and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

JANUARY 29, 2015:

TEXAS----execution

Texas Executes Man for 1996 Strangling, Beating Death

A Texas man convicted of killing a 38-year-old woman nearly 2 decades ago while he was on parole for a triple slaying years earlier was executed Thursday evening.

Robert Ladd, 57, received lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty. The court also rejected an appeal in which Ladd's attorney challenged whether the pentobarbital Texas uses in executions is potent enough to not cause unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Ladd was executed for the 1996 slaying of 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner, of Tyler, who was strangled and beaten with a hammer. Her arms and legs were bound, bedding was placed between her legs, and she was set on fire in her apartment.

Ladd came within hours of lethal injection in 2003 before a federal court agreed to hear evidence about juvenile records that suggested he was mentally impaired. That appeal was denied and the Supreme Court last year turned down a review of Ladd's case. His attorneys renewed similar arguments as his new execution date approached.

"Ladd's deficits are well documented, debilitating and significant," Brian Stull, a senior staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project, told the high court.

Kelli Weaver, a Texas attorney general, reminded the justices in a filing that "each court that has reviewed Ladd's claim has determined that Ladd is not intellectually disabled."

Ladd's lawyers cited a psychiatrist's determination in 1970 that Ladd, then a 13-year-old in custody of the Texas Youth Commission, had an IQ of 67. Courts have embraced scientific studies that consider an IQ of 70 a threshold for impairment. The inmate's attorneys also contended he long has had difficulties with social skills and functioning on his own.

Ladd also was a plaintiff in a lawsuit questioning the "quality and viability" of Texas' supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital. The Texas Attorney General's Office called the challenge "nothing more than rank speculation."

When he was arrested for Garner's slaying, Ladd had been on parole for about 4 years after serving about a third of a 40-year prison term for the slayings of a Dallas woman and her 2 children. He pleaded guilty to those crimes.

Ladd becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 520th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Ladd is the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became governor on Jan. 21.

Ladd becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1400 overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----2

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----520

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

3------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------521

4------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------522

5------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------523

6------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------524

7------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

8------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------526

9------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------527

10-----------Apr. 23-------------------Richard Vasquez------528

11-----------Apr. 28-------------------Robert Pruett--------529

12-----------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------530

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

USA:

Lawyers Snipe as Jury Selection Resumes in Tsarnaev Trial

As jury selection resumed Thursday in the federal death penalty trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a prosecutor accused 1 of Tsarnaev's lawyers of trying to "encourage" a hung jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said attorney David Bruck asked a "wholly inappropriate" question when he probed a man with a supervisory job about whether he would listen to the opinions of other jurors.

Weinreb told Judge George O'Toole Jr. he viewed Bruck's question as an "instruction" that no juror could change another juror's view about whether the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment.

Bruck said he was merely asking the juror if he understood that in the end, all jurors have to make their own decisions. Bruck said it was appropriate to ask if the juror could respect the fact that other jurors might have different moral views.

Judge George O'Toole Jr. said the questions asked by lawyers in the case should be aimed at discovering bias or some other issue that would disqualify them as serving as jurors in Tsarnaev's trial.

Tsarnaev, 21, is accused in the 2013 bombing that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. He has pleaded not guilty.

The testiness between the two sides came on the 8th day of questioning prospective jurors. O'Toole has questioned 105 people so far, but has not revealed how many of those people have been excused.

Many have said they can't be impartial because they already believe Tsarnaev is guilty or have said they would be unwilling to impose the death penalty under any circumstance. In order to be seated on the jury, jurors must express a willingness to consider both the death penalty and life in prison as possible punishments.

Jury selection was suspended for 2 days this week as a blizzard dumped 2 feet of snow in Boston.

On Thursday, O'Toole, prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers questioned seven prospective jurors, including an events planner and former social worker who said she could keep an open mind about Tsarnaev and had not yet formed an opinion on whether he should receive the death penalty if he is convicted.

"If it was myself or someone I knew who was in this situation ... I would want that fair trial," she said.

Jury selection is set to resume Friday.

(source: Associated Press)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia ready to execute foreigners after rejecting clemency

Indonesia is ready to execute 7 foreign drug convicts on death row after their appeals for presidential clemency were rejected, an official said, in a move certain to set Jakarta on a collision course with international allies.

The seven include 2 Australian leaders of the "Bali 9" drug-smuggling gang, who have been on death row for almost a decade. The pair lost their appeals in December and earlier this month.

A spokesman for the attorney-general's office revealed late Wednesday that a further five foreigners have also lost their appeals. He said four were from France, Brazil, Nigeria and Ghana.

Local media reported that the 5th was a Philippine woman, and the foreign ministry in Manila said it was working to prevent the execution.

4 Indonesians -- only 1 of them convicted of drugs offences -- had also lost their bid for clemency.

"The attorney general's office now has 11 convicts on death row ready to be executed," spokesman Tony Spontana said.

Indonesia earlier this month executed 6 drug offenders, including 5 foreigners, prompting a furious Brazil and the Netherlands -- whose citizens were among those put to death -- to recall their ambassadors.

Drug offenders from Vietnam, Malawi and Nigeria were also among those killed by firing squad.

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

- No compromise -

He has repeatedly vowed to show no clemency to drug traffickers. In a CNN interview broadcast earlier this week, Widodo vowed: "We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. No compromise."

Spontana said a decision had not yet been made on when or where the convicts would be executed, only that more than one would face the firing squad in the next round.

The Frenchman is Serge Atlaoui, who has been on death row since 2007, Spontana confirmed.

In Sydney late Thursday, more than 2,000 Australians, led by local musicians, gathered in a plea for mercy for their compatriots facing imminent execution, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Holding candles and signs reading "I stand for mercy", the crowd listened to speeches and live music.

"Don't kill him, please don't kill him ... please, president, please forgive him," Sukumaran's grandmother Edith Visvanathan told the crowd between sobs.

The Australian pair were arrested in Bali in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year for attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin out of the Indonesian holiday island.

The rejection of their clemency appeals removed the final hurdle to put the pair to death, as Indonesian authorities said they must be executed together as they had committed their crime together.

Lawyers for the pair are planning a last-ditch appeal to their convictions but the attorney-general's office has said that further legal challenges are not possible once a clemency bid has been rejected.

The Frenchman Atlaoui was arrested in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy close to Jakarta.

(source: Daily Mail)

TEXAS----imminent execution

Texas Court Declines To Stop Execution Of Man With An IQ Of 67----Robert Ladd is ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability, his attorneys contend. He is scheduled to be executed in Texas at 6 p.m. CT.

Robert Ladd, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas Thursday for the 1996 murder of a woman, has an intellectual disability and is ineligible for the death penalty, his lawyers argue.

After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday denied a motion to stay his execution, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing Ladd, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

His lawyers said that Ladd has an intellectual disability and an IQ of 67 and would be considered ineligible for the death penalty in any other state.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2 landmark cases that executing inmates with intellectual disabilities is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

However, Ladd does not meet Texas courts' standards for intellectual disability, which, the ACLU said, were based in part on the character of Lennie Small in John Steinbeck's book Of Mice and Men.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project who is representing Ladd, said in a statement.

Stull added that Texas courts "insist on severely misjudging" Ladd's intellectual capacity, citing the intellectual disability standards that were "crafted from Of Mice and Men and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine."

"Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella," Stull said.

The ACLU has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' decision.

Ladd is also a defendant in a separate lawsuit that questions the "quality and viability" of Texas' supply of its lethal injection drug, pentobarbital. According to the lawsuit, there were concerns that the state's dwindling supply of compounded pentobarbital was no longer viable and would cause Ladd excruciating pain, violating the Eighth Amendment.

An appeal to grant a temporary stay of execution was rejected by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

His attorney in this case, Maurie Levin, has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to halt the execution.

In 1997, Ladd was sentenced to death for raping and murdering Vickie Ann Garner at her home.

Garner, 38, was "borderline mentally retarded" and worked at the Andrews Center, which helped people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses employment. She was found raped and beaten to death at her home, according to court documents. Her house had also been burglarized and set on fire.

Prior to her death, Garner's legs and wrist had been bound by a cord.

Before Garner's death, Ladd had served 16 years of a 40-year sentence for the 1978 murder of a woman and 2 children. Their house was also set on fire.

When he was 13, Ladd was first labeled "fairly obviously retarded" by the Texas Youth Commission, his appeal stated. In an affidavit, the psychiatrist confirmed his initial diagnosis of mental retardation after Ladd's IQ test and 3 interviews. Ladd logged an IQ score of 67.

At age 36, Ladd also qualified for services at the Andrews Center, the ACLU said.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," Stull said.

(source: buzzfeed.com)

WYOMING:

Wyo. lawmakers reject bill to abolish death penalty----Wyoming hasn't executed a prisoner since 1992 and currently only has 1 prisoner on death row

House Bill 97, which would abolish the death penalty in Wyoming, was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee.

The Casper Star Tribune reports that the bill lost 5-4.

Advocates for the bill said the death penalty isn't a useful deterrent against crime and that the state shouldn't decides who lives and who dies.

But supporters of capital punishment said that the death penalty can be a comfort for families of victims and ensures that no one else can be hurt by the perpetrator.

Wyoming hasn't executed a prisoner since 1992 and currently only has one prisoner on death row.

(source: Associated Press)

TEXAS----impending executions

Death Watch: 2 More Executions Will Make 3 in 5 Weeks----Executions accelerate in 2015

Texas has set a brisk pace for executions in 2015: 2 men are scheduled for the gurney this week, which will bring the tally to 3 in the 1st 5 weeks of the year. That would have been 4, but Garcia Glen White received a stay Tuesday, Jan. 27, of his scheduled Jan. 28 execution.

White was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murders of Bonita Edwards and her twin 16-year-old daughters, Annette and Bernette (see "Death Watch: Homicide, Drugs, Mental Incapacity," Jan. 23). Earlier this month, his attorneys Mandy Miller and Patrick McCann had asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to consider White's "borderline intelligence," as well as the murky situation surrounding his 1995 confession (which he offered without counsel despite indicating to authorities that he'd prefer an attorney be present). Miller and McCann also asked the judges to appoint a special administrator to ensure that the drugs used to kill White wouldn't cause any constitutionally barred suffering.

Miller told the Chronicle on Tuesday that the CCA did not explain why it had decided to stay the execution, only providing that a reprieve had been issued. Said Miller: "That's a good thing."

Robert Charles Ladd is set for execution today, Thursday, Jan. 29. The 57-year-old was convicted of raping and killing Tyler resident Vickie Ann Gardner in 1997, while he was out on parole for the 1978 murders of Dallas woman Vivian Thompson and her 2 infant children, Latoya and Maurice.

After being handed his death sentence in August 1997, Ladd and attorney Sydney Young stayed quite busy trying to spare his life. Ladd was originally scheduled for execution in April 2003, but he received a last-minute stay after Young dug up records indicating Ladd had scored 67 on an IQ test when he was 13. (The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that anyone with an IQ below "approximately 70" is mentally incompetent and thus ineligible for the death penalty. Prison testing conducted in 1978 registered Ladd's IQ at 86.) In the end, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the finding that Ladd was competent, and he was sent back to death row.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal last October, and Ladd was briefly scheduled for execution on Dec. 11, 2014. That date got rejected by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and on Dec. 4, he received the January execution date.

Last week, through American Civil Liberties Union attorney Brian Stull, Ladd filed for a stay of execution on the grounds of mental incompetence.

The state will follow Ladd's execution with Donald Keith Newbury's on Wednesday, Feb. 4. The 52-year-old made national headlines 14 years ago when he and 6 other inmates escaped from the John B. Connally Unit 60 miles south of San Antonio and embarked on a 6-week crime spree through Texas and Colorado.

Newbury - an experienced burglar serving a 99-year sentence for the 1997 robbery and aggravated assault of a woman in an Austin-area hotel - and his 6 cohorts escaped from Connally Unit on Dec. 13, 2000, by overpowering 9 civilian maintenance supervisors, 4 correctional officers, and 3 unassociated inmates, stealing their money and clothes, robbing the prison armory, and making off in a truck owned by the prison. They left the truck at a Wal-Mart in nearby Kenedy; the next day, they robbed a Pearland Radio Shack.

No one caught a trace of the "Texas 7" for 2 weeks. But on Christmas Eve in Irving, Texas, an off-duty cop responded to a call reporting that Newbury and his fellow escapees were in the midst of robbing an Oshman's Sporting Goods. The cop, 29-year-old Aubrey Hawkins, showed up at the store, immediately came under fire, and was ultimately shot 11 times. Newbury and company completed the robbery (reportedly stealing at least 40 more guns in the process), ran over Hawkins' body with the truck they'd also stolen, and set off for Colorado, eventually settling into an RV park outside of Colorado Springs. They spent the first weeks of 2001 posing as a religious group within the area.

Hawkins' murder set off a multistate manhunt. 1 man, Larry Harper, killed himself when he learned that authorities were closing in on them. 4 of the remaining escapees were found in the RV park on Jan. 21. 2 days later, authorities arrested Newbury and 1 other in a Colorado Springs hotel.

Newbury had amassed a long rap sheet before he went to prison in 1997. He was arrested at the age of 18 for robbery. Awaiting trial in Travis County Jail, he got in a fight, was sent to a section of the jail for misbehaving inmates, and became part of a failed escape attempt. He got a 10-year sentence for the robbery, was eventually released, but stopped reporting to his parole officer after he decided he might be accused of a robbery committed by his roommate. While in violation of his parole, Newbury robbed a Chief Auto Parts and went back to prison on a 15-year sentence. Out on parole after 5 years, Newbury struggled to support his extended family and began committing robberies again after losing a job.

At Newbury's trial for the murder of Hawkins, defense attorneys tried to portray him as a product of his abusive upbringing, citing an absent father, unloving mother and sister, and other troubles at home. The jury, unmoved, sentenced him to death, along with the other surviving members of the Texas 7. 2 of the men, George Rivas and George Rodriguez, were executed in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

Attorney William Harris has filed a number of appeals claiming insufficient counsel during Newbury's trial. In 2012, Newbury won a stay of his original execution date - Feb. 1, 2012 - after Harris argued that Newbury should be spared while justices consider an Arizona case that questioned whether death row inmates are entitled to a certain standard of counsel during initial appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court also ordered a review of allegations (for all 4 of the remaining Texas 7) in June 2013, but the 5th Circuit of Appeals upheld the sentences during that review in early July. On Jan. 2, 2014, a final motion for a stay of execution was denied.

If Ladd and Newbury are both executed, they will be the 522nd and 523rd inmates executed since Texas reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

ALABAMA:

Shelby County capital murder case advancing to jury trial April 20

A Shelby County judge this afternoon denied an attempt by defense attorneys to strike down an indictment containing a capital murder charge against a Chelsea man accused of killing his grandmother in 2012.

Defense attorneys representing Daniel Scott Gentry, 27, argued before Circuit Judge William H. Bostick III that their client's indictment should not contain a capital murder offense based on the allegations in the case.

Bostick denied the motion argued by defense attorney Mickey Johnson of Pelham as Gentry's case proceeds to a jury trial set to begin April 20. The defendant continues to face a single charge of capital murder, which carries the death penalty as a potential punishment.

Gentry in August 2012 pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to the capital murder charge contained in the indictment dated June 2012. The indictment accuses him of killing Carrie Elaine Gentry sometime on March 28-29, 2012.

Carrie Elaine Gentry was a minister who allowed her grandson to live with her after he underwent drug rehabilitation.

The indictment alleges Daniel Gentry killed his grandmother by possibly stabbing her with a knife, striking her with a hammer, choking her or causing her asphyxiation with his hands or other object.

Carrie Gentry had disappeared about a month from her 65th birthday, and divers on April 10, 2012, located her inside her vehicle in about 40 feet of water in a Leeds quarry.

Dressed in bright orange Shelby County jail clothes with chains around his wrists, ankles and waist, Daniel Gentry sat at a table and listened to the discussion about his case this afternoon. Also representing him is defense attorney Victor Portella, who also attended the hearing.

Johnson argued the alleged details of the crime do not constitute a capital offense. "I do not believe ... that there is any part of this particular offense that would make it a capital offense other than it occurred indoors" at the victim's residence, he told the judge.

The indictment alleges that Gentry committed murder when he was "unlawfully in a dwelling of another," which is the crime of burglary.

Because it was inside, "that doesn't make it any more egregious than if it occurred in a yard," Johnson said.

The prosecution, represented by Stephanie Billingslea and Leigh Gwathney of the Alabama Attorney General's Office, disagreed with the defense's argument.

"What makes this case a capital is that a murder was committed during the course of a burglary," Billingslea told the judge.

(source: al.com)

KANSAS:

Abolish the death penalty

There is a long list of reasons why Kansas needs to abolish the death penalty and there is no sensible reason for us to keep this dysfunctional system. The last time the state of Kansas executed a person was exactly half a century ago. Yet the death penalty is still part of our criminal justice system, consuming millions of tax payers' dollars which could more wisely be spent on pro-active law enforcement, social and mental health programs that could help prevent violent crimes. With a human life at stake, it is necessary that death penalty cases go through a prolonged process of pre-trials, trials, prolonged appeals and re-trials. This time-intensive process is necessary in order to avoid the risk of executing an innocent person, but it also costs 4 times more than trials where life in prison without parole is pursued. In addition, this lengthy process puts murder victim family members through elongated trauma.

Although such painstaking and lengthy trial processes are designed, in-theory, to avoid the risk of executing innocent lives, serious mistakes do happen. No human system is infallible-and in many states flaws and corruptions have cost the lives of the innocent while leaving murder victim families empty handed. Since 1973, 150 innocent people have been exonerated from death row. Another 18 people have already been put to death, despite overwhelming doubt of guilt. Kansas has an effective alternative to the death penalty - life in prison without possibility of parole. Assessed from every angle, the death penalty is an ill-advised public policy. By abolishing the death penalty now, Kansas can ensure the needs of society are met, while avoiding the risk of taking innocent lives in the future. In order to get an all-rounded understanding about the death penalty, I invite Kansans to learn the facts from academic researches, stories of murder victim families, testimonies of innocent exonerees, views of faith leaders and insights of law enforcement officials. I also ask Kansans to make their voices heard by contacting their legislators now urging them to opt for a fiscally responsible public policy and vote yes on the repeal bill presented this legislative session. Helpful links:

http://ksabolition.org/http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/ Writers contact contact info. Ewnetu Tsegaw , Wichita (source: Letter to the Editor, The Kansan)

IDAHO:

Unlikely allies align to oppose Idaho's execution secrecy plan

An unlikely consortium of political groups has aligned to oppose the Idaho Department of Correction's plan to add more secrecy to state executions. The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, three groups not always aligned on policy, have come out against the department proposal, which would shield from public disclosure the names of execution chemical suppliers.

Members of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee introduced the bill last week, and the measure awaits more discussion in that panel.

Kathy Griesmyer, the legislative liaison for the ACLU of Idaho, suggested the measure flies in the face of public transparency. "To be fully accountable, Idaho must provide the public, defendants and courts information about the process to ensure it is humane and in compliance with state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution," she told IdahoReporter.com.

"This amendment to Idaho statute not only would shield the identities of those involved in carrying out state executions, but it would also limit both public and court access to knowledge surrounding the type of drugs being used and the source of the drugs," she added.

The legislation would insert into state code legal blocks preventing disclosure of the names of agency staffers and medical personnel participating in the execution process. The measure would also give the agency broad power to block disclosure of "any information" that would prevent the state from carrying out executions.

Parrish Miller, a policy analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, suggested the line of code might give the state too much latitude. "It could conceivably include the time and place where the execution is carried out, and even the identity of the person being executed," Miller wrote Tuesday. Marc Hyden, the national policy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, said politicos on his side of the ideological fence should feel deep skepticism of the measure.

"Conservatives should always be skeptical when the state attempts to shroud its activities in secrecy," Hyden wrote in an email. "The people of Idaho deserve to know where their taxes are being spent and what those funds are purchasing."

But the state agency wants onlookers to know the changes they want only reflect how its workers already conduct executions.

"We're asking for this change not because the IDAPA rule is inadequate, but because of the importance we place on this issue," Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray explained.

"Think of it this way: Reporters, in some circumstances, rely on anonymous sources. The reporters promise the sources their identities will not be revealed," Ray added. "Likewise, the Department of Correction relies on a team of dedicated professionals to fulfill legislative and judicial intent in carrying out sentences of death."

Ray didn't address the need to protect chemical suppliers from disclosure. He did say the agency has received records requests for that information in the past, but used state administrative rules to block the queries.

State administrative rules also already protect from disclosure the names of staffers and medical attendants who carry out executions.

Josh Tewalt, one of the agency's prison administrators, told the Senate panel the state needs to block disclosure due to recent media attention surrounding botched executions in Arizona and Oklahoma.

Still, skeptics don’t buy into the agency's pitch.

"It is perhaps unsurprising - in light of these horrific occurrences - that the companies manufacturing these drugs would want to retreat behind a cloak of anonymity, but the answer to abject government failure is not to hide the truth from the public," Miller cautioned.

Hyden warned the measure could lead to some nefarious activities.

"Concealing the source of the death penalty drugs has nothing to do with national security," Hyden said. "So, there is no reason why the state should keep expenditures of public funds like this a secret. This form of secrecy in the hands of the government often leads to corruption and abuse."

(source: Idahowatchdog.org)

USA:

Boston bombing trial: The media is frustrated by the many restrictions imposed in the Tsarnaev case

The Boston press corps is frustrated with the U.S. District Court in Boston.

Compared to the U.S. Supreme Court or to courts in many other countries, the federal court has never seemed particularly accessible to journalists - no video or audio recording or photography of the proceedings is ever allowed, and transcripts are quite difficult to get. But local court reporters say they have never faced the sorts of restrictions imposed by Judge George O'Toole in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspected Boston Marathon bomber. The bulk of the filings in the case are under seal - including at least 1 defense motion that was excerpted at length by the Boston Globe before the judge sealed it last week - and reporters are excluded from seeing or hearing much of the courtroom discussion that would customarily be public.

The trial is in the voir dire stage, the individual interview part of selecting a jury. On Wednesday, the Boston Globe filed a motion requesting public - which is to say, media - access to some of the challenges made to juror candidacies by the lawyers on either side and the judge's rulings on these challenges. Some of the process is obvious: Several times a day, the judge will cut an interview short because it is clear the juror cannot be seated. This happens in 1 of 2 situations. If a juror is so obviously dead-set on voting for the death penalty or, conversely, if a juror is unequivocally opposed to the death penalty, both sides may agree on the spot that the person cannot meaningfully participate in the penalty phase of the trial. (In capital punishment cases, it is the jury that decides whether a defendant who has been found guilty is to be executed).

Over the last couple of weeks of voir dire the prosecution and the defense have worked out a system for signaling to each other and then to the judge that they agree the person is unsuitable for jury and that the interview can be cut short. Sometimes, it is obvious that serving on the jury would pose an extraordinary hardship. 1 juror last week said that his employer had agreed to pay him for three days of his jury service. After he was allowed to leave the courtroom, defense attorney David Bruck quipped, "It will probably take longer than that." The judge originally projected that the trial would last 3 to 4 months, but at this point jury selection has been going on for more than 3 weeks and is nowhere near completion.

The court has interviewed 98 people so far, and it would appear that most of them cannot serve on the jury, either because they hold strong beliefs about Tsarnaev's guilt or about the death penalty. Each side has 23 peremptory challenges, meaning it can exclude that many people from the final jury pool without explanation; this means that in order to seat 18 people (12 voting members and 6 alternates), the court has to settle on at least 64 suitable candidates at the end of voir dire. The court has averaged 15 people a day, but we don't know how many of those have been cleared for the next round; those decisions are made in camera at the end of each day. If the Globe's motion is granted, we would learn how far the process has advanced.

In open court, Judge O'Toole has said that he doesn't want to tell jurors directly that they have been excused because he doesn't want to "coach" other candidates on how to get out of jury duty in this case. That may be part of the reason he has closed the afternoon discussions to the press - though he has not explained this decision. Nor has he explained the decision to exclude journalists physically from the courtroom.

On the 1st day of voir dire, the ban was total; reporters crowded into 2 smaller courtrooms and watched the proceedings through a video link. The link proved unreliable, with either the video or the sound, and sometimes both, disappearing at various times. The camera was placed so high up behind the juror that reporters could only occasionally glimpse a bald pate or a full head of gray hair while the juror was sitting down. The reporters complained loudly.

By the following day the court had laid new cable and moved the camera. Now reporters could tell that all but 1 or 2 of the jury candidates were white and the majority were middle-aged. But the journalists questioned the restrictions themselves - after all, even during last year's trial of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger on the same floor of the same courthouse, the courtroom was full of reporters for the voir dire.

On day 3, proceedings began an hour late because the judge was apparently considering the press corps' complaints. Now two pool reporters would be allowed into the courtroom. Since then, the number has been negotiated up to three, and the journalists are also gradually eating away at the amount of time the court spends with the microphones turned off; with every passing day, the media can hear a little more of the banter. Still, no one has been able to hear any of the chats that go on between Tsarnaev and public defender Miriam Conrad, who sits to his right. These conversations are the rare moments when the defendant does not look bored verging on absent. He appears to joke with Conrad, and she appears to find his remarks very funny.

(source: Washington Post)

KYRGYZSTAN:

Kyrgyzstan Debates Death Penalty for Child Abusers

The rape of a 2-year-old Bishkek boy earlier in January is fueling a nationwide debate: should Kyrgyzstan reintroduce capital punishment for such heinous crimes? While passions rage in parliament and the media, rights activists say Kyrgyzstan's corrupt and unaccountable courts should not be trusted on matters of life and death.

In response to heated public discussions, where some have called for vigilante groups to hunt down and kill alleged sexual predators, on January 27 Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev recommended displaying large portraits of rapists in public squares, the state-run Kabar news agency quoted him as saying. He also said he supports reintroducing the death penalty for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a child.

In a country where years of corruption and misrule mean the public today has little trust in its officials, it is perhaps not surprising that some are turning to vigilantism. On January 8, in the village of Sokoluk, just outside the capital, locals beat to death a 43-year-old man they accused of raping a local man.

Anger is also being directed at Kyrgyzstan's notoriously opaque court system.

2 years ago, a teacher in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's 2nd city, admitted to raping a 9-year-old boy. But the teacher managed to convince the judge that he is insane, according to the boy's family's lawyer, Khusanbai Saliev. "The case has been suspended until his compulsory medical treatment is over," Saliev told EurasiaNet.org.

Both the lawyer and the mother believe the rapist bought phony medical documents in order to feign insanity to escape punishment.

Wiping away tears, the mother says her son's attacker should be executed. "I found out that my son was raped when he couldn't defecate. When I asked him what was wrong he said one of his teachers 'put his thing into me from behind,'" the boy's mother told EurasiaNet.org. "Shocked by what the man did to my son, I wanted to kill him. ... They [rapists] don't have the right to live."

Her lawyer, pointing to this case as an example of the courts' unreliability, argues against capital punishment. "Innocent people could be sentenced to death due to a miscarriage of justice," said Saliev.

There are no reliable statistics on sexual assault and child abuse in Kyrgyzstan, yet increased media attention on the once-taboo topic is fueling an impression that the number of assault cases is growing, says Nazgul Turdubekova, the head of the League of Children's Rights Defenders, an NGO in Bishkek. She added that Kyrgyzstan's judges are unreliable and prone to let bribery determine verdicts and rulings. And mistakes happen, too.

With an election coming this fall, Kyrgyzstan's MPs are keen to be seen as responsive to public concerns. On January 22, Irgal Kadyralieva - who is mostly known for pushing legislation that would ban girls under age 23 from traveling abroad, allegedly to "preserve the gene pool" - demanded parliament reinstate the death penalty.

Over the ensuing week, the local AKIpress news agency conducted an online survey. Of 4,702 respondents polled, 67.4 % favored reintroducing the death penalty for "abuse and violence against children." Another 16.2 % supported "castration;" and 14.2 % believed life imprisonment was a just punishment.

Kyrgyzstan carried out least 6 executions between 1992 and 1998, when a ban on capital punishment took effect. 2 of the death-penalty cases involved cases of child sexual abuse. Under law, the current maximum sentence for such cases ranges from 15 years to life in prison.

Retired police colonel Alexander Zelichenko, who consults widely on legal issues, argued that a return of the death penalty would not deter such crimes. He said the number of cases is not growing, rather they are no longer hushed up.

He said other societal ills that serve as triggers for child sexual abuse, such as alcoholism, need to be addressed. "Drunk people rape their stepdaughters and daughters," Zelichenko said. "Such things happen due to social degradation."

Zelichenko added that, given all the tumult during Kyrgyzstan's 23 years of independence, there is little public faith in the rule of law. Too many people are seen to be above the law, he argued. "Any offender must know that he or she will be found and punished. It is not necessary to chop off his arms or legs or castrate him like many people suggest," he told EurasiaNet.org. "It is necessary to ensure that the rule of law applies to everybody."

Turdubekova of the League of Children's Rights Defenders sees Kyrgyzstan's widespread poverty as a factor in the debate. "Due to their poverty, a large number of people leave the country to seek work. They leave their children unattended or to be cared for by neighbors, friends and relatives," Turdubekova told EurasiaNet.org, adding that children not living under parental supervision face a higher risk of experiencing violence.

(source: eurasianet.org)

PAKISTAN:

Rights groups call on Pakistan to halt execution of civilian

Rights organisations on Thursday called on the government to halt the execution of the 1st civilian for a non-terror related offence since 2008, saying the move would violate its own official policy.

A 6-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted last month in the case of convicted terrorists following a terrorist attack by Taliban militants on a school in Peshawar which killed 150 people.

Since then 20 people have been hanged, with plans to execute up to 500.

But a death warrant issued this week for convicted murderer Shoaib Sarwar has raised the prospect of executions being resumed for the rest of the country's almost 8,000 death row convicts.

Sarwar, a death row prisoner, was convicted on murder charges in 1998.

He is currently being held in a jail in Haripur, some 25 kilometres from Islamabad.

Rights groups have slammed the announcement, which sets the date of his hanging for February 3 in Rawalpindi.

"The government policy on who should be executed is very clear it says only people who are on terrorism," Kate Higham of British legal charity Reprieve told AFP, adding the judge in this case had misunderstood his role and succumbed to pressure from the victim's family.

Analysts believe that resuming the executions in non-terror cases could imperil a favourable trade agreement with the European Union which exempts Pakistan from taxes on its textile exports.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas set to execute 'intellectually disabled' inmate----Robert Ladd is scheduled to be killed on Thursday after an appeals court refused a stay

A man deemed by medical professionals to be intellectually disabled looks set to be put to death on Thursday evening, after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a request to stay the procedure. A panel of judges ruled that Robert Ladd - a convicted murderer once given an IQ score of 67, so low as to indicate a mental impairment - had failed to meet the state's standard for intellectual disability.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Ladd on his appeal, responded on Wednesday by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," said ACLU attorney Brian Stull in a statement. "We will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution."

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2004 case Atkins v. Virginia that executing mentally disabled inmates violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling, however, gave state governments broad latitude to determine who counts as intellectually disabled.

Texas has a particularly narrow definition of who is sufficiently disabled to be exempt from the death penalty, according to Jordan Steiker, director of the University of Texas Law School's Capital Punishment Center.

"There's a professional definition of intellectual disability that is embraced by psychologists and psychiatrists, and the Supreme Court referenced the professional definition in its opinion," he said. "But Texas has taken the view that the definition of intellectual disability used broadly is not appropriate in a criminal context because it might just exempt too many people."

Thus while a Texas psychiatrist who evaluated Ladd in 1970 found him "obviously retarded," the state's courts were able to argue that he did not meet the required threshold under their definition.

Under Texas criminal law, as established in the 2004 case ex parte Briseno, defendants might not be exempt from execution if the are able to "hide facts or lie effectively," "show leadership" or demonstrate an ability to make plans for the future. But the line in the ex parte Briseno decision that attracted the most public outcry was the one in which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals cited the John Steinbeck novel "Of Mice and Men" to make its case.

"Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt," according to the ex parte Briseno opinion, referring a character in the book who kills animals and a woman before finally being killed himself. "But, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?'

The ruling was subsequently denounced by the author's son, Thomas Steinbeck, who said he was "deeply troubled" at the book being used "as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disabilities should live or die."

The Supreme Court has shown some willingness to limit states' ability to define the threshold for claiming an exemption to the death plenty. In the 2014 case Hall v. Florida, the justices overruled Florida's legal standard, which at the time held that defendants would not be considered mentally incapacitated if they scored anywhere above 70 on an IQ test.

Yet Steiker said he found it "extremely unlikely" that the Supreme Court would spare Ladd, who was convicted in 1996 of beating a woman to death in Texas.

"I don't think the court seems all that eager to police what's going on in the state courts," he said.

(source: Al Jazeera)

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

Texas poised to execute intellectually disabled prisoner within hours

Robert Ladd's lethal injection to come days after Georgia's execution of another intellectually disabled man; lawyer condemns policy based on fiction

Texas is hours away from executing the second intellectually disabled prisoner in the US this week, in what lawyers say is a clear violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The convicted murderer Robert Ladd, 57, will be killed with a lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Thursday barring last-minute action by the US supreme court, where the case now resides. He was first found to have what was then called "mental retardation" when he was 13, and has repeatedly been diagnosed with the condition throughout his life.

In 2002, the supreme court banned executions for mentally impaired prisoners under the 8th amendment of the constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. But Texas says it is not bound by this ruling because it claims Ladd does not conform to the state's unique, and bizarre, method of defining "mental retardation".

Under what are known as "Briseno Factors", the state sets out the profile of an individual whom ordinary Texans would agree was intellectually disabled. It points to Lennie Small, the lumbering and childlike character in John Steinbeck's 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, identifying him as the legal yardstick.

Ladd's lawyer, Brian Stull of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that his client's fate should not "depend on a novella. Instead of sticking to the standards set by science, they refer to a character in Of Mice and Men."

Ladd was convicted of the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in east Texas. Previously, he had served 16 years of a 40-year prison sentence for murdering another woman and setting her Dallas apartment on fire, killing her 2 children.

Ladd would be the second intellectually impaired prisoner to be executed this week, should the supreme court allow the procedure to go ahead. On Tuesday, Georgia executed Warren Hill , 54, a convicted murderer who had been found to be mentally disabled by every medical expert who had examined him.

Stull said that in light of the earlier Hill execution, "if Robert Ladd is put to death tonight, it will become clearer than ever that we are in the midst of a complete systems failure in terms of honouring the constitutional protections the supreme court ordered for intellectually disabled people."

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered a stay of execution in 3 pending cases in Oklahoma as a result of the court's earlier decision to consider the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections. Midazolam has been linked to a spate of recent botched executions in Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Ohio.

The review does not touch upon Texas's procedures, as the state has chosen to use pentobarbital, a barbiturate it is believed to have acquired from a relatively unregulated compounding pharmacy.

(source: The Guardian)

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

Texas Uses Of Mice and Men Standards to Execute Mentally Disabled Man

Barring a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas will execute a man with an IQ score of 67 tonight.

Robert Ladd is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally disabled person for murder is unconstitutional. Stranger still, Texas has once again used standards derived from John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men, to justify executing a man that meets the clinical definition of intellectually disabled.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, Ladd's attorney, said in a statement. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

And yet.

Texas has been executing people as fast as it can since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. However, the question of whether or not anyone should be executing the intellectually disabled has come up a bit since then. The U.S. Supreme Court made a broad decision on the issue back in 2002 with Atkins v. Virginia. The high court ruled that executing an intellectually disabled person for murder was a violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

Here's what Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion (and yes, they used the term "retarded" back then):

"Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light of our 'evolving standards of decency,' we therefore conclude that such punishment is excessive and that the Constitution 'places a substantive restriction on the State's power to take the life' of a mentally retarded offender."

However, the Supremes left the actual definition of what constitutes intellectually disabled up to the states. In Texas, after the 2003 state legislature failed to lay out the rules that would clearly prevent the execution of intellectually disabled people convicted of murder, it fell to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to pin down the requirements. Judge Cathy Cochran was the one to write the opinion, and she came up with a doozy.

This is where Steinbeck enters the legal picture. Cochran was born in California and decades ago she and her husband lived in Monterrey near Cannery Row, the area that Steinbeck immortalized. Cochran started reading his books since she was living in the place that inspired so much of his writing. One of the books she picked up was, of course, Of Mice and Men.

For those who dozed off in high school English class, Of Mice and Men is the story of George, a vagabond ranch hand, and his friend Lennie, a mentally disabled giant of a man. George and Lennie travel together working and George struggles throughout the book to keep Lennie, who is fascinated with soft things and doesn't realize the damage he is capable of, from getting in trouble. Eventually this leads to an accidental murder and George finds Lennie hiding from a vigilante group. George knows the men will find his friend and will execute him, so he kills Lennie himself. It's a brutal, tragic and incredibly moving work of fiction, and it turns out that the story stayed with Cochran, though probably not in the way Steinbeck would have intended.

Cochran landed on the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001. In 2004 she was working out how to apply the Supreme Court's Atkins ruling in Texas and she found herself thinking of Lennie, according to Life of the Law. She even mentions Lennie in the opinion she wrote in Ex Parte Briseno, the 1st Texas case post-Atkins that saw the court working out how to handle convicted murderers who might be intellectually disabled.

And for a second, it reads like she actually got the point of the book, but then she goes on:

"Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt from execution. But does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?"

Cochran concluded Texans would not want to exempt every convicted murderer with a low IQ from being executed. John Blume, a law professor at Cornell University who has studied how states have actually applied Atkins, says Cochran basically undid everything Atkins was supposed to do. "If you read the Briseno opinion itself it's clearly an attempt on its own terms to circumvent Atkins. It says we understand that the Supreme Court decided on Atkins but we have some room to operate here and we're going to use it."

So Cochran, in writing the opinion for the Court of Criminal Appeals, essentially took Atkins and worked around it to create new very flexible guidelines for the courts in Texas. She came up with what would come to be known as the Briseno Factors.

There are 7 factors. Translated out of legalese, the Briseno Factors essentially mean a person who has tested as intellectually disabled but is still able to get an idea and follow through on it, or is not clearly being manipulated by others, or can handle a social situation without drooling, or is able to tell a lie and remember the lie long enough to keep telling it is mentally competent enough for execution. The same goes if he or she can talk coherently and was able to, you know, actually plan the crime in question.

Blume says that in practice the Briseno factors can undo almost any legal acknowledgment of intellectual disability, making Atkins just this side of worthless in preventing a mentally disabled person who may not entirely understand what they've done -- hence why the Briseno Factors are also known as the Lennie test -- from being executed.

Using the Lennie test almost anyone can be proved competent enough to be executed. "That's where Texas is really an outlier and where people really seem to lose when it comes to the adaptive functioning," Blume says. "The courts use the Briseno factors despite the fact that they are at odds with the clinical definition of intellectual disability, and when it comes to the Briseno factors it's almost impossible to win."

Translated into practical terms this workaround led to the execution of Marvin Wilson in 2012. Wilson was a man who sucked his thumb and who couldn't make change or use a phone book. He had an IQ of 61, but he had also held a job, married and had a child. Wilson was convicted in 1994 in the shooting death of Jerry Williams, 21, who had identified him to police as a drug dealer, according to the Huffington Post. Despite his low IQ the court system found that he should be executed according to the Lennie test since he was able to hold a job and marry, as Atlantic noted.

That was when Steinbeck's son Thomas Steinbeck found out that his father's work was being used as justification for executing convicted murderers with low IQs. He issued a statement vehemently decrying the entire thing. "To judge anything based on a piece of fiction, I think, is a stretch," he told Studio360 in 2013. "And I think it would've made my father extremely angry."

Thomas Steinbeck pointed out his father was decidedly against the death penalty. He noted that his father once told him that if you have to take another man's blood to make your point, you haven't thought out the question very thoroughly.

Last year, the Supreme Court made a more narrow decision on the issue in Hall v. Florida, ruling that states have to actually stick to the clinical definition of intellectual disability when measuring who can and can't be executed. However, this ruling has had virtually no apparent effect on how judges in Texas handle these cases, Blume says.

And the thing is lawmakers -- perhaps the ones who read Of Mice and Men and get how ridiculous it is that the state currently executing the most people in the country should cite this particular work to justify some of the most morally questionable executions -- have been trying to get the Lennie test replaced with actual state legislation for years.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis has been working on getting a bill passed outlining how to determine whether someone is mentally competent enough to be executed for more than a decade. The bill he filed in the 2013 legislative session never made it out of senate committee. "I've actually had to preside over executions when I was the acting governor in 1999 and 2000, so I know firsthand the importance of getting it absolutely right when it comes to the ultimate punishment," Ellis stated via email. "Texas' current system falls far short of that standard, so I hope that my 16 year quest to pass this bill is finally successful this session."

Ellis has already filed a similar bill for the 84th legislative session. Ellis says his bill is designed to get Texas away from the Lennie list and into line with, well, the law. "To ensure compliance with the Constitution, my bill would put in place a clear standard to determine whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty." There's no telling if the bill will gain any traction this time around.

Either way time is running out for Ladd. Ladd was acknowledged in court as someone who met the clinical criteria of intellectually disabled, Blume says, but Briseno cancelled that consideration out, something that has often happened when it is applied in Texas.

Ladd, who previously pled guilty and served 14 years for killing his cousin and her two children in Dallas back in 1978, beat Vicki Ann Garner to death in 1996. Garner was also intellectually disabled, according to the Daily Tribune. There's no question of Ladd's guilt, only of whether he ever possessed the mental capacity to understand what he was doing. Ladd's lawyers say he did not. After the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Ladd's death penalty appeal, his lawyers filed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking them to step in.

At this point the entire issue is in the hands of the Supremes. If the Supreme Court doesn't make Texas stop using these standards to work around Atkins, Blume says it looks like Texas will keep using the Lennie test to allow the execution of the intellectually disabled. And so far there have been no signs of any change on the horizon in Texas courts. "They're continuing to apply these factors in state and federal courts in Texas and nobody says no. They've been in effect for a number of years and they've been used by judges in a lot of different courts," Blume says. "I'd like to think the legislature will do something, but that doesn't seem likely, so it will have to fall to the Supreme Court. Until the Supreme Court steps in and says no, you can't do this, they're going to keep doing it."

(source: Houston Press)

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

Death-Row Inmate Files Last-Minute Appeal

A Texas inmate scheduled to die by lethal injection today asked a federal judge to spare his life until prison officials produce evidence their drugs will not cause him "excruciating pain."

Robert Charles Ladd sued Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials Brad Livingston and William Stephens, Huntsville prison warden James Jones and Unknown Executioners, on Jan. 27 in Federal Court.

Ladd's co-plaintiff, Texas inmate Garcia Glen White, was scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his execution.

White's lawyers claim he may have been impaired by habitual cocaine use when he waived his right to an attorney during police questioning, but the Court of Criminal Appeals did not explain its ruling, according to The Associated Press.

White was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing twin teenage girls in 1998.

Upon getting word from the appeals court, White dropped his request for a temporary injunction in the lawsuit he filed with Ladd.

Ladd was sentenced to death in 1997 for murdering Vicki Ann Gardner, whom he beat to death with a hammer inside her Tyler home before setting her body on fire and stealing her electronics and jewelry.

Ladd opens his lawsuit with a reference to the Supreme Court's Jan. 23 decision to review Oklahoma's lethal injection methods.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday delayed the scheduled execution of 3 Oklahoma death-row inmates, pending the outcome of a hearing before the justices in late April.

Ladd claims Texas is running low on its supply of compounded pentobarbital, the only drug it uses now to kill inmates, and that it "recently purchased large quantities of midazolam, hydromorphone, and potassium chloride."

The sedative midazolam is of particular concern, Ladd says, because it was used in the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett in April 2014.

After 3 drugs were administered to Lockett he "he began to speak, raised his head, writhed, groaned and took 43 minutes to die, reportedly from a heart attack," according to Ladd's complaint.

Lockett's execution is one of five bungled lethal injection executions that Ladd cites in his lawsuit.

Ladd also questions the viability of the pentobarbital that Texas has, claiming the state's supply "over the past 6 months has been in constant flux, with vials coming and going in odd increments" and an expired batch could cause him excruciating pain.

He asked U.S. District Judge John Rainey to stay his execution until Texas can show its methods will not subject him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Rainey denied Ladd's request for an injunction Tuesday, and Ladd appealed to the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.

If the 5th Circuit does not step in Ladd, will be executed at 6:00 p.m. Central time on Thursday.

(source: Courthouse News)

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

DA LaHood: I Prayed Over Decision Not to Seek Death Penalty

In the 1st controversial decision, Bexar Counjty District Attorney Nicholas LaHood says he will not seek the death penalty for the 24 year old who is charged with murdering Elmendorf Police Chief Michael Pimentel during a traffic stop last summer, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Josh Lopez, who is described as a local troublemaker, shot and killed Pimental during a routine traffic stop. The chief was investigating reports that Lopez had been scrabbling graffiti on city property.

LaHood says the elements to win a capital punishment verdict don't exist in this case, and he feels it would be safer to instead ask for life without parole.

"Our job is not to throw things against the wall and see if it sticks," LaHood said. "Our job is not to do the political thing but to do the right thing."

