguments on June 26, released their unanimous decision in a 1 1/2-page ruling.

It notes that Ramsdell said in his Jan. 31 order that if the state failed to amend the charges to allege that there are insufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency - life in prison instead of the death penalty - he would entertain a motion from McEnroe to plead guilty without facing the death penalty.

"In light of the nature of this action, the Court has determined that the case should be decided expeditiously," the Supreme Court said its ruling, signed by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. The court's explanatory opinions will be filed "in due course," it says.

A mandate from the Supreme Court typically becomes effective 30 days after an opinion is issued, and the defense will have 20 days after that to file a motion for reconsideration, said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

"We are eager to get this case before a jury, and the Supreme Court's quick action, reversing the trial court, should accomplish that," Satterberg said Friday.

"They know this should be on a fast track," he said of the justices, adding it "could be some weeks before the full effects" of the high court's ruling are felt. Still, his office plans to ask Ramsdell to set a hearing soon so a trial schedule can be established.

Katie Ross, a member of McEnroe's defense team, said she couldn't comment extensively because the justices haven't issued their written opinion yet. But she called Friday's decision "a narrow ruling" that does not impact an earlier ruling by Ramsdell in which he applied a federal robbery case, known as Alleyne v. United States, to the Carnation case.

Satterberg, however, disagreed: "It appears they reversed the trial court's ruling - I think they're reversing everything we appealed."

Court records show that Ramsdell's Jan. 31 order denied a state motion to reconsider his ruling on Jan. 2, in which he applied the Alleyne case.

In Alleyne, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that any fact that can increase a defendant's mandatory minimum sentence is an "element" of the crime and must be alleged in charging documents.

While prosecutors argued that Alleyne does not apply, Ramsdell agreed with the defense in January that the absence of sufficient mitigation is an element of the crime for which death is the mandatory punishment. But at the time, he said tossing out the death penalty was premature. Ramsdell conceded he didn't know how to proceed, which prompted the state to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter.

Friday's ruling is the 3rd time the justices have reversed Ramsdell's orders, and the 2nd time on a question involving the death penalty.

In September 2012, the justices ruled that the defense could withdraw certain court documents if the trial court refused to place them under seal, reversing Ramsdell, who said they couldn't.

Then in January 2013, Ramsdell ruled that Satterberg erroneously considered the strength of the evidence when he decided to seek the death penalty against McEnroe and Anderson. Ramsdell said at the time that Satterberg should have weighed only whether sufficient mitigating circumstances - or reasons for possible leniency - existed in the decision to seek the death penalty.

That decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court in September.

McEnroe and Anderson, both 35, are each charged with 6 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder, accused of gunning down 6 family members inside Anderson's parents' home near Carnation on Dec. 24, 2007.

Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and the younger couple’s children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

Investigators have said the shootings were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses.

(source: Seattle Times)


New Judge for Guantanamo Trial in USS Cole Attack

A U.S. military judge removed himself Thursday from the death penalty trial at Guantanamo Bay for the prisoner accused of orchestrating the deadly attack on the USS Cole.

Army Col. James Pohl, a prominent judge who has presided over a number of major cases, assigned Air Force Col. Vance Spath to take over the case against Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri. The trial is scheduled to start in February but is likely to be postponed.

Al-Nashiri, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, faces the death penalty if convicted of allegations that he set up the al-Qaida bombing of the Cole, an attack in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

The judge said he removed himself from the case because of scheduling conflicts with the trial of the 5 Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. No trial date has been scheduled in that death penalty case.

Pohl, the chief judge in the military commissions, handed the defense in the Cole case a major victory in April when he ordered prosecutors to share with defense lawyers never-revealed details about what happened to al-Nashiri in secret CIA prisons following his capture in 2002. Authorities have disclosed that al-Nashiri was subjected to a mock execution and waterboarding but details about his treatment remain classified.

Rick Kammen, an attorney for al-Nashiri, said the deadline for the prosecution to appeal the ruling has passed but it remains to be seen how Spath will enforce the execution of the order or how his appointment might affect the case.

(source: Associated Press)


411 executions in the 1st half of 2014

At least 411 prisoners have been executed in Iran from the beginning of January 2014 to the end of June of the same year. This indicates that the execution wave, which recommenced after the most recent Iranian presidential election, is continuing. According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR), more than 870 people have been executed since the election of Mr. Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. IHR calls on the international community to take serious measures to stop the execution wave in Iran.

1 year after the Iranian presidential election of June 2013, and despite improvements in relations between the international community and Iran, a recent report by Iran Human Rights (IHR) shows that the use of the death penalty is higher now than in 2 decades. According to the latest report by IHR, at least 411 people have been executed in the first 6 months of 2014, and at least 870 people have been executed during the 1st year after the presidential elections (between July 1, July 2013 and June 30, 2014). This is an average of more than 2 executions in Iran every day. Among those executed so far in 2014, there have been at least 8 juvenile offenders and 6 political and civil activists.

IHR calls on the international community to take serious measures to stop the execution wave in Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR says: "The increase in the number of executions after the Iranian presidential election of June 2013 is dramatic and needs special attention from the international community. We support Ms. Navi Pillay's call to include human rights in the nuclear talks taking place between the 5+1 and Iran." Amiry-Moghaddam added: "The arbitrary executions going on in Iran must have consequences for the Iranian authorities."

Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said: "Talks between Iran and 6 world powers aimed at clinching a deal on Iran's contested nuclear program should include human rights concerns."

In November 2013, World Coalition against the Death Penalty called on the UN and EU to put the death penalty on top of the agenda on Iran talks.

According to IHR's report on the death penalty, in the first half of this year 166 executions have been announced by official Iranian sources while 245 additional executions have been reported by human rights groups and confirmed by several independent sources. 43% of the executions in Iran are reportedly based on murder and 42% of the executions are reportedly due to drug-related charges. At least 8 of those executed in 2014 were juveniles (under 18 the age of 18) at the time of committing the alleged offence.

Last year at least 687 people were executed, according to IHR's 2013 annual report on the death penalty. 68% of these executions took place after the election of Hassan Rouhani.

(source: Iran Focus)


Iraqi security accused of executing prisoners ---- Amid reports of fighting in Anbar province, Human Rights Watch alleges massacre of 255 Sunni prisoners in June.

A rights group has said Iraqi security forces and Shia militia members have been involved in executing at least 255 prisoners in 6 cities and villages.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday that Sunni prisoners were killed as Shia fighters and Iraqi soldiers fled advancing Islamic State rebels.

At least 8 of those who were killed were boys under age 18, the group says.

According to HRW, 5 massacres of prisoners were documented between June 9 and 21 in Mosul, Tal Afar in northern Nineveh province, in Baquba and Jumarkhe in Diyala province, and in Rawa in Anbar province.

The group's report cited evidence from witnesses, accounts of the attacks from anonymous police sources and interviews with family members of some of the victims.

"The mass extrajudicial killings may be evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity," HRW said in its report, adding that it appeared the executions were to avenge "atrocities" by the Sunni Islamic State group.

"Gunning down prisoners is an outrageous violation of international law," said Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of IS, it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces."

In most cases the prisoners were shot dead. In 2 cases, grenades were thrown inside prison cells of the victims, and in another case dozens of prisoners were set on fire.

The HRW quoted a Reuters news agency report that in a sixth attack, on June 23 in central Babil province, police executed 69 prisoners in their cells in the city of Hilla before transferring their bodies to Baghdad later that day.

Fighting in Haditha

In Saturday's other developments, Iraqi forces said they beat back an assault on Haditha in Anbar, strategic for its large nearby dam.

The attack on Haditha, located northwest of Baghdad on the road linking Sunni rebel-held western areas and the provincial capital Ramadi, located 115km west of Baghdad, began with mortar fire, police said.

Rebels travelling in vehicles, including some captured from security forces, then attacked from 2 sides but were kept from entering the town in fighting that left 13 fighters and four police officers dead, officers and a doctor said.

Previous attacks on Haditha were of a smaller scale and the capture of the dam by the Sunni rebels would raise the prospect of it being used to cut water or flood areas downstream, as happened earlier this year elsewhere in Anbar.

Iraqi officials were airlifting more volunteers to Ramadi to assist government forces, reports said.

About 2,500 volunteers arrived on Friday and were to be joined by another 1,500 on Saturday, General Rasheed Flayeh, commander of operations in Anbar, said.

The men were being ferried out to Ramadi from Baghdad by helicopter, Flayeh said.

The majority of volunteers were Shias who answered a call from the country's top Shia religious leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to defend Iraq from the Islamic State group's advance.

Shia towns overrun

In Diyala, meanwhile, security forces and civilian volunteers on Saturday launched a push to retake rebel-held areas north of Muqdadiyah, a town on a main road to the provincial capital Baquba, a police captain said.

But in a setback for Iraqi government forces, rebels overran the Shia-majority towns of Al-Tawakul and Al-Zarkush in the province, displacing local residents, witnesses said.

In Jalawla, another Diyala town, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters began a major operation to expel rebels from areas they hold, a senior Kurdish officer said.

Major-General Hussein Mansur said Kurdish forces were using tanks and artillery in the battle, and had succeeded in retaking territory from the rebels.

Against this backdrop, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to Iraq, warned Iraqi politicians that "failure to move forward on electing a new speaker, a new president and a new government risks plunging the country into chaos".

"It will only serve the interests of those who seek to divide the people of Iraq and destroy their chances for peace and prosperity," he said on Saturday.

(source: Al Jazeera)


Rights body recommends abolition of capital punishment

Sri Lanka's top rights body has recommended the government to abolish capital punishment.

In a report handed over to the government yesterday, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has recommended the review of death penalty and proposed that death sentences given to convicts be commuted to life imprisonment.

Prathiba Mahanamahewa, HRCSL Commissioner said the recommendation would be officially conveyed to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to amend the law.

(source: Press Trust of India)


No Decision On Death Penalty

The Justice Ministry says no decision has been taken on converting the death penalty to life imprisonment.

When contacted by The Sunday Leader, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice Kamalini de Silva said the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) had submitted a set of recommendations calling for the conversion of the death penalty to life imprisonment.

The Commissioner of the HRCSL told The Sunday Leader that the HRCSL has identified the existence of the death penalty as a burning issue and has made recommendations for its abolition. He added that the HRCSL recommended converting the death penalty to life imprisonment.

He added that even though the death penalty has not been implemented since 1976, the mere existence of the death sentence without implementing the penalty is a mental torture to those who are sentenced to death.

Therefore the HRCSL has recommended that the Government looks into the possibility of ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 which is aimed at abolishing the death penalty. According to him, many countries have already abolished the death penalty.

Secretary to the Ministry of Justice Kamalini de Silva said that the intention of the HRCSL is to welcome a public debate on the death penalty. She added that once the subject of the death penalty is taken up by the public and depending on people's reactions, the issue will be evaluated by the Ministry of Justice.

(source: The Sunday Leader)

JULY 11, 2014:

TEXAS----new death sentence

Kenneth Wayne Thomas sentenced to death for murder of prominent attorney

A Dallas jury deliberated only 35 minutes Friday before ordering the execution of Kenneth Wayne Thomas for the killing of lawyer and civil rights leader Fred Finch last year.

Thomas, 25, who had a prior felony conviction, did not react visibly to the sentence, nor did he say anything when he was ushered out of the courtroom by bailiffs.

Finch's wife, Mildred, also was stabbed to death last March 16 in their South Dallas home, which was ransacked and from which large amounts of clothes were stolen.

Evidence indicated that the couple had been stabbed a total of more than 100 times. Thomas, whose fingerprints were found at the home, was arrested on March 18 at his home - a few blocks from the Finches' home - wearing an expensive watch that belonged to Finch.

Thomas' trial marked the 1st time that a black defendant in Dallas County faced the death penalty for killing a black person. He was sentenced to death by an all-white jury.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Norman Kinne urged the 4-man, 8-woman jury to avoid being lenient with Thomas because the crimes "didn't happen in my neighborhood.'

"Is there a barrier that separates his neighborhood from yours?' Kinne said. "The day justice is replaced with mercy the streets of this city will flow with the blood of your family.'

Many friends and associates of the Finches attended the 10-day trial. Vernon Edwards, Finch's stepbrother, said the steady support was "inspiring."

Finch, 66, led successful legal fights to desegregate the Dallas public schools, the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman's University in Denton.

Mrs. Finch, 64, was a math professor at El Centro College. Although Thomas also had been charged in her slaying, he was being tried only for killing Finch.

After the verdict, Kinne said a murder charge filed against Thomas' brother, Lonnie, 23, would be dropped because there was no evidence that he assisted in the crimes.

Thomas' death sentence was delivered less than 3 weeks after David Martin Long was sentenced to die by a Dallas jury for killing 3 women in Lancaster last October.

Jury selection for 4 other capital murder cases is scheduled to begin at separate times this year: in the slayings of a Carrollton convenience-store clerk; a Grand Prairie motel clerk; a University Park teen-ager who was killed on his 16th birthday during a burglary; and an elderly Oak Cliff couple who were killed in their home.

The number of local death penalty cases reflects the increase in serious crime, Kinne said.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Texas killer could face death penalty

The Texas man accused of slaughtering 6 members of his ex-wife's family, including 4 children, has been charged with murder amid revelations he had previously been arrested for domestic violence.

Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, faces the death penalty for multiple counts of capital murder.

The heavy-set blond man was in the custody of the Harris County Sheriff's Office following an hours-long stand-off with dozens of officers, including a SWAT team and hostage negotiators, late on Wednesday.

No bond was set and Haskell is due to be arraigned on Friday.

The motive behind the latest chapter in the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the US was not immediately known, but police suspect family troubles led to the bloodshed.

Haskell forced his way into the home of his ex-wife's sister in Houston by dressing as a FedEx delivery man, according to police.

He demanded to see his ex-wife, Melannie Haskell but she wasn't there so Haskell reportedly tied up the family's 5 children - 2 boys aged 4 and 13 and 3 girls aged 7, 9 and 15 - while waiting for their parents to return home.

Once husband and wife Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33, returned, they were also tied up.

Haskell then shot each member of the family in the back of the head execution-style.

The 15-year-old teenager survived but was in critical condition. She managed to tell police where Haskell was headed, saying the gunman intended to kill her grandparents as well.

Katie Stay's father, Roger Lyon, said the family was "shocked and devastated" by the tragedy.

"Stephen and Katie Stay and their beautiful children were an amazing and resilient family. They lived to help others, both at church and in their neighbourhood. We love them beyond words," he said.

"Cassidy Stay, 15, who survived the attack, is expected to make a full recovery. We are grateful for this miracle.

"We are in awe of her bravery and courage in calling 911, an act that is likely to have saved all of our lives. She is our hero."

A 20-minute police chase ensued, ending when officers cornered Haskell in a cul-de-sac.

During the stand-off, the shooter sat in his vehicle surrounded by about 50 police with their guns drawn. There were at least a dozen patrol cars waiting to pounce.

Haskell's February divorce was difficult, according to court documents from Cache County in the southern state of Utah where he lived.

He was considered a "threat" to the couple's children.

In 2008, Haskell was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, simple assault and committing an act of violence in front of children, according to local media.

The shooting was the latest in a spate of similar incidents in a country plagued by gun violence.

President Barack Obama has warned that America needs to do some "soul-searching" on gun control laws, which remain lax despite regular gun rampages.



Lawyer urges Connecticut court to overturn death penalty of man who ordered boy witness killed

A public defender urged the Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn the death penalty of a man who ordered the 1999 killings of a woman and her 8-year-old son, saying a prosecutor's misconduct and a judge's mistakes warrant a new penalty phase of his trial.

The prosecutor at the trial of Russell Peeler Jr. committed misconduct when he told the jury during closing arguments that nothing but the death penalty would bring justice to the victims' family, Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher said. He also said a judge wrongly kept some defense witnesses from testifying.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Marjorie Allen Dauster denied the defense allegations during the 2 hours of arguments before all 7 justices of the state's highest court, which is expected to take months to issue a decision.

Peeler, 42, was sentenced to death in 2007 for ordering his brother to kill Karen Clarke and her son, Leroy "B.J." Brown, who were shot to death in their Bridgeport home. The boy was expected to testify against Peeler in another murder case - the 1998 killing of Clarke's boyfriend and Peeler's drug-selling rival Rudolph Sneed Jr. In January, Peeler was sentenced to 105 years in prison for Sneed's murder.

In a verdict that shocked prosecutors and the victims' family, Peeler's brother, Adrian Peeler, was acquitted of murder charges but convicted of conspiring to kill Clarke and her son. Adrian Peeler was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

What wasn't argued Thursday was Connecticut's 2012 repeal of the death penalty for future murders only, which is one of the 33 issues in Peeler's appeal. The Supreme Court is weighing the repeal in another murder case, mulling whether it violates the constitutional rights of the 11 men on death row and whether it should apply to them as well.

No members of the families of Peeler and the victims attended the arguments.

Rademacher said one of the top issues in Peeler's appeal is the closing argument during the penalty phase by now-retired prosecutor Jonathan Benedict. Benedict told the jury that since Peeler had already been sentenced to life in prison in a federal drug case, giving him a life sentence in the killings of Clark and her son would "allow him 2 free murders with no punishment whatsoever."

Rademacher said Benedict's statement violated Peeler's constitutional rights, including the right to due process.

"He told the jurors to just ignore all the evidence ... to ignore the law," Rademacher told the justices. "It's even worse because he is in effect telling the jury, 'What will the people think ... if you give him no punishment whatsoever?'"

Dauster told the court that Benedict's comment was appropriate and did not amount to misconduct, because he was responding to a defense argument involving Peeler's federal sentence.

In a 361-page brief to the court, Rademacher also argued that some key defense witnesses - teachers and guidance counselors at Peeler's children's school - weren't allowed to testify during the penalty phase, and prosecutors rejected 3 black people for the jury for no reason. Peeler is black.

5 of the 12 jurors who heard the case were black. Dauster said the prosecution objected to the 3 jurors mentioned by Rademacher because of legitimate, race-neutral reasons including opposition to the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


High Court Hears Appeal In Murders Of 8-year-old Boy, Mother

The state Supreme Court today heard the appeal of a death row inmate convicted of arranging the Bridgeport killings of an 8-year-old boy, and the child's mother.

Russell Peeler, Junior's Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher claims the state was wrong to tell jurors that because the defendant was already serving life in prison, anything less than the death penalty would be like allowing 2 free murders, without any additional punishment.

"It's difficult to imagine anything that a prosecutor could say in closing argument, that would be more destructive of the entire trial process," Rademacher said.

But the state argues that it was the defense that raised the issue of the previous, federal sentence.

Senior Assistant States Attorney Marjorie Allen Dauster argued that because the defense brought up the federal sentence, the state was allowed to respond.

The defense brought up dozens of other claims in paperwork filed with the court.

2 years ago, state lawmakers and the governor took the death penalty off the books in Connecticut, but they say the law allows people already on death row to be executed.

Karen Clarke and her son, Leroy "B.J." Brown were killed in 1999, by Peeler's brother. The 8-year-old boy was a witness against Peeler in another murder case.

(source: CBS news)


DA to seek death penalty in Kauffman murder

Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook said this morning she will seek the death penalty against 2 men charged in the December murder of 25-year-old Marcus "Marco" Kauffman.

Khari Dewayne McClelland, 23, of Harmony, and Jaylend Daquann Turner, 19, of Statesville, remain in the Rowan County Detention Center without bond.

Kauffman was shot after he interrupted a break-in at his Chenault Road home in western Rowan County. He and his wife, Maryann, arrived home Dec. 2 to see 2 men there whose vehicle appeared to be broken down. Kauffman took his wife to a neighbor's house and returned.

Kauffman approached the men and asked if they needed help. He was shot in the back of the head by one of them while inside his car. He was hospitalized several weeks before dying.

His wife, who was pregnant at the time of the shooting, gave birth to a son.

2 others, Tramel Devon Hart, 18, and Michael Dwayne Teasley, 25, were charged with accessory after the fact of 1st-degree murder. Hart and Teasley remain the Rowan County jail, each under a $1.5 million bond.

(source: Salisbury Post)


Death penalty conference to focus on reconciliation

Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty will have an informative gathering, "Restoration, Reconciliation and Forgiveness: A Catholic Perspective on the Death Penalty" on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the archdiocesan Chancery offices, 2401 Lake Park Drive in Smyrna. The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The program's nationally acclaimed speakers will take an in-depth look at the death penalty from the perspective of the Catholic faith, as well as the call for reconciliation and healing.

Guest speakers include Sister of Mercy Camille D'Arienzo, a contemporary of Congregation of St. Joseph Sister Helen Prejean and author of the audiobook "Stories of Forgiveness"; Florida attorney Dale Recinella, JD, M.T.S., author of "Now I Walk on Death Row," and Amy Vosberg-Casey, JD, staff attorney with The Georgia Resource Center, a nonprofit law office providing free representation to death row inmates. John and Kimberly Starbuck will speak about forgiveness from the perspective of a victim's family.

Mass will be celebrated at the conclusion of the seminar at approximately 3 p.m.

The cost for the day, including lunch, is $20 per person, paid at the door.

Due to limited seating, RSVPs are requested by email to

(source: Georgia Bulletin)


Florida court won't let attorney drop death case

A divided Florida Supreme Court is ruling public defenders must continue to represent a death row inmate even though James Robertson says he wants to be executed.

Robertson, who has been in prison for three decades, was sentenced to death in 2012 for killing his prison cellmate.

Robertson's attorneys want permission to withdraw from the case because Robertson does not want to challenge his sentence.

But in a 4-3 ruling the court said that the attorneys must continue to represent Robertson during his appeals. The majority stated that it would be a "serious threat" to the state's death penalty process to let the attorneys withdraw.

Justice Charles Canady in his dissent argued the court was infringing on Robertson's rights to decide whether or not he wants to appeal his sentence.

(source: Bradenton Herald)


Judge orders new trial for Treasure Coast Death Row inmate known as the 'Salerno Strangler'

The Treasure Coast death row inmate known as the "Salerno Strangler" deserves a new trial in the 2004 murders of 3 women because his lawyers failed to make a meaningful or organized effort to represent him, a judge has ruled.

The potential new trial for Eugene Wayman McWatters Jr. comes more than 8 years after a jury convicted him in the rapes and murders of 3 Port Salerno-area women and recommended that Circuit Judge Larry Schack sentence him to die. Schack gave McWatters 3 death sentences in 2006.

McWatters, on death row since, appealed, and in an April hearing before Schack he accused his attorneys Robert Udell and Rusty Akins of poorly representing him.

Schack issued a scathing 73-page ruling this week that concluded that the lawyers brushed off basic arguments, missed obvious opportunities to challenge key parts of the state's case, and even failed to keep a complete case file in what has become one of the biggest murder cases in the region. Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Though the judge seemed to place most of the blame on the now-disbarred Udell, he said both lawyers gave McWatters a "seriously deficient performance" that resulted in "a re-victimization of family members, a tremendous waste of resources, and a reversal of the defendant's conviction."

"In fact, there was no meaningful investigation, no meaningful preparation, no meaningful effort put forth, nor was there any apparent strategy," Schack wrote.

With the ruling, Schack has reopened the murder cases of Jackie Bradley, Christal Wiggins and Carrie Ann Caughey. All were found raped and strangled within 10 weeks of one another in 2004.

All 3 women were found naked from the waist down and had their shirts pushed up to their necks. Witnesses said Bradley, murdered in March 2004, was last seen with McWatters near a homeless camp, and said McWatters had promised her she could shower at his sister's house.

Wiggins and McWatters were seen leaving a house party together May 31, 2004, and McWatters was seen trailing behind Caughey on a bicycle the same day. The women were murdered on the same day, but Wiggins' body was discovered after Caughey's in a wooded area across the street from where Caughey was found.

If prosecutors hope to win the appeal they would have to overcome the laundry list of problems Schack outlined. Among them, Schack said, was that Udell and Akins had 2 investigators apiece working on the case, but there was no record the investigators ever worked together.

Venus Oleyourrk, who Udell used to find evidence to avoid a death sentence, had no training as an investigator, paralegal or more importantly a mitigation specialist - investigators specifically trained in searching for such evidence. When that investigator moved out of state months before the trial, Udell replaced him with his son, Spencer, who worked the case for a short while before he was arrested himself.

None of the investigators who testified in the hearing before Schack earlier this year could give specifics on what strategy the defense team had, if any. Oleyourrk said she received no direction from Udell, hadn't looked at Akins' files and never obtained paperwork the Public Defender's Office collected before the case went to the private attorneys.

The judge also found no clear division of labor between the 2 attorneys. While many 2-member defense teams in death penalty cases divide responsibilities between the guilt and penalty phases, no firm boundaries existed between Udell and Akins, Schack concluded. The judge noted disagreements among them over whether to make legal pleadings most defense attorneys would think of as standard - including a request to block McWatters' confession.

Even when he filed it, Udell dismissed the appeal as frivolous, a boiler-plate motion. It failed to mention the specific issues with McWatters' confessions - including the fact that McWatters had consumed 12 beers and smoked three or four marijuana joints on the morning he confessed. He told police in each of the murders he had sex with the women, blacked out and awoke to find they were dead.

When it came time to argue the matter in a pre-trial hearing, the judge wrote, Udell at the last moment passed off his duties to Akins, and left Akins alone in the courtroom to try to convince Schack to throw out the confession. Udell, meanwhile, took a call on his cellphone outside the courtroom, the judge wrote.

At the time, Udell was also the attorney in the high-profile California case of Cynthia Sommer, accused of poisoning her Marine husband and using his insurance money to get breast implants and pursue a lifestyle of wild parties and sex with multiple partners.

A jury convicted Sommer, but she too won a new trial by arguing Udell was ineffective. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against her.

Udell, who also once represented teen-aged killer Nathaniel Brazill, was disbarred in 2009 over allegations that he mishandled legal fees and fraudulently billed a state agency.

In this case, Schack said, he was puzzled as to why McWatters' defense team failed to even put up a fight on issues that gave prosecutors a heavy advantage. They never challenged the women's causes of death, agreed to merge the three cases and never made an issue to throw out statements McWatters made to detectives before he was read his rights.

Of the confession, Schack said, they failed to make arguments attributing it to a number of factors, including police coercion, McWatters' potential psychiatric conditions and brain damage.



Ohio Asks Judge to Dismiss Death Penalty Lawsuit

The state is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of a condemned inmate who repeatedly gasped and snorted during his January execution.

The lawsuit alleges executed prisoner Dennis McGuire endured needless pain and suffering during his 26-minute execution on Jan. 16.

The state argued in a court filing Tuesday that the lawsuit was improperly filed since McGuire's son isn't arguing any violations of his own constitutional rights.

The state also says the lawsuit failed to list specific acts that members of the execution team committed that amounted to constitutional violations.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has denied McGuire suffered but has also changed its policy to boost the dosages of execution drugs used in the future.

(source: Associated Press)


Condemned Ohio Killer's Death Sentence Upheld

A divided Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend's business partner in an argument over a forged check.

The court's 4-3 ruling Thursday rejected claims by condemned killer Gregory Osie that he didn't deserve to die for killing David Williams in southwest Ohio's Butler County in 2009.

Writing for the majority, Justice Sharon Kennedy backed prosecutors' arguments that Osie feared Williams might press charges over money missing from Williams' business.

At issue was the portion of Ohio law allowing the death penalty for killings committed to eliminate witnesses.

3 justices said the evidence wasn't strong enough that the 52-year-old Osie killed Williams to silence him.

Osie's attorney says she expects to ask the court to reconsider its decision.

(source: WOSU)


Prison inmate sentenced to death in 2012 slaying

After deliberating just 30 minutes Thursday, a Lincoln County jury sentenced a prison inmate already serving a sentence of life without parole to death in the slaying of another inmate. Robert Holland, now 45, was convicted of capital murder in the Dec. 2, 2012, death of Matthew Scheile, 22, in a cell in the east building at Cummins Prison.

Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said Friday that because the death of Scheile was "so premeditated," the state decided to give the jury the option of imposing the death penalty, which they did.

According to the State Police investigation, Holland, who was convicted of capital murder in Union County in 1991, was housed in a 2-man cell at the prison and had previously refused to accept a cellmate, which resulted in disciplinary actions. Holland finally agreed to allow another person in the cell with him, and Scheile was killed about 12 hours after he was put in the cell with Holland. Hunter said Holland waited until Scheile was asleep before making a noose out of a bed sheet and strangling Scheile, and when Holland was questioned, he admitted the crime.

Hunter said jury selection, which began Tuesday, took two days before a jury of 7 women and 5 men were seated, and the trial itself was completed in 1 day. The jury took about 20 minutes to find Holland guilty of capital murder.

Hunter said the death penalty was the 1st that has been imposed in the 11th West Judicial District since Kenneth Williams was sentenced to death in the 1999 death of Cecil Boren outside Cummins Prison after Williams had escaped from prison. Williams is still on death row.

"The legislature is going to have to fix the execution procedures before anybody is executed," Hunter said.

Hunter and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau represented the state, while John Cone and Rebekah Kennedy of the Public Defender's Office represented Holland. Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr. presided at the trial.

(source: Pine Bluff Commercial)


No matter the crime, it is not for us to take a life

Daily we are confronted by the shocking news of violence in our society - murders, rape, gun violence in schools, domestic violence in our homes, aborting of unborn babies, war, genocide, human trafficking and more. In all of our churches we hear sermons on living out our faith, aligning our actions with our values and beliefs. It disturbs me that for all our talk about the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death, we continue to support the state's right to kill people in our name.

Missouri has executed 7 individuals in the past 9 months and is preparing to execute another, John Middleton, on July 16. Beyond the fact that the death penalty is carried out in an arbitrary manner, it is expensive, risky and irreversible if we later discover the person's innocence. My deep compassion for victims and their loved ones notwithstanding, it is not for us to take a life, no matter the crime, the guilt, or the pain involved. Taking another person's life diminishes us as a people. There may be good reasons that a person should never be released back into society - but killing a person is never right. Killing is never the solution to a problem.

Unless and until we are consistent in our support of life, our words are empty. It is not just innocent life that must be protected, it is all life.

Sister Mary Walz - St. Louis

(source: Letter to the Editor, St. Louis Today)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Inmate's bid to delay execution rejected

A federal judge on Thursday denied an Arizona death-row inmate's request to postpone his July 23 execution until officials reveal details about the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake rejected Joseph Rudolph Wood's argument that his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to provide the information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

"The court concludes that the First Amendment does not provide a right to access to the specific information Wood seeks," Wake wrote in his 15-page ruling.

Wood's lawyers said prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information. Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood sought.

"Every citizen, including death row prisoners, has First Amendment rights," Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, said after the judge's ruling. "On appeal, we will ask the Ninth Circuit to order Arizona to comply with the First Amendment and disclose information about its execution process before it conducts human experimentation on Mr. Wood."

The arguments by Wood's attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

The Oklahoma inmate writhed on the gurney after he was given a 3-drug combination. The execution was stopped after a doctor determined there was a problem with an IV in the inmate's groin. The Ohio execution was the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.

Arizona prison officials intend to use the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

In October, another federal judge ordered Arizona officials to provide more information on the drugs it planned to use in two death penalty cases. The judge had ruled the inmates had established a First Amendment right to the information, such as the drug’s manufacturer. Prison officials released the information, and both inmates were executed shortly thereafter.

Wood, 55, is scheduled to be executed for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debra Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Wood fatally shot Dietz's father in the chest. Dietz was on the phone calling for help when Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her in the chest. Wood acknowledged his role in the killings, but he said they weren't premeditated.

(source: Associated Press)


Chagolla could face death penalty

Judge Neil V. Wake of the U.S. District Court in Prescott has ordered that the government must file a notice to seek the death penalty for Camp Verde's Mario Chagolla Jr. If that notice is not filed by Dec. 1, then a trial will be set for Chagolla beginning March 24 next year.

Chagolla is accused of the grisly killing and dismemberment of Dwayne Beauty at a home on Yavapai-Apache lands in Camp Verde.

Chagolla is reported to have signaled to others gathered at the drinking and card game on Evans Street that he would "get that mark," referring to Beauty. Chagolla is said to have believed that Beauty was responsible for the murder of a friend, Kathy Englund.

After repeatedly stabbing Beauty, Chagolla is accused of using a circular saw to dismember the man.

In apparent attempts to conceal his identity, Chagolla is charged with pulling teeth and hands and burning them in the fireplace at the Evans Street house. Investigators later found the teeth and bones in that stove.

(source: Camp Verde Bugle)


Death penalty back on the table for Carnation defendants

The state Supreme Court unanimously reversed a King County Superior Court judge's ruling that prosecutors had incorrectly sought the death penalty when they charged two former Carnation-area residents with killing a family on Christmas Eve 2007.

In 1 1/2-page order, the court reversed Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell's Jan. 31 ruling in the cases of defendants Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe that had taken the death penalty off the table.

In his ruling, Ramsdell agreed with the defense that the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a life sentence instead of death is a "fact" or element of the crime that must be proved to a jury. But he said tossing out the death penalty was premature and conceded he didn't know how to proceed, prompting the state to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter.

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Whisman had argued last month that prosecutors have charged both McEnroe and Anderson with 6 counts of 1st-degree murder, as well as two aggravators: more than 2 people were killed as part of a common scheme or plan and two of the victims were killed to eliminate witnesses. Those charges made them "eligible" for the death penalty, and were followed up with a special notice advising them that Prosecutor Dan Satterberg would be seeking the death penalty, Whisman said.

But it will be up to a jury to decide what penalty McEnroe and Anderson face.

Justice Barbara Madsen, in this morning's ruling, acknowledged that the Supreme Court's explanations were brief. She wrote that "the Court has determined that the case should be decided expeditiously, by this order, with explanatory opinions to be filed in due course."

In addition, the Supreme Court denied the request by the prosecution to remove Ramsdell from the case.

Prosecutors had asked justices last month to replace Ramsdell on the case. Jim Wisman told the court they have been reluctant to criticize him but are troubled by the "overall management" and slow pace of litigation, as well as "the perception of justice and timely justice in this case."

Anderson and McEnroe, who are both 35, are accused of fatally shooting Anderson's family in her parents' Carnation-area home on Dec. 24, 2007. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

The slayings were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses, according to sheriff's investigators.