LaHood says the trend in Bexar County is to seek the relatively new sentence of life without the possibility of parole because juries are more likely to grant that sentence.

LaHood says it was a tough decision to make, and it was equally tough to explain his decision to Pimentel's family.

"I was up all night, and I have been criticized for talking aobut my faith, keep criticizing. I'm a Christian, I'm a man of faith. I prayed about it all night, and I prayed about it this morning when I came into the office before the meeting."

LaHood's decision is in line with current trends. There were fewer people executed in Texas in 2014 than in any year for the last 20 years. Juries are less likely to sentence people to death, due to concerns about exonerations and the likelihood of future evidence affecting their verdict.

(source: WOAI news)

GEORGIA:

Georgia's Most Recent Execution May Have Violated The US Constitution

Tuesday night, Georgia executed a man for murder - despite a panel of experts unanimously labeling him as intellectually disabled.

As such, his death at the hands of the state may have violated the US Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

While serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend in 1985, the man who was executed, Warren Hill, fatally beat one of his fellow inmates. The court system sentenced him to die for his crime despite his lifelong intellectual disability.

Here's why the execution of Hill, 54, may violate the Constitution. A Supreme Court case in 2003, Atkins v. Virginia, found executing "mentally retarded" individuals violates the Eight Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

All experts, including 3 appointed by Georgia, concluded that a "preponderance of evidence" showed that Hill was intellectually disabled. Georgia, however, requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that a defendant is intellectually disabled in order to spare them from the death penalty.

This higher burden of proof essentially means that it's more likely the state will execute intellectually disabled people. Georgia is the only state to require such a strict burden of proof in these kinds of cases.

In court papers, Hill's lawyers also argued that Georgia's standard violated the Supreme Court's decision last year in Hall v. Florida. That decision found Florida was too rigid in setting a strict IQ cutoff of 70 to spare people from the death penalty.

"Like Florida's strict IQ cutoff at issue in Hall, Georgia's beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard for intellectual disability 'den[ies individuals] the basic dignity the Constitution protects' and 'contravenes our Nation's . . . duty to teach human decency as the mark of the civilized world," Hills lawyers argued.

Despite all of this, Hill was pronounced dead at 7:55 p.m. by a lethal injection.

Hill's case continues a wave of controversy over states executing the mentally ill and disabled. In August 2013, Florida executed John Ferguson, a 65-year-old schizophrenic man who called himself the "Prince of God." The Supreme Court declined to hear a final argument from his lawyers. Advocates also said Andrew Reid Lackey, an Alabama man executed in July 2013, suffered from mental illness.

(source: businessinsider.com)

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

Statement by the Spokesperson on the execution of Warren Lee Hill in the US State of Georgia on 27 January 2015

The execution of Warren Lee Hill in the US State of Georgia on 27 January 2015, in spite of the indications that he suffered from a mental disability, is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and to the minimum standards set forth according to international human rights law.

We regret that the numerous calls for clemency, including those of the EU, went unheeded.

The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment under all circumstances and aims at its universal abolition, seeking a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step.

(source: europa news)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana death penalty study in early phases

Does the death penalty increase the cost of Louisiana murder cases? That's what a group at the Capitol wants to figure out.

This comes after a new study in Nevada suggests a capital punishment trial is more expensive than life behind bars.

"Our mission here is to determine the actual cost of prosecuting a capital case as opposed to a non-capital case," said John DeRosier, District Attorney for Calcasieu Parish and subcommittee co-chairman of the Capital Punishment Fiscal Impact Commission.

But before that mission can be accomplished, the commission must answer a big question- how many parishes should the study consider?

The Nevada study looked at just 2 of the state's 16 counties.

In East Baton Rouge Parish alone, the Defense Bar says there are currently 22 capital cases while some parishes have none.

"We have quite a bit of data on capital defense throughout the state," said Jay Dixon, LA State Public Defender.

To help with determining the size of the study, the commission is calling on the Public Defender's office.

"We probably have more data than just about any state that has done this. Basically a mountain of information, that other states do not have access to," said Dixon.

The Legislative Auditor will also play a major part.

"We will compare apples to apples," said Irina Hampton, Performance Auditor with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor

The commission wants the auditor's office to put boots on the ground- send staff to each potential parish in the study, analyze court records, and talk to judges and private lawyers.

In the middle of planning its approach, the group also mentioned the nation's anti-death penalty movement, those who want capital punishment abolished, people like Sidney Garmon.

"They're concerned about the amount of money that the state is spending on this form of punishment instead of taking that money and putting it into programs that will make our community safer," said Garmon, Executive Dir. of the LA Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The commission will next meet February 25th. They've set a goal to finish the study by New Year's Day next year.

(source: WAFB news)

KANSAS:

Death penalty ---- Becker again makes good-sense case for repeal

Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, has become a leading advocate for repealing the death penalty in Kansas. He speaks on the issue with his usual good common sense and provides a certain credibility as a former Reno County District Court judge.

Becker filed a bill Monday to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a life-in-prison sentence without possibility of parole. Becker offered both a fiscal and a moral argument, noting that capital punishment is multifold more expensive to the state and that the danger of sentencing innocent people is real.

He also sponsored a repeal bill last year.

"How can we impose the irreversible absolute certainty of death when we do not require the absolute certainty of guilt?" Becker said at the time.

By one count, 150 people convicted and sentenced to death since 1971 have been exonerated.

And Wichita lawyer Stephen Robison, who chaired a Kansas Judicial Council committee studying the cost of the death penalty, last year said that the cost of prosecution and appeal of capital punishment cases is 3 to 4 times that of non-death penalty cases. When Kansas needs to save every penny it can, that should be a compelling argument for political conservatives in Topeka.

This week, Becker noted another inconsistency in conservative doctrine, which typically holds that life is sacred when it comes to abortion but not when it comes to capital punishment.

Becker borrowed conservative standard-bearer Gov. Sam Brownback's line from his State of the State speech earlier this month when he said that "from the beginning of life to the end of life, Kansas is the most pro-life state in America."

"How can we claim to be pro-life when we impose the death penalty?" Becker asked. "Every advocate for and champion of the sanctity of life knows that it applies to all life, not just innocence."

So, what say you, governor? The Legislature will follow your lead on abortion-related bills this session. It's time for you to champion this pro-life cause, too. It's time for our state to stop standing in judgment of life and death and instead to lock up our worst criminals for life.

(source: John D. Montgomery, Hutchinson News editorial board)

OKLAHOMA:

Richard Glossip Reacts To News That He Won't Be Executed This Week: 'It's So Unbelievable'

Death row inmate Richard Glossip described Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court order suspending his impending execution as "so unbelievable."

"I've felt amazing today," Glossip said hours after he heard the news, sounding elated and buoyed by hope.

Glossip laughed easily during a conversation with The Huffington Post, talking excitedly about reconnecting with family and learning just how far news of his case has spread around the world. The Associated Press characterized the Supreme Court's decision as one that "came as no surprise," to which Glossip said, "Unless it's your life on the line, you don't know how heavy it is."

Glossip, who has been on Oklahoma's death row for 17 years, was scheduled to die Thursday by lethal injection. Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a case involving Glossip and two other Oklahoma death row inmates, who claim their state's lethal injection method is unconstitutional and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Glossip's fate remained in limbo until Wednesday's announcement.

"I'm really happy that the Supreme Court ordered the stay so that the litigation can be carefully considered and Richard has more time," Kathleen Lord, one of Glossip's lawyers, told HuffPost. "Anything can happen with time. And Richard is not done telling his story."

Glossip, 51, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in 1998 and was sentenced to death based on the testimony of one witness, Justin Sneed. Sneed confessed to beating a hotel owner to death with a baseball bat, claiming that Glossip promised him $10,000 to do it. In exchange for his testimony, Sneed was spared death row himself and instead sentenced to life in prison.

Glossip has staunchly maintained his innocence from the start, and his case has attracted the support of high-profile death penalty opponents. Outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Wednesday, several of those supporters, who had been visiting Glossip under the belief it would be their last time seeing him, celebrated.

"It's such a surreal situation to be sitting with someone very near to execution," Sister Helen Prejean, a nun known for her memoir Dead Man Walking and Glossip's spiritual adviser, told HuffPost. "Then when you get the news -- I was ecstatic."

Prejean added that she "leapt out of her chair" after hearing Glossip's execution would be stayed. She said the news was not only a relief to Glossip's supporters, but to prison guards as well. "None of them wanted to be here if this was going to happen to him," she said Several guards had requested the day of Glossip's execution off, Prejean said.

Glossip, who was able to visit with his guests Wednesday in the prison's law library while he sat beside them in a locked cage, said he nearly broke down and cried at the ability to reach out and touch his family. Prior to Wednesday, he said he had not been able to see his eldest daughter, Christina Glossip-Hodge, in person in 25 years. It was also the 1st time he and Prejean met face to face.

A day earlier, dozens of Glossip's supporters hand-delivered a printout of a Change.org petition, which has now collected nearly 35,000 signatures, to the office of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R). The petition asks Fallin to stop the execution.

While the governor can't grant Glossip clemency, she has the authority to delay his execution by 60 days, and there's no limit to the amount of times she can do that. Fallin's office, however, has indicated that she's unlikely to do so.

"I disagree with the necessity to grant Glossip yet another round of legal appeals," Fallin said in a statement emailed to HuffPost following Wednesday's news. "However, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear his case, it is entirely appropriate to delay his execution until after the legal process has run its course."

Wednesday's Supreme Court order doesn't affect Glossip's death row status, but additional time before his execution may work in his favor. Should his lawyers uncover more evidence that suggests he's innocent, the state could grant him an appeal. Moreover, the state's Pardon and Parole Board could allow Glossip another clemency hearing, which could result in his sentence being commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Glossip's last clemency hearing was in October, when the state clemency board voted unanimously against him. Before the hearing, Sneed's daughter penned a letter to the board, claiming her father wished he could recant his testimony pinning the crime on Glossip, but it was submitted too late and couldn't be used as evidence.

"For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony. But has been afraid to act upon it, in fear of being charged with the death penalty," the letter read. "His fear of recanting, but guilt about not doing so, makes it obvious that information he is sitting on would exonerate Mr. Glossip."

Glossip's loved ones said they hope Wednesday's news will inspire Sneed to recant. "I have an innate hope that Justin Sneed will by awakened by close of a call we had today," Crystal Martinez, who authored the Change.org petiton, told HuffPost. "If that doesn't happen, I hope we can use all the injustices done to him during trial and finally bring him home -- alive."

Wednesday's Supreme Court order left open the possibility of carrying out lethal injections that don't involve midazolam, the controversial drug at the heart of Glossip's case, in the interim. Should they choose to move forward with an execution before the case is decided, Oklahoma's Department of Corrections would need to give death row inmates at least 10 days notice and choose a method that meets state protocols. It's unclear whether Oklahoma officials will pursue this option, and the Supreme Court will likely rule on the case by the end of June.

Oklahoma's execution methods came under scrutiny in April, after death row inmate Clayton Lockett died 45 minutes after being injected with a combination of drugs that had never been used together, including midazolam. Lockett writhed, clenched his teeth and struggled against the restraints holding him to a gurney before prison officials halted the execution, according to witnesses. He then died from a heart attack.

"It was a horrible thing to witness," Lockett's attorney, David Autry, told The Associated Press at the time. "This was totally botched." Fallin, who defended the execution, was attending a basketball game at the time.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to stay the execution of Charles Warner, another Oklahoma death row inmate. "My body is on fire," Warner, the 1st to be killed since Lockett, said after he was injected.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Wednesday's news, Glossip and his supporters said they won't stop fighting.

"I'm hoping this victory for Richard shows how horribly broken the system is," Prejean said. "And that it takes death off the table as an option that government can exercise over its citizens."

(source: Kim Bellware & Carly Schwartz, Huffington Post)

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

Inmate Gives Rare Glimpse Of Life On Death Row

A prisoner facing the death penalty has told Sky News how he spent the final days before his execution date laughing at episodes of the British comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine.

Richard Glossip was due to die by lethal injection on Thursday, but with just 1 day to go, the US Supreme Court gave him and 2 other prisoners a stay of execution until it can hear submissions on 1 of the drugs used in the process.

Glossip, who has always insisted he is innocent, is accused of hiring a colleague to murder Barry Van Treese, the owner of the motel where they worked.

Justin Sneed, who beat his victim to death with a baseball bat in 1997, testified against Glossip in a plea deal which meant he escaped a death sentence, and will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Glossip refused a plea deal, which would have led to life imprisonment.

He is the only 1 of the 49 men on Oklahoma's death row who did not actually commit a murder, and he had no criminal record before his arrest.

He told Sky News that he spent what he thought were his last days watching the Yorkshire-based comedy on the TV in his cell, and his favourite character was Compo.

"He chose to lead a life so simple. He doesn't need fancy cars or homes. He's happy just going out, and laying on a hill somewhere, laying on the grass, having a cup of tea, or doing something silly," Glossip said in a phone call from his prison cell.

"I love watching that show because it just makes you feel really good. It's helped me a lot. I think Last Of The Summer Wine is one of the most incredible shows ever made."

Glossip has described his days and attitude on death row.

"I try never to have a bad day," he said.

"I wake up and I try to find the good in every day. I laugh, and the guards watch me and think I'm weird, cause I'm laughing.

"If something happens and I should be executed, I don't want to go out hating people, or being angry at the world for what happened to me.

Glossip will be spared until at least May or June, when the US Supreme Court will decide on whether the lethal injection is a fair method of execution.

"I would rather go out peacefully and hoping that there's something on the other side that makes it all worthwhile," he said.

(source: eagle.co.uk)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Debate On Death Penalty Heats Up In Pierre

Expect plenty of debate on the death penalty.

Lawmakers filed 4 bills today dealing specifically with the controversial punishment.

1 bill would repeal the death penalty, making it illegal in the state. A similar measure failed last year.

The 2nd bill would add to the current law.

It would require a jury to determine the defendant is a threat to the community and too dangerous to be in prison.

If a jury decides a defendant is not a threat, he or she would receive a life sentence instead.

The other 2 proposals deal with the victims of violent crimes.

1 would require a victim's feelings against the death penalty be included in a pre-sentencing hearing.

The final bill would allow you to check a box when get your driver license.

Here's what it would say, "should I die as the result of a violent crime, it is my wish that no person found guilty of homicide for my killing be subject to a death sentence."

If you agree to that and check the box, your name would go on a statewide registry which can only be accessed if you are a victim of a violent crime.

That information would be able to be used in court.

(source: keloland.com)

UTAH:

Attorneys argue over whether ex-wife can testify of alleged confession in Utah death penalty trial----Doug Lovell's aggravated murder trial is expected to start in March — nearly 30 years after Joyce Yost's murder.

In 1985, Douglas Lovell allegedly told his then-wife that he kidnapped Joyce Yost and drove her up to Causey Reservoir, where he strangled her, stomped on her neck and killed her.

Now, Lovell's attorneys are trying to keep his now-ex-wife, Rhonda Buttars, from testifying about the admissions at an upcoming trial.

Lovell's defense team argued in recently filed court papers that the defendant's admissions to Buttars should be barred from trial because the statements are protected under a "confidential marital communications privilege."

Defense attorney Sean Young wrote in court papers that Buttars should not be allowed to testify about how Yost accused her husband of rape, how Lovell said Yost "didn't deserve to live" and how Lovell planned to hire a hit man to kill Yost, then plotted to kill her himself.

But in court on Wednesday, Deputy Weber County Attorney Jeffrey Thomson argued that the statements should be allowed because Lovell made the alleged confessions either after their 1990 divorce, in the presence of a 3rd party, or while Buttars was aiding him in the commission of the murder.

Thomson agreed that a mere confession is a protected statement, but said that if a defendant tells his spouse that he murdered someone and needs her help hiding the body, it is no longer considered confidential.

Thomson also argued that Lovell not only confessed these details to Buttars, but also told his family, other jail inmates and pronounced them publicly during his own testimony at a 1993 sentencing hearing.

"There's no longer any privilege," Thomson argued. "It's destroyed ... it's not in confidence anymore."

Second District Judge Michael DiReda did not immediately rule on the issue, telling Lovell and the attorneys that he would take the matter under advisement and file a written ruling.

Lovell, who is now 57, pleaded guilty in 1993 to aggravated murder. During his sentencing hearing, he voluntarily took the stand and detailed how he sexually assaulted Yost and later murdered the 39-year-old woman to keep her from testifying at his rape trial, according to court documents.

His original plea deal with prosecutors spared him the death penalty, so long as he led authorities to where Yost was buried. However, despite trips to the Weber County mountains to search for her body, Lovell was unable to locate the woman's remains prior to his sentencing date.

Lovell was ultimately sentenced to death, but the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 ruled he could withdraw the guilty plea because he should have been better informed of his rights during court proceedings.

Lovell's new death penalty trial is scheduled to begin on March 9 - nearly 30 years after Yost's murder.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

ARIZONA:

Court's Final Decision - Life Sentencing or Death Penalty?

It was early days of June 2008 when a horrible murder happened. Travis Alexander was killed by his girlfriend, Jodi Arias. In her statement, she said that she did that out of self - defense. The court was not convinced and she was convicted of 1st degree murder nearly 2 years ago. Like most murder cases, this was a media favorite for quite some time.

Arias might be convicted, but one source believes that she is winning. Maybe not in the platform that we are thinking, but she is winning in other areas. If you can remember, the jury is still deciding if she will have a death penalty or a life imprisonment. Apart from that, new evidence and witnesses point that Alexander was some sort of a maniac with his pornographic collections. The allegation that Arias was physically abused by his then boyfriend is also getting stronger. Lastly, she is still breathing and Alexander is obviously not.

But the prosecutor has provided other witnesses which might pull Arias down. A source revealed that Deanna Reid shared that Alexander never abused him. She was dating Alexander before Arias. Also, one of Alexander's colleagues said that he and Arias made out. That could definitely tarnish Arias' reputation.

There are a lot of supporters for Alexander. Some think that he is really an inspirational and motivational speaker. One of his friends even told a report that everyone loves him. He grew up in a not-so-good environment. But according to his supporters, he is good and wanted the world to change for the better.

Like most murder cases, there will always be 2 sides of the story. The court needs to exert their effort in defining evidences that will reveal the truth. It is still puzzling and people already waited for 7 long years. That is long enough and dragging for everyone.

(source: Venture Capital Post)

CALIFORNIA:

Death penalty cases should be better analyzed

On Jan. 20, the Supreme Court took an unprecedented step in overruling a lower court in a death penalty case. In 1999, Mark Christeson was convicted of brutally murdering Susan Brouk and her 2 young children. He was then sentenced to death later that year. Death penalty experts who were brought in asserted that Christeson's lawyers failed to adequately represent Christeson by missing the deadline to submit a federal appeal. The lawyers refused to step down from the case and the lower courts refused the substitution. The Supreme Court was then forced to intervene, claiming that the lawyers had a conflict of interest and could not be expected to argue a case that could hurt their careers. Christeson's new lawyer, Jennifer Merrigan, said, "There were serious constitutional errors in his trial and those have never been listened to." Christeson's lengthy and messy case exemplifies why the death penalty should be reviewed more carefully in the United States.

The death penalty, despite its long legacy, is a troubling and divisive topic for many citizens. Though the United States remains an adherent to the death penalty, according to a October 2014 Gallup poll, nationwide support for the death penalty is at a 40-year low. This is due to findings revealing the absence of absolute certainty in the trial process.

It is also clear that the United States has struggled to find the appropriate method to both ensure fair trials in death penalty cases and perform executions in ways deemed "humane." Since 1976, 1,399 people have been executed in the United States, but there is no way of knowing how many of those executed were innocent because the courts do not usually entertain innocence claims after death. There are a few cases, however, with strong evidence pointing to innocence that have sparked controversy.

A key problem in prosecuting fair death penalty trials is eyewitness misidentification, which factored in 72 % of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. In this way, improper or missing forensics is also a essential piece of evidence that can be used to convict innocent defendants. According to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that uses DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions, "In about 30 % of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty." These confessions are often the result of official misconduct by officials.

Pre-trial error exists even without mentioning possible trial error and executional problems. In Christeson's case, the mistakes made by court-appointed lawyers in the appeals process may cost Christeson his life. Often times, court-appointed lawyers don not have much of a stake in the outcomes of their clients' cases because of a lack of monetary incentive and a high volume of cases. The legal system is simply flooded with logistical and human errors. There is no doubt that death penalty cases have high stakes. If the death penalty is justified for serious, brutal crimes like murder, then the United States must ensure that it approaches the legal system fairly. The death penalty is undoubtedly cruel if it is not issued with extreme caution. Innocent, institutionalized execution cannot be tolerated in a so-called "humane" society. It is time for death penalty cases to be pursued with the presumption of innocence instead of the quest for conviction.

Interference by the Supreme Court in Christeson's death penalty case is a step that affirms the importance of death penalty cases. Getting it wrong is no longer acceptable for our criminal justice system. All cases that involve the lives of American citizens should involve all the resources that this country has to offer.

It is imperative, for the sake of this nation's integrity, that the American criminal justice system take further unprecedented action to prevent wrongful appropriation and execution of the death penalty.

(source: Morgan Bukdley; The (Univ. Southern California) Daily Trojan)

USA:

A Man Mocked and Ruled Guilty By a Judge in the Newspaper Will Now Face That Judge in Court----In 2002, a prosecutor defended the death sentence for a murderer. Now he's a federal judge and refuses to recuse himself in the same case.

A death penalty case now pending in Oklahoma raises an important question of judicial ethics and makes a federal appeals court judge look both sneaky and biased. The question is simple: What duty does an appellate judge have to disclose to the parties before him any definitive public statements he once made about the guilt of the defendant he's subsequently been asked to judge? Put another way: What right does a capital defendant have to know that one of the jurists sitting in judgment upon him once declared to the world that he was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt?

The story starts in 2002 when Julius Jones, a black man, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for killing a wealthy white man in an apparent carjacking episode. Jones's co-defendant, a man named Christopher Jordan, testified against him at trial. Jones, for his part, argued that Jordan was the shooter. After the trial, Jones's lawyer, David McKenzie, decried the racial component of the trial, claiming there was no way his client could have received a fair trial free from bias or prejudice in the county.

Coming to the defense of the trial judge, and of the conviction, was Jerome A. Holmes, then deputy criminal chief in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. Holmes, who also is black, wrote an opinion column piece in the Daily Oklahoman, the state's largest newspaper, mocking McKenzie's claims of racial bias in the Jones's trial.

"[T]here was ample evidence for a rational jury to find that [Jones] gunned down an innocent stranger," Holmes wrote, "and that Jones deserved to die for his acts." Holmes then called out McKenzie, the lawyer, for making "factually unsupported claims of racial bias." It is odd that Holmes, a federal prosecutor, wrote such a pointed piece - and was allowed to do so by his bosses.

It is odd that Holmes, a federal prosecutor, wrote such a pointed piece - and was allowed to do so by his bosses.

4 years later, in part because of fiery missives like that one, , President George W. Bush appointed Holmes to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was confirmed after significant opposition by Democratic lawmakers, and where he has been ever since a staunch opponent of most civil rights issues. 9 years later, Jones's case moved out of the state courts and found its way to the 10th Circuit, Judge Holmes' court,. Jones's attorneys claim that McKenzie, the trial lawyer, had rendered his client ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to investigate a lead that a witness had heard Jordan, the co-defendant, claim he, not Jones, had been the shooter all along and that Jordan had framed Jones.

When Jones's current lawyers appealed this issue to the 10th Circuit they were randomly assigned a 3- judge panel. They were told the identifies of the judges about a week before oral argument in the case and did not conduct an investigation into whether any of the 3 judges had any conflict of interest that would render their participation in the case a breach of their judicial ethics. And why would those lawyers conduct such an investigation? Judge Holmes had an affirmative duty to recuse himself from a case where his impartiality could be reasonably questioned.

Yet Judge Holmes did not recuse himself. Nor did he even alert the lawyers in the case that he had written that piece in 2002, which then would have allowed Jones's lawyers to request the judge's recusal. Instead, Judge Holmes sat silent until the oral argument, which lawyers say he "dominated," and then ruled against Holmes (as did the other 2 judges who heard the case, the ruling was unanimous). It was only after this decision came out on December 5, 2014, that McKenzie, the original trial lawyer, noticed Judge Holmes's involvement and alerted Jones's current lawyers about the obvious conflict of interest.

Those lawyers last week filed a motion with the 10th Circuit requesting a rehearing of their case before a new panel of judges that does not include Judge Holmes. A federal judge has a duty to recuse himself, Jones's lawyers told the Court, in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned or where "he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding." The court now has ordered the state's attorney general to respond next week - although the problem has nothing to do with state prosecutors.

This is not a close case. At a minimum, a federal judge has an ethical duty, if not a legal one, to bring an evident conflict to the attention of the lawyers, which federal judges around the country do all the time. His failure to do this, alone, could arguably constitute the "bias" the law recognizes as a recusal reason. And, if not, the appearance of bias also merits recusal. The 10th Circuit should do the right thing and reassign the case to a new panel. Judge Holmes should be required to explain why he sat silent about that opinion of Jones while he was sitting in judgment of Jones.

(source: The Daily Beast)

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

Deadly silence on death penalty

At least 3 horrifically botched executions last year - in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona - heightened public alarm and revulsion at the risk of cruel and unusual methods of capital punishment. Short of abolishing the death penalty, the solution for states is to seek and ensure more humane methods. Instead, some are taking a sneakier, and constitutionally more suspect, route: dropping a veil of secrecy over executions.

The most recent example, and one of the most obnoxious, is legislation passed in a lame-duck session of Ohio's legislature last month following the shockingly bungled execution a year ago of Dennis McGuire, a convicted murderer who choked, gasped and writhed for 26 minutes before succumbing.

The law, signed just before Christmas by Gov. John Kasich, R, offers anonymity to compounding pharmacies that agree to manufacture the drugs used in state executions, as well as to others involved in carrying out executions. The bill would shield the identity of and public records pertaining to other medical and non-medical personnel who furnish supplies or administer the drugs used in executions.

The effect is to impose a gag order on potentially adverse reports that could inform the public debate over capital punishment. By making much relevant information secret, the law gives government accountability a black eye.

More than a dozen states have adopted similar laws and policies, and others are considering measures that are wildly overbroad.

A notable case is Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe's, D, administration has submitted a bill to the legislature that goes well beyond the Ohio law. The legislation, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, would make practically everything about executions in Virginia a state secret - even the building in which they take place. The information would be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act and even off-limits to plaintiffs in most civil lawsuits.

It's hard to see the compelling need for that kind of blatant censorship, which in other states has been challenged by death row inmates, civil liberties groups and media outlets as an infringement on the First Amendment. Depriving the public of information on the dark side of capital punishment, and impoverishing the public debate, will not make botched executions any more palatable.

Taxpayers who provide the funds that pay for the drugs used in lethal injections deserve to know when mishaps occur. The fact that such mishaps might arouse public disgust does not justify granting anonymity to drug companies that enter into government contracts. If it did, states might conclude that any unpleasant news, and the resulting inconvenient public reaction, would occasion suspending the First Amendment.

The death penalty has been on a long and steady decline in America, with fewer states using it and those that retain it executing and condemning to death ever fewer prisoners. The fact that this trend has been impelled largely by public opinion is no excuse for shrouding ever-rarer executions under a cone of silence.

(source: Editorial, Washington Post)

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

Bishops use Supreme Court case to call for death penalty abolition

Several bishops in the U.S. have welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to re-examine death penalty protocols, and have called for the abolition of the death penalty.

"We pray that the court's review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end," Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who chairs the U.S. bishops' pro-life activities committee, said Jan. 27.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who chairs the committee on domestic justice, said recent executions have shown "how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity."

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will consider the case Glossip v. Gross, brought by 3 Oklahoma death row inmates, Richard Glossip, John Grant, and Benjamin Cole.

The inmates' lawsuit asks the court to reject the 3-drug protocol used in Oklahoma executions, saying it can cause extreme pain that violates constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment. Among the drugs in the cocktail is midazolam, a sedative.

The case was filed in response to the botched April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which took more than 40 minutes. Although sedated, his body writhed and he breathed heavily as he was being killed. He eventually died of a heart attack.

Oklahoma officials said Lockett's vein failed during the execution, which prevented the lethal drugs from working as intended. Other reports said officials failed to deliver the intravenous drug properly.

Following Lockett's execution, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin had issued a temporary stay of the exeuction of Charles Warner. The federal government also investigated the execution practices.

Warner, who was 1 of the inmates listed as a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, was executed in mid-January. Supreme Court justices, by a vote of 5-4, voted not to stay the execution of Warner, who was a convicted child rapist and murderer.

Glossip, was scheduled to be executed Jan. 29.

However, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution Jan. 28 to all three living inmates who are plaintiffs in the case, writing that "it is hereby ordered that petitioners' executions using midazolam are stayed pending final disposition of this case."

It is disputed whether or not midazolam produces a deep enough sleep for the inmate to experience less pain when the other two drugs of the cocktail are administered.

The Supreme Court failed to stay not only Warner's Jan. 15 execution, but also the Jan. 27 execution of Warren Hill in Georgia. Hill's execution was being challenged on grounds of intellectual disability.

Catholic leaders have criticized the continued use of capital punishment.

Cardinal O'Malley said that society can protect itself "in ways other than the use of the death penalty."

"We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," Archbishop Wenski added.

The inmates' attorney, Dale Baich, characterized Oklahoma's new drug protocols as "novel and experimental."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has defended the state's use of lethal injection, saying its constitutionality has been affirmed by two federal courts. Defending the constitutionality of the execution procedure will preserve the Oklahoma Department of Correction's ability "to proceed with the sentences that were given to each inmate by a jury of their peers," he said Jan. 23.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the inmates' case in April.

States that use lethal injections have faced increasing difficulty in obtaining the drugs used, mainly because the drugs' manufacturers refuse to sell them for use in lethal executions, NBC News reports.

In May 2014, Ohio's botched execution of inmate Dennis McGuire, which also used midazolam, also prompted calls to revisit the death penalty.

Several U.S. states have moved away from capital punishment in recent years. In total, 18 states have abolished capital punishment.

The U.S. bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' October 2014 call to abolish the death penalty "in all its forms." The conference is working with state Catholic conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, as well as with other groups, to work to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. In 2005, the bishops launched the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

(source: Catholic News Agency)

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

Loretta Lynch to Senate: I Won't Always Agree With Obama----The administration's nominee for attorney general appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

It's the first day of Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearing, and Democrats want to make sure their Republican colleagues don't make it about something else.

"I hope we all remember that she is the nominee for attorney general," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. "And that's why I'm focusing on her."

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York offered a similar sentiment. "The president's immigration policies are not seeking confirmation today," he said. "Loretta Lynch is."

Leahy, Schumer, and other Democrats knew what to expect from the GOP. Lynch faced tough questions from Republicans on the committee, who wondered whether she would be a stand-in for President Obama's policies, such as his executive action on immigration, or for the man she hopes to succeed: Eric Holder.

At the start of the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said that the Justice Department is "deeply politicized" right now. "But that's what happens when the attorney general of the United States views himself, in his own words, as the president's 'wingman,' " he said, referring to Holder. "I don't expect Ms. Lynch and I will agree on every issue. But I, for one, need to be persuaded Ms. Lynch will be an independent attorney general."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wondered whether Lynch would follow in Holder's footsteps. "Let me for Sen. Schumer's benefit - you're not Eric Holder, are you?" he said, drawing laughter from the people in the room.

"No, I'm not," Lynch said.

Cornyn continued: "But Attorney General Holder's record is heavy on our minds now. I agree with the chairman about his concerns when the attorney general refers to himself as the president's wingman, suggesting that he does not exercise independent legal judgment, as the chief law-enforcement officer for the country. You wouldn't consider yourself to be a political arm of the White House as attorney general, would you?"

"No, senator, that would be an inappropriate use of the - "

"I'm sorry, you'd be willing to tell your friends 'no' if, in your judgment, the law required that?" Cornyn said.

"I think I have to be willing to tell not just my friends but colleagues 'no' if the law requires it," Lynch replied. "That would include the president of the United States." When Cornyn asked how Lynch would be different than Holder, she said, "I will be myself. Loretta Lynch."

Lynch is looking to offer a fresh start to a GOP-controlled Congress, casting herself as an alternative to Holder, whose liberal policies and outspoken personality have led to dramatic clashes with Republicans, culminating in Holder being the 1st DOJ head to be held in contempt of Congress. "I look forward to fostering a new and improved relationship with this committee, the United States Senate, and the entire United States Congress - a relationship based on mutual respect and constitutional balance," she said during her opening remarks.

If confirmed, her top priorities, Lynch said, would be strengthening relationships between the public and law enforcement, investigating and prosecuting terrorists, and enhancing the nation's defenses against cyberattacks.

In his questioning, Grassley wondered whether Lynch believed that Obama has the legal authority to stop deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. Her answer was a measured, roundabout yes.

"I have had occasion to look at the Office of Legal Counsel opinion through which the Department of Homeland Security sought legal guidance there, as well as some of the letters from constitutional scholars who've looked at the similar issue. And certainly it seems to be a reasonable discussion of legal precedent. ... I don't see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views," Lynch said.

However, she said, "I found it interesting, as I was reading the legal counsel opinion that some of the proposals that were set forth, and asked about, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion did not, in fact, have a legal framework. And I don't believe that those were actually implemented. So I do think it is very important that as the Department of Justice, through any of its agencies, the Office of Legal Counsel, or in a direct conversation with the president, or any other member of the Cabinet, always ensure that they are operating from a position of whether or not there's a legal framework that supports the requested action."

Leahy mentioned interrogation tactics in his line of questioning. "The efforts to confront acts of torture carried out in our country's name - do you agree that waterboarding is torture?"

"Waterboarding is torture, senator," Lynch replied.

"And thus illegal?" Leahy followed up.

"And thus illegal," Lynch replied.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wanted to know whether Lynch would emulate Holder's close relationship with Obama. "Just so you understand that your role is such that on occasion you have to say no to the person who actually appointed you to the job and who you support?"

"Senator, I do understand that that is, in fact, the role and the responsibility of the attorney general," Lynch said. "In fact, a necessary obligation on their part."

On Obama's new immigration policy, Sessions said, "I understand that you support the executive order. Is that correct?"

"I don't believe my role at this point is to support or not support it," Lynch responded. "My review was to see whether or not it did outline a legal framework for some of the actions that were requested. As noted, it indicated there was not a legal framework for other actions that were requested."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked about Lynch's opinion on the death penalty. "Do you support the death penalty?"

"I believe the death penalty is an effective penalty," Lynch said. "My office was able to achieve a death verdict there - " "How about yes?"

"So, we have sought it, yes," Lynch replied.

Lynch called the National Security Agency's surveillance programs "constitutional and effective." She said marijuana is "still a criminal substance under federal law," despite its legalization in several states. In response to a question from Sessions about Obama's view of marijuana as a "bad habit and a vice," Lynch spoke more forcefully.

"I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general," she said.

On Wall Street, Lynch said, "No individual is too big to jail."

Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. If confirmed, she would be the 1st black female attorney general.

As lawmakers exited the room for a brief lunch recess, Leahy could be heard on his microphone saying, "I don't know that I've been so moved by any nominee on anything."

7 hours into the hearing, Grassley cracked a joke. "I hope when we're done here that you don't get this attitude that the way this chaotic place is run, why should you be working with the Congress of the United States? It doesn't always work this way. Little tongue in cheek."

"Well, senator, it's been a privilege to watch the peaceful transfer of power that's going on this afternoon," Lynch joked back.

(source: National Journal)

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

Deadly silence on death penalty

At least 3 horrifically botched executions last year - in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona - heightened public alarm and revulsion at the risk of cruel and unusual methods of capital punishment. Short of abolishing the death penalty, the solution for states is to seek and ensure more humane methods. Instead, some are taking a sneakier, and constitutionally more suspect, route: dropping a veil of secrecy over executions.

The most recent example, and one of the most obnoxious, is legislation passed in a lame-duck session of Ohio's legislature last month following the shockingly bungled execution a year ago of Dennis McGuire, a convicted murderer who choked, gasped and writhed for 26 minutes before succumbing.

The law, signed just before Christmas by Gov. John Kasich, R, offers anonymity to compounding pharmacies that agree to manufacture the drugs used in state executions, as well as to others involved in carrying out executions. The bill would shield the identity of and public records pertaining to other medical and non-medical personnel who furnish supplies or administer the drugs used in executions.

The effect is to impose a gag order on potentially adverse reports that could inform the public debate over capital punishment. By making much relevant information secret, the law gives government accountability a black eye.

More than a dozen states have adopted similar laws and policies, and others are considering measures that are wildly overbroad.

A notable case is Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe's, D, administration has submitted a bill to the legislature that goes well beyond the Ohio law. The legislation, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, would make practically everything about executions in Virginia a state secret - even the building in which they take place. The information would be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act and even off-limits to plaintiffs in most civil lawsuits.

It's hard to see the compelling need for that kind of blatant censorship, which in other states has been challenged by death row inmates, civil liberties groups and media outlets as an infringement on the First Amendment. Depriving the public of information on the dark side of capital punishment, and impoverishing the public debate, will not make botched executions any more palatable.

Taxpayers who provide the funds that pay for the drugs used in lethal injections deserve to know when mishaps occur. The fact that such mishaps might arouse public disgust does not justify granting anonymity to drug companies that enter into government contracts. If it did, states might conclude that any unpleasant news, and the resulting inconvenient public reaction, would occasion suspending the First Amendment.

The death penalty has been on a long and steady decline in America, with fewer states using it and those that retain it executing and condemning to death ever fewer prisoners. The fact that this trend has been impelled largely by public opinion is no excuse for shrouding ever-rarer executions under a cone of silence.

(source: Editorial, Washington Post)

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

Bishops use Supreme Court case to call for death penalty abolition

Several bishops in the U.S. have welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to re-examine death penalty protocols, and have called for the abolition of the death penalty.

"We pray that the court's review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end," Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who chairs the U.S. bishops' pro-life activities committee, said Jan. 27.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who chairs the committee on domestic justice, said recent executions have shown "how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity."

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will consider the case Glossip v. Gross, brought by 3 Oklahoma death row inmates, Richard Glossip, John Grant, and Benjamin Cole.

The inmates' lawsuit asks the court to reject the 3-drug protocol used in Oklahoma executions, saying it can cause extreme pain that violates constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment. Among the drugs in the cocktail is midazolam, a sedative.

The case was filed in response to the botched April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which took more than 40 minutes. Although sedated, his body writhed and he breathed heavily as he was being killed. He eventually died of a heart attack.

Oklahoma officials said Lockett's vein failed during the execution, which prevented the lethal drugs from working as intended. Other reports said officials failed to deliver the intravenous drug properly.

Following Lockett's execution, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin had issued a temporary stay of the exeuction of Charles Warner. The federal government also investigated the execution practices.

Warner, who was 1 of the inmates listed as a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, was executed in mid-January. Supreme Court justices, by a vote of 5-4, voted not to stay the execution of Warner, who was a convicted child rapist and murderer.

Glossip, was scheduled to be executed Jan. 29.

However, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution Jan. 28 to all three living inmates who are plaintiffs in the case, writing that "it is hereby ordered that petitioners' executions using midazolam are stayed pending final disposition of this case."

It is disputed whether or not midazolam produces a deep enough sleep for the inmate to experience less pain when the other two drugs of the cocktail are administered.

The Supreme Court failed to stay not only Warner's Jan. 15 execution, but also the Jan. 27 execution of Warren Hill in Georgia. Hill's execution was being challenged on grounds of intellectual disability.

Catholic leaders have criticized the continued use of capital punishment.

Cardinal O'Malley said that society can protect itself "in ways other than the use of the death penalty."

"We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," Archbishop Wenski added.

The inmates' attorney, Dale Baich, characterized Oklahoma's new drug protocols as "novel and experimental."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has defended the state's use of lethal injection, saying its constitutionality has been affirmed by 2 federal courts. Defending the constitutionality of the execution procedure will preserve the Oklahoma Department of Correction's ability "to proceed with the sentences that were given to each inmate by a jury of their peers," he said Jan. 23.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the inmates' case in April.

States that use lethal injections have faced increasing difficulty in obtaining the drugs used, mainly because the drugs' manufacturers refuse to sell them for use in lethal executions, NBC News reports.

In May 2014, Ohio's botched execution of inmate Dennis McGuire, which also used midazolam, also prompted calls to revisit the death penalty.

Several U.S. states have moved away from capital punishment in recent years. In total, 18 states have abolished capital punishment.

The U.S. bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' October 2014 call to abolish the death penalty "in all its forms." The conference is working with state Catholic conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, as well as with other groups, to work to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. In 2005, the bishops launched the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

(source: Catholic News Agency)

US MILITARY:

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan appears in court long after death sentence

An army psychiatrist who killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at a Texas army base is set to appear in court.

Nidal Hasan is scheduled to attend a hearing Thursday at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is being held on military death row. Army officials say the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, wants to review "routine matters" in Hasan's case.

Among those issues is who defends Hasan during his appeals. His lead defense counsel is now an army judge but has continued to represent him.

Officials at Fort Hood have yet to review Hasan's case nearly 18 months after he was sentenced to death.

That review is one of several mandatory steps in military death penalty cases.

(source: The Guardian)

JAPAN:

After popular support, Japan to continue capital punishment

Japan will continue to apply the death penalty after over 80 % of the country's population expressed their support for the measure, media on Thursday cited Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa as saying.

A recent government survey revealed that 80.3 % of respondents backed the death penalty, while 9.7 % felt that it should be abolished.

Kamikawa termed the results as positive and said strict and careful measures would continue in this regard.

She said there was no intention of revising the current policy in the short term, despite having hinted at times the possibility of introducing life sentences for capital crimes.

"Most people believe it is unavoidable for those who committed extremely malicious crimes to face (execution)," Kamikawa said, according to the Asahi daily newspaper.

Kamikawa also made a reference to the global trend against the death penalty and the petition by activists for Japan to end capital punishment."It is a problem associated with what country Japan should be, and it is (the Japanese people's) business," she said.

11 convicts have been executed since the current government took office in December 2012.

Japan, along with the US, is the only developed and democratic country that still imposes the death penalty.

(source: oneindia.com)

INDONESIA:

Jakarta ready to execute 5 more drug traffickers. Church calls for addiction treatment----The prosecutor general announces the imminent execution of more people sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Hardline of Justice chiefs supported by President Jokowi. Bishops, opposed to the death penalty, call for investment in adduction prevention and awareness campaign.

The Department of the Attorney General (DAG) in Indonesia has announced a second round of executions for prisoners held on death row on drug trafficking charges. Regardless of the protests of national and international activists and human rights groups the Justice system - with the support of the "reformist" president Joko Widodo Jokowi - is pressing ahead with its hard line against drug trafficking.

In recent weeks, Jakarta has already executed six people, including four foreigners, for crimes related to drugs; in the coming days, although no date has yet been set, death row 5 detainees will be executed. They come from France, Ghana, the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia.

Yesterday, the attorney general H.M. Prasetyo, at a Parliamentary hearing, confirmed the imminence of the executions; the department is finalizing the details, also in view of the difficulties caused by bad weather and rain. "We are still looking at the ideal place [for the execution]." The country, the official added, is keeping up its rigorous line against drugs and its commitment to punish the big traffickers who move the pawns of international trade with the maximum penalty.

Previously President Jokowi emphasized that convicted drug traffickers will not be pardoned; an iron fist, added the head of state, is the only way to fight the scourge of drugs in Indonesia, a nation that over time has become an "important crossroads" in the trade.

Recently, the National Agency for Drug Trafficking (BNN) published a report which shows that at least 5 million Indonesians are "addicted" - to various degrees - to drugs; a problem that worries even the Indonesian bishops, which opposes the hard-line desired by the president but, at the same time, calls for interventions in the prevention and combating of drugs.

Last year, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) launched a pastoral plan for the rehabilitation of drug addicts, supported by the BNN. Speaking to AsiaNews on the occasion of the launch, the archbishop of Yogyakarta Msgr. Johannes Pujasumarta, Kwi secretary general, warned that "something must be done to solve the problem."

(source: Asia News)

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

Still time to save Bali 9 duo

Condemned Bali 9 ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have exhausted all legal avenues and could face the firing squad as early as next month.

Their best hope is that Indonesian president Joko Widodo changes his mind and grants the pair clemency.

Indonesia's hardline approach to drugs is well known and it is incumbent on Australians travelling to foreign lands to respect the local laws. We cannot impose our values on Indonesia but we can respectfully prosecute the case for these 2 men who appear to be genuinely reformed.

Drug traffickers trade in misery and death and their crimes are worthy of harsh sentences.

Chan and Sukumaran deserve to be punished for involving themselves in an evil business but surely life in prison is a suitably severe penalty.

Australia has long been a benevolent neighbour to Indonesia devoting significant funds and resources to boosting the country's prosperity, stability and security.

This financial year alone the Federal Government has earmarked more than $600 million to be granted to Indonesia in foreign aid.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop must continue to do all they can to save the lives of these drug runners.

It may not be electorally popular but it is incumbent on the Australian government to exhaust every diplomatic avenue to prevent these 2 men being killed in a hail of bullets. We do not support the death penalty whether in Australia or on foreign shores.

The Herald Sun maintains these executions will serve no purpose and urges President Widodo to exercise a measure of compassion and spare the lives of Chan and Sukumaran.

(source: Editorial, Herald Sun)

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

Bali 9: I know Andrew and Myuran. I've fought for them. And they don't deserve death

If you are condemned to death in Indonesia, by law you are given "the freedom to choose" from 3 options: you can sit, lie or stand. Another cruel freedom will be made available to you: the choice of wearing a blindfold or keeping your eyes open. The apron, a cloth draped over the torso with a target on it, is mandatory.

20 soldiers who have undergone appropriate psychological counselling will fire the shots. This will most likely happen at night, on a deserted beach or plantation. If you are still alive at the end, the regulations allow for a shot to be fired at point blank range into your temple, at a point just above your ear.

The story of how I became involved in the Bali 9 case is not that complex.

I studied law and practised for a couple of years. Between that training and my liberal Catholic upbringing I formed a few unshakeable beliefs: reform and rehabilitation should be a primary aim of the penal system, people have the ability to change, the state should not kill. One night in April 2005, I saw some grainy footage air on Channel 10 news that chilled me. It was 9 young Australians arrested in Indonesia on suspicion of drug smuggling. Packets of heroin were taped to their bodies, under their garish Hawaiian shirts. It seemed certain, at some point, they would face the death penalty.

Melbourne, the most liberal city in Australia, has a strong and active community of death penalty activists. Barry Jones famously campaigned in 1967 against the execution of Ronald Ryan; it's not uncommon for young law students to assist in death penalty cases in Texas and Louisiana during their university holidays.

Reprieve Australia was formed in Melbourne by a group of lawyers, including barrister Richard Bourke, who in 2001 returned from a stint in the deep south of the US working on capital cases. He was profoundly moved by the work he saw happening on death row there and wanted make provisions for Australians interested in death penalty work to intern on US cases. Bourke has since relocated full-time to Louisiana where he runs a capital assistance centre, and has worked on hundreds of cases involving the death penalty.

I joined Reprieve in 2009. Before meetings - usually held in the boardroom of some high-end law firm - 5 of us would meet at Benitos on Little Collins Street to talk about the Bali 9. By early 2011 the appeals of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were exhausted - except for the final PK - a final appeal to the Supreme Court, known as a Peninjauan Kembali.

Advocates needed to be ready. We contacted the legal team who had been working on the case for a number of years, who - along with the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, gave us the go ahead to form a campaign group. We had no money but we found a volunteer graphic designer and a web developer, we came up with a name - the Mercy Campaign - and drafted a petition asking for clemency. Our design used the green - Kerobokan green, we came to call it - that covered the prison bars and walls.

The lawyers at the Melbourne bar have a traditional commitment to social justice, human rights and pro bono work. From time to time death penalty briefs involving Australians crossed the desks of Melbourne barristers, like Julian McMahon and Lex Lasry, who acted for 25-year-old Van Nguyen, the Australian hanged in Singapore in 2005.

By September 2006, Lex was a judge and Julian had assembled a team from the top echelons of Melbourne's legal world (initially Lex was among them, before his appointment), to work on the Bali 9 case pro bono. They came to the case after a number of verdicts that were disastrous for Myuran and Andrew: a February 2006 district court trial where they were sentenced to death, and failed appeals in April and August 2006. At each step their death sentences were affirmed.

In our Mercy Campaign meetings the lawyers spoke of "the boys". There is no one more vulnerable than a prisoner, particularly a prisoner on death row, and their protectors were fierce. But the notoriety of the Bali 9, and the money that could be made from them - selling stories from the jail or writing books - brought out the crazies, exploiters and parasites nonetheless.

Then there was the pastoral care. Many of the legal team were visiting Andrew and Myuran in their spare time, or raising money amongst colleagues to buy computers or checking in with their families. Julian brought in books to the prison for Myuran to read - Dante and Milton included. At one of our meetings he urged me to read the work of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, social activist and mystic.

While the media were labelling the two men as "enforcers" and drug lords who enjoyed lifting weights and practising jiu jitsu, Julian and the others saw submerged hinterlands; potential and depth that might be realised if they channelled time and energy into art, religion, study, or prisoner education, English lessons for other prisoners, cooking classes, computer skills.

Anything instead of the empty hours, the aimless drift through the units of time that make up a sentence. Myuran and Andrew's constructive pursuits led to a transformation. Last week, prime minister Tony Abbott described them as "reformed characters" who had helped to rehabilitate other prisoners.

In 2011 I travelled to Sydney with Matt Goldberg, a Mercy Campaign co-founder, to meet Myuran and Andrew's family members. Michael Chan, Andrew's brother, picked us up from the station in a work break (he was working 2 jobs to make extra money to travel to Bali) and we drove back to his childhood home. He was an easygoing guy with a broad Aussie accent, who seemed unfazed to have 2 nervous strangers from Melbourne in his car.

We pulled into a neat suburban house filled with family photos and the smell of food cooking. The Chans for many years ran Chinese take-away shops around Sydney. They greeted us warmly and plied us with food, with conversation passing mostly through Michael due to their limited English. Sitting on their couch eating dimsum I was struck by a sense of horror: who are we to walk into these people's homes and say we can help their son. What if we can't?

The following day Sydney's streets were flushed with a summer storm. We met Myuran's mother Raji at a cafe near her work. My impression of her was a woman so full of sadness that it almost seemed to physically spill from her. My immediate impulse was to comfort her somehow. She was gracious, kind, eager to help us, forlorn, despairing, confused and immensely stressed. When the rain cleared we went to leave and she mentioned it was her birthday, but would not be a happy birthday until all her children were home together.

Mark Davis from SBS met Matt and I in Darlinghurst and said we could use whatever footage we wanted from his recent story filmed in Kerobokan. He liked the guys, could see the positive work they were doing in the prison and wanted to help. His Dateline story aired and we immediately got 10,000 signatures on the petition. One scene haunted me. It was filmed at night, Julian was in the back seat of the car, talking about the execution. His spoke slowly, his voice flat, the lights of Kerobokan falling behind him, the sky behind the palm trees darkening. He was talking about Myuran and Andrew being taken at night, transferred to another island, maybe off Java, where they will be blindfolded and tied to tree and shot in the chest.

Over the next 2 years we met people connected to the case who wanted to help in various ways. There are people associated with church groups who make regular trips to Bali. Mary, an activist from country Victoria, approached artist Ben Quilty requesting he visit Myuran. Academics with specialities in Indonesia contributed their expertise.

A group of actors from Bondi staged a play about drug smuggling called Bondi Dreaming. They had been over to Bali and met the guys in jail, forming friendships with Myuran and Andrew. They made a Mercy Campaign film that featured cast members from Home and Away and members of Andrew and Myuran's family. When half a dozen of us met in the lounge room of the producer's house in Bellevue Hill while they filmed Raji, it felt like no one was breathing. They were getting her to repeat the words "mother" then "mercy." The words came out soft and thick with sadness.

The years rolled on. We continued to meet with Julian semi-regularly in his chambers for updates, usually in the late afternoon, when court was over. He would tell us how the guys were doing and give us the details of any developments in Indonesia on broader issues of the death penalty. We traded articles from the Jakarta Post, or promising analysis on Indonesian human rights from the Lowy Institute.

We were all watching Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono closely. What was he saying on this or that? Which way was the wind blowing?

Apart from the Bali bombers in 2008 Indonesia had performed no executions. In 2012 when Indonesian maids in Saudi Arabia were sentenced to death for murder, there was a national outcry in Indonesia. Ambassadors were recalled, and frantic attempts at clemency were made. It boded well for a change in Indonesia, that the death penalty would go the way of the Catherine Wheel - a relic from another time.

I began reading the Indonesian English-language press regularly and in 2014 Matt and I started taking Indonesian language lessons. Reprieve Australia got serious about Asia and began sending volunteers to work on capital cases there in conjunction with local lawyers, assisting anyone of any nationality facing the death penalty. Work was still going on in the US, but we were now looking towards Asia.

One day, Michael Chan came to get me for lunch. I was in Ubud and Michael was staying near the prison with some of Andrew's supporters from church. There is no food in the prison, so Michael spent most of his morning shopping, then cooking and bringing food in to Andrew, mostly of the western comfort variety - meat, potatoes, roasts. He was not visiting that afternoon, so we drove up the steep hills outside Ubud, where the air was thin and the traffic crawled with tourist buses.

We parked at the edge of a volcano and got a buffet lunch, which Michael insisted on paying for. We sat outside and he told me about the early days after the arrest when everything was confusing and horrible. Michael relocated to Bali for 11 months of that 1st year, running around, trying to organise food, looking after his brother's welfare, fending off the media. The weight dropped off him because he walked everywhere in the wet heat, having no idea otherwise how to get around, not realising that most westerners in Bali get a driver.

I wonder what it must be like to be Michael Chan, the stoic older brother. You're going along with your life, then all of a sudden, everything changes and you are plunged into a strange world, moving back and forth to Bali. An inverse sort of tourism; instead of arriving in paradise, you are doomed, over and over, to re-enter your brother's particular version of hell. Maybe you get used to it.

Now Chan has a regular driver, and had been up this particular volcano many times. I have a regular driver too, a young Balinese guy called Mus. He drove me to the prison the next day, One Direction and Katy Perry blaring.

Mus seemed both nervous and exhilarated by this assignment. He had heard about this place - wasn't Schapelle in there? - but had never had cause to visit. The prison, sitting on a main road, was a squat, ugly building with barbed wire looping the perimeter. Families sat in the waiting area, sweltering outside until their numbers were called. It's there I met Chin, Myuran's younger brother, an intelligent, lovely guy who had the sad, dark eyes of a Goya painting. We got takeaway coffees for ourselves and Myuran, then surrendered our passports and bags and entered Kerobokan.

Myuran was on the other side of the gate, dressed in a button-down long sleeved shirt and shorts. I handed him his latte and stepped into the prison. He showed me the art room that he helped set up with the permission of the governor. Some prisoners, a couple of women and a man sat on the floor by easels working quietly at their paintings.

Myuran's art was on the walls. You could chart the progress of his painting with your eye: from the almost naive art of a frangipani flower, to more complex portraits, using thick paint. Ben Quilty's influence is everywhere, but not exclusively. Myuran had painted the prison governor, the Indonesian president, and Australian politicians - including Julie Bishop. It was as if the act of painting powerful people conveyed some of his hope and desperation - like he was painting his way to mercy.

But the atmosphere in the art room was otherwise surprisingly light. We talked about what was going on in Australia: Manus Island, the upcoming election, Australia's relationship with Indonesia. It was the sort of conversation you have with a fellow Radio National listener.

Andrew loped in, wearing singlet and shorts. He was friendly, quick to laugh and was grateful for the rugby league magazines I had brought over from Sydney. He rolled them up and put them in the back of his shorts. They fell about laughing when I told them a ridiculous story about the sex healer I had interviewed in Bali, and they had a few funny stories of their own about the characters that had passed through the jail. The place was rough, prone to flooding and cramped, but it was their home and there was a community of people there, who in their own way supported each other.

Myuran looked stricken when I brought up any possibility that they might be moved to another jail or that the art room was temporary. He had fortified it against flooding. It was his thing - it gave his life and others purpose. Andrew was more focussed on the church and the kitchen. Both were busy, they had a schedule.

It helps, said Myuran, as it's not good to spend too much time idle, thinking. Later Chin and I went to Burger King for lunch and he told me about the moment when the family found out that Myuran was sentenced to death. It hadn't even been really raised as a possibility before. The shock of it was absolute and still ongoing.

All of them - all the family members - had the look of deeply bewildered people. Their facial expressions had now set: how did we get here? I went back to the prison a couple of days later with books and food, but the guards said no more visitors. A dozen of us, mostly Indonesians, were turned away.

I left the gifts with the guards but feel unexpectedly fretful. I lingered at the gates, in case the guards changed their mind. I wanted to go back in and see them again.

In July 2014 Joko Jokowi Widodo, the heavy metal loving Jakarta governor, was elected on a wave of popular support. Indonesian watchers, eagerly hoping for progress on human rights, were to be disappointed. During a public lecture in Yogyakarta on 10 December Jokowi emphasised that the government would not be merciful in dealing with narcotics-related crime.

He advised he would reject requests for clemency for 64 drug traffickers currently on death row. Then, on Thursday 8 January, Myuran's appeal for clemency was rejected. The legal team found out after reading about it in the Herald Sun.

10 days later, on 18 January, Indonesia killed 6 prisoners in the 1st round of executions. International pressure from the Brazilian and Dutch governments - whose citizens were condemned - did not sway Jokowi. There was no last minute reprieve.

Meanwhile the president indicated that Myuran and Andrew would be killed together. Andrew has not had his clemency rejected. We held out hope that the announcement would never happen, that there would be an indefinite delay. After all, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop and leaders of the Labor party have come out strongly against capital punishment in the week of the executions. Abbott says "mercy should be the cornerstone of every justice system".

On 22 January Andrew's clemency application was rejected.

Things in life move fast and slow. And so it was with this. The campaign and efforts to save the men became infused with a furious energy. Matt and I called in more volunteers and on the Australia Day long weekend set up a sort of moving war room, in legal offices and barristers chambers around the Melbourne CBD.

Our servers were crashing from the traffic of those wanting to sign our petition. Volunteers worked late into the night fortifying our systems and back-ups were created. In around a week almost 100,000 extra people signed our petition. Jokowi's favourite grindcore band, Napalm Death, came out in support, urging their fans to sign the petition.

In the meantime Ben Quilty had returned from Kerobokan where he had visited and painted with Myuran. He returned charged with purpose. Gathering a cohort of high profile Australians - a diverse bunch, from Asher Keddie to Alan Jones - he created the I Stand for Mercy video. In under a week he organised for a candlelight vigil to be held in Martin Place, with high profile acts supporting the plea for mercy.

The legal team were also in a race against darker forces. The best and only hope – the lodgement of the PK, a final appeal to the Supreme Court, was frustrated by the requirement that Myuran and Andrew be present when the document was filed. Even then, they were concerned that the PK's reliance on extensive evidence that Myuran and Andrew had been rehabilitated would not be accepted.

On Wednesday night rumours were circulating. The attorney general said they were both on a "list", that they would be next. At one level, we are all condemned. None of us live forever but the grace of our situation is that we never know really, precisely, when that time will come. We can live suspended in an unending moment of present time.

There are many circles of hell in Andrew and Myuran’s situation, but to me, this is one of the worst: the fixing of the time and place of your death, the 72 hours notice period, the families' final separation from their healthy sons, the knock on the cell in the night, the transport to the place, the blindfold and apron, the final decision to sit, lie or stand.

(source: Brigid Delaney, The Guardian)

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

Death penalty hard, but warnings were abundantly clear

I don't support having the death penalty in Australia, but I do believe in respecting the laws of foreign countries that I visit as a tourist ("Jakarta lists Bali pair for execution", 29/1). I particularly believe in reading the huge signs in foreign airports warning of the penalties for drug-trafficking, and in reading the information about foreign laws published on the government's Smartraveller website.

I don't walk down the street in Kuala Lumpur holding my same-sex partner's hand. I doubt I'd wear my Jewish skull cap in Iran. And I certainly wouldn't attempt to smuggle drugs in a country where the penalty is death.

David Bates, Pyrmont, NSW

--

Responding to a question about the death penalty for drug smugglers , Indonesia's President Joko Widodo told CNN: "Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, because of drugs. In 1 year, it's 18,000 people who die because of narcotics. And we are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. decision of death penalty is on the court."

Obviously the death penalty is working a treat as a deterrent.

Andrew L. Urban, Seaforth, NSW

(source: Letters to the Editor, The Australian)

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

Bali 9 case: AFP retains ability to give information abroad that risks death penalty for Australians

Australian Federal Police retain the authority to provide information to foreign police agencies in cases carrying the death penalty, despite an outcry over the imminent executions of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in Indonesia.

The AFP can also provide information prior to a person being arrested, charged or convicted of an offence where the death penalty applies without seeking approval of Australia's Attorney-General or another relevant minister.

"The exchange of law enforcement information is a regular and routine part of mutual co-operation," an AFP spokesperson said.

"The AFP cannot limit its co-operation to countries that have similar legal systems as Australia."

The AFP has been strongly criticised for telling Indonesian police precise details about the Bali 9 in April 2005 that led to their arrests on the resort island, including that they were intending to smuggle heroin strapped to their bodies to Australia.

The AFP ignored a specific request from Lee Rush, the father of Bali 9 drug mule Scott Rush, through his lawyer, to stop his son travelling to Bali because he suspected he was going to be involved in drugs there.

Indonesia's president Joko Widodo has rejected pleas of clemency to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan, who were organisers of the drug mules, and the pair could be executed by firing squad as early as next month.

The police reviewed their guidelines on international-police-to-police assistance after Mr Rush brought a case against the AFP in the Federal Court where Mr Justice Paul Finn ruled the AFP had acted lawfully in the Bali 9 case but recommended the agency review its death penalty guidelines.

The subsequent confidential guidelines, made available under Freedom of Information, reveals that AFP management must consider prescribed factors before providing information in matters with possible death penalty implications, including the seriousness of the suspected criminal activity, the nationality, age and personal circumstances of the person involved and the potential risks to the person, and other persons, in providing or not providing the information.

The AFP must also consider Australia's interest in promoting and securing cooperation from overseas agencies in combating crime and the degree of risk to the person in providing the information, including the likelihood the death penalty would be imposed.

However the AFP must obtain ministerial approval in any case in which a person has been arrested or detained for, charged with, or convicted of an offence that carries the death penalty.

Ministerial approval is also required in circumstances where there has been a formal request from overseas for legal assistance with a criminal investigation or prosecution that involves the possible death penalty.

Ronli Sifris, a lecturer in law at Monash University and an associate at the Castan Centre for Human Rights, wrote this week while the Australian government has been trumpeting its efforts to save Sukumaran and Chan "this is far too little, far too late".

"The AFP provided the information that led to the arrest, prosecution, guilty verdicts and death sentences of two Australian citizens," Dr Sifris wrote.

"If these men are executed, the AFP will have blood on its hands."

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

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

The brutal truth: the death penalty ---- Alice Boyd asks who benefits from such devastation

An Indonesian firing squad executed 6 convicted drug traffickers last Sunday, following a vow by new President Joko Widodo that 20 executions will be carried out this year. 5 of the 6 executed prisoners were foreigners, and President Widodo has promised the imminent execution of many more. The otherwise progressive Widodo has said that drug traffickers on death row who have exhausted all legal avenues should be put to death. There will be no presidential clemency for the 64 convicted drug traffickers currently awaiting their fate.

2 of those prisoners are Australian men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, imprisoned on the island of Bali for their role in a high profile drug trafficking case back in 2005. They are the last of the "Bali 9" still sentenced for death after being caught attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Indonesia. Having spent the last decade in prison, both Chan and Sukumaran have been rehabilitated, with authorities describing them as reformed model prisoners. Chan and Sukumaran contribute to prison life by running art classes, computer classes and a drug rehabilitation programme. Sukumaran's artistic talent has been noticed beyond the prison walls, with Australian painter Ben Quilty counting himself as a mentor and friend. What purpose can their brutal death by firing squad now serve?

Both the United Nations and the Open Society Foundations have argued that the use of the death penalty will not alleviate Indonesia's drug problems. Capital punishment for drug crimes was introduced in Indonesia in 1997 and President Widodo argues that his hard line on drug crime is representative of his government's commitment to the fight against drugs. However, drug crime in Indonesia has been rising since 1997, not falling.

Research by international organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International has consistently failed to find scientific proof that the death penalty has a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Statistical studies comparing the murder rates of jurisdictions with and without the death penalty have found that there is no correlation between the death penalty and reduced murder rates.

Despite the evidence to suggest that the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, support for the death penalty in response to drug crimes in Indonesia sits at about 75%. Endless media stories about drug crime and death has fuelled widespread concern that families may lose children to drugs, while President Widodo sees drug crime as a scourge that will ruin the nation. Political advisors have argued that the President's hard line on drug crime can be explained by politically motivated populism, as the increasingly unpopular president attempts to regain popularity by turning to nationalist issues. In a recent article The Open Society Foundations called this "a stunning display of opportunism, as people are literally sacrificed in the name of political manoeuvring."

Not only is the death penalty ineffective and wasteful, it also brutalises the society that exacts it. The death penalty diminishes the value of human life and legitimises the right of the state to exact irreversible harm upon its citizens. Amnesty International has called the death penalty the ultimate denial of human rights, and opposes it in all circumstances. The notion that the death penalty can be a form of justice is deeply flawed, not only for those facing the death penalty but also for the society at large, which is diminished by the premeditated murder of individuals by the state.

Chan and Sukumaran's appeals for presidential clemency have been rejected, and death by firing squad looks increasingly likely. An attempt to secure a 2nd judicial review of their case has been lodged but their prospects are grim. Their deaths would not alleviate Indonesia's drug problems, but they would certainly undermine our humanity.

(source: Varsity)

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

Reflections on capital punishment

The impending execution of 2 young Australian men in Indonesia has again given great pause for reflection on the issue of capital punishment.It was 48 years ago next month that the last execution was carried out in Australia - the hanging of Ronald Ryan at Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne. I was a witness to that execution.

It was the most violent and futile act I have ever witnessed. The memory haunts me to this day - that I saw a man deliberately killed in the name of the law. It achieved nothing then and nothing since. To see a man helplessly bound, led to the gallows and deliberately put to death is something that no society should countenance. I walked into Pentridge that day as a working journalist with no clear views on capital punishment. The execution was the biggest story of the year and I had a job to do in reporting it. I walked out of Pentridge resolved to work in whatever way I could to try to have capital punishment abolished, and that work continues today. Over the past 48 years I have watched how the issue of capital punishment has been handled in countries around the world - studies I have done not as a journalist or anyone with a vested interest, but simply as an interested member of the public.I reflect with sadness on having seen a deliberate death and realizing how useless an act it was. I have watched the debate on capital punishment and nothing changes - the same old argument is run time and time again that capital punishment is a deterrent, yet absolutely nothing is ever achieved by executions.

It is of great importance to note that more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty, realizing it is useless and has no place in their society. In the past, capital punishment was used in almost every part of the world, but in the last few decades many countries have done away with it. There is no question that committing serious crime deserves serious punishment. However, many societies today say capital punishment is not part of that equation. They say the death penalty is wrong. And it is wrong. The alternative punishment must be strong. The alternative to the death penalty for serious crimes should be long imprisonment. For murder and other major crimes it should be life imprisonment. No parole. No dispensations.

In the case of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia, surely the most appropriate sentence could be long imprisonment, as it was for the other members of the "Bali 9". Their rehabilitation and everything they've done to make amends for their actions has to count for something. For almost 10 years, the Indonesian system has kept them alive, allowing them to demonstrate their remorse and contrition, through actions as well as words. To execute them now would be an absolute tragedy and a waste of 2 young lives that have been completely turned around.

Australia in 1973 abolished the death penalty for federal offences. It was removed as a punishment for murder in all States by 1984 and then in 2010 Federal Parliament passed laws that prevent the death penalty from being reintroduced by any state or territory in Australia.

I would hope that Australia could take this strong stance into a commitment to argue against the death penalty in every country of the world. We put a very strong case to the international community on fighting terrorism and are prepared to lead discussion and action on that front. We are remarkably reticent on the world stage when it comes to capital punishment. It is time to end that. (source: Opinion; Brian Morley--The writer was a journalist and editor of the Radio Station 3AWin Melbourne covering the above execution---- The Jakarta Post)

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

Reflections on capital punishment

The impending execution of 2 young Australian men in Indonesia has again given great pause for reflection on the issue of capital punishment.It was 48 years ago next month that the last execution was carried out in Australia - the hanging of Ronald Ryan at Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne. I was a witness to that execution.

It was the most violent and futile act I have ever witnessed. The memory haunts me to this day - that I saw a man deliberately killed in the name of the law. It achieved nothing then and nothing since. To see a man helplessly bound, led to the gallows and deliberately put to death is something that no society should countenance. I walked into Pentridge that day as a working journalist with no clear views on capital punishment. The execution was the biggest story of the year and I had a job to do in reporting it. I walked out of Pentridge resolved to work in whatever way I could to try to have capital punishment abolished, and that work continues today. Over the past 48 years I have watched how the issue of capital punishment has been handled in countries around the world - studies I have done not as a journalist or anyone with a vested interest, but simply as an interested member of the public.I reflect with sadness on having seen a deliberate death and realizing how useless an act it was. I have watched the debate on capital punishment and nothing changes - the same old argument is run time and time again that capital punishment is a deterrent, yet absolutely nothing is ever achieved by executions.

It is of great importance to note that more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty, realizing it is useless and has no place in their society. In the past, capital punishment was used in almost every part of the world, but in the last few decades many countries have done away with it. There is no question that committing serious crime deserves serious punishment. However, many societies today say capital punishment is not part of that equation. They say the death penalty is wrong. And it is wrong. The alternative punishment must be strong. The alternative to the death penalty for serious crimes should be long imprisonment. For murder and other major crimes it should be life imprisonment. No parole. No dispensations.

In the case of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia, surely the most appropriate sentence could be long imprisonment, as it was for the other members of the "Bali 9". Their rehabilitation and everything they've done to make amends for their actions has to count for something. For almost 10 years, the Indonesian system has kept them alive, allowing them to demonstrate their remorse and contrition, through actions as well as words. To execute them now would be an absolute tragedy and a waste of 2 young lives that have been completely turned around.

Australia in 1973 abolished the death penalty for federal offences. It was removed as a punishment for murder in all States by 1984 and then in 2010 Federal Parliament passed laws that prevent the death penalty from being reintroduced by any state or territory in Australia.

I would hope that Australia could take this strong stance into a commitment to argue against the death penalty in every country of the world. We put a very strong case to the international community on fighting terrorism and are prepared to lead discussion and action on that front. We are remarkably reticent on the world stage when it comes to capital punishment. It is time to end that.

(source: Opinion; Brian Morley--The writer was a journalist and editor of the Radio Station 3AWin Melbourne covering the above execution---- The Jakarta Post)

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

Another Nigerian to be executed in Indonesia for drugs

Indonesia is ready to execute a Nigerian and 6 other foreign drug convicts on death row after their appeals for presidential clemency were rejected, an official said, in a move certain to set Jakarta on a collision course with international allies.

They include 2 Australian leaders of the "Bali 9" drug-smuggling gang, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan who have been on death row for almost a decade. The pair lost their appeals in December and earlier this month.

A spokesman for the attorney-general's office revealed late Wednesday that a further 4 foreigners, from countries including France, Brazil, and Ghana, have also lost their appeals. The Attorney general did not reveal the names of the other foreigners scheduled to face the firing squad.

4 Indonesians - only 1 of them convicted of drugs offences - had also lost their bid for clemency.

"The attorney general's office now has 11 convicts on death row ready to be executed," spokesman Tony Spontana said late Wednesday.

Indonesia earlier this month executed 9 drug offenders, including 5 foreigners, prompting a furious Brazil and the Netherlands - whose citizens were among those put to death - to recall their ambassadors.

Drug offenders from Vietnam, Malawi and Nigeria were also among those killed by firing squad.

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new president has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

He has repeatedly vowed to show no clemency to drug traffickers. In a CNN interview broadcast earlier this week, Widodo vowed: "We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. No compromise."

"Imagine, every day, we have 50 people die because of narcotics, because of drugs," he said.

"Indonesia is in the position of a drug emergency. We need to have something that's firm and a positive law in Indonesia still allows the death penalty."

Spontana said a decision had not yet been made on when or where the convicts would be executed, only that more than one would face the firing squad in the next round.

The Frenchman is Serge Atlaoui, who has been on death row since 2007, Spontana confirmed.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "distressed and outraged" after Indonesia defied her last-ditch pleas to halt the last round of executions.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders described all 6 of those deaths as "terribly sad", adding: "My heart goes out to their families, for whom this is marks a dramatic end to years of uncertainty."

The Australians set to be executed, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle eight kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin out of Indonesia.

Sukumaran's appeal for clemency was rejected in December, and Chan's was rejected earlier this month.

That removed the final hurdle to put the pair to death, as Indonesian authorities said they must be executed together as they had committed their crime together.

Lawyers for the pair are planning a last-ditch appeal to their convictions but the attorney-general's office has said that further legal challenges are not possible once a clemency bid has been rejected.

The Frenchman Atlaoui was arrested in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy close to Jakarta.

(source: The NEWS)

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

Dispatch from death row

Indonesia, a country of 250 million, is notorious for its severe drug policy. Most often drug traffickers are executed or imprisoned for life.

On January 18, Indonesia executed 5 people convicted on drug trafficking charges; 4 of them were foreign nationals from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.

More than 138 people await execution on death row, 1/3 of them foreigners, reports the Guardian newspaper.

Among them is a Nepali man, Indra Bahadur Tamang, arrested in 2001 with 900 grams of heroin. Nearly 14 years later, it is still uncertain when Indra Bahadur will face execution.

Nepal's protracted transition has no doubt taken a toll on all facets of governance. And this cost has been especially telling in Nepal’s diplomacy.

So it comes as no surprise that the government remains unaware of Indra Bahadur's fate in Indonesia or of Nepalis jailed in other countries.

It is estimated that more than a dozen Nepalis await execution in the Middle East and Malaysia. Last August, in one telling incident, Shova Pariyar, a single mother from Tanahun, was beheaded by Saudi Arabia on murder charges.

The Nepal government did not make any attempts to appeal for clemency.

Despite the contributions that remittances from migrant workers make to the Nepali economy, there is little effort from the government to safeguard their rights.

Most migrants leave with little to no knowledge of the language and culture of their countries of destination and hence, become easy prey for unscrupulous employers.

Most countries in the Middle East and East Asia, the primary destinations for Nepali migrants, have opaque legal proceedings and stringent punishments when found guilty.

Many international rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have raised legitimate concerns over such legal processes and capital punishment provisions.

Nepal, to its credit, has refused to enshrine capital punishment for any crime. On this moral ground alone, it is the responsibility of the Nepal government to press for the repatriation of its citizens on death row or at least appeal for clemency.

Indonesia itself made a strong appeal against the execution of 1 of its citizens in Saudi Arabia. Brazil and the Netherlands made similar overtures to Indonesia on behalf of their citizens.

The Nepal government's efforts in this regard have been sorely lacking. Lacking government initiatives, civil society and Non-Resident Nepali organizations have stepped in to raise 'blood money', a debt that can be paid to aggrieved parties in the Middle East to appeal for amnesty.

But unless high-level initiatives are forthcoming, Nepalis will continue to meet their doom. The government, therefore, must immediately initiate efforts to appeal to the governments of host countries to repatriate its citizens on death row.

Failing this, it can still appeal for a reduction in sentencing to life imprisonment. As international human rights law restricts the use of the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," there is a strong moral case to be made in favour of such Nepalis.

(Editorial: The Kathmandu Post)

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

Philippine woman faces death in Indonesia for drugs

The Philippines is trying to prevent the execution of a female citizen, who faces death by firing squad in Indonesia for drug smuggling, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

Manila's revelation that a Filipina is on death row, comes after recently-elected Indonesian leader Joko Widodo's government executed 6 convicted drug smugglers and prepares to execute 11 more.

"The Philippine government is making all the appropriate representations with the Indonesian government at all levels on our ... request for judicial review," foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said.

He said an application to review the woman's death sentence was filed at a district court near Yogyakarta last week.

Foreign ministry officials said the woman -- whose name was not disclosed -- was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April 2010 carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin on a flight from Malaysia.

After putting 5 foreigners and an Indonesian to death by firing squad earlier this month, Indonesia announced Thursday it was ready to execute 11 more people.

Among them are 2 Australian leaders of the "Bali 9" drug-smuggling gang, who have been on death row for almost a decade.

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new president has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

AFP will have blood on its hands if Bali pair Chan and Sukumaran are executed----The police provided information which it knew could, and which in fact did, lead to Australian citizens facing the death penalty.

In recent weeks there has been a renewal of public interest in the Bali Nine, largely stemming from the rejection by Indonesian President Joko Widodo of pleas for clemency to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

It is well known that Chan and Sukumaran have been on death row for close to a decade for their role in the plan to transport more than eight kilograms of heroin from Indonesia into Australia. What is less known is the role played by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in putting them there.

The government has been trumpeting its efforts to save the pair, claiming it is making diplomatic 'representations at the highest levels'. But this is far too little, far too late.

On April 8, 2005, Paul Hunniford, the AFP senior liaison officer in Bali, sent a letter to the Indonesian National Police (INP) in Denpasar. The letter stated "[the] AFP in Australia have received information that a group of persons are allegedly importing a narcotic substance (believed to be heroin) from Bali to Australia using 8 individual people carrying body packs strapped to their legs and back."

The letter specified the names of the suspects and the dates on which the AFP believed they would be entering and leaving Indonesia.

The AFP requested the INP's assistance in conducting the investigation and specifically stated that "should they suspect that Chan and/or the couriers are in possession of drug[s] at the time of their departure [and] that they take what action they deem appropriate".

On April 12, 2005, Hunniford sent a 2nd letter to the INP containing the names of the heroin couriers and details of the operation. Pursuant to the information provided to them by the AFP, on April 17 the INP arrested 9 Australians who became known as "the Bali 9". Ultimately, 7 of the Bali 9 received jail terms. Chan and Sukumaran (described as the "godfather" and "enforcer" respectively) were sentenced to death.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty cited international co-operation in the war on drugs as a justification for the provision of information by the AFP to the INP which led to the arrests of these Australian citizens.

He stated: "When we are dealing with the commission of crimes across international borders, where we have no operations jurisdiction, we have no choice but to work co-operatively with overseas police in an effort to corroborate information, collect evidence and therefore have the biggest possible impact in disrupting the activity of international drug syndicates."

He further stated that "it is widely recognised that collaborative law enforcement efforts to stop drugs like heroin reaching Australian shores has led to considerable benefits".

Essentially, the AFP provided the INP with information that it knew could, and which in fact did, lead to Australian citizens facing the death penalty. It did this despite the fact it could have simply arrested the traffickers on arrival in Australia, thereby ensuring a trial conducted in Australian courts in accordance with Australian law (which does not provide for the death penalty). Further, if the AFP viewed co-operation with the INP as being particularly important in the larger context of the "war on drugs" (or the "war on terror"), it could have required an assurance that the death penalty was off the table in exchange for information that it provided, as often occurs in extradition cases.

The Australian government has been trumpeting its efforts to save the pair, claiming that it is making diplomatic "representations at the highest levels". But this is far too little, far too late. The AFP provided the information that led to the arrest, prosecution, guilty verdicts and death sentences of 2 Australian citizens. If these men are executed, the AFP will have their blood on its hands.

(source: Commentary; Dr Ronli Sifris is a lecturer in law at Monash University and an associate of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law)

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

Indonesia's war on drugs lays ground for injustices----For the most part we are repulsed by punishment for revenge, or if it cuts off a criminal's chance of reform or rehabilitation.

Imagine your eldest child has been caught selling cigarettes to other children. You decide that justice requires the child's hand to be cut off. The child has broken the law and harmed another child. It is only right that the child suffer some of the hurt that he has perpetrated. Further, it will deter his younger siblings from such anti-social behaviour.

This so-called "justice" is repulsive to us. It is repulsive because it irrevocably disables a person for one wrongful act. The punishment can never be taken back - it is punishment for life, not rehabilitation for transformation. It denies the essential freedom that human beings possess to change, so that the loss of freedom experienced by the victim is avenged. It's not about providing space for transformation - which is what prison is fundamentally about - but about violence for violence.

The death penalty admits society's defeat in the face of evil.

It is also repulsive because it imposes violence on one person to scare other people from committing immoral acts. The reform of the criminal-child's character is irrelevant. It only matters that the parent uses any means to stop immoral acts, even if it means sacrificing the body of their child, a potentially reformed person. What this neglect of the child-criminal means is that he has no humanity: his life and dignity do not matter in comparison to the rules.

In a similar way, the death penalty is being used as a heavy-handed, blunt weapon to fight a "war on drugs" in Indonesia. Wars involve violent victories, usually at the expense of individuals (local or foreign). They involve masses of people uniting against "deviant" others.

Yet, this "war" mentality leads societies astray. In relation to the drug trade, it leads to ineffective practices and compounds injustices. For example, Tim Lindsey argues the use of the death penalty in Indonesia is a lottery, subject to larger factors beyond the individual cases of the Australians on death row in Indonesia, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan. Moreover, the current president's policy to execute drug traffickers seems to ignore Indonesia's own Constitutional Court to take into account the reform of character shown by those on death row after 10 years.

Laws, of course, matter, particularly ones that protect societies from destructive substances. However, once laws are broken, we have two choices: to punish destructively or with a view to reform. The choice is difficult when confronting major crimes.

The 1st choice does not reflect justice but a state-sanctioned version of payback. Payback may seem justifiable in the righteous anger that arises because of major crime. However, it means we are dragged down to the level of the perpetrator as we ignore his dignity and reciprocate his violence.

The 2nd treats the criminal as a human being. In this view, the criminal has undertaken an evil act but is also capable of change and making a contribution to the common good. The payback mentality ignores the same human nature that it pretends to understand. Rehabilitation is a possibility because criminal acts do not necessarily give a full measure of the perpetrator's underlying character. Sukumaran and Chan have demonstrated this possibility.

Before committing to the death penalty, we should ask ourselves: if we weren't allowed to learn from our mistakes - not just from the little white lies but from the times when all of us have seriously hurt others - what kind of world would we live in?

After picking up a sick, elderly woman who had been dumped in a garbage bin by her son, Mother Teresa advised: "You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets." In a moment of madness, the Bali 9 did something they regret. Should they be forever condemned for it? Could they not be more effective public witnesses against the drug trade by showing how life is better without drugs, rather than dead because of them?

Clemency and mercy require greatness of spirit. Both Christianity and Islam put great emphasis on the mercy of God. Yet, mercy is not a special act only done by super-human saints. Mercy is a simple human act that allows others to be human - to recover their humanity out of evil.

But it might be said that this kind of clemency doesn't help in fighting evil in the "real world". This view ignores how movements and people, such as Nelson Mandela, have fought evil with goodness. In a way, the death penalty admits society's defeat in the face of evil. Further, the death penalty itself has been shown to be ineffective in deterring crime.

Mercy, nevertheless, does not abrogate justice. Justice must be done - but not in blood. It must be paid in repentance and making up for what one has done.

In the end, the choice in regards to the death penalty for any electorate is what kind of society it wants to be and how the people in that society want to be treated: as humans or less than human.

How would any of us want to be treated, just on the off chance that you - or your child or someone close to you - somehow got mixed up with the wrong crowd and did something horrible?

The Golden Rule - present in the religious traditions of Indonesia and Australia - suggests that we treat others as we would want to be treated: with humanity and mercy.

For the sake of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, and for the sake of Indonesian society, please President Joko Widodo, be merciful.

(source: Commentary, Dr Joel Hodge is a a lecturer in theology at Australian Catholic University----Sydney Morning Herald)

CHINA:

Supreme court eases attorney participation in death sentence review

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued a protocol to facilitate the participation of defense lawyers when reviewing a death sentence.

According to the document, if a defense lawyer requests a meeting with the judge to express the defendant's opinion about a death sentence, the judge should arrange the meeting promptly.

The meeting can be held at the SPC office in Beijing or at a local court house when the judge is visiting the defendant.

The content of the meeting will be logged into a transcript and it will be signed by the lawyer. If the condition allows, the meeting will be recorded or videotaped, according to the document.

Defense lawyers are allowed to read and copy legal documents of the cases at the SPC office.

The SPC verdict will be delivered to defense lawyers within 5 days after it is announced.

The protocol is considered part of the SPC's efforts to protect defendants' rights and adopt a more prudent attitude toward using death penalties.

The country's judicial system was alerted of wrongful convictions by the case of a teenager named Huugjilt in Inner Mongolia, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, which led to his execution in 1996. In December 2014 a higher court in Inner Mongolia ruled that Huugjilt was innocent.

Last Thursday, top justice Zhou Qiang reiterated the criteria for issuing capital punishment should be strictly observed so as to ensure "the penalty is only used on an extremely few convicts whose crimes are extremely serious".

(source: Xinhua News)

IRAN:

Man Publicly Executed 4 Weeks After His Arrest----2 men were executed in Iran today. 1 of them was hanged publicly in central Iran 4 weeks after he was arrested.

2 prisoners were hanged in two different Iranian cities today, reported the Iranian state media.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported that a man was hanged in public early this morning in the town of Golpayegan (Central Iran). Several thousand people were gathered at the scene of the public executions. The man who was identified as Mansour Mirlouhi (43) was charged with Moharebeh (Waging war against God) and "Corruption on earth" for participation in several episodes of armed robbery and 2 armed clashes in Khomein and Golpayegan resulting in death of t3 security forces and 3 civilians, said the report.

According to the report Mirlouhi was arrested on 1. January 2015 and sentenced to death on January 24 by section 1 of Isfahan Revolution Court. His death sentence was approved by the Supreme Court 2 days later on January 26 and he was hanged publicly 2 days after that, on January 28.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns today's public execution and Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson og IHR said: "Beside the inhumane and degrading punishment of public execution, lack of due process is another serious violation of human rights in this case. The whole judicial process leading to the man's execution lasted less than 4 weeks. Unfortunately lack of due process is not uncommon in Iran".

The state run Iranian news agency Fars reported about another execution in Tehran today. The prisoner was identified as "Ali Kamalvand" and was sentenced to 74 lashes for stealing and 3 times execution for 3 rapes, said the report. The charges haven't been confirmed by independent sources. (source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Chronicle of an Execution: The Case of Mohsen Amir Aslani

In September of 2014, Iran carried out the death sentence of a man who had allegedly attracted a small following with unorthodox religious teachings. But when Mohsen Amir Aslani was executed after over 8 years in prison, conflicting reports emerged as to the nature of his alleged crimes.

While Mr. Amir Aslani was known to have received a conviction for the religious crime of heresy because he rejected the tale of Jonah and the whale, that conviction did not carry a death sentence. Rather, some alleged that Mr. Amir Aslani had been convicted of the national security crime of spreading corruption on Earth, which can be a capital crime. Meanwhile, the authorities stated that his execution pertained instead to accusations of rape leveled against him by erstwhile female followers.

In this legal commentary, IHRDC legal advisor Hossein Raeesi, an attorney with over 20 years' experience trying sensitive cases in Iran, examines the tumultuous procedural history of the case. The similarity of a 2nd set of charges leveled against the accused as his 1st case was coming to a close - including those of spreading corruption on Earth and rape - suggests that safeguards against double jeopardy were intentionally and repeatedly ignored. In examining the proceedings related to this 2nd set of charges, Raeesi demonstrates that minimal evidentiary requirements were not met, and that several Supreme Court orders pertaining to the case were ignored. Despite attempts by some judges to uphold domestic law during Mr. Amir Aslani's prosecution, the tendentious approach of other judiciary officials precluded a fair trial and led to numerous violations of Iran's own Code of Criminal Procedure. In his analysis, Raeesi counts multiple deviations from domestic law where it should have ensured a dismissal of the charges and Mr. Amir Aslani's release from prison. As such, the Mohsen Amir Aslani case is a textbook example of the arbitrariness and politicization at the heart of Iran's judiciary.

see: http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/legal-commentary/1000000565-chronicle-of-an-execution-the-case-of-mohsen-amir-aslani.html

(source: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center)

PAKISTAN:

LHC upholds death penalty of three terrorists

A Lahore High Court division bench on Wednesday upheld death penalty of 3 terrorists who were convicted for attacking and blowing up police checkpost in Mianwali.

The division bench comprising Justice Abdul Sami Khan and Justice Sadqat Ali Khan announced the decision while dismissing appeals filed by terrorists Abdullah Ghazali, Abdul Hai and Saleem Zaman.

During the hearing, the defendant's counsel pleaded the bench to acquit the accused being innocent. He submitted that the accused were not nominated in the case and they were arrested after one month of the incident. He further submitted that identification parade was not held in accordance with the law.

However, Deputy Prosecutor General Punjab Khurram Khan opposed the request and submitted that the convicts were arrested after a police encounter and heavy arms were recovered from them. He contended that the trial court had awarded punishments in accordance with law on the basis of witnesses' statements and available evidence.

The bench after hearing the arguments of both parties dismissed the appeals and upheld the conviction of the accused.

The terrorists had attacked Qudratabad checkpost with explosives and hand grenades, killing policemen Sher Khan, Bahadur Khan, Sajawal Khan, Ghulam Shabbir, Zafar Iqbal, Ghulam Abbas, Yasir Arafat and Muhammad Ilyas on February 7, in 2009.

The convicts had also attacked other checkposts in the area.

(source: Associated Press of Pakistan)

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

8000 death row prisoners at risk as Pakistan plans execution of non-terrorists

A Pakistani Court has ordered the 1st execution of a prisoner who was neither charged with terrorism offences nor tried in a terrorism court, indicating that the authorities may have abandoned their claim that they will hang only alleged 'terrorists.'

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Government lifted a moratorium on executions late last year, but has repeatedly stated that it was doing so only in "terrorism-related cases."