(source: The Seattle Times)


Judge seeks death penalty for Eid, 4 others

Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida requested the death penalty Friday for the fugitive Rifaat Eid, head of the Arab Democratic Party's politburo, and 5 fighters from Jabal Mohsen, Tripoli.

Judicial sources declined the name the other 4 suspects, all of whom are in custody, but added that 3 are considered militia leaders.

The 5 stand accused of killing, participating in clashes with Jabal Mohsen's rival neighborhood, Bab al-Tabbaneh, terrorist acts, terrorizing the public, and destroying public and private property.

Eid has been missing since earlier this year and is rumored to have fled the country through Syria after authorities sought to investigate links between the ADP and the bombing of 2 Tripoli mosques.

News of the indictment follows on the heels of protests from local residents in the largely-Alawite Jabal Mohsen and the predominantly-Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, both of whom claim to have been unfairly targeted by a government crackdown on fighters in the northern city. Several prisoners from Bab al-Tabbaneh, including an influential militia leader, have been transferred to hospital after launching hunger strikes.

Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh have engaged in around 20 rounds of fighting linked to the war in Syria, where the ADP enjoys strong ties with the regime.

(source: The Daily Star)


UN expert rebuffs death penalty calls----Says it is not a deterrent and children must be taught about boundaries

relationship education is key to reducing sexual harassment and rape because capital punishment will not end the problem, United Nations Population Fund representative for Thailand Caspar Peek said.

The recent tragedy of a 13-year-old girl being raped and murdered on an overnight train to Bangkok sparked mass outrage on social media, with people calling for capital punishment against sex offenders.

The UNFPA representative, however, said the UN opposed the use of capital punishment because it goes against human rights, particularly the right to life.

"Even if a person does heinous crimes, they still have the right to life," Peek said.

He said life imprisonment might prove to be the better prosecution. He said the death penalty did not deter rape and murder because offenders did not consider this before committing the crime. This meant the cycle would continue unless other preventative measures were imposed such as changing the social perspective.

"The real issue is why does a young man think that it is okay to rape a girl. Why do boys in school think it is okay [to do such things]?" he said.

One of the reasons why this tragedy has received as much attention, apart from the victim's age, is the fact that the tragedy has become "visible" as rape victims often do not come forward due to shame. "The shame is put on the girl automatically and she carries it with her," Peek said.

"Not only has she been a victim emotionally, physically. On top of that she has to feel ashamed. It's a terrible thing you are doing to girls and women in society here."

In order to solve the problem of pervasive gender violence, Peek suggests it is necessary to educate young children about relationships - the boundaries to what is okay and what is not.

An increase in relationship education between boys and girls, and not just sex education, should be implemented so it is constantly reiterated. "Schools must be clear." Peek said. "If you do this consistently, you create a generation of young people who will say, 'Yeah, they told me so many times. Okay I get it'."

He said gender sensitivity should also be reiterated within society through family members.

Peek said there are various ways in which society can make girls and women feel safe.

An increase in female authority figures such as teachers and policemen would increase the number of advocates for change so these issues were not swept under the carpet.

Awareness was an issue and people must continue to speak out for the "sake of this girl" and "for the sake of the half a million women in Thailand who have been victims to sexual harassment".

(source: The Nation)


Children executed for no crime

"I am in the last court. If you don't hear from me again, know that I am dead, Be firm. I love you so much." Those were the last words Mariam heard from her husband, Andrew, 39 years, on June 23 2014. He has left behind a daughter 16 years and a widow to fend for themselves now that he is gone.

2 Ugandans Omar Ddamulira and Andrew Ngobi - were executed in China's Guandong Province on May 21, 2014 and on June 24, 2014 respectively. Both young men were part of 23 other Ugandans convicted of drug trafficking related offences and sentenced to death in China. I watched on Ugandan TV news, and I saw Andrew's daughter aged 16 years cry and she said that the last time she talked to him, he promised he would come back, she said she was not sure of the future now that her father's no more. It was heart breaking seeing the relatives cry and the wife looked so devastated.

The trauma experienced by the families of the 2 Ugandan men who were executed tells a lot. Firstly we need to know that,a death sentence affects innocent people and this is the family particularly the children. The dead prisoner will never live to tell the pain, but his children will live with the grief and all the pain associated with it all the days of their lives.

The death sentence affects more people; it seems everyone gets traumatized when an execution takes place, the entire community grieves. The day the story ran in the papers, I ran into a man in a taxi, who told me that, he knew Andrew and that on that day he heard the news, he developed diarrhoea and could not eat anything the whole day and he struggled with how to deal with the loss because Andrew was his childhood friend.

Children pay more when their parents are on death or are executed

The loss of a parent is very traumatizing to children, but as opposed to a natural death, death caused by the state when it executes a parent on death row, creates confusion and extreme fear to the child. In cases where one of the parents on death row killed his/her spouse, then when the parent is executed, the child will have lost both parents. The children will live with many questions unanswered.

In a country like Uganda, the child becomes vulnerable to child sacrifice, child labour, they are stunted in their growth ,children live in deplorable conditions characterized by disease, hunger ,poor beddings, the girls face early marriages, and defilement. Children whose parents are on death row or executed are likely to get mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorders .

Working to help children with a parent on death row at Wells of Hope has brought us to observe that these children have night mares, they have low self-esteem, they are sad, Children become angry, and lose hope for the future. They are bombarded by a range of problems such as loss of concentration in school and many dropout of school, they undergo loneliness and confusion. They are ostracized by the community and face a lot of stigma.

Children pay more when their parents are executed, yet These children are innocent, so since it's the wrong people who serve the death sentence, it makes no sense to punish someone by death!

Violation of Human Rights

In its resolution 22/11, the United Nation Human Rights Council expressed deep concern in regard to the negative impact of a parent's death sentence and his or her execution on his or her children, and urged States to provide those children with the protection and assistance they may require; But in all states that maintain the death penalty, this resolution is disregarded.

The death penalty tramples on the full enjoyment of a range of rights and obligations by the child as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In particular the rights these children don't enjoy include, the obligation to ensure that the best interest of the child are duly taken into account(art 3) the right to special protection and assistance by the state when a child is deprived of his or her family environment(art 20) as will be the case of Omar and Andrew's children.

Children of parents sentenced to death face discrimination, especially when the offence is made public. As I write I cannot stop thinking of what Andrew's daughter is going through since the media has been awash with her father's death. She even appeared on Television, so at her school she is likely to face a lot of stigma and ostracism.

There is evidence that the death penalty disproportionately affects the poor and certain racial and religious minorities. Thus a child could suffer discrimination on grounds of economic condition, as well as the stigma due to the deaths sentence faced by their parents. While appearing on TV Andrew’s daughter who looked extremely terrified said she was not sure she would continue with her studies since her father used to provide her school fees and money for all her requirements, unless a good Samaritan intervenes, she is bound to suffer child poverty and will eventually drop out of school.

In most cases Inmates on death row are not informed of their forth coming executions, nor are their families and lawyers and bodies of the executed are not returned to the families. The press reports say that neither the Ugandan nor the Chinese government was committed to giving the ashes of the cremated bodies of Omar and Andrew to their respective families. In Uganda if an execution was to take place, the bodies would be buried in Unmarked graves. In that regard, it should be known that failure to inform family members of upcoming executions and to return bodies of the executed to the families is incompatible with article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and constitutes inhumane or cruel treatment. Such secrecy also violates the right of the child to information regarding sentencing of their parents under article 9 of the UNCRC.

Abolish Death Penalty;

At the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on the Rights of Children of parents on Death row which took place on 11th September 2013,in Geneva, Where I was a panelist, panelists and several delegations emphasized that the best option in dealing with the impact of the death penalty on children would be to abolish the death penalty, however, if that cannot happen immediately, it is imperative to develop measures to minimize the harm suffered by children of parents sentenced to death. But almost no country has taken steps towards this.

Death penalty is cruelty and violence against children, and deprives children affected of full enjoyment of their rights. The execution of Andrew and Omar in China should be a wake up call to Uganda Government to abolish the death penalty in Uganda, so that the families and especially children are not executed for no crime!

(source: Francis Ssuubi; The writer is the Executive Director/Founder of Wells of Hope, a Ugandan charity helping children with a parent in prison----New Vision)


Death Penalty For Wu Ying, Chinese Tycoon, Commuted To Life Imprisonment

Chinese tycoon Wu Ying, who had originally received a death penalty for illegal fund-raising, had her sentence reduced to life imprisonment at a trial on Friday.

The former 6th-richest woman in China had been initially sentenced in 2009 by the Jinhua Intermediate People's Court in Zhejiang for cheating investors of about $60 million with false promises of high returns on investment. Her death sentence was given a 2-year reprieve following a retrial in May 2012. According to the China Daily, Wu appealed for a fresh trial as her reprieve period was ending, and was given an open trial Friday. She had been serving time at the Zhejiang Provincial Women's Prison in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.

According to local criminal law, cited by China Daily, a convicted person who has no criminal record in jail and has been serving a stay of execution, can apply for a reduction in penalty to life imprisonment. The trial on Friday reportedly heard that she had amassed the fortune by deliberately hiding facts and making false promises of high returns.

Wu, the founder of Bense Holding Group, had reportedly raised $122 million from investors between 2005 and 2007. Some of her supporters had reportedly claimed in 2012 that she was trying to raise the money through private financing and loans.

Yao Haitao, an official with the Zhejiang Provincial Higher People's Court, said, according to China Daily, that a video of the trial that commuted Wu's death sentence will be posted online.

After dropping out of school Wu had started a string of beauty parlors in 1997, before expanding the business to include spas, hotels and property.

(source: IB Times)


Malawi will not abolish the death penalty , UN told

Malawi will not abolish the death penalty from its laws, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary and Solicitor General Banda told United Nation Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

Banda said when formally presented the responses to the committee's question of whether the coutnry had plans to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the [International Covenant on Civil and Politcal Rights] ICCPR by amending the Penal Code in order to formally abolish the death penalty.

She Said Malawi retains the death penalty and, as such, has no intentions to ratify the Ooptional Protocol to the ICCPR.

"There are no immediate plans of abolishing the death penalty. Malawian courts still impose death penalties on persons convicted of murder," reads a response.

"Since the dawn to multiparty system of government, no person sentenced to death has been officially executed. As at early June 2014, there are 29 people on death row at Zomba Central Prison."

In 2011, the then Attorney General Justice Jane Ansah also told UN that the country will continue to listen to the voices of the people of Malawi regarding the issue of the death penalty.

Ansah said when decidiing to ratify international insturments, Malawi is sguided by its constitutional requirements.

Murder, treason and armed robbery are punishable by hanging in Malawi but the coutnry has not carried out an execution since 1992, and it is therefore believed to have a policy or established practice of de facto abolition.

In 2007, the High Court ruled that the automatic nature of the death penalty in Malawi for murder and other offences violated the right to life, amounted to inhuman punishment as it did not provide the individuals concerned with an opportunity to mitigate their death sentences.

Chief State Advocate Pacharo Kayira told the committee that the High Court of Malwi has only meted death penalty on Jack Bandawe after considering the gruesome killing of the victim.

The European Union (EU) has been calling for the universal abolition of death penalty, stressing that countries still conducting executions must abolish this "cruel and inhuman punishment."

Britain, which is Malawi's largest bilateral donor, also urged Malawi to abolish capital punishment.

The influential Roman Catholic Church, other prominent Christian churches and rights groups have also yearned for the death penalty to be abolished, generating a heated debate over the years.

Former president Bakili Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 following the coutnry's 1st democratic elections, vowed that he would "never sign a death sentence against a fellow human being" during his rule.

Muluzi was credited for improving human rights after 3 decades of late Kamuzu Banda's absolute dictatorship under which rights were seriously abused.

Former presidents late Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda did also not sign a death warrant.

(source: Malawi Nyasa Times)


Lanka rights body recommends abolition of capital punishment----They proposed that death sentences given to convicts be commuted to life imprisonment

Sri Lanka's top rights body has recommended the government to abolish capital punishment.

In a report handed over to the government yesterday, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has recommended the review of death penalty and proposed that death sentences given to convicts be commuted to life imprisonment.

Prathiba Mahanamahewa, HRCSL Commissioner said the recommendation would be officially conveyed to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to amend the law.

Currently, there are 529 death row prisoners, most of them between 30 to 50 years of age. At least 451 of them have appealed against the sentence, he said.

They have repeatedly told the commission to either hang them or commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.

The HRCSL has decided to make this recommendation considering the mental and physical trauma caused to them, Mahanamahewa said.

In December 2012, Sri Lanka had abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly that called for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

Although the death penalty is on the law books, no hangings have been carried out since June 1976.

Since late 1990s, due to a rise in violent crimes, there has been a greater demand for capital punishment however, the report said that capital punishment had not deterred or decreased the rate of crime.

(source: Business Standard)


Nitish Katara's murder honour killing, warrants death penalty

Nitish Katara's murder was a honour killing for which the three convicts, including UP politician D P Yadav's son Vikas, deserve death penalty, the victim's mother today told the Delhi High Court.

"The trial court as well as this court have already held that this is a case of honour killing. I want to add one thing that the honour killing falls under the the rarest of rare category of cases warranting imposition of death penalty," the counsel for Neelam Katara told a bench of justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha.

Concluding the arguments on the quantum of sentence, lawyer P K Dey said "the circumstances in which victim Nitish was killed entails award of death penalty, nothing less than this. One person was killed in such a brutal manner and later burnt. It is honour killing, which is the rarest of rare offence."

Assailing the lower court's order, the lawyer said "it (the burning of body and subsequent actions) is not merely the destruction of evidence. It is total disregard to a human body. The incident is diabolic and shook the consciousness of the society."

Seeking enhancement of the sentence, the counsel said the one of the convicts has committed eleven offences from 2002 to 2013 and they are not only criminal offences but amounted to interfering with the judicial administration.

Though the trial court had held the murder as "honour killing", it did not give them death penalty saying imposition of life sentence would act as a deterrent, Dey said.

"It may be true in other cases that life term is harsher punishment as a convict dies every minute in jail but not in this case where the convicts are economically and politically very strong and come out of jail within 2 or 3 years," he said.

(source: Business Standard)


3-judge SC Bench to hear all death penalty pleas

All death sentence-related appeals - filed and pending - in the Supreme Court will be heard by a 3-judge Bench from August 16. At present such appeals are heard by a 2-judge Bench unless a reference is made for hearing by a 3-judge Bench.

Heading a 5-judge Constitution Bench, Chief Justice R.M. Lodha said this during the hearing of a batch of petitions seeking direction that all death sentence appeals and the subsequent review petitions be heard only by a 5-judge Bench.

The CJI told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal that the relevant Supreme Court Rules had been amended on the basis of the recommendation made by a committee comprising the former CJIs, Altamas Kabir and P. Sathasivam and himself. Justice Lodha said the President had given his assent for the amended Rules, which would come into force from August 16 though the notification was yet to be given.

Appearing for 3 convicts - Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan - in the Dharmapuri bus burning incident, in which 3 college girls were killed, Mr. Venugopal submitted that their review petitions were still pending.

He cited the Law Commission's recommendation that all death penalty matters in the Supreme Court should be heard by a Bench of five judges by amending the relevant Rules. Arguments will continue on July 15.

(source: The Hindu)

JULY 10, 2014:


Texas inmates reveal what life is like on 'suffocating' death row

They call Huntsville the capital of capital punishment. This small town in Texas has the most active death chamber in America.

The debate about the morality of executing prisoners by lethal injection is largely bypassing this heavily pro-death penalty state.

Many US states - in fact, polls show that many Americans - are taking a 2nd look at this method of killing, following the botched execution of 2 prisoners. They were left in visible agony and took many minutes to die after the cocktail of drugs being pumped into their bodies failed to do the job cleanly and quickly.

Amid the great debate that has been ignited by this grim debacle, one group of people have never been asked about their views of death by lethal injection: Death row prisoners themselves.

We were granted permission to enter death row in Texas and speak with 2 of the next men to be executed. 1 is a double killer, who shot his former girlfriend and her brother to death. The other is a hitman for the Mexican mafia who strangled a woman.

They spoke to me about their views of their imminent deaths.

Manuel Vasquez says he wants to die because his 15 years in solitary confinement is intolerable and does not amount to a life worth living.

Willie Trottie says he is being used as a human experiment since Texas refuses to disclose what quantities of the drug will be used as he is strapped down and put to death.

Both men say that lethal injection might seem to outsiders as a benign way to die, but they believe it is like being drowned. They claim it amounts to the "cruel and unusual punishment" that is outlawed by the US Constitution.

Needless to say the views of these killers will not change minds in Texas, where the Death Chamber continues to be busy.

(source: ITV news)


Prosecutor: Gunman shot 7 relatives execution style

The suspect in a mass shooting that left 6 people dead, including 4 children, and 1 injured tied up his victims and shot each 1 in the head, prosecutors said Thursday.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office says Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, was booked Thursday on a capital murder/multiple murders charge and held without bond.

Police say Haskell arrived at the home wearing a FedEx uniform and once inside, he gathered several children in the home and waited for their parents to come home. He then shot seven people. 6 died and 1 girl survived.

"He came to this location yesterday afternoon ... and came under the guise of a FedEx driver wearing a FedEx shirt," said Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman. "(He) gathered up the children that were here and awaited the arrival of the parents. Sometime later the victims were shot in this residence, and we now learned that Mr. Haskell was married to a relative of the residents of this home."

Detectives said Haskell knocked on the front door of the home and when the 15-year-old girl answered he asked for her parents. She told him they were not home and so he left.

Investigators said he came back a short time later and asked her again for her parents, but this time he told her his name and the girl recognized him as her ex-uncle. She tried to close the door on him, but he kicked it in, detectives said.

Authorities identified the dead as Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33, and their 2 boys, ages 4 and 14; and 2 girls, ages 7 and 9.

Haskell demanded to know the whereabouts of his estranged wife, who was related to the Stays.

During Haskell's first court appearance Thursday, prosecutor Tammy Thomas said Haskell tied up the family, placed them face down, and then shot each of them in the head execution style.

Hickman corrected an earlier report that said Haskell was the father of the children. He did not release details of Haskell's relationship to the family, but described the adults killed as the children's parents.

Deputies said the15-year-old girl suffered a bullet fracture to her skull. They said she played dead until Haskell left and then alerted authorities that he was on his way to her grandparents' home to kill more relatives.

A standoff ensued when deputies cornered Haskell in a cul-de-sac in a nearby neighborhood. He surrendered after 4 hours.

During the standoff, Deputy Thomas Gilliland said there were "2 hours of constant talking with a man armed with a pistol to his head and who had just killed 6 people."

Gilliland described the man as in his 30s with a beard "and cool as a cucumber." He said that when he and other officers first approached, the man was "just sitting in his car looking out at us."

The surviving teen girl was in "very critical condition" at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston as of late Wednesday, Gilliland said.

In a statement released by FedEX officials Thursday, the company extended its condolences to "all those involved in this tragic incident." The statement indicated that Haskell formerly "provided service for FedEx, but has not done so since January."

(source: USA Today)


Death row inmate seeks to avoid death penalty

The state Supreme Court listened to arguments on Thursday from a man seeking to get off of death row.

The 42-year-old has been trying to appeal his sentence since the death penalty was abolished in Connecticut.

Peeler was convicted of directing his brother to kill Karen Clarke and her 8-year-old son, Leroy Brown Jr., in Bridgeport in 1999.

The boy was set to testify against Peeler for an earlier killing.

Both brothers were concerned that Leroy witnessed Peeler kill his mother's boyfriend.

However, Peeler's attorney raised more than 30 claims in his appeal.

A penalty hearing was held before a jury, according to court officials, in which the state sought the death penalty. The state said the penalty was warranted because how heinous the crimes were, because he paid for it and because a child was one of the victims.

Peeler's attorney, however, argued that while he was an accessory, his participation in the crimes was actually minor. They said there was other factors as well.

The defense said that the jury unanimously rejected 2 statutory mitigating factors before the death sentence could be imposed, which would make the special verdict form that the jury completed defective. They said that essentially permitted the jury to impose the death penalty even if the jury was unable to make a unanimous finding.

Peeler's brother was also convicted in the murders. However, he was given a 20-year sentence for his role.

State lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2012. However, it only applied to cases going forward.

While Peeler argued that his death penalty conviction was unconstitutional, that argument was not heard on Thursday.

(source: WFSB news)


Florida carries out its 7th execution of the year

Eddie Davis, who was convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl in 1994, was executed in Florida on Thursday evening.

Davis had appealed to delay the execution, arguing that he has a health condition that would make the injection painful, but the Florida State Supreme Court denied an appeal from Davis earlier this week.

The Florida Department of Corrections said that Davis was executed at 6:43 p.m. at the state prison in Starke, located about 50 minutes southeast of Jacksonville.

Davis was the 1st execution in the country since 3 executions were carried out in under 24 hours last month, a surge in capital punishment that followed nearly 2 months without any executions in the country. That span, meanwhile, followed a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma that drew considerable criticism and brought international attention to the death penalty in the U.S.

Lethal injections in Florida utilize 3 drugs: midazolam hydrochloride, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Davis was the 7th person executed in Florida, which ties Texas for the most executions in a single state this year.

Davis becomes the 88th condemned inmate to be put to death in Florida since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979. Only Texas (515), Oklahoma (111), and Virginia (110) have executed more inmates since the USA re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.

Davis becomes the 24th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1383rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Washington Post & Rick Halperin)


Grand jury indicts Williams for Gina Burger murder

A homeless 18-year-old man could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of a 16-year-old girl who was found in a Mercer County, Pa., waste facility late last month.

A Mahoning County grand jury today indicted Ricki Williams on a charge of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, for the June 23 stabbing death of Gina Burger in the Compass West apartment complex in Austintown.

Williams also faces counts of kidnapping, abduction, possession of criminal tools, abuse of a corpse and a misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing.

Grand jurors that Williams is eligible for the death penalty because Burger was murdered when Williams was committing another felony, which is the kidnapping and abduction counts.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


Ohio court upholds death sentence for man who fatally stabbed girlfriend's business partner

A divided Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend's business partner in an argument over a forged check.

The court's 4-3 ruling Thursday rejected claims by condemned killer Gregory Osie that he didn't deserve to die for killing David Williams in southwest Ohio's Butler County in 2009.

Writing for the majority, Justice Sharon Kennedy backed prosecutors' arguments that Osie feared Williams might press charges over money missing from Williams' business.

At issue was the portion of Ohio law allowing the death penalty for killings committed to eliminate witnesses.

3 justices said the evidence wasn't strong enough that the 52-year-old Osie killed Williams to silence him.

Osie's attorney says she expects to ask the court to reconsider its decision.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS----death row inmate dies

Death-row inmate dies after illness

A death row inmate who killed a Prescott woman and her fiance in 1992 has died in custody of apparent natural causes, authorities said.

Arkansas Department of Correction officials said Joe Dansby, 61, had been under treatment at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit hospital for about a year after developing an unspecified illness. He was taken by ambulance to a Malvern hospital Monday night, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at 10:35 p.m., the agency said.

"There's nothing suspicious about his death," Department of Correction spokesman Shea Wilson said. "There's not been any issues like that. He had been ill and had been housed at the hospital. There's nothing to indicate anything other than a natural death."

The full extent of Dansby's illness was not released, though Wilson said he faced "serious health issues." She said he suffered from spinal problems and was confined to a wheelchair

Dansby was convicted in 1997 of 2 counts of capital murder in the fatal shootings of 23-year-old Jeff Lewis and 21-year-old Malissa Clark, who were found dead in rural Nevada County.



Nikko Jenkins: Is He Competent for Death Penalty Phase?

Nikko Jenkins mental health is once again on trial. This morning, psychiatrists are back on the stand to offer competing opinions to whether Jenkins is competent for the death penalty phase of his case.

The testimony is expected to last most of the day. As many as 4 psychiatrists are expected to testify.

This morning, Dr. Bruce Gutnik told Judge Peter Bataillon it was his opinion that Nikko Jenkins is not competent to face a 3-judge panel to determine capital punishment.

"He thought he was a God...that he was being offered up as a sacrifice," said Gutnik, who evaluated Jenkins on 4 occasions. "Most people facing death penalty don't come up with that kind of scenario."

Bataillon found Jenkins competent earlier this year to stand trial. At the previous hearing, Dr. Gutnik argued that Jenkins was not competent - but could be restored to competency with the right treatment and medications.

Dr. Scott Moore testified for the state in much the same way he did at an earlier hearing. He argued it was his opinion that Nikko Jenkins was faking mental illness.

"I think he's lying all the time," said Dr. Moore. "[Jenkins] has always used fanciful stories so that he's not held accountable for his actions."

Dr. Jane Dahlke also testified. Jenkins' attorney, Tom Riley, said she was there as a rebuttal witness to the state's assertion that Jenkins is faking mental illness.

Riley: "Do 8-year-olds fake mental illness?"

Dahlke: "I don't see it very often."

She examined Jenkins when he was 8 in 1995 at Richard Young access center. His mother brought him there because he was saying he was going to hurt himself. He was hospitalized for 11 days.

Dr. Dahlke told the court that, back then, Jenkins had threatened to kill people and chased a sister around the house with a knife. He had earlier brought a gun to elementary school.

Nikko Jenkins pleaded no contest to the murders of four people last August.

(source: WOWT news)


HC confirms death for auto driver in rape-murder case

3 years after a 58-year-old auto driver from Goregaon, Babasaheb Kamble, was arrested for raping and strangling a 7-year-old girl, the Bombay high court onThursday confirmed the death sentence awarded to him.

A division bench of Justice Vijaya Kapse Tahilramani and Justice Ajay Gadkari referred to his criminal antecedents while agreeing with the trial court's order that Kamble's crime qualified as 'rarest of rare' and he deserved the death penalty.

The victim was the daughter of Kamble's neighbour. On November 28, 2011 Kamble, had asked the girl to run an errand for him. When she returned, Kamble pulled her inside the house, raped and then strangled her.

When the victim's mother went in search of her daughter, she found the girl's footwear outside the house.The mother banged open the the door and found Kamble on the bed while her daughter lay on the floor in a pool of blood.

Kamble's neighbours testified against him during trial. In September 2013, a sessions court sentenced the accused to death. The trial court said that Kamble was a menace to society adding that if he was only sentenced to life imprisonment, no one would fear the law. The HC heard both applications: confirmation of the death sentence and Kamble's appeal against his conviction. Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde pointed to Kamble's criminal antecedents - he was booked in a murder case in 2000, and was also named as an accused in theft and burglary cases in the past. The HC upheld the death sentence.

(source: The Times of India)


Jury finds man competent to stand trial in Dallas death penalty case

A Dallas County jury found Kenneth Wayne Thomas competent to stand trial in a death penalty case.

Testimony in the capital murder trial is expected to start this week. It is not clear when.

Thomas, 53, has low intelligence, brain damage and mental illness, according to testimony and court records. His attorneys had argued that Thomas could not help them with his defense or understand the proceedings.

Had be been found incompetent, he would have gone to a mental hospital where doctors would have tried to restore him to competency to stand trial at a later date.

Thomas was convicted in separate 1987 trials for killing attorney Fred Finch, 66, and his wife, math professor, Mildred Finch, 64. Thomas stabbed Fred Finch 20 times and Mildred Finch 80 times while burglarizing their South Dallas home on 1986.

Thomas was sentenced to death. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new punishment hearing in 2010. Jurors could not previously consider whether low intelligence, brain damage, and mental illness should have resulted in a life sentence rather than death.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Graves Prosecutor Under Misconduct Review----The Texas Bar has found "just cause" to review allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against former D.A. Charles Sebesta Jr. for his 1994 capital prosecution of Anthony Graves.

The Texas Defender Service announced Monday that the State Bar of Texas has found "just cause" to review allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta Jr. for his 1994 capital prosecution of Anthony Graves, for which Graves was eventually exonerated.

Graves spent 18 years in prison - more than 12 on death row - for murders he did not commit and of which he was ultimately declared innocent. Sebesta prosecuted and convicted Graves (along with other defendants) for a 1992 multiple murder in Somerville, and during his lengthy incarceration, Graves was twice scheduled for execution. His conviction was overturned in 2002, and he was ultimately exonerated altogether in October of 2010.

Prosecutors reviewing the case (Burleson County District Attorney Bill Parham, and Special Prosecutor Kelly Siegler of Harris County) found not only that Graves was innocent, but that Sebesta had engaged in what Siegler called the "worst" prosecutorial misconduct she had ever seen. As Jordan Smith reported for the Chronicle in 2010, Siegler told reporters, "Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system's nightmare. It's a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves' trial." There was never any physical evidence tying Graves to the murders, and he had an alibi for the night they occurred.

Nevertheless, Sebesta continues to insist Graves is guilty, and on a website he maintains, continues to attack Graves (and Parham and Siegler) as conspiring against him and the rule of law. Of the prosecutors, he writes: "They needed to perpetuate their argument by destroying my credibility and convincing everyone that Charles Sebesta had committed numerous acts of 'Prosecutorial Misconduct' in obtaining the conviction. With an anti-death penalty, liberal media 'lapping up' everything they said, that wouldn't be too difficult. In fact, it would become a 'feeding frenzy' of half-truths and lies." (The quotation marks are in the original.)

According to a statement released by Kathryn Kase, executive director of TDS and counsel to Graves, Sebesta elected to have his case heard by an administrative judge, meaning the proceedings will remain confidential pending a decision; had he agreed to have the case heard before a state district judge, the proceedings would have been public. Kase added, "The State Bar of Texas has power to sanction Charles Sebesta for his unethical conduct, up to and including disbarment and loss of his license to practice law in Texas."

Kase continued, "As yet unresolved is whether this rogue prosecutor will be held accountable for his violations of law, ethical misconduct, and breaches of the public trust. Texas citizens deserve to be represented by zealous prosecutors, but only those who follow the rule of law, and who respect the presumption of innocence."

In a statement also released by Kase, Graves noted that Sebesta has refused to accept Graves' exoneration and continues to insist that Graves is a murderer and attack his character. "I sought justice for a long time while imprisoned, having to trust the court system and the legal profession to care about justice, and to do the right thing," Graves said. "I am glad to see the State Bar of Texas now act favorably on my grievance at this stage. I am confident that the Bar will discipline Mr. Sebesta for his misconduct and do whatever it can to stop him from continuing to persecute me, a completely innocent man."

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Death-Row Inmate's Case Goes Before Supreme Court Thursday

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday on whether Russell Peeler Jr., convicted of ordering the 1999 killings of Karen Clarke and her 8-year-old son Leroy "B.J." Brown in Bridgeport, should have received the death penalty.

Peeler, a former drug dealer, raises more than 30 claims in his appeal of the death sentence that examines such issues as whether Peeler's due-process rights were violated either through prosecutorial misconduct, improper instructions to jurors, a lack of presentation to jurors of all relevant mitigating evidence and unreliable jury selection.

Alleged prosecutorial misconduct is one of a half-dozen issues that will likely be included in Thursday morning's arguments.

Peeler's attorney, Senior Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher, charged in the appeal that closing arguments by former prosecutor Jonathan Benedict were improper and misled the jury about its sentencing power. The remarks, including statements that a life sentence for Peeler would be pointless and "insult" the victims, minimized the jury's sense of responsibility for imposing death, Rademacher said.

"The prosecutor tars the defense with the horrible argument that a life sentence here is meaningless," Rademacher writes. "Rather than letting the jury make a reasoned moral judgment on Russell Peeler's sentence, the state forces on the jury the false choice of death or a 'free pass.' No reasonable juror would be willing to be viewed as giving Russell Peeler a 'free pass' for 2 murders."

Arguing for the state, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Marjorie Allen Dauster, says in court filings that none of Benedict's comments were improper and that the trial court "made it clear that the full and sole responsibility" for determining Peeler's sentence rested with the jury.

Peeler, 42, was sentenced to death in 2007 after a Superior Court jury convicted him of ordering his younger brother, Adrian Peeler, to kill Clarke and her son at a Bridgeport apartment. The boy and his mother were slated to testify against the older Peeler at an upcoming murder trial.

Adrian Peeler, 38, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the slayings.

According to trial testimony, the Peelers ran a lucrative crack cocaine ring out of the Bridgeport apartment of Josephine Lee, a crack addict.

Leroy witnessed an attempt by Peeler to shoot his mother's boyfriend in a drug money dispute. Peeler went after the boyfriend a second time, killing him. Days before Peeler was to be tried for the slaying, Clarke and her son were found shot to death in their Bridgeport apartment.

Lee, who lived across the street from Clarke, testified that she agreed to spy on the victims' home in exchange for drugs. Before the killings, Lee said she went with Adrian Peeler to Clarke's door. When Clarke opened the door for her, Lee said, Adrian Peeler stormed in and killed the boy and his mother.

Peeler was convicted of capital felony charges in 2000 but a jury deadlocked on whether to sentence him to death. A judge then imposed life in prison without the possibility of release.

Prosecutors successfully appealed the judge's decision, arguing that the judge should have declared a mistrial instead.

Though the high court also agreed with a challenge by the defense of the trial court's refusal to permit disclosure of Lee's psychiatric records to the jury, the justices said the mistake was harmless and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Peeler in which jurors voted for death.

Peeler is 1 of 11 men still on death row following the state's 2012 repeal of the death penalty. The same court considering Peeler's appeal is currently considering defense attorneys' challenge of a provision in the 2012 legislation that abolishes the death penalty for future capital crimes committed in Connecticut but allows executions for those who committed capital crimes before the repeal.

Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in April 2012 but made the law prospective, effectively applying it only to new cases and keeping in place the death sentences already imposed.

Attorneys representing those on death row have fought back, claiming in legal challenges that the new law violated the condemned inmates' constitutional rights.

During the death penalty debate at the Capitol, some legislators questioned whether a prospective repeal would stand up in court. The provision was added following the high-profile trials of Cheshire home invasion killers Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, both of whom are on death row.

The state Supreme Court agreed to take up the prospective issue in the case of Eduardo Santiago, whose death sentence was overturned in June 2012, 2 months after the repeal took effect. Rademacher, who also is defending Santiago, argued the issue before the Supreme Court in April 2013. The decision is expected soon.

In his appeal, Peeler raises the question of whether the death penalty repeal prohibits the state from executing him but the issue is not expected to be argued on Thursday.

(source: The Hartford Courant)


Defense asks judge to bar death penalty in retrial in 2004 murder of woman found in Pa. park

A defense attorney is asking a judge to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in a man's retrial in the murder of a woman whose body was found in a central Pennsylvania park a decade ago.

An appeals court ordered a new trial in Blair County for 41-year-old Paul Aaron Ross in the June 2004 murder of 26-year-old Tina Miller, whose body was found partially submerged and bound with duct tape at Canoe Creek State Park.

The (Altoona) Mirror ( ) reports that defense attorney Thomas Dickey argues that jurors decided against a death sentence in the 1st trial, so it should be barred in the retrial.

But prosecutors argue that jurors merely were unable to agree on capital punishment, so it should remain an option in the retrial.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA----impending execution canceled; clemency granted

Waldrip's death sentence commuted to life without parole

26 hours before he was to be executed for a murder 23 years ago, Tommy Lee Waldrip was granted clemency.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles made the rare decision to commute a condemned man's sentence to life without parole Wednesday even as state and federal courts had turned down his appeals.

Waldrip's execution was set for 7 p.m. Thursday for the murder of Keith Evans, a college student who was about to testify against Waldrip's son in a re-trial of an armed robbery case.

The board's decision came several hours after members heard pleas for mercy from relatives, friends and Waldrip's lawyers, and then from prosecutors and members of the Evans family who wanted the execution carried out.

The board does not give a reason for its decision. Members vote individually and only the chairman, who collects the ballots, knows how each one decided. The decision required a simple majority, three out of five members.

But 1 issue raised before the board was that the sentences for Waldrip, his son and Waldrip's brother, all convicted of murdering Evans on April 13,1991, were not proportional. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Howard Livingston, Waldrip's brother, but they did in the cases against Tommy Lee Waldrip and his son John Mark Waldrip.

The 3 men were tried separately. Only Tommy Lee Waldrip was sentenced to die. John Mark Waldrip and Livingston are serving life sentences.

"Our hearts go out the Evans family," said Jeff Ertel, one of Waldrip's lawyers. "Of course we're happy that the board has chosen to spare Mr. Waldrip's life."

This was the 5th time since 2002 that the board has commuted the sentence of a death row inmate. The most recent one was on April 12, 2012, when the board commuted the death sentence of Daniel Greene.

Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh, who was not in office when Waldrip was tried, did not return a phone message left at his home Wednesday evening. Attempts to reach the Evans family throughout the week were not successful.

Of the three men convicted in the case, Tommy Lee Waldrip was tried 1st. Because of the publicity in such a small community, jurors were brought in from Habersham County; they voted for death.

John Mark Waldrip's case was heard by jurors from Gwinnett County. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole even though he pulled the trigger to fire buckshot into Evans' face and he is the one who used a blackjack to beat the 20-year-old to death. John Mark Waldrip has been eligible for parole since 1998.

"I can assure you this board would have looked at every aspect of this case," said Robert Keller, a former Clayton County district attorney who also served on the parole board for seven years. "It is the hardest thing for anybody to do. I have full confidence in how they did it."

Evans was a key prosecution witness in the 1990 armed robbery trial against John Mark Waldrip. But a new trial was ordered and Evans was expected to testify again.

2 days before his retrial, on that Saturday afternoon, John Mark Waldrip threatened another man who was to testify against him, and then that evening, the two Waldrips and Livingston intercepted Evans as the was driving home from work.

According to testimony, they forced Evans' truck off the road and the younger man fired buckshot through the windshield. Then John Mark Waldrip and his uncle, Livingston, drove off in the truck, with Evans in the passenger seat, and the elder Waldrip followed in his wife's Ford Tempo.

They drove to Hugh Stowers Road in Dawson County, and that is where Evans was beaten to death.

Evans was buried in a shallow grave in neighboring Gilmer County. But his truck, set on fire, was found in Dawson County. Deputies found a copy of Tommy Lee Waldrip's wife's insurance card on the ground and that is how they came to focus on him.

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said he was assigned to surveillance outside the Harvest Baptist Church, where he as well as Tommy Lee Waldrip worshiped. The sheriff said he was disturbed to see Waldrip go into the sanctuary where Carlisle's wife and children were attending the service.

"How can you do something like this on Saturday night and go to church the next morning ... and lead singing like nothing ever happened?" Carlisle said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday before the board announced its decision.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Ga. board grants clemency to death row inmate

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday spared the life of an inmate facing scheduled execution, commuting the condemned man's sentence the day before he was to be put to death.

Tommy Lee Waldrip, 68, was scheduled to be executed Thursday night for the April 1991 slaying of a store clerk who was set to testify in court against Waldrip's son. After a hearing Wednesday, the board ordered that Waldrip's sentence be commuted to life without parole.

The board did not give any explanation for its decision in the order, saying only that it had reviewed and considered all the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as arguments for and against clemency.

Lawyers for Waldrip did not immediately return after-hours calls seeking comment Wednesday. Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, said his office had no comment.

Waldrip is only the 5th death row inmate to have a sentence commuted by the Parole Board since 2002. The last time it happened was in the case of Daniel Greene, who was spared execution on April 20, 2012.

Waldrip had been on death row for 2 decades. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994 for the April 1991 slaying of 23-year-old Keith Evans in Dawson County. His son and brother-in-law were also convicted in the killing and are serving life sentences.

Evans was a store clerk in Forsyth County and had testified in the 1990 armed robbery trial of Waldrip's son, John Mark Waldrip. The younger Waldrip was convicted, but he was granted a new trial and released on bond, according to Georgia Supreme Court records from Tommy Lee Waldrip's case. Evans was set to testify in the retrial.

On April 13, 1991, several days before the new trial, John Mark Waldrip called another witness and threatened to harm him if he testified.

Later that evening, Tommy Lee Waldrip, his son and his brother-in-law Howard Livingston ran Evans' truck off the road at a highway crossing in Dawson County and fired a shotgun through the windshield, hitting him in the face and neck, authorities said. Evans was still alive and the men drove him in his truck to another location, where they beat him to death, authorities said. Evans' body was buried in a shallow grave in Gilmer County and his truck was set on fire.

Authorities found an insurance card for Tommy Lee Waldrip's wife's car near the burned truck. Waldrip denied any involvement in Evans' disappearance in an interview the next day. But he was arrested days after that and later confessed to shooting and beating Evans and burning his truck. Authorities said he led them to Evans' body and the shotgun.

The next day, he said his son and brother-in-law had killed Evans and burned the truck and that he was just a bystander. In a 3rd statement, he said all 3 of them were involved, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)


Troy Davis' Nephew Is Raising Money To Pay For His Sophomore Year At Morehouse

The last few years have been difficult for Antone De'Juan Davis Correia.

In September 2011, his uncle, Troy Davis, was executed in Georgia after his case grabbed the nation's attention and sparked widespread controversy. Less than 3 months later, Correia's mother, Martina Correia who had been the face of the campaign to grant her brother clemency, lost her battle with cancer.

But the young man, who goes by De'Juan, remained committed to his promise to his uncle and his mother: to continue his education. In 2013, he started his first year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, pursuing a dual degree in engineering and physics. He was honored for his academic achievement, making the school's dean's list.

Now the Savannah native has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to put toward tuition for his sophomore year. De'Juan, who was able to attend his first year of college through the financial support of donations, said he hopes people will again find it in their hearts to help him continue his education, make a difference in his community and carry on his fight against the death penalty.

De'Juan's resume is already quite impressive after spending years traveling around the world to gain support for his uncle. He gave his 1st speech in the seventh grade, and spent years with his mother speaking in cities like New York, Kansas City and London to speak out about unfair criminal justice practices. In 2011, he was named as one of The Root's 25 Young Futurists.

To date, the campaign has raised over 2,000 dollars, and hopes to reach a goal of 5,000 dollars to cover the remainder of De'Juan's school expenses

(source: Huffington Post)


Florida set to execute convicted murderer of 11-year-old girl

A Florida man who confessed to the rape and murder of a child is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday, while another convicted murderer in Georgia had his death sentence, also due to be carried out on Thursday, commuted to life imprisonment.

Their cases follow a string of executions in the U.S. South last month, including those of 2 other men in Florida and Georgia, in the wake of a botched Oklahoma execution in April that sparked an uproar among death penalty opponents.

Florida's Eddie Wayne Davis, 45, was sentenced to death in Florida after he admitted to taking an 11-year-old girl from her mother's home, sexually assaulting and strangling her in 1994.

Davis confessed 3 times to the murder of Kimberly Waters, who was found strangled in a dumpster. He was 25 years old at the time of her killing, but his defense team claimed that he was mentally still a juvenile.

The Georgia man, Tommy Lee Waldrip, was convicted of the 1991 shooting death of a man who had been scheduled to testify against his son in an armed robbery trial.

Waldrip, 68, shot Keith Evans, then beat him to death and set his truck on fire, according to trial testimony. Evans had worked as a clerk in the store Waldrip's son had allegedly robbed.

Both Davis and Waldrip lost court appeals this week seeking to halt their executions. But the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday granted Waldrip clemency and commuted his death sentence to life without parole.

It was the 5th death sentence commuted by the Parole Board since 2002 and the 1st since April 2012.

The board typically does not cite reasons for its decisions. Age could have been a factor in the decision as Waldrip would have been the oldest person to be executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected Davis' claim that a metabolic blood disorder known as porphyria might cause him to have a painful reaction to midazolam, the 1st of 3 drugs used by the state in executing convicted killers.

Davis would be the 7th person executed in Florida this year, while Waldrip would have marked Georgia's 2nd death row execution of 2014.

(source: Reuters)


Ohio Asks Judge to Dismiss Death Penalty Lawsuit

The state is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of a condemned inmate who repeatedly gasped and snorted during his January execution.

The lawsuit alleges executed prisoner Dennis McGuire endured needless pain and suffering during his 26-minute execution on Jan. 16.

The state argued in a court filing Tuesday that the lawsuit was improperly filed since McGuire's son isn't arguing any violations of his own constitutional rights.

The state also says the lawsuit failed to list specific acts that members of the execution team committed that amounted to constitutional violations.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has denied McGuire suffered but has also changed its policy to boost the dosages of execution drugs used in the future.

(source: Associated Press)


Suspect charged with officer Renn's murder, death penalty being considered

IMPD Chief Rick Hite told Fox59 News that Patrol Officer Perry Renn died in a confrontation with an armed man because he couldn't fully protect himself.

Major Davis II's fiance was in the way.

At 9:22 p.m. last Saturday neighbors near 34th Street and Forest Manor Avenue called 911 to report gunfire.

A holiday weekend backyard BBQ had spilled out into an alley as fireworks were followed by gunshots.

The triggerman was Major Davis II.

Officers Perry Renn and Nicholas Gallico approached from opposite ends of the alley toward the man, "who ignored those commands til the point where he raised his arm and he pointed the AK-47 at Officer Renn," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. "According to Officer Gallico, the defendant fired first at which point the officers returned fire."

But before they could shoot to protect themselves and the party-goers and children nearby, the patrolmen held their fire.

LaTasha Ruffin, the mother of Davis' infant child, stood in the line of fire, begging her boyfriend to drop the weapon and telling the officers the man was drunk.

In the split second it took Ruffin to move away, Davis opened fire, his bullets striking Renn 3 times, once through his protective vest.

Ruffin was so close to the shootout she suffered a powder burn to the underside of her arm.

During an exclusive interview with Cynthia Davis, the accused killer's mother, Ruffin told Fox 59 News that Davis had arrived at the cookout in an angry mood, though she never knew him to be armed with a gun.

When asked what happened at the cookout, Davis said, "I wasn't there. I don't know." When asked if she ever knew her son to have a weapon, the mother said, "No."

Prosecutor Curry said that's not true.

Don Davis, owner of Don's Guns in the 3800 block of Lafayette Road, told Fox 59 News he provided to federal agents a sales receipt made out to Cynthia Davis for the purchase of an AK-47 in 2010.

It was that gun in the hands of her son that killed Perry Renn.

Curry said the sale was legal and Major Davis II was not a convicted felon. He had a minor arrest record and no charges since 2008.

He remains in stable condition with head and abdomen wounds at Eskanazi Hospital where Davis now faces a murder and gun charge that could send him to prison for up to 85 years and may yet result in a death penalty trial.

Officers and the community were outraged when some of Davis' relatives were quoted as saying that Renn should've stayed in his patrol car when he spotted the man with the gun.

Chief Hite disagreed. He said IMPD doesn't hide from trouble.

It runs toward it.

"We're trained to do just that. We're given the oath to do just that, to render peace in our community and remove those weapons from the street."

Officer Perry Renn is the 2nd Metro police officer to die in the last year while protecting the life an innocent bystander.

He will be buried with honors Friday.

(source: Fox News)


Kentucky effort to resume executions hits snag

Kentucky's efforts to resume executions appeared to hit a snag Wednesday after a judge said he was concerned that officials want to use the same method that led to an execution that took 26 minutes in neighboring Ohio.

The issues raised by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd could prolong the decade-long legal fight over how Kentucky puts condemned inmates to death.

In January, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die. Kentucky is proposing that it use a single drug or a 2-drug combination. The two-drug method would be identical to the method used in Ohio.

"The court is concerned about the issue presently emerging that we see in other states," Shepherd said. The judge said he may set a future hearing about the state's proposal to use two drugs but did not set a date.

Lethal injections have been in the spotlight since April, when Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett writhed, moaned and clenched his teeth before a doctor determined the state's 3-drug combination wasn't being administered properly. He died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.

Both methods proposed by Kentucky are different than that used in Oklahoma. And since April, executions in Florida, Georgia and Missouri were carried out with no noticeable glitches.

Shepherd halted all executions in the state in 2010 after raising concerns about how the state handles the mental condition of a condemned inmate. Kentucky has executed 3 inmates since 1976, but none since 2008.

A group of death row inmates is challenging Kentucky's lethal injection process and wants Shepherd to look into what happened in Ohio and whether it could happen in the Bluegrass State. Since McGuire's execution, Ohio has increased the dosage of the drugs involved, midazolam and hydromorphone, which are given in a simultaneous dose.

32 states have the death penalty, and all of them rely at least in part on lethal injection. Fewer than a dozen regularly carry out executions, among them Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas, which carries out more than any other state. The federal government also uses lethal injection but rarely carries out executions.

In May, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law allowing the state to return to the electric chair to carry out executions if it can't get the drugs used for lethal injections. It's the 1st such law in the country.

Public defender David Barron, who represents multiple death row inmates, said the drugs used in Ohio and proposed for Kentucky should be examined closely. When the state first pitched the concept of using the drugs, their effect on the inmate was unknown, Barron said.

"Now, we know what happened," Barron said. "It went horribly awry and Ohio increased the dosage."

Assistant Attorney General Heather Fryman said the issue of what drugs Kentucky uses was settled during litigation resolved in 2004, when a court approved of the drugs of choice. Allowing the issue to be raised again will only prolong the litigation, Fryman said.

"Every time we think we've got an issue nailed down, we get another motion," Fryman said, comparing the legal battle to "nailing Jell-O to a wall."

(source: Associated Press)


World Editor to take part in execution discussion

Tulsa World Enterprise Editor Ziva Branstetter will discuss news coverage and secrecy surrounding lethal injection procedures at noon Wednesday as part of a national Google Hangout with reporters covering death penalty issues.

Readers can ask the participating reporters questions regarding coverage of the death penalty, including the recent botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma. The Google Hangout is sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting.

Also taking part in the online discussion are Chris McDaniel, political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. McDaniel has been involved in a lawsuit to free up information surrounding lethal injection drugs. Missouri's Gov. Jay Nixon recently shared IRE's Golden Padlock award with Gov. Mary Fallin for supporting secrecy in the lethal injection process.

McDaniel broke the story regarding a Tulsa compounding pharmacy's connection to lethal injection drugs in Missouri.

Brian Haas, criminal justice reporter for the Tennessean newspaper and Della Hasselle, investigative reporter and contributor to The Lens in New Orleans will also take part in the online discussion. Both have written numerous investigative stories about issues related to the death penalty in their states.

Have questions or topics you’d like the speakers to address? Email them to IRE web editor Sarah Hutchins at

(source: TUlsa World)


Judge delays trial in Colorado movie massacre

A district court judge in Colorado on Wednesday delayed the planned trial in October of accused movie theater gunman James Holmes to allow more time to conduct a second sanity review.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in 2012.

Jury selection in the trial had been due to start on Oct. 14, but a state mental hospital said it would not be able to complete a second test of Holmes' sanity in time.

"The Court has little choice but to grant the examiner's request," Judge Carlos Samour said in an order. "(T)his is a complicated and voluminous case, and it is important that the 2nd examination is adequate and complete."

He said a new trial date would be set at a July 22 hearing.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder for the shooting rampage, which took place during a midnight screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at a suburban Denver theater.

(source: Reuters)


Arizona inmate wants execution delayed, seeks drug details

A judge is mulling whether to postpone the July 23 execution of an Arizona death row inmate who is demanding details about the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The arguments made Wednesday by inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood's lawyers mark a new legal tactic in death penalty cases. Wood's attorneys want his execution delayed until officials provide the information and argued his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to provide key details, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

2 other Arizona death row inmates prevailed last year in making First Amendment arguments, but the judge in Wood's case said there's no case law to back up his lawyers' claims that they are entitled to that information.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

The Oklahoma inmate writhed on the gurney after he was given a 3-drug combination. The execution was stopped after a doctor determined there was a problem with an IV in the inmate's groin. The Ohio execution was the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.

Arizona prison officials intend on using the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School who has studied executions for more than 2 decades, said the First Amendment arguments by lawyers for condemned inmates are a relatively new development that grew out of the problems that states have faced in recent years in getting supplies of lethal injection drugs.

The arguments weren't raised in the past because states used the same three-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

"The issues have changed - the dynamics have changed - that require this approach," Denno said. "This wouldn't have been necessary in the past."

Lawyers for the state say there is no First Amendment right to the information Wood seeks. "Wood alleges a right that doesn't exist," said Matthew Binford, an attorney for the state.

Robin Konrad, an attorney for Wood, said her client has a First Amendment right of access to non-confidential information connected to executions, which are already open to journalists to attend.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake posed skeptical questions about Wood's arguments that the access to the executions themselves extends to documents related to such executions. "I don't see anything that supports that," Wake said.

In October, another federal judge ordered Arizona officials to provide more information on the drug it planned to use in two death penalty cases. The judge had ruled the inmates had established a First Amendment right to the information, such as the drug's manufacturer. Prison officials released the information, and both inmates were executed shortly thereafter.

Wood, 55, is scheduled to be executed in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

He watched arguments in his case Wednesday by video conferencing from the prison where he is being held.

Wood and Debra Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Wood fatally shot Dietz's father in the chest. Dietz was on the phone calling for help when Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her in the chest. Wood acknowledged his role in the killings but said they weren't premeditated.

(source: Associated Press)


Wyoming firing squad execution bill released in draft form

A state legislative committee will consider a draft bill next week that would permit execution by firing squad.

The draft bill states lethal injection would remain the method of execution, but if lethal injection is unconstitutional or can’t be performed within the time prescribed by the law, then the death sentence would be by firing squad.

Current law states that lethal gas is the alternative method of execution, but the state doesn't have a working gas chamber.

The draft bill is a result of shortages of the lethal injection drug. Many pharmaceutical companies have stopped making the drug.

Members of the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee will discuss the draft bill July 17 in Newcastle, said Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, the committee's chairman.

"I doubt we'll vote on it," he said. "We'll probably vote on it in our 3rd meeting in Laramie. This is so the committee can see what the language would be. I know there are some members of the committee who would like to see the state give up the death penalty altogether. I'm sure that discussion will come up in Newcastle."

If the committee votes to approve the bill, it could be introduced in the 2015 legislative session.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, sponsored a bill during the session that ended in March, but it did not receive the required 2/3 vote to be assigned a committee. It failed on Feb. 11. Burns advocated a firing squad because it is more affordable than a new gas chamber. An old chamber in the Frontier Prison in Rawlins was used 3 or 4 times and isn't up to date. The Legislature's Management Council, comprised of leadership in both parties, decided the Judiciary Committee should study the topic further.

Rep. Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs, opposes the death penalty.

"First of all because of my Christian beliefs. I believe God is the one who says when a person dies, and not man, regardless of what you've done," he said. "And the 2nd thing is with technology, we are finding there are innocent people on death row and there are even people who have been executed that were innocent. I think that's horrible."

(source: Casper Star-Tribune)

IDAHO----death row inmate dies

Idaho death row inmate dies after extended illness

Michael Allen Jauhola, facing the death penalty for the beating a fellow inmate to death with a baseball bat in 1998, died Wednesday at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution, the Idaho Department of Correction reports.

Jauhola, 41, had been in the prison's medical unit since May because of an extended illness, according to a news release. The Ada County Coroner will perform an autopsy to verify the cause of death, officials said, calling that standard procedure.

The inmate had been in the prison south of Boise since 1994. He was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison for stabbing a 17-year-old rival gang member to death in Caldwell. According to court documents, he fled from the Canyon County jail while awaiting sentencing for voluntary manslaughter, and was later sentenced to 5 years for escape.

While serving those terms, Jauhola was sentenced to death for the 1st-degree murder of inmate John Williams.

(source: Idaho Statesman)


'Austin Powers' henchman to act as own attorney in potential death penalty case

He never played a lawyer on screen, but a former actor best known for his henchman role in the 1st "Austin Powers" film has decided to represent himself in a potential death penalty case.

Joseph Son, charged in connection with the killing of his cellmate at Wasco State Prison, refused to accept representation from the Kern County Public Defender's office Wednesday. He insisted there was a conflict of interest.

The 43-year-old Son repeatedly asked Judge Michael G. Bush to appoint him an attorney from the county's Indigent Defense Program, which takes on clients that the Public Defender's office cannot represent.

Bush refused. The judge read a letter Son wrote for the court, and afterward said there was no indication the Public Defender's office had a conflict in representing him.

The contents of the letter weren't made public.

Deputy Public Defender T. Alan Rogers, who had previously represented Son for several months, attended the hearing, as did Public Defender Konrad Moore.

Moore said he had planned to assign Rogers and Janice Kim, both veteran attorneys of his office, to Son's case if he had changed his mind.

Rogers said he respects Son's right to represent himself, but noted anyone not well versed in the law may have difficulties making his case.

In short, experience matters.

"It's obvious you wouldn't want to go into a gunfight with a knife," he said by way of comparison.

Deputy District Attorney David Wolf said afterward the judge made the right decision. He said Son has a constitutional right to represent himself, and Bush followed the law in allowing him to do so.

But, like Rogers, he questioned Son's decision.

"It's like that old joke says, 'If you represent yourself you have a fool for a client,'" Wolf said.

There are already signs Son is encountering problems. He remains in custody at a Stockton facility and said he relies on others to retrieve the volumes he needs from the law library, and he doesn't have access to certain websites attorneys do.

Son's preliminary hearing - during which a judge decides whether there's enough evidence for a defendant to be tried on the charges against him or her - was postponed Wednesday to Aug. 20 to allow Son more time to prepare.

The death penalty has not been waived in Son's case. Wolf said District Attorney Lisa Green will decide whether to seek death after the preliminary hearing.

Son is charged with "assault by a life prisoner with force causing death." It's similar to a murder charge, but more specific to Son's circumstances since he was already serving life without the possibility of parole when his cellmate was killed.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports say Son and Michael Graham were housed together at Wasco State Prison when Graham was found dead the evening of Oct. 10, 2011. Graham had been serving a 2-year term for failing to register as a sex offender.

He died from multiple blunt force trauma, according to the reports.

Son is serving a life sentence stemming from a 2011 torture conviction where DNA evidence linked him to a 1990 gang rape in Orange County.

He's notable for his short stature - he stands 5 feet 4 inches tall - but stocky build. A former mixed martial arts fighter, he competed as a heavyweight at 236 pounds.

In addition to playing "Random Task" in the 1997 hit "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," Son appeared in several action films.

(source: The Californian)


Modoc woman accused of rancheria slayings held for trial

Recordings of a rampage that left 4 people dead at a Paiute Indian tribe council meeting in February were played in a Modoc County courtroom Wednesday.

Afterward, visiting judge John T. Ball ordered a jury trial for Cherie Lash Rhoades, 44, the former tribal chairwoman who stands accused of fatally shooting 4 victims - 3 of them family members - and wounding 2 others.

The violence erupted as Rhoades and her son were being evicted from housing at the tribe's Cedarville Rancheria, said Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk. The tribal council was conducting an eviction hearing with a judge, who appeared by telephone in a proceeding that was recorded.

At Rhoades' preliminary hearing Wednesday, Funk played the recording. A gunshot could be clearly heard, followed by the sound of screaming and the crying of a baby identified as the 5-day-old infant of one of the victims. The district attorney also played a video recording from the tribal office's surveillance system.

Killed in the Feb. 20 attack were Rhoades' brother Rurik Davis, 50; her niece Angel Penn, 19; her nephew Glenn Calonicco, 30; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47, a tribal administrator who managed evictions. All were shot with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and pronounced dead at the scene.

Melissa Davis and Monica Davis, victims in the alleged attempted murders, are both recovering, Funk said.

As recordings of the attack were played in the courtroom in Alturas, Rhoades held her head in her hands with her elbows on the defense table.

Funk charged her with 4 counts of murder and a special circumstance alleging multiple murders that makes her eligible for the death penalty.

"Death is definitely not off the table," he said.

Funk also charged Rhoades with 2 counts of attempted murder, each with sentence-lengthening enhancements for the use of a firearm and infliction of great bodily harm. 1 additional enhancement charges Rhoades with using a knife in an attempt to commit murder.

Rhoades had been suspended 3 weeks before the attack pending a federal investigation into allegations that she embezzled at least $50,000 from the 35-member tribe.

In March, she pleaded not guilty to the murder charges and has been held without bail since her arrest on the day of the shooting.

Judge Ball scheduled her arraignment for Aug. 13.

(source: Sacramento Bee)


Testimony: Tsarnaev pals partied during search for bombers

Despite their suspicions Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was 1 of the Boston Marathon bombers, his inner circle cuddled on a couch watching the Oscar-nominated film "The Pursuit of Happyness" and passed a pot pipe at the height of the hunt for the accused bomber and his brother, according to court testimony.

"I had a little suspicion, yes. Yes, you're right," a smiling Bayan Kumiskali - testifying with a grant of immunity from federal prosecutors - acknowledged on a videotaped deposition played yesterday for jurors in the obstruction of justice trial of her boyfriend's roommate, Azamat Tazhayakov.

The Kazakhstan native, at times giggly, at times appearing tired and brusque, said Tazhayakov and her longtime Russian beau Dias Kadyrbayev were later "shocked and disappointed" their University of Massachusetts Dartmouth classmate hadn't told them he helped carry out the April 15, 2013, terrorist attack for which he'll face the death penalty if convicted.

On April 18, 2013, 3 days after the tragedy, and after the FBI released unnamed photos of Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan as their suspects, Tsarnaev texted Kadyrbayev and told him he was leaving and to go to his dorm room and take whatever he wanted. Kumiskali, then a student at Babson College, testified Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov returned to their New Bedford apartment with UMass classmate Robel Phillipos to party.

(source: Boston Herald)


20 witnesses to testify against Nsenga's widow

The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has summoned 20 witnesses including 5 engineers to testify against Kampala business woman Jackline Uwera Nsenga accused of killing her husband.

Yesterday, senior principal state attorney Susan Okalany told court presided over by Justice Duncan Kaswaga that the engineers examined the gate that was allegedly knocked by the suspect.

"My lord the number of witnesses is swelling every day ready to testify against the suspect," she said. She added that the scene of crime report will also be presented in court to act as evidence.

Uwera is alleged to have driven over her husband.

Okalany said the police did not properly record witness statements that is why she wants them to appear in court and testify.

Meanwhile, the trial judge adjourned the case to today (Thursday) for hearing.

Uwera appeared before High court in Kampala to answer charges of murder. The charge attracts a death penalty sentence on conviction. She pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Prosecution alleges that on January 10, 2013, Uwera returned at their home in Bugolobi at around 9:00pm, parked her vehicle Reg. N0. UAL 933M outside the main gate and pressed the bell.

It furthure alleges that in response her late husband walked towards the gate and opened for her to effect entry but the accused instead accelerated her vehicle past the gate, knocked him down and dragged him for some considerable distance along the concrete pavement, leading to Juvenile Nsenga Kananura's death.

Prosecution furthur alleges that the marriage between the couple had become quite turbulent and the accused (Uwera) had on several occasions issued specific and general threats against her late husband.

(source: New Vision)


Parliament wants death for nuclear offence but MPs go missing

On Monday, 7 June, Parliament passed the Bill on the amendments to the Radiation Protection Act (RPA).

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan told the House that the amendments will now criminalise nuclear-related offences, such as threatening to use nuclear material to harm the public.

Also, and more importantly, the "Act allows for the imposition of the death penalty if the action causes fatalities." (See CNA.)

"Our view is that these punishments send an appropriately strong signal that the government regards these as very grave offences. The provisions are tightly-scoped and I want to assure the House that it does not extend the death penalty beyond Singapore's existing legislation," Dr Vivian said.

But when it came to the vote on the amendments, there was a lack of a quorum for the Bill to be passed.

In other words, most of the MPs were missing from the House.

According to the Constitution, a minimum of a quarter of the 87 MPs must be present in the House to vote on a Bill before it can be passed into legislation.

It was Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), Associate Professor Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University (SMU), who pointed this out to Deputy Speaker Charles Chong.

"I think, in order for this Bill not to be challenged on the basis that it's not constitutionally passed, can I just clarify that we do have a quorum?" he asked the Speaker, when the Radiation Protection Act amendments were to be passed.

Mr Chong agreed and rang the division bell to summon the MPs back to the Chamber.

The vote was then called and the Bill was passed.

What is perplexing is why so many MPs - at least 65 - were absent for the vote on such an important Bill.

While Dr Vivian may have said that currently there "are no nuclear facilities in Singapore at the moment, so this aspect of the Act prepares for future scenarios", one would think the amendments are nevertheless just as serious given that the imposition of the death penalty is being legislated into law.

It makes one really uneasy and to ask if MPs really do know what the legislation mean, or entail, given their apparent lackadaisical attitude.

It is even more worrying when you consider that this - the lack of a quorum - happened a 2nd time later in the day at the same sitting of Parliament for other amendments.

Here we have a Bill seeking to impose the death penalty for an offence and MPs go missing when they are suppose to vote on it.

Professor Low Teck Seng, the chief executive officer of the National Research Foundation was reported to have said, "Many of our neighbours are looking at nuclear technology and it is important, as the Prime Minister says, for us to be aware, be knowledgeable and, as such, be able to assess the technology and its impact on Singapore - be it in terms of the potential it has for us, in terms of the risk we face, as well as the ability to harness its potential in every aspect."

With Singapore clearly and seriously considering the potential of using nuclear power and building nuclear power plants, one would have thought that MPs would take every discussion of the issue, especially in Parliament, very seriously indeed, even if we do not currently have these nuclear plants in our midst.

Parliament issues the Order Paper at least a day before Parliament sits so MPs know what is on the agenda. And in the Order Paper are the Bills which are to be debated and voted on.

So, our parliamentarians know that there would be votes taken during various proceedings.

There is thus no excuse to be absent - without valid reasons.

Yet, as the media reported, Monday's shortage of MPs in the House is not a new thing - it has happened in 2012 as well. Twice, in fact - the same as Tuesday.

And both times - in 2012 and on Tuesday - it was an unelected MP, Eugene Tan, who pointed out the absence of a quorum.

I think the People’s Action Party's Whip (and the Workers' Party one as well) should remind its members of the seriousness of legislation and the solemn responsibilities they have as representatives of the people.

And imposing the death penalty for an offence should never be taken lightly.

Sadly, on Tuesday, our MPs fell short of what was expected.

The manner in which the death penalty is passed into law in this case is very disconcerting indeed. It is done almost nonchalantly. Frivolously, even.



Bird to fly home after escaping death penalty

Perth resident Dominic Bird has escaped the death penalty for a second time and is waiting for Malaysian authorities to return his passport so he can return home.

The former truck driver was initially arrested in March 2012 at a cafe near his flat in Kuala Lumpur after allegedly supplying an undercover police officer with 167 grams of methamphetamine.

He was acquitted on September 4 last year, but re-arrested minutes before boarding a flight home to Australia after prosecutors launched an 11th-hour appeal.As he arrived at court on Wednesday, Mr Bird said he was confident about his chances.

'I'm confident in the lawyers. I think they've done a good job until now. I feel that they're going to continue to do so today,' Mr Bird said.

Prosecutors also had 1 more avenue of appeal available to them.

Mr Bird said he was prepared for that prospect.'It could still be a bit more of a drawn-out process,' Mr Bird said.

'I'm remaining optimistic about the result; I think we'll do well.

'I've prepared myself for the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) appealing again, so that's still an option they can exercise.'

The Malaysian Court of Appeal rejected the prosecution's bid to have the High Court's decision overturned.

Possession of more than 50 grams of the drug carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

In 2012, the prosecution's case collapsed amid allegations of corruption - including drug trafficking - against its star witness, drug squad detective Luther Nurjib, who was also responsible for Mr Bird's arrest.

Mr Bird has always maintained he was set up by Inspector Nurjib, who last year was found guilty of contempt of court and fined RM2000 ($A665) after it emerged he had threatened and attempted to bribe a witness in the case.

(source: Sky News)


Another China woman held, RM400,000 syabu seized

Barely 15 days after a woman from China was arrested for smuggling drugs into the state capital, the Customs Department foiled another attempt after detaining a Chinese woman for smuggling 2 kilograms of methamphetamine or syabu valued at RM400,000 at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA-T2) on Sunday.

The 24-year-old suspect, who had flown in from Hong Kong at 11.25pm, was nabbed after Customs enforcement officers detected the drug hidden inside the suspect's luggage after going through the scanning machine.

State Customs director Datuk Janathan Kandok said the modus operandi of the syndicate was similar to the previous case on June 22.

"Investigation shows the drug was wrapped in a plastic bag and hidden inside a secret compartment of the luggage.