However, a 'black warrant' has now been issued for Shoaib Sarwar, who was convicted of murder 17 years ago, following a trial process which saw a number of irregularities. The authorities do not consider Mr Sarwar to be a terrorist, or his case to be in any way terrorism-related. His execution has been scheduled for Tuesday, 3rd February.

At the time of his conviction, Mr Sarwar claimed to have been acting in self-defence, but due to bad advice from his defence counsel, a number of key witnesses who could have supported this were never called - although newspaper reports and eyewitnesses at the scene had both corroborated his version of events.

Due to the widespread misuse of anti-terror legislation - which expressly curtails the fair trial rights of the defendant - Pakistan has previously made attempts to execute people who cannot properly be classed as terrorists. However, Mr Sarwar's case is the 1st in which a black warrant has been issued for someone who not only was convicted of non-terrorist offences, but was not even convicted in a terrorism court.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at legal charity Reprieve said: "If the Pakistani Government wants anyone to believe their claim that they are only executing 'terrorists,' they must stop Shoaib Sarwar's execution from going ahead. If it does, all 8000 people on Pakistan's death row - many of whom have been tortured into 'confessing,' or who have been convicted of non-lethal offences such as blasphemy or adultery - will be at risk. The international community must make clear to Pakistan that it will not tolerate such an opening of the floodgates, which could see many innocent people losing their lives."

(source: Reprieve)

JANUARY 28, 2015:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Set to Kill Intellectually Disabled Man on Thursday

Barring any last minute action by the United States Supreme Court, Robert Ladd will be executed Thursday night by the state of Texas. Ladd, convicted for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner, will be the 2nd inmate on Texas' death row killed in 2015.

Texas' highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, denied Ladd's final request for a stay of execution Tuesday, despite his long-documented history of intellectual disability. In a 2005 U.S. District Court hearing held to determine whether Ladd met Texas' statutory definition of "mentally retarded," a defense expert testified that Ladd's IQ was 67 and that Ladd had significant functional deficits in areas like work, money, social and communication skills. The state's expert at the hearing agreed with the defense about Ladd's functional problems, but blamed them on an anti-social personality disorder rather than an intellectual disability.

The district court judge found that Ladd had "significantly subaverage intellectual functioning," but refused to find that Ladd's functional deficits were "significant," a requirement for Texas to classify someone as "mentally retarded" for the purposes of whether or not it is OK to kill that person.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing the intellectually disabled is unconstitutional, but left each state to determine what standard of disability each would use. Texas' standard is, partly, based on John Steinbeck's character Lennie, from the novel Of Mice and Men.

"Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt. But, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?" the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in its 2004 opinion on the appeal of Jose Garcia Briseno.

Ladd was classified as "fairly obviously retarded" by the Texas Youth Commission when he was 13. At 36, he qualified for services from the Andrews Center in Tyler, which helps the intellectually disabled and mentally ill.

(source Dallas Observer)

MARYLAND:

Keep the death penalty abolished

I find it amazing that Del. Pat McDonough feels that reinstating the death penalty demands his time and resources as a priority in our state despite the numerous more pressing issues ("Del. McDonough seeks to restore death penalty in some cases," Jan. 26). He references 2 recent police killings in New York City as a reason to reinstate the death penalty for cop killers. He doesn't mention that the shooter quickly shot and killed himself after shooting the police officers. I expect that most people crazy enough to kill a uniformed police officer would lack the will to live, and stiffer penalties are not going to deter such a person from committing such a crime.

We need to keep the death penalty abolished in Maryland and not offer the luxury of death as opposed to life in prison to those who commit the most heinous crimes. And Delegate McDonough needs to refocus his attention on issues that improve our state instead of trying to retract the progress we've made in the past years.

Vinnie Bevivino, Baltimore

(source: Letter to the Editor, Baltimore Sun)

NORTH CAROLINA:

It's time to kill costly, ineffective death penalty

Robeson County's district attorney says he favors the use of the death penalty as a deterrent, but his infrequent pursuit of that ultimate punishment is a slave to practicality.

Pursuing a capital case takes up at lot of courtroom time and is costly, says Johnson Britt, and the likelihood of success is low because of juries reluctant to dish out the death penalty.

Britt points out, that in a county as violent as ours, the number of pending trials for murder cases is apt to grow during a 2-to-3 week capital trial, and doesn't shorten. Here are some staggering numbers: According to Britt, there are more than 100 pending murder cases in the county and he has just 12 prosecutors and himself to handle that load. That is a reality that forces unappetizing plea deals.

For comparison's sake, the state's largest county, Mecklenburg, has about 80 assistant district attorney; in Mecklenburg County during 2014, lawmen investigated 42 homicides, just a handful more than in Robeson County.

There is another reason why pursuing the death penalty is a waste of time, money and other resources: There has been a moratorium on putting anyone to death in North Carolina since 2006 because of litigation over lethal injection and claims that the death penalty process is racially tainted. Britt isn't alone in his reluctance to seek the death penalty, something he hasn't done since December 2011, when a jury convicted but said no to lethal injection. During 2014, North Carolina juries only 3 times sentenced the convicted to die.

The death penalty, assuming it ever had such utility, long ago exhausted any usefulness as a deterrent. We doubt anyone ever decided not to kill because of the worry that as an old man or old woman, he or she would be put to death.

While this county's district attorney in the 1970s and 1980s was tabbed the "world's deadliest DA," the facts belie that moniker. Joe Freeman Britt did indeed send about 50 people to death row, but only 2 were executed - mass murderer Velma Barfield in 1984, and Henry Lee Hunt, who was convicted of killing 2 but suspected of other murders, in 2003.

The death penalty might provide a bit of satisfaction to the surviving victims in a capital case, but the negatives far outweigh the positives, including this elephant in the middle of the room: Last year, 2 men from this county who had been convicted as boys and sentenced to death, walked out of prison free in the fall of their lives. It was the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission that showed with DNA evidence that Henry Lee McCollom and Leon Brown had not raped and then killed an 11-year-old in September 2003.

The commission, a dispassionate panel that follows evidence and is unencumbered by politics, has now exonerated 8 people, the latest being 70-year-old Joseph Sledge, a Bladen County man who spent parts of 5 decades in prison for 2 murders he didn't commit. He was freed last week.

In fewer words, the death penalty, when carried out, doesn't allow for a suitable correction.

North Carolina would do well to become the 19th state to ban the death penalty. That seems unlikely in an eye-for-an-eye state, but comfort can be found in knowing very little about the process makes actual executions likely going forward.

(source: Editorial, The Robesonian)

FLORIDA:

Jury recommends death for Largo man who killed 2-year-old

A jury has recommended that a Largo man be executed for killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Although the jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty for Joel Adrian Cruz, it is Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone who will decide whether to impose the sentence. That's a process that often takes a few months.

If Bulone does not choose the death penalty, Cruz would be given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cruz repeatedly beat the girl, Ananhie Fernandez in Largo in May 2013. Afterward, Cruz balked at taking her to the hospital, but finally did so after the girl's mother pleaded with him. But on the drive to All Children's Hospital, he asked the mother if she was going to "snitch" on him, she said during the trial.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

KENTUCKY:

2 KY Lawmakers Want Prosecutors to Put a Price on Death Penalty Cases

Kentucky has the death penalty - but no firm price tag on what it costs to send a convicted felon to death row. Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, and Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, who both oppose the death penalty, have filed companion resolutions - SCR 11 and HCR 30 - to determine the costs of administering the law.

While public defenders have provided cost estimates, the lawmakers say, prosecutors have been unwilling to cooperate.

"It's irresponsible to not at least know what those costs are," Neal said, "and how they effect the bottom line of the Commonwealth." Neal and Floyd also have filed bills to make life without parole the maximum sentence in Kentucky. Floyd said putting a price tag on the death penalty would help appeal to the "conservative side" on the issue by focusing on the "waste" spent on what he called "a very broken system."

"I believe that it's in the hundreds of millions," Floyd said. "I think we can solidly just guesstimate $100 million since 1976 that has been essentially been wasted if you consider that only one person in all that time has been involuntarily executed."

Meanwhile, Floyd said, 52 people sentenced to death in Kentucky have had their sentences reduced or exonerated.

When the idea of a cost study was first brought up 6 years ago, state Attorney General Jack Conway rejected the idea, saying there is no easy way to quantify the costs. Again this week, Conway said through his spokesperson that nothing has changed.

Yet, other states have managed to put a price tag on the death penalty, something Floyd said Kentuckians deserve. "I think it's important for the people of Kentucky to know this," Floyd said, "to have that information, so that they can understand how much of our resources are being wasted on this."

The latest state to put a price on its death row cases was Washington, where earlier this month a Seattle University study found that each case cost more than $3 million, $1 million more than similar cases where the death penalty was not sought.

(source: publicnewsservice.org)

OKLAHOMA---3 stays of impending executions

Justices block 3 Oklahoma executions over drug used

The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the next 3 executions scheduled in Oklahoma pending its review of the state's controversial 3-drug cocktail for lethal injections.

The ruling was expected, since both lawyers for the convicted murderers and the state itself had urged the justices to block the executions. But Oklahoma also wanted the court to allow executions to resume if it could find a replacement drug, and the court left open that possibility.

"It is hereby ordered that petitioners' executions using midazolam are stayed pending final disposition of this case," the court said in an unsigned order.

The court's order is the latest in a series of actions it has taken on issues relating to the death penalty.

On Tuesday, it allowed Georgia to execute double-murderer Warren Lee Hill with a different form of lethal injection, despite his lawyers' claims that he was intellectually disabled.

Earlier this month, the justices also refused to block the execution of Charles Warner in Oklahoma, despite the use of a 3-drug protocol including midazolam, which has caused several botched executions in the past. But 4 liberal justices objected, and last Friday the court agreed to hear the broader case over the use of that drug cocktail.

It takes only 4 votes to place a case on the calendar, 5 to win it. So the more liberal justices who would have spared Warner, convicted of murdering and raping an infant, probably were the ones who demanded that the court look into the use of midazolam, a sedative lacking the same knockout punch as barbiturates, which are in short supply.

"I am deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that midazolam cannot constitutionally be used as the 1st drug in a 3-drug lethal injection protocol," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in an 8-page dissent signed by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

"The questions before us are especially important now, given states' increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution," Sotomayor wrote. "Petitioners have committed horrific crimes and should be punished. But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death."

The case will be heard on April 29, the last day of oral arguments in the court's 2014 term, and decided by late June. In the meantime, the executions of Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole will be put on hold.

Their lawyers claim that midazolam, the 1st drug used in the 3-drug protocol, is being used in state executions virtually on an experimental basis. They say Inmates may not be rendered unconscious, as they are with stronger barbiturates, and could suffer painfully as the other drugs in the protocol are administered.

That, they claim, was a factor in Oklahoma's botched execution last April of Clayton Lockett, who struggled, groaned and writhed in pain for 43 minutes before dying. A state investigation later blamed Lockett's ordeal on a failure by prison staff to realize that drugs had not been administered directly into his veins. The state has since changed its procedures and increased the dose of midazolam used.

Warner's execution was the 1st in Oklahoma since Lockett's. The execution lasted 18 minutes, during which Warner, 47, convicted in the murder and rape of an 11-month-old girl in 1997, said the injection "feels like acid" and "my body is on fire." Witnesses said they saw only slight twitching in Warner's neck for about 7 minutes before he stopped breathing.

The prisoners' lawyers also blame the drug protocol for 2 other gruesome deaths -- the execution a year ago of Ohio's Dennis McGuire, who made snorting noises for 20 minutes before dying, and July's execution of Arizona's Joseph Wood, who appeared to gasp hundreds of times during a death that took nearly 2 hours.

However, Florida has had fewer issues with the same drug protocol. On the day Warner was executed, it used the same 3-drug combination to execute Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, who killed a man during a 1993 home invasion.

Lawyers for Oklahoma responded that there was no real evidence midazolam would not work as a general anesthetic. They noted that it had been used successfully in at least 10 previous executions.

"It is undisputed that Oklahoma's protocol, which is identical to Florida's protocol, has been used 10 times in executions without serious incident," the state argued in its brief. "Petitioners can only cite to executions that took place using different drug combinations, or the Oklahoma execution of offender Lockett, in which IV access was subsequently found to be insufficient and flawed."

(source: USA Today)

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

Supreme Court Halts Oklahoma Execution of Richard Glossip, 3 Others

The U.S. Supreme Court issued stays of execution Wednesday for 3 Oklahoma death-row inmates whose challenge to the state's lethal-injection formula will be heard in the spring. The prisoners include Richard Glossip, who had been scheduled to die Thursday night and whose cause has been championed by prominent capital-punishment opponent Sister Helen Prejean.

For the 1st time since 2008, the high court has agreed to hear a challenge to the legality of lethal injection. The Oklahoma case centers on the 1st of 3 drugs administered to a condemned inmate - the sedative midazolam, which opponents say isn't strong enough to protect a prisoner from the other 2 chemicals used. Midazolam has featured in at least 3 executions that did not unfold as planned.

Glossip, 51, was convicted twice in the murder-for-hire of his boss. Prejean, who was portrayed in the 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking," is his spiritual adviser and plans to accompany him to the execution chamber if he loses his appeals. At a press conference in Oklahoma on Tuesday, the nun called for repeal of the death penalty in the state.

"There is no humane way to kill a conscious, imaginative human being," she said. "We the citizens have our name on that gurney."

Polls have show a majority of Americans still support capital punishment, even after the high-profile botching of Clayton Lockett's execution in Oklahoma in April, which prompted a federal review of lethal-injection protocols.

In addition to granting Glossip a reprieve, the Supreme Court also issued stays for 2 other death-row killers - Benajmin Cole and John Grant - who were scheduled for execution in February and March.

(source: NBC news)

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

Supreme Court Issues Stay For Richard Glossip, Two Other Inmates' Scheduled Executions In Oklahoma

The Supreme Court has ordered Oklahoma to postpone lethal injections executions using a controversial sedative until the court rules in a challenge involving the drug.

The court's order Wednesday came as little surprise after both the state and the lawyers for three inmates who faced execution between now and March requested the temporary halt. The justices agreed on Friday to take up the challenge to the use of the sedative midazolam, which has been used in problematic executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The case will be argued in April and decided by late June.

Left open by the court's order is whether Oklahoma can carry out an execution that does not involve midazolam.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

The Execution of Our Consciences

When the time comes to consecrate communion, most celebrants approach the altar and read from a prepared liturgy. In the moment when Jesus is supposed to be closest to us, I have always felt like the consecration of communion is a time to explain what the incarnation means. Based on Jesus' promise to inhabit the least of these amongst us, I feel like the incarnation changes and transforms constantly with the changes and transformations that go on in the world around us.

Consequentially, I approached the altar last Sunday and declared, "I know some people are not comfortable with body and blood language when it comes to communion. Some find it ancient and repulsive. This week, the people of Georgia are prepared to execute Warren Hill. Warren has an IQ of 70 and is intellectually disabled according to every doctor who has ever examined him. I believe that Jesus is closest to those that we marginalize and oppress. On this day, Jesus is with Warren. When you take communion this week, I want you to remember Warren. If we want to stop using body and blood language in communion, then we need to stop killing those that Jesus inhabits. We execute Jesus and our own consciences every time we shed someone's body and blood. Jesus was executed in a state-sponsored execution and will be executed again if we execute Warren Hill."

In the midst of person after person coming to receive the body and blood of a Jesus that we keep on killing, I realized that these executions have become most effective at executing our consciences. The performed and scheduled executions this week give us a moment to push back and reflect.

Though I expect more from our whole society, I am saddened and outraged that most of the executions in our country are carried out by states that are predominately Christian. In Georgia, people who claim to follow Jesus are largely responsible for executing Warren Hill. At every step of the way, Christians could have stepped in and stopped the killing of an intellectually disabled man. Like the disciples before them, few people said anything. In their race to execute their own consciences and pretend that this execution was justified, the followers of Jesus forgot that Jesus said that he would be with the least of these. It wasn't just Warren Hill that was executed.

Richard Glossip was convicted of murder based on the testimony of 1 person. Though Justin Sneed is the one who actually committed the crime, he testified that Glossip hired him to do it and got a life sentence. Recently, Sneed's daughter sent a letter to the Oklahoma Clemency Board that said her father lied in his testimony and was afraid to formally recant for fear of getting the death penalty. Our execution system encourages the execution of the conscience in order to save your own skin. In a case of possible actual innocence, we can't know the truth because we have already decided what we want to happen and created a system that will make it happen. The execution of Jesus was similar.

The authorities are ready for another execution in Texas. Robert Ladd has a measured IQ of 67 and has qualified for special needs most of his life. Texas is still determined to kill him. People don't care about who Robert is. We simply declare that he is a murderer. In our othering of Robert, we other Jesus and execute our consciences. Robert is a child of God who deserves our help not our violent retributive hate.

Who are the killers and who are the victims in these processes of execution? If we can somehow develop a tiny sliver of conscience, we will understand that this process makes us all killers and victims. I thought our existence was about giving life and not taking it. There is an antidote to our vengeance and hate. Love can awaken the consciences that we have executed and set us free from this madness. Would you open your heart for the revival of your soul?

Amen.

(source: Rev. Jeff Hood----Baptist Pastor, Theologian and Activist)

BARBADOS:

B'dos Gov't tables legislation to abolish mandatory death sentences

The Barbados Government has tabled legislation aimed at abolishing mandatory death sentences.

"We have been at this for the last 4 years where we've been mandated to take these legislative measures to address the issue of the court's decision and, notwithstanding the fact that we had sent signals to the court, we are now better positioned, once this amendment is adopted by this House, to send a message to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) that we do intend to comply with its judgement," Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite told Parliament.

He said the amendments to the Offences Against the Person Act would remove the obligation of a judge to sentence to death a person convicted of murder.

Braithwaite, tabling the legislation in the absence of Opposition legislators who continue to boycott Parliament as long as the Speaker of the House Michael Carrington remained in his seat, said that the Freundel Stuart administration was not getting "soft on crime" or moving towards abolition of capital punishment.

Brathwaite told legislators that the changes would bring Barbados in compliance with a ruling of the IACHR, to which this country is a signatory.

The IACHR in a case - Boyce et al v Barbados - ruled that the mandatory death sentence imposed on all persons convicted of murder in Barbados violated the right to life as it is arbitrary and fails to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes.

Brathwaite said he was happy Barbados was now at the stage of abolishing mandatory death sentences, noting that the country was currently "on the wrong side of the law".

The last time Barbados carried out a hanging was in 1984 and Brathwaite said the Government was not amending the legislation so as to satisfy European Government that have been lobbying for Bridgetown to abolish the death penalty.

"I am not signalling to the country . . . that at this point in time I am comfortable that there are not circumstances on which the death penalty is merited."

(source: Jamaica Observer)

INDIA:

Madhya Pradesh court awards death penalty to 6 'sorceresses'

A session's court in Mandla district on Wednesday awarded death penalty to 6 people judging them guilty of killing a man in the name of witch-craft.

The incident took place in August 2014 where 6 self-styled sorceresses stabbed a man, chopped his arms, burned him alive and danced around him until he was done to ashes.

This horrendous crime was committed in Mandla's Nivas area in front of his hapless wife and 10-year-old son.

Police arrested 6 people including 4 women from the tribal dominated are where many still believe that witchcraft exists and rival sorcerers are often killed. Deceased Brijlal resident of Dindori district had approached sorcerer Parvati for treatment of his son, said police.

As soon as they reached the ashram Parvati branded Brijlal as a 'sorcerer' and ordered her disciples to kill him. Subsequently 6 people including 4 women - who were learning to practicing witch-craft - stabbed him with a trishul (traditional trident) taking turns. Later Parvati instructed them to drop the trident and use an axe on him.

When Brijlal began to writhe around on the ground, accused doused him with kerosene and set him ablaze. As he screamed in agony, more kerosene-soaked cloths were thrown on top of him. Moreover they celebrated the 'killing' by dancing around his burning body until it reduced to ashes.

His wife and son were forced to stay away from the spot during the macabre conduct. They screamed for help, but to no avail. Ashram was located in a remote forest area.

Brijlal's wife and son were allowed to leave the ashram with a warning to not to report the matter. They were threatened of dire consequences. They travelled all night to reach Niwas police station and inform the matter.

All sorcerers including Parvati, Bhagwati, Kusia, Surtia, Mukesh, Dumari Singh and Gend Singh were arrested and charged with murder. Police also seized the trishuls, axe, harmonium, and drum besides some literatures on black-magic from the spot.

(source: The Times of India)

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

1993 Mumbai blasts case: SC grants 6 weeks to CBI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted 6 weeks more to CBI and others to file their responses on the plea of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, lone death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, seeking review of death penalty awarded to him.

The court, which had earlier stayed the execution of Memon's capital punishment, posted the matter for hearing on March 11.

A 3-judge bench, headed by Justice AR Dave, is giving an open hearing to the matter.

The counsel appearing for Memon had argued before the bench, which also comprised justices J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph, that neither the trial court, nor the apex court gave special reasons for sending him to gallows.

"My entire conviction is based on retracted confessions of several co-accused," his lawyer had said, adding, "the judgement under review does not talk about the fact and evidence that I took part in any terrorist activities".

When the court had issued notice to CBI and Maharashtra government, the lawyer had also alleged that Memon was convicted and sentenced to death by the special TADA court, even before the entire judgement was delivered. Hence, his conviction was not valid.

Earlier, the review petitions used to be decided in chambers, but later, the apex court had ruled that such pleas, if directed against the imposition of death penalty, would be heard in open court.

The apex court had, on September 26 last, sought response from Maharashtra government and others on Memon's plea that his review petition against the death penalty be heard in open court. It had also stayed Memon's execution.

A constitution bench of the apex court had on June 2 held that years spent behind bars during prolonged judicial proceedings cannot be a ground for converting death sentence to life imprisonment and review plea of condemned prisoners must be given an open court hearing.

Taking a cue from the judgement by the constitution bench, Memon had said in his plea that according to the verdict, his review plea should be heard in an open court.

Memon is the 3rd death row convict, after Nithari rapist-cum-serial killer Surinder Koli, who had approached the apex court seeking hearing of their respective review pleas in an open court.

(source: Zee News)

LEBANON:

Judge want death penalty for 6 over Yves Nawfal killing

The judge responsible for the case of Yves Nawfal's murder issued Wednesday an indictment recommending the death penalty for 6 people suspected of involvement in the crime, judicial sources said.

Judge Peter Germanous issued an indictment against the 3 detained suspects Charbel G. Khalil, Charbel C. Khalil, Juliano Saadeh, and 3 fugitive members of the Khalil family named Christian, Elie and Mario.

The source said that 23 people have been indicted in the case, including 13 who are already in custody and 10 that are yet to be apprehended.

Germanous recommended the death penalty for 6, and sentences ranging from 3 to 20 years for the others, the source explained. The judge referred the case to the Criminal Court in Baabda.

Nawfal's family visited Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi earlier Wednesday and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Tuesday. Both ministers vowed to follow up on the case.

Charbel G. Khalil and Saadeh are considered the main partners in the crime. In a video shared on social media before Khalil and Saadeh's arrest 2 weeks ago, the 2 were seen standing in front of the Kfar Debian police station, near the crime scene, announcing that they would hand themselves in.

In the video, they also claimed that their intention was not to kill Nawfal, and said they did not know him in person.

The crime took place earlier this month when Nawfal was celebrating his birthday at a pub in Kfar Debian.

The incident started out as a fistfight between Nawfal and a group of men over an offhand comment made to a woman.

Kesrouan MP Farid Haykal Khazen, who had received Khalil and Saadeh at his house to convince them to turn themselves in, later raged against the judiciary for "rendering tens of families homeless" by arresting a large number of suspects.

In a news conference Saturday, he criticized Judge Germanous and called for him to be replaced with someone "more credible."

(source: The Daily Star)

SAUDI ARABIA:

King Salman Government Rocked With Mass Executions

4 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia less than a week after 79-year-old King Salman assumed power following the death of his 90-year-old predecessor, King Abdullah.

Under the strict guidelines of Sharia Law, 3 people were put to death across the oil-rich kingdom on Tuesday.

The 1st, Omar bin Yahya bin Ibrahim al-Barkati, was executed for the crime of incest in the southwestern Asir region, the Interior Ministry announced. "He was executed as punishment for his crime and as a lesson to others," the ministry said in a statement.

The 2nd victim, Yassir bin Hussein al-Hamza, also a Saudi, was executed in northwestern Jawf region for smuggling amphetamine pills, the ministry said.

In a separate case in the city of Mecca, Latif Khan Nurzada, a Pakistani national, was beheaded for smuggling heroin into the kingdom.

Prior to that, on Monday, Saudi Arabia executed Moussa al-Zahrani, a teacher convicted of raping several girls in the city of Jiddah - charges he denied.

"Mousa bin Saeed Ali al-Zahrani lured several underage girls and kidnapped them. He also threatened them and their relatives and physically assaulted them in his home," Saudi Press Agency said, citing the Interior Ministry.

Despite being found guilty of luring underage girls, intoxicating them, and then sexually assaulting them, al-Zahrani created a 20-minute video claiming he was framed, in a last-ditch effort to save his life. The footage was intended for King Abdullah.

The case caused a stir on social media. An Arabic hashtag on Twitter which translated to "We are all Moussa al-Zahrani" exploded with comments by Saudis with conflicting opinions on the execution.

The spike in executions coincides with US President Barack Obama's arrival to Riyadh on Tuesday at the head of a heavyweight US delegation which met with King Salman. The delegation included Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan, signaling the strong ties between the 2 states.

The trip to Riyadh was an "opportunity to both pay respects to the legacy of King Abdullah, who was a close partner with the United States and also to touch base on some of the issues where we're working together with the Saudis," US Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters.

So far this year, 16 people have died from the justice sword in the kingdom, AFP reported. Last year, 87 people were put to death. The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of violations, including murder, rape, and false prophecy. Blasphemy, adultery, witchcraft, and sorcery can also result in beheading with a sword, or more rarely in an execution by a firing squad, or even stoning.

The kingdom has faced constant international criticism over its human rights record, including its use of the death penalty.

(source: spyghana.com)

PAKISTAN:

2 years after escaping Bannu prison, Death row convict re-arrested from Hub

A death row prisoner, who had escaped during the Bannu jailbreak in 2012, was arrested by Hub Police in Balochistan on Wednesday.

Rameez Raja, son of Abdul Shakoor, was arrested during a raid in Lasbela area of Balochistan, ASP Hub Police Zaidullah Khan claimed during a press conference on Wednesday.

Khan said Raja had been working as a welder in the industrial town of Hub. "Raja was arrested during a raid conducted on the information of a police informer."

Raja, originally a resident of Kohat, was awarded death penalty in July 2012, for murdering his aunt. An FIR was registered against him at Gambat Police Station Kohat. But he had fled along with 400 other inmates after Taliban stormed the Bannu jail in April 2012, 2 months before being convicted.

"Raja said he had spent a few days in mountainous areas before moving to Korangi area of Karachi where he obtained a fake National Identity Card (NIC) under the alias Aftab Ahmed," said ASP Khan adding that the prisoner also revealed that he lived in New Karachi area of Karachi for a brief period of time before moving to Hub.

(source: The Tribune)

TEXAS----impending execution

2nd appeal filed to stop Ladd execution ---- 1st appeal denied Tuesday

Appeals are hitting the courts this week in a rush to stop the pending execution of Robert Ladd.

The 1st appeal to stay the execution, filed last week, was dismissed Tuesday.

Ladd is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Huntsville prison sometime after 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, for the 1996 rape and capital murder of Vicki Garner in Tyler.

According to officials in the Texas Attorney General's office, Tuesday morning, Ladd's defense counsel filed in the federal court of appeals an original complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order on behalf of both Ladd and another inmate, Garcia Glenn White.

White is scheduled for execution today, Jan. 28, for the 1989 murders of Bernette and Annette Edwards in Harris County.

An AG spokesperson, Tuesday, said the federal appeal challenges the state's lethal injection protocol.

The 1st appeal filed in the Ladd case was filed on Jan. 21 by Ladd's legal counsel, according to the AG's office - a successive state habeas petition in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals challenging the execution as violating Ladd's rights as a mentally handicapped individual, according to AG officials.

That appeal marks the 2nd time an appeal on those grounds has been filed for Ladd. That 1st appeal regarding Ladd's intellectual capacity was filed April 23, 2003 - the same day Ladd was initially scheduled for execution.

"That appeal resulted in a stay of execution based on Ladd's last-minute claim of mental retardation," Ladd's murder victim's sister Teresa Wooten, of Mount Pleasant, says she remembers.

(source: The Daily Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Grounds Laid Out For Death Penalty In Pa. Trooper Ambush Case

A Pennsylvania prosecutor is formally notifying the court he's seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing 1 state trooper and wounding another in a barracks ambush.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin filed a document Tuesday listing aggravating circumstances that could send Eric Frein to the state's death row.

Frein's formal arraignment is scheduled for Thursday at the courthouse in Milford, but Tonkin says he expects Frein to participate by video from the Pike County Correctional Facility.

Defense attorney Michael Weinstein is declining to comment on the death penalty filing and says his client intends to plead not guilty at the arraignment.

Frein is charged with 1st-degree murder and other offenses in the September ambush that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and severely wounded Trooper Alex Douglass.

(source: Associated Press)

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

King of Prussia, Bridgeport serial killer's death sentence upheld by state Supreme Court

A Montgomery County serial killer's conviction and death sentence have been upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with a harshly worded opinion that criticized the killer's federal defenders.

The state's highest court denied the latest appeal by John C. Eichinger, who received triple death sentences for the Good Friday 2005 murders of 27-year-old Heather Greaves, her 23-year-old sister Lisa Greaves and Heather's 3-year-old daughter, Avery Johnson, in King of Prussia. In the appeal, Eichinger challenged the effectiveness of his trial lawyers.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court did the right thing, reached the correct result, and it's been a long process in this case," county Deputy District Attorney Robert Falin, chief of the district attorney's appellate division since 2010, said Tuesday.

In addition to the 3 death sentences, Eichinger previously was convicted of 1st-degree murder for the July 6, 1999, fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Jennifer Still in her Bridgeport apartment and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Essentially, the high court judges found no merit to the Federal Community Defender Office's argument that Eichinger's trial lawyers were ineffective for, among other things, not raising a defense that Eichinger suffered from cognitive impairment, incompetency or mental illness. The high court affirmed a county judge's 2012 decision denying Eichinger's appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act, during which there were 22 days of hearings dedicated to Eichinger's mental health.

"The PCRA Court listened to mental health experts from both sides and found none of the appellant's evidence compelling. It further found appellant 'was competent, did not suffer any cognitive limitations and ... was not brain damaged either at the time of murders or at the time of trial,'" the Supreme Court justices wrote in the opinion.

The Supreme Court judges found Eichinger's trial lawyers’ strategy "was entirely reasonable."

"Upon assuming (Eichinger's) representation, trial counsel were presented with overwhelming evidence of his guilt, including DNA evidence, confessions to police and (Eichinger's) writings describing both incidents in detail," the judges wrote.

The Supreme Court also found no merit to Eichinger's claims that his waiver of a jury trial was insufficient and that his police statements used against him at trial were unconstitutionally obtained.

In a harshly worded opinion, the high court judges also criticized Eichinger's federal defenders for raising "numerous claims that, beyond lacking merit, are patently frivolous and deliberately incoherent."

"PCRA counsel's predictable tactics designed merely to impede the already deliberate wheels of justice have become intolerable, and we repeat our prior warning in clearer terms, the failure to curb further abuse may demand disciplinary action," the Supreme Court judge's wrote.

County prosecutors contended Eichinger had a fair trial and urged the high court to uphold the death sentence.

Eichinger, now 42, could still file additional appeals in federal court and with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We will continue to oppose his post-conviction demands for relief and we will see that justice is served," Falin vowed.

The Supreme Court's decision was welcomed by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who subsequently awarded Falin with the District Attorney Medal.

Ferman said Falin and her appellate division "engaged in an ongoing, bare-knuckled battle over the propriety of the trial and sentencing" and "took on a well-funded team of anti-death penalty attorneys from the Federal Public Defender's Office."

"An expert in criminal and procedural law, you protect the hard-fought verdicts of trial prosecutors. With quiet and steadfast zeal, you work to assure that Montgomery County's most dangerous offenders stay where they belong, in prison," Ferman said as she presented Falin with the medal.

While the public sees media reports about murders and guilty verdicts, it is the work that comes next that doesn't make headlines, Ferman said. In the majority of murder cases "what comes next is a grueling process of appellate review," Ferman said.

Eichinger's previous appeals in the state and federal courts have all been denied.

In November 2005, county Judge William R. Carpenter convicted Eichinger of 4 1st-degree murder charges in connection with the deadly knife attack of Still in her Bridgeport apartment and the March 25, 2005, stabbing deaths of the Greaves sisters and little Avery Johnson at the Greaves family residence on Kingwood Road in King of Prussia.

A jury then had the responsibility to determine if Eichinger should receive life imprisonment or death for the Greaves killings. Prosecutors used Still's murder to support seeking the death penalty against Eichinger for each of the Greaves-Johnson slayings.

The jury returned with three verdicts of death by lethal injection against Eichinger.

Carpenter subsequently imposed 3 consecutive death sentences and a life prison sentence against Eichinger for the 4 killings.

At trial, then District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. claimed Eichinger killed Still when she spurned his romantic overtures. 6 years later, Eichinger killed Heather Greaves because he wanted a relationship with her when she was entering into a romantic relationship with another man, prosecutors said.

Lisa Greaves and Avery Johnson, who were at the Greaves home when Eichinger confronted Heather, were murdered because Eichinger believed they could have identified him, Castor theorized at that time.

(source: Times Herald)

MARYLAND:

Lawmaker Seeks Return Of Death Penalty In Limited Cases

Baltimore County Republican Delegate Pat McDonough has introduced a bill that would restore Maryland's death penalty for those convicted of murdering police officers, correctional officers, firefighters or any other first responder killed in the line of duty.

McDonough said that he considers this bill the 1st step in an effort to restore Maryland's death penalty which lawmakers abolished in 2013.

McDonough says there is little consequence in cases where an inmate serving life without parole kills a correctional officer.

He says such a killing occurred in 2011 at a state prison in Cumberland.

McDonough believes a majority of Marylanders want this bill want the death penalty restored.

Governor Larry Hogan's office has not commented yet on this bill, though during the campaign Hogan said that the abolition of the death penalty was "settled law" and he was not inclined to pursue death penalty legislation, and instead focus on budget matters.

McDonough says that he respects Hogan, but he said the "Maryland General Assembly is open for business," and will not set aside work on social issues, even as the governor focuses on the budget.

Before leaving office last week, Governor Martin O'Malley formally commuted the death sentences of the 4 men who remained on Maryland's death row to life in prison without parole.

(source: WBAL news)

GEORGIA----execution

Warren Lee Hill executed in Georgia

Georgia on Tuesday executed a man who killed a fellow inmate despite arguments from his lawyers that his execution was prohibited by the Constitution because he was intellectually disabled.

Warren Lee Hill was put to death by an injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson. The 54-year-old was pronounced dead at 7:55 p.m. He declined to make a final statement but did accept an offer to have a prayer read over him by a clergy member.

After reading the execution order, the warden left the room at 7:42 p.m. Records from previous executions show that the drug generally begins to flow within a minute or 2 of the warden leaving the room. Hill kept his head raised, looking out at the witnesses, for a couple of minutes and then laid back and took a few deep breaths before becoming still.

"Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia," Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Hill, said in an emailed statement. "Georgia has been allowed to execute an unquestionably intellectually disabled man, Warren Hill, in direct contravention of the Court's clear precedent prohibiting such cruelty."

Hill was sentenced to serve life in prison for the 1986 killing of his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was shot 11 times. While serving that sentence, he beat a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death using a nail-studded board. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death.

Hill was previously set to die in July 2012, February 2013 and July 2013, but courts stepped in at the last minute with temporary stays so they would have time to consider challenges filed by Hill's lawyers. State and federal courts rejected his lawyers' filings this time around, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined his request for a stay of execution at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Lawyers for Hill have long argued he is intellectually disabled and, therefore, shouldn't be executed. State law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision both prohibit the execution of the intellectually disabled.

But Georgia has the toughest-in-the nation standard for proving intellectual disability. It requires capital defendants to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are intellectually disabled in order to avoid execution on those grounds. The state has consistently said Hill's lawyers failed to meet that burden of proof.

Hill's lawyers have argued that Georgia's standard is unconstitutional because mental diagnoses are subject to a degree of uncertainty that is virtually impossible to overcome. But the standard has repeatedly been upheld by state and federal courts.

Hill's lawyers had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Hill's case in light of a ruling it issued in May that knocked down a Florida law. The high court said in that ruling that defendants should have a fair opportunity to show the Constitution prohibits their execution. Hill's lawyers argued that ruling should also invalidate Georgia's tough burden of proof.

Days before Hill was to be executed in February 2013, his lawyers submitted new statements from the three doctors who had examined Hill in 2000 and testified at his trial that he was not intellectually disabled. In their new statements, the doctors wrote that they had been rushed at the time of Hill's trial, and new scientific developments had surfaced since then. All 3 reviewed facts and documents in the case and wrote that they believed Hill is intellectually disabled.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence to life in prison, on Tuesday rejected Hill's clemency petition.

(source: Times Free Press)

FLORIDA:

Largo man faces death penalty

Jury deliberations were expected to begin this week in the first-degree murder trial of a Largo man.

That same jury convicted Joel Adrian Cruz, 29, of the 1st-degree murder of a 2-year-old child Jan. 22.

The Largo Police Department investigated the toddler's death in May 2013. An autopsy revealed that she was struck more than 30 times over her entire body, with blows so hard her pancreas and liver ruptured.

Cruz lived with her mother, his girlfriend, at in apartment Foxbridge Circle in Largo. He had custody of the toddler during the late hours of May 4, 2013, according to police. He drove around the county with the child and brought her home after midnight, placing her in her crib.

But the toddler was not well. Cruz went to bed with the mother and told her he was sorry. The mother checked her baby, "who was gasping for breath and was rigid, essentially she was dying," explained Largo Sgt. Joseph Colyle in a summary of the case.

Instead of calling 911, the couple drove the child the All Children's Hospital. The child died May 5 from her injuries. Largo police were called to the hospital to begin investigating.

Detectives John Berard and Brendan Arlington interviewed Cruz, who confessed. He was arrested.

Both detectives testified during the trial. The Medical Examiner and Dr. Sally Smith of St. Petersburg Pediatrics also testified that the 30 impacts covered the toddler's entire body.

The jury returned a guilty verdict of 1st-degree murder 45 minutes after closing arguments Jan. 22. The jury is now considering whether to recommend that Cruz receive the death penalty. The final decision is up to the judge.

"Such an emotional case like this really impacts all involved," Largo Police Chief Jeff Undestad wrote regarding the case. "Great to see justice will be served."

(source: Tampa Bay Weekly)

UTAH:

Anti-death penalty protest takes aim at Ray's firing squad bill

About 20 people held signs on Utah's capitol steps Tuesday in protest of the death penalty, and in particular, Rep. Paul Ray's bill that would reinstate the use of firing squads when lethal injection drugs could not be obtained for executions.

Ralph Dellapiana, director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (UTADP.org), said that there is widespread condemnation in Utah for use of the firing squad, calling it a barbaric and archaic form of execution that inevitably turns into a wild west sideshow.

"Execution by firing squad sends a very tragic message that goes completely against the sanctity of life that I think most Utahns have great respect for," Dellapiana said. "It calls into question whether government should be killing people at all. We think no. Many of us think thou shalt not kill - that says it all."

Dellapiana, an attorney who works as a public defender in Salt Lake City. said that UTADP represents a broad coalition of 10 religious denominations and many thousands of Utahns.

Ray, a Republican from Clinton, defended HB11 Tuesday, saying that its scope is fairly limited.

"We're saying if we can't get the drugs for the lethal injection, then we'll go back to the firing squad," Ray said. "If (lethal injection) is declared unconstitutional by the courts, then we automatically revert to the firing squad. That is the current law and mine just adds 1 more caveat and says that or if the drugs are not available, we'll revert back to the firing squad. That's all it does."

However, Ray underscored his support for the death penalty.

"We've asked for a study on the death penalty to tell us the true costs versus life in prison. We'd have to look at all those facts," Ray said. "I think it needs to be streamlined and it needs to happen a lot quicker than it does. That's my only complaint about it, we string it out too far."

Dellapiana fundamentally disagrees, but said his group is not hoping to bring a bill eliminating the death penalty this year.

"Frankly, we're trying to build support from the people within the criminal justice system before trying to repeal it. This session is only about the firing squad bill," Dellapiana said, noting the act of executing another takes a toll on the people doing that job.

"I know that prison wardens from around the country who used to carry out executions have now come out against the death penalty because of the personal impact it has on not just them but on the officers and guards who are required to be part of the execution," Dellapiana said.

Ray said he expects HB11 to come up for discussion in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee in within a week.

(source: Standard Examiner)

USA:

In Boston and Aurora, Jurors May Risk Mental Health for Justice

In Massachusetts and Colorado right now, thousands of ordinary citizens are answering jury summons, undergoing screenings that will decide if they will sit on the panels that will determine the fate of 2 young accused killers.

Jury selection is underway in both the Boston Marathon bombing trial of 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing 4 people and wounding 260 more at the 2013 race, and in the Aurora Theater shooting trial of 27-year-old James Eagan Holmes, who has been charged with killing 12 and wounding 70 in a mass shooting during a showing of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises."

Unfortunately, experts say, the trauma that these crimes may have inflicted on the people living in and around Aurora, Colorado, and Boston is likely to be magnified for anyone who goes through the jury selection process, and especially for the jurors who are ultimately chosen to hear these cases. They will have to watch and listen to graphic testimony, including pictures of wounded and dead victims at the crime scenes. In the case of the Boston bombing trial, jurors will likely have to watch security-video footage of the death of the youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard, The Washington Post reported.

"The juror is going to be exposed to emotional testimony, often observing graphic visual evidence, autopsies and crime-scene photos," said James Acker, a professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York in Albany and one of the directors of the Capital Jury Project, a research effort to understand jury decision making in death-penalty cases.

"For all of these reasons," Acker told Live Science, "you can just envision stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, going up."

The jury's mental health

Indeed, research on the mental health of jury members bears out Acker's predictions. For example, in a 1992 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, researchers interviewed 40 jurors who served in 1 of 4 criminal trials. 2 were murder trials, 1 was a child abuse case and the 4th involved of charge of illegally selling pornographic videos. The researchers found that 27 out of 40 jurors had at least 1 physical or psychological problem stemming from the trial, including sleeplessness, nightmares, difficulty eating and long-lasting anxiety.

A female juror on 1 murder trial - which dealt with the rape, beating and murder of a young woman by a man who posed as a door-to-door salesman - described her flashbacks:

"I'm paranoid," she said. "I can't shake it. I went to the Smoky Mountains, and twice, I ran into a fellow who looked like him. I flipped out. I got hysterical, shook and just ran ... I dreamed he broke into my apartment on several occasions."

Such reactions aren't uncommon, said Michael Antonio, a professor of criminal justice at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who has studied jury psychology and mental health. In his research, 1 juror described breaking down on vacation after walking through a rock-strewn field because the victim in the trial she'd heard a year or 2 before had been bludgeoned to death by a boulder.

Even in trials involving milder crimes, like the obscenity trial in the 1992 study, jurors can find the proceedings upsetting. Several female jurors described having trouble having sex with their husbands after having to watch the pornographic videos in question, which they found disturbing.

Aggravating factors

Capital cases tend to be more traumatizing than typical criminal procedures, Acker said. The trials are often lengthy, which can result in financial hardship for jurors who are not compensated for months of leave from their jobs. The crimes discussed are, by definition, horrendous murders. And community and media scrutiny can be intense.

"The sense of the responsibility felt by the juror to the offender, the victims and to the community from which the juror has come, and will return, may cause divided emotions," Acker said.

In the cases of Aurora and Boston, the trials are national news.

"Those jurors are going to be scrutinized by everybody, regardless of what they find or don't find," Antonio said.

An interview that Antonio and his team conducted with one juror highlights the responsibility jurors feel in life-and-death decisions, he said. The woman had been on the jury in a death-penalty trial, and the defendant wound up being sentenced to life in prison, rather than getting the death penalty. Not long after, the juror saw the victim's family in the grocery store and had a breakdown, fearing how the family would react to one of the people who'd spared the killer's life.

In interviews with 1,198 jurors of capital cases, Antonio and his colleagues found that 711 — or 59 % - described the experience as "upsetting." Moreover, 36 % had anxiety symptoms, including a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and nightmares. Women reported more symptoms than men, with 70 % of women and half of men calling capital jury duty upsetting, the researchers reported in The Justice System Journal in 2008.

Interestingly, the study also found that the emotional impact of a trial didn't change much based on whether juries decided on life or death for the convicted. In cases where the sentence was death, 63 % of jurors said the experience was upsetting, versus 57 % in cases where they decided against the death penalty. Furthermore, the sentence chosen did not affect whether jurors had problems eating or sleeping.