"Further investigation revealed that the crystal-like substance is believed to be Methamphetamine, weighing about 2kg and valued around RM400,000," he told a press conference at the State Customs Department headquarters here yesterday.

Janathan said investigation revealed that the suspect had flown in from Hong Kong on an AirAsia flight before taking the next flight to Peninsular.

He said the suspect had been remanded for investigation under Section 39B (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952 for drug trafficking which carried the death penalty upon conviction.

This is the 2nd such case in less than a month where on June 22, a 21-year-old woman from China was caught smuggling about 4.8 kilograms of Methamphetamine valued at RM930,000 at KKIA-T 2.

(source: The Borneo Post)


Nkomo farm murderer sentenced to death

A High Court judge has described as cold, calculated and callous, the senseless killing of 2 workers at the late Vice President Landa John Nkomo's ranch as he sentenced the murderer to death.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Andrew Mutema, sitting on circuit in Hwange, convicted Pardon Mpofu of Jumbika Village in Lupane of murdering Nhlanhla Dube, 21, and Pilate Moyo, 28, and dumping their bodies in a disused septic tank before looting their property in October last year.

On Tuesday, Mpofu, 22, claimed he momentarily lost his mind when he committed the crimes and spoke of a "loud silence" that followed the fatal striking of his victim with a hoe handle on the head at VP Nkomo's Winterblock ranch in Insuza.

He also claimed to have seen Dube lacing his food with a dipping chemical.

Mpofu recounted how he executed Moyo, unprovoked, with a knobkerrie, moments after they had taken baths separately.

In passing sentence, Justice Mutema, with Elias Ndlovu and Elizabeth Chazanga as assessors, said the murders were executed in cold blood, well calculated and callous.

"You knew the 2 had gone to receive their salaries. Your denial that you never killed them for their property and money isn't surprising because you know the consequences.

"It was unprovoked, premeditated and in cold blood. It was callous and swiftly carried out with no conscience and you have failed dismally as a witness with your fictitious defence which is economic with the truth."

Mpofu could have avoided the death sentence had he committed the offence 5 months earlier because the new constitution states that the penalty cannot be imposed on a person who was 21 years old when the crime was committed.

The constitution also exempts the elderly above 70 years and women from the death penalty.

Said Justice Mutema: "You were 21 years and 5 months when you committed the heinous crime. The provisions of the new constitution that the death sentence should not be passed on you is nullified."

The judge said Mpofu would remain in prison "awaiting his date of death".

"You've the right to appeal the sentence at the Supreme Court. If the sentence is not revoked you will be allowed to appeal to the executive," he said.

Asked why the death penalty should not be imposed on him, a visibly shaken Mpofu could only say, "May the court forgive me for what I did".

Justice Mutema said Mpofu's account differed with the postmortem findings where Dube appeared to have been hit more than once because he had a depressed skull fracture, head trauma and a fractured mandible with right pieces missing.

Moyo suffered head injuries, a deformed left skull, multiple skull fractures and lacerations from several blows to the head indicating that he was struck more than twice on the head, the court heard.

Earlier on, a standoff ensued between the State and Mpofu's lawyer Givemore Muvhiringi of Dube and Partners who struggled to avert the death sentence for his client on the basis of his age.

Muvhiringi argued over his client's constitutional eligibility for hanging after conviction and gave 3 different dates of his birth.Proceedings had to be adjourned as the court did not have a correct record to confirm Mpofu's date of birth until an order was given to get a copy from the Registrar's office in Lupane which proved he was born on April 10, 1992.

In the police statement, Mpofu claimed he was born on May, 5, 1991.

An unknown date was given to Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services while the court was given September,22, 1992 by Mpofu.Mpofu, who worked as a herdboy at Paddock 14, says he earlier had a quarrel with Dube of Bubi in the presence of Moyo of Nkayi before killing them and dumping their bodies in a septic tank.

He took $5 from Moyo which he said he used as transportation from the farm as well as their clothing, cellphones and a satchel before fleeing.

State witnesses, Dube's girlfriend Anastasia Ndlovu, Tinashe Munsaka, 20, also a former herdboy at the farm and Moyo's wife Lawrain Tiyanani, 21, corroborated with the state case in validation of their consensual police statements.

The wooden hoe handle Mpofu used weighed 1,1kgs and was 125cm long with a head circumference of 14cm.The knobkerrie was 76cm in length and weighed 400 grammes.

Prosecutors say Mpofu sold himself out by going to Anastasia's home after the double murder at around 1AM and found her asleep before using Dube's phone for lighting.

When Anastasia asked what he wanted, Mpofu said nothing but laughed at her when she threatened to tell Dube of his trespassing, not knowing he had killed and disposed of him, the court heard.

The state led by Whisper Mabaudhi told how on October 5 last year, Dube returned to the farm from a pay break after passing through Anastasia's residence.

Mabaudhi said Moyo was spotted by Munsaka in the company of Mpofu heading towards their work plot.

On October 7 Anastasia, who was Dube's girlfriend, saw Mpofu wearing Dube's cap.

"On October 8, Mpofu was spotted by Anastasia in possession of Dube's cellphone. Later on October 14, farm manager Ndabezinhle Ncube visited Winterblock in the company of Kembo Nkomo acting on information that there was no one at the farm," said Mabaudhi.

"Ncube discovered the bodies of the two workers in the septic tanks." (source: Bulawayo24 News)


Justice and politics in Ethiopia

Andargachew Tsige, an exiled Ethiopian opposition leader with British nationality, could be facing the death penalty after apparently being arrested and sent back to his country of origin while on a trip to the Gulf. While transiting in Yemen on June 23rd, during a journey from Dubai to Eritrea, Andargachew mysteriously ended up on a plane to Ethiopia. It is believed that he was detained by Yemeni officials and handed over to members of Ethiopia's security apparatus.

Andargachew was charged by the Ethiopian authorities with terrorism and sentenced, in absentia, to death, at 2 separate trials between 2009 and 2012. Following post-election protests in 2005 he had fled the country and been granted asylum in Britain, where he created Ginbot 7, a leading opposition movement.

Now in the hands of the state which had legally prepared for his execution, his family are concerned about Andargachew's safety. "The British embassy has still not been granted consular access," says his wife, Yemisrach Hailemariam, who lives in London. "We are deeply concerned he is being tortured and they will wait for his wounds to be healed before anyone can see him."

There are concerns that Yemen's government did not follow the correct procedures for extradition. It is believed that Andargachew was arrested and flown to Addis Ababa without British officials being formally alerted. According to Anand Doobay, an extradition expert at Peters & Peters, a law firm, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations the British embassy should have been notified that one of its citizens was being detained and given the chance to visit him. "Sometimes there is no legal extradition process and then there is a risk that rendition can take place following informal contact between police forces," he says.

In recent years Ethiopia has conducted several extraditions with varying degrees of legality. Recently Okello Okuway, a Norwegian national, was arrested in South Sudan and extradited to Ethiopia. In June he was brought to court and faces terrorism charges. Prior to that Kenya detained and extradited two Ethiopian members of the Oromo ethnic group accused of having links to Oromo rebels, who were then sentenced to life in prison. One of them died in 2013 serving his term. Kenya also detained and sent a Canadian passport holder back to Ethiopia, where he faces terrorism charges for alleged links rebels from the Ogaden region. Human Rights Watch states that various other political refugees have been sent back from neighbouring countries.

"The region has always been dangerous for political activists," says Jawar Mohammed, an Ethiopian political commentator based in America. "However, in the past kidnapping or assassinations were carried out by the Ethiopian security. Now such action is being undertaken by security services of the neighboring countries. This makes it extremely dangerous." He believes that Yemeni officials may have been eager to take a knock at the government of Eritrea, Andargachew's destination, because of the ongoing conflict between Yemen and Eritrea over the Hanish islands in the Red Sea.

Now that Andargachew is on Ethiopian soil, where he is considered a terrorist, his fate remains uncertain. His wife has called on the British government to step up their efforts. "If the British government allows Ethiopia to get away with kidnapping its citizen in international territory and stands by as they continue to torture, detain, and potentially execute my husband, then it sets a very bad precedent for the security of any Brit travelling abroad," she says. British diplomats say they are demanding access to Andargachew, so far without success.

(source: The Economist)


HRCSL proposes death sentences be converted to life in prison

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) is to propose that death sentences imposed on convicts be converted to life imprisonment.

HRCSL Commissioner Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa said in addition, the commission would also recommend that the government explore the possibility of ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966. The Second Optional Protocol is aimed at abolition of the death penalty.

Explaining the reasons behind the commission's proposal to the government to relax death sentences to life imprisonment, Dr. Mahanamahewa said the commission had made visits to prisons island-wide. In the course of these visits, members had met with inmates who were on death row. "There are currently over 540 prisoners on death row. We met many of them and they have serious mental and physical illnesses. Though they have been sentenced to death, the death penalty has not been implemented in Sri Lanka since 1976," Dr. Mahanamahewa observed.

Not knowing when and if their sentences will be carried out is causing enormous suffering to these individuals, who are appealing to authorities to either hang them or release them, the commissioner added.

"Of course, we're not suggesting that they be released. There must be punishment for a crime. However, the right to life is a basic human right that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though that guarantee is missing from the 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution."

While the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee right to life, the Supreme Court has given a broad interpretation on the matter in cases such as Sriyani Silva vs. OIC of the Payagala Police in 2003, where it was stated an individual had a right not to be arbitrary detained, tortured and thereafter deprived of life, the commissioner pointed out.

Therefore, it is recommended that the right to life of these prisoners be guaranteed through their sentences being commuted to life in prison, Dr. Mahanamahewa said.

In addition, the HRCSL has also noted that issue of overcrowding at Sri Lanka's prisons was a serious problem, with prisons set to accommodate 4000-6000 being used to accommodate 14,000-16,000 inmates. At any rate, prisons are increasingly becoming rehabilitation centers where inmates are being trained to reintegrate to society once they serve out their sentences, and this is what Sri Lanka should also look at, he further stated.

(source: The Nation)


Powerful Iranian figure linked to executions dies from illness

Ayatollah Mohammadi Gilani, one of the 1st judges of Iran's Revolutionary courts and a former member of the Guardian Council, died on Wednesday July 9 after a period of illness.

Mohammadi Gilani was hospitalized in Tehran on July 20 due to a lung infection.

He had served in the past 30 years as the head of the Revolutionary Court, the head of the Supreme Court, a member of Parliament in three sessions, a member of the Expediency Council and a member of the Guardian Council.

He was also reportedly involved in the arrest and death sentences of his own two sons, who were members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)


Rape & murder of Thai girl sparks calls for capital punishment

In Thailand, the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train has left the country shocked, and many calling for the death penalty. The victim, known as Kaem, was attacked when she was travelling to Bangkok from southern Thailand on a cross-country sleeper train with her older sister.

A male train worker confessed to sneaking into her carriage in the dead of night and opening a window to stifle her cries.

He allegedly threw her body from the moving train and returned to a night of drink and drugs.

Now there are calls for the 22-year-old to pay for the crime with his life.

The maximum punishment for murder is already the death penalty, although it is rarely enforced.

But in a country where a rape occurs every 15 minutes, this case has sparked a huge debate over the use of capital punishment for violent sexual assault.

Government data showed that last year, there was an average of 87 cases of rape per day.

The current punishment for rape in Thailand is 20 years' imprisonment.

However, Thailand's online community has been using social media to demand change.

A petition has gathered more than 15,000 signatures.

Celebrities too have joined the discussion.

Media personality Ampairat Techapoowapat said: "Many people have been vocal in this case, posting and sharing the message that rape should equal execution. This is a reflection of public opinion. We all want an end to this problem. We are bored of hearing about these stories. They happen every day and nothing changes in Thai society."

However, while the country remains under a military government, rights groups against the widening of the death penalty are concerned this public outcry could push the army into making a quick decision over amendments to the law.

Activist Chumaporn Taengkliang said: "This is the number 1 fear during this sensitive period. The military government is prepared to do anything to appease the public."

While the military government does hold the power with regards to amending the laws, lawyers suggest that this may not be ideal.

Former senator Wanchai Sonsiri said: "If the National Council wants to change the law it would be very easy. However, I don't think that it should be the responsibility of the NCPO. There should be a wider debate and then put it to the newly-installed parliament for consideration."

While calls for the death penalty in this case may not prove successful, it has mobilised Thais to call for change, and ensure crimes like this can be prevented.


JULY 9, 2014:


Jury finds man competent to stand trial in Dallas death penalty case

A Dallas County jury found Kenneth Wayne Thomas competent to stand trial in a death penalty case.

Testimony in the capital murder trial is expected to start this week. It is not clear when.

Thomas, 53, has low intelligence, brain damage and mental illness, according to testimony and court records. His attorneys had argued that Thomas could not help them with his defense or understand the proceedings.

Had be been found incompetent, he would have gone to a mental hospital where doctors would have tried to restore him to competency to stand trial at a later date.

Thomas was convicted in separate 1987 trials for killing attorney Fred Finch, 66, and his wife, math professor, Mildred Finch, 64. Thomas stabbed Fred Finch 20 times and Mildred Finch 80 times while burglarizing their South Dallas home on 1986.

Thomas was sentenced to death. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new punishment hearing in 2010. Jurors could not previously consider whether low intelligence, brain damage, and mental illness should have resulted in a life sentence rather than death.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Connecticut Supreme Court to hear death penalty appeal

The state Supreme Court is set to hear the appeal of a death-row inmate convicted of ordering the 1999 killings of a woman and her 8-year-old son in Bridgeport.

The court is scheduled to take up the appeal of Russell Peeler Jr. Thursday morning.

Peeler was condemned to die for ordering his brother to kill Karen Clarke and her son, Leroy "B.J." Brown. The boy was a key witness against Peeler in another murder case.

Peeler's brother, Adrian, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to kill Clarke and her son.

Russell Peeler raised 33 appeal issues, including the racial makeup of the jury, and the state's 2012 decision not to include current death row inmates in the 2012 repeal of the death penatly.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense: Bar death penalty in Pa. murder retrial

A defense attorney is asking a judge to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in a man's retrial in the murder of a woman whose body was found in a central Pennsylvania park a decade ago.

An appeals court ordered a new trial in Blair County for 41-year-old Paul Aaron Ross in the June 2004 murder of 26-year-old Tina Miller, whose body was found partially submerged and bound with duct tape at Canoe Creek State Park.

The (Altoona) Mirror ( ) reports that defense attorney Thomas Dickey argues that jurors decided against a death sentence in the 1st trial, so it should be barred in the retrial.

But prosecutors argue that jurors merely were unable to agree on capital punishment, so it should remain an option in the retrial.

(source: Associated Press)


Amanda Hein defense cost taxpayers $91,000

Northampton County taxpayers spent nearly $91,000 to defend Amanda C. Hein, an Allentown woman who murdered her newborn after secretly giving birth in the bathroom of a pub.

Made up of 5 doctors and 2 investigators, the hefty legal bills incurred by the Northampton County public defender's office on Hein's behalf are by no means atypical for a death penalty case.

In 2012, Freemansburg cop killer George Hitcho Jr.'s unsuccessful attempt to stay off death row cost the county more than $116,000. The year before, mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard's defense came in at $122,000.

Hein, 27, is serving life in prison without parole after a jury found her guilty in April of premeditated murder. But unlike Ballard and Hitcho, her case never went to the death-penalty sentencing phase, due to a plea bargain she entered into days before her trial.

Under it, Hein admitted to killing her newborn last year at Starters Pub in Lower Saucon Township, with the jury asked only to decide whether she committed 1st- or 3rd-degree murder. In exchange, prosecutors dropped their bid to seek her execution.

Hein's legal bills, provided Tuesday after a request by The Morning Call, totaled $90,668. Nearly half of the expense - $44,521 - came from mitigation expert Louise Luck's Court Consultation Services, who researched Hein's background to combat a possible death sentence.

Because of the plea bargain, Luck was never called as a witness at trial. Three others hired by the defense - private investigator Rod Devine ($9,872), psychologist Frank Dattilio ($5,500) and psychiatrist C. Neill Epperson ($11,200) - also did not testify.

Death-penalty cases are consistently the priciest, given the stakes. The cost is spurred by a stringent appeals process that has created a virtual checklist of experts whom defense lawyers must hire - or else risk the higher courts ordering a retrial.

"It's a lot of money," said Michael Corriere, the former chief public defender and Hein's lead attorney. "These cases are expensive to try."

Corriere and his successor, Chief Public Defender Robert Eyer, defended the expenses as necessary.

"That case was a death-penalty case until about 10 days before we selected a jury," Eyer said.

Under case law and American Bar Association guidelines, capital defense attorneys are required to research their clients' pasts and mental health, or hazard being deemed ineffective at appeal. The expenses, depending on whom you ask, demonstrate either the runaway industry created around capital punishment or the high price that society pays for its decision to try to uphold the ultimate penalty.

District Attorney John Morganelli is a critic of the cost of experts, and has called their bills in prior cases exorbitant and unnecessary. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

At trial, the defense argued that Hein believed her baby boy was already dead when she placed him in a plastic bag and left him in the tank of a toilet after secretly giving birth in the stall of Starters Pub on Route 378.

The body was discovered Aug. 19 by a cleaning crew at the since-closed pub after the toilet wouldn't flush. Opening the tank, employees uncovered a child of 33 to 36 weeks gestation, authorities said.

The boy died of suffocation, with cold-water exposure and a lack of medical care contributing, authorities said. But medical experts for the defense disputed the child's condition at birth, noting he weighed less than 4 pounds and concluding he was born in a nearly moribund state.

3 doctors testified for the defense: pathologist Supriya Kuruvilla ($3,600), neonatologist Andrew Unger ($12,350) and Albert Sarno Jr., an expert in high-risk pregnancies ($3,625).

To the jury, Morganelli countered that Hein knew exactly what she was doing when she hid her pregnancy from those around her, delivered without telling anyone, then returned, bleeding, to her friends to watch the hourlong conclusion of the pay-per-view wrestling event for which they had come.

(source: Morning Call)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Waldrip loses another appeal to stop execution

A federal judge has rejected murderer Tommy Lee Waldrip's appeal to stop his lethal injection set for Thursday evening, finding that a successful execution of another man 3 weeks ago invalidates the claim that not knowing the source of the drug to be used puts Waldrip at risk of an unconstitutionally painful death.

Senior U.S. District Judge William O'Kelley repeatedly referenced in his order Tuesday the findings of another federal judge who heard the appeal of Marcus Wellons, who was put to death June 17 by a drug made specifically for him by a compounding pharmacy that was not identified.

Wellons also argued that Georgia's secrecy law threatened his Eight Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment because he could not verify the quality of the drugs made by an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

"There has been no indication that anything untoward happened then," O'Kelley said about Wellons' execution, which was the 1st since Georgia law made a state secret the identities of the source of lethal injection drugs and the anyone who participated in the execution. "The (Department of Corrections), operating under the current drug protocol as well as the secrecy act, has carried out an execution which was undisputedly successful from an Eighth Amendment perspective."

O'Kelley said Waldrip could not argue there was a "substantial likelihood" that his death could be unconstitutionally painful in light of "the reliability of the DOC's source for pentobarbital and its personnel" in the Wellons execution.

In their last-minute appeals, Waldrip's lawyers are making the same arguments they made last month as Wellons' execution approached. Both times lawyers for the condemned challenged the 1-year-old law that was adopted to get around the difficulty of finding lethal injection drugs in light of the nationwide increasing public pressures on the companies that make them.

Georgia has never named the compounding pharmacy that made the sedative pentobarbital for Wellons' and now Waldrip's executions.

Waldrip was sentenced to die in Dawson County for the 1991 murder of a convenience store clerk who was supposed to testify against Waldrip's son in an armed robbery trial 2 days later.

But, according to testimony, the Waldrips and Howard Livingston, Tommy Lee Waldrip's brother, intercepted Evans as he was driving home from work on April 13, 1991. First they fired birdshot into the windshield of Evans' truck. Then the younger Waldrip and Livingston drove the truck, with Evans in the passenger seat, to a neighboring county where the 3 men beat him to death with a blackjack, buried him and set his truck on fire.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Execution scheduled for Thursday

It was 23 years ago in April that the community was rocked by one of the most brutal murders in Dawson County's history.

Keith Lloyd Evans was driving home from his job as night manager of a small grocery story in nearby Cumming when he was run off the road and forced out of his truck. A short time later, Evans was shot, beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave.

Tommy Lee Waldrip, 1 of 3 men convicted in the slaying, is set to be put to death at 7 p.m. Thursday. A clemency hearing is scheduled for later today.

Law enforcement personnel involved in the 1991 investigation remain haunted by the case, which began two years earlier when Evans witnessed an armed robbery at Food Center on Hwy. 9 in Forsyth County.

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle was working as a patrol deputy, about 3 years into what has become a more than 26-year law enforcement career.

"It was one of the most high profile cases Dawson County had back then and the first time I'd ever seen anything like this happen," Carlisle said.

Evans was set to testify against Waldrip's son, John Mark Waldrip, and his brother-in-law, Howard Kelly Livingston, in the trial for the 1989 armed robbery. The trial was scheduled to start Monday, two days after he was reported missing.

Evans had called his mother moments before leaving work the night of April 13, 1991, saying he was on his way home. Just after midnight, a friend spotted his truck on fire.

After putting out the blaze, authorities found an insurance card at the scene for a car belonging to the Waldrip family.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner, who was a relatively new sheriff's deputy at the time, picks up the investigation from there.

"At that point, knowing that Keith Evans was supposed to testify on Monday in a case involving John Waldrip, son of Tommy Waldrip, it became pretty clear that it looked like foul play," Tanner said.

The next morning, Tanner and Carlisle watched from across the street as the Waldrips attended Sunday services at Harvest Baptist Church on Hwy. 9. Waldrip reportedly led a prayer and the children's choir that morning.

"That's what always floored me," Carlisle said. "How can you kill a boy on Saturday night and go to church on Sunday morning like nothing ever happened? I never could understand how he could have done that."

After church, Carlisle and Tanner followed Waldrip to a prison in Floyd County, where he was visiting an incarcerated son.

"We were waiting for him to come back out, but we were also waiting on the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] to get a search warrant for the vehicle he drove up there in," Carlisle said. "As soon as he came out, we confronted him with the warrant."

On the return trip to Dawsonville, Carlisle said Tommy Lee Waldrip made a comment from the back seat that caught his attention and possibly set the stage for what authorities would find as the investigation progressed.

"He said something like, 'I didn't mean for it to go this far,' or, 'We didn't mean for it to happen this way.' I remember writing that in my report when I got back to Dawson County," Carlisle recalled.

Meanwhile in Dawsonville, authorities received a report about what appeared to be a crime scene on Hugh Stowers Road. In addition to evidence indicating a struggle, blood and part of a watch also turned up.

"At one point during the investigation, Tommy Waldrip confessed to being involved in the killing of Keith with his son John and his brother-in-law Howard Livingston," Tanner said.

The suspect then led authorities to a shallow grave in neighboring Gilmer County where the trio had buried Evans and to a second spot containing the gun.

"It was a very intense period of time between the time we discovered his vehicle and the time the confession came and we found his body," Tanner said.

"Dawson County, Forsyth County and the GBI worked jointly with a taskforce, along with hundreds of volunteers from the community, canines, helicopters from the state, searching for Keith, searching everywhere from the Food Center to the woods around where the truck was burned."

The 3 suspects were each charged in the murder and faced separate trials three years later. The proceedings were held in different counties to avoid a tainted jury from Dawson's population, which was only about 10,000 at the time.

In October 1994, a jury found Tommy Lee Waldrip guilty of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated battery.

He also was convicted of 5 counts of aggravated assault, theft by taking motor vehicle, arson in the 2nd degree, intimidating a witness and concealing a death.

In addition, he was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to death.

In separate trials, John Mark Waldrip and Livingston were sentenced to life in prison for their part in the slaying.

Tanner said he could only speculate as to why the jury in the elder Waldrip's case would choose the death penalty, while 2 other panels went with life sentences for the same act.

"This is my opinion, but it could be that the jury was looking at a person who is older, who is a father of adult children, and they may hold that person at a higher level of accountability because they're the father figure," he said.

"They're supposed to be responsible, and they were involved in a very brutal and cruel murder of a very innocent person who has done absolutely nothing wrong."

More than 2 decades later, Carlisle said the community has seen its share of violent crime.

Meredith Emerson, who was murdered in Dawson Forest by serial killer Gary Hilton, and 12-year-old Levi Frady, whose 1997 slaying remains unsolved, are among the local agency's most notorious cases.

"Then there was also the woman who was found on Thanksgiving Day floating in Lake Lanier, bound and tied with blue skiers rope tied to a concrete block," Carlisle said. "We found the killer. I know we did, but they brought in a jury from Hall County and found him not guilty.

"He's now sitting in a Missouri state prison for trying to kill another woman the same way."

For those reasons, Carlisle said it's time for justice to be served in Tommy Lee Waldrip's death penalty case.

"He's had his appeals. He went to trial," the sheriff said. "He's been found guilty. He's exhausted all of his appeals and it's time for the state of Georgia to uphold the sentence of the court."

Tommy Lee Waldrip's last attempt to overturn the death sentence, argued before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2013, was denied in August. His request to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied May 27, according to court records.

A clemency hearing is set for later today, during which he will be able to present any additional evidence in an attempt to avoid the execution and live out the remainder of his sentence in prison.

Evans' family will also have the opportunity to present evidence as to why clemency should be rejected.

Evans' sister, Angela DeCoursey, said the family plans to attend the execution.

"We will be there. This gives the family at least some closure," she said.

Tanner, who carried the legislation that allows the state to obtain the drugs needed to perform lethal injection, as well as protects the privacy of those involved in the process, said he also plans to attend the execution.

"The legislation passed and it's been appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court," he said. "They upheld it. And the last execution, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so it was upheld all the way to that level.

"Hopefully, we'll continue to see that happen. We need to protect their safety if we're going to ask them to help carry out this process."

(source: Dawson News)


Bishop Wright to take part in anti-death penalty vigil

Bishop Rob Wright will take part in an anti-death penalty vigil and invites others to join him for prayers at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10, outside a state prison in Jackson where an execution is to be conducted. He also welcomes prayers from other locations at that time.

Wright will protest the execution of death row inmate Tommy Lee Waldrip at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, which is near I-75 between Atlanta and Macon.

Waldrip is scheduled to be executed for his part in the 1991 murder of Forsyth County store clerk Keith Evans. Evans was killed before he was to have testified against Waldrip's son, John Mark Waldrip, in the younger Waldrip's armed robbery retrial. Evans was a clerk at the store John Waldrip was accused of robbing.

Waldrip's final appeal request, to the U.S. Supreme Court, was denied May 27.

Wright, who oversees 109 Episcopal churches and worshiping communities in middle and north Georgia, opposes the use of capital punishments in all cases.

The bishop took part last month in a protest of the state execution of Marcus Wellons, who was convicted of raping and murdering his 15-year-old neighbor. During that vigil Wright explained his opposition to capital punishment.

'Guilt is not the issue'

"His guilt is not at issue. His human dignity is. Our human dignity is," Wright said June 17 outside the prison. "His execution will not bring back the 15-year-old girl he killed. Neither does capital punishment deter crime. The death penalty is state-sanctioned lynching. A placebo for grief. Blood lust. An eye for an eye. Nowhere does Jesus affirm this practice."

Wellons' death was the nation's 1st execution since April when an Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after a botched lethal injection.

Waldrip is set to become the 55th person executed in Georgia since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated following a 12-year lapse due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1964 that suspended all executions in the United States.

The prison is at exit 201 on Interstate 75. Take GA 36 East toward Jackson. The entrance to the prison is on the left about 1/4-mile from the interstate.

(source: Anglican Communion News Service)


Clemency hearing to be held for Georgia death row inmate

A clemency hearing is set for Wednesday for a Georgia death row inmate convicted of murder in the slaying of a store clerk who was scheduled to testify against his son.

Tommy Lee Waldrip, who's 68, is set to die Thursday evening at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted and sentenced to death in the April 1991 slaying of 23-year-old Keith Evans in Dawson County.

Evans was a store clerk in Forsyth County and had testified in the 1990 armed robbery trial of Waldrip's son, John Mark Waldrip. The younger Waldrip was convicted, but he was granted a new trial and released on bond, according to Georgia Supreme Court records from Tommy Lee Waldrip's case. Evans was set to testify in the retrial. (source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Supreme Court Review)

2 days before his scheduled execution, lawyers for condemned killer Eddie Wayne Davis asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to review a lower court's order rejecting the claim that lethal injection could be cruel and unusual punishment in his case.

Davis' lawyers argued in Circuit Court in Bartow, and again to the Florida Supreme Court, that one of the three lethal injection drugs could interact with a possible blood disorder that Davis is thought to have, causing him excruciating pain during the execution process.

The lawyers also are seeking a stay of execution until these issues can be reviewed.

Prosecutors responded Tuesday, maintaining that Davis' lawyers failed to prove he was very likely to feel extreme pain.

The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Davis, 45, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Kimberly Ann Waters, who was taken from her Lakeland home in March 1994 and found a day later in a nearby trash bin.

(source: The Ledger)


Eddie Davis loses death row appeal

The Florida Supreme Court denied an appeal by Eddie Davis, who brought up last-minute complaints about his 2013 clemency bid. Davis was sentenced to die for the 1994 murder of his ex-girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter, Kimberly Waters. The execution comes amid heightened scrutiny of lethal injections in the wake of Oklahoma's botched killing of Clayton Lockett.

(source: NBC news)


Time for moratorium on death penalty

I firmly believe that if Americans knew the facts about the death penalty, we would put an end to it as soon as possible.

Most people assume that the only argument against the death penalty is a moral one, but it is so much simpler than that. The death penalty is much more expensive than life in prison.

America is one of very few countries to still employ execution, and when you see the company we keep, you'll be mortified to be among them.

The death penalty is also racist and classist, displaying an alarming disparity between exactly what types of people receive the sentence.

I believe it is morally reprehensible, putting us on a level with the criminals we seek to hold accountable.

Perhaps the most frustrating fact about the death penalty is that we have killed and will continue to kill innocent people. A lot of innocent people.

Florida has the greatest number of death row exonerees - 24. Yay! Except what that actually means is we placed 24 innocent people on death row before we realized in the nick of time that they had done nothing wrong and generously decided not to murder them.

(Oh, and sorry about those many years you spent behind bars. Our bad.)

We need a moratorium and we need it now. Lives depend on it.

(source: Katie Harding, Longwood)

(source: Letter to the Editor, Florida Today)


Vigil Series: An Interview with Father Phil Egitto

As part of our blog series on execution vigils, I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Father Phil Egitto, the Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Daytona, Florida. Since Fr. Phil became a pastor in 1998, he has organized and led vigils outside the state execution facility for every single execution, making him one of the most involved Floridians in the movement to abolish the death penalty. As yet another execution under Gov. Rick Scott approaches, Fr. Phil took time out of his vacation to talk vigils, the death penalty, and the importance of action. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

BG: How did you first get involved with vigils?

PE: When Florida reinstated the death penalty, I was a college student at the University of Florida, and the church invited us to go. And basically since then I've been committed to attending vigils. I lived out of state for a few years, but when I became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes a priest friend reminded me that there were executions going on - it's not well publicized really. And I decided to start going again in 1998. And I've been to all of them since. Under [Gov.] Rick Scott the process has been sped up, so we have been having a lot of executions. But it was when I was a student that I realized how wrong it is to execute people.

BG: Can you tell us about that realization? Why do you feel opposed to the death penalty?

PE: Well, the obvious - that killing people who kill people doesn't stop people from killing people. That logic makes absolutely zero sense. But I believe it's wrong to kill people because I believe all life is sacred. I'm a priest, and I believe that life is a gift. It is given by God and it is taken by God. It is always wrong for us to take the life of another. Execution is nothing more than state sanctioned murder - the state saying it's okay to kill someone. But, my faith says it's never right to kill people. It's against the basic dignity of human life.

BG: And so you organize people around this belief to participate in vigils?

PE: Yes. When I started going to executions, I began to educate my community, making them aware that our state was killing people. So we started carpooling. And eventually we began to rent a bus, 5 or 6 years ago. So the 1st step is inviting people. We not only invite our own church, but also people from other churches. We've had Unitarians, rabbis, students, and many others join us. We take anybody who wants to go. We've never filled the bus, but it seats about 55 people and we usually have about 40.

BG: What exactly do the vigils entail?

PE: What it entails - we as Catholics pray - so we have an abbreviated form of our evening prayer combined with some of our funeral rights, many of the prayers we would do at a death. And we bring in a musician and sing. Music is an integral part of how we as Catholics pray as a community, and so we sing things like Amazing Grace, or Jesus Remember Me, or Come Into Your Kingdom. We hand out three or four Psalms and we intersperse that with scripture and prayers. We keep it as ecumenical as possible, meaning we try to use prayers that are inclusive of other Christian denominations. It's ecumenical but not interfaith. However, about 2 or 3 executions ago, they were executing a Muslim gentleman, so I invited the Imam from Orlando and several Muslim people in the community. They weren't able to come, but we did include several Muslim prayers in our service, out of respect for the faith of the one being executed.

BG: What would you say is your greater purpose in holding these vigils?

PE: We believe that there is a tremendous amount of evil being willingly done. And we come and stand outside, for us and for those being executed. And we try to bring a positive energy of love and compassion into an energy that is filled with hate, revenge, violence, and death. We believe our presence is cosmically important. That's why we don't just have a prayer service at our church, we go into the depths of the place where the violence and evil is being committed, and we bring love, compassion, and forgiveness to an energy that is the exact opposite. I believe our presence there negates some of that negative evil from radiating out to the rest of the world. We're there for humanity.

People talk about justice being served, justice is not being served. Revenge is being served. I know that people in our culture want to punish people and think that they will get a sense of healing. But what I find is that you do not get a sense of healing at all, the pain is compounded and now not only is their loved one a victim, but someone else's loved one is a victim. Violence begets violence.

BG: You said it's important to you to have an actual physical presence at the site of the execution. Does that serve a purpose in raising awareness about the cause?