Isolation can worsen the stress, as jurors are not allowed to discuss the trial or their feelings about it with anyone, including one another. That rules out counseling during the trial. Some court systems offer jurors counseling after the trial, and officials in Aurora have said that professional counseling will be offered after the Holmes trial. However, the availability of this service varies from state to state and from trial to trial.

After their findings about juror stress, Antonio and a colleague attempted to get post-jury-duty workshops off the ground at some of their local courthouses.

"Some had interest; others did not," he said. The workshops never materialized due to a lack of time. And although lawyers and judges are aware that jury duty can take an emotional toll on people, most courts lack formal proceedings, or even requirements, that judges debrief the jury after the trial, Antonio said.

Stress and justice

Although jury duty is a known burden for jurors, it is less clear how the emotional fallout of being on a capital jury may affect justice. What is known, however, is that even as capital juries feel a huge weight of responsibility in making the right decision, they often come to verdicts without living up to the legal standards set by the Supreme Court.

After a series of Supreme Court cases in the 1970s, states were forced to offer juries guidance on how to weigh mitigating and aggravating factors in the crime, and to split the decision-making process into two stages: Juries are supposed to decide first whether a defendant is guilty, and then later arrive at a sentence in a second phase of the trial, after hearing from the prosecution and defense.

William Bowers, another co-director of the Capital Jury Project, has found that jurors frequently fail to separate the two decisions. In interviews with 1,198 jurors from 353 separate capital trials, "half of the jurors told us that they knew what the punishment should be at the guilt stage of the trial," Bowers told Live Science. What's more, those jurors reported sticking to that conclusion throughout the sentencing phase of the trial, refusing to change their minds in response to aggravating or mitigating evidence presented in court.

"That's pretty firm confirmation that it wasn't working the way it was supposed to," Bowers said.

Similarly, defendants are supposed to be protected by the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees the right to remain silent. But here, messy human emotion comes into play, too. Antonio and his colleagues analyzed Capital Jury Project data and found that when a defendant failed to testify during the guilt stage of the trial, 27 % of jurors felt the silence implied guilt, and 10 % said it implied a lack of remorse. When the defendant stayed silent during the sentencing phase, nearly 10 % said it implied the defendant's guilt, and 22 % of jurors said the lack of testimony indicated a lack of remorse. The findings were published in the journal Judicature in 2005.

The jurors in the study knew they weren't supposed to consider the defendant's silence in their decision making but told the researchers that it was difficult to set aside.

"I don't care how much they instruct you - there is always that question," 1 juror said. "I think it was nagging in the back of my brain, but I also tried very hard to make sure the evidence corroborated guilt."

Jurors are always given instructions about how to approach the sentencing decision, Bowers said, but the legal language can remain difficult to parse. Often, jurors end up weighing evidence that may shorten or lengthen a defendant's sentences by "sort of down-home personal feelings," he said. One juror may feel strongly that a defendant who was abused during childhood deserves a shorter sentence, whereas the juror sitting nearby might see childhood abuse as no excuse at all, Bowers said.

But in any case, as the jurors deliberate, they often become entrenched in their positions, research shows. This "biased assimilation affect" was described in a 1979 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In that study, students were shown evidence either "proving" that capital punishment deters crime or evidence "proving" that it does not. Both the students who had previously favored the death penalty, as well as those who were against it, accepted the evidence that supported their own pre-existing beliefs and picked apart the evidence that didn't.

A jury deliberation "often deteriorates into a personality conflict dispute between the two sides," Bowers said. This can stress jurors further, particularly if they feel bullied or regret "giving in" to a verdict or sentence they did not originally want to hand down.

The pressure can be worst for holdouts. Juries must unanimously agree on a death sentence, so just one outlier can hang a jury. A hung jury, however, means a retrial, which judges are keen to avoid. Thus, judges will often insist that juries deliberate for days to try to reach a unanimous decision.

"Just imagine you against 11 other people," Antonio said. "And the other people want to get the heck out of there." Some of the most anguished jurors interviewed in the Capital Jury Project were holdouts for life sentences who eventually caved to the pressure for a death sentence.

Researchers haven't looked directly at whether jurors who are more mentally affected by the trial are more likely to disregard legal criteria, but it is a concerning possibility, Acker said.

"People may well be affected by what they've seen and heard, and they're thus distracted from paying attention to the legal criteria that ought to be guiding their decisions," Acker said.

(source: livescience.com)

IRAN----execution

At Least 1 Prisoner Hanged in Isfahan

Last Wednesday a prisoner with charges related to drugs, was executed in central prison of Isfahan.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a prisoner identified as Solaiman Ahmadi, who was sentenced to death for drug related charges, was executed last Wednesday at dawn by hanging, on central prison of Isfahan.

Solaiman Ahmadi, the son of Hossain, was arrested 3 years ago and sentenced to death for drug related charges. He was the from Amir Abad village of Boukan town.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

QATAR:

American family rules out death penalty for teacher murder trial in Qatar----Qatar court tells US family to decide on execution

The family of an American schoolteacher murdered in Qatar has told a court they do not want her alleged killer to be executed as they are "not cruel".

A judge in Qatar ruled on Sunday that the Pennsylvania-based family of Jennifer Brown could decide whether the Kenyan security guard charged with her murder should face the death penalty.

Relatives were also told that it was able to choose between blood money or a pardon.

One of Brown's sisters said the family could not morally sanction the use of the death penalty and wanted the security guard, who has yet to be convicted, to "get life" in prison.

"We don't believe in taking life," said Tricia Snisky. "What he did was awful and horrendous, but killing him wouldn't bring Jennifer back. It does more harm.

"We don't want somebody's blood shed on our behalf. We are not cruel."

The family is in the process of signing official papers for the Qatari court, expressing their desire for a life sentence, Ms Snisky said.

Although the death penalty can still be handed down as a punishment in Qatar, it has been 12 years since the last execution took place.

Even if the security guard was to be pardoned, he would face some form of custodial sentence, court officials said.

Brown, 40, was murdered in her company-provided home in November 2012.

She had only been in the country for 2 months, teaching at the English Modern School in Al Wakrah, south of Doha.

The security guard has reportedly confessed but the case has been subject to several delays.

"We are tired of it. It's been dragging on for 2 years," Ms Snisky said by telephone from her home in the town of Jim Thorpe.

"We just want to close it and forget it as best as we can."

She said that her parents would "never be the same" because of the murder.

The next hearing in the case will take place in Doha on March 8.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

JAPAN:

Japan to maintain capital punishment in line with public support for the policy

Citing overwhelming public support for capital punishment, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa pledged Jan. 27 to continue to authorize executions by hanging.

Kamikawa, 61, also made clear that she does not intend to review the policy in the near-term, although she touched on the possible introduction of life imprisonment without parole.

Referring to a nationwide Cabinet Office survey that found 80.3 % backing for the death penalty, with 9.7 % calling for it to be abolished, Kamikawa said at a news conference: "It showed a positive result. We will continue to take careful and strict actions."

"Most people believe it is unavoidable for those who committed extremely malicious crimes to face (execution)," she added. "We will not review the system of capital punishment for the time being."

Turning to calls in some quarters for life terms that mean precisely that, Kamikawa noted that some people regard it as "too severe punishment that could give convicts a feeling of hopelessness."

"The issue should be discussed broadly among the public," she said.

Kamikawa also referred to the global trend of abolishing the death penalty and calls by activists for Japan to follow suit. However she noted these arguments should be discussed in Japan, saying, "It is a problem associated with what country Japan should be, and it is (the Japanese people's) business."

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)

INDIA:

India cancels 'house of horrors' child-killer execution; Surinder Koli Koli was found guilty of kidnapping, murder and attempted rape in multiple cases

A notorious Indian child-murderer convicted in a case dubbed "the house of horrors" has had his death penalty commuted to life in prison.

The Allahabad High Court ruled Surinder Koli had waited too long for his mercy plea to be heard, making his execution unconstitutional under Indian law.

He was convicted in 2009 of killing at least 5 children in the Delhi house where he worked as a servant.

Police suspect at least 19 people were raped, killed and dismembered.

Since January last year, Indian courts have granted reprieves to several prisoners on death row after a Supreme Court ruling said long delays in deciding mercy pleas were "inhuman".

The court granted reprieve to 15 death row prisoners, including 4 associates of the notorious bandit Veerappan and 2 other men convicted of murdering their relatives.

In February, 3 men convicted of plotting the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were spared, as the government took 11 years to decide their mercy plea.

'Police negligent'

Koli and his employer, Moninder Singh Pandher, were arrested in 2007 after body parts were found near their home.

They were both convicted and sentenced to death, but Pandher was later acquitted by a higher court.

The killings in Noida, a Delhi suburb, shocked the country and many accused the police of negligence.

Local residents said that police failed to act over the abductions and murders because many of those reported missing came from poor families.

They said as many as 40 children disappeared in the area over 2 years before the crime came to light in December 2006.

The remains of the children were found hidden in bags.

(source: BBC news)

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

Maharashtra: High Court commutes death sentence of Solapur man who killed son and niece

In August 2013, the sessions court at Solapur convicted Ombase for murdering the 2 children and assaulting his wife, and sentenced him to death.

The Bombay high court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of a Solapur man who had killed his 3-year-old son and 9-year-old niece after attacking his wife on December 31, 2012. A division bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and Ajey Gadkari set aside the death sentence of Sunil Ombase and sentenced him to life imprisonment for the murders.

Ombase used to work as a labourer in Mumbai and would visit hometown Solapur once a month. Suspecting his wife's character, he would often fight with her. On the night of December 31, 2012, Ombase asked his wife to chose between him and their son. When she refused to reply, he became angry and assaulted her, after which she managed to run outside the house. However, their son and niece were sleeping on a cot nearby and became his target. He assaulted them, which resulted in their deaths.

In August 2013, the sessions court at Solapur convicted Ombase for murdering the 2 children and assaulting his wife, and sentenced him to death.

Since all death sentences need to be confirmed by the HC, the state filed a petition in the HC, seeking confirmation of the death penalty. Additionally, Ombase had challenged his death sentence, pleading innocence.

(source: Daily News & Analysis)

BANGLADESH:

Azhar appeals against death penalty

Jamaat-e-Islami assistant secretary general ATM Azharul Islam today challenged the death penalty awarded to him by a war crimes tribunal for his crimes against humanity during the country's Liberation War in 1971.

His lawyer submitted the 90-page appeal along with 2,250 pages of necessary documents with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

The 62-year-old was found guilty on 5 out of 6 charges. He was awarded death sentence by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 on December 30, last year.

In his appeal, Azhar claimed himself innocent and sought acquittal of all the charges, in which he was found guilty.

He also cited 113 grounds in support of his acquittal.

In the appeal, Azhar said there were many contradictory statements of prosecution witnesses which the tribunal did not consider.

The verdict awarded against him was "manifestly perverse" so the tribunal verdict is liable to be cancelled, he added.

Advocate Md Shishir Monir, a lawyer for Azhar, told The Daily Star that the appellate division will later fixe a date for hearing the appeal.

(source: The Daily Star)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9 Australians Next To Be Executed: Indonesian Attorney-General

A breaking report from the AAP this afternoon states that Bali Nine Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are amongst the next group of 11 convicts on death row who will be executed as early as next month, according to Indonesian Attorney-General HM Prasetyo.

UPDATE: Contrary earlier reports filed from the AAP, the head of Indonesia's parliamentary committee Azis Syamsuddin says Chan and Sukumaran are not listed in the next group to be executed and that Attorney-General Prasetyo was essentially misquoted. He was supposedly listing prospective execution locations, not the nationalities of those on death row in the group.

Per AAP, Prasetyo this afternoon told a parliamentary committee that he's still evaluating several obstacles preventing the execution from happening, including human rights activists and "electronic media reporters" disguised as fishermen trying to get close to the expected execution site on the Central Java prison island of Nusakambangan:

"We are still finding the right time for the next executions of citizens of France, Ghana, Cordova, Brazil, The Philippines, Australia and one Indonesian."

Chan and Sukumaran are the only Australians currently facing execution by firing squad under President Joko Widodo's hardline anti-drug laws. Earlier today, Wododo told CNN he would not be swayed in his stance, especially where Sukumaran and Chan are concerned:

"Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, in one year it's 18,000 people because of narcotics. We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise, no compromise. The decision of death penalty is on the court. But they can ask for amnesty to the president but I tell you there will be no amnesty for drug dealers."

A free "Music For Mercy" concert and candlelight vigil organised by Australian artist Ben Quilty musicians like Megan Washington, Emma Louise, The Presets' Julian Hamilton, Josh Pyke and more will be held in Sydney's Martin Place tomorrow from 7pm.

(source: pedestrian.tv)

JANUARY 27, 2015:

GEORGIA----execution

Georgia Executes Warren Lee Hill Despite Low IQ Claim

A 2-time killer was executed in Georgia on Tuesday evening after his claim that he has the intellect of a child failed to sway the U.S. Supreme Court -- and his lawyer blasted his lethal injection as a "moral stain" on the justice system.

Warren Lee Hill, 54, was pronounced dead at 7:55 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson. He did not make a final statement and declined to request a special last meal, the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

"Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia," Hill's lawyer, Brian Kammer said. "Georgia has been allowed to execute an unquestionably intellectually disabled man, Warren Hill, in direct contravention of the Court's clear precedent prohibiting such cruelty."

Hill was sentenced to death for the fatal beating of a fellow inmate in 1990. He was already serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend 5 years earlier. His lethal injection was first scheduled in 2012 and was postponed 3 times for various appeals.

His lawyers had hoped a Supreme Court ruling last year that Florida's strict IQ cutoff for disability was illegal could be used to show that Georgia's standard -- which says disability must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- is also unconstitutional.

Less than an hour before the scheduled execution time, the high court rejected the challenge, with 2 justices dissenting.

"This execution is an abomination," Kammer said. "The memory of Mr. Hill's illegal execution will live on as a moral stain on the people of this State and on the courts that allowed this to happen."

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's execution drugs that could affect lethal injections in other states - but Georgia uses a different chemical so that didn't affect Hill's case.

Meanwhile, a Texas appeals court issued a stay of execution for a death-row inmate tied to 5 murders. Garcia Glen White's lawyers had argued that cocaine use may have mentally impaired him, calling into question his decision to to ask for a lawyer while he was being interrogated. The defense also cited DNA testing that court suggest another suspect at the crime scene. The court did not say why it was granting White a reprieve.

Another Texas inmate denied a stay by state appeals court, Robert Ladd, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution on a mental disability claim. Ladd, who was convicted of killing a mother and 2 children in a 1978 arson fire, is scheduled for a Thursday lethal injection.

Hill becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 57th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Hill becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1399th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(source: Reuters and Rick Halperin)

OHIO:

Burris pleads guilty to murder, may face death penalty

Adam Burris pleaded guilty Monday to the December 2013 kidnapping and murder of 26-year-old Kayla Thompson.

Despite his admission of guilt to 5 felonies - kidnapping, theft of a motor vehicle, attempted rape, aggravated robbery, and aggravated murder - Burris, 33, could face the death penalty. A 3-judge panel will meet in mid-February to discuss if capital punishment should be considered, court records show.

Thompson, a pizza delivery driver and mother of 2, was reported missing around 2 p.m. Dec. 26, 2013, after she failed to return from Burris' home. A sheriff's deputy responded to Thompson's last delivery on McPherson Avenue and spoke with a woman there. The woman reportedly said Burris left driving a pizza delivery vehicle.

Deputies used Burris' cellphone to track him, and Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers stopped him in the delivery vehicle on Interstate 70 in Guernsey County around 7:15 p.m. Burris eventually led detectives to Thompson's body near a boat ramp at Dillon State Park.

Guernsey County Prosecutor Daniel Padden said the kidnapping and murder are thought to have occurred at the McPherson Avenue address.

A competency evaluation was conducted last year, and Burris was deemed fit to stand trial, which was to begin Feb. 3.

Instead, 3 area judges - Judge David Ellwood, of Guernsey County; Judge Linton Lewis, of Perry County; and Judge Kelly Cottrill, of Muskingum County - are expected to convene Feb. 11 to decide whether to accept Burris' plea, then determine whether to pursue the death penalty, court records show. A 3-judge panel is mandated in all state cases involving a capital punishment specification, Padden said.

Ellwood had previously issued a gag order in the case. That order was lifted Tuesday, Padden said.

(source: Times Recorder)

OKLAHOMA:

Noted death penalty abolitionist seeks Oklahoma moratorium

Noted author and death penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean is urging Oklahomans to reconsider the death penalty while the Supreme Court decides whether the state's lethal injection method is constitutional.

The Roman Catholic nun and author of the book "Dead Man Walking" joined a group of death penalty opponents Monday calling on Oklahomans to consider joining the 18 states that have abolished it. The group also delivered more than 30,000 online petition signatures to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office.

Prejean is a spiritual adviser to Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday for orchestrating the beating death of an Oklahoma City motel owner in 1997.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review Oklahoma's execution protocol, and the state has requested a stay.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Defense rests in penalty phase of Jodi Arias trial

Defense attorneys for convicted killer Jodi Arias have rested their case in the penalty phase of her trial in Phoenix without calling her back to the witness stand, court officials said on Tuesday.

Arias, 34, faces the death penalty for the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, who was found in the shower of his Phoenix-area home, stabbed 27 times, his throat slashed and shot in the face.

She says she was acting in self-defense while prosecutors said it was jealous rage. The former California waitress was found guilty of 2st-degree murder in May 2013 but the jury deadlocked on her sentence.

As part of her sentencing retrial that began in October, Arias spent parts of 2 days in late October and early November testifying before jurors in Maricopa County Superior Court without the public or the media present for the proceedings.

The state's highest court later ruled that judge Sherry Stephens erred in closing the courtroom and that any additional testimony would be open and a transcript of her previous testimony also was released to the public.

It was not clear if the order that Arias' testimony be public was a factor in the decision by defense lawyers not to put her back on the witness stand. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys discuss the case with reporters.

The jury will be allowed to consider her partial testimony, officials said. Prosecutors did not get an opportunity to cross-examine her.

Arias had told jurors that she struggled to admit to herself that she killed Alexander, 30, and expressed remorse, according to the transcript.

Arias said her behavior following the murder was an attempt to hide her involvement in a bloody killing that gained nationwide attention.

The jury that found her guilty in 2013 quickly determined that she was eligible for the death penalty but deadlocked on her sentence.

The new jury, seated in October, will hear the rebuttal case from prosecutors looking to execute Arias for the crime. The sensational case is expected to last through this month.

If this jury cannot decide, Stephens will sentence Arias to life in prison or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

(source: Global Post)

USA:

After botched executions, states add secrecy to the lethal injection process

At least 3 horrifically botched executions last year - in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona - heightened public alarm and revulsion at the risk of cruel and unusual methods of capital punishment. Short of abolishing the death penalty, the solution for states is to seek and ensure more humane methods. Instead, some are taking a sneakier, and constitutionally more suspect, route: dropping a veil of secrecy over executions.

The most recent example, and one of the most obnoxious, is legislation passed in a lame-duck session of Ohio's legislature last month following the shockingly bungled execution a year ago of Dennis McGuire, a convicted murderer who choked, gasped and writhed for 26 minutes before succumbing.

The law, signed just before Christmas by Gov. John Kasich (R), offers anonymity to compounding pharmacies that agree to manufacture the drugs used in state executions, as well as to others involved in carrying out executions. The bill would shield the identity of and public records pertaining to other medical and non-medical personnel who furnish supplies or administer the drugs used in executions.

The effect is to impose a gag order on potentially adverse reports that could inform the public debate over capital punishment. By making much relevant information secret, the law gives government accountability a black eye.

More than a dozen states have adopted similar laws and policies, and others are considering measures that are wildly overbroad.

A notable case is Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) administration has submitted a bill to the legislature that goes well beyond the Ohio law. The legislation, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), would make practically everything about executions in Virginia a state secret - even the building in which they take place. The information would be exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act and even off-limits to plaintiffs in most civil lawsuits.

It's hard to see the compelling need for that kind of blatant censorship, which in other states has been challenged by death row inmates, civil liberties groups and media outlets as an infringement on the First Amendment. Depriving the public of information on the dark side of capital punishment, and impoverishing the public debate, will not make botched executions any more palatable.

Taxpayers who provide the funds that pay for the drugs used in lethal injections deserve to know when mishaps occur. The fact that such mishaps might arouse public disgust does not justify granting anonymity to drug companies that enter into government contracts. If it did, states might conclude that any unpleasant news, and the resulting inconvenient public reaction, would occasion suspending the First Amendment.

The death penalty has been on a long and steady decline in America, with fewer states using it and those that retain it executing and condemning to death ever fewer prisoners. The fact that this trend has been impelled largely by public opinion is no excuse for shrouding ever-rarer executions under a cone of silence.

(source: Washington Post)

INDONESIA:

'No clemency' for Bali 9

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has indicated 2 Australians convicted of drug offences will not receive a reprieve from execution, a refusal to pardon that is likely to strain already fragile ties between the 2 neighbours.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has personally asked for clemency for the 2 members of the so-called Bali 9 who were arrested at Bali's Denpasar airport in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8kg of heroin to Australia.

But Widodo, who took office in October, pledged to continue Indonesia's hardline approach to drug traffickers, which saw executions resume in 2013 after a 5-year gap.

"Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, in 1 year it's 18,000 people because of narcotics," Widodo told CNN. "We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise, no compromise."

Abbott had said Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, were reformed characters who had assisted others in prison as he stressed Australia's opposition to the death penalty.

Widodo said the decision rested with the courts.

"They can ask for amnesty to the president but I tell you there will be no amnesty for drug dealers," he said.

He was asked: "So no relief for the Australians?" He responded by shaking his head.

It was not immediately clear when the executions might take place.

Indonesia's resumption of the death penalty has drawn criticism from human rights activists both at home and abroad. Australia's Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said last week she would not rule out recalling her country's ambassador should the executions be carried out.

Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors from Jakarta, while Nigeria summoned the Indonesian ambassador in Abuja to protest against the execution of their citizens earlier this month.

Relations between Indonesia and Australia hit a low in late 2013 after reports that Australia had spied on top Indonesian officials, including then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.

Indonesia froze military and intelligence cooperation with Australia before restoring relations last May.

(source: Reuters)

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Texas court reprieves death row prisoner Garcia White

Texas's top criminal court has halted Wednesday's execution of a prisoner linked to 5 killings in Houston.

The Texas court of criminal appeals issued a reprieve on Tuesday to death row inmate Garcia White. Prosecutors and defence attorneys say the court did not immediately explain its decision.

White was sentenced to death after being convicted of fatally stabbing twin 16-year-old girls at a Houston apartment where their mother was also killed. White was also tied to the deaths of a grocery store owner and a prostitute.

In their appeal, White's attorneys argued that he may have been mentally impaired because of longtime cocaine use when he waived his right to an attorney during interrogations.

They also say DNA evidence suggests a 2nd person may have been involved in the triple slaying.

(source: The Guardian)

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

Texas halts execution of man convicted in multiple homicide

Texas' top criminal court called off Wednesday's scheduled execution of a death-row inmate linked to 5 killings in Houston, though attorneys said the court didn't immediately explain its decision.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve Tuesday afternoon to inmate Garcia White, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of fatally stabbing twin 16-year-old girls at a Houston apartment where their mother also was killed. White also was tied to the deaths of a grocery store owner and a prostitute.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said the court didn't immediately explain its decision. Another inmate is scheduled for execution Thursday for a separate crime in the nation's busiest death-penalty state.

In their appeal, White's attorneys argued that he may have been mentally impaired because of longtime cocaine use when he waived his right to an attorney during interrogations. They also said DNA evidence suggests a 2nd person may have been involved in the triple slaying.

The bodies of Bonita Edwards, 35, and her 16-year-old daughters Annette and Bernette were found at their apartment a few days after they were last seen in December 1989. But his confession came only after he was arrested 6 years later, for the July 1995 death of 55-year-old Hai Van Pham, who was fatally beaten during a robbery at his store.

White told police he went to Edwards' home to smoke crack cocaine and killed her during an argument, then attacked 1 of her daughters when she came out of her room. Evidence shows the attacker also broke down the locked door of the girls' bedroom.

"I stabbed 1 in the bedroom and 1 in the living room," White told detectives, who said both girls' throats were slit.

White was convicted of killing the teenagers, and charged but not tried for the deaths of Bonita Edwards and Pham. Authorities also linked but never charged White with the slaying of a prostitute.

Another inmate, Robert Ladd, 57, is set for execution Thursday. Ladd was convicted of fatally beating 38-year-old Vickie Ann Garner of Tyler in 1996.

(source: CBS news)

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

Texas Court Denies Death Penalty Appeal of Intellectually Disabled Man ---- Court Standards for Determining Intellectual Disability Drawn From Novella 'Of Mice and Men'

Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was denied a stay of execution today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Although in any other state he would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability, Ladd doesn't meet the Texas courts' standards to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled, which were drawn in part on the character Lennie Small in "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. Ladd will be executed by the state of Texas at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, unless courts intervene.

"This case is indeed stranger than fiction. Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and Ladd's attorney. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

The Supreme Court has twice ruled to protect the intellectually disabled from capital punishment: Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and Hall v. Florida(2014). Those decisions should exempt Mr. Ladd from the death penalty, as he was labeled "fairly obviously retarded" at age 13 by the Texas Youth Commission in 1970. After the Atkins decision, the psychiatrist who had examined Mr. Ladd reviewed his notes and reaffirmed his initial diagnosis in an affidavit, stating his IQ test and "3 separate interviews confirmed my diagnosis of mental retardation." At age 36, Mr. Ladd qualified for services at the Andrews Center in Tyler, Texas, which assists the intellectually disabled as well as the mentally ill.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," said Stull. "We will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution."

For more information about the case Ex Parte Ladd, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

For information about the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

(source: ACLU)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----1

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----519

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

2------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------520

3------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury------521

4------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.--------522

5------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------523

6------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez------524

7------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

8------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse----------526

9------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------527

10-----------Apr. 23-------------------Richard Vasquez------528

11-----------Apr. 28-------------------Robert Pruett----------529

12-----------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------530

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Eric Frein death penalty notice filed in Pennsylvania state trooper slaying

The prosecutor in the case against Eric Frein, who is accused of killing a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and wounding a second, set in motion Tuesday efforts to have him executed for his alleged actions.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin filed in the county's court of common pleas a notice of aggravating circumstances and intent to seek the death penalty against Frein.

Frein, 31, of Canadensis in Barrett Township, Monroe County, is accused of using a .308-caliber rifle Sept. 12 outside the state police barracks at Blooming Grove in Pike County to fatally shoot Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and wound Trooper Alex Douglass. Frein eluded authorities for 48 days until his arrest Oct. 30 at an abandoned airplane hangar in Monroe County.

If Frein is convicted of 1st-degree murder, Tonkin outlined in Tuesday's filing numerous aggravating circumstances that could make him eligible for the death penalty. These circumstances include 8 additional felony charges filed against Frein.

Other aggravating factors include Frein allegedly committing 1st-degree murder while creating a grave risk of death to 2 other people: Douglass and state police Police Communication Officer Nicole Palmer, who can be seen on video played at Frein's preliminary hearing talking to Dickson as she crouches in the doorway during the assault. She suddenly returns, on the video, to the barracks' lobby and bangs on the windows to the secure area, trying to get troopers' attention.

District Judge Shannon Muir ruled at the Jan. 5 preliminary hearing sufficient evidence exists to try Frein on the charges.

The next step in his case is a formal arraignment scheduled Thursday at the Pike County Courthouse in Milford, Pennsylvania. Frein remains in the county jail without bail.

His court-appointed attorney, Milford-based Michael Weinstein, could not be reached immediately for comment Tuesday.

Whether Frein would face death in the next few years is uncertain. Newly sworn-in Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has said he supports a moratorium on the death penalty and won't sign execution warrants, The Associated Press reports. His office was not immediately available for comment Tuesday on Frein potentially facing the death penalty.

Pennsylvania law requires a separate sentencing hearing be held following a 1st-degree murder conviction. A jury hears evidence of aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances, which lessen a defendant's culpability. To impose death, a jury must unanimously agree the aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances.

(source: The Express-Times)

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

Here's Why We Need to Kill the Death Penalty

In a piece that appeared on PennLive on Jan. 6, Maureen Faulkner criticized both Governor-Elect Tom Wolf and me for our opposition to the death penalty.

Ms. Faulkner is the widow of the police officer who was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal, and as such, has unique standing to comment on this important issue of public policy.

Obviously, the horrors she has endured give her a valuable perspective on many facets of the criminal justice system. She raises some important points and deserves a response.

Ms. Faulkner specifically asks why a person who has taken the life of another "be allowed to keep their own life."

There are many reasons that the death penalty, which has been eliminated throughout most of the civilized world and has recently been repealed in 6 states (including our neighbors New Jersey and Maryland), is an inappropriate punishment.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for rejecting capital punishment is the inevitability of executing completely innocent people.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to be reinstated, 149 people have been sent to death row and then later released after being fully exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted, most through DNA evidence. Some of these people came within hours of being executed.

Counting all crimes, over 2,000 people were found to have been wrongly convicted in the past 23 years, as of 2012. It is clear that our criminal justice system is imperfect.

Considering all of the innocent people who were convicted but then freed by DNA, it is extremely disturbing that DNA evidence is available in less than 15 % of all murder cases.

Most murders are committed by guns, leaving no DNA evidence.

Thus, if there are scores of death row inmates whose innocence was proven by DNA out of the 15 % of cases where it is available, how many innocent people are there among the 85 % of cases in which DNA evidence is not available?

Assuming the proportion of innocent people is the same in both groups, we have sent literally hundreds of people to death row who are innocent but unable to prove that innocence. How many of those people have we killed?

Ms. Faulkner says that there is no case where it has been "proved" that an innocent person has been executed. With all due respect, that is misleading. First, in most cases, once a person is dead, people stop looking.

There is generally no funding source for the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to continue investigating a case after the defendant has been executed. And even if there was funding available in a given case, there is no forum where a person's innocence can be "proved."

The state does not conduct posthumous retrials of dead defendants. That said, there are a number of cases where there is very strong evidence that an innocent person was executed.

They can be found here.

Another compelling reason to eliminate the death penalty is because we simply can't afford it. Recent studies in California and Maryland have shown that death penalty case costs between 2 and 3 million dollars more to process, try, and carry out than a non-capital murder case.

Given that we've processed hundreds of death penalty cases since reinstatement, simple math tells us that we are spending billions of dollars just to have a death penalty. Think of what that money could be used for instead: more effective forms of crime reduction, education, or even tax cuts.

Other reasons to eliminate the death penalty relate to the unfair, arbitrary, and racially disparate way it is administered, all of the ancillary costs of litigating issues related to capital punishment (such as what chemicals may be used for the execution), and the significant moral problems with giving a government, which many people don't think can deliver the mail efficiently, the power to decide when to kill its own citizens in cold blood.

I can certainly understand Ms. Faulkner's rage and desire for revenge against the man who killed her husband. I am sure I would feel the same way if I were ever in similar circumstances.

We recently lost one of my heroes, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who opposed the death penalty in all circumstances. Like me, he was frequently asked what he would do if someone he cared about was murdered.

I love his answer, which I will paraphrase. He said:

"I would pick up a baseball bat to bash the killer's brains in myself. But before I reached him, what I hope I would do is ask myself if this would bring my loved-one back, and if I am acting in a way consistent with my religious and moral principles, and if I would want my family to see me acting this way. And I hope that before I got to the killer, I would put the baseball bat down."

That is what we as a society must do. We must put the baseball bat down.

(source: Op-Ed; Sen. Daylin Leach Headshot, State Senator from Pennsylvania's 17th District----Huffington Post)

MARYLAND:

Del. McDonough seeks to restore death penalty in some cases

Calling it a 1st step toward fully restoring the death penalty in Maryland, Del. Pat McDonough said he plans to introduce a bill that would mandate capital punishment for anyone convicted of killing a police or correctional officer, a firefighter or witness during the performance of their duty.

McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, is scheduled to unveil his proposed Fallen Heroes Capital Punishment Restoration Act at a news conference Tuesday in Annapolis.

Noting the "assassination" of 2 New York police officers late last year, McDonough said there was a 50 percent increase nationally last year in shootings of law enforcement officers.

Nationwide, there were 50 police officers fatally shot in the line of duty last year, up from 18 in 2013, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Last year's death toll, a one-year jump, still remains below the annual average for each of the previous six decades, data compiled by the fund show.

Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, becoming the 18th state to do so. McDonough contends the General Assembly is "filled with too many legislators who are criminal advocates."

"Where is the compassion for crime victims, their families, and public safety?" he asked. He said he'd seek to gradually reinstate the death penalty, saying capital punishment for multiple murders would be "the next step in bringing sanity and justice to our system."

(source: Baltimore Sun)

GEORGIA----imminent execution

As Execution Approches, Some In GOP Want Review Of Mental Disability Standard

The state parole board Tuesday morning denied clemency for Warren Lee Hill. He's scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. tonight. Hill's attorneys say their client's intellectual disability bars the state from moving forward with the execution.

Federal law prohibits executing the mentally disabled but Georgia applies the nation’s toughest standard for proving a person is disabled.

GOP leaders in the House and Senate say they're willing to review Georgia's mental disability standard for the death penalty.

Officials say Hill has an IQ of 70 and the emotional capacity of an 11-year-old. But the state argues Hill's attorneys have not proven his disability "beyond a reasonable doubt." Georgia is the only state to require that standard. In other states, attorneys must only show the disability is probable.

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say they're willing to review Georgia's standard, but all stopped short of committing to action.

Wendell Williard, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed concern.

"I think the standard needs to be revisited," said Willard. "I think if we stand alone on that issue then there's a justification to examine why we're the only one."

Jesse Stone, the Republican chair of the Senate non-civil judiciary committee, suggested the same.

"I understand Georgia has a strict standard compared to other states. Generally speaking, Georgia tries to stay in the mainstream so it may be worth reviewing but I haven't seen a bill come up yet," Stone said.

Stone's counterpart on the House non-civil judiciary committee, Rich Golick, said despite the controversy he's observed little debate on the issue.

"I haven't heard a groundswell within the chamber or in the other body on the issue itself. At this point, I have no legislation that's pending personally but if a bill we're to [be introduced] we would certainly give it consideration as we do any other piece of serious legislation," said Golick.

Georgia was actually the 1st state to outlaw executing the mentally disabled. That was in 1988. It's also when Georgia began applying the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.

Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says he's introduced legislation in the past aimed at changing the standard, but according to Fort, it's always gained little traction.

Among those speaking out against Hill's execution are former President Jimmy Carter, the ACLU, the NAACP, the Georgia Bar Association, the Council of Europe, the Archbishop of Atlanta, and a family member of 1 of Hill's victims.

(source: WABE news)

WASHINGTON:

Representative urges death penalty repeal

Local state Rep. Maureen Walsh is among sponsors of a bill introduced Monday to replace the death penalty in Washington state with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The Walla Walla Republican said this morning she has co-sponsored previous bills to abolish the death penalty and that while she has "extreme empathy and sympathy" for the victims of violent crime, the "system of appeals that racks up a ton of bills" makes the punishment not worth the cost.

A sentence of life without parole could also be considered a worse punishment by many people, Walsh said.

"The death penalty is too easy for them," she said. "Let them rot in jail."

Other arguments she offered are that a life sentence allows a reprieve if a person is later found to be wrongly convicted, which the death penalty does not. It also would short-circuit lengthy appeals processes and spare families the pain of "being dragged through the court process" again and again, she said.

"It's just something I think warrants discussion," Walsh said.

House Bill 1739 would also require convicts sentenced to life without parole to work to pay restitution to victims and their families.

Along with Walsh, lawmakers sponsoring the bill include Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines and Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah.

Orwall expressed similar views to Walsh's.

"We believe there has been a shift in thinking about the death penalty including recognition of the impact of DNA testing, cost to taxpayers, and lack of support for victims' families in a drawn-out process," she said.

"This year is the right time to seriously consider this legislation, and we deeply respect the openness of colleagues and families that have been touched by violence as our state thoughtfully discusses this issue."

9 prisoners, all men, are at present facing the death penalty in Washington state. They are incarcerated at Washington State Penitentiary which is where state law requires executions to be conducted.

The longest serving inmate on death row is Jonathan Lee Gentry, who was convicted in 1991 of fatally bludgeoning 12-year old Cassie Holden in 1988 in Kitsap County. The most recent person sentenced to death is Byron Eugene Scherf, who murdered Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl in 2011 at Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County.

The last person executed in Washington state was Cal Coburn Brown, who died by lethal injection in 2010 for the 1991 murder of 22-year old Holly Washa.

(source: The Union-Bulletin)

USA:

Justices must take close look at death penalty workings

Ready, aim, fire!

Death row inmates in at least 1 state - with perhaps more to come - may soon be hearing those words once again. Why? Because the drugs used to execute those marked for death simply haven't been properly working. Or are unavailable. And so, lawmakers in Wyoming recently approved executions by firing squad as a backup method. Yes, a firing squad. In America. In 2015.

What prompted this, more than anything else, were a few high-profile botched executions in which convicts were given a cocktail of drugs meant to kill them - but that instead left them gasping for breath and writhing in pain, sometimes for long stretches, before they finally expired.

When the Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of the way death sentences are carried out in Oklahoma, the question before the court hinged on whether the lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

This page has long been opposed to the death penalty. That said, we understand well that there are those with differing views – and states that continue to carry out death sentences. Still, no one can rationally argue that it makes sense to take someone on death row to be executed, but instead effectively torture him for a time before actually ending his life.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been closely divided on the death penalty for some time now. Essentially, the 4 conservative justices - Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts - have had a hang-'em-high attitude, while the 4 liberal members of the court - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan – have sought to move the nation away from frontier-style justice.

This leaves, as is so often the case in our era, a single swing vote on the high court who will decide a fundamentally significant matter. If Justice Anthony Kennedy sides with the conservatives, they will win the day; if he instead joins the liberals, they'll emerge victorious.

That this is no way to run the greatest democracy in the history of the world should go without saying. But neither should it need to be stated that we ought not be using firing squads.

(source: Editorial, masslive.com)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

3 more beheaded under new Saudi king

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 2 more of its citizens and a Pakistani, continuing the strictest punishment under new King Salman.

Omar bin Yahya bin Ibrahim al-Barkati was tried and convicted of incest, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"He was executed as punishment for his crime and as a lesson to others," the ministry said, adding that authorities carried out the sentence in southwestern Asir region.

In a separate case, Yassir bin Hussein al-Hamza was executed in northwestern Jawf region after his trial and confession for smuggling amphetamine pills, the ministry said.

A 3rd convict, Latif Khan Nurzada, a Pakistani, was executed for trafficking heroin into the kingdom. He was executed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the ministry said in another statement.

According to an AFP tally, their executions bring to 16 the number of Saudis and foreigners put to death this year under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

4 have been executed since King Salman took office last Friday after the death of his predecessor Abdullah.

Under Abdullah, the number of executions jumped from 27 in 2010 to around 80 annually, with 87 last year.

The oil-rich Gulf Arab state faces constant international criticism over its human rights record, including the use of the death penalty.

(source: timeslive.com)

INDONESIA:

No mercy: Derryn Hinch says Bali 9 drug smugglers SHOULD be executed and slams celebrities who star in video calling for them to be spared the firing squad as 'hypocrites'

Controversial media personality Derryn Hinch has posted a video slamming celebrities participating in the 'I Stand For Mercy' campaign as 'hypocritical' and declaring his support for the death penalty in Australia.

In a video labelled 'Derryn Hinch on Bali 9 Executions', the radio and television presenter expressed no sympathy when bluntly stating that Bali 9 ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan 'ran the risk' when they attempted to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia 10 years ago.

'People like Alan Jones, Germaine Greer, Asher Keddie, David Wenham, they've all lined up and they've all signed up, and I think it's hypocritical,' Hinch says in the video.

Never been one to hold back on his views, Hinch says in his video, posted on his website, Human Headline, that the Australian pair were fully aware of the ramifications if caught drug smuggling in Indonesia.

'It's the same in China, in Malaysia, in Thailand, in Vietnam, that's the risk you run,' he said bluntly.

Hinch went on to question the well-known Australian personalities' stance on the death penalty - asking whether the only sought mercy for their own countrymen.

'Did they stand up a week ago and say I stand for mercy for the Brazilian who was executed in Indonesia or the one from the Netherlands or the Indonesian woman or somebody from Malawi?' he asked.

'Are you against the death penalty for the terrorists?' he added in his rant.

He then expressed his support for the death penalty and believes that most Australians would stand right there alongside him.

'I support the death penalty for some crimes...but in cases of rapists, child murderers, people who kill policemen, people who kill prison guards, and terrorists, the death penalty should stand.

'We should have the death penalty in Australia. If we had a referendum, if Tony Abbott had the guts to do it, 75 % of Australians would agree with me.'

Australian war artist Ben Quilty is the person behind the campaign requesting mercy from Indonesian authorities and has produced a star-studded video called I Stand For Mercy.

The video contains a number of contributions from famous Australians saying how upset they are and that the men's lives should be spared. It features the likes of actors Asher Keddie, Bryan Brown and Claudia Karvan, musicians Missy Higgins and Megan Washington, and broadcasters Alan Jones and Andrew Denton.

Chan and Sukumaran face death by firing squad as early as next Sunday for attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia, and their clemency bids have been ignored.

Quilty became a mentor and close friend of Sukumaran after he was jailed, and has used his creative talents to create the powerful video in support of the 2 men.

'The message is just for the boys to know there are people walking with them in this very dark time,' Quilty told news.com.au.

The 41-year-old is trying to organise a candlelight vigil for the pair, to 'send a strong message to the men themselves and their families that there are a lot of prominent Australians in the arts, media and all parts of our community who are on their side.'

'I want the barristers to walk into that prison and tell the boys how many people are thinking of them and supporting them,' he said.

The 41-year-old has recruited dozens of renowned musicians to 'perform for clemency' and send a message that the death penalty is unacceptable.

"It's for Myu and Andrew - I'd do anything for those 2 boys," he said.

'I want to send a strong message to the men themselves and their families that there are a lot of prominent Australians in the arts, media and all parts of our community who are on their side.'

Co-founder of the Mercy Campaign, Brigid Delaney said the video highlighted the support for the 2 men on death row.

'It's amazing how much support the petition asking for clemency has received. We have more than 50,000 signatures, with thousands being added each day as the message of mercy spreads,' she said.

'This video is part of that campaign, respectfully asking the Indonesian government for mercy for Myuran and Andrew.'

A concert is also planned in Sydney on Thursday in support of the Mercy Campaign. Details on the event are still being finalised.

The families of Bali 9 ringleaders Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, have made a desperate plea to Indonesia's president to reconsider the pair's executions in light of the work they have done to improve the lives of fellow inmates.

On Thursday, Chan's last ditch attempt at a clemency bid was rejected by President Widodo, following Sukumaran's rejected bid in December, officially exhausting the legal appeals against their death sentence for attempting to smuggle heroin into Australia.

The relatives of Chan and Sukumaran said they were devastated to hear the decision about the clemency bids, and pleaded for the president to visit the pair in Kerobokan Jail.

(source: Daily Mail)

BARBADOS:

No more compulsory death penalty for murder

Barbados' House of Assembly this morning was moving to stop the death penalty from being compulsory for murder.

Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who piloted a bill to make this possible, said the new law would give judges a range of options for sentencing murder convicts. He told parliamentarians the Offences Against the Person Act with its mandatory imposition of the penalty of death, was being changed in keeping with Barbados' obligations under the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has long ruled that the mandatory death penalty violates Articles 4(1) and 4(2) - which prohibit arbitrary treatment and limit the death penalty to the most serious crimes - of the American Convention on Human Rights.

These state: 1. Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. 2. In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, it may be imposed only for the most serious crimes and pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court and in accordance with a law establishing such punishment, enacted prior to the commission of the crime.

The application of such punishment shall not be extended to crimes to which it does not presently apply.

Brathwaite pointed out that the death penalty would stay on the books.

(source: nationnews.com)

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:

New Death Sentence Issued By Gaza Court----PCHR Calls for Immediate Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty as a Form of Punishment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) renews its demand for the abolishment of the death penalty in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) as Gaza courts issued a second death sentence in 2015.

On Monday, 19 January 2015, the Court of First Instance in Gaza City, acting as a court of appeal, sentenced E. M. A. (24), from al-Maghazi refugee camp in the Central Gaza Strip, to death by hanging after convicting him of shooting and killing M. B. A. (68), from al-Maghazi refugee camp in a family dispute on 15 February 2009.

A 1st degree court had sentenced the aforementioned to life imprisonment on 9 March 2014, but the Prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the sentence was raised by the Court of Appeal to death.

It should be noted that the defendant was 18 when the 1st sentence was issued.

This sentence has been the second of its kind in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since the beginning of 2015 where the 1st death sentence was issued by a military court in Hebron against (A. L. A.) on 11 January 2015 after convicting him of collaboration with the Israeli forces.

Thus, the total number of death sentences issued by the Palestinian Authority since 1994 has risen to 157, of which 130 have been issued in the Gaza Strip and 27 in the West Bank.

Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 72 have been issued since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The Palestinian Authority also executed 32 death sentences, of which 30 have been executed in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank.

Among those executed in the Gaza Strip, 19 have been executed since 2007 without ratification by the Palestinian President in violation of the law.