PE: I believe the fact that you're talking to me right now is because I go to every execution. I bring 40 people to every execution, that fact does increase awareness about our commitment to justice. There have been articles in local papers, and we're usually on the news. I believe our presence there is contributing to a changing tide in our country. I tell my 5 people, they tell 5 people, and those people tell 5 more people, and the word gets out. When people are willing to voice that this is inhumane, wrong, and isn't solving anything, people start to recognize that our culture does not need to execute people.

Awareness is important, but at the same time, even when people weren't aware, I would tell people we were here because it's who we want to be. Attending executions affects who we are as individuals. If we do not go, we are basically agreeing with the death penalty. We can say we don't agree with it, but if we are not there, we are complicit in the murder by our actions. So we go because we want to tell the governor and humanity that this person is being killed not in my name. It's one thing to say you're against the death penalty; it's another to take time out of our lives for this cause. It makes us who we are as people that we are willing to say "not in my name are you going to kill somebody." We want to be able to say "I went and did everything in my power to stand up against this." By being a person who puts their actions where their words are, it changes who we are and who we are becoming.

BG: Any memorable moments that have occurred at vigils?

PE: 80 % of the time, there is a weather phenomenon. It's very fascinating. One time it was pouring rain and there was lightning everywhere. But over the place of the execution, the sky opened and it was bright and sunny. It was as if the person was being taken into heaven. Another time I remember, the boyfriend of a victim who had been killed by the man being executed was with us. He did not want killing to beget killing. As he was standing there, a bird flew out of the sky and landed on his hand. I had never seen a bird land on someone's hand. It was so bizarre. I don't know what that meant [laughs]. Last time we were there, there was an extraordinary amount of dragonflies. And they had never been there before. They were landing on us and were unafraid of people. One time it was cows. After we rang a bell they all started to moo wildly. There have been all kinds of experiences.

Father Phil is cutting his vacation short in order to lead a vigil at the execution of Eddie Davis on July 10th. If you are interested in attending, you can show up at Our Lady of Lourdes at 2:30, or meet up with the bus at one of the stops along the way. Call 386-255-0433 for more information. All are welcome to attend. Father Phil says they have never run out of room before but it'd be fabulous if they did. "If we needed a 2nd bus, it'd be a great day."

(source: NCADP)


North Linden man could face death penalty in April stabbing death

A North Linden man could get the death penalty if convicted in the stabbing death of an 89-year-old woman during a break-in at her East Side home.

A Franklin County grand jury returned a death-penalty indictment this week against Willie L. Dumas, 58, of McGuffey Road.

He is accused in the death of Anna Eblen, who was repeatedly stabbed in her house at 3095 E. 12th Ave. on April 17. Columbus homicide detectives said they used DNA evidence to connect Dumas to the killing.

The indictment charges him with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence.

In Ohio, the death penalty can be sought for those charged with committing murder as part of or while fleeing from an aggravated robbery or aggravated burglary.

It is the 1st death-penalty indictment returned by a Franklin County grand jury since December 2011, when prosecutors obtained capital charges against Daniel Teitelbaum for the murder of his business partner, Paul Horn.

Teitelbaum was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in April after jurors declined to recommend death.

The number of death-penalty indictments in Franklin County has declined dramatically since 2005, when Prosecutor Ron O'Brien's office began scrutinizing cases to determine whether there was a realistic chance of getting a jury to recommend a death sentence.

Neighbors said Eblen lived with her husband, Harold, 92, at their home near Port Columbus. He had been sick and was being cared for outside the home when she was killed.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Hearing delayed for suspect in Gina Burger death

A Mahoning County grand jury Thursday will hear the case of Ricki D. Williams IV, 18, who is charged with the death of 16-year-old Gina Burger.

William's scheduled preliminary hearing today was canceled so the case can be direct presented to the grand jury.

Ken Cardinal, an assistant county prosecutor, said the state will present its case to the grand jurors "to allow them to indict this individual on crimes which he may or may not have committed, but we have every intention to seek a murder conviction and death-penalty specification, if the grand jury sees fit."

Williams appeared in Mahoning County Area Court with lawyer David Taylor, and his family was with Atty. Thomas Zena, who would be an additional lawyer for Williams if the death-penalty specification is added.

Williams is charged with aggravated murder, 2 counts of kidnapping, intimidation, tampering with evidence, 2 counts of abduction, possession of criminal tools, abuse of a corpse and 1 misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass.

Police believe Williams used a knife to kill Burger on June 23 and then placed her body in a trash bin outside a township apartment complex June 24. Her body was found June 25 in a Tri-County Industries landfill in Grove City, Pa.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


Death penalty still on the table for accused Bean Station pharmacy shooter

The man accused of a deadly shooting at a Grainger County pharmacy is still facing the death penalty despite a request to get it off the table.

Jason Holt is accused of killing 2 people and injuring 2 others in May of last year while robbing the Down Home Pharmacy in Bean Station.

6 News was in the courtroom Tuesday as the judge denied the defense's request to strike down the death penalty during a motions hearing that lasted more than 2 hours. The judge also went over dozens of records to decide what could be allowed in to the trial as evidence.

The victims' families packed the courtroom hugging each other for comfort. When Jason Holt entered, he avoided eye contact with the victims' side if the courtroom.

Holt has been charged with 1st degree felony murder in the shooting deaths of Down Home Pharmacy owner Stephen Lovell and customer Richard Sommerville. Holt is also charged with two counts attempted 1st degree murder. Investigators say 2 pharmacy workers were also shot during the robbery of prescription pills from the pharmacy.

The judge again denied the defense's request to strike down the death penalty. The judge also went over which audio tapes from phone calls made by holt in jail would be allowed. The judge ruled that surveillance video from the pharmacy of the incident would be allowed in to trial as evidence. The judge also determined which crime scene and autopsy photos the jury would be allowed to see.

The state made a case for why some pictures are relevant to prove their case.

"Items were recovered along the way from the pharmacy to the next road. Items were recovered in that area and items were recovered in the barn which is in the middle of the picture there," said Holt.

Holt's attorney has said in court that Holt was suffering from brain damage after a motorcycle accident 10 years ago.

The next motions hearing is scheduled for September 4 at 9 a.m. to suppress defendant's statements.

September 30 is the trial date.

(source: WATE news)


Suspect charged with murder in IMPD officer's death

Major Davis Jr., 25, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn, the Marion County prosecutor's office announced Wednesday.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said his office has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Curry has filed for an enhancement, which would mean an addition 5-20 years in prison if Davis is convicted. That enhancement was made possible by new sentencing guidelines that went into effect July 1 - just days before Renn was shot and killed.

"It justifies consideration," Curry said of the death penalty.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Davis had an AK-47 style weapon and officers on the scene said Davis refused to show his hands. When he did, they say he began firing at officers, who returned fire. The autopsy revealed that Renn was struck by 3 rounds. 1 hit him under the right armpit, striking his right lung and heart. He was also shot through his vest and his leg.

The court document goes on to say Davis' mother purchased the gun for him.

"There's no reason to believe the purchase was illegal in any way," Curry said.

Davis is accused of killing Officer Renn after a shootout Saturday night at 34th Street and Forest Manor Avenue. At last check Davis was in critical but stable condition at Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital.

(source: WTHI TV news)


No death penalty, but problems remain in justice system; Someone has to be willing to stimulate discussion and boldly correct the wrongs that can be found in an imperfect system of justice.

By most measures, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan is not a sympathetic figure.

The gruff 80-year-old Kankakee politician, whose bold leadership effectively brought an end to Illinois' flawed death penalty system more than a decade ago, has become a punch line, a symbol of political corruption and a historical footnote in a state where 4 of the last 7 governors went to prison.

Governor from 1999 to 2003, Ryan was indicted in 2003 and convicted in 2006 on multiple counts of corruption, including racketeering and tax fraud. He spent more than 5 years in federal prison.

He made new headlines last week when he agreed to be interviewed by newspapers and The Associated Press after being released from a year of federal supervision, which was the official conclusion of his prison sentence.

Among other things, Ryan talked about his efforts to bring an end capital punishment in Illinois. In 2000 Ryan placed a moratorium on executions. In 2003 he emptied death row. The moratorium stood until 2011, when Illinois abolished capital punishment.

At the time, Illinois' death penalty system, which had been in place since 1977, was shown to be hopelessly flawed.

According to the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, 298 men and women were sentenced to death in Illinois between 1977 and 2000. During that time, the state put 12 prisoners to death, while 13 death row inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted. In all, 19 of the 298 have been exonerated - 2 as recently as 2009 - casting continued serious doubt on the fairness, integrity and uniformity of a death penalty system in Illinois.

Ryan's responses were bold, aggressive and necessary, but they also were not without a great deal of agonizing consideration on his part as he weighed input from advocates for the accused and advocates for crime victims and their families.

In fact, Ryan - once a supporter of capital punishment - said in his interviews last week that he still regrets not stopping the 1999 execution of Andrew Kokoraleis, accused of kidnapping and killing Lorraine Borowski, 21, of Elmhurst in 1982. Kokoraleis was killed by lethal injection and was the last prisoner executed in Illinois.

Ryan's actions at the time stirred national debate on the topic of capital punishment. Unfortunately, that's all been overshadowed by his later corruption trial and conviction. He said he would like to resume his work nationally to encourage other states to abolish the death penalty, but admitted his felony convictions make him persona non grata.

"I'm an ex-convict," he said. "People tend to frown on that."

Indeed. But if there is a lesson to be learned from Ryan and Illinois' sordid history with the death penalty, it's that elected leaders must be willing to speak out against injustice and advocate for bold changes to the system - even when it's unpopular to do so.

No one is suggesting undue sympathy or praise for the former governor, who brought a different kind of shame to Illinois. Worth considering, though, is that problems remain in the justice system. Disparities in sentencing guidelines, racial bias and serious flaws in Illinois' juvenile prisons deserve the same kind of attention that Ryan brought to the problems with capital punishment.

Someone has to be willing to stimulate discussion and boldly correct the wrongs that can be found in an imperfect system of justice.

(source: Editorial, State Journal-Register)


Man Charged In Cold Case Murder Could Face Death Penalty

A man charged in a decade-old cold case murder may face the death penalty.

The Carlisle Mercury says the death penalty will be sought against Shawn Fryman, who was indicted in the 2003 murder of David Sadler in Nicholas County.

Sadler's wife, Brenda, and his son, found him dead from a single gunshot wound inside their home. Brenda says Fryman was her husband's best friend.

Investigators said Fryman had always been a person of interest in the case and that it was talking that lead to new interviews, more information and new evidence until they finally had enough for an arrest.

Fryman was arrested in February of this year in the case. Josh Abnee has also been charged in connection with Sadler's death.



Resentencing trial begins in death row case

Jury selection is underway for an Arkansas man whose death sentence was overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Frank Williams was sentenced to die for the 1992 death of farmer Clyde Smith in Lafayette County. But the high court ordered a new sentencing in 2011, citing problems in the original sentencing in 1993.

This week's sentencing trial was moved to Miller County from Lafayette County because of pretrial publicity.

According to the Texarkana Gazette ( ), jury selection began Monday and could last several days. The jurors will be tasked only with determining a sentence for Williams - not whether he is guilty of the crime.

Prosecutors say they're again seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


State NAACP chapter pushes to abolish death penalty in Missouri----Several other organizations are also pushing to remove the death penalty.

National attention has been drawn to the constitutionality of the death penalty due to the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett that took place in April.

After a period of 7 weeks free of executions in the United States, 3 executions were scheduled in 24 hours last Tuesday, 1 of which took place in Missouri.

John Winfield, executed in Missouri on June 18, was the 75th person to be executed in the state of Missouri since 1976.

The Missouri chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has vowed to enact the largest-ever push for abolishment of the death penalty after Lockett's execution and the recent acceleration in the rate of executions taking place in Missouri.

NAACP has historically opposed the death penalty and its core values lie in its mission that states "the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination."

Thus, the Missouri NAACP plans on using more time and resources than ever before to rally in opposition of executions.

"There's no way we can really decide what life has more value," said Carmen Vajgrt, an MU freshman.

African-American defendants receive the death penalty 3 times more than white defendants, according to a 2007 study conducted by the Yale University School of Law.

NAACP has previously succeeded in advocating against the death penalty, especially in the case of Troy Davis, an inmate on death row in 2011 that the NAACP believed to be innocent.

Though Davis was executed, the NAACP brought attention to the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty, and has additionally succeeded in abolishing the death penalty in several states.

Though the Missouri chapter of the NAACP has vowed to spend more time and resources than ever to rally against the death penalty, other organizations in the state of Missouri are working to fight against the death penalty as well.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) continually works against execution. In the seven weeks following Lockett's execution, there have been 2 executions in Missouri. One was halted; the other, Winfield's, was carried out.

"Our goal is to always oppose the death penalty," said Allison Grammer, the administrative coordinator for the MADP. "Clayton Lockett's botched execution invigorated (our movement), but didn't change the way we approach the death penalty."

To fight against executions such as the last 2, the MADP's goal is to spread the word. They have written Gov. Jay Nixon, asking to hold all executions, particularly because of the secrecy concerning the drugs used in executions. They additionally send out alerts and press releases, as well as encouraging the public to write the governor.

Rita Linhardt, senior staff associate for the Missouri Catholic Conference and chair of the MADP board, helps both organizations with lobbying, spreading the word and urging the public to contact the governor.

"There are many people who oppose the death penalty in the state of Missouri," Linhardt said. "For some, it's a moral perspective. They believe all life is sacred, even for those that have committed a great evil. Some see it as a human rights issue: people are entitled to their dignity. Some view it from a justice perspective: the death penalty is arbitrary and unfair. And some look at it financially, seeing that the death penalty costs more."



Another execution means more violence

To the editor:

A man, John Middleton, is scheduled to be executed on July 16 because of a terrible crime he committed in 1995. While I do not justify his actions, I do not believe that his actions require him to pay for them with his own life. Violence only begets more violence, and the death penalty is a deterrent for no person in the United States.

I do not know this man and could never understand a reason "good enough" to commit murder. However, I don't feel that his death will solve anything or extinguish the anguish his victims families feel. It will only cause more hurt and pain in world that is already filled with too much of both.

Please help in stopping the violence in our state by helping to stop the execution of this man, John Middleton.

Regina Spayd, Kansas City

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Examiner)


Trial For Man Accused Of Killing Weleetka Girls Set For Next Month

Suspected murderer Kevin Sweat was back in an Okfuskee County courthouse Wednesday for a status hearing.

Sweat is charged with killing 2 young Weleetka girls in 2008. Skyla Whitaker, 11, and 13-year-old Taylor Placker were shot to death while walking along a dirt road less than 1,000 feet from Placker's home. Sweat is also charged with the 2011 murder of his girlfriend AshleyTaylor, 23.

Sweat waived his right to a jury trail which removed the death penalty from the case. A judge will now decide his punishment.

Gretchen Mosley, Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, is Sweat's attorney. She said the state agreed to dismiss the death penalty option in the 3 charges of 1st degree murder in return for Sweat's agreement to have his guilt or innocence decided by a judge.

"Mr. Sweat has the obvious benefit of not facing the death penalty in the event that the state succeeds in their prosecution," she said. "We wanted to basically eliminate that risk for him while still advocating his innocence."

Sweat is charged with three counts of first degree murder. All three homicides will be heard in one setting before Judge Lawrence Parish.

The trial is set to begin August 4, 2014.


Judge to consider request to postpone July 23 execution of Arizona death row inmate

A judge is scheduled to consider a request Wednesday to postpone the July 23 execution of an Arizona death row inmate until officials reveal details about the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

Inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood's lawyers say prison officials violated their client's constitutional rights by refusing to provide detailed information about his upcoming execution, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

Attorneys for the state say there is no First Amendment right to the information Wood seeks and that the courts have consistently found that prisoners have no rights to such details.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January when an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

The Oklahoma inmate writhed on the gurney after he was given a 3-drug combination. The execution was stopped after a doctor determined there was a problem with an IV in the inmate's groin. The Ohio execution was the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.

Arizona prison officials intend on using the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - as were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, now 55, is scheduled to be executed in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debra Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Wood fatally shot Dietz's father in the chest. His former girlfriend was on the phone calling for help when Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her in the chest. Wood acknowledged his role in the killings but said they weren't premeditated.

Wood's lawyers said the information on the drug combination is necessary in determining whether his execution would violate his constitutional rights. They alleged the state's lethal injection procedures constitute an experiment on death row inmates.

Attorneys for the state say the drugs that will be used in Wood's execution are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that state law protects the identity of the drugs' sources.

(source: Associated Press)


State Supreme Court Tosses Double-Murder Conviction And Death Sentence, Citing Juror Misconduct

The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously threw out the first degree murder conviction and death sentence of a Riverside County man, citing juror misconduct.

Justice Carol Corrigan said Fred Lewis Weatherton didn't receive a fair trial in 2002 because 1 of the jurors decided and discussed the case before the start of deliberations.

Weatherton was convicted of shooting to death two neighbors, whom he had earlier been smoking crack with, during a 1998 robbery in Indio. A 3rd neighbor who was seriously wounded identified Weatherton as the shooter.

Investigators also matched footprints at the scene to shoes Weatherton was wearing when he was arrested shortly after the incident.

The surviving victim, Nelva Bell, said she survived by "play[ing] dead" after Weatherton shot her twice.

After the jury returned its guilty verdict, but before the start of the penalty phase, multiple sources reported to the court and counsel that jurors were discussing the case. After examining several jurors, Riverside Superior Court Judge James Hawkins determined that a juror who was identified only as P.P. had disregarded the court's instructions not to form opinions about the case and not to discuss the case with fellow jurors prior to deliberations.

The judge concluded, however, that P.P.'s "serious misconduct" didn't "rise to the level that there is a substantial likelihood [of bias]." The evidence, the trial judge said, showed that P.P. engaged in deliberations, was not "dead set" on a verdict of guilty, and only voted initially for guilt to see what others had to say.

He found that, before deliberations began, P.P. decided that his 1st vote would be guilty, but he would thereafter listen to the other jurors and engage in deliberations.

Corrigan, however, said the evidence of prejudicial misconduct was "overwhelming."

She summarized:

"It is undisputed that P.P. repeatedly talked about the case outside deliberations. He did so in direct defiance of the trial court's repeated admonitions. He discussed the case during his daily commute, at lunch, during cigarette breaks, in court hallways, and in elevators. He telephoned non-deliberating jurors during deliberations, reporting what was occurring in the jury room. Multiple jurors testified that, long before the prosecution rested its case, P.P. conveyed a belief in defendant's guilt....He also told jurors, both before and during deliberations, that defendant deserved the death penalty, indicating that his mind was made up regarding guilt. Jurors testified that, on the first day of trial, P.P. stated that Bell's testimony was dispositive on guilt."

The trial judge erred, Corrigan explained, in failing to shift the burden to the prosecution to show a lack of prejudice, once he found serious misconduct on the part of the juror. Given "the nature, scope, and frequency of P.P.'s misconduct, along with his repeated and admitted untruthfulness," the court could not find that the prosecution had rebutted the presumption, and was thus required to reverse, the justice said.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office told The Associated Press it had not decided how it will proceed.

The case is People v. Weatherton, 14 S.O.S. 3433.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)


On Cruelty----Judith Butler

The Death Penalty: Vol. I by Jacques Derrida, translated by Peggy Kamuf; Chicago, 328 pp, 24.50 pounds, January, ISBN 978 0 226 14432 0

You are invited to read this free book review from the London Review of Books.

'Whence comes this bizarre, bizarre idea,' Jacques Derrida asks, reading Nietzsche on debt in On the Genealogy of Morals, 'this ancient, archaic (uralte) idea, this so very deeply rooted, perhaps indestructible idea, of a possible equivalence between injury and pain (Schaden und Schmerz)? Whence comes this strange hypothesis or presumption of an equivalence between 2 such incommensurable things? What can a wrong and a suffering have in common?' By way of an answer, he points out that 'the origin of the legal subject, and notably of penal law, is commercial law; it is the law of commerce, debt, the market, the exchange between things, bodies and monetary signs, with their general equivalent and their surplus value, their interest.'

In the 1st volume of The Death Penalty, Derrida considers the jus talionis, the principle of equivalence according to which a relation is set up 'between the crime and the punishment, between the injury and the price to be paid'. Debt, in On the Genealogy of Morals, gives Nietzsche a way of understanding how 'the "consciousness of guilt", "bad conscience"' came into the world. Earlier he laments 'that whole sombre thing called reflection', in which the self becomes its own object of relentless scrutiny and self-punishment. If one wants to keep a promise, one must burn memory into the will, submit to - or submit oneself to - a reign of terror in the name of morality, administer pain to oneself in order to ensure one's continuity and calculability through time. If I am to be moral and keep my promises, I will remember what I promised and remain the same 'I' who first uttered that promise, resisting any circumstances that might alter its continuity through time, never dozing when wakefulness is needed. The promise takes on another meaning in Nietzsche when what I have promised is precisely to repay a debt, a promise by which I enter into, and become bound by, a certain kind of contract. What I have apparently burned into the will, or had burned there, is a promise to remember and repay that debt, to realise the promise within a calculable period of time, and so to become a calculable creature. I can be counted on to count the time and count up the money to make the repayment: that accountability is the promise. I can count on myself, and others can count on me. If I prove capable of making a contract, I can receive a loan and be relied on to pay it back with interest, so that the lender can accumulate wealth from my debt in a predictable way. And if I default, the law will intervene to protect his interest in the interest he exacts from me.

Nietzsche asks how debt and restitution became the primary framework for conceptualising criminality and punishment. Tracking the persistence of Roman law in 19th-century German jurisprudence, he argues that any injury is conceptualised as a debt, and every punishment understood as a payment. Hence the field of suffering is pervasively economised, and the contract becomes the salient model for human exchange. According to Nietzsche, all manner of injury is now modelled on the creditor-debtor relation. As injury comes to be conceived as payment in default, the psyche develops a penitentiary logic. The psychic form that payment takes is guilt, understood as a kind of perpetual payment, the debt never finally discharged. Punishment thus becomes a form of subjectivation: in punishing the criminal for having inflicted an injury/incurred a debt, a subject is formed who punishes her or himself for having failed to be calculable. And if she or he had proven to be calculable, would no injury have occurred? Not quite, for the only way to become a promising and calculable animal, according to Nietzsche, is precisely by inflicting injury on oneself, burning a memory into the will such that the memory burns time and again, every time the promise is broken and all the time until the promise is fulfilled.

Guilt becomes the psychic modality of the debtor who can neither quit nor fulfil the contract. What, then, is the psychic modality of the creditor? Nietzsche remarks on those Roman laws that allowed for debtors to be dismembered by their creditors or their legal proxies. Derrida continues the thought:

The creditor is granted a psychic reimbursement ... Instead of a thing, instead of something or someone, he will be given some pleasure, some enjoyment [jouissance], a feeling of well-being or greater well-being (Wohlgefuehl), he will be given a pleasure that consists in the voluptuous pleasure of causing the other to suffer ... 'faire le mal pour le plaisir de le faire,' that is, of doing harm for the pleasure of it ... In place of some equivalent, something or someone, one grants in return, as payment, the pleasure of doing violence (Genuss in der Vergewaltigung).

And though Derrida accepts the translation of Vergewaltigung as 'violence' (usually Gewalt), it is also the German word for 'rape', raising the problem of whether it is possible to distinguish between sexualised and desexualised forms of destructiveness in forms of legal punishment. Indeed, the move to cast injury as a debt that requires restitution produces both guilt and sadism: the debtor becomes the one who is always paying in a situation in which nothing can finally be paid off; the creditor is always punishing, and always enjoying that apparently infinite task. The idea of equivalence, introduced first by jus talionis, allows one thing to substitute for one another by way of restitution. The point, though, seems not really to become whole again, but to profit and punish more joyfully for an indefinite period of time. Keeping his parts circulating is what brings the creditor his pleasure, and punishing debts, establishing them as unpayable, opens up a potentially infinite future for sadistic delight. The prison is established on the model of social debt, so that sentencing becomes a way of regulating, and extending, the time of debt.

For Nietzsche, and in this Derrida follows him closely, legal punishment, apart from serving its stated purposes, maintains a furtive vocation in which sadism operates through the terms of both law and morality. Nietzsche found that cruelty - indeed, 'festive cruelty' - pervaded these 2 domains. This is explicit in Bentham's reflections on punishment, but it can also be found operating in a more subtle fashion in Kant's categorical imperative, which, Nietzsche claimed, 'reeks of [reicht von] cruelty'. When Kant justifies the death penalty on the basis of the categorical imperative, he demonstrates the Nietzschean point that cruelty can be, and is, masked as morality, and that the pleasure in inflicting cruelty can be, and is, rationalised as moral duty. Presaging Lacan's 'Kant avec Sade', Nietzsche seeks to expose the joyous cruelty of Kant's morality. Derrida takes it all a step further, figuring Meursault, the absurdist murderer in Camus's L'Etranger, as a paradigmatic Kantian:

If I know why I kill, I think I am right to kill and this reason that I give myself is a reason that one must be able to argue for rationally with the help of universalisable principles. I kill someone, and I know why, because I think that it is necessary, that it is just, that whoever found himself in my place would have to do the same, that the other is guilty towards me, has wronged me or will wrong me and so forth ... given that the crime is meaningful, deliberate, calculated, premeditated, goal-oriented, it belongs to the order of penal justice and is no longer dissociable from a condemnation to death, from a properly penal act. At that point, the distinction between vengeance and justice becomes precarious.

But Nietzsche also writes something more, namely that commercial contracts model the social contract, which requires that humans undergo an internalisation of their aggressive drives. What is internalised or, indeed, repressed by entering into the social contract is 'hostility, cruelty, joy in persecuting, in attacking, in change, in destruction'. This internalisation can operate as sublimation, giving rise to the soul, the entire inner world, bad conscience and guilt - everything that makes man interesting. The development of this capacity comes at a very high price, what some would call neurosis, and what Nietzsche describes as that 'serious illness that man was bound to contract under the stress of the most fundamental change he ever experienced - that change which occurred when he found himself finally enclosed within the walls of society and of peace'. The social contract, which requires the subject to forfeit the option of acting aggressively and destructively, produces a psychic formation in which the subject pummels her or himself and thereby risks becoming her or his own executioner.

Can those who oppose the death penalty escape cruelty? Nietzsche intimates that cruelty may well be primary. It can be repressed, which is a way of turning cruelty on oneself, or directed towards others in some moralised version, for example by preferring imprisonment to the death penalty (protracted cruelty, that is, over immediate death). The prohibition on aggressive action is an aggressive attack on aggression which paradoxically preserves, or redoubles, aggression even as it seeks its eradication. No one can finally do away with it. 'The figure of abolition,' Derrida writes, 'is that of a death of the death penalty.'


Derrida turns to Freud's reflections on aggression and the death drive in order to pursue this broader question about cruelty. Beyond the Pleasure Principle calls into question the exclusive operation of the pleasure principle as the organising principle of psychic life. Are there modes of destructiveness that can't be explained by the pleasure principle? The death drive emerges as a way of explaining repetition compulsions that fail to establish any kind of sustainable mastery. They appeared to Freud first as part of 'war neurosis' and were set apart from forms of neurosis organised by wish-fulfilment. These forms of compulsive repetition were not in search of gratification: they were unwanted repetitions that wore down the ego. Derrida is frank: 'At issue is a diagnosis of a cruelty that has no contrary because it is originary.' This dialectical inversion characteristic of bad conscience - the redoubling of aggression in the effort to establish its opposite - proves important for Derrida's approach to the death penalty and to abolitionism.

For Derrida, those who oppose the death penalty - as he did - are caught up in the same problem as those who are for it, but why? Are abolitionists perhaps seeking to eradicate the death drive - the 'hostility to life', as Derrida puts it, that is 'inherent to life itself'? Is that their furtive purpose? 'Surpassing cruelty by an apparent non-cruelty,' he continues, 'would be merely a surpassing in cruelty, a surfeit of cruelty.' He notes that Robespierre changed his mind from opposing to affirming the death penalty in the space of 2 years, depending on what seemed more useful to him - whether he feared for his own life or wished for the death of his opponents. Those who oppose the death penalty, such as Beccaria and sometimes Bentham, seem to prefer a long, drawn-out form of cruel imprisonment, which raises the question: which camp in this debate stands for the more humane form of punishment? Wary of forms of aggression disguised as benevolence, Derrida asks whether some abolitionists are committed to other forms of cruelty that are masked by elegant moral formulations, ones that rationalise prolonging the time of cruelty and the tenure of sadistic delight.

Just as Nietzsche found Kant's categorical imperative to be soaked in blood, so Freud thought that the Christian dictum 'love thy neighbour as thyself' was pretty much impossible to realise. Why should my neighbour love me? he asks. And why should I love my neighbour? 'It is very probable that my neighbour, when he is enjoined to love me as himself, will answer exactly as I have done and will repel me for the same reasons.' Freud suggests that we can only really love those we know and that it is absurd to ask us to love the rest of humankind: hostility seems a more reasonable default position.

What seems to be at stake here is neither a random attitude of hostility nor even an occasional propensity towards cruelty, but the broader problem of the death drive. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle and then in Civilisation and Its Discontents, written 10 years later, in 1930, Freud writes about a kind of destructiveness that seeks to dismantle social forms constructed on the basis of aim-inhibited social bonds, such as family, community and nation. He remarks on several occasions, in particular when considering the ambivalence constitutive of love, that the pleasure principle and the death drive work in tandem, but they should be distinguished nonetheless in terms of their final aims. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud makes 2 inverse kinds of claim about the relationship between pleasure and the death drive: 1st, he gives the example of sadism, in which the death drive 'enters the service of the sexual function'; 2nd, just pages later, 'the pleasure principle seems actually to serve the death instincts,' which are 'especially on guard against increases of stimulation from within, which would make the task of living more difficult'. So each can be at the service of the other, which means that neither is necessarily primary. The death drive leads us towards death, in a circuitous return to the inorganic that militates against a progressive sense of time, repeatedly taking apart the social relations we build and returning us to a state of quiescence. So the 2 drives - or principles, if you prefer - seem to meet up again in this final quiescence in which all that is built is undone, scattered, returning the fading ego to an inorganic condition in which the organism is relieved of all excitation.

We know that civilisation produces unhappiness because social norms demand that we not act on all the desires on the docket for gratification. Ideally, aim-inhibited social bonds create communities, and the sublimation of immediate desires creates artworks or institutions or works like Freud's. But the other problem with civilisation is that it seems actively to dismantle what it has built, to destroy what one brings into being and to attack those one loves; it takes aim at its own creations and attachments, pursuing a furtive vocation - repetitive, unknowing - that works in a contrary direction to its forward-oriented tasks and all conceits of progress. Freud ends Civilisation and Its Discontents, remarking that civilisation runs the risk of being undone by its own aggression, going so far as to voice his anxiety about the prospect of extermination.

A brief passage in the book proves quite important for Derrida's argument. Freud is writing about the death penalty: 'One is irresistibly reminded of an incident in the French Chamber when capital punishment was being debated.' (I take it that this is the 1790s.) 'A member had been passionately supporting its abolition and his speech was being received with tumultuous applause, when a voice from the hall called out: "Que messieurs les assassins commencent!"' It is as if the call to let the assassins begin their work is of a part with the passions aroused by abolitionist discourse itself. Are abolitionists like anti-pornography campaigners who end up exciting their supporters with their graphic descriptions of the porn they would get rid of? Abolitionism has a different problem, since here it isn't so much desire but the death drive that cloaks itself in moral opposition to its own expressions. Does Derrida's reading suggest that opposition to the death penalty can quickly be converted into its opposite, unleashing a celebratory affirmation of its destructiveness?

Derrida rehearses Baudelaire's criticism of Hugo's abolitionism in 'The Last Day of a Condemned Man' (1829), in which the argument is made that the death penalty should be opposed because the right to life is absolute. Abolitionism in defence of an absolute right to life is, for Baudelaire, as Derrida reminds us, 'doubly guilty': it clings to animal existence and abandons the human. The passion of those who oppose the death penalty is guilty, he remarks, 'because they are afraid for their own skins, because they feel guilty and their tremulations are a confession; they confess, with the symptom of their abolitionism as it were, that they want to save their lives, that they tremble for themselves because ... unconsciously, they feel guilty of a mortal sin.' So the passion against the punishment is articulated by those who are guilty not for what they do, but for what they wish they did not wish - to do away with someone. But also because they fear losing their own lives, so formulate their position not from principle, but from fear of being done away with by another: 'I want to abolish the death penalty because I am afraid of being condemned.'

Derrida's move to expose the way that the abolitionists are implicated in the death drive has a certain intellectual appeal, resting as it does on a dialectical inversion by which those who oppose the death penalty are implicated in its cruelty, especially when they prefer forms of imprisonment. (At one point he generalises from the case of abolitionism, remarking on 'the hypocrisy that animates and agitates the defenders of just causes'.) Here is a rejoinder. Derrida's position implies that the only route to an abolitionist position is through the violent suppression of the aggressive impulse, a redoubling of aggression that is now conveyed and amplified by moral instruments. But given that aggression can be interrupted by more relational orientations, why wouldn't opposition to the death penalty emerge from those? The pleasure principle intervenes to derail aggression time and again, and I have noted already that for Freud the death drive can be brought within the service of the pleasure principle, and that pleasure can serve the purpose of creating and reproducing social bonds. In the context of preserved social bonds, aggression can become agonism, or it can be strictly contained within the rules of a game: a sadomasochistic sexual scene, for example, or some other rule-bound activity.

But there is a more general argument to be made, concerning Freud's idea of emotional ambivalence. This idea is there early on in his interpretations of Hamlet in The Interpretation of Dreams; it gets a chapter in Totem and Taboo and is central to the explanation of melancholia in 'Mourning and Melancholia'. After 1920, it is recast as a mode of entanglement between the pleasure principle and the death drive. There is no overcoming ambivalence in love, since we are always at risk of destroying what we are most attached to and vulnerable to being destroyed by those on whom we are most dependent. According to this later model, Oedipus doesn't necessarily kill the father in order to have the mother (that would be to posit wish-fulfilment as the final aim of all murderous wishes); he could be moved by various unconscious motives in killing the father, and sexual gratification may or may not be among them.