PCHR is gravely concerned over the continued application of the death penalty in Palestinian Authority controlled areas, and:

1. Calls for an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment because it violates international human rights standards and instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the UN Convention against Torture (1984);

2. Calls for reviewing all legislation related to the death penalty, especially the Penal Law No. 74 (1936) which remains in effect in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) that is in effect in the West Bank, and enacting a unified penal code that is in line with the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty;

3. Points out that the call for abolition of the death penalty does not reflect a tolerance for those convicted of serious crimes, but rather a call for utilizing deterrent penalties that maintain our humanity; and

4. Stresses that ratification of the implementation of death sentences is an absolute power of the Palestinian President according to the Palestinian Basic Law and relevant laws, and no death sentence can be implemented without such ratification.

(source: International Middle East Media Center)

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

Palestinians urged to abolish death penalty

A rights group on Tuesday urged Palestinian authorities to abolish the death penalty, after 2 new sentences were handed down this month in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights called for "an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment because it violates international human rights standards."

Authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza sentenced a 24-year-old to death by hanging on charges of murder, and a court in Hebron in the West Bank handed a sentence to another man on charges of collaboration with Israel, it said.

Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel, murder and drug trafficking are all punishable by death.

Hamas has since 2007 controlled the Gaza Strip and president Mahmud Abbas's Palestinian Authority administers the West Bank.

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

Hamas executed 18 men in August for alleged collaboration with Israel during the 50-day Gaza war, having executed 2 others in May on the same charge.

The PCHR's statement on Tuesday was directed specifically at the PA, which it said had issued 157 death sentences since its creation in 1994, and so far carried out 32 of them.

(source: The Peninsula)

GUYANA:

Guyana being lobbied to suspend death penalty

Amnesty International and the charitable not-for-profit Justice Institute of Guyana are lobbying for an official suspension of hanging convicted prisoners, according to a United Nations report.

Prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Human Rights Council's Working Group on the 21st Session of the Universal Periodic Review scheduled for January 19 to 30, 2015; the report says that representatives of the London-based Amnesty International met officials of the Guyana government in 2014.

That human rights organisation is working with the Justice Institute to "advocate for an official moratorium on the death penalty with the aim of its ultimate abolition." A number of public events and meetings have been held in Guyana to heighten awareness about the need and importance of suspending the death penalty.

Resolution 67/176 by the United Nations General Assembly that was passed on December 20, 2012 calls on Guyana and several other countries around the world to suspend the death penalty because any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. "Convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, and considering that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty," states the resolution.

The General Assembly in that resolution also welcomed the steps taken by countries to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed and the decisions made by an increasing number of States, at all levels of government, to apply a moratorium on executions, followed in many cases by the abolition of the death penalty.

Guyana last executed a death row prisoner in 1997. The Guyana Report for the UPR states that there are 13 male prisoners on death row. An amendment to the death penalty that provides for persons to hanged in limited cases such as murder of a police officer on duty or treason, has seen 15 prisoners on death row having had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment during the past 5 years. A number of these, according to the report, will be coming up for parole in the next 3 years. One prisoner on death row was exonerated in 2012.

When Guyana comes up for review on Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council will hear that a Parliamentary Special Select Committee failed to focus on the death penalty and instead on corporal punishment. The report on Guyana noted that the parliamentary committee had been specifically tasked with seeking to determine the attitude of Guyanese, particularly the families of victims, criminologists, and professionals, on capital punishment and its possible abolition.

Amnesty International wants Guyana to commute without delay all death sentences to terms of imprisonment, pending the full abolition of the death penalty, esure rigorous compliance in all death penalty cases with international standards for fair trial and ratify without reservations the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at abolition of the death penalty.

(source: caribnewsdesk.com)

NEW YORK:

Death Penalty Project Gives Real-World Experience to Undergraduates

The Cornell Death Penalty Project runs clinical programs at Cornell Law School in which students assist with the representation of capital defendants. The project is run by 3 professors, Prof. John Blume,law, Prof. Sheri Johnson, law, and Keir Weyble, law, all of whom are extremely experienced in the field of capital defense.

In my column this month, I wanted to introduce Sun readers to the meaningful work that the Cornell Death Penalty Project is doing, through my experience so far. As a student in the Capital Punishment Clinic run by the Cornell Death Penalty Project this semester, I spent a week in South Carolina over Winter Break working on the investigation of a new case for the clinic. After watching Professor Blume argue a capital case in front of the South Carolina Supreme Court for 1 of the clinic's clients (he informed us this was his 74th argument in front of that court, no big deal), we visited death row and met with 3 clients.

Meeting with the client for whom I would be working for the rest of the week and potentially the rest of the semester was probably the most valuable aspect of the trip. Putting a human face to the name of a death row inmate and speaking with him about his life and his case put the gravity of the work into perspective. Normal coursework does not have such high stakes. Our conversation further impressed upon me that I must work as hard as I can in every aspect of his case, so that the very best effort is put forward to save his life.

For the rest of the week, I drove with a partner around rural Orangeburg County, South Carolina, to interview the jurors from our client's trial to better understand the full picture of what happened going into and at trial.

This was not easy work. We spent 8 hours a day in the car, confronting empty plots of land where it appeared a juror used to live, muddy dirt roads we were afraid of getting the rental car stuck in, barking unleashed dogs and skeptical home inhabitants trying to help jurors avoid us.

But when we found jurors, they were surprisingly willing to speak with us. Because we asked, they rehashed difficult memories of literally signing someone's death sentence. From them, we learned more about the details of the trial. We also learned about our jurors’ lives and relatinships and connected with them on a personal level. For example, when I shook one woman's hand to thank her for talking with us, I was informed that I have very cold hands, "but a warm heart."

I am very grateful to be part of the team working on these important cases, which literally mean life or death for our clients. If, like me, you are interested in law or the death penalty, you can get involved too. The Cornell Death Penalty Project provides the opportunity for students outside the law school to enroll in the course LAW 4501: The Death Penalty in America or the human development course HD 4140: Social and Psychological Aspects of the Death Penalty. I highly recommend that you take one of these courses before you graduate.

For more information about the Cornell Death Penalty Project, please visit http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/research/death-penalty-project.

(source: Annie O'Toole, Cornell Daily Sun)

GEORGIA----impending execution----clemency denied

Parole board denies clemency for Hill

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down condemned 2-time murderer Warren Hill’s request for a stay of tonight's schedule execution despite his claims that he is intellectually disabled.

With that loss, Hill has only 1 remaining option in his effort to stop his execution scheduled for 7 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Parole Board did not give a reason for its decision to deny clemency. In addition to hearing testimony during the meeting Monday, the board thoroughly reviewed Hill's parole case file, which includes the circumstances of the death penalty case, his criminal history and a comprehensive history Hill's life.

The federal appeals court said Hill had already challenged Georgia's requirement that he prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not eligible for a death sentence because of his disability. He has an IQ of 70, which is widely recognized as being intellectually disabled. The court said heis not entitled to a second appeal unless there was new evidence.

Hill is scheduled to die this evening for the 1990 beating death of his cellmate, Joseph Handspike. Hill was serving a life sentence at a prison in Lee County for the 1986 murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend when he used a nail-studded board to attack Handspike, also a convicted murderer.

Hill's lawyer focused some of his argument before the Parole Board Monday on last spring's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that death penalty states could not solely use an IQ score to determine if a convicted murder is ineligible for execution. Though Georgia does not have such a benchmark, state law does require proof of intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt - the highest standard of proof and one that not other state requires.

That same issue is the focus of his pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

5 questions on the Warren Hill death case

1. Why is Warren Hill on death row?

Hill beat a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, to death with a nail-studded board in 1990 at a state prison in Leesburg. At the time, Hill was serving a life sentence for the 1986 fatal shooting of his former girlfriend, an 18-year-0ld woman whom he shot 11 times. Prison authorities said he took the 2-by-6 board from a bathroom, where it was used to support a sink. He was convicted in the Handspike killing in 1991 and sentenced to death.

2. What is the principle of law at stake in the Hill case? What are people arguing about?

Death penalty defendants sometimes plead "intellectual disability" as a way to show they were not capable of understanding what they did and are therefore not responsible for it. It is illegal in the United States to execute an intellectually disabled inmate. Warren Hill has invoked that defense. But Georgia also maintains the highest possible standard of proof among the states that allow the death penalty: here, the defendant must show he or she is intellectually disabled "beyond a reasonable doubt." Most states use a lesser standard: intellectually disabled by "a preponderance of the evidence" - meaning more likely than not. The difference between the 2 is the difference between whether Hill lives or dies. The Vatican, the European Union, Desmond Tutu, the American Bar Association, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and others are on record as opposing the execution.

3. What makes Hill's case stand out?

In Hill's case, 2 state court judges have found him to be intellectually disabled, only according to the lesser "preponderance of the evidence" standard. In addition 3 experts for the state who testified 15 years ago that Hill was not intellectually disabled have since changed their diagnoses. In sworn statements and in interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, all 3 said their evaluations were rush jobs and a better scientific understanding leads them to believe Hill is mildly intellectually disabled. Hill's prior appeals have been denied.

4. Hasn't he appealed this issue in the courts?

Yes. Here's a partial timeline:

2002: Superior Court judge in Columbus finds Georgia's strict threshold to be fundamentally unfair because it ensured the state would execute capital defendants who are more likely than not mentally disabled. That judge found Hill to be intellectually disabled by a preponderance of the evidence.

2003: Voting 4-3, the state Supreme Court overturns that judge's ruling. The court finds that exemptions from execution should be granted only to those "whose mental deficiencies are significant enough to be provable beyond a reasonable doubt." The dissenters argued the ruling meant the state may execute inmates who are "almost certainly" intellectually disabled.

2010: A 3-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Atlanta, by a 2-1 vote, finds Georgia's standard of proof unconstitutionally increased the risk that an intellectually disabled inmate would be executed.

2011: The entire federal appeals court, by a 7-4 vote, overturns the panel's decision. The court's majority said the state's death-penalty statute contains substantial safeguards to help jurors accurately determine whether a defendant is intellectually disabled.

2012: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Hill's appeal, triggering the scheduling of his execution.

2012: Hill's execution is temporarily stayed amid an argument over Georgia's plans to switch from a 3-drug mixture for executions to a single drug. The stay is later lifted and the execution is rescheduled for 2013.

2013: The federal appeals court calls off Hill's execution 30 minutes before it is to take place, saying it would hear arguments about his intellectual ability.

2013: The appeals court rules against Hill.

2014: Hill files a new challenge to the state's intellectual disability law in September in Butts County Superior Court (the county where he is being held on death row). The Butts County court rules against him in October, and his appeals to higher courts fail.

Jan. 27, 2015: The 11th circuit rules against Hill's appeal, saying he has already argued his case on intellectual disability grounds. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles also denies clemency. In a statement, Hill's attorney, Brian Kammer, said, "The clemency board missed an opportunity to right a grave wrong. It is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that an unconstitutional execution of a man with lifelong intellectual disability is prevented." Hill is scheduled to die this evening.

5. What are the roots of this argument?

In 1988, Georgia became the 1st state to ban the execution of the intellectually disabled. Passage of the law is widely attributed to the public outrage that accompanied the 1986 execution of Jerome Bowden, who, before being put to death in the electric chair, had been found to have the mentality of a 12-year-old. In his final statement, Bowden thanked "the people of this institution for taking such good care of me as they have."

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

OHIO:

Spencerville man to face death penalty in slaying of 17-month-old----Man faces execution in child's slaying

A man accused of killing a 17-month old child will face the death penalty.

Christopher Clayton, 20, was indicted on aggravated murder with a death penalty specification. Clayton is accused of causing the injuries that led to the Jan. 16 death of Xavier Wurth.

Xavier suffered blunt-force trauma to the back of his head, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy ruled.

Clayton's arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 4. A death penalty specification can be added only under limited circumstances. In this case, Clayton is accused of being the principal offender in the death of a child under 13.

Clayton told a 911 operator the child choked on his own vomit. He said he believed the child suffocated. Those statements did not match the autopsy results and Clayton was arrested.

"We just woke up and I think our baby's dead," Clayton told a 911 operator.

Clayton told the operator he put the child to bed the evening before at 8 p.m. His call to 911 was placed at 11:57 a.m. the next day.

The child's body was found in an upstairs hallway, officials said.

The incident happened inside an apartment at 229 Wurster St., in Spencerville. Clayton, who is from St. Marys, was living in the home with the child's mother, Alexis Long. He had lived there less than a year, police officials said.

Spencerville Police Chief Darin Cook said it was clear by looking at the child at the scene that the death was suspicious. Cook immediately called sheriff detectives and the crime scene unit because his agency is small and does not have those resources.

(source: limaohio.com)

KENTUCKY:

Nunn plans appeal of judge's refusal to throw out guilty plea, sentence in Amanda Ross's death

Former state lawmaker Steve Nunn will appeal a Fayette County judge's refusal to throw out his guilty plea and life sentence in the shooting death of his onetime fiancee Amanda Ross, one of his attorney's said Monday.

Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine rejected Nunn's requests to withdraw his guilty plea in a ruling she filed with the court earlier Monday.

Nunn, 62, argued his guilty plea should be overturned because he received ineffective legal advice. He contended that his lawyer, Warren Scoville of London, didn't fully explain the effects of his plea. Goodwine, however, ruled that Nunn entered the guilty plea of his own accord.

"Thus, having found that Nunn's guilty plea was freely, willingly, knowingly and voluntarily entered, and no sufficient basis being presented to this court to set it aside, Nunn's motion to vacate sentence ... is overruled," the judge said in her 17-page opinion filed Monday in the court clerk's office.

Krista Dolan, 1 of 2 public defenders representing Nunn, confirmed Monday afternoon that they plan to appeal Goodwine's ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Nunn, the son of former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, pleaded guilty first-degree murder in June 2011. Ross was killed on Sept. 11, 2009.

Nunn was sentenced to life without parole. If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty.

Nunn filed the challenge of his guilty plea in October 2013.

He claimed that he switched his plea to guilty because he had understood that if he did so, the Ross family would drop a wrongful-death civil lawsuit that they had filed against him.

But the civil lawsuit was never dismissed, and Nunn ultimately was found liable for $24 million in damages.

In a hearing last fall, Nunn blamed Scoville. Nunn said he would never have pleaded guilty if he had known the civil suit would remain in effect.

Goodwine systematically dismissed Nunn's arguments in her ruling.

The judge noted that Nunn had stated that he wanted to make the guilty plea to spare his own daughters and Amanda Ross's mother, Diana Ross, the emotional turmoil of a trial. He even said he would have pleaded guilty to the death penalty, Goodwine said.

She also dismissed as "without merit" Nunn's argument that Scoville had a conflict of interest because his firm was a party in the civil suit while he also was listed as counsel of record in the suit.

Scoville's law firm was a defendant from December 2009 to February 2010 in the Ross family's civil suit against Nunn, Goodwine said, but there was no discussion between Nunn and Scoville about a possible plea during that time.

Goodwine wrote that Nunn's own testimony indicated that he didn't tell Scoville's paralegal, Angie Tyree, about his desire to plead guilty until more than a year later, in May 2011.

The judge also focused on the question of whether a promise was made that the Ross family would dismiss its civil suit if Nunn pleaded guilty. There was conflicting testimony on the question during a hearing in October.

Scoville said there was a verbal agreement that the civil suit would be dropped. But attorney Burl McCoy, who represented the Ross family in the civil suit, insisted that there was no such deal.

In Monday's ruling, Goodwine said that she could find no mention in the civil suit record that Nunn thought that the lawsuit "was going to be dismissed once he entered his guilty plea."

"In Nunn's mind, dismissing the civil suits had nothing to do with punishment," Goodwine wrote. "The civil action was filed before Nunn was even indicted on the murder charges. Nunn's underlying reason ... were to spare his daughters and Mrs. Ross the emotional trauma of what would have likely been a rather sensationalized trial despite efforts to prevent same."

(source: kentucky.com)

KANSAS:

Rep. Becker wants to abolish death penalty

State Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, filed a bill in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that would abolish the state's death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Becker said the bill is fiscally responsible and recognizes that wrongful convictions occur.

He also noted that Gov. Sam Brownback declared in his State of the State Address this month that "'from the beginning of life to the end of life, Kansas is the most pro-life state in America.'"

"How can we claim to be pro-life when we impose the death penalty?" Becker asked in a statement. "Every advocate for and champion of the sanctity of life knows that it applies to all life, not just innocence," Becker said.

A study last year determined a death penalty case incurs more costs than a life sentence. "Significant savings can be realized to the state general fund," Becker said, and the budget is an important issue this year.

Becker is a former Reno County district judge and sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

(source: Hutchinson News)

OKLAHOMA:

SCOTUS Lethal Injection Case Halts All Executions in Oklahoma; Prompts Appeals in Texas

The US Supreme Court is reviewing Oklahoma's execution protocol. The decision is prompting several Texas inmates to file emergency stays of execution, in hopes the court will halt executions in multiple states.

The drug in question is called Midazolam. It's used by Oklahoma and Florida as the 1st of a 3 drug protocol for executions. Friday, the US Supreme Court agreed to review it for cruel and unusual punishment.

The drug is supposed to cause unconsciousness, so the other 2 drugs that stop breathing and stop the heart won't be felt.

"I greatly fear that there will be more spectacular disasters when people are executed with Midazolam," attorney for Oklahoma death row inmates Mark Henrickson said.

The drug caused controversy during Clayton Lockett's execution last year. Witnesses say he writhed on the table and was able to sit up and speak after a doctor declared him unconscious.

"He doesn't want to be tortured to death like Mr. Lockett was," Henrickson said.

He is the attorney for Richard Glossip, who is convicted of killing his boss in 1997.

He was supposed to be executed using the drug this week, but Monday, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, filed an emergency stay to halt all executions in the state until the Supreme Court issues its decision, or the state finds a drug to replace Midazolam.

Texas death row inmates Garcia White and Robert Ladd are set for executions this week. They filed emergency stays Monday, asking the US Supreme Court to stop their executions until its decision in the Oklahoma case.

Attorneys for Lester Bower, a man convicted of killing 4 men in Sherman 30 years ago, have also filed an appeal.

"We believe that the supreme court ruling will not have an impact in Texas," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said. "Texas uses a single, lethal dose of Pentobarbital."

Texas executed 37 inmates with Pentobarbital. Clark says all were without incident, though he is not surprised attorneys are using Oklahoma's protocol as a reason to question the one in Texas, despite being different.

"Attorneys for death row offenders will look at many different avenues and file their appeals based upon that," Clark said.

The US Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case in April and issue a decision in late June.

(source: KTEN news)

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

Oklahoma Asks Supreme Court to Delay 3 Executions

Oklahoma has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue stays of executions for 3 death-row inmates scheduled for lethal injection this week because the justices are set to hear a challenge to one of the drugs the state uses.

Convicted murderers Garcia White, Richard Glossip, and Robert Ladd have execution dates for Wednesday and Thursday, but the high court won't rule on whether the lethal-injection formula is constitutional until the summer. The state believes that because the dates are already scheduled, only the court has the authority to put them on hold until a decision is made.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed for the 1st time since 2008 to hear a challenge to lethal injections, but they didn't block any pending executions at that time. 7 years ago, executions across the country ground to a halt while the justices considered - and ultimately rejected - the earlier challenge.

The new case centers on Oklahoma's use of the sedative midazolam as the 1st chemical in a 3-drug combination. Defense lawyers say it's not strong enough to block the pain of the 2nd and 3rd drugs.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said executions in the state should be on hold until the court either OKs midazolam or an alternative is found. But he said the state is committed to putting the 3 men to death.

"It is important that we act in order to best serve the interests of the victims of these horrific crimes and the State's obligation to ensure justice in each and every case," Pruitt said in a statement.

"The families of the victims in these 3 cases have waited a combined 48 years for the sentences of these heinous crimes to be carried out. 2 federal courts have previously held the current protocol as constitutional, and we believe the United States Supreme Court will find the same."

Dale Baich, one of the inmates' lawyers, said in a statement: "We agree that it is appropriate that executions in Oklahoma should be stayed while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the case."

(source: NBC news)

UTAH:

Anti-death penalty group to protest firing squad bill

A group opposed to capital punishment plans to protest outside the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday over one lawmaker's plan to resurrect the use of firing squads.

The group Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty argues firing squad executions are a gruesome relic of the state's Wild West past that create a media frenzy around condemned inmates.

Clearfield Republican Rep. Paul Ray says the firing squad, with trained marksmen and a restrained inmate, offers a swift, more humane death than lethal injection, with less of a risk of complications.

Ray's bill to bring back firing squads has not yet had a committee hearing.

Utah no longer allows inmates to choose death by firing squad but it's still available to those who opted for it before the law changed in 2004.

Online: HB 11: http://1.usa.gov/1EnOKDb

(source: Associated Press)

WYOMING:

Lawyers for inmate say fair death-penalty hearing impossible

Lawyers for convicted murderer Dale Wayne Eaton say years of negative publicity prompted by improper statements from prosecutors to the media would make it impossible for him to get a fair rehearing on whether he deserves the death penalty for the murder of a Montana woman.

Eaton was convicted in 2004 of murdering 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Montana. Eaton's lawyers don't dispute he killed her.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne in November overturned Eaton's death penalty, ruling he didn't get an adequate defense and that his legal team failed to present detail about his personal history and background to the jury as it considered whether to put him to death. Before Johnson's order, Eaton had been the only person on death row in Wyoming.

Johnson gave state prosecutors the option of holding a new sentencing hearing to allow a jury to decide whether to impose the death penalty against Eaton, or sending him to prison for life without parole. Casper District Attorney Michael Blonigen recently filed notice that he intends to proceed with a new death penalty hearing.

Lawyers for Eaton have asked Johnson to reconsider his order. They say too many witnesses have died who could have testified about Eaton's background to try to convince a jury that his life had value.

Kimmell vanished in 1988 while driving solo across Wyoming. Fishermen later found her body in the North Platte River.

Investigators tied Eaton to the crime in 2002 when DNA evidence taken from Kimmell's body linked Eaton to the case while he was in prison on unrelated charges. Investigators then unearthed her missing car on his property.

Authorities say Eaton kept Kimmell captive in a rundown compound in Moneta, west of Casper, and raped her before killing her.

On Monday, Eaton's legal team filed hundreds of pages of exhibits with Johnson showing the extent of press coverage of his state court trial, state appeal and subsequent federal appeal. Some of the articles include speculation that he is a serial killer responsible for many unsolved homicides.

"The difficulty of providing Mr. Eaton a fair capital sentencing trial free of taint from his previous unconstitutional sentencing trial is compounded by statements of Wyoming government officials who persist in trying Mr. Eaton in the media rather than in a court of law," Eaton's lawyers wrote.

Eaton's lawyers single out Blonigen, who originally prosecuted Eaton in state court. Eaton's lawyers say Blonigen made inflammatory comments to the press about the case. The lawyers also criticize Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael, who issued a statement after Johnson's order overturning Eaton's death sentence saying he disagreed with the judge.

Cheyenne lawyer Terry Harris, one of the lawyers representing Eaton, declined comment Monday. An attempt to reach Michael wasn't immediately successful on Monday.

Blonigen on Monday said he hadn't seen Eaton's latest filing.

"It's obvious the primary motivation is delay," he said. "But that's the name of the game in this sort of litigation right now."

Blonigen said he has followed the rules of professional conduct in speaking with the media about the case.

"You have to appreciate that you have to say something when these cases of great public interest occur," he said. "We haven't commented on specific evidence, or argued the case in the press."

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Death Row Inmate Asks To Speed Up Execution ---- Brad Lee Nelson was convicted of 1st-degree murder

The Mohave County Superior Court ordered a death row inmate to complete a mental health evaluation before he stops appealing his death sentence.

Brad Lee Nelson was convicted of the 2006 killing of his 14-year-old niece. He is asking the court to stop the automatic appeals process that accompanies death penalty cases because he wants to accept his death sentence.

2 other death row inmates have requested the same thing in the past. Dale Hausner, who committed suicide in 2013, was in the process of trying to speed up his execution. Robert Comer was put to death in May of 2007 after giving up his right to an appeal.

(source: KJZZ news)

CALIFORNIA:

Actor accused in 2 deaths shouldn't face death penalty, attorney says

A community theater actor accused of killing two college students in an effort to get money for his approaching wedding should not face the death penalty because of misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, an attorney for the accused man says.

In an 80-page summary of what he contends is a culture of misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants, Orange County public defender Scott Sanders argued that prosecutors should drop the death penalty against his client.

Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 30, admitted to authorities that he killed Samuel Herr, 26, and Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, in 2010 so he could steal $50,000 from Herr's bank account, according to grand jury testimony.

Prosecutors say Wozniak staged Kibuishi's body inside a Costa Mesa apartment to look like Herr had sexually assaulted her. He also is accused of dismembering Herr's body in a theater at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base so he could hide the remains in a park in Long Beach.

Wozniak's case has been slowed by accusations of misconduct that Sanders has leveled against the Orange County district attorney's office and Orange County Sheriff's Department.

In the summary filed late last week, Sanders outlines what he believes to be a culture of Orange County law enforcement withholding evidence that could be helpful to defendants and misusing jailhouse informants to violate defendants' constitutional rights.

He says Wozniak was approached by a jailhouse informant to elicit a confession.

"The Orange County district attorney's office, and related law enforcement agencies, have proved over decades that they are willing to decide on their own who is guilty and who is not, who deserves to live and who to die, and to illegally create and withhold evidence in the pursuit of enforcing those decisions," Sanders wrote.

He argued that capital punishment should be ruled out for his client. Sanders has made a similar argument for another client -- Scott Evans Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing 8 people in the Seal Beach salon shooting but who has yet to be sentenced. He also faces the death penalty.

But prosecutor Matt Murphy said the filing had little or nothing to do with Wozniak's case. Prosecutors say they will not use any information from jailhouse informants in Wozniak's trial.

"This has to be the biggest dud in the history of Orange County jurisprudence," Murphy said in court.

Sanders' summary is only a preview of his allegations, not an official request to dismiss the death penalty in the case, which caused some confusion in court Friday. Sanders explained that he wanted to give the court an idea of what he's been doing but said he needs more time to craft a final motion that he said could run 20,000 pages, an idea that Murphy mocked.

"Not only is that absurd, it's obscene," Murphy said, reminding the court that 3 deadlines for Sanders' motion have already passed.

A deadline for Sanders' motion to bar the death penalty is unclear. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 13.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

WASHINGTON:

Bipartisan group of lawmakers seeks to replace death penalty with life in prison without parole

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a bill today that would replace the death penalty in Washington state with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

House Bill 1739, sponsored by Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) and co-sponsored by Reps. Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla), Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah), would also require the convicted individual to work to pay restitution to victims and their families.

"We realize this is a painfully difficult and profoundly serious public issue, and we ask our colleagues and the public to join us in a constructive dialogue about our state's approach," Carlyle said. "We are including a new provision that requires those convicted of offenses to work within prison, as appropriate per the Department of Corrections, to contribute towards restitution for victims' families."

The bipartisan group agrees that repealing and replacing the death penalty is both a morally and fiscally responsible policy change. The carrying out of death penalties, though rare, is costly for the state.

"We believe there has been a shift in thinking about the death penalty including recognition of the impact of DNA testing, cost to taxpayers, and lack of support for victims' families in a drawn-out process," Orwall said. "This year is the right time to seriously consider this legislation, and we deeply respect the openness of colleagues and families that have been touched by violence as our state thoughtfully discusses this issue

(source: Kent Reporter)

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

Lawmakers seek to replace death penalty

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers want to put an end to the death penalty in Washington state.

2 bills introduced in the House and Senate Monday would permanently repeal the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole. The bill would also require convicted killers to work to pay restitution to the families of victims.

"We realize this is a painfully difficult and profoundly serious public issue, and we ask our colleagues and the public to join us in a constructive dialogue about our state's approach," House bill sponsor Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said in a news release.

The House bill is also sponsored by Reps. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla; Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines; and Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah. The Senate bill is sponsored by former Democratic Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, and Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle.

In February 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington state for as long as he remains governor. At the time he said he supports a permanent ban by the Legislature.

18 states have already abolished the death penalty, with Maryland being the most recent to do so in 2013.

(source: Yakima Herald)

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

Lawmakers introduce bill to abolish death penalty

Lawmakers in the House have introduced a measure to abolish the death penalty, an effort that has failed in Washington state in previous years but which supporters hope will gain traction following Gov. Jay Inslee's decision last year to impose a moratorium on capital punishment.

The bipartisan bill, introduced Monday by Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, would replace the death penalty with a life sentence with no opportunity for parole. House Bill 1739 would also require those convicted to pay restitution to victims and their families.

The death penalty is currently authorized by the federal government and 32 states, including Washington and Oregon. However, the governors in both Oregon and Washington have said no one would be executed during their time in office. 18 states have abolished the death penalty, with Maryland being the most recent.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

National Registry of Exonerations----Nation Saw Record Number of Exonerations in 2014; Report from National Registry of Exonerations Documents More than 100 Exonerations in a Single Year for the 1st Time

The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in 2014, the 1st time the Registry found more than 100 exonerations in 1 year, according to a report released today that analyzes trends in exonerations and details the work of the nation's 15 prosecutorial Conviction Integrity Units.

The Registry credits Conviction Integrity Units for contributing to the spike in exonerations: 34 more than the previous record of 91 exonerations in 2013.

"The big story for the year is that more prosecutors are working hard to identify and investigate claims of innocence. And many more innocent defendants were exonerated after pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit," said Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations and the author of the report.

Read the report, Exonerations in 2014, at http://bit.ly/1C4YwIk

Visuals at http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/Exoneration-by-Year.aspx

The states with the most exonerations in 2014 are Texas (39), New York (17), Illinois (7), Michigan (7), Ohio (6), North Carolina (4), Louisiana (3), Maryland (3), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (3), and Tennessee (3). The states with the most recorded exonerations are not necessarily those where most false convictions have occurred.

Much of the increase in the total number of exonerations is due to 33 exonerations in drug cases in Harris County (Houston), Texas. In mid-2014, the Harris County District Attorney's Post Conviction Review Section centralized and prioritized its review of cases in which crime lab analyses of the "drugs" defendants pled guilty to possessing was negative for the presence of illegal substances. The trends in 2014 reflect several long-term trends in exonerations that are expected to continue:

--67 of the 125 known exonerations in 2014 - 54% - were obtained at the initiative or with the cooperation of law enforcement. This is the highest number of exonerations with law enforcement support in a single year. Almost 3/4 of those exonerations, 49 out of 67, were the work of Conviction Integrity Units.

--47 of the 125 defendants who were exonerated in 2014 - 38% - were exonerated for crimes to which they had pled guilty, another record number. Almost all exonerations for drug crimes in 2014 were for convictions based on guilty pleas.

--Non-DNA exonerations continue to rise. The number of exonerations that did not rely on DNA rose to an all-time high of 103, a higher number than all exonerations, with and without DNA, in any single previous year.

--The proportion of exonerations in the Registry that do not involve murder or sexual assault continues to steadily grow. The proportion of non-homicide, non-sex crime exonerations rose from 25% of all cases in the earliest 5-year period covered by the Registry (1989 through 1993) to 34% for the most recent 5-year period (2010 through 2014).

--Nearly 1/2 of the known exonerations in 2014 - 46% - were cases where no crime in fact occurred. That is true of all the drug crime exonerations - they were based on lab tests that showed that the substances seized from the defendants contained no illegal drugs - as well as cases of accidents that were misinterpreted as crimes, assaults that were concocted by the supposed victims, and others.

"Judging from known exonerations in 2014, the legal system is increasingly willing to act on innocence claims that have often been ignored: those without biological evidence or with no perpetrator who can be identified because in fact no crime was committed; cases with comparatively light sentences; and judgments based on guilty pleas by defendants who accepted plea bargains to avoid pre-trial detention and the risk of harsher punishment after trial," the report states.

(source: The National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School, provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989 - cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. exonerationregistry.org)

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

Capital punishment----Caught in the middle

Nearly 21 years ago, Justice Harry Blackmun declared he would "no longer tinker with the machinery of death." In his last few months on the Supreme Court before retiring in the summer of 1994, Justice Blackmun abandoned his previous view that capital punishment was consistent with the Constitution. "The death penalty experiment," he concluded at the age of 85, "has failed." It is a "delusion" to think otherwise.

Justice Blackmun's prediction that the court would eventually reach this conclusion has not come to pass. Yet America is marching away from the death penalty. The number of executions rose from 31 in 1994 to a peak of 98 in 1999, then began dropping as more and more states declared death penalty moratoriums or abolished it altogether. In 2014, of the 35 people who were put to death in America, at least 3 died grisly, apparently painful deaths. In July, Joseph Wood visibly suffered for over 90 minutes before finally dying in a botched execution in Arizona. In February, it took Clayton Lockett, an inmate in Oklahoma, 43 minutes to die after writhing in pain.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging three upcoming executions in Oklahoma. The inmates contend that Oklahoma’s drug cocktail violates the eighth amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. They zero in on 1 of the 3 drugs in the state's protocol, midazolam, a substitute for barbiturates that European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment are no longer selling to American prisons. It seems midalozam may be less effective than the other drugs in bringing about "a deep, coma-like unconsciousness", and thus might expose a person being executed to a great deal of pain when the other 2 drugs - 1 to induce paralysis, another to stop the heart - are injected.

As Adam Liptak reminds us in the New York Times, it takes only four justices to agree to hear a case but five to issue a stay of execution. So while the justices agreed to hear the Oklahoma challenge against capital punishment, the lead petitioner in the case, a convicted murderer named Charles Warner, was actually put to death on January 15th. He fell one vote short of having his execution date put off. The case once known as Warner v Gross is now called Glossip v Gross, named for Richard Glossip, another Oklahoma prisoner and the new lead petitioner. Yet Mr Glossip is now scheduled to die this Thursday, which could make the late-April oral arguments in his case rather moot. As the inmates' lawyer put it in a response to the court on Monday:

"If no stay is ordered, Petitioners will be executed before the Court has a chance to review the merits of their case. Petitioners' brief on the merits is due on March 9 - which is 4 days after the last of the 3 scheduled executions."

Whatever one thinks of the justice or constitutionality of the death penalty, this month's sequence of events brings to mind Justice Blackmun's aversion to "tinkering with the machinery of death". The conundrum facing these 3 Oklahoma inmates rivals anything written by Kafka. Although the court recognises that their case has merit, they all may be executed anyway. It is an oddity of America's justice system that these men will probably die before the court can consider whether they should live.

(source: The Economist)

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

Accused Bomber's Lawyers Say Boston Jury Pool Is Too Biased

The search for jurors in the case of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is taking longer than expected.

Defense attorneys say it's nearly impossible to find open-minded, unbiased jurors around Boston. They're asking yet again for the judge to move the trial somewhere else.

From the beginning, defense attorneys have argued the entire jury pool has been poisoned by what they call "a narrative of guilt" from a "tidal wave" of media coverage. Now, Tsarnaev's lawyers say jurors' own comments on a court questionnaire prove widespread bias.

1 potential juror wrote, "We all know he's guilty, so quit wasting everybody's time and string him up." Another put down, "They should have already killed him."

Defense attorneys say that 68 % of the nearly 1,400 people summoned in the federal death penalty trial have already decided that Tsarnaev is guilty, and about as many say they have a personal, emotional connection to the case.

"I don't think it's a close call," says David Hoose, a Boston-area defense attorney. "If this case doesn't get moved, what one would get moved?"

Hoose, who has handled other death penalty cases, says this one has had an exceptionally broad impact. "Virtually everyone is gonna be no more than 2 degrees of separation from someone who was at the scene," he says.

The explosion at the marathon finish line killed 3 people and injured hundreds in 2013. Personal connections to the blast run the gamut, from those who were there at the marathon, to those with friends or family who were victims, to medics or police involved in the violent shootout or dramatic capture of Tsarnaev, found hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard after a massive manhunt.

It's unclear where the judge, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr., will draw the line. One juror wrote that her personal connection was "being a 29-year-old female just like one of the victims."

This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. During a gunbattle with police days after the Boston bombing, Dzhokhar ran over and killed his older brother.

Equally challenging is who should be disqualified from the jury pool for opposing the death penalty. By law, jurors have to be open to it, and many people can easily be ruled in or out.

Robel Phillipos, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, departs federal court on Monday. Phillipos was found guilty Tuesday of 2 counts of lying to the FBI. But it's less clear what to do with potential jurors who tell the judge, like ` woman did, that she's categorically opposed to capital punishment - but when pressed, eventually conceded she might possibly be for it, if her own child were the victim.

"There are shades of gray, and I mean, this does get confusing and muddy," Hoose says. "Some jurors do go back and forth."

Defense attorneys have already unsuccessfully argued that it would be impossible to find impartial jurors in Boston, but Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge, says citing the opinions of actual potential jurors now bolsters the defense's case.

"This is now basically arguing that those predictions are borne out," she says. "I mean, it's essentially saying, 'See, we were right.'"

Judge O'Toole has insisted that impartial jurors can be found here, but he's also left the door open to reconsidering.

Gertner says there's good reason to doubt whether jurors can really set aside a personal connection to the bombing, even when they say they can.

"The notion that you can take a bad fact, a prejudicial fact, and then easily compartmentalize it so it doesn't bleed into the rest of your view of the case - that is extraordinarily difficult," Gertner says.

If Tsarnaev is ultimately convicted, jury selection is likely to be grounds for appeal. As defense attorneys wrote in making their case for a change of venue, when you screen out all jurors who oppose the death penalty, and all those with preexisting opinions on guilt or with personal connections, "those few who survive the winnowing ... will not be representative of the community," as the Constitution requires.

(source: NPR)

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

Death-penalty opponents excluded from jury in 'Marathon bombing' trial

Jury selection for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the "Marathon Bombings" that shook Boston in 2013, has prompted a controversy over the exclusion of those who object to the death penalty.

Potential jurors who state that they have moral objections to the use of the death penalty are being excused from the trial. Since the Catechism says that circumstances justifying capital punishment are "very rare, if not practically non-existent," the court's policy in this case would seem to exclude Catholics. However, polls show that a substantial majority of Catholics favor the death penalty at least in some circumstances.

Nearly 1/2 (46%) of the residents of the Boston area identify themselves as Catholics.

(source: CatholicCulture.org)

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

Death penalty should at least be painless if still around

While being on death row does mean a death sentence, it doesn't mean the procedure itself should be painful - a standard to be measured in an approaching Supreme Court case after not-so-harmless lethal injections.

According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court chose to hear a case Friday brought by 4 inmates on death row about the constitutionality of certain combinations of execution drugs that have sparked controversy for their having caused severe pain during the lethal procedure. This decision rightfully puts the spotlight back on Oklahoma, where inmate Clayton D. Lockett experienced visible pain after an injection last year and died 43 minutes later.

Morality of the death penalty aside, the court's decision to address this issue could eliminate the unnecessary harm involved, which shouldn't be inherent to lethal injections.

1 of the drugs in question is midazolam, a sedative meant to induce unconsciousness that is used before the other drugs in order to prevent pain. In addition to being used in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona, it has also been administered in Florida several times, as the NY Times article reported.

While proponents of capital punishment might argue that it doesn't matter if death row inmates experience pain, given the nature of their crimes, states still have a responsibility to prevent cruel and unusual punishment, regardless of the inmate's reason for being on death row.

Additionally, there certainly shouldn't be any ambiguity about the effects of the drugs that are used - if they must be used - especially since medical experts have noted that those injected with midazolam can suffer while paralyzed if the drug doesn't work properly, according to the NY Times article.

As the article reported, in her dissent of the court's refusal to stay the execution of Charles F. Warner, 1 of the inmate plaintiffs, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that a witness from Oklahoma in defense of the drug referenced Drugs.com instead of medical studies. As Sotomayor suggested, the chances of an execution going awry weigh heavily against one expert's argument given that mistakes are avoidable.

Another major problem that arose with the case is the sheer irony of the court voting not to stay the execution of one of the inmates who led the case, when that inmate was appealing the use of the particular drug combination in question. However, with nine justices on the court, only 4 have to agree to hear a case while 5 must agree to hold off an execution.

As indicated in another NY Times article, if the Supreme Court doesn't stay the other executions, the lead petitioner in place of Warner is to be executed this week, while the others have execution dates prior to April, when the court will hear the case.

In spite of the court's bizarre split on the decision to stay the execution, the case will hopefully reduce any complacency with problematic execution drugs. Rather than simply administering more of the same drug to make sure it works, as the Associated Press reports Oklahoma now does with midazolam, states must use the safest options available, whether or not that means using other drugs or none at all.

Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.

(source: The (Univ. South Florida) Oracle)

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

'Dark Knight' Theater Shooting Trial and Victims Update 2015: 80 Potential Jurors Dismissed From James Holmes Case

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. dismissed 80 people before jury proceedings ended for the Colorado theater shooting case Friday over reasons they claimed would not allow them to sit on the jury, Associated Press reported.

Over 90 potential jurors were released during the 4th day of jury selection while 12 others were released for reasons including health issues, a dying family member and language problems.

There were 9,000 possible jurors summoned for the case and over 200 have already been released within the first 4 days of the jury selection.

James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in a Colorado theater shooting back in July 2012.

Other potential jurors said they could not sit on the mass murder case for reasons including having a bad back, having panic attacks and being in the military, according to Yahoo News via AP.

Prosecutors asked the judge not to reveal why other jurors have been released so that it does not give others a reason to avoid serving jury duty.

"You have to consider the fact that people may not want to sit on this jury," defense attorney Daniel King said to the judge.

Mass shooters usually do not make it to trial. They usually take their own lives while others end up with plea agreements.

Yet, Holmes prosecutors rejected a plea.

For the trial, the 24 chosen jurors and their 12 alternates will not be allowed to talk to anyone, including to each other about the case.

"The length that you have to be on this case, and then to tell someone they can't talk about it, that is a huge burden," said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton law professor.

Jury selection could last until June while the trial could run into October. Mental health counseling will be available for jurors after they reach a verdict.

While prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

(source: Latin Post)

BANGLADESH:

HC continues hearing appeals in BDR carnage case

The High Court for the 4th day yesterday continued hearing the death reference and the appeals in the BDR carnage case, the biggest ever criminal case in the country's history in terms of the number of accused and convicts.

Till yesterday, Deputy Attorney General AKM Zahid Sarwar Kazal has read out 944 pages from the 1014-page charge sheet of the case. He is expected to continue presenting the charge sheet today.

On January 18, the special HC bench started hearing on the death references and the 257 appeals filed by the convicts of the case.

A Dhaka court on November 5, 2013 awarded death penalty to 150 soldiers of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and two civilians, and sentenced 161 others to life imprisonment for their roles and involvement in the carnage.

It also handed down rigorous imprisonment, ranging from 3 to 10 years, to 256 people, mostly BDR soldiers. The court acquitted the remaining 277 accused. A total of 846 people, 823 of them BDR personnel, were on trial.

74 people, including 57 army officials, were slain in the BDR mutiny on February 25-26 in 2009 at the Pilkhana headquarters in Dhaka. The paramilitary force was later renamed Border Guard Bangladesh.

(source: The Daily Star)

UNITED KINGDOM/ETHIOPIA:

Foreign Secretary refused to intervene for Briton rendered to Ethiopia

It has emerged that the Foreign Secretary refused to contact the Ethiopian government to protest its abduction of a British man, despite warnings from Foreign Office (FCO) staff that the man was at risk of execution.

Andargachew 'Andy' Tsege, a father of three from London, was abducted in Yemen and rendered to Ethiopia 7 months ago. Mr Tsege, who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, remains in incommunicado detention. The Ethiopian government has refused to reveal his whereabouts, or confirm whether it plans to carry out a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009.

Internal FCO emails obtained through subject access requests by Mr Tsege's family show that UK officials were extremely concerned that he would be mistreated or executed - but that despite this, nearly a month after the incident, the Foreign Secretary declined requests to intervene in his case.

An internal email sent by senior FCO staff several days after Mr Tsege's disappearance says: "I think we should be aiming for a Ministerial call asap, given concerns about welfare and the DP [death penalty] ... we should be raising at senior levels and getting in Ministerial follow-up (letter or call) asap to make clear how unhappy we are about this."

A separate message suggested there should be consequences at "a UK citizen being kidnapped and returned against his will to a country which has passed 2 death sentences on him. A country which is in receipt of vast quantities of UK development assistance. Don't we need to do more than give them a stern talking to?"

A number of urgent internal FCO messages asked the incoming Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to contact the Ethiopian Foreign Minister in the days following the incident, the documents show. However, Mr Hammond's office rebuffed the requests, saying: "we've also had a request from [Foreign Minister] Tedros' office for an introductory call with the Foreign Secretary, but I don't think we are going to be able to find time for that at the moment. [...] On this letter, I'm nervous about asking the Foreign Secretary to sign something so negative in his first correspondence".

The FCO has told lawyers for Mr Tsege's family at human rights charity Reprieve that the UK Government has no grounds to challenge the legality of his removal from Ethiopia.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: "It is clear that those working for the Foreign Secretary know how perilous the situation is for Andy Tsege. They know that Andy has committed no crime, that his extradition was probably unlawful, and that there are grave risks to his safety. What's shocking is that the Foreign Secretary appears time and time again to have blocked any meaningful action that could potentially bring this British father home to his family, unharmed. Andy has now been held in solitary and incommunicado detention for over 7 months, under sentence of death. One has to question what interests the Foreign Secretary is putting above the life and safety of his citizen, when all those around him are calling for him to do more."

http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

(source: ekklesia.co.uk)

JAPAN:

Strong Support for Death Penalty in Japan

A strong majority of Japanese people - more than 80% - support the death penalty, while only 9.7% think it should be abolished, a survey by the Cabinet Office found.

The survey, conducted every 5 years, polled 3,000 Japanese nationals aged 20 or older in November and received 1,826 valid responses. Around 10% said they didn't know if capital punishment is necessary or should be abolished.

The number of people who support the death penalty dropped by 5 % points from the 2009 poll, though it remained above 80% for the 3rd consecutive time.

More men supported the death penalty than women - around 83% to 78.1%. Of those who do support it, 53% said it was necessary to satisfy crime victims and their families. Nearly the same number of people answered that those who commit heinous crimes should pay with their lives.

Nearly 47% of those who said they don't support capital punishment cited the risk of wrongful convictions as their reason. Around 42% said criminals should pay for their crimes while alive.

Among those opposed to the death penalty, around 43% said it should be banned immediately, while 54.5% said executions should be abolished over time.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan death row Scots is mentally ill

Pressure is growing on Pakistan to release a Scottish pensioner from the country's death row after he was diagnosed as mentally ill.

Tests have been carried by state-appointed psychiatrists on Edinburgh man Mohammed Asghar, 70, who is being held in prison awaiting execution for blasphemy.

His supporters say the new diagnosis, which follows similar evidence from Scottish doctors adds weight to earlier calls for the charges to be dropped and for Mr Ashgar to be released.

The grocery shop-keeper, from Leith, has been behind bars for a year, following his conviction for a 2010 incident Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad. A Pakistan court found that he had claimed to be the Prophet Mohammed in letters sent to various officials.

His daughter Jasmine Rana, 41, said: "We just want dad back.

"They've recognised that he's ill now. Why can't they just put him on the next flight and send him back? "The message we want to get out there is the same as its been from the start."

She repeated an earlier call by his freedom campaigners for the Prime Minister to put pressure on the Pakistani authorities to release him.

In a further direct plea, she added: "Please David Cameron, do something now."

The new test results are in line with those from doctors from his home country, who said he had been unfit to stand trial. His death sentence came despite the appeals of medical professionals.

Concern has been expressed about Mr Ashgar's well-being after a legal team visited him in jail.

Lawyers told the judicial charity Reprieve that he had appeared "pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid" and was suffering from severe delusions.

Mr Asghar is being held in the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindin but there are growing fears that he could be at risk of vigilante attacks, given blasphemy is such a highly charged accusation in Pakistan.

Last September, he was shot in jail by a policeman who was supposed to be protecting him and spent weeks in hospital recovering.

The attack led to fresh demands for action, with Ms Rana delivering a 70,000-signature petition to Mr Cameron asking for his intervention. She said: "The past year has been really tough. Every day we're waiting for news. There's nothing else we can do. It seems like every time we think we're going forward, we end up taking backwards steps.

"We're frustrated and my dad is extremely frustrated. He has to stay in 1 room, he's not allowed to leave the room or even walk up and down the corridors for his own safety.

"My own kids have been writing letters to him and we get a response through the Foreign Office a couple of weeks later. It's a horrible situation."

Amnesty International has also called for his release. Its Asia Pacific director Polly Truscott has said he is 'facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters.' The Scottish Government has urged the Pakistan authorities to stand by a moratorium on the death penalty.

Family lawyer Aamer Anwar said it was imperative that Britain's political leaders step in to secure his release. He said: "Every day that passes places Mr Asghar's life further at risk. "He is a frightened, elderly man who should be sitting at home in Edinburgh with his family. "I hope that our PM will now act to convince Pakistani authorities to fast-track the release of a man who should never have been in court in the 1st place."

The case of Mr Ashgar, who is a Pakistan citizen of UK origin, is not the first UK citizen to be tried under the country's strict blasphemy laaws.

In November 2012, Masud Ahmad, of the Ahmadi sect, was jailed for reciting a passage from the Koran, a prohibited act for Ahmadis under the country's blasphemy laws.

Human rights campaigners claim the legislation is frequently used by some for personal gain, with minorities most likely to be targeted.

(source: Herald Scotland)

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

IHC to hold hearing on death-row Mumtaz Qadri's plea today

Islamabad High Court (IHC) will hold a hearing of Salman Taseer's murder case on the appeal plea of death-row Mumtaz Qadri today (Tuesday), Dunya News reported.

As per details, Justice Noor-ul-Haq Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Siddiqui will hear the appeal plea registered by Mumtaz Qadri against his death penalty.

Earlier, Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) had given 2 times death penalty to Mumtaz Qadri for murdering former governor Salman Taseer however, the court later suspended the execution and summoned a hearing after the time span of 3 years and 3 months.

Moreover, IHC ordered the local administration to beef up the security arrangements whereas the presence of any irrelevant person would be strictly forbidden.

(source: Dunya News)

MALAYSIA:

Abolish the death penalty, Lawyers for Liberty urges govt

Law reform initiative Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today urged the government to re-evaluate the death penalty as a mode of punishment.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said this in light of the controversy surrounding Australia's inability to extradite convicted killer Sirul Azhar Umar to Malaysia, unless there was written assurance from the Malaysian government not to subject him to the death penalty as per the Australia-Malaysia Extradition Treaty.

"The death penalty has no place in any civilised society that values human rights, justice and mercy.

"It is the ultimate human rights violation, a state-sanctioned murder, unique in its cruelty and finality.

"In the absence of a fair and just criminal justice system and access to competent legal representation, the death penalty disproportionately affects the poorer and lower classes, and risks the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

"Needless to say, death penalty is irreversible and cannot be remedied," Paulsen said in a statement.

According to him, Malaysia remained among an ever decreasing small minority of countries that still provided for the death penalty.

"A total of 137 states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, i.e. more than 70% of the total number of states in the world.

"In December 2014, a record number of countries, 117 of the United Nation's 193 member states supported a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally," he said, adding that there was no clear evidence to show the death penalty was a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment.

"Lawyers for Liberty therefore calls on the government, in line with the global trend, to immediately impose a permanent moratorium on all death penalty punishment and take steps towards its abolishment, thus resolving the death penalty dilemma and Sirul can be extradited to Malaysia to be imprisoned."

(source: The Rakyat Post)

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

Call for permanent moratorium on death penalty----Lawyers for Liberty say this is a golden opportunity for Malaysia to re-evaluate the death penalty as a mode of punishment.

With the controversy over convicted killer Sirul Azhar Umar's extradition from Australia, Lawyers for Liberty say now is the best time to impose a permanent moratorium on all death penalty punishments and take steps towards its abolishment.

In a statement, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said the Malaysian government should take this golden opportunity to re-evaluate the death penalty as a mode of punishment.

"The death penalty has no place in any civilised society that values human rights, justice and mercy. It is the ultimate human rights violation, a state-sanctioned murder, unique in its cruelty and finality.

"In the absence of a fair and just criminal justice system and access to competent legal representation, the death penalty disproportionately affects the poorer and lower classes, and risks the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

"Needless to say, (the) death penalty is irreversible and cannot be remedied," he said.

According to Paulsen, Malaysia remains among an ever decreasing minority of countries that still provide for the death penalty.

A total of 137 states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice i.e. more than 70 % of the total number of states in the world.

In December 2014, a record number of countries, 117 of the United Nation's 193 member states supported a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally.

"Despite popular belief, there is no cogent empirical evidence to show the death penalty is a more effective deterrent of crime than long-term imprisonment and thus there is no good reason to maintain the death penalty," he said.

Once the death penalty is abolished, Sirul can be extradited to Malaysia in order for him to be imprisoned for the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006.

(source: Free Malaysia Today)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9: how 2 young Australian men ended up on death row in Indonesia----It's almost a decade since Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran strapped heroin to nervous drug couriers in the plot that would see them jailed. Everyone agrees they are reformed men now. So why are they marked for execution?

In a Bali hotel room almost a decade ago, 2 young Australian men strapped packages of heroin to the bodies of 4 nervous drug couriers - 1 package around each thigh and another to the back of their waists.

Andrew Chan, then 21, and Myuran Sukumaran, 24, both from Sydney, weren't taking the risk of personally smuggling more than 8kg of heroin to Australia. They were the organisers of a Bali "holiday" for 7 other young Australians. They gave the orders, booked flights and accommodation, picked up the heroin, even bought loose, gaudy tourist shirts to cover up the drugs.

The Bali 9, as they are now known, had been followed by Indonesian police since the day they arrived in the tourist mecca - tipped off by Australian federal police. Chan was arrested at the airport with the 4 couriers on 17 April 2005 – Renae Lawrence, Martin Stephens, Scott Rush and Michael Czugaj - just before boarding a flight to Sydney. Sukumaran was arrested the same night in a Bali hotel room with 3 other would-be mules.

The couriers admitted their crimes and are serving life or 20-year prison sentences. But Chan and Sukumaran denied they had anything to do with the scheme and blamed the drug mules for scapegoating them. The extensive surveillance, phone records and the evidence of the couriers made their denials unbelieveable. In 2006 they were sentenced to death by firing squad.

In their book on the case, journalists Cindy Wockner and Madonna King give an unflattering portrait of the 2 men at that time. Chan, the son of Chinese immigrants, was "a small-time brute" in his youth, and the "enforcer" of this smuggling attempt. Sukumaran, born in London of Sri Lankan heritage, was sullen and "always looked menacing".

During his trial, he was evasive, claiming he couldn't remember even basic details. Several of the small-time couriers said they were frightened of the pair, that they had threatened them and their families if they did not cooperate, a claim Chan and Sukumaran denied.

It was always hard at the time to elicit sympathy for the 2 organisers of this mid-level smuggling attempt. But a decade on there is no doubt that if Indonesia executes Chan and Sukumaran, it will be killing different men. They have admitted their crimes and expressed remorse. They are leaders at Bali's Kerobokan prison, organising classes in everything from computers to philosophy. They have learnt Indonesian and counsel other prisoners. Their reform is at the heart of their last attempts to save their lives, and it is the plea of their desperate families. Why kill 2 young men who have had a decade to change, to contribute, to reform?

It is not just their lawyers and families who say so. In a highly unusual intervention, then governor of the prison, Siswanto, told an appeal hearing in 2010 that the pair were model prisoners whose lives should be spared. Their reform was "not a camouflage act", he said.

"They are still young. They deserve to be given time to fix their past behaviour. I personally cannot accept it if they are executed."

In death penalty cases, after years of appeals and dashed hopes, there are the final, frantic, desperate days. Chan and Sukumaran are held in the crowded Kerobokan prison. Their conventional legal appeals are exhausted. The newly elected Indonesian president Joko Widodo, rejected Sukumaran's plea for clemency earlier this month, and Chan's last week.

They face being strapped to a pole and executed by an Indonesian firing squad, or a bullet to the head if the 12 marksmen somehow fail to kill them. Because they committed the crime together, they will be executed together.

The sentence could be carried out any time now, with 3 days' notice to allow the condemned men to say farewell to family and friends. Chan, now 31, and Sukumaran, 33, would be the 1st Australians to be executed under Indonesia’s tough drug trafficking laws but they would be far from the 1st foreigners.

In December, Widodo said he would not grant clemency to any of the 64 drug convicts on death row, around 1/3 of them believed to be foreign nationals. Briton Lindsay Sandiford, 58, is among them, sentenced in January 2013 for smuggling cocaine into Bali.

Widodo was considered a reformer and moderate when he took office in October but he has not wavered on drugs. Going ahead with executions is "important shock therapy" in the struggle against the drug scourge in his country, he says.

He has been true to his word. In the early hours of 18 January, 6 convicted drug traffickers were executed by firing squad, including citizens from the Netherlands, Brazil, Nigeria, Malawi and Vietnam. Pleas for clemency were ignored, and the Netherlands and Brazil withdrew their ambassadors in protest. The Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koenders, said it was "cruel and unusual punishment which constitutes an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity". Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was "distressed and outraged" that the sentence was carried out.

Chan and Sukumaran's Indonesian lawyers plan a last-ditch application for judicial review this week. Still, they know the denial of presidential clemency was devastating news. Their Melbourne-based lawyer, Julian McMahon, was in Bali when the decision was made public, and admitted that "there's not a lot of hope" now.

Supporters understand the complexity of all this, that the lives of Chan and Sukumaran are caught up in politics and history. Indonesia is a vast archipelago nation of 250 million people, a fast-growing democracy, but still a developing country struggling with rapid change and resentful of interference from former western colonialists.

They are careful not to criticise Indonesia too stridently, aware that to do so risks harming any remaining hope for the two prisoners. They know, too, that public opinion is mixed, even in Australia, where a small majority support the death penalty for terrorist cases and where few have sympathy for traffickers of heroin.

Yet as more Australians focus on what might happen to these men, others are involved in trying to highlight its pointlessness. The Mercy Campaign has gathered 30 prominent Australians, including Germaine Greer and the conservative radio host Alan Jones, to "stand for mercy". The campaign is gathering momentum, with more than 65,000 people signing a petition to the Indonesian president.

The campaign's co-founder, lawyer Matthew Goldberg, says the petition is to show that people care about this case, that it is being watched, "that members of the public have put their name to the movement to protect these guys".

Supporters understand that the Australian government's advocacy is critical but that it needs to be done quietly, out of the public eye.

And they know something that is gruesomely pragmatic. As much as they oppose the death penalty for anyone, they have to distinguish these 2 men as more deserving of mercy than others.

Peter Morrissey SC has worked pro bono on the case since 2007 and says the key is for the Indonesian authorities to engage with these particular individuals. The heart of the attempt at a 2nd judicial review is that there is "new evidence and circumstances" - the men are not the men they were.

"The campaign of persuasion is to try to get the president of Indonesia and those advising him to actually engage with the 2 boys, the 2 young men,” Morrissey told Guardian Australia. "Once they engage on an individual level, these are the very 2 who ought to be given clemency. Their rehabilitation is a very uplifting story and they should be advanced as a success story of the Indonesian system."

It is common for those on death row to argue they have changed, have found religion, are remorseful, and it is inevitable for someone facing a death sentence to reassess their lives. Yet there is nobody who denies that the transformation of Chan and Sukumaran is sincere and profound.

Sukumaran has become a portrait painter, is completing a fine arts degree by correspondence, and is being mentored by the well-known Australian artist Ben Quilty, who has said: "As all stereotypes fall away, Myuran has done a horrible thing - but that's a long time ago."

Sukumaran teaches English, computer skills, graphic design and other classes to prisoners and has been appointed to a leadership position - supervising a group of more than 20 prisoners, resolving disputes and liaising with guards.

Chan, from a Christian family, is now deeply religious. He studies theology and runs services in the prison. Both counsel others on the dangers of drugs.

"Andrew is an extrovert, a cheerful lovely soul, a cheeky guy," says Morrissey. "His rehabilitation has been quite simple."

"Myuran is a complex, intelligent guy. He began as an artist and his engagement in the educational side of it has been a real journey for him about life. He's a very talented person, he's a thinker, he's introspective.

"Both of them are very sombre about being take away and killed; they dwell on it."

The arguments are humanitarian but also legal. Morrissey says it is unlawful not to consider the cases of the 64 traffickers on death row individually. "When Indonesia says it is enforcing its laws, it's not. They have a law on clemency that says you have a right to apply for clemency [but] they've said in advance that all 64 are dead. That is a very serious matter."

According to Amnesty International, 13 countries executed people for drug offences in 2013, including China, Singapore, Vietnam, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It says there is no evidence that capital punishment deters serious drug crimes.

The death penalty is lawful under international law but is restricted to "the most serious crimes", such as those causing death or serious bodily harm. The UN human rights committee has condemned the death penalty in drug cases.

The legal appeals are made more complicated by the Indonesian judicial system, which has undergone significant reform but remains confusing. There are 2 senior courts, the supreme court and the constitutional court, which are at odds over whether a 2nd judicial appeal is even possible.

The constitutional court has said it is - it has also advised that someone who has been on death row for 10 years and has been of good behaviour deserves to have their case reviewed with a view to commuting the death sentence to a term of imprisonment. The supreme court has said there is no place for a 2nd judicial review. The lawyers are not even certain their application will be successfully lodged.

"One of Joko's interests is to not undermine the judiciary and that's a legitimate thing for him to say," Morrissey says. "However it has to be recognised that they still have major corruption problems, major inconsistency problems. At the moment, the constitutional court and the supreme court are at each other's throats, and it's an embarrassment to them.

"But our campaign is to persuade. It is not to tick them off and to lecture. What we have to do is to find a way to persuade the president that it's not weakness to show mercy."

Indonesia has been a transit country for drugs for years and drug use among its young, even in remote villages, is soaring, according to official figures. One response was for the government to abandon its unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in 2013. The executions of the 6 traffickers this month were the 1st in the new president's term of office and officials have little patience for mercy pleas.

"We should get this straight," Tedjo Edhy Purdjanto, the co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said. "Because of the drug lords, 40 drug addicts die every day." At the same time, Indonesia expresses outrage when its own nationals are handed death sentences overseas and fights to have them returned.

At home, Indonesia wages its "war on drugs", with the interdiction of traffickers its primary weapon. It is an approach mirrored in many Asian countries, alarmed at the rising drug use that has come with rising wealth.

The idea of harm minimisation for drug users, common in western Europe as well as in Australia, has not taken hold in many Asian countries and there is strong mainstream support for the death penalty among Indonesians.

Amnesty said in its 2013 report that, despite a steady trend towards the abolishment of the death penalty worldwide, there had been setbacks in the Asia Pacific, with Indonesia and Vietnam resuming executions. China is believed to kill thousands of people each year, more than all the other 20 countries which carry out the death penalty combined.

Ross Taylor, a businessmen and president of the West Australian-based Indonesia Institute, says Chan and Sukumaran's cases are entwined with politics. The new president's decisiveness is being questioned, he says, and his political enemies are looking for signs of weakness.

"If he was to give clemency to Chan and Sukumaran, the real danger for him would be that Indonesia's independence, its sovereignty, would be seen to be under attack from a big western country to the south," Taylor says. "He'd be seen as [having] been bullied, while he's still killing Indonesians. That would be where he would sign his own political death warrant."

The Australian government is treading cautiously around all this. Tony Abbott has spoken personally with the president and, while careful to emphasise respect for Indonesian sovereignty, has stressed the "evidence of genuine remorse, of genuine rehabilitation" of the 2 condemned men.

"In the end, mercy has to be a part of every justice system, including the Indonesian one," he says.

The prime minister says his government will say no more publicly, a strategy endorsed by former diplomats, who insist that any attempt to grandstand will make it harder for Indonesia to change its position.

"I've always believed that notwithstanding public pressures, results are more likely to be achieved if negotiations are carried out privately and without publicity," said Richard Woolcott, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia.

There is some residual guilt in Australia about the fate of these 2 men. Before Scott Rush was to leave for Bali in 2005, his father, Lee, learned he was going and felt "sick in the stomach". He contacted a friend and expressed his worry that his son might be contemplating a drug run.

His friend called a contact in the Australian federal police, requesting that 19-year-old Scott be stopped at the airport as he had previous drug convictions and was on bail. Instead, the police contacted their Indonesian counterparts, requesting surveillance of the Bali 9, and handing over details about dates and flights. They must have known that if Indonesia arrested the perpetrators, they faced the death penalty. The federal police said they had no choice but to cooperate with the Indonesians.

The cooperation was widely criticised, with questions about why the police did not wait until the nine returned to Australia to arrest them, or follow them in Sydney to find the ringleaders of the drug operation, who have never been caught. Chan and Sukumaran might have been the organisers but they were not the big fish.

None of this matters now to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, whose only wish is to live. The two admitted their involvement years ago and apologised for pleading not guilty at trial. They have expressed sorrow and remorse for what they have done and have worked hard to earn a chance at life. "From the bottom of my heart I can honestly say I am now a different person and a reformed person," Sukumaran said during 1 appeal.

Their families are going through a particular kind of hell. "It is like stabbing your own mother and father in the heart and ripping out that knife and watching them bleed to death," Chan said in an interview in 2010.

In statements at the weekend, family members spoke of their fear in contemplating that the Indonesian state is preparing to kill their son, or their brother.

"I'm terrified," said Sukumaran's mother, Raji. "I've been told my son will be taken out and shot at any time. I don't know what to do. He doesn't deserve to die."

(source: The Guardian)

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

Indonesia's Widodo vows no amnesty for death row drug traffickers

Indonesia's president has said he will not compromise over death sentences given to convicted drug traffickers, despite international outcry.

Joko Widodo made the comments in an interview with CNN to mark his first 100 days in power.

He said the policy also applied to 2 Australians on death row in Indonesia - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - who have had appeals for clemency rejected.

5 foreigners and 1 Indonesian were executed by firing squad last week.

Indonesia has some of the toughest drug laws in the world. It ended a 4-year moratorium on executions in 2013.

Joko Widodo has always insisted he will show no mercy towards drug criminals, saying they have ruined lives.

'No amnesty'

When asked by CNN why he was standing firm despite protests from countries around the world he said: "Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, of drugs.

"In 1 year, it's 18,000 people who die because of narcotics.

"We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. No compromise," he added.

Australian Myuran Sukumaran (R) and Andrew Chan (L), the ringleaders of the 'Bali 9' drug ring, wait for their verdict at a court cell in Denpasar, on Bali island, 14 February 2006 Australians Chan and Sukumaran have already had their final pleas for clemency rejected by the president He said it was up to the courts to hand down death sentences and said while convicts could still appeal to him "there will be no amnesty".

Australia opposes the death penalty and its government has repeatedly campaigned on behalf of Chan and Sukumaran. They were in a group of 9 Australians arrested in Bali in 2005 with more than 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin.

Chan and Sukumaran have already had their final pleas for clemency rejected by the president's office.

When asked specifically if there would be relief for the Australians, Mr Widodo shook his head.

Last week, Indonesia executed convicts from Malawi, Nigeria, Vietnam, Brazil and the Netherlands as well as 1 from Indonesia.

It prompted Brazil and the Netherlands to recall their ambassadors in protest.

Australian authorities have threatened to do the same if Chan and Sukumaran are put to death.

(source: BBC news)

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

Lawyer urges Bali 9 execution appeal

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have been refused permission to leave prison to make a last-ditch appeal of their death sentences.

Their Indonesian lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis says it's hoped the court registrar will go to them instead.

The Bali 9 ringleaders have been on death row in Kerobokan jail since 2006.

But their date with the firing squad is nearing after they were denied presidential clemency.

Mr Lubis will file for a judicial review, known as a PK, late this week.

"I will still file a 2nd PK because I do believe (there's) a misapplication of the law, serious mistakes by previous judges," he said.

"Then there are changes that have taken place at Kerobokan Prison in the case of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran."

Mr Lubis says the pair have achieved a remarkable rehabilitation, and inspired improvement in the jail and fellow inmates.

The Supreme Court isn't involved in rehabilitation and doesn't know these facts, he said.

But it's uncertain whether the courts will allow a 2nd judicial review.

As the legal effort goes on to save Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, so do diplomatic efforts.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government will continue pressing the men's case to President Joko Widodo.

But Mr Joko says Indonesia's drugs problem needs a serious approach.

"Imagine, every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, because of drugs," he said in an interview with CNN to mark 100 days in office.

"In 1 year, it's 18,000 people who die because of narcotics.

"We are not going to compromise for drug dealers.

"No compromise. No compromise."

Mr Joko said it was the courts that determined death sentences, and the condemned could ask him for clemency.

"But I tell you, there will be no amnesty for drug dealers," he said.

Asked if that meant no relief for the Australians, Mr Joko just shook his head.

The first 6 of 64 drug offenders on death row were sent to the firing squad last week.

Authorities will this week evaluate the 1st executions before setting a date for the next round.

Those executions prompted Brazil and The Netherlands to withdraw their ambassadors in protest after their pleas to save their citizens were ignored.

Australia could take the same step if Chan and Sukumaran are killed.

(source: sbs.com.au)

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

British grandmother facing execution by firing squad in Indonesia signs own death warrant

A British grandmother sentenced to death in Indonesia believes she has signed her own warrant after being convicted of drugs offences.

Lindsay Sandiford, 58, who is from Redcar in Yorkshire, could be the next foreigner to face a firing squad in the country after she confirmed the death sentence issued to her.

Ms Sandiford was convicted of smuggling cocaine to the party-island of Bali in 2013, but claims she smuggled the drug because a crime syndicate said they would harm her sons if she refused. She fears her execution could be imminent.

She says she was made to a sign a letter in Indonesian which she did not understand, and fears it could have been a death warrant.

Speaking from Bali's Kerobokan Prison, Sandiford told her sister Hilary Parsons in a phone conversation: "If I sign the letter, am I signing my own death warrant? Am I saying, "Go ahead and shoot me?" The letter is in Indonesian so I won't even know what it says," according to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Last week 5 foreigners were shot dead by the country's government after being convicted of drugs offences.

The crackdown comes after Indonesia's populist new president Joko Widodo pledged to show no mercy to people convicted of smuggling drugs.

"We want to send a warning to international drug syndicates that Indonesia doesn't want to be a stopping place, market place or even a place for producers of narcotics," he has previously said.

The grandmother is currently without legal representation after the Foreign Office refused to fund 38k pounds for a 2nd appeal. She is reported by her family to be suffering from depression.

Last July 5 UK Supreme Court judges asked the Foreign Secretary to consider providing the woman with legal assistance, but this idea was dismissed by Philip Hammond. She lost her 1st appeal in the summer of 2013.

Human Rights group Amnesty International told The Independent the letter Ms Sandiford had been asked to sign was believed to be a confirmation that she had exhausted all of her appeals.

She still has a clemency hearing, but this is dependent on the country's new president, who has staked his reputation on executing people charged with drug trafficking.

Amnesty says it has appealed for urgent action to save a further 20 foreign nationals apart from Ms Sandiford.

Indonesia's new president came to power in October last year on the back of a series of eye-catching promises.

Aside from an acceleration of executions for drug offences, Mr Widodo has also ordered the Indonesian navy to sink fishing boats it finds illegally fishing in the country's territorial waters.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told The Independent: "We continue to offer consular assistance to Lindsay Sandiford and her family at this difficult time. The UK strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception. We have recently made representations about the death penalty to the Indonesian government, and we will continue to do so."

On the issue of legal representation, the FCO said: "Our policy is that HMG does not pay for legal representation for British nationals overseas. However, we assist British nationals in identifying potential legal representation, including by working closely with NGOs, (for example with Reprieve). It was through Consular staff's efforts in Indonesia that we were able to identify a lawyer who was prepared to assist Lindsay Sandiford with her appeal."

(source: The Independent)

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

Drug Executions Undermine Indonesia's Rule of Law----Crime & Punishment Indonesia has yet to realize its claim of having moved from a criminalization to a rehabilitation approach

The recent execution of 6 convicts for drug-related crimes raises profound ethical questions about what constitutes a just and appropriate punishment in light of changing moral and penal norms worldwide.

Following international rebuke and condemnation for the executions on human rights grounds, Indonesian officials and commentators attempted to reframe debate over the death penalty in terms the convicted drug traffickers' causal responsibility for harms resultant from their criminal acts; many also invoked arguments that the executions upheld the rule of law in Indonesia, a prima facie principle that foreign powers ought accord due respect.

The arguments based only on causal responsibility for drug-related crimes are risable and not strong enough to be considered.

Instead, let's look at whether the rule of law argument holds up when we examine how drug laws are actually implemented.

The rule of law is a principle of governance in which all persons - as well as the state itself - are accountable to laws, and that those laws are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

More specifically, the rule of law means, in the words of jurist and legal theorist Eric Posner, "that judges decide cases 'without respect of persons,' that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness et cetera, of the parties or their lawyers."

President Joko Widodo's anti-drug agenda includes initiatives to establish rehabilitation centers and empower the National Narcotics Board (BNN) to assist in enforcing drug laws and developing standards for prosecutors to determine the difference between a suspected drug user and a trafficker.

The ultimate vision for these powers is the achievement of a Drug Free Society; success in this regard must be qualified by authorities' obeisance to the rule of law.

But does Joko's agenda evince a coherent link between controlling drugs and the human rights necessity for drug offenses based to be defined and punished on the basis of rule of law principles?

The supremacy of law is a fundamental to civil rights.

Indonesia has taken a prohibitionist stance toward drugs, on which it declared a war 15 years ago. In empirical terms, drug policy analysts have concluded that this "war on drugs" has failed to achieve its aim of a drug-free society, with serious negative implications for human rights. According to BNN, there were more than 4.2 million drug users in Indonesia last year.

According to Health Ministry data published by UNAIDS, Indonesia is 1 of the only countries in the Asia-Pacific region with an increasing rate of new HIV infections diagnosed.

With the exception of Papua, where the epidemic is generalized in the population, infections remain concentrated among the key populations at high risk.

Although no longer the source of the majority of new infections since 2007, injecting drug use still accounts for a significant source of newly diagnosed HIV in infections.

Compounding the public health implications for the non-incarcerated population is authorities' clear inability to control drugs inside prisons - perhaps to an even greater extent than outside.

A 2010 report by the UN's former special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, examined 350 Indonesian penal facilities with a combined capacity of 75,000 people. Yet in December 2007, the report found the facilities housed 134,000 people, of which 60,000 had not yet been sentenced. This overcrowding contributes the poor control of drug trafficking in prisons.

Should the new president, then, keep the old-style approach on his agenda?

Setting aside the question of the efficacy of Indonesia's efforts in its war on drugs, we must consider arguments as to the death penalty's role in minimizing legal indeterminacy and ensuring the rule of law.

The 2009 Anti-Narcotics Law included from the outset provisions that authorized judges to recommend rehabilitation over imprisonment, but this has, in practice, still not become the predominant approach adopted toward infringers.

Furthermore, regulations for determining a drug user from a drug trafficker - drafted jointly, though years late, by the BNN, the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, unveiled only in the past few month and still spottily implemented - rely on arbitrary and quite low thresholds for drug weight, as well as and subjective character assessments by penal and prosecutorial authorities. The regulations also totally eschew the question of drug purity.

Effectively, this has meant that the vast majority of people facing drug charges wind up facing similarly long sentences - except foreigners, who as recent executions show, are disproportionately given death, and well-connected defendants whose attorneys can pull enough strings with prosecutors to get a speedy disposition on their "user versus trafficker" assessment - a procedure that can effectively result in dismissal of their charge.

Indonesia claims to have moved from criminalization to a rehabilitation approach. However, realization of this stated policy premise needs clear and well-designed regulations and laws for drug possession and users' health treatment that make it easy for authorities to uphold both the rule of law and protect citizens human and civil rights.

Equality before the law will lead to the fair judgment and solutions. Essential to this is the elimination of the stigma that drugs face by law enforcement, as well as in courts and prisons, that impinges in their ability to seek fair access to justice and social services.

It is time for the new administration to challenge the death penalty's shoddy justification on causal responsibility grounds and instead ensure rule of law in Indonesia that is both enforceable and humane.

(source: Commentary; Armin Fransiska is a senior lecturer at Atmajaya University in Jakarta----The Jakarta Globe)

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

Dispatch from death row----It is a moral imperative for govt to appeal for the repatriation of Nepalis on death row

Indonesia, a country of 250 million, is notorious for its severe drug policy. Most often drug traffickers are executed or imprisoned for life. On January 18, Indonesia executed 5 people convicted on drug trafficking charges; 4 of them were foreign nationals from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. More than 138 people await execution on death row, 1/3 of them foreigners, reports The Guardian newspaper. Among them is a Nepali man, Indra Bahadur Tamang, arrested in 2001 with 900 grams of heroin. Nearly 14 years later, it is still uncertain when Indra Bahadur will face execution.

Nepal's protracted transition has no doubt taken a toll on all facets of governance. And this cost has been especially telling in Nepal's diplomacy. So it comes as no surprise that the government remains unaware of Indra Bahadur's fate in Indonesia or of Nepalis jailed in other countries. It is estimated that more than a dozen Nepalis await execution in the Middle East and Malaysia. Last August, in one telling incident, Shova Pariyar, a single mother from Tanahun, was beheaded by Saudi Arabia on murder charges. The Nepal government did not make any attempts to appeal for clemency.

Despite the contributions that remittances from migrant workers make to the Nepali economy, there is little effort from the government to safeguard their rights. Most migrants leave with little to no knowledge of the language and culture of their countries of destination and hence, become easy prey for unscrupulous employers. Most countries in the Middle East and East Asia, the primary destinations for Nepali migrants, have opaque legal proceedings and stringent punishments when found guilty. Many international rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have raised legitimate concerns over such legal processes and capital punishment provisions.

Nepal, to its credit, has refused to enshrine capital punishment for any crime. On this moral ground alone, it is the responsibility of the Nepal government to press for the repatriation of its citizens on death row or at least appeal for clemency. Indonesia itself made a strong appeal against the execution of one of its citizens in Saudi Arabia. Brazil and the Netherlands made similar overtures to Indonesia on behalf of their citizens. The Nepal government's efforts in this regard have been sorely lacking. Lacking government initiatives, civil society and Non-Resident Nepali organisations have stepped in to raise 'blood money', a debt that can be paid to aggrieved parties in the Middle East to appeal for amnesty. But unless high-level initiatives are forthcoming, Nepalis will continue to meet their doom. The government, therefore, must immediately initiate efforts to appeal to the governments of host countries to repatriate its citizens on death row. Failing this, it can still appeal for a reduction in sentencing to life imprisonment. As international human rights law restricts the use of the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," there is a strong moral case to be made in favour of such Nepalis.

(source: eKantipur.com)

SOUTHEAST ASIA:

Southeast Asia: UN rights office appeals for halt in executions for drug crimes

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed concern over the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in Southeast Asia and urged authorities to abolish the punishment amid reports that eight more people had been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking.

"According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment could only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing," OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva, where the Office is based.

"Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships did not fall under the threshold of "most serious crimes" required under international law for application of the death penalty," Ms. Shamdasani said.

OHCHR expressed its concern about the continued use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in parts of South East Asia, where last Sunday, 6 people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals. Further, a court in Vietnam today reportedly sentenced 8 people, including 2 women, to death for heroin trafficking.

The Office is particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after Indonesian President Joko Widodo reportedly stated that he would reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes, the Spokeswomen said.

OHCHR urged the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence, Ms. Shamdasani said.

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, "anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence," according to the spokeswoman.

OHCHR also called on Vietnam not to carry out those executions of the 8 people sentenced today, to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

In Southeast Asia, drug-related crimes are punishable by death in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

While those crimes are also punishable by death in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao Peoples" Democratic Republic and Myanmar, those three countries have not carried out executions since 1957, 1989 and 1988, respectively.

The OHCHR Spokesperson said the International Narcotics Control Board had encouraged States that still imposed the death penalty for drug-related offenses to abolish that punishment.

(source: India Gazette)

IRAN----executions

3 Prisoners Hanged in Western Iran----At least 70 executions have been reported so far in 2015 in Iran

3 prisoners were hanged in Hamadan (western Iran) reported the official website of Iranian Judiciary in Hamadan. The prisoners who were not identified by name, were convicted of rape, said the report. The executions were carried out yesterday morning 26. January.

According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) at least 70 people have been executed so far in January 2015 in Iran. 25 of the executions have been reported by official Iranian sources.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia's New King Refused to Intervene in a Controversial Beheading

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud looks on during a meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

An alleged rapist was executed Monday but many Saudis believe the case against him was shaky

A Saudi man accused of raping young girls was beheaded on Monday in the 1st execution under the administration of Saudi Arabia's new King Salman.

Teacher Moussa al-Zahrani, 45, was beheaded in the western city of Jeddah, the Associated Press reports. The execution drew an unusual amount of debate on Saudi talk shows and social media, with citizens and relatives pointing out inconsistencies and gaps in evidence.

Al-Zahrani repeatedly maintained his innocence throughout his trial and appeals, and pleaded to the late Saudi King Abdullah to intervene in a video, which circulated widely in social media. The video featured al-Zahrani's allegations that police framed him, eliciting a Twitter hashtag in Arabic "We are all Moussa al-Zahrani."

However, King Salman, like his predecessor, chose not to intervene in the execution. Saudi Arabia continues to apply the death penalty to cases of rape, murder and other offenses according to the theocratic kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

(source: TIME Magazine)

CHINA:

Death penalty upheld for child trafficker

A court in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday confirmed and upheld the child trafficking conviction and death sentence of a man claiming to be Vietnamese.

The region's higher people's court announced that it agreed that Huang Qingheng was guilty of orchestrating the exchange of more than 20 infants and children for financial gain since 2010.

The children were either smuggled from Vietnam to be sold in China, mainly in Guangdong Province, or pregnant Vietnamese women were sent to China to sell their unborn children.

11 of the children have been rescued by Chinese police.

The other 23 members of Huang's gang, who are both Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, were given jail terms ranging from 22 months to life imprisonment.

The local police said that Huang's nationality is yet to be verified.

(source: Xinhua News Agency)

NIGERIA:

Death Row Inmates Recount Experience As LEDAP Opens New Office

Williams Owodo is 36 years old. Out of that 36 years, he spent 17 of it in prison as a death row inmate. His story is heart-rending as it is incredulous.

He was barely 16, when he was picked up in Police raid at Ajegunle while returning from a football training.

In a twist of events, he ended up in death row as a condemned criminal. Owodo said: "I was arrested in February 1, 1995 with 4 others persons on allegation of murder in Ajegunle and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death on December 5, 2003 by the Lagos High Court."

Williams said when they were arrested and kept in Ajeromi Police station, most of the other detainees whose parents had the wherewithal effected their release. In his own case, there was no means, so he was branded an armed robber, tortured to confess to the crime and condenmed to death in court. He was freed eventually by the Appeal Court in 2014.

Also, Sopuruchi Obed was barely 17 when he was arrested on September 30, 2004 on the allegation by Police at Igando that he and others were part of a group of young men seen by Police informant spending lavishly at a beer parlour, and overhead boasting of their unlawful escapades. Obed said even though no one ever testified of being robbed by him or others, they were charged for armed robbery and convicted.

Meanwhile, the young man said he was just a hapless passerby. He revealed that he met his alleged crime mate, Oto-Obong Edet for the 1st time in Police custody. Both of them were locked up in jail since and only had the air of freedom in 2014. He faced the trauma of the imminence of the hangman for 10 years.

Unlike Owodo, Obed was not only tortured to confess to the crime, he was shot on his leg. He said: "Everyday, I see people get killed. The fear and torment of being killed was horrifying. I didn't want to die, so when they tortured me and threatened to kill me, I signed the document, admitting that I robbed. But when I told the court that the statement was not voluntary, the judge just refused to agree".

The story is the same for Christopher Tobi Okolie, a former student of the Federal Technical College Ilesha who was arrested in 2000 when he was accused of committing the offence of murder while he was involved in a altercation with few of his neighbours.

Okolie said a gang of boys within his neighbourhood waylaid him on his was to his father's residence in Ikotun area as a result of his discman player, which his friend borrowed and refused to return. "I borrowed my disc player to my friend. So when I wanted to return to school, I went to collect it, but he told me that he has given it to his brother. Because I didn't want to go without my disc, I took the one I saw in their house and left. When I came home, their brother came to my house and slapped me.

"One evening, as I was returning, they waylaid me on the street. I ran to enter our compund but it was locked. So in the process of dragging me, both of us fell into the gutter. I didn't know that the guy got seriously injured. It was later that the Police came and arrested me in my sisters place".

He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death in March 2006 for murder. But late last year, he was freed by the superior court.

Those are the ugly stories of hundreds of weak an vulnerable Nigerians who have been in death row but freed through the intervention of Legal Defence and Assistance Programme (LEDAP).

They recounted their experiences recently at the occasion of the opening of LEDAP's new office in Lekki, Lagos. They all appealed for aid to start a new life.

Speaking at the occasion, the national cordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chino Obiagwu said for the past 18 years, the non-governmental organisation has worked in the area of access to justice and rule of law; human security, women's right, internaional advocacy and rights of persons living with disabilities.

Obiagwu pointed out that LEDAP has remained the leading voice in Nigeria on the abolition of death penalty.

His words: "Under its human security programme, LEDAP has documented since 2001 extrajudicial killings in Nigeria comprising over 12, 500 recorded cases of unlawful killings published as our annual 'impunity report'."

He noted that his organisation pioneered the Domestic Violence Law, which is today the key instrument for the protection of women and children from gender-based violence, the administration of criminal justice law as well as being a licenced service provider to the Nigeria Bar Association on mandatory continuing legal education.

According to him, LEDAP's access to justice and human security programmes are geared towards providing free legal services to indigent prisoners. "LEDAP has provided free legal support to over 100 death row inmates in Nigeria. Nearly 7 out of every 10 death penalty appeals that LEDAP has handled in the last 2 years have resulted in the acquittal of the appellants, suggesting a very high rate of wrongeful capital convictions", he said, and appealed to the Nigerian government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replace same with life imprisonment.

(source: All Africa News)

JANUARY 26, 2015:

TEXAS:

Former Supreme Court Justice Confirms Texas Once Executed An Innocent Man----Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens acknowledged evidence that Texas put an innocent man to death for a murder in the 1980s.

During a lecture at the University of Florida on Jan. 20, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens acknowledged evidence that proved "beyond a shadow of doubt" that Texas executed an innocent man in the 1980s.

Stevens referred to a book The Wrong Carlos by Columbia Law School professor James Liebman, saying that it had sufficiently demonstrated that "there is a Texas case in which they executed the wrong defendant and the person they executed did not in fact commit the crime for which he was punished."

Stevens, a strong opponent of the death penalty, made the comments during a Jan. 20 lecture where he shared suggestions to improve the U.S. Constitution, including the abolishment of the death penalty.

The Wrong Carlos "uncovers evidence that Carlos DeLuna, a poor Hispanic man with childlike intelligence who was executed in Texas in 1989, was innocent," according to the book's website.

De Luna, 27, was executed in 1989 for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk, during a 1983 robbery in Corpus Christi.

16 years after Texas, which holds the country's most active death chamber, executed De Luna, the Chicago Tribune published a 3-part investigative series uncovering evidence that strongly suggested that a man named Carloz Hernandez was the one who murdered Lopez.

The series was based on a comprehensive investigation into De Luna's case by the Columbia DeLuna Project led by Liebman.

The Tribune interviewed Hernandez's relatives and friends who recounted how "the violent felon repeatedly bragged that De Luna went to death row for a murder Hernandez committed."

From the Tribune:

The newspaper investigation, involving interviews with dozens of people and a review of thousands of pages of court records, shows the case was compromised by shaky eyewitness identification, sloppy police work and a failure to thoroughly pursue Hernandez as a possible suspect.

In 2006, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, famously said that there had not been a single case of an innocent man being executed.

Scalia stated, "[There has not been] a single case - not one - in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred ... the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops."

Stevens, while referring to Scalia's comments, said, "But now I think Jim (Liebman) has found a case that one cannot deny."

In advocating for abolishing the death penalty, Stevens said, "I think it's a sufficient argument against the death penalty ... that society should not take the risk that that might happen again. Because it's intolerable to think that our government, for not really powerful reasons, runs the risk of executing innocent people."

(source: BuzzFeed.com)

WASHINGTON:

Seattle city leaders urge state legislators to abolish death penalty

Mayor Ed Murray, all 9 Seattle City Council members and City Attorney Pete Holmes have signed a letter calling for the Seattle delegation to the state Legislature to pursue "safe and just alternatives" to the death penalty.

"There is no credible evidence showing that the death penalty deters homicide or makes our communities safer," the letter says. "Instead, pursuing capital punishment diverts precious resources from critical public safety programs, delays final resolution for victims' families and has serious implications for racial and social equity."

Council President Tim Burgess discussed the letter, dated Jan. 26, at the council's Monday morning briefing, saying, "There's a false promise around the death penalty."

Capital punishment is neither swift nor sure, he said, referring to long legal delays.

"I think there is a sense that the evidence against the death penalty is mounting," Burgess said afterward, citing Gov. Jay Inslee's personal moratorium last year on signing any death warrants while he is governor.

The 2-page letter says 18 states have abolished the death penalty for the same overall reasons listed in the council letter.

"Now it is time for the Legislature to take up this conversation," the letter says, noting that of the 9 current inmates on death row in Washington an average of 17 years has passed since they committed their crimes.

Historically, appeals have led the majority of death sentences in Washington to be reversed and converted to life without parole at cost of millions of dollars and years or decades of uncertainty for the victims' families, the letter says.

Further, the letter says, the death penalty raises the specter of executing an innocent person. Nationwide, there have been 150 cases where death-row inmates have been exonerated as scientific investigative techniques improve, the letter says.

The letter also points to recent research suggesting the death penalty is applied disproportionately, with juries 4.5 times more likely to impose capital punishment on a black defendant than similarly situated white defendants.