So the problem with Derrida's dialectical inversion is that it relies on the death drive, or its principal exponent, aggression, as the only motive operating in the scene. What ethical decisions emerge from the ambivalent situation of wanting someone to die and at the same time wanting them to live, and even wanting both things with equal intensity, but at different levels of consciousness? Ambivalence isn’t quite the same as hypocrisy. I am a hypocrite if, however furtively, I want someone to die, or am possessed by a murderous wish even as I cloak that wish in a moral argument, say, against the death penalty. I am a hypocrite only if there is a wish I pretend I do not have, but in fact do. In the condition of ambivalence, however, there are at least 2 wishes at work, 2 true motives struggling to coexist despite their incompatibility. What then works against the inner demand that someone pay for a crime with his or her life? Is it only when we might enjoy inflicting further pain on the criminal that we wish she or he would live? Or are there other reasons why we might want them to live? Are there, even within the terms of psychoanalysis, reasons for wanting to keep the other alive that do not primarily rely on our wish to continue torturing that other, even when it isn't someone in particular, but an anonymous other or the general population?

To answer that question, we have also to ask whether there are social relations outside the terms of debt and payment, relations that might be understood as being outside capital, or outside the psychic and moral terms by which injury-cum-debt authorises incarceration and the death penalty. This is already to move from a drive theory to an account of relationality, but that doesn't mean we can dispense so easily with the problem of destructiveness. After all, when Freud posits Eros and Thanatos as 2 separate principles, as drives which belong to the figural language available to him, he is trying to take account of ambivalence. Eros may well be defined as building social bonds through sublimation, but love, we should remember, is also constituted by ambivalence. This is the very point from which Melanie Klein departs, suggesting that the ambivalence of all human bonds is the basis of an ethical demand to preserve precisely the life it is in one's power, and sometimes also in one's interest, to destroy.

'The power of love - which is the manifestation of the forces which tend to preserve life - is there in the baby as well as the destructive impulses,' Klein writes in 'Love, Guilt and Reparation'. The fantasy of destroying becomes coupled with the fear of losing those on whom one is absolutely dependent. To do away with the one on whom I depend for food and shelter and survival is to imperil my own existence. The 'fear of losing' emerges time and again in Klein: 'There is ... in the unconscious mind a tendency to give [the mother] up, which is counteracted by the urgent desire to keep her for ever.' This form of ambivalence emerges developmentally as an emotional bind when individuation isn't complete. But since individuation is never complete, and dependency never really overcome, a broader ethical dilemma emerges: how not to destroy the other or others whom I need in order to live. It isn't a matter of calculating that destroying them would probably be a bad idea. Rather, it is a matter of recognising that dependency fundamentally defines us: it is something I never quite outgrow, no matter how old and how individuated I may seem. And it isn't that you and I are the same; rather, it is that we invariably lean towards and on each other, and it is impossible to think about either of us without the other. If I seek to preserve your life, it is not only because it is in my self-interest to do so, or because I have wagered that it will bring about better consequences for me. It is because I am already tied to you in a social bond without which this 'I' cannot be thought. So, what implications does the thesis of emotional ambivalence in love have for thinking about alternatives to the death penalty and for legal violence more generally? Is there a way to move beyond the dialectical relation between the punishment of the death penalty and the life sentence?


Following Benjamin's 'Critique of Violence', Derrida underscores the toxic intimacy between crime and its legal remedy. The law distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate forms of the death penalty, establishing the procedures by which that distinction is made. It also establishes the grounds on which the state can inflict deadly violence either in war or through such legal instruments as the death penalty. The death penalty, for Derrida, considered as a form of legal violence, closes down the distinction between justice and vengeance: justice becomes the moralised form that vengeance assumes.

It's striking that this view is held in common by Derrida and the activist and scholar Angela Davis. Both called for the retrial or release of Mumia Abu-Jamal (a political prisoner sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of a policeman: his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole in 2012), arguing that his overarching 'crime' was his affiliation with the Black Panthers. Davis understands the alternative between the death sentence and imprisonment as dialectical:

As important as it may be to abolish the death penalty, we should be conscious of the way the contemporary campaign against capital punishment has a propensity to recapitulate the very historical patterns that led to the emergence of the prison as a dominant form of punishment. The death penalty has coexisted with the prison, though imprisonment was supposed to serve as an alternative to corporal and capital punishment. This is a major dichotomy. A critical engagement with this dichotomy would involve taking seriously the possibility of linking the goal of death penalty abolitionism with strategies for prison abolition.

Like Davis, Derrida understands that the death penalty and imprisonment are hardly opposites, but form two modalities of an economy of vengeance. When the state kills, and justifies doing so, it enacts vengeance through its reasoning process; legal violence becomes no different from non-legal violence, except that now the state performs the act and supplies its justification. But for Davis, the task is to move beyond vengeance. Her mentor was at one time Herbert Marcuse, who in Eros and Civilisation, his rejoinder to Civilisation and Its Discontents, suggested that Eros might be expanded to create forms of community that would counter the force of Thanatos, or the death drive augmented under capitalism. He referred to the surplus aggression created under capitalism, and suggested that Freud was describing a very specific social organisation of aggression, not a pre-social death drive. He also thought that revolutionary energy, as it were, could be marshalled against repressive institutions, among them capitalism and the family. There is no drive theory in Davis's work, as far as I know: both sexuality and aggression are socially organised. At the same time, however, there is a clear understanding that political resistance has both to build and destroy. There is no way of getting round that double demand. Davis calls for the abolition not only of the death penalty but of the institution and industry of imprisonment. The negation of exploitative and violent institutions makes use of destructiveness, but also seeks to establish and strengthen social bonds through repair and 'restorative justice' rather than vengeance and retribution.

If we stay within the problem of cruelty's relation to the death drive, we may wonder to what extent the death drive, or aggression, can be fully directed by conscious political programmes such as those proposed by Davis, and whether there is always an excess to destructiveness that can’t quite be controlled or explained by the social organisation of life. The important question here seems to be whether social bonds should be understood within the framework of civilisation, or in some other way. As Freud makes clear in Civilisation and Its Discontents, civilisation will hardly save us: the moral face of civilisation, after all, is vengeance, and prisons are its exemplary institutions. In their place, Davis imagines communities that focus on healing and repair, on forms of responsibility that forge new social bonds for those who may have broken them. These bonds would be explicitly anti-capitalist, and would put an end to racist forms of exploitation. She insists that in the United States, both prisons and the death penalty have to be understood as part of the legacy of slavery, given that the disproportionate number of people in prison and on death row in the US are black or Latino men and, increasingly, black or Latino women. (The NAACP reports that African Americans ‘now constitute nearly a million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly 6 times the rate of whites. Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58 % of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 1/4 of the US population.' Those numbers have increased in recent years. In the US today more than 3000 people are on death row, all of them poor, and most of them African American or Latino.) Davis also argues that love and forgiveness must be pursued as alternatives to retribution. This is not to imply that there is no destructiveness in this picture, but that it takes the form of 'negating' prisons, whose form of destructiveness damages life that ought properly to be repaired and even restored to a broader social world.

Are we really so far from the death drive here? What if we understand the death drive not only as manifested within the individual psyche, or in terms of group psychology, but as something that takes hold of institutions and guides their aims, sometimes with furtive tenacity? The call for an end to imprisonment and to prisons may not be possible, or practical, but it establishes a perspective from which we can see the way that legal remedy is engaged in cruelty. To call for an end to cruelty is to call for the destruction of the institutions of cruelty; the only question that remains is whether it would be possible to control the destructive effects that would follow from the deinstitutionalisation of criminals. The fact is that the destructive consequences of acts that seek to destroy destruction can't be fully known in advance. This is, perhaps, where Freud on the unconscious operation of the death drive seems to have the last word, indicating a future of destruction whose exact contours we can't know, but about which we can only feel anxiety.

For Davis, abolitionism refers to the demand to abolish both the death penalty and prisons, but also to the abolition of slavery, which remains a global phenomenon, active not only in the sweatshops of the developing world but also in coerced agrarian work in the US. Prisons too continue the legacy of slavery, acting now as the institutional mechanism by which a disproportionate number of people of colour are deprived of citizenship. The fact that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to people of colour implies that it is a way of regulating citizenship by other means and, in the case of the death penalty, concentrating state power over questions of life and death that differentially affect minority populations. Yet this power is not simply or exclusively sovereign. With the idea of a demographics of the condemned, we enter the terrain that Achille Mbembe has called 'necropolitics'. That security companies have taken over the public administration of prisons in the US, the UK and elsewhere exposes the link between who is owned, who is put out of play, whose unpayable economic or social debt now defines who they are - and who profits. 'The people', the public, are established as those who must be protected from the criminal class, producing one class of people whose lives are worth preserving, and another whose lives can be easily lost or destroyed.

Does debt forgiveness enter into this picture? What would be its psychic equivalent? Would it perhaps be the operation of 'pardon' as a deinstitutionalising force, including the deinstitutionalisation of sovereignty and the death penalty? Derrida's reflections on 'pardon' were the focus of his seminar in 1997-99, directly preceding his seminar on the death penalty. One question raised was whether forgiveness and pardon must be figured as sovereign acts, or can be ways of deconstituting established forms of sovereignty. Is there a way to conceptualise forgiveness and pardon as forms of institutional life, perhaps as the driving force that undertakes the deinstitutionalisation of both the prison and the death penalty? Perhaps the opposition to the death penalty has to be linked with an opposition to forms of induced precarity both inside and outside the prison, in order to expose the various different mechanisms for destroying life, and to find ways, however conflicted and ambivalent, of preserving lives that would otherwise be lost.

(source: London Review of Books)


Death penalty needs to be abolished

Generally speaking we live in a postindustrial society where we don't harbor too many relics of the middle ages or even relics of times before that, but we do still have the death penalty.

This punishment is something that has always been profoundly odd and sinister to me, which raises the question: should we still have the death penalty as a punishment? The simple answer to that question is no.

The death penalty is a punishment that is flawed so deeply that even at its core it doesn't make sense. How can a punishment make logical sense when the same action that was the crime is also the same action as punishment - it's killing to show that killing is wrong.

It is also important to question what is the role of a sentence when someone commits a crime - is it to penalize, to rehabilitate or a mix of the 2? When someone is sentenced to death the state is ignoring 1/2 of the role of a sentence by making a judgment that a person is so bad they cannot be helped.

This issue is something that nearly everyone should be in agreement on. Those who are conservatives can support abolishing it because it reduces the role of government and rejects the notion that the state has the authority to kill its own citizens, and those who are liberal can support it because it's a cruel and illogical punishment that has no valid place in our society. This is an issue that everyone can support, but nearly no one does.

Our justice system is flawed; everyone knows that, there are a record number of people in jails and the recidivism rate is through the roof. But to make real meaningful changes in an effort to fix a flawed system one has to get rid of the death penalty. Maybe when we get rid of such an absurd punishment it will be the time that everything else in the penal system starts to make a little bit more sense.

(source: Opinion, William Franklin; The East Carolinian)


Boston Marathon Bomber Tsarnaev: Martyrs "Go Straight To Heaven"

A friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the men accused of participating in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, took the stand on Monday to address charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for his alleged involvement in the plot.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 1 of 2 men accused of making homemade explosive devices and placing them at the finish line of the Boston Marathon back in 2013. According to ABC News, the intent behind the attacks was to retaliate against U.S. actions in Muslim countries. Tsarnaev is currently accused of murder and several other counts, for the 3 deaths and hundreds of people injured due to the Boston Marathon explosions. His brother, Tamerlan, was shot to death during a police raid days after the bombings.

According to the report, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev texted his friend Azamat Tazhayakov around 90 minutes after news of the bombings hit the airwaves to say:

Don't go thinking it's me.

However, it soon came to light that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had some level of involvement, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann. Upon questioning Dias Kadyrbayev, another friend of Tsarnaev's, it was determined that he and Azamat Tazhayakov attempted to destroy evidence that indicated Tsarnaev's involvement. The 2 are currently charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for disposing of a laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks and black powder that was thought to be used in the making of the explosives used during the Boston Marathon bombings.

"The government will prove to you that the defendant and his co-conspirator removed the backpack for one reason, and that reason was to protect their friend who they had just learned was one of the two suspected marathon bombers," Siegmann said during her opening statement on Monday.

According to MSN News, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev confided in Azamat Tazhayako, saying that "it was good to die" as a martyr because that person would die "with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven."

Nicholas Wooldridge, the defense attorney for Tazhayakov, said that it was, in fact, Kadyrbayev who threw the backpack away in the trash after his girlfriend learned it belonged to Tsarnaev and told him, "Get it out of the apartment."

Although the 2 are charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for their involvement in the attempted destruction of crucial evidence which would link Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the Boston Marathon bombings, both Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev both deny ever intentionally destroying evidence.

Prosecutors have entered into a plea deal with Kadyrbayev and his girlfriend in exchange for their testimony against Tazhayakov. A third college friend, Robel Phillipos, is also accused of lying to authorities.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will stand trial in November and faces the death penalty if convicted.

(source: The Inquisitr)


Sister Helen Prejean on the movement to end the death penalty

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean began a correspondence with 2 death row inmates in her home state of Louisiana. She eventually became the spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier and accompanied him to his execution in 1984. Prejean chronicled her experiences in Dead Man Walking, the best-selling book which has been adapted to a film (for which Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Prejean), play, and opera.

It's been 30 years since Sonnier was executed, and Prejean is now well known as one of the leading advocates for ending the death penalty. Our July 2014 feature examined how Catholics are working to end capital punishment in the United States, so we decided to sit down with Sister Helen and hear more from someone on the front lines about her experience working to overturn the death penalty.

What changes have you seen in your work to fight against the death penalty over the last few decades?

There have been significant shifts in the American people. We're at 60 % support of the death penalty. That's the lowest level of support there's been since 1972, right after the Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in the Furman decision. Support was at an all-time low that had registered then at 57 %.

A few things have happened. First of all, we've been working at it since 1976, when the court reinstated the death penalty. The American people are very practical at one level, and want to see what the cost is, and also the result. There's an exorbitant cost to going after one felon with the ultimate penalty.

2/3 of the American public don't see the death penalty as a deterrent to committing crimes. Police chiefs don't either. Twice, there's been an opinion poll of police chiefs giving a list of 10 remedies to crime. They all put the death penalty dead last because they said when people do commit crimes, they don't even think they're going to get caught.

For the death penalty to be a deterrent means people are thinking of consequences, weighing them, and saying, "Maybe I'd better not do this because I might lose my life." People see that's not working at all. It has had no deterrent effect.

They can see the track record in the states where the death penalty is the most prevalent. The violence rate is not any significant less in Dallas, Texas than it is in Detroit, Michigan, where you don't have the death penalty. You cannot see an appreciable difference in the decline and violence of crime.

Also, the American people have a sense of fairness. Glenn Ford was just released in Louisiana after 30 years. It was a mistake. They got the wrong person. In my second book, The Death of Innocents, I give the structural reason why it's bound to happen that you're going to have innocent along with the guilty, because 99 % of people chosen for death are poor.

Why is that?

If you're poor, you don't have a crackerjack of defense to really resist prosecution when they're going to go after the ultimate penalty, with pre-trial motions and getting independent testing on evidence and all that. Going to trial is supposed to be an adversarial way of coming to truth. Prosecution presents. The defense presents.

Basically, the defense are often underpaid, overworked, and there's a social stigma in the Deep South to lawyers who take death penalty cases. They're identified with their clients. They don't get invited to cocktail parties. It's like, "What? You're defending that scum?"

Now, we thought we had the best court system in the world with all of the appeals. We thought it would be a fluke to have an innocent person. Then DNA cracked it all open in the beginning of the '90s. DNA became the truth teller, saying, "You may have gone through 14 appeals courts. You may have had the Supreme Court even, but the fact is, you've got an innocent person." DNA was the truth-teller to say, "Whatever you did, you didn't do it right." That opened the door in the beginning of the '90s. Now, we see with 144 wrongfully convicted people who have gotten off of death row.

The other thing about fairness that we're seeing is what I consider the fundamental flaw in the guidelines the Supreme Court put in effect when they re-instituted the death penalty in this country.

They gave a criteria that has become impossible to judge and makes the decisions as arbitrary as they ever were. The Supreme Court said that the death penalty is only to be reserved for the worst of the worst murders. Guess what? Nobody really knows what that means.

If you've killed my mother, I've lost the personal universe of my mother. That can never be replaced. Every killing of the human life is the worst of the worst, and so juries haven't known what to do. What happens is, because the criteria is not workable, it's not transparently clear. Culture takes over. Is it any surprise that 75 to 80 percent of all actual executions happen in the 10 Southern states that practiced slavery?

What effect has race continued to have on the death penalty in the United States?

In Reconstruction, after slavery, the fear factor for white people was huge. They had these black code books that you found in the Southern legislatures. A black man could steal an apple and be hung.

Remember, these are the same states that had all the extrajudicial lynchings to keep black people under. Because now that slavery is over, who's going to work the plantations?

What happened was, black people could be arrested for anything, loitering or whatever, then be sent to jail. Then they're handed a huge bill before they can leave jail. They were being billed for being in the jail. They couldn't pay it, so they sent them out to work. You had slavery, by another name, going on. It has continued now in the penal system with the death penalty and the whole prison system.

You go to our prison at Angola, in Louisiana. It's 18,000 acres, made up of three former plantations, named after the slaves from Angola that used to work there. You see men going to the fields, hoes over their shoulders, walking out. There's a guard on horseback, with a gun in the front and in the back, taking them out to the fields to work, 75 % black. The average educational level is 5th grade. It's the same.

What changes have you seen to Catholic involvement in fighting the death penalty?

When it comes to death, and the ultimate chasm between life and death, they say, "Anything less than death is like an affront, or dishonoring the victim, because the victim was killed, so that's what we must do." That's how the death penalty is legitimized.

We come to our church in this. In 1984, when Pat Sonnier was executed, as I talk about in Dead Man Walking, I couldn't get any help, in terms of raising consciousness, from the bishops of Louisiana, because we had Archbishop Philip M. Hannan telling his story. I loved the guy. He had been in the military. He had been a chaplain with paratroopers. He believed in the death penalty. He blocked the Louisiana bishops from saying anything, but it wasn't just the bishops of Louisiana.

None of the bishops were out there. None of them were at the front, because a lot of times bishops get to be administrators. Who are they hanging with? They are hanging and going to lunch with the donors and the people who build the cathedrals.

When I had my dialogue with Pope John Paul II, what I said was, to the extent that the bishops and to the extent that any Christians are in touch with poor people, they get it about the death penalty.

To the extent that you're really removed from the life of poor people, what happens? It becomes, "Well, we have to control the criminals." Then there’s the fear element, "We have to protect ourselves against them."

My invitation to the pope was to strengthen the Catholic teaching to be principled opposition to the state being able to take life, period. That was what that dialogue was about. I said, "If there's any way you can help the bishops to stand up strongly, and to be active agents."

Do you find that it's still a hard sell to the pro-life community in the Catholic Church that they should oppose the death penalty?

It is just beginning. Just remember how new it is. This is new. That was one of the things I said to Pope John Paul. I said, "Does the Catholic Church only uphold the dignity of innocent life?"

When I'm walking with a man to execution and he is shackled, hand and foot, he's surrounded by six guards. He is going to be strapped down and killed, and he says to me, "'Sister, please pray God holds up my legs." Where is the dignity in this death? A totally defenseless person is being taken out and killed. Where is the dignity in this?

Pope John Paul got it. I was just part of the dialogue. Dialogue is always in the community of the people of God. Bubbles always rise up in the pot. When the pot boils, it's never just one big fat bubble that comes up. It's a lot of little bubbles that bob and then bubbles rise. It's the way we evolve and change as a community.

Pope John Paul changed a part of the catechism and took away a criterion we had used for 1,600 years in the Catholic Church to determine who the state could execute. It was for "grave or grievous crimes." You're going to leave it up to governments to decide what they consider grave or grievous? You can never be entrusted with that life. You never have been entrusted with deciding who lives and who dies. We don't give life. We can never be entrusted with taking life.

As the pope has mentioned, too, in Evangelium Vitae, the "Gospel of Life," we have means of protecting ourselves from dangerous people in prisons. We should always choose bloodless means.

When John Paul II came to St. Louis in 1999, for the first time, we had a pope who put the death penalty in with the other pro-life issues. He said no to abortion, no to euthanasia, no to physician-assisted suicide, and no to the death penalty, which is cruel.

He recognized the torture in it. Our Supreme Court will not acknowledge the torture that is intrinsic to the experience of the death penalty, no matter what the method. A conscious, imaginative human being waiting in a room to be taken out and killed is mental torture. It is cruel and it is unnecessary because we have ways to defend ourselves.

In the end, it's all there in St. Louis. Even those among us who have done a terrible crime have a dignity that must not be taken from them. That's the 1st time it was said.

How do you teach it? How do you bring people on this journey? It's always going to be that way. The bishops will make announcements and things. It's up to us, the people, and that's you and me sitting around this table. That's what we do to make it real for people.

What can everyday people do to engage with the issue, to make it real?

First, and this is what we all need to do, is we have to descend into this issue and deal with it ourselves. Most of us have deeply ambivalent feelings about the death penalty because we are outraged over the deaths of innocent people. There is a part of every one of us that says, "These criminals who did this deserve to die."

That is the personal conversion that we all have to undergo. That is the journey we all have to undertake. We do that by talking to other people. We do it by reading. You have to delve into the issue. There is going to be a personal journey of conversion that is involved in this issue because it is really a tough one. Catholics, we call ourselves pro-life.

Pro-innocent life is one thing - unborn babies or people with Alzheimer's - but guilty people, who have done these crimes and the consequences? We are believers in the law. If something is the law of the land, then we tend to say, "It's good. This is God's will, too."

When you reach that point where you then grab the rope and begin to take action, where you begin to raise your voice in the public square, or you call the legislature and you realize you're involved in helping the change come to your state, then that conversion process or that transformation has reached a point of taking action. All of that is a spiritual journey that has to precede it.

Action is a freeing thing. When we begin to act, we are freed up. Where we are paralyzed the most is where we stay inside our mind, "Maybe I could do this. Maybe I could do that. What about this? What about that?" We are caught inside our minds in all this. When we act, we get liberated. Action on behalf of justice liberates us, as well as who we are working for.

Why is it especially important to reach out to youth and have this generation involved in this issue?

As Tim Robbins has said, the young people are the bearers of the future, and they give us the most reason for hope. There was just a poll done not too long ago of millennials, and Christian millennials.

This showed that in the young people who identified themselves as Christian, only 32 percent agreed with this statement: "Government should have the option to execute the worst criminals." That right of the state that for so long was part of Catholic teaching, 68 % of Christian millennials now disagree with that.

Young people get it that gay people have dignity. It's just from a lot more experience of real human beings. Everybody knows gay people and knows they're good people. It's happening about gay rights, and the dignity of people. It's happening about the death penalty. It's happening about human rights. It's happening about a lot of things with the young people. Part of this is, in the Catholic community, we are teaching social justice more and more in the schools, and they're getting it. They're getting it.

When change happens, it happens through the people. Then gradually it filters up, or distills. I think we could show this on every social issue, the way slavery got abolished, women got the vote, and what's bubbling up in the church right now about women, and what's bubbling up in the church right now about birth control.

We have these distancing things in us. "Criminals, these people, the worst of the worst on death row. They're not like us, so we have to kill them in order to keep ourselves safe as a society. We have to do the ultimate. It's the only way you can show we're really tough on crime."

Now, with Pope Francis, the whole horizon has changed with what he's encouraging us to do. Go out into the byways and encounter people. Not the judgment, "We got it, you don't," the censorship, but invite people in and encounter people. He's washing everybody's feet. This is the expression of Jesus. It's just a human thing.

He's bringing us back to the gospel of the byways, and the gospel of the encounter, and the personal encounter. He's going to change everything, because what does it mean to love this person? What does it mean to see the dignity in this person and not to judge them?

If you could make sure that everyone in the country knew one thing about the death penalty, or if you could give everyone one question about it to wrestle with, what would you say?

To bring it to its essence of what it is, come there with me now.

Somebody's done a terrible crime. We're horrified with the crime. That's a given. We're going to say, "They're guilty. They did it."

Now come, and come with the guards, come and get that person from their cell. Walk with them, assist them, coerce them into walking across, and strapping them down, whether it be for the electric chair or lethal injection. Then all the guards leave the room who have played their part.

Think for a moment, if you were one of the guards whose job was that night that you had to help in the execution of a human being. It's just your job. You're not murdering anybody. It's all legal.

Just for a moment, picture that you're one of those people. Then all of those guards leave the room. Now, you're the warden, and you're the first trigger because you're going to nod your head, or in Texas he takes off his glasses. There's an unseen executioner behind that window who is now going to fatally inject, or pull the switch, to kill a human being.

You're there, and you hear the person say their last words, whatever they are, and then you see. You're present and it's silent, and they kill the person. Then the doctor comes in, puts the penlight to see if the pupils are dilating or not, puts the stethoscope to the heart, has declared that the prisoner is dead.

They will then close the curtain, but what is happening is, they're going to come in, and they have a body bag. They're going to put the person in it and they're going to take him out in an ambulance. Probably the photo op that they use the most is the ambulance coming out of the prison with the body of the person.

What have we done? What is the essence of that act that we have done to try to communicate to our children, and for our future that violence is not the answer to human problems. That's the heart of the journey right there.

This is a web-only interview that accompanies "The beginning of the end of the death penalty" which appeared in the July 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 7, pages 12-17).

(source: US Catholic)


Investigation Discovery Explores The State Of The Death Penalty In The U.S. In New Documentary "A QUESTION OF INNOCENCE"

Exclusive ID FILM Examines the Case of Florida Death-Row Inmate Tommy Zeigler, Who Has Been on Death Row for 38 Years, in A QUESTION OF INNOCENCE Premiering on Friday, July 11 at 10/9c

Investigation Discovery (ID) announced today the premiere of the exclusive documentary film A QUESTION OF INNONCENCE , a very timely look at the balance on our scales of justice - and, specifically, the state of the death penalty in the United States through the eyes of Tommy Zeigler, a man who has been sitting on Florida State Prison's death row for almost 4 decades. In light of the already strong evidence, supporters believe Zeigler did not receive a fair trial, and the potential for current DNA tests to reveal crucial new evidence has his legal team and supporters hoping for a reprieve. On the other side of that "scale," Florida Governor Rick Scott has started a campaign to clear out death row by accelerating the schedule of upcoming executions, with the next one set for Thursday, July 10. Narrated by actor Bruce Greenwood, Investigation Discovery will premiere A QUESTION OF INNOCENCE on Friday, July 11 at 10/9c .

"Cases like Tommy Zeigler's are what raise not only ethical and moral questions about the state of the death penalty in the United States, but help to shine a light on faults in the American justice system," said Henry Schleiff, Group President, Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel and Discovery Fit & Health. "It is our intention to premiere this documentary, which was created exclusively for ID FILMS , in the hopes that Mr. Zeigler's story will incite a call-to-action for those whose innocence may still be in question but not have much time ... or hope, like Tommy Ziegler."

ABOUT TOMMY ZEIGLER'S CASE By all accounts, Tommy and Eunice Zeigler had the ideal marriage and the makings of a prosperous life in Winter Garden, Fla. They were known for their generosity, with Eunice taking on caretaker responsibilities for the family and Tommy building a reputation as a generous and civic-minded business man at the W.T. Zeigler furniture store he owned and managed with his parents. The 1960s and '70s was a turbulent time to own a business in the South, but Zeigler was always good to African-American migrant workers and extended credit to many who were down and out.

The Zeiglers' fairytale life came to an end on Christmas Eve, 1975. It should have been a day for celebration, but for Zeigler and his retail responsibilities it meant racing against the clock to complete the jammed delivery schedule. Eagerly waiting for him to finish were Eunice and her parents, Perry and Virginia Edwards, who gathered at the store to pick out a new recliner for Christmas. Zeigler returned to the store around 7 p.m. and found the lights not working. Out of the darkness, he was attacked by 2 intruders and attempted to defend himself but all hell broke loose. He scrambled to the desk drawer where he kept his gun and shot at his attackers, still unable to make out their faces in the pitch black. Suddenly, Zeigler was shot. When police investigators arrived at the scene, they discovered Eunice, her father, her mother, and an African-American customer, Charlie Mays, all shot dead. Zeigler was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the stomach ... or, at least, that is how Zeigler described the events.

On July 16, 1976, William Thomas Zeigler was sentenced to death for four murders he claims he didn't commit. Thirty-eight years later, he is still on Florida State Prison's death row and hoping for a reprieve, but his time is running out. Florida Governor Rick Scott is on a campaign to clear out death row and it is the state's responsibility to make sure the sentences are carried out as quickly as possible. Governor Scott has presided over 18 executions, including 13 in the last two years, the most executions carried out by any Florida governor in a single term since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. He will continue to execute death-row prisoners who have exhausted all their appeals.

Florida private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty believes Zeigler has been wrongfully convicted and has recently uncovered new evidence to support his innocence. She is also on the trail of the person she believes is the real killer, but is she too late? The clock is ticking on Zeigler's life. With no more appeals left and having been on death row longer than another other inmate, the chances are extremely high that he will face death by lethal injection by the end of 2014.

In a special documentary event, A QUESTION OF INNOCENCE premieres on Friday, July 11 at 10/9c as part of the ID FILMS strand, the television home for projects that shine a light on important, overlooked aspects of our justice system and showcase compelling stories of mystery, intrigue, and determination.

A QUESTION OF INNOCENCE is produced for Investigation Discovery by Mystique Films with Christian Bruyere as executive producer. For Investigation Discovery, Ron Simon is executive producer, Sara Kozak is senior vice president of production, Kevin Bennett is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is Group President of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel, Destination America, and Discovery Fit & Health.

About Mystique Films Ltd.

Mystique Films Ltd. is a Vancouver, B.C. based film and television production company which has produced 200+ hours of programs seen in over 40 countries. Mystique Films has produced numerous television movies, feature films and documentary specials such as; Children of the Tsunami, Sanctuary: A NewLife for Research Chimps, and My Big Fat Diet and series such as Beyond Invention and Healing with Animals. The company recently co-produced MurderShe Solved, a true crime series which currently runs on Investigation Discovery.

About Investigation Discovery Investigation Discovery (ID) is the leading mystery-and-suspense network on television and America's favorite "guilty pleasure." From harrowing crimes and salacious scandals to the in-depth investigations and heart-breaking mysteries that result, ID challenges our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. One of our nation's fastest growing cable networks, ID delivers the highest-quality programming to nearly 85 million U.S. households and is available in both high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD). For more information, please visit , , or . Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications DISCA+2.87% DISCB+1.76% DISCK+2.06% , the world's #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 2 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.

[source: Investigation Discovery]



Makkah Al-Mukarama Hotel Bombing Suspect Sentenced to Death

A Somali military court sentenced al-Shabaab member Awiye Ahmed Jama to death Monday (July 7th) after determining he was involved in the bombing of Makkah Al-Mukarama Hotel in November, Somalia's Alshahid reported.

"Awiye Ahmed Jama told to court he is member of al-Shabaab. He also acknowledged that he was behind an explosion in hotel Makkah Al-Mukarama," Somali military court chairman Colonel Liban Ali Yarow said. "He is criminal so the court sentenced him [to] death penalty."

Jama, 25, had trained for nine months in the al-Shabaab-held town of Bulo Marer before attempting to carry out the attack, the court said according to Somalia's Mareeg.

Jama was arrested November 8, 2013, after trying to blow himself up inside the hotel using an explosive-laden laptop. Minutes before his arrest, al-Shabaab carried out a car bomb explosion outside the hotel, killing 4 people and wounding 15.

Among the dead was one of Somalia's top diplomats, former acting ambassador to London Abdulkadir Aden Ali "Dhuub".

(source: All Africa News)


Chinese executions amd international law

2 Ugandans have recently been executed in the People's Republic of China for offences relating to drug trafficking. My condolences go out to the families of the deceased.

In Uganda there has been a public outcry on whether this was right and what our Government in particular ministry of foreign affairs can do to save the other Ugandans on death row and those incarcerated in Chinese Prisons.

Whereas I do not condone the death penalty because it is inhuman and degrading and other personal sentiments, I pray we look at the issue objectively and in light of international law principles.

The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR") to which Uganda and China are a party, spells out the principles in International law that member states adhere to. I will highlight 2 principles that are the subject of my discussion.

The 1st is the principle of sovereignty of states. This is a far and wide principle but it includes the fact that a country is free to do what is lawful in its territorial jurisdiction without interference from the outside world. Territorial sovereignty is particularly enshrined under article 1 of the Convention which states "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

This issue is married to Article 2(1) of the ICCPR which provides that Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. This means that as long as you cross into the boundaries of the State, the laws of that State are applicable to you regardless of sex, nationality or other status. The Chinese people have exercised this right of self-determination and have gone ahead to provide in their laws for punishments such as death for economic crimes such as drug trafficking, embezzlement and bribery. That is their law and when caught at the other end of the law, the consequences although inhumane according to some scholars, they are lawful according to the Chinese people and legislation.

The Second Principle is that of the inherent right to life. In this respect, the ICCPR has provided for the right to life and the death penalty has not survived mention in the ICCPR. Article 6(1) and (2) provide that

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

Clause 2 of the same article 6 provides that in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime (emphasis mine) and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

This literally means that whereas the right to life is inherent, it can be taken away lawfully by the state. The ICCPR recognizes that some states may not completely do away with the death penalty and emphasizes that if it MUST be carried out, it should be done lawfully and after final judgement rendered by a competent court.

I have taken some time to look at the judicial system in China and how these executions are finally carried out. It is not as draconian as the ordinary man is made to think. The Republic of China actually confirms the death penalty through the highest court of the land which is the Supreme Court and no one is executed until the Supreme Court affirms this sentence. It is also a mechanism in the Chinese laws that an appeal all the way upto the Supreme Court is automatic even if the convict is unwilling to appeal. It is a system of double appeals that is a MUST.

In addition there is usually a 2 year probation after the confirmation of the sentence where ones sentence may be converted to life imprisonment.

With the principle of state sovereignty and the right to life, China has exercised this right and drafted laws that call for execution where one is convicted of a crime such as drug trafficking and where this is lawfully carried out, the Republic is not to blame and ordinarily other states should not interfere with such a decision.

(source: Ian Mutibwa, New Vision)


Report: S. Korean ferry operators prioritized profits over safety

The operators of the sunken Sewol ferry prioritized profit over safety, and the vessel was licensed based on falsified documents, South Korean investigators said in an interim report.

At least 292 people, including more than 200 high school students, died after the ferry sank in April. 11 people remain missing.

Ferry CEO charged with negligence The government's Audit and Inspection Board said the disaster was a man-made accident. It added that the Korean Register of Shipping licensed the modified vessel based on falsified documents. It didn't elaborate.

Investigators have said a vast amount of cargo, more than double the ferry's limit, and the failure to tie it down properly were partly responsible for the capsizing of the Sewol, which was carrying 476 passengers and crew.

The board said it is planning to reprimand officials from the Korean Register of Shipping, the Maritime Ministry and the Korea Shipping Association, which were found to have not performed properly safety protocols on the Sewol.

The board also said officials from the Coast Guard and Ministry of Security and Public Administration performed poorly in the initial response to the disaster.

The Sewol ferry was headed from Incheon to Jeju island on April 16 when it capsized. Most of the passengers were high school students on a field trip.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and three of his crew members face murder charges. If convicted, they could face the death penalty, although it has been nearly two decades since capital punishment was last carried out in South Korea.

Lee has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has said the captain is already living with guilt because he left the ferry before everybody was rescued.

Other crew members have been indicted on charges of abandonment and violating a ship safety act.

(source: CNN)


Doha court postpones Jennifer Brown murder trial until November

Following lengthy delays, the trial of a Kenyan security guard accused of killing American teacher Jennifer Brown has once again been adjourned, this time for 4 months.

The court will pick the case back up on Nov. 10, about 2 years after the 40-year-old was killed in her Al Sadd apartment in 2012.

A Kenyan security guard is on trial for her murder, but one of the reasons for the delay has involved his difficulty in retaining a lawyer.

A public defender appointed to him quit the case some months ago, and another lawyer the defendant hired dropped out shortly before a hearing last month convened.

The defendant now has new legal counsel, who today requested more time to get up to speed on the case, and to cross-examine witnesses.

When reached by phone at their home in Pennsylvania, Brown's parents both expressed dismay at the latest adjournment.

Robert Brown said, "It's just disappointing, you know. I don't know what else to say. This doesn't seem right."

His wife, Mary Brown, said: "All I can say is that I hope he gets what he deserves. He took my little girl away from me. She was my little girl."

The absence of key witnesses is another factor that has contributed to the lengthy trial, which began in June 2013. At that time, a psychiatric evaluation was ordered for the defendant.

However, a year later, the doctor who spoke with the defendant has not appeared in court despite being summoned nearly half a dozen times.

The trial's pace is markedly different than that of Lauren Patterson's, a British teacher whose killer was sentenced to death in March, only five months after he and his accomplice were arrested. The case is now in appeals court.

Both teachers' cases, which may have involved sexual assault as well as murder, have been closely watched by many of Qatar’s residents, especially single female expats.

If found guilty, the guard, like Patterson's murderer, faces the death penalty – though notably, Qatar has not carried out any executions in over a decade.

According to previous witness testimony, the security guard was arrested and reportedly confessed to the crime a few days after Brown’s body was found in her apartment, half-naked and wrapped in a comforter on her bed.

When the hearings resume in November, a police officer and forensic examiner are expected to testify.

(source: Doha News)


Girl's killing unleashes media storm for law reform; SRT chief under pressure to quit

Social media has been in overdrive since midnight Monday when Wanchai Sangkhao, 22, an employee of the State Railway of Thailand, allegedly confessed that he had raped, murdered and thrown a 13-year-old girl from a train.

By early morning yesterday, social media was flooded with comments on the rape-and-murder case after the body of the girl - who went missing between Surat Thani and Bangkok - was found near the railway track in Prachuab Khiri Khan's Pran Buri district.

Comments showed that many people had been deeply saddened by this criminal case, with several calling for the laws to be changed and rapists and murderers to be given the death sentence. Several people in show business launched a "put rapists and murderers to death" demand on Instagram.

For instance, Panadda Wongphudee (@boompanadda) launched a campaign for 100,000 names to push for the death sentence and won a lot of support.

Other actors and actresses, like Chermarn Boonyasak (@Chermarn), TOP Ddaraneenute (@topdaraneenute), kiksuwatjaneeetrin Wattanasin (@jjetrin), Sheranut Yusananda (@namcha_tea), and Sarawit Subun (@kong_sarawit), joined Instagram a campaign "rape = put to death punishment".

Even Miss Thailand World 2014, Nonthawan "Maeya" Thongleng (@maeyagirl_mtw2014) signed up.

It is not just the celebrities who are pushing for a change in the law. Many social-media users say that death should be the only penalty for rapists and murderers - posts that have received many "likes" and "shares".

In fact, some even proposed that the rapist's penis be cut off so they do not rape again, but not everybody agreed. Some even said that cutting off the penis would not help as "they can potentially rape with other things".

On the other hand, some comments rejected this campaign, reasoning that the death penalty might not be the answer as a rapist may decide to murder his victim, as the penalty is the same for either offence.

Instead, they said, there should be a strict enforcement of law and the punishment for murder should never be reduced even if the murderers confess. They also said rape scenes depicted in television soap operas should be censored.

Many people have also called on the governor of State Railway of Thailand, Prapat Chongsanguan, to step down and take responsibility for this case. Many were strident about his early messages that contradicted the evidence, saying "nothing had disappeared" following the discovery of clothes and bloodstained bed sheets.

Prapat also declared "the murderer was not an employee of State Railway of Thailand but worked for a private company as an outsourcer to State Railway of Thailand".

A document containing Wanchai's name on the list of employees of State Railway of Thailand was posted and shared on social media, and many people called for Prapat to be sacked.

People also complained about the poor quality of rail services, including old trains, bad and inefficient railway employees. Many even brought up a similar rape case on a train in 2001.

Separately, many journalists on social media shared a warning issued by the Thai Journalists Association yesterday for members of the media to professionally follow the code of conduct and keep in mind the child-protection law and human rights.

People have also been warned to not share any information or images that would damage the victim or the family.

(source: Phuket Gazette)


Rape-and-murder convicts must face death: netizens

Amid furore over the grisly fate of 13yearold on a train, pressure mounts on SRT governor to resign

Concerned citizens have called for mandatory death sentence for rape-and-murder crimes, in an angry and swift reaction to the tragic rape and murder on Sunday night of a 13-year-old victim by a State Railway of Thailand employee on a moving train.

Administrators and members of many Facebook pages have launched campaigns to rally public support for the legal-amendment drive, while similar attempts were under way on the online petition service even before Sunday's tragedy.

A Facebook account with more than 6,000 members has arranged a public gathering in front of Siam Paragon shopping mall in downtown Bangkok at 11am on Saturday. Attendees have been urged to dress in black in memory of the victim, an unnamed eighth-grade student identified by the nickname of Kaem, who studied at a Nonthaburi school.

The campaign site had drawn more than 21,000 signatures out of a total of 50,000 required to push for a legal amendment after a rape-and-murder case in Bangkok last year. Some other activities on include campaigns to ensure that producers of television series do not play up scripts about sexual offences against females in their shows, and stricter supervision in this area by the broadcast regulator.

The reaction on social media and a public rally are a rare swift response in Thailand over a sexual crime. The response is comparable to the uproar in India last year over the gang rape of a woman on a bus, who was later thrown off the moving vehicle.

Apart from seeking mandatory execution of rape-and-murder convicts, the campaigners also called on the judicial authorities not to pardon or commute prison terms of convicted sexual offenders.

The Criminal Code sentences rapists to jail terms from four to 20 years in general cases of rape, while aggravated offences in which the rape victim is killed on purpose or where death is caused through violent sex acts are punishable by death. The campaigners, however, want rape-and-murder convicts to face the death penalty without exception.

A number of female celebrities posted messages on their social-media sites offering their condolences to the victim and her family while joining awareness campaigns and the drive for legal amendment.

Former Miss Thailand Panadda Wongphudee issued a statement calling on sympathisers to supply photocopies of their identity cards to push for the amendment to increase penalties for convicted sex offenders.

The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation demanded that SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan take responsibility and resign. Director Chadet Chaowilai said the crime was not acceptable and would cause great concern among Thai and foreign passengers.

The StopDrink organisation said the sale of alcohol on the trains was deemed one of the reasons behind nuisances, quarrels, accidents and sexual violations that affected general passengers, citing a survey it conducted late last year on 1,160 respondents. A large majority of the respondents backed a ban on alcohol consumption on trains and the sale of liquor at train stations, said Theera Watcharapranee.

Child-rights activist Wallop Tangkhananurak voiced his support for heavier penalties. He also opposed pardon or reduced prison sentences for convicted sex offenders on auspicious occasions. He said the SRT could give no excuses for such an incident and in other countries senior officials would have handed in their resignations.

The National Council for Peace and Order has assigned military and police units to take care of security measures on trains. NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said that although yesterday's meeting did not discuss the murder in particular, the junta leadership expressed concern over the issue.

(source: The Nation)


Thailand horrified after 13-year-old girl raped, thrown from train

The distraught mother of a 13-year-old girl raped and thrown from a sleeper train en route to Bangkok has told of her daughter's dreams for the future, amid angry calls for a mandatory death penalty for child rapists.

"She wanted to be an angel, she wanted to be an air hostess," her mother said of Nong Kaem. "If she was still here I would do everything to support her, but now I have nothing left."

Kaem's sister, one of two who was traveling with her on the overnight train from southern Thailand on Saturday, wrote on Facebook of her guilt at not being able to protect her. "Kaem, I am so sorry that I failed to look after you. I am a terrible sister. Please forgive me," she wrote, according to the Bangkok Post.

Journey turned to horror

It was Kaem's 1st time on a train.

She was returning from the city of Surat Thai with her 2 sisters and 1 of their boyfriends to the Thai capital Bangkok, a popular route for tourists going to and from the country's popular southern beaches.

They were sharing a sleeping carriage, and turned in for the night. By the morning Kaem was gone.

Police searched the train and the track as the teenager's frantic family turned to the media for help in finding her.

3 days later, her body was found naked near the track; she'd been raped, suffocated and tossed out of a window by her attacker who told police he had been drinking and was high on methamphetamine, according to Police Major General Thanet Soonthornsuk.

To design or change a law base on emotions and hatred will never produce effective law.

Police named Kaem's alleged murderer as 22-year-old railway employee Wanchai Saengkhao.

They said he confessed to the crime after he was tracked down via his victim's mobile phone. Wanchai sold the girl's phone to a shop owner in Bangkok, who took a copy of his I.D. which was later passed to police.

Police said Wanchai admitted carrying the sleeping child to another carriage where he raped and strangled her, before throwing her lifeless body out the window as the train passed through the Pranburi District in Prachuabkirikan Province.

Wanchai has been charged with murder, rape of a child under 15 years old and theft, police said.

He faces possible execution for the murder charge, but activists are using the case to call for tougher charges for child rape, which currently carries a jail term of 4 to 20 years and a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,200).

Rage vented online

The reaction on social media was swift and scathing as angry Thais bombarded Wanchai's Facebook page with abusive messages. The page is no longer available.

Junta leader, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, expressed his sorrow, and the former transport minister, Chatchart Sitthipan, said he took the blame for failing to do more when he was in charge of the railway.

"It is the worst news in many years for the State Railway of Thailand and the Ministry of Transport. I feel that I am also responsible for this event, because I did not do my job well enough when I was the Minister," Chatchart said.

As word spread that Kaem had gone missing, Thai actress and former Miss Thailand, Panadda Wongphudee, posted a message on Instagram urging people to back a campaign to change the law under the slogan, "Rape, will be executed."

A petition was set up calling for the tougher penalties - "no more sentence reduction, parole or pardon" - which at the time of writing had more than 25,000 signatories.

There were also calls for State Railway of Thailand governor Prapas Chongsanguan to step down, as officials scrambled to assure passengers the trains were safe. A ban would be slapped on the sale of alcohol on all trains, they said, and background checks would be stepped up for all employees.

Are new laws the answer?

Amid the anger, some called for calm.

"We have to listen to this news with full consciousness. To design or change a law base on emotions and hatred will never produce effective law. It will only promote more hatred in society," said Dejudom Krairit, Chairman of Lawyers Council of Thailand.

Writing in the Bangkok Post, columnist Sanitsuda Ekachai said: "I seriously doubt if the angry calls for the death penalty as the only punishment for child rapists and rapists/murderers will make our society any safer.

"These calls stem from the belief that this heinous crime was possible because the punishment is not heavy enough. This is not new. We hear such calls every time a shocking rape or murder happens."

(source: CNN)


Malaysian Sentenced to Death for French Tourist Murder

A Malaysian shopkeeper on Wednesday was sentenced to death after a court found him guilty of murdering a French tourist on a popular resort island.

Stephanie Foray, 30, went missing on Tioman island off the east coast state of Pahang in May 2011.

Her partially mummified remains were found some 3 months later buried in a cave on the island.

The verdict comes just weeks after another foreign tourist, British backpacker Gareth Huntley, went missing on the same island during a trek in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

A high court in Pahang's capital Kuantan found Asni Omar, 39, who operated a shop selling beach gear on the island, guilty of killing Foray.

After the death sentence was handed down, Foray's mother, Irene Mortel, got up, looked at Asni and wept.

"I was hoping for nothing else. That's all... I know it can't change anything," she said of the verdict as she left the court, together with Foray's father, Joel, who travelled to Malaysia with her.

In delivering the verdict, judge Mariana Yahya said the defence failed to raise reasonable doubt, adding Asni had "weakened his own defence" by merely presenting a "well arranged story" to deny his guilt.

"Therefore I find the defendant guilty as charged. There is only 1 punishment... which is death by hanging," she said.

Asni, who was sitting in dock with short shaved hair and wearing a dark blue shirt with white stripes and jeans, was hugged by crying family members before being led out of the court by police.

Murder carries the mandatory death penalty by hanging in Malaysia.

Asni's lawyers said they would appeal the sentence to a higher court.

Asni was accused of killing Foray, a French civil service employee, after she spurned his advances.

The murder of Foray shocked people in the Muslim-majority country where violent crime against tourists is rare.

Foray had arrived in Malaysia in May 2011 after quitting her job and spending several months in India and Sri Lanka. She took a ferry to Tioman 5 days later and disappeared shortly afterwards.

In another deadly incident on the same island, Huntley went missing while trekking to a jungle waterfall on May 27 this year.

His body was found a week later by a stream not far from a turtle research site where he was volunteering.

Police are still investigating what caused Huntley's death.

(source: NDTV)


Yes to death penalty in Israel, in extreme cases

When the bodies of the 3 kidnapped youths - Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were found - I was touring the D-Day beaches in France with 2 of my children. I wanted to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord by explaining to my children that the world had sunk into madness not that long ago, and that we owe our freedom to the foresight of a few leaders and to the sacrifice of many soldiers.

Shortly after leaving the Normandy American cemetery, the terrible news from Israel reached us. As my children and I were coping with the grief, I couldn't help wondering if I hadn't misled them with my lectures on freedom: how free can you claim to be when you can still be murdered for who you are in your own country?

The next day I watched the heartbreaking scene of the three fathers saying the Kaddish prayer for their murdered sons, and of the devastated faces of the bereaved mothers. In the darkness of this inconsolable pain, the unity and dignity of our nation was an almost comforting ray of light. There was a feeling, if not certainty, that we Jews would never go down the road of our enemies thanks to our values and principles. But with the appalling murder of the Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, even that certainty was shattered. Sherri Mandell, whose son Kobi was murdered by Arab terrorists in 2001, asked the murderers of Mohamed question that is hard to answer: "What can we believe about our own society now that you have weakened our integrity?"

True, our thugs and killers are a minority reviled by the mainstream. True, our government (unlike the Palestinian Authority) will not pay a monthly income to their parents and will not name streets and summer camps after them. There still is, thankfully, a moral gap between our enemies and us. But that is no consolation and no excuse. The murder should be a wake-up call for our society.

In addition to soul-searching, we must ask ourselves if we punish murderers adequately. Less than three months ago, on April 14, Baruch Mizrahi was murdered in front of his wife and five children by Ziad Awed, who was among the 1,027 terrorists freed by Israel in exchange for the liberation of soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity. The freed terrorists also included Ali al-Nasser Yataima, convicted of planning the 2002 Passover massacre, in which 30 civilians were killed and 140 were wounded; Walid Abd al-Aziz, who took part in the execution of the 2002 bombings at Cafe Moment (11 killed), at the Hebrew University (9 killed), and in the town of Rishon-LeZion (16 killed); Maedh Waal Taleb Abu Sharakh, Majdi Muhammad Ahmed Amr and Fadi Muhammad Ibrahim al-Jaaba, who are responsible for the attack on bus No. 37 in Haifa in 2002 (17 killed). This macabre list is much longer. These people are now walking around free. They spent less than a decade in jail and they now get a nice salary from the Palestinian Authority.

The death penalty is often said to be immoral. But I fail to understand, for the life of me, what is moral about these people walking around free. Precisely because Israel has freed such terrorists in the past and will likely and unfortunately do so again in the future, the time has come to discuss the implementation of the death penalty in Israel.

In 1954 Israel passed a law restricting the death penalty to convicted perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and high treason in time of war. The penalty was administered to the architect of Hitler's Final Solution, Adolph Eichmann, in 1962. Military tribunals in Israel can administer the death penalty, but military death sentences have always been commuted to imprisonment. In 2003, the prosecution sought death for the Palestinian "policeman" responsible for the lynch of 2 Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in October 2000. Only 2 of the 3 judges agreed, short of the unanimous verdict required by law. The author of the lynch was sent to jail, and since then the Israeli military prosecution has never asked for the death penalty - not even for the murderers of the Fogel family (a father, mother, and 3 young children, including a baby, murdered in their sleep on the 11th of March 2011). The murderer, Amjad Awad, is in jail. Like other murderers before him, he might be freed in a future swap of prisoners.

Because of the unfathomable cruelty of the murders, and because of Israel's immoral release of murderers, administering the death penalty in extreme cases such as the ones we just witnessed is actually the moral thing to do - whether the murderer is Arab or Jewish.

(source: Opinion; Emmanuel Navon chairs the political science and communication department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, and teaches international relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a senior fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum---- i24News)


411 Executions in the First Half of 2014

At least 411 prisoners have been executed in Iran from the beginning of January 2014 to the end of June of the same year. This indicates that the execution wave, which recommenced after the most recent Iranian presidential election, is continuing. According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR), more than 870 people have been executed since the election of Mr. Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. IHR calls on the international community to take serious measures to stop the execution wave in Iran.

1 year after the Iranian presidential election of June 2013, and despite improvements in relations between the international community and Iran, a recent report by Iran Human Rights (IHR) shows that the use of the death penalty is higher now than in 2 decades. According to the latest report by IHR, at least 411 people have been executed in the first 6 months of 2014, and at least 870 people have been executed during the 1st year after the presidential elections (between July 1, July 2013 and June 30, 2014). This is an average of more than 2 executions in Iran every day. Among those executed so far in 2014, there have been at least 8 juvenile offenders and 6 political and civil activists.

IHR calls on the international community to take serious measures to stop the execution wave in Iran. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR says: "The increase in the number of executions after the Iranian presidential election of June 2013 is dramatic and needs special attention from the international community. We support Ms. Navi Pillay's call to include human rights in the nuclear talks taking place between the 5+1 and Iran." Amiry-Moghaddam added: "The arbitrary executions going on in Iran must have consequences for the Iranian authorities."

Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said: "Talks between Iran and 6 world powers aimed at clinching a deal on Iran's contested nuclear program should include human rights concerns."

In November 2013, World Coalition against the Death Penalty called on the UN and EU to put the death penalty on top of the agenda on Iran talks.

According to IHR's report on the death penalty, in the first half of this year 166 executions have been announced by official Iranian sources while 245 additional executions have been reported by human rights groups and confirmed by several independent sources. 43% of the executions in Iran are reportedly based on murder and 42% of the executions are reportedly due to drug-related charges. At least 8 of those executed in 2014 were juveniles (under 18 the age of 18) at the time of committing the alleged offence.

Last year at least 687 people were executed, according to IHR's 2013 annual report on the death penalty. 68% of these executions took place after the election of Hassan Rouhani.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

JULY 8, 2014:


Prosecutor: Death penalty possible in slaying

A prosecutor says the death penalty is still an option for a southern Kentucky man who pleaded guilty to killing a pregnant woman before robbing her.

Commonwealth's Attorney Clint Willis says a jury could opt to sentence 36-year-old Charles Copass to death for killing 22-year-old Chelsey Mahaney on June 11, 2012 at her Scottsville home.

Copass entered the guilty plea in February without an agreement with prosecutors to killing Mahaney. Mahaney, who was about four months pregnant at the time.

At the time, Copass explained that he did not want to put anyone through a trial, which would have been in Simpson County.

Willis told The Daily News ( ) the Mahaney family has expressed a preference that Copass be sentenced to life in prison when the sentencing starts this week.

(source: Associated Press)


Debating the death penalty: Don't throw it away, fix it

The thought of an innocent person losing his or her freedom is sickening. Even more egregious is the possibility of executing the innocent. Justice - just like any other system - is fallible, but potential fallibility isn't necessarily a good reason to abolish the death penalty.

That certainly is not an argument I expect to win with someone who has served time on death row only to be exonerated later. Death penalty opponents have used the potential human error factor for decades. Their reasoning: they would rather see a guilty person go free than condemn an innocent person.

To make my point, I look at another government-operated "system" that quite possibly has killed more innocent people in modern times than state executions. I'm talking about fratricide, more commonly known as "friendly fire" in the realm of military conflicts and war.

Earlier this month, 5 U.S. soldiers died in an Afghanistan air strike by our own forces after being mistaken for Taliban insurgents.

Government officials released very few details and likely will not in the future. The story behind their tragic deaths, sadly, already has faded from the headlines.

A more notable example is the 2004 death of Pat Tillman. His death in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan remained in the news a bit longer because of his notoriety as the professional football player who gave up a multi-million contract to serve his country. Despite intensive training and experienced military personnel, human error cost the lives of these innocent men, and yet there is no public outcry to ban military action because of it.

The fact that capital punishment is part of the judicial system in many states is not the problem. The issue is implementing a system that reflects consistency, thoroughness and fairness in an effort to not only reduce the possibility of human error but to reduce the impact of an error.

(source: Vanessa Curry, Columbia Daily Herald)


Rethink stand on death penalty

Dear Christopher Dixon,

I read your Local Voice column of June 17 ("Shorten the road to death chamber") with much sadness.

Apart from any spiritual/religious convictions you may hold on the death penalty, consider the moral imperative of not putting innocent people to death. How many people have been exonerated due to new DNA evidence, revelations of corrupt prosecutors and police and false or misleading testimony from witnesses? It has been conclusively proved that "eyewitness" testimony is many times wrong.

How many innocent people have recently been released, having been on death row, some just days away from being killed? How many innocent peopled have we killed already? No amount of tax savings is worth one innocent life. How much is one man's life worth to you?

We waste money on such evils as Bush's wars, "bridges to nowhere," government corruption and many other problems. Fix these, and we will save billions of tax dollars.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent. Aside from the mentally ill, most people develop their antisocial behavior from not being nurtured with love, not being taught moral principals and being abused and neglected. Abused and neglected children will become damaged adults. We need to invest in people!

Using your religious beliefs to sanction your position is not logical or moral. Scripture is not always applicable to our society. Consider Leviticus 20:10, which states without qualification: "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the adulterer and adulteress shall be put to death."

From that verse, I understand that it's OK to commit adultery with anyone as long as you don't know them, but you will be killed if it's someone in your neighborhood. If we believe in and enforce this law in our society it could really help the unemployment problem. We could hire millions to replace those we kill, as well as hiring many thousands more to work the death assembly line.

Please reconsider your stand. You are a man of God, and God is love, not revenge.

(source: Terry Lawlor lives in Willard; Letter to the Editor, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader)


Drug accused faces death or freedom

A Perth man accused of drug trafficking in Malaysia will find out today whether he faces the death penalty, or is finally free to come home.

Dominic Bird, 34, thought he had escaped the hangman's noose when a Kuala Lumpur court found him not guilty in September of trafficking 167g of methylamphetamine.

But minutes before he was due to board a plane to Australia, Mr Bird was rearrested after prosecutors appealed against his acquittal.

A panel of 3 judges has spent months reviewing the evidence and will hand down its findings this morning.

If the original not guilty verdict stands, Mr Bird should be allowed to board a flight out of Malaysia as soon as his passport is returned. But if the judges overturn the verdict, he can be sentenced on the spot without the need for a retrial.

Prosecutors have already indicated they will push for the death penalty if he is convicted.

Mr Bird is no stranger to trouble.

The former Fremantle Christian Brothers College student was jailed for 3 years in 2003 after being convicted in a Perth court of possessing with intent to sell or supply 9g of methylamphetamine.

But he has maintained his innocence on the current charges, claiming police set him up by planting the drugs on him in March 2012.

At his trial last year, Mr Bird said he moved from his home in Success to Kuala Lumpur in late 2011 to set up a personal training business.

In his evidence, he said he met the officer who later arrested him - Insp. Luther Nurjib - through his business not long after he had arrived in Malaysia.

They became friends, but the relationship soured when Mr Bird accused a friend of Insp. Nurjib's of sleeping with his girlfriend.

Insp. Nurjib denied planting the drugs, but just days before the end of the trial his credibility was left in tatters when he was caught trying to intimidate and bribe a witness in the case.

Mr Bird's solicitor Tania Scivetti said she believed her client's chances of going home today were good.

"I believe we have a strong case in light of the fact that the trial judge found that the (arresting officer) was not a credible witness," she said.

The Australian Government has been helping with Mr Bird's legal bills since his arrest.

But the Government refused to reveal yesterday how much those legal bills had cost taxpayers.

(source: Yahoo News)


Rape-and-murder convicts must face death: netizens----Amid furore over the grisly fate of 13-yearold on a train, pressure mounts on SRT governor to resign

CONCERNED NETIZENS have called for mandatory death sentence for rape-and-murder crimes, in an angry and swift reaction to the tragic rape and murder on Sunday night of a 13-year-old victim by a State Railway of Thailand employee on a moving train.

Administrators and members of many Facebook pages have launched campaigns to rally public support for the legal-amendment drive, while similar attempts were under way on the online petition service even before Sunday's tragedy.

A Facebook account with more than 6,000 members has arranged a public gathering in front of Siam Paragon shopping mall in downtown Bangkok at 11am on Saturday. Attendees have been urged to dress in black in memory of the victim, an unnamed 8th-grade student identified by the nickname of Kaem, who studied at a Nonthaburi school.

The campaign site had drawn more than 21,000 signatures out of a total of 50,000 required to push for a legal amendment after a rape-and-murder case in Bangkok last year. Some other activities on include campaigns to ensure that producers of television series do not play up scripts about sexual offences against females in their shows, and stricter supervision in this area by the broadcast regulator.

The reaction on social media and a public rally are a rare swift response in Thailand over a sexual crime. The response is comparable to the uproar in India last year over the gang rape of a woman on a bus, who was later thrown off the moving vehicle.

Apart from seeking mandatory execution of rape-and-murder convicts, the campaigners also called on the judicial authorities not to pardon or commute prison terms of convicted sexual offenders.

The Criminal Code sentences rapists to jail terms from 4 to 20 years in general cases of rape, while aggravated offences in which the rape victim is killed on purpose or where death is caused through violent sex acts are punishable by death. The campaigners, however, want rape-and-murder convicts to face the death penalty without exception.

A number of female celebrities posted messages on their social-media sites offering their condolences to the victim and her family while joining awareness campaigns and the drive for legal amendment.

Former Miss Thailand Panadda Wongphudee issued a statement calling on sympathisers to supply photocopies of their identity cards to push for the amendment to increase penalties for convicted sex offenders.

The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation demanded that SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan take responsibility and resign. Director Chadet Chaowilai said the crime was not acceptable and would cause great concern among Thai and foreign passengers.

The StopDrink organisation said the sale of alcohol on the trains was deemed one of the reasons behind nuisances, quarrels, accidents and sexual violations that affected general passengers, citing a survey it conducted late last year on 1,160 respondents. A large majority of the respondents backed a ban on alcohol consumption on trains and the sale of liquor at train stations, said Theera Watcharapranee.

Child-rights activist Wallop Tangkhananurak voiced his support for heavier penalties. He also opposed pardon or reduced prison sentences for convicted sex offenders on auspicious occasions. He said the SRT could give no excuses for such an incident and in other countries senior officials would have handed in their resignations.

The National Council for Peace and Order has assigned military and police units to take care of security measures on trains. NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said that although yesterday's meeting did not discuss the murder in particular, the junta leadership expressed concern over the issue.

(source: The Nation)


Timeline: A History of Lethal Drug Use in Texas

For nearly 30 years, Texas used the same 3-drug lethal injection cocktail to execute death row inmates: sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, followed by pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, and then potassium chloride, which brings about cardiac arrest.

Drug manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad began cutting off supplies in 2011, refusing to allow their use in executions. The dwindling supply set in motion a national scramble among death penalty states, including Texas, to find drugs that could be used to administer the ultimate punishment.

Relying on news stories and TDCJ documents provided to death row inmates' attorneys, The Texas Tribune compiled a timeline of TDCJ's drug purchases and its use of execution drugs since 2011.

Among the most controversial developments in Texas and other states has been the use of a new type of vendor: compounding pharmacies. The state-regulated entities can mix, or "compound," the drugs needed for lethal injections. But the pharmacies aren't subject to federal drug regulations.

When the names of some compounding pharmacies surfaced publicly for the 1st time last year, they quit providing the drugs and even asked TDCJ to return them, citing harassment they suffered.

Both the concern over dwindling supply and the security concerns of drug suppliers have prompted TDCJ and other state prison systems to seek to severely limit the release of information about the sources of execution drugs.

After years of telling TDCJ to release information about the death penalty process to the public, Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott in May ruled that the prison system had proved a threat existed to compounding pharmacies if the companies' identities were revealed. In a reversal of his previous decisions, Abbott ruled that information about the source of execution drugs can remain secret.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Jury to decide man's competency in death penalty case

A Dallas County jury will decide Tuesday whether a man is competent to stand trial in a capital murder case in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Defense attorneys Juan Sanchez, Brook Busbee and John Tatum are arguing that Kenneth Wayne Thomas has mental deficiencies that leave him unable to understand the legal proceedings and prevent him from helping with his defense.

Dallas County prosecutors Brandon Birmingham and Dewey Mitchell say Thomas, 53, is competent to stand trial.

Thomas was convicted in separate 1987 trials for killing lawyer Fred Finch and his wife, math professor Mildred Finch, the previous year. Thomas stabbed Fred Finch 20 times and Mildred Finch 80 times.

Thomas was sentenced to death. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state, ordered a new punishment hearing in 2010.

The court found that jurors could not previously properly consider whether low intelligence, brain damage and mental illness should have resulted in a life sentence rather than death.

After the 1st trial, prosecutors learned that one of the jurors was on probation for felony theft. Fearing the courts would overturn the conviction in 66-year-old Fred Finch's death, the district attorney's office tried Thomas for the slaying of Mildred Finch, 64, who taught at El Centro Community College.

Clinical psychologist Antoinette McGarrahan testified Monday for the defense that Thomas has "illogical, irrational thinking" that the judge can free him and that he is on trial because prosecutors have broken the law.

"His beliefs have not changed in 28 years," she told jurors.

McGarrahan, the only witness called so far, will resume her testimony Tuesday. Prosecutors are expected to call their own expert to say Thomas is competent.

If Thomas is found incompetent, jurors must believe the evidence proves it is more likely than not that he doesn't understand the proceedings or he can't help his attorneys. He would then go to a mental health facility where doctors would try to restore his competency so he can stand trial.

If a jury finds Thomas competent, the punishment hearing would begin as early as Tuesday afternoon. Another jury, which already has been selected, will then determine whether Thomas is sentenced to death or life in prison.

Thomas has an IQ in the low to mid-70s, which makes him "borderline retarded," according to testimony and court records.

According to court records, Thomas was born in the back seat of a car and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He had "significant" development delays.

As a teenager, he was assaulted and pistol whipped at the park where he worked. He suffered an injury to the front of the right side of his brain.

Thomas also has reduced impulse control that can result in violence, court records show. Medication could help.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Too many negatives to preserve death penalty

Many folks are pleased that Brevard County cop killer Brandon Bradley was sentenced to death for the deliberate and horrible murder of Deputy Barbara Pill. If anything would justify capital punishment, this would be at the top of the list.

About the same time Bradley was being sentenced, another ruling came down from the Florida Supreme Court. It ordered a new trial for death row denizen Paul Hildwin, after DNA tests showed that the real killer of Vronzetti Cox in Hernando County was the victim's boyfriend, not him. Hildwin, who claimed innocence since his arrest, has spent nearly 30 years in a 6- by 9-foot cell, 24 hours a day, ostensibly an innocent man.

Having served most of my 30-year police career in Miami-Dade County Homicide, I am usually (not always) more conservative than liberal. However, these kinds of cases, plus other factors, have swayed my thinking.

Capital punishment must be abolished. Here are 5 reasons why:

1) Cost. Death penalty cases cost the taxpayer far more for defenses and appeals over a period of years. One study showed the state would save $51 million a year by imposing life without parole sentences to killers, rather than death. Since 1976, 44 executions have cost Florida taxpayers an average of $24 million each.

2) No deterrent. Every study conducted across the nation has revealed that the death penalty has no significant impact on the thinking and motivations of potential murderers. Bradley thought nothing about the death penalty when he pumped those bullets into Deputy Pill.

3) Economic inequities. Poor defendants who rely on court-appointed attorneys simply cannot afford independent investigators or costly extended evidence testing to work on their behalf. ompare the O.J. Simpson case, where evidence abounded pointing toward his guilt, yet he was able to afford a dream team.

4) Violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The average time inmates spend on death row before execution is nearly 16 years. Many remain on death row for decades. Gary Alvord spent 40 years on death row until he passed away of natural causes in May. This is tantamount to life, plus death, in other words, cruel and unusual punishment.