Singling out the impact on Seattle and King County taxpayers, the letter says the county's costs have risen to more than $15 million to pursue the death penalty against 2 people accused of the slayings of 6 people in Carnation in 2007 and a man charged with the 2009 killing of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton. Trials are currently under way in King County for one of the Carnation defendants, Joseph McEnroe, and Brenton's alleged killer, Christopher Monfort.

That money could be spent separately on high-quality preschool for 1,300 children, or a public-health program for 3,000 families with children from pregnancy to age 2, or hire 30 police officers for 5 years, Burgess said after the council briefing.

Those efforts prevent crime and keep the community safer, while the death penalty does not, Burgess said.

(source: Seattle Times)

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

The False Promise of the Death Penalty

3 high-profile death penalty trials are underway in King County Superior Court, related to the 2009 assassination of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton and the 2007 Christmas Eve mass murders of 3 generations of the Anderson family in Carnation. Both crimes were horrific, senseless acts of hatred and violence that caused incredibly searing pain, suffering, and loss for the victims' families, friends, neighbors, and the broader community.

But, the death penalty delivers nothing more than a false promise.

I was a Seattle police officer in the 1970s. I spent many nights in my patrol car doing exactly what Officer Brenton and his partner, Britt Sweeney, were doing when they were shot. As a councilmember, I went to Harborview the night Officer Brenton died. I spoke briefly with Officer Sweeney. The targeted murder of Officer Brenton strikes a deep chord of grief within me. As a father of three and grandfather of 2, the slaying of the Andersons does the same.

I want swift and certain justice delivered to their killers, but the death penalty won't provide that swiftness or certainty.

Some people believe they are safer because of the death penalty; they're not. The death penalty does not deter homicides and does not make our communities safer. A review from the National Research Council concludes that no credible evidence exists to suggest that it does.

Some people believe justice is better served by the death penalty; it's not. The pursuit of capital punishment delays final resolution for victims' families and communities, inflicting even further pain and suffering. Of the 9 current offenders on Washington's death row, an average of 17 years has passed since the year of their crime. 17 years! There is no swiftness or certainty in that reality.

At the end of the long road of appeals, the majority of Washington's death row inmates have had their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Spending millions of dollars and dragging victims' families through years and sometimes decades of uncertainty only to end up in the same place (a sentence of life without parole) is not a worthwhile exercise of justice. And moving faster is not a viable option; the appeals processes and protections exist for a very important reason: 150 innocent individuals and counting have been exonerated from death rows across the country. We make mistakes, but there's no room for error when it comes to administering the death penalty.

Some people believe we administer the death penalty fairly; the evidence shows we do not. A University of Washington professor's analysis of Washington's aggravated 1st-degree murder cases suggests the death penalty is applied disproportionately across Washington. Juries were 4.5 times more likely to impose a death sentence on a black defendant than on similarly situated white defendants.

Why do I make these points now? It's certainly not to minimize the trauma, the grief, and the pain experienced by those most closely connected to the tragic deaths of Officer Brenton and the Anderson family. I make these points now because these cases serve as examples of how the death penalty leaves us with missed opportunities for safer communities and a better justice system.

Earlier this month, a report from Seattle University found that, on average, death penalty cases in Washington cost about 1.5 times more than other aggravated 1st-degree murder cases, including post-conviction incarceration costs. This amounts to more than $1 million per case in extra costs.

The costs of the current King County cases have risen above $15 million. This is no trivial sum: $15 million could mean 30 more police officers patrolling our streets for 5 years. It could deliver to more than 3,000 families the support of the Nurse-Family Partnership, an early intervention program for 1st-time, low-income mothers and their babies that is proven to reduce involvement in the criminal justice system later in life. It could provide high-quality preschool for more than 1,300 children, another proven investment that reduces criminal behavior. It could enhance staffing on police "cold case" investigative teams, or provide stronger victim support and advocacy services.

The death penalty does not strengthen or protect the women and men of our police departments, it will not deter future acts of violence or murder, it will not bring meaningful and positive change to our communities, and it cannot be administered both quickly and fairly. This is the false promise of the death penalty.

18 states have abolished capital punishment in favor of safe and just alternatives, including 6 in the last 8 years. Governor Jay Inslee's moratorium on executions last year was an appropriate 1st step; let's go further and finish the job by abolishing the death penalty. We'll save millions of dollars that could be used more effectively and we will achieve the type of justice we really deserve - swift, certain, and fair.

(source: Editorial; Tim Burgess is president of the Seattle City Council----Seattle Times)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Martin resentenced to life in prison for 1993 Palmyra murder

Bradley Martin, who had been sentenced to die for the September 1993 murder of a Palmyra florist, was resentenced Monday to life imprisonment without parole.

Senior Judge Robert J. Eby, who sentenced Martin 20 years ago to the death penalty, ruled in December that he would sentence Martin to life behind bars.

Eby stated in the Dec. 5 ruling that he was precluding the prosecution from continuing to seek the death penalty because Martin had been offered a plea as part of a package deal with his co-defendant Carolyn King. King refused to plead guilty, the 2 went to trial and were convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing Guy Goodman. The jury decided that Martin and King should receive the death penalty for killing Guy Goodman on Sept. 15, 1993.

"The senseless and brutality of this killing cannot be overstated," Eby said before resentencing Martin Monday morning.

He said his December ruling was not a change of heart about the death penalty.

"In my opinion, that sentence was appropriate," Eby said.

But the process that ended with Martin receiving the death sentence was flawed, he added.

District Attorney David Arnold said his office decided not to appeal Eby's December ruling. He said Goodman's son and daughter along with the detectives who worked the case had collectively agreed with that decision. Goodman's children did not attend the hearing because of Monday's road conditions, the district attorney said.

"We respect the court's ruling," Arnold told the judge.

"The family had had enough. We would be looking at countless more years to get to this point," Arnold said after Martin's resentencing hearing.

"None of us are happy about it," he said, adding prosectors believe Martin should have been executed for Goodman's murder.

"But rules are rules," Arnold said.

The district attorney said he expects the same result in King's case. A hearing is scheduled for March 3 on a defense motion to preclude the prosecution from pursuing the death penalty.

By agreeing to the life sentence, Martin gives up his right to file any more appeals in state or federal court.

"It's been a long road. The court has been with this case for two decades," said Christopher Walters, one of Martin's defense attorneys.

Martin has acknowledged that he and King killed Goodman in his Palmyra home, Walters said.

Gary Procter, another Martin defense attorney, said Martin wanted to apologize to his family and the Goodman family.

Martin's parents, who attended Monday's hearing, declined comment.

In a 39-page order, Eby wrote "the interests of justice warrant that (Martin) receive a sentence of life imprisonment for the charge of 1st degree murder ..."

Eby made his ruling after determining that the plea agreement offered to Martin before his 1994 trial violated Martin's due process rights because "it impermissibly conditioned (Martin's) ability to accept the agreement for a sentence of life imprisonment without exposure to the death penalty upon a factor or factors outside of (Martin's) control."

The district attorney at the time, Bradford Charles, required Martin and his co-defendant, Carolyn King, to both plead guilty in order to receive a life sentence.

A package plea offer was made to Martin and King on Feb. 7, 1994, and was available to them when their trial began on Sept. 30, 1994.

Eby said King had a pen to sign the agreement but changed her mind at the last minute and the case was heard by a jury, which convicted both of them of 1st-degree murder and recommended both receive the death penalty.

The Lebanon County District Attorney's Office argued that prosecutors have "complete discretion both to decide whether to offer a plea agreement and to dictate its terms," Eby wrote in his December ruling.

Eby agreed with that contention, but noted that the Commonwealth must act in accord with the Constitution.

"We do not step outside of precedent by applying Constitutional protections to the discretionary area of plea bargaining," Eby wrote.

The judge emphasized that a sentence of life in prison was considered acceptable by prosecutors 20 years ago.

The judge rejected the premise that a new sentencing hearing should be held before a jury to determine if Martin should still be sentenced to death.

"Absent our intervention to remedy the due process violation suffered by Martin in 1994, it is possible that outcome could occur again," Eby wrote.

Martin was 22 at the time of the murder; King was 28. Martin, who had been incarcerated on a parole violation, was free on a 2-hour pass from the Lebanon County prison when he and King traveled to Goodman's home on Sept. 15, 1993. Goodman had visited Martin and written to him while Martin was in prison.

Martin struck Goodman over the head with a vase, and the couple duct-taped a plastic bag over his head. Goodman's body was found by police 10 days later.

Martin and King stole Goodman's car, credit card and checkbook and drove to Bismarck, N.D., where they abducted and killed a 59-year-old woman. They were arrested in Arizona after a police chase on Oct. 5, 1993.

Martin and King pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in the death of Donna Martz and were sentenced to life in prison in Nevada. The Nevada sentence is consecutive to Martin's sentence for the Goodman murder.

(source: Lebanon Daily News)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma may postpone 3 executions for Supreme Court review into lethal injections----4 death row inmates sued the state saying they fear the sedative midazolam cannot prevent their suffering during lethal injection

Oklahoma is debating the delay of 3 executions while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the kind of sedative used for lethal injections.

It comes after a number of death row inmates suffered reactions to the drug or were not rendered sufficiently unconscious.

Rather than stop the executions himself, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt took the unusual step of asking the justices for a stay.

The review will test the sedative - midazolam - to check that it renders recipients unconscious, the state's attorney general said in a Monday filing with the court.

Oklahoma wants the right to resume executions if it finds a different suitable drug.

The delay would affect inmate Richard Glossip, 52, who was convicted of arranging for 'the beating death of his employer'; John Grant, 53, who 'stabbed a correction worker to death'; and Benjamin Cole, 49, who 'bent his 9-month-old daughter in half, breaking her spine, killing her.'

Glossip is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.

Grant's execution is set for February 19 and Cole is scheduled to be put to death March 5.

They are among 4 death row inmates who sued the state, saying they fear the sedative midazolam cannot prevent their suffering as lethal drugs take effect.

HOW LETHAL INJECTIONS WORK

States that have the death penalty execute convicts using 3 drugs.

The 1st sedates the inmate, the 2nd paralyzes, and the 3rd stops their heart.

Oklahoma adopted midazolam in 2013, which is also used in Florida.

The 1st execution using midazolam was called off after the convict, murderer Clayton Lockett, clenched his teeth, moaned and writhed on the gurney before a doctor noticed a problem with the intravenous line.

1 of the 4 was executed this month and showed no signs of physical distress.

Charles Warner implied discomfort during his final statement January 15 but before any lethal drugs were administered.

'It is important that we act in order to best serve the interests of the victims of these horrific crimes and the state's obligation to ensure justice in each and every case,' Pruitt said in a statement.

'The families of the victims in these 3 cases have waited a combined 48 years for the sentences of these heinous crimes to be carried out.'

Oklahoma, as well as Florida, uses midazolam as 1 of 3 drugs in lethal injection executions.

The 2nd drug serves to paralyze the inmate and the 3rd one is used to stop his heart.

Last April, Oklahoma used midazolam for the 1st time in the execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who clenched his teeth, moaned and writhed on the gurney before a doctor noticed a problem with the intravenous line and the execution was called off.

Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began. An investigation found he died due to the lethal drugs he was given.

Oklahoma revamped its procedures in response to the Lockett execution, including a 5-fold increase in the amount of midazolam used.

'2 federal courts have previously held the current protocol as constitutional, and we believe the United States Supreme Court will find the same,' Pruitt said.

(source: Daily Mail)

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

The Supreme Court Allowed A Man To Be Executed, Then They Took His Case

Just over a week ago, the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution to an Oklahoma inmate named Charles Warner over the dissent of the Court's 4 more liberal members. According to Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent, the drug cocktail that Oklahoma planned to use on Warner was too likely to result in the "needless infliction of severe pain" to be permissible under the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Sotomayor, however, only garnered 4 votes for her position, and she needed 5 to halt the execution.

Nevertheless, on Friday, just over a week after Warner received a fatal dose of the poisonous cocktail Sotomayor criticized in her opinion, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Warner's case after all.

Under normal circumstances, Warner's death would moot his case. Subject only to narrow exceptions, the Supreme Court only has jurisdiction over cases where a decision in a particularly party's favor is likely to redress an injury that party experienced. And the justices only have the power to destroy life. They do not have the power to resurrect the dead.

Warner, however, is 1 of 4 death row inmates who challenged the use of a potentially unreliable sedative that may allow inmates to experience considerable pain during their executions. The other 3, at least as of this writing, are still alive.

Though the Court's decision to hear this case may seem like good news for these 3 inmates - who will almost certainly be executed absent judicial intervention - there are reasons to doubt that the Court will ultimately rule in their favor. If a 5th justice agreed with Sotomayor that this challenge to Oklahoma's execution protocols has merit, it would be very odd for that justice not to join Sotomayor in voting to stay Warner's execution. The fact that all 5 of the Court's conservatives allowed Warner to be executed suggests that they see no problem with Oklahoma's practices.

Additionally, the Court appears to have departed from an informal practice it has historically used in death penalty cases. It takes 5 justices to grant a stay of execution, but only 4 to grant a petition asking the Court to review a case. To prevent the incongruous circumstance where the Court announces that they will hear a particular inmate's case only to have that case become moot when the inmate is executed, however, a 5th justice typically grants a "courtesy" vote to stay an inmate's execution when 4 justices agree to hear that inmate's case.

To date, however, the Court has not stayed the 3 remaining inmates' executions, 1 of whom is scheduled to be executed on Thursday. If a majority of the Court is willing to allow a man to be killed while his case is currently pending before the justices, that is not a good sign that there are 5 votes to halt Oklahoma's execution practices.

(source: thinkprogress.org)

ARIZONA:

Arizona death row inmate who wants no further appeals may be examined for mental competency

A mental competency exam may be conducted for a 44-year-old Arizona death row inmate who wants no further appeals in his case stemming from the 2006 beating death of his 14-year-old niece in Kingman.

Brad Lee Nelson was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of Amber Leann Graff. The Arizona Supreme Court in 2012 decided an automatic appeal by upholding Nelson's conviction and sentence.

Nelson is now asking to represent himself, not have any further appeals and accept his death sentence.

Judge Richard Weiss of Mohave County Superior court last week ordered prosecution and defense attorneys to file arguments by Feb. 20 on whether Nelson must have a mental health exam.

The development was first reported by the Mohave Valley Daily News.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Defense: Misuse of jailhouse informant should block death penalty in man's double-murder case

The number of Orange County criminal cases tainted by possible misuse of jailhouse informants has grown to 30 cases spanning three decades, defense attorneys alleged in papers filed in a double-murder case.

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders made the accusation in a motion to block the death penalty in the case against Daniel Wozniak, a community theater actor accused of killing 2 acquaintances in 2010. Sanders contends that local police and prosecutors improperly used informants and hid their information from defendants.

It is the same strategy that Sanders is using in the case of confessed mass killer Scott Dekraai, who killed 8 people, including his wife, at a Seal Beach salon. A judge in the Dekraai case found misconduct by prosecutors and police, including that some "undoubtedly lied" on the witness stand.

"For decades the (district attorney) and (sheriff's department) have known about and ignored issues regarding the reliability of informants, the improper use of informants and the concealment of informant evidence," Sanders wrote in an 81-page motion in the Wozniak case filed Friday.

Wozniak prosecutor Matt Murphy, however, fired back the same day that Sanders is wrong. Murphy told Judge James Stotler that the motion amounted to "the biggest dud in the history of Orange County jurisprudence."

"This is a delay and he is dumping it on you at the last possible second," Murphy told the judge. The trial is scheduled for Feb. 13 after being stalled for 4 years.

Wozniak is accused of killing Costa Mesa neighbor Samuel Herr, 26, and Herr's friend, Juri Kibuishi, 23, in 2010.

Sanders alleges that police and prosecutors improperly used a paid informant to elicit a confession from Wozniak behind bars. Murphy said the informant was not working for authorities when he spoke with Wozniak.

Sanders, in his motion, also alleges that Orange County sheriff's deputies worked with prosecutors to get MSNBC an interview with Wozniak, resulting in a damaging portrayal of the defendant on national television. Murphy said he had nothing to do with the interview.

In the courtroom Friday, Murphy angrily said Sanders had made a career of mucking around and improperly accusing prosecutors and police of misconduct.

The rancor between Murphy and Sanders was so heavy Friday that Stotler accused them of "dogfighting."

The judge set a hearing today on the motion.

(soruce: Orange County Register)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

1st beheading in Saudi Arabia under King Salman

A teacher convicted of sex crimes in Saudi Arabia was publicly beheaded on Monday in the port city of Jeddah, according to official media.

"Mousa bin Saeed Ali al-Zahrani lured several underage girls and kidnapped them. He also threatened them and their relatives and physically assaulted them in his home," the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the interior ministry.

"He raped them, detained them, forced them to drink alcohol, and forced some to watch pornographic material."

The family of Zahrani, however, have pleaded in his innocence and said the teacher was convicted in a "sham trial". Relatives complained to the late King Abdullah about the case and gained a stay of execution and a promise to re-open the investigation.

But on 23 January, the day Abdullah died, the family said they were notified by police insiders that an order had been reissued for an expedited beheading to take place on Monday.

Zahrani, who was married with 6 children, posted a video in April 2014 declaring his innocence and asking for a review of the verdict.

"I plead my innocence and swear to God that neither my religion nor my education, knowledge, age, fatherhood or upbringing allow me to even think of committing such an act, which can only come from ribald and mentally ill people," he said.

"I strongly deny all that I am accused of. It is all unjust fabrication of the truth. The accusations I am being subjected to are not acceptable in our religion. They are malicious and have been magnified and manipulated."

Friends of the family, who asked to remain anonymous, said the police investigator who arrested Zahrani was a relative of one his alleged victims and demonstrated an "obvious conflict of interest".

The kingdom has faced constant international criticism over its human rights record, including the use of the death penalty.

The latest beheading brings a total of 16 people executed in 2015 by Saudi authorities. In 2014, 87 people were executed, with 72 taking place between August and December.

An independent expert working on behalf of the United Nations called in September for an immediate moratorium on executions in Saudi Arabia. But the interior ministry insists that the execution of convicts aims "to maintain security and realise justice".

Rape, murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death in the kingdom.

(source: Middle East Eye)

IRAN----executions

2 Prisoners Executed For Drug ---- At least 12 people have been executed for drug-related charges in Iran today.

2 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Arak (Central Iran) early Sunday morning 25. January. According to the official website of Iranian Judiciary in Markazi Province, both the prisoners were executed for drug related charges. The prisoners were identified as "Milad Z" charged with possession and trafficking of 2950 grams of heroin, and "Alireza A" for possession and trafficking 2950 grams of heroin, said the report.

(source: Iran Human Righs)

GEORGIA----impending execution

It's illegal for Georgia to execute Warren Hill. But state won't let him prove his disability.

To put it simply: If Warren Hill, a man with a lifelong, documented intellectual disability, did not live in Georgia, he would not be facing execution Tuesday.

Hill was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 for killing his girlfriend. 4 years later, he beat and killed a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike. At his 1991 capital trial, Hill was sentenced to death.

Hill grew up in a violent, poor household in rural Georgia. In 1967, at age 7, he scored a 70 on a public school intelligence test, putting him in the bottom 2 % of the population. All 7 doctors who've examined Hill - including the 3 retained by Georgia's attorneygGeneral - unanimously agree that he has an intellectual disability. The Georgia courts have twice found, by a preponderance of the evidence, the same.

That should be enough to keep him from the death penalty.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional, a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The court made its Atkins ruling after numerous states enacted statutes prohibiting the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Georgia was the first to do so.

Why, then, is Hill slated to be executed? Because in Georgia, the burden of proof is unreasonably high.

There, a defendant must prove that he has an intellectual disability "beyond a reasonable doubt" to come under the protection of the Atkins decision. Georgia is the only state that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the heaviest burden of proof the law can require.

This standard means that you could have multiple expert clinicians agree that a defendant has an intellectual disability, as is the case here. But any "reasonable" doubt cast on their diagnoses will cancel the protection afforded under the U.S? Constitution. Medical diagnoses are made to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty and are not necessarily free from "reasonable doubt" as that phrase is used in a legal context.

This mismatch makes it nearly impossible to prove intellectual disability for defendants in Georgia.

In rejecting guidance from medical experts, Georgia has created a uniquely stringent burden of proof that is simply unfair. Even the Supreme Court agrees. In Hall v. Florida, the justices held that states must look to the medical community's diagnostic and clinical practices in determining intellectual disability, writing:

"The death penalty is the gravest sentence our society may impose. Persons facing that most severe sanction must have a fair opportunity to show that the Constitution prohibits their execution."

Without a medical or scientific anchor, the system runs the risk of making irreversible mistakes based on stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities.

Imposing the death penalty on people such as Hill, as the court in Atkins stated, "is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering." We should listen to the doctors who diagnosed Hill as a person with an intellectual disability, prevent this execution and ensure his human dignity - as well as our own.

(source: Peter Berns is the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families----Washington Post)

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

Parole board to hold clemency hearing for Georgia death row inmate set to be executed Tuesday

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is set to hear from supporters of a death row inmate set to be executed this week.

The board plans to hold a clemency hearing for Warren Lee Hill Monday morning. Hill is set to die Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson.

Hill was serving a life sentence in 1990 for the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend when he killed a fellow inmate. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death.

Hill's lawyers have long argued that he is intellectually disabled and therefore shouldn't be executed.

The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.

(source: Associated Press)

KENTUCKY:

Family of Alex Johnson slowly accepting but still grieving his death

A year later, Alex Johnson's family continues to grieve.

"Alex, we miss you every minute of every day," Judy Johnson wrote on a lantern during a recent birthday celebration for her son, Alex.

More than 50 people gathered with chairs and blankets at a lake near Johnson's hometown in Bowling Green earlier this month to share stories and memories. They lit 34 paper lanterns and wrote a memory in honor of Johnson, who would have turned 34 on Jan. 16.

Since his death, his parents, Judy and Lee Johnson, and relatives have attempted to find a degree of peace. They've asked friends to support local organizations instead of sending flowers to express their condolences.

But the last year has taken a toll on the entire family, Judy Johnson said.

Lee Johnson lost 45 pounds and the stress caused him to retire from his job as a banker. Their daughter, Cayce, took some time off from work. Therapy has helped, she said.

"Well, there's nothing we can do to bring Alex back," Lee Johnson said. "Me personally, I've accepted the fact that Alex is dead and we won't see him on this Earth again. But hopefully we'll see him in heaven. That's about all we can do. Over time we'll get better, gradually. But, as of now, we're still suffering."

In December 2013, Alex Johnson, then 32, was reported missing after relatives became concerned when he didn't return calls, follow through with plans he had made with friends, or attend a meeting at work Dec. 21. The last person to speak with him was his girlfriend, Lisa Horobin, who said Alex ended the call after he heard a knock at the door of his North Hanover apartment in Lexington.

Johnson's missing-persons case garnered national attention as a Facebook page was created and billboards were put up around the state. The Facebook page, JusticeforAlexJohnson, has over 14,000 likes. More than a month later, on Jan. 24, 2014, Lexington police and firefighters found Johnson's body in the Kentucky River.

Police have charged Robert Markham Taylor and Timothy Ballard with the slaying of Johnson. Taylor, 29, is charged with murder, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. Ballard, 43, is charged with kidnapping, tampering with evidence and being a persistent felon.

Johnson, Taylor and Ballard were all acquaintances, police have said.

Their trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 5. If convicted, the Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney's office will seek the death penalty for Taylor.

Calls made to the attorneys of Taylor and Ballard were not immediately returned.

Late last year, Judy and Lee Johnson filed a wrongful death lawsuit against numerous city officials alleging police and call takers acted poorly during the initial stages of the investigation.

Susan Straub, the city's spokeswoman, declined to comment on the status of that lawsuit Thursday.

"I cannot comment on a pending lawsuit," she said.

However, Judy Johnson said things were much different during the most recent holiday season than the previous year.

"This past Christmas wasn't nearly as bad it was last Christmas with him missing," she said. "We were just in a state of anguish and torture from Christmas Eve to, basically, when they recovered his body. ... We were aware of the date, but we didn't want to think about it and just focused on his birthday."

Judy and Lee took a trip to the Bahamas over the holidays to watch their favorite basketball team play. It served as a "distraction" for them and a getaway, Judy Johnson said.

Even though they admit that closure isn't near, they've found solace in a therapy group that caters to parents who have lost children.

"We always told him we loved him and we always knew he loved us," Judy Johnson said.

(source: Herald-Leader)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Suspend His Execution

Attorneys representing Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, who is scheduled to die Thursday, plan to file a request to stay his execution in light of the recent news that the U.S. Supreme Court will review his case.

Dale Baitch, the public defender representing Glossip, wouldn't specify whether he and his colleagues will ask the country's highest court or Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to suspend the execution, adding that he'd "rather not predict" what the specifics of a Supreme Court decision could mean for Glossip's future. "At this moment, we're in a 'wait and see' posture," he told The Huffington Post.

Glossip and 2 other inmates claim Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure can cause severe pain that violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to take up their case.

"It's the 1st time in a long time that I let myself get a little more excited than normal," Glossip, 51, told HuffPost after hearing the Supreme Court news. "I finally got a victory. A small victory -- but it uplifted me."

Oklahoma's execution methods came under scrutiny last April after death row inmate Clayton Lockett died 45 minutes after being injected with a combination of drugs that had never been used together before. Lockett allegedly writhed, clenched his teeth and struggled against the restraints holding him to a gurney before prison officials halted the execution. He then died from a heart attack.

"It was a horrible thing to witness," Lockett's attorney, David Autry, told The Associated Press at the time. "This was totally botched."

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to stay the execution of Charles Warner, another Oklahoma death row inmate. "My body is on fire," Warner, the 1st to be killed since Lockett, said after he was injected.

Glossip was convicted of 1st-degree murder in 1998 based on the testimony of 1 witness, Justin Sneed, who claimed Glossip hired him to kill his boss. Glossip has staunchly maintained his innocence from the beginning.

His situation has drawn the support of several death penalty opponents, including Sister Helen Prejean, a nun best known for her memoir Dead Man Walking. Prejean, who serves as Glossip's spiritual adviser and plans to be present the day he's executed, will hold a press conference Tuesday to bring more attention to his case.

"We need to get out to the public just how flimsy and vulnerable our whole system is that a man could be condemned on [Sneed's testimony] and be moving to his execution," Prejean told HuffPost last week. "It’s really unworthy of us to do that as a people."

Sneed, a contract handyman who worked and lived at the Best Budget Inn that Glossip managed in Oklahoma City, confessed to beating motel owner Barry Van Treese to death with a baseball bat on Jan. 7, 1997. Prosecutors said Glossip was afraid he was about to be fired, and Sneed later testified that Glossip offered to pay him $10,000 to carry out the murder. In exchange for his testimony, Sneed received a life sentence without parole.

A judge told Glossip that if he admitted his involvement in Van Treese's death, he would be sentenced to life in prison and eligible for parole after 20 years. Glossip refused, saying he wouldn't perjure himself by admitting to something he didn't do.

"A lot of people ask if I hate [Sneed]," Glossip told HuffPost last week. "I don't hate him. Hatred ain't gonna do anything for you."

Death penalty opponents argue that it's unfair to convict someone based on only one individual's story. A Change.org petition calling on Fallin to halt the execution had garnered nearly 27,000 signatures as of Monday. It noted that Sneed's daughter recently wrote a letter to the Oklahoma clemency board claiming her father wished he could recant his testimony.

HuffPost obtained a copy of the letter. "For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony. But has been afraid to act upon it, in fear of being charged with the Death Penalty," it reads. "His fear of recanting, but guilt about not doing so, makes it obvious that information he is sitting on would exonerate Mr. Glossip."

Prejean believes Sneed recanting would change everything for Glossip. "The one thing that got Richard the death sentence was the testimony of Sneed," she said. "All the jury heard was this man. There was no forensic evidence at all."

Glossip told HuffPost he has a small TV in his cell, which he keeps on most of the time. He first learned the Supreme Court would take up his case late on Friday, when he noticed something different about the news reports regarding his case.

"When they came on the TV in Oklahoma, on the news, they used to always say 'convicted murderer Richard Glossip,'" he said. "They changed that now: Richard Glossip, who is accused of being in a murder-for-hire plot.' It's the 1st time they've ever done that, and it's a step in the right direction."

While the Supreme Court needs only 4 votes to review a case, it needs 5 to stay an execution. The other 2 inmates involved in the Supreme Court case, John Grant and Benjamin Cole, aren't set to die until Feb. 19 and March 5, respectively.

"Over the next couple of days, the issues the [Supreme Court] wants to hear will become clear," Baich said. "The fact that 4 justices wanted to hear the case suggests that they don’t want it mooted out by the 3 petitioners being executed."

In the meantime, Glossip remains optimistic, vowing to fight until the very end. "I don't give up hope in any way, shape or form," he told HuffPost. "Because until they lay you on that table and stick them needles in you and you're completely dead, you always have hope. I'll never let them take that away from me, no matter what."

(source: Huffington Post)

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

Oklahoma AG says he will to defend state execution protocol

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says his office will defend the constitutionality of the state's method for executing death row inmates as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge by three death row inmates.

The nation's high court announced Friday it will hear arguments by inmates who are challenging the state's method for conducting executions.

Pruitt says Oklahoma's method has been deemed constitutional by 2 federal courts and has been successfully implemented in the state as well as in Florida.

Pruitt says his office will work to preserve the Department of Corrections' ability to proceed with death sentences given to each inmate by a jury of their peers.

Death row inmate Richard Eugene Glossip is scheduled to die on Thursday. Pruitt says there is no pending request for a stay.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Witnessing an execution

Charles Warner raped and murdered an 11-month-old baby girl and a jury determined he deserved to die.

But, when the curtain was raised to reveal him strapped on a gurney with only moments to live, I didn't feel the way I thought I would.

I thought I would hate Charles Frederick Warner, knowing about the details of the crime he committed. Instead, I felt pity.

It is the responsibility of a journalist and a member of the free press to witness and report on executions. It is our job to watch over the government and ensure protocol is being followed and citizens know what their government is and is not doing.

I don't think many of us want to see someone die. There may be a few with a morbid curiosity. I was not one of them.

I was still in college when I accepted the crime and courts beat writer job at the News-Capital. It was made clear to me part of the position would be witnessing executions. I was never excited about doing this, and a little relieved when the state halted further ones just weeks before I started working. I knew the time was going to come, though, and I was prepared.

With that said, I did not think I was going to be a witness for Charles Warner's execution. There were more than 40 journalists in the media room outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary vying for 1 of 5 spots. They chose who was going to be a witness by picking names written on small white sheets of paper, which were then picked out of a basket. After they selected the Oklahoma City representative - that's where Warner did his hideous crime and therefore they got an automatic representative - my name was the next one drawn.

It was then that it really hit me that I was going to watch a human being die.

Barely 5 minutes went by before I was being searched and directed to a van. An Associated Press reporter, 2 Oklahoma City television reporters, a Tulsa television reporter and I was shuttled away.

As I was getting into the van, I could hear cameras clicking.

We headed off to H-Unit, which is home to death row and the execution chamber. We parked outside and were told we would have to wait in the van until we received word to enter the chamber.

We waited maybe 10 or 15 minutes and suddenly Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton was walking towards the van. He introduced himself and we introduced ourselves.

I was surprised to see him. Patton has gotten a reputation of not speaking with media, at all. This was the 1st time I spoke to him. He told us the Supreme Court had yet to rule on a motion filed by Warner's attorney. Patton said he expected a decision soon and then told us he would not answer any questions "so don't ask."

To be fair, he was under a lot of stress.

And so was I.

They drove us back to the media room, and I was starting to feel it. I was nervous. And now I had about an hour and a half to think about it. I did a television interview and, along with everyone else, waited. The media room was buzzing the entire time. When the phone rang, everyone ran to their cameras to get a shot of DOC spokesperson Terri Watkins answering it. The first phone call she said was someone wanting to make sure there was enough water in the media room. That did not stop everyone from running to their cameras every time the phone rang.

I couldn't take the heat. I admit it. I escaped outside to catch some fresh air. I then called my grandmother, who I am very close to, to let her know what was happening. It helped calm me down a little. I was still on edge. She is for the death penalty, but wasn't sure if I should be there when it happens. I wasn't either, but there was no doubt I would be.

Right after the phone call, outside the media room, longtime DOC spokesperson Jerry Massie came outside. He walked up to me and asked if I was OK. I assured him I was and he explained to me what he has heard from other journalists in my position.

He told me I would probably not feel anything in the chamber. He told me I probably would be working hard and taking notes and it would not really dawn on me what I was watching. He told me he had heard from others it would be the hours following the execution where it would hit me. He advised I be prepared for it. This was valuable advice and I thank him for it.

Finally the phone call came. Watkins announced the motion to stay the execution was denied and the execution would begin shortly. Again, we were loaded into the van and sent to H-unit. This time we did not wait outside. We were led right inside and pointed to our seats.

I sat down and the curtains were shut. I could see shadows moving behind but I couldn't make anything out. About a minute after we were sent in, Warner's attorneys, his spiritual advisor and his sister and mother walked in.

I did not realize family of Warner would be there. This would be the toughest part of witnessing this execution.

A judge and a law enforcement officer followed them.

After everyone was inside, the curtain was raised and I saw Warner strapped to a gurney.

Immediately, Warner raised his head and looked to his family. He kept mouthing the words "I love you, too." and "Bye." That hit home for me a little bit. He was saying goodbye to people who loved him despite what he did.

The microphone was turned on in the death chamber and the death warrant was read to Warner. Warner had a lengthy last statement. He complained about being poked and how the saline felt like acid.

After his statement, they turned off the microphone and you could hear the machine inject Warner with the 1st drug, Midazolam. This drug is used to put the condemned in a coma-like deep sleep.

It worked.

Warner kept talking throughout the process. He kept saying good-bye to loved ones and said something like "My body feels numb." He was in mid-sentence when the drug took his ability to speak away. It was a couple seconds after he fainted and his head hit the gurney.

Warner collapsed. In the days following that may have "haunted" me a little. Watching him get hit so hard and so fast with the drugs played over and over in my mind.

Warner was silent from that point.

The rest of the time - some 10 to 12 minutes - was spent watching Warner sleep and die. His mother and sister held each other crying. His attorneys wrote notes about what was going on. At one point Warner's mother turned around to look at Sean Murphy of the Associated Press. She shook her head. You could feel the agony she was going through. It was awful.

Director Patton came out and announced Warner was dead. And, slowly, people were removed from the witnessing area until it was just us 5 journalists again. To me, Warner did not suffer at all. He was put out by the drug Midazolam. I believe the drugs were effective.

We were transported back to the media room. Murphy took the lead and told the details of Warner's final statement.

My Editor, Glenn Puit, was present for the execution and he had most of the story already written up. We filled in the blanks and it was ready to be laid on the page.

I was told I could go home if I wanted. But, being a single 22-year-old man who just witnessed an execution, I did not want to be alone so I went back to the office.

It was nice to be around co-workers in the hours following it.

I wasn't emotionally distressed. I wasn't panicking. And, if I was told right then and there I needed to go back and witness another one, I could do it. But I am also not a psychopath. Death affected me. Watching someone die got in my head and I did feel different than before, even if Warner deserved it.

I did end up making my way home. I called my grandma and my dad and told them what I experienced. It was good talking to them about it. I fell asleep easily at around 11 p.m. that night.

But my slumber did not last long. I woke up at 1 a.m. and started thinking about what I had just seen. I started watching TV and could not get back to bed. My thoughts were swirling. I was not able to fall back asleep until 9 or 10 p.m. Friday night.

I think I am back to normal. Watching Warner's execution is something I will never be able to unsee. I am not looking forward to going back, but I will. It is my responsibility to do so. I take the job as a journalist seriously. I hope my commitment shows in my work.

(source: Parker Perry, McAlester News)

WYOMING:

Wyoming may allow firing squads in executions

With numerous questions swirling around lethal injections as a method of execution in the US, 1 state has voted to revert to the use of a firing squad to ensure prisoners get executed even if lethal injections aren't possible.

The Wyoming state Senate earlier this month passed a piece of legislation that would authorize firing squads to become the back-up method of execution in the state, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Lethal injections have come under fire in the US in the last year after the state of Oklahoma botched the execution of a death row inmate in April. Clayton Lockett was to be put to death last year via lethal injection, but officials had trouble administering his IV and Lockett was alive for 43 minutes, at times writhing in pain.

An independent investigation found the poorly placed IV caused Lockett’s drawn-out execution, not the combination of drugs used. But that hasn't stopped 3 Oklahoma death-row inmates from bringing a case claiming lethal injections qualify as cruel and unusual punishment.

The US Supreme Court last week announced it would hear the Oklahoma case and a ruling there could impact lethal injections across the US. Wyoming's legislation again legalizing firing squads provides the state with a fall back in the event the Supreme Court rules that lethal injections are unconstitutional.

But even if the status of lethal injections as the preferred method of execution in the US remains, states have sometimes found it difficult to get the drugs, as pharmaceutics companies have been hesitant to sell the drugs, not wishing to associate themselves with executions.

If the Wyoming bill becomes law, it would be the only state that allows the firing squad as a method of execution. Utah banned the firing squad in 2004, except in the case of a death-row inmate elected to face the firing square prior to 2004. The last time Utah executed a prisoner by firing squad was 2010, according to reports.

Utah's state government is considering a bill that would reinstate the option of a firing squad, but no decision has been made. 9 additional states have a backup plan for executions, including both hanging and the electric chair.

Even if Wyoming starts allowing execution by firing squad, it's not guaranteed any such execution would happen. Wyoming is the least populated state in the US and has no one on death row. Only 1 prisoner has been executed in the state since 1976, according to reports.

(source: The Independent)

ARIZONA:

Killer's death row message: I'm ready to die----Nelson, convicted in 2009, bought rubber mallet and murdered his niece with it

A little more than 5 years after he was sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of his niece, a Golden Valley man has asked for a date with the executioner.

Brad Lee Nelson, 44, has fired his attorneys and seeks to put an end to any future appeals of his death sentence, which was handed down in December of 2009 and confirmed upon appeal in 2012.

Last Tuesday, Judge Richard Weiss ordered Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith and Nelson's defense attorney, David Goldberg, to file court papers to determine if Nelson should have a mental health exam, according to a report in the Mohave Daily News.

In June of 2006, Nelson bludgeoned to death his 14-year-old niece, Amber Leann Graff, in a motel room on Andy Devine Avenue. He was caring for the girl and her 13-year-old brother while their mother - and his half-sister - was hospitalized.

He was charged with first-degree murder and child molestation. Nelson was found guilty of the murder, but was acquitted of the child molestation charge after the Mohave County Medical Examiner determined there was no evidence of sexual penetration.

There was evidence that Nelson, 36 at the time of the killing, was infatuated with his niece. He wrote her a letter telling her as much about nine months before the killing.

For whatever reason, Nelson struck the girl in the head at least twice with a rubber mallet he purchased from a Kingman store on the day of the killing.

Nelson later told a detention officer at the Mohave County jail that he killed his niece, and his attorneys admitted he killed the girl and that he had an "unnatural" attraction to her. However, they argued the murder was not premeditated in their efforts to spare him the death penalty.

The victim's 13-year-old brother discovered his sister's body. Just days after Nelson was sentenced to death, Nelson's sister and the children's mother died of a drug overdose that was ruled accidental.

Attorneys have until Feb. 20 to file court papers regarding Nelson's mental competence.

(source: Daily Miner)

CALIFORNIA:

Defense in Los Al Death Penalty Case Files 'Nightmare' 20,000 Page Motion----An attorney for Daniel Wozniak, an actor accused of murder at a Los Alamitos theater, is seeking to have all OC prosecutors recused.

A defense attorney filed a motion today seeking to have the Orange County District Attorney's Office removed from the prosecution of a double-murder defendant's death penalty trial.

The motion was filed at the end of the day following chiding from Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler, who said he could not consider the attorney's requests to compel prosecutors to turn over requested evidence without the recusal motion.

Stotler also said he viewed an expected 20,000-page motion alleging outrageous governmental misconduct in the case of Daniel Wozniak as a "nightmare" to read and consider.

Wozniak's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, wants to postpone his client's trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 13, so he can have evidentiary hearings to back up his claims that Orange County Sheriff's officials illegally used jailhouse snitches to solicit incriminating statements from defendants, including Wozniak.

A hearing today on the issue featured multiple testy exchanges between Sanders and Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy as well as Stotler.

Stotler said he felt relieved Thursday when Sanders filed an 81-page motion summarizing his claims of governmental misconduct, thinking that was all that he would have to consider.

"Then I started to think I don't know what this is and then my ultimate nightmare -- this is a summary of the motion and I still might get 20,000 pages and 70 volumes" to rule on, Stotler said.

Sanders argued that Murphy's dismissive attitude toward the defense attorney's claims of misconduct guarantee that Wozniak can't trust prosecutors to get a fair trial.

Sanders also doubts a claim by an MSNBC producer that she did not work with Wozniak's jailers to put him on the network's show, "Lockup," so he would make damaging statements.

The producer told investigators she picked Wozniak out as a subject for the show based on an ill-fitting jailhouse jump suit and his "fake actor's smile."

Murphy said Sanders found out about the interview when the prosecutor told him about it as a courtesy. The father of one of the victims saw an ad for the show and called Murphy about it, the prosecutor said.

Murphy mocked Sanders' proposed 20,000-page motion.

"If you took the 'Illiad' and the 'Odyssey,' 'War and Peace,' 'Moby Dick,' the U.S. Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, 'The Communist Manifesto,' 'Mein Kampf,' (the) Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Koran, the new King James Bible, a 'Brief History of Time,' that would leave you with less than 5,962 pages," Murphy said.

"What possible intellectual concept needs 20,000 pages? This is delay and he's dumping it on you at the last minute ... It's obscene that he would dump 20,000 pages on you that has nothing to do with Daniel Wozniak."

Sanders complained that Murphy "sandbagged" him at a December hearing with claims that the defense attorney is a serial accuser of prosecutors to make him look bad to Stotler.

Sanders argued that because Murphy brought up the subject he wants to see all correspondence between the prosecutor and others in his office about the Wozniak case, including 2 former prosecutors who are now judges.

Sanders, who also represents Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history, filed a motion late Thursday seeking a delay in the trial. In a motion filed this week, Murphy slammed Sanders' tactics, accusing him of filing misconduct claims against nearly every prosecutor he has faced.

Those claims from Murphy has prompted Sanders to signal that he will ask all judges in the county to recuse themselves from overseeing Wozniak's trial.

Sanders wants Stotler to schedule a pretrial hearing for Feb. 27, well past the scheduled Feb. 13 trial date, which has been postponed several times. Sanders wants to file his full motion alleging governmental misconduct on Feb. 27.

Stotler told the attorneys to return to court Monday when he may rule on Sanders' recusal motion and other issues.

In the Dekraai case, Sanders' motion was more than 500 pages and led to months of evidentiary hearings before another judge, who found misconduct occurred, but that it was due to negligence, not a criminal conspiracy.

However, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said he limited his analysis to just Dekraai's case and will hold a Feb. 5 hearing based on newfound evidence that may contradict testimony from sheriff's officials, who said they had nothing to do with placing Dekraai in a cell next to a government informant to collect damning information from the defendant, which would have violated Dekraai's constitutional rights because he was by then represented by attorneys.

Informants can listen for incriminating statements but cannot elicit them.

Sanders is now arguing there's a new tactic involving snitches lying to fellow inmates that they face retaliation against the Mexican Mafia unless they come clean about what they did.

Sanders has been pushing prosecutors to provide any correspondence between Murphy and his fellow prosecutors as well as the 2 judges.

Murphy argued in his response that Sanders' request is overly broad, that he is not entitled to that information, and that there has been no correspondence anyway.

Murphy also contradicted Sanders' arguments that his claims all had merit and that the attorney misrepresented what happened in each case.

"Mr. Sanders has accused 16 different prosecutors of misconduct in 13 separate cases," Murphy said in his motion.

(source: patch.com)

USA:

Method-of-execution claims and the "courtesy 5th"

In the New York Times, Adam Liptak has an interesting story on the "courtesy 5th," the common practice at the Supreme Court of a 5th Justice voting to stay an execution if 4 Justices vote to grant cert in a capital case. The basic idea is that it takes four votes to grant cert but 5 votes to stop an execution. If 4 Justices want to hear a capital case but 5 Justices don't, the case could be granted and docketed but the petitioner executed before the case is decided. The Court would never decide the legal issue if that happens, as the case would be mooted by the execution. In recent years, there has been a Justice willing to provide a "courtesy 5th" to ensure that won't happen.

As Liptak explains, it's at least possible that this won't be happening for the Court's latest capital case grant, on method of execution claims used by Oklahoma. The granted case originally had 4 petitioners on death row, and the Court allowed 1 of them to be executed just 8 days before voting to grant the petitions. We don't yet know if that means that the Court won’t follow the usual practice of a courtesy 5th in the granted case for some or all of the 3 remaining petitioners. We'll know soon, though, as the new lead petitioner in the granted case is scheduled to be executed Thursday. We'll see if the Court grants the stay before then.

Liptak's story raises an obvious question: Why might method-of-execution claims not get the usual courtesy 5th? Recognizing that this is just speculation about a hypothetical, I wonder if the nature of method-of-execution claims might alter the dynamic to some Justices. Here's my thinking. By their nature, method-of-execution claims