5) Executing the innocent. Punishing a vicious killer is important. But protecting innocent people is equally, if not more, important. Sadly, the criminal justice system makes mistakes. Since 1976, 144 death row inmates have been exonerated in America, some because of faulty testimony, others through DNA testing, and more. With the count at 24, Florida ranks No. 1 in exonerations from death row, followed by Illinois and Texas. The Death Penalty Information Center has published a list of 10 inmates, already executed, whose innocence was likely. Death ends the appeal process.

It's not worth the life of any innocent person to gain retribution by executing the guilty. We cannot trust a system that has proven itself so fragile.

Consider, also, death is an escape from punishment for those who are guilty. Life in a 6- by 9-foot cell is far more terrifying.

Time to say goodbye to capital punishment.

(source: Marshall Frank is an author and retired South Florida police detective who lives in Melbourne;


Death penalty takes center stage in brutal murder

A debate over the death penalty is taking center stage in a high-profiled murder case in Jacksonville.

At a hearing Tuesday, James Rhodes appeared before a judge to discuss recently filed motions in his case.

Rhodes is facing a slew of charges, including 1st degree murder, in the shooting death of 20-year-old Shelby Farah.

Investigators said Rhodes shot Farah execution-style during a robbery at the Metro PCS store where she worked in 2013. July 20 will mark 1 year since her death.

The hearings leading up to his trial do not get any easier for Farah's mom, Darlene.

"It's hard, but I have to do it. I'm Shelby's voice," she said.

Right now, there's an issue over the death penalty.

His attorneys have filed a motion to determine if Rhodes is intellectually disabled, which would make him not eligible for the death penalty.

When asked if she wanted Rhodes put to death, Darlene said, "I can't put a date on anybody's life, only God can. I just pray about it and put it in God's hands. That's not a decision I have to make."

Jury selection was scheduled to begin August 11 and will likely be pushed back, according to Farah's family.

A judge is expected to hear the motions regarding the death penalty at a hearing August 5.



Judge issues million-dollar bonds for men held in Brennan's fatal shooting

A judge on Monday issued $1 million bonds for 3 of the 4 men being held in the robbery and shooting that resulted in the death of popular pub owner Jim Brennan.

Brandon Jones, 23, his brother Darien Jones, 21, and Devonne Turner, 26 are being held on the bonds set Monday by Cleveland Heights Municipal Court Judge A. Deane Buchanan. Each faces charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and two counts of kidnapping.

A 4th man, Paul Turner, 23, faces two counts of obstructing justice and two counts of evidence tampering. Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson previously said all four were charged with murder, but Turner only faces the tampering and obstruction charges.

Turner is accused of hiding the gun used to kill Brennan, according to court records. Turner is held on $500,000 bond.

"This is a heinous and senseless crime," Cleveland Heights Prosecutor Tiffany Hill said in court. "Jim Brennan was a pillar of this community."

All 4 defendants said Monday that they are unemployed, including Brandon Jones. Police previously revealed that Brandon Jones worked in the kitchen at Brennan's Colony for about a month.

When the judge asked Brandon Jones if he was employed, Jones replied: "Not right now, no."

Brothers Brandon and Darien Jones along with Devonne Turner made their initial appearance in Cleveland Heights Municipal Court before judge A. Deane Buchanan on aggravated murder charges in the death of restaurant owner Jim Brennan. Their bond was continued at $1 million. Paul Turner, Devon's brother, was charged with obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. All four cases are bound over to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.

All 4 defendants waived their preliminary hearings. A Cuyahoga County grand jury will now decide how the cases will proceed.

The Jones brothers and Devonne Turner face up to life in prison or possibly the death penalty on the murder charges, Buchanan said. The robbery and kidnapping charges carry a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison. Turner faces up to 5 years in prison on each of the 4 charges.

Brennan and another man were inside the restaurant, which was closed at the time of the reported robbery and shooting, court records say.

Robertson said on Saturday that the 4 men gave "full confessions" to their respective roles in the incident. He also previously said they are investigating to see if the 4 men have ties to local gangs.

Brennan, 61, of Gates Mills, was shot about 1 p.m. June 30 at the Lee Road restaurant. The pub was closed at the time, but Brennan was there prepping for the week. A woman walking by the restaurant called 9-1-1 when she heard 3 gunshots and saw 2 men running from thebar.

Brennan died from gunshot wounds to the head and extremities, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner said.

The Turner brothers were wanted by authorities after failing to appear in court in a felony case filed against them earlier this year.

A grand jury indicted the Turners on charges of aggravated robbery, attempted felonious assault, kidnapping and animal cruelty.

Court records say the duo beat and kicked a man April 16 in the 3700 block of Walton Avenue in Cleveland. The duo knocked him to the ground and stole the man's wallet, court records say.

A judge issued a warrant for both men after they failed to appear at their June 4 arraignment, according to county court records.

Paul Turner was also convicted in 2010 of attempted receiving stolen property and failing to comply with a police officer's order. He received an 18-month prison term. He was sentenced to 2-years probation in 2009 after pleading guilty to burglary and attempted receiving stolen property.



Man charged for store owner's murder has 4 felony convictions

A convicted felon from Rogers could receive a death penalty if he's convicted for the murder of the owner of a business north of Harrison. Donald Biles, 54, is accused of killing Lorraine Carte, 75, last Wednesday afternoon. The charging statement indicates someone else may be involved in the murder.

Biles is charged with capital murder, aggravated robbery, and no-financial identity fraud. He's in the Boone County jail with no bond.

The charging statement says the prosecutor believes Biles "acting alone or with one or more other persons," killed Carte during a robbery. Investigators believe he "held a pistol to the store owner, Lorraine Carte, tied Ms. Carte's hands and feet and forced her to the floor, took property from the store, tied a ligature around Ms. Carte's neck, and continued taking property from the store. Ms. Carte strangled to death from the tight ligature around her neck."

In seeking a death penalty, prosecutors have to prove 1 or more aggravating circumstances that are listed in Arkansas law. In this case, the prosecutor says the aggravating circumstances are:

--The defendant previously committed another felony, an element of which was the use or threat of violence to another person or the creation of a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.

--The capital murder was committed for pecuniary gain.

--The capital murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner.

The prosecutor said in the charging statement that Biles has been convicted of 4 or more felonies, including a previous conviction for aggravated robbery, "and is therefore subject to sentencing enhancement as a Habitual Offender."

The Harrison Daily Times reports Biles was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1982 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He also pleaded "no contest" to theft for stealing an RV in Boone County in 2008 and received a 30-year prison sentence. The public information officers for the Arkansas Department of Correction did not return a reporter's call on Monday to give a reason that Biles was no longer in prison.

Investigators checking on the well-being of Carte found her body on Thursday evening in Ozark Emporium, her antique store at Bear Creek Springs next to U.S. 65.

Officers arrested Biles about 4 p.m. Friday outside a store in Bergman after they stopped a green van that matched the description of a van seen in surveillance video at the crime scene. The public gave investigators tips about the van's whereabouts after the sheriff released images of it.

Arresting officers say Biles gave them a fictitious name, Denver Gideon, as well as Gideon's date of birth and Social Security number. They also say he had a license plate on the van that is registered to Denver Gideon. Prosecutors haven't said who Denver Gideon is. A detective thinks Biles may have been living in the van, even though his last official address is in Rogers.

People who knew her say Carte ran Ozark Emporium for years but was trying to sell it and relocate. An investigator says, when he interviewed Biles, he said he'd known Carte and her late husband, James, for a long time.

The detective says Biles initially denied any knowledge of the murder. Later, the detective wrote, Biles told him that he was hired to rob Ozark Emporium by "Rudy Salsberry."

The detective's affidavit said Biles told him that Salsberry called him by phone and offered to pay him $150,000 to rob store and leave the owner tied. He said the weapon used was actually a BB pistol and said he threw it into a lake to dispose of it.

"He said after the robbery he met with Salsberry and gave much of the property to Salsberry, but had not yet been paid," the detective wrote.

The detective said Biles said "he did not intend to kill Lorraine Carte; insisting she killed herself by struggling against the ligature around her neck."

The store's merchandise included jewelry, silver, gold and precious and semi-precious stones. Family members told detectives that someone stole property worth about $300,000. When Biles was arrested, a detective said, he had property from the store with him, including several rings and jewelry with price tags that appear to have come from Ozark Emporium.

The detective said Carte reported being burglarized in recent months, leading her to install high-definition security video cameras. The detective said Biles wasn't aware cameras recorded his crime.

The detective's affidavit says the security video showed the thief subduing Carte, then putting on gloves, walking around and taking items, putting a ligature around Carte's neck and covering her face with clothing, loading the stolen items in the van, locking the door from the inside, removing his gloves and wiping the inner door knob.



Death penalty opponent, analyst consider reasons for limit to MO executions

The Corrections Department asked the State Supreme Court not to ask it to carry out more than 1 execution per month. The Supreme Court has honored that request and changed its own rules to reflect it.

A Corrections spokesman hasn't acknowledged the request was made, but some who watch how the death penalty is carried out in Missouri have ideas why it was made.

Rita Linhardt chairs the board of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. She thinks one group the change would benefit would be the Corrections Department's employees.

"The people down at Bonne Terre who are actually carrying out the executions," Linhardt refers to specifically. "I would imagine that an execution is very disruptive to the normal prison routine, and so I would think the DOC needs time to prepare for this not just only logistically but also emotionally ... so I would think this ruling of having no more than one a month would help in some way those type of burdens on DOC workers."

A spokesman at the Missouri Correctional Officers Association says it has no comment on the rule change.

Linhardt thinks the 1-per-month limit could also benefit attorneys who represent clients who are under a death sentence, who often represent multiple clients.

"They don't even want 1 (execution) a month, but the possibility that you could be facing 2 of your clients in the same month ... I just think would be terribly emotionally draining," says Linhardt.

Attorney John Mills is an attorney participating in a Saint Louis University law school study of the death penalty in Missouri. He says the Department could be sensing that Missourians’ limits would be tested by more frequent executions.

"The public may have a limit in what they will tolerate in terms of executions, and (the Department) may be feeling some pressure or may sense that the public may not be willing to tolerate more than one execution per month," Mills tells Missourinet.

Mills concedes that it could be a matter of budgeting or staffing for the Department that makes multiple executions in a month too taxing on resources, though a Department spokesman declined to comment on whether that is a factor.

The rule change was ordered by Chief Justice Mary R. Russell. No commentary was provided explaining the rationale behind it.

Missouri currently has 41 men under a death sentence, meaning it would take at least 3 1/2 years for Missouri to execute all the men currently sentenced to death in the state.

Even before the rule took effect Missouri has been scheduling 1 execution every month since November 2013, with only 1 having been blocked by the courts. Executions have been scheduled to take place July 16 and August 6.

Missouri has not historically placed such limits on executions, though the last time 2 inmates were executed in the same month was in October, 2001, when Michael Roberts was executed on the October 3 and Stephen Johns was executed 21 days later.

On 4 occasions between 1938 and 1953 Missouri executed 2 people at the same time using lethal gas. Prior to 1938 when the state's death penalty was carried out by hanging, sometimes 2 or more condemned individuals would be hung alongside each other.



Prosecutor unsure if death penalty will be pursued

The Christian County prosecuting attorney said she needs more information before deciding if she will seek the death penalty in the trial of an Ozark man accused of killing his wife and setting their house on fire.

Aaron Clemons, 29, is charged with 1st degree murder, kidnapping, armed criminal action, arson and multiple counts of child endangerment. He was arrested June 23 at a Springfield hospital and is being held in jail on a $1 million bond.

Christian County Prosecuting Attorney Amy Fite says she will wait for an Ozark Police Department investigation into the death of Bailey Clemons to reach its full conclusion before she decides whetherto pursue the death penalty at trial.

"That's certainly a decision that is not one that will be taken lightly," Prosecuting Attorney Amy Fite said.

Ozark police say 2 young children witnessed their mother, Bailey Clemons, being beaten before she was killed and burned in her Ozark home.

Bailey Clemons, 29, was found in a burned home at 1205 E. McCracken Road in Ozark on June 17, a day after the home was allegedly set on fire. According to a probable cause statement, the woman may have died 2 days before the fire. That's when children reportedly said they saw Aaron Clemens hitting her.

When Ozark firefighters first responded to the fire on June 16, they did not find the family

Police say Aaron Clemons called 911 later that day, saying he had been in the fire. He was taken to a Springfield hospital.

According to a probable cause statement, Aaron Clemons told police on the day of the fire that he had tied up his wife and set fire to the house after she died, but he didn't say how she died.

He told police he had "taped his wife's whole body to a pole by wrapping her around her feet, knees, butt, jaw and head with boxing tape in the basement," according to the statement.

He said he talked to her "for an hour or so, and then went upstairs to get some ice." He said when he returned she was dead, according to the statement.M

When investigators searched the home, they detected a strong smell of gasoline. They say the fire started in the basement.

When they found Bailey Clemons, they found her mouth was filled with a sock, and was tied behind her head. Investigators said a belt had been wrapped around her neck.

The statement says 2 melted gasoline containers were found near Bailey Clemons' body.

Aaron Clemons said his 2 children, ages 6 and 9, were at a campsite in Stone County.

In March 2010, Bailey Clemons sought an order of protection against Aaron Clemons in Greene County, saying that he had assaulted her March 6 at their home in Ozark.

Aaron Clemons entered a not guilty plea to 7 felony charges at a hearing June 24 in associate circuit court. Judge John S. Waters found that Clemons qualified for representation from a public defender, but court records show Clemons retained private defense attorney Morris Mettler June 27. Clemons had a court hearing scheduled July 8.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)

ARIZONA----death row inmate dies

Arizona death row inmate dies

An inmate on Arizona's death row for a pair of killings committed 23 years ago in Mohave County and who reportedly had cancer has died.

The state Department of Corrections and attorneys for Robert W. Murray said he died June 28, and the attorneys said in a court filing that Murray had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Murray's death was reported by the Kingman Daily Miner (

Citing privacy of medical records, corrections spokesman Doug Nick said he could say only that Murray died of natural causes and that he was being treated for a medical condition.

The Pinal County medical examiner will determine cause of death, Nick said.

Murray and brother Roger W. Murray were convicted in the 1991 killings of a couple who owned a store and restaurant in Grasshopper Junction, a tiny village on U.S. 93 north of Kingman.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March turned down appeals filed on behalf of the brothers in the killings of Dean Morrison, 65, and Jacqueline Appelhans, 60.

The brothers were captured near Holbrook in eastern Arizona, running their car into a ditch after a chase with police.

Robert Murray wrote a book in which he denied committing the murders.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported last year that Murray was informed in June 2013 that he had cancer that had gone untreated and unknown to him for 7 months though the disease had been diagnosed by medical personnel after his tonsils were removed.

"It was prayer, luck it just didn't explode like it could have," Murray told the newspaper.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty overturned in 1998 Indio homicide case

The California Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man found guilty of killing 2 people and trying to kill a 3rd person in a robbery in Indio nearly 16 years ago, citing juror misconduct.

Fred Lewis Weatherton was convicted of 1 counts of murder, with special circumstance allegations, in the Nov. 1, 1998, deaths of Latonya Roberson and Samuel Ortiz at Ortiz's house.

He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Nelva Bell, who had Roberson's year-old son with her at the time of the shooting, as well as robbery.

Weatherton, now 65 and on death row at San Quentin State Prison, was convicted in February 2002, and the jury recommended the following month that he be sentenced to death.

The state's high court reversed the judgments, finding that "juror misconduct during the guilt phase raises a substantial likelihood of actual bias," according to the opinion written by Justice Carol Corrigan.

It is rare for the court to overturn death penalty verdicts, especially by a unanimous vote, according to legal observers.

According to the court's opinion, a juror referred to as "P.P." told fellow panelists that he thought Weatherton was guilty before the trial was over, and talked about the case outside of deliberations, both of which are forbidden.

"He discussed the case during his daily commute, at lunch, during cigarette breaks, in court hallways, and in elevators ... Multiple jurors testified that, long before the prosecution rested its case, P.P. conveyed a belief in defendant's guilt. He also told jurors, both before and during deliberations, that defendant deserved the death penalty," the court's opinion states.

The trial court found that the juror committed misconduct, but that it did "not rise to the level that there is a substantial likelihood" of bias, and denied Weatherton's request for a new trial, according to the opinion.

On Halloween 1998, Weatherton, who was known as "Boo-Boo," was using crack at an Indio home along with Bell, Ortiz, Roberson and 2 other people. Weatherton "had no money, but was intent on obtaining more drugs," according to the court's opinion.

Later that night, Bell, Roberson and her young son went to Ortiz's house to spend the night, and Weatherton got more crack on credit from a drug dealer. Early the next morning, Weatherton, carrying a gun, kicked Ortiz's door open and demanded money, according to the opinion.

"Roberson swore she had none. Defendant replied, '(Expletive) I ain't playing with you,' and shot her in the forehead. Ortiz said, 'Boo-Boo, you can have my money,' saying his wallet was under the bed. Defendant retrieved the cash, then shot Ortiz in the head. Roberson was moaning; defendant shot her in the throat," the opinion states.

Bell, who was holding Roberson's son, pleaded with Weatherton not to shoot her and put the child down at Weatherton's direction. He then shot Bell in the back and face, and she played dead, according to the narrative detailed in the opinion.

Bell told another man and a police officer that "Boo-Boo" had shot them and did so "to rob us." Shoe prints that resembled the shoes Weatherton was wearing were tracked from the home where the shootings occurred to an area near Ortiz's home.

Bell later identified Weatherton as the shooter from a photographic lineup and "testified she remained '100 percent sure' defendant had shot her and the others," according to the court's opinion.

(source: The Desert Sun)


Convictions in death penalty case overturned due to juror misconduct

The California Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned multiple convictions that sent a Riverside County man to death row for murdering 2 people and attempting to kill a 3rd.

In a ruling written by Justice Carol A. Corrigan, the state high court said juror misconduct tainted the 2002 trial of Fred Lewis Weatherton, creating "a substantial likelihood of actual bias" that deprived him of a fair trial.

"He discussed the case during his daily commute, at lunch, during cigarette breaks, in court hallways, and in elevators." - The California Supreme Court ruling on how juror "P.P." engaged in misconduct in a death penalty case.

The state Supreme Court rarely overturns verdicts in death penalty cases, and the unanimity of the court in such rulings is even more unusual.

But Corrigan, one of the more conservative justices, cited evidence that a juror identified only as "P.P." decided Weatherton should get the death penalty before the trial was even over and discussed his views outside deliberations.

"P.P.'s transformation from impartial fact finder to combative advocate before deliberations began is separate and serious misconduct," Corrigan wrote.

Weatherton was convicted of killing Latonya Roberson, 33, and Samuel Ortiz, 43, both of Indio, and attempting to murder a third person. That person survived the shooting and identified Weatherton as the culprit.

The victims had known Weatherton and smoked crack cocaine with him before the shootings. Prosecutors said Weatherton shot them in a robbery attempt.

The trial judge found that P.P. had committed serious misconduct but decided his actions did not show that bias infected the trial. Corrigan said a finding of misconduct creates an assumption of bias, and prosecutors had failed to rebut that presumption.

"It is undisputed that P.P. repeatedly talked about the case outside deliberations," Corrigan wrote. "He did so in direct defiance of the trial court's repeated admonitions.

"He discussed the case during his daily commute, at lunch, during cigarette breaks, in court hallways, and in elevators."

Michael R. Snedeker, who represented Weatherton on appeal, said the evidence of juror misconduct was so egregious that the court had little choice but to overturn the verdict.

"This court is a conservative court court and single incidents of misconduct are not likely to make much difference," Snedeker said. "But there was a sustained effort by this guy to get the verdict he wanted and to lobby for it."

He said Weatherton must be given a new trial, negotiate a plea deal or be released.

The deputy attorney general who argued the case for the state declined to comment.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


The Insanity of the Death Penalty

In case you haven't noticed it's 2014 and the death penalty is still alive and well in 32 states of the great United States of America. This is the self-proclaimed land of the free, home of the brave and staunch fighter for human rights all over the world. So far this year 23 people have been executed in the name of "justice." There are currently 3088 more on death row that are waiting their day of execution.

The death penalty tends to be a lightening rod for debate and discussion due to the deep emotions and feelings it stirs up as it relates to living in a safe society. Many of the heinous crimes we hear about in the news and the ones we see recreated on the many cable magazine TV shows being produced end up leaving a deep mark of fear in the country's collective consciousness. The result is that many people still see a strong need for the penalty of death to alleviate their fears of these crimes.

What is ironic, however, is that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to the crimes they are intended to deter. As a matter of fact, in States where there is no death penalty there have been consistently lower rates of murder then in States where there is a death penalty instituted. Also, since 1975, as more and more states have dropped the use of the death penalty, the overall murder rate in the US has steadily declined.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that if those put to death are later proven innocent it's too late to do anything about it and as a result innocent people are murdered. Many in the past on death row have suffered this fate.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that many death row inmates are severely mentally challenged and incapable of understanding or managing their emotions and actions, or are unable to get the proper representation to defend them in court.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that the drugs and other execution methods used to murder those convicted when they are executed are inhumane and have been causing all sorts of horrible outcomes during the execution process.

Maybe it is not enough to change one's mind that many of the families of the victims of those on death row do not want to see more killing even if it is the person responsible for the death of their loved ones.

Maybe its not enough to change one's mind that many countries including Australia, Europe (with the exception of Belarus), Canada, South Africa, South America (with the exception of Guyana), and Russia have stopped using the death penalty or abolished it completely from their laws.

This leaves only 40 countries left in the world that still use the death penalty. In the United States the federal government, military and 32 states are in the great company of China, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan who still use the penalty of death aggressively.

Maybe all of the above reasons are not enough to change one's mind on the use of the death penalty in a civilized, industrial, supposedly enlightened, first world nation that promotes human rights. However, maybe, just maybe, the following insight and take on why this act, currently blessed as acceptable by our nation, is completely counterproductive to our intent of living in a safer more peaceful world, will finally cause perceptions to change.

The single biggest reason to end the death penalty can be summed up in a quote by Albert Einstein, "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it."

Simply killing under the rationalization of "justice" does not change the intended outcome of deterring anymore killing. It actually exacerbates the problem. What the death penalty in place says is that on some level of our nation's consciousness, killing is seen as "okay." This justification is the exact same justification used in the mind of a killer. They have convinced themselves in some way that it is ok in their mind to kill their intended victim.

In order to change the behavior that we admonish so greatly we must as a society rise above this way of thinking. As Gandhi famously said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world."

Every force we put out into the world, whether as an individual or a nation, has an equal and opposite force. We are learning this more than ever in the world of quantum physics and the understanding it reveals of how our thoughts and actions affect every aspect of our reality. These messages are not new however. They have been coming to us since biblical days.

Commandment number 6, "Thou shalt not kill."

Luke 6:31 "As you wish other to do to you, do so to them."

Peter 3:8-10 "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

Besides biblical messaging there have been all sorts of common sense and simple wisdom sayings that we have heard for years from our teachers and parents such as the profound and extremely appropriate saying, "Two wrongs do not make a right."

The energy we put out as a civilized nation has a direct effect on what we experience as a nation. We must become more conscious of where we have become hypocrites to our own causes.

"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice." - Desmond Tutu

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge dig 2 graves." - Confucius

"As if one crime of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually, can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively." - Lewis Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison in NY in the 1920s and 30s

"What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!" - Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables

"I was 8 years old when my father was murdered. It is almost impossible to describe the pain of losing a parent to a senseless murder ... But even as a child, one thing was clear to me: I didn't want the killer, in turn, to be killed. I remember lying in bed and praying, "Please, God. Please don't take his life, too.' I saw nothing that could be accomplished in the loss of one life being answered with the loss of another." - Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy.

This perspective of the counterproductive nature of the death penalty is not offered from some kumbaya notion of all holding hands and believing that our love will solve the issue of murder alone. We have a legal, justice and prison system that takes care of protecting society from those who demonstrate themselves as a threat. We just don't have to go the last step of stepping into vengeance and hatred. We don't have to allow our level of consciousness to go down to the level of the killer by justifying legal murder in cold blood under the rationalization of making society safer. It's simply not the case, so we are actually losing ground in our intended efforts on 2 accounts.

The whole intention of our justice system is to prevent further injustices. As a people and a nation we should want to learn what causes a mind to think in a way that leads to the abhorrent act or acts of murder while at the same time demonstrate the type of behavior we aspire to see from all people. However, killing the source doesn't get us any closer to the root of the issue. We must be willing to discover this deep root in order to stop the issue from surfacing. Somehow killing as a response to killing doesn't seem like the answer but actually on closer inspection it may be seen as part of the problem.

It is time to reconsider the death penalty as no longer acceptable under any condition. Taking a true stand against the overall idea itself of killing as part of our justice system and nation's collective consciousness will not only make us a more evolved people and enlightened country, but will lead us to a better and more peaceful world.

(source: Howard Falco, Huffington Post)


China Rethinks the Death Penalty

Last month, China's Supreme People's Court overturned the death sentence of a woman who brutally killed and dismembered her husband. The landmark decision to send the high-profile case back to a provincial court was yet another sign that the country's embrace of the death penalty is loosening.

China is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined, and 43-year-old Li Yan initially seemed a likely candidate for death row. In 2010, she beat her husband to death with an air gun, chopped him into pieces and boiled his body parts. But police photos and a medical report backed up Ms. Li's claims that her husband had abused her - stubbing out cigarettes on her body, banging her head against the wall and threatening her with the air gun. The Supreme Court determined, rightly, that these circumstances justified a retrial.

China is putting the brakes on the death penalty. According to Liu Renwen, a legal scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, between 2007 and 2011 the annual number of executions in China fell by half. Many violent offenders are now given so-called suspended death sentences, which are invariably downgraded later to life in prison. Such restraint has drawn broad public support.

How does a country that harvests and allegedly sells the organs of executed prisoners begin to lean toward more humane alternatives to the death penalty?

Like most of the world, China allowed the death penalty for much of its history, along with an array of other harsh punishments that included at various times servitude, tattooing and castration. But beginning in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), Confucian scholars emphasized a humanitarian approach to justice. The purpose of punishment, they argued, was to morally rehabilitate offenders and restore social harmony, not to secure revenge.

One crucial precept was chuli ruxing - that only when gentler means fail should punishment be used. While brutal executions certainly occurred, for centuries emperors regularly intervened to issue acts of da she, or great mercy, by pardoning offenders entirely. Some went further. In the 8th century, Emperor Xuanzong briefly abolished the death penalty, making China one of the few feudal countries to do so.

By late imperial times, Chinese execution practices were moderate compared with those in Europe. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), imperial edicts suggest that China largely avoided the carnival-like killings then common in France, Germany and Britain. Public executions were solemn, orderly events, with guards discouraging rowdy spectators.

That changed drastically when Mao Zedong came to power in 1949. Using the death penalty as a political tool, he introduced bloody punitive campaigns in which suspects were rounded up en masse and summarily killed. From 1950 to 1953, during the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries, the regime executed more than 710,000 political foes. State-condoned killings spiked again during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and later during the "strike hard" campaigns initiated under Deng Xiaoping.

Rather than turn away onlookers, Mao encouraged them. Ignoring the humanitarian threads in Chinese culture, he avowed in 1951 that executions often "assuage the people's anger." Leaders who followed him made similar arguments.

Today, executions in China more often stoke anger than quell it. A 2007-2008 survey of nearly 4,500 people in three provinces funded by the European Commission found that only 58 % supported the death penalty - compared with nearly 60 % in the United States. Perhaps most revealing, respondents to the survey were aware of the death penalty's uneven implementation. 69 % believed, accurately, that poor offenders were more likely to be put to death than wealthy ones, while 60 % thought that innocent people might be wrongfully convicted. Indeed, the Chinese press has been trumpeting wrongful convictions - such as that of a Henan Province man convicted of murder whose supposed victim turned up alive in 2010.

Other surveys suggest that support for the death penalty is higher among Chinese legal and political elites than the general public. Still, these groups have heeded calls from the people for change. Outcry over wrongful convictions has challenged the legitimacy of China's judiciary at the very moment that the country has been trying to project an image of having a more modern and just legal system.

Interviews conducted by criminologists suggest that international criticism has had an impact as well. In 1977, a mere 16 countries had abolished the death penalty; today 140 countries - over 2/3 of the world's nations - have done so in law or practice. Chinese legal scholars and judges are fully aware of their country's role as the outlier.

In 2006 a group of reform-minded justices began formally advocating moderation in punishment. Led by Xiao Yang, then the Supreme People's Court chief justice, they pushed the maxim "kill fewer, kill cautiously." The following year, the high court began reviewing all capital cases, creating a strong disincentive for lower courts to hand out death sentences. The substitution in many cases of suspended death sentences - which in practice means offenders spend about 25 years in prison - was the result.

The shift met resistance from hard-liners who warned of a spike in crime. But pandemonium did not ensue. Some criminologists now argue that the harsh campaigns of the past in fact sparked violent crime, by making criminals reluctant to leave witnesses behind.

Chinese police continue to carry out punitive campaigns. But arrests made during such operations no longer automatically mean death. Even Chen Jun, a migrant worker convicted in a prominent 2008 case of stabbing the Canadian model Diana O'Brien more than 20 times, was given a suspended death sentence. The stabbing happened a mere month before the Beijing Olympics, as the police were cracking down on crimes big and small. Interviews I conducted over the past year with former police investigators, Mr. Chen's family and Ms. O'Brien's mother reveal that, in his case, the authorities were eager to show restraint. Instead of retributive justice, his trial suggested an emphasis on reparation and societal harmony.

China's penal practices are far from enlightened. Even if Mr. Liu's assertion of halving executions is true, China still executes about 3,000 people a year, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, compared with 39 in the United States in 2013.

But even a preliminary drop in executions is encouraging, allowing people like Li Yan a real shot at justice. Chinese judges and policy makers should continue to heed public calls for restraint. Perhaps, with time, they might even return to China's benevolent roots.

(source: Mara Hvistendahl is a founding member of the writers' cooperative Deca and the author of "And The City Swallowed Them" -- Op-Ed, New York Times)


Ethiopian-British opposition chief faces death penalty

An Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship faces the death sentence after being extradited to Addis Ababa, Human Rights Watch said Monday, urging the government to ensure his safety.

HRW said Andargachew Tsige, the secretary general of the outlawed Ginbot 7 group, had been "unlawfully deported by Yemen" back to Ethiopia.

"Yemen blatantly violated its international legal obligations by deporting someone to Ethiopia who not only is at serious risk of torture, but also faces the death sentence after being tried in absentia," HRW deputy Africa director Leslie Lefkow said.

Ethiopia has not said where Andargachew is, but his supporters and HRW - quoting "credible sources" - said he is in Ethiopian custody.

Andargachew, an Ethiopian-born British citizen, was arrested in June while transiting through Yemen's Sanaa airport to Eritrea, according to a statement from Ginbot 7.

According to HRW, Andargachew faces the death sentence from convictions in 2 separate trials in absentia in 2009 and 2012.

An Ethiopian government spokesman last week said Andargachew was a "criminal" who will "have his day in court."

"Ethiopia needs to demonstrate that it is holding Andargachew in accordance with its international obligations, and he should be allowed immediate access to a lawyer, his family, and to British consular officials," Lefkow added.

Britain's Foreign Office said last week that it was investigating reports Andargachew was in Ethiopia and said it had "deep concerns" about the case.

The US-based Ginbot 7 is considered a terrorist organisation under Ethiopian law, and in 2012 several people were convicted for having links to the group, including journalist Eskinder Nega.

The party -- founded by Addis Ababa's former mayor, Berhanu Nega -- says it is fighting for democracy in Ethiopia and calls for the violent overthrow of the ruling party.

Its name commemorated the Ethiopian calendar date -- May 15 in the Gregorian calendar -- when post-election violence in 2005 left over 200 people dead.

Several people were convicted under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism legislation in 2012 for having links to the group, including journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage.

(source: Global Post)


Special FNC session to discuss terror law

People convicted of terrorism could soon face the death sentence or life in jail under a draft law to be discussed by the FNC in a special session on July 21.

The draft was sent to the FNC by the Cabinet before the last session in June, so there was no time to debate it then, Ahmed Al Zaabi (Sharjah), head of the legislative and legal affairs committee, said on Monday.

The committee has already met twice and will be holding several more meetings before the extraordinary session, for which FNC members will reconvene in the middle of the summer break.

"Today the issue of terrorism is important and the old 2004 law does not cover all the fields," Mr Al Zaabi said.

A draft copy of the legislation outlines some of the penalties. It says anyone convicted of attacking or endangering the life of the President, Vice President or any of the Rulers and their families could face the death sentence.

Anyone who starts, runs or manages a secret organisation faces a death penalty or life sentence.

Those found guilty of stating their opposition to the Government face at least 10 years in jail, while those who commit any act that threatens the security or safety of the country, or attempts a coup, will face death or a life sentence.

The draft law is also expected to confront human trafficking and kidnapping, financing and campaigning for terror groups.

Those convicted of kidnapping a person or holding them hostage for a terrorist purpose will be jailed for life or no less than 7 years, depending on the severity of the case.

"Human trafficking was not included in the crimes of terrorism [in the old law]," said Mr Al Zaabi. "The new law will be a deterrent.

"There are organisations that are well known but there are some that are unknown, so we hope this law covers all of these things."

Under the terrorism part of the legislation, anyone who knows about a plot to destabilise the country but does not report it to authorities faces 10 years in jail.

Mr Al Zaabi said terrorism was constantly evolving and laws must keep pace with it.

If someone is convicted of hijacking an airliner or ship, they face life in jail.

This becomes a death sentence if it results in the injury or death of a person, or if the hijacker resists rescuers by force.

Anyone found guilty of reporting a non-existent terror plot faces a minimum of 5 years, if the intention was to engender panic and terror among the public.

Those who carry around mock explosives or bombs in public will be sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison.

"In 10 years, new methods of terrorism came up and the methods to deal with them are different," said Mr Al Zaabi. "We hope the law sees light soon."

The bill will be debated by the FNC, then sent to the Cabinet for consideration. It will then require the approval of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, before it becomes law.

(source: The National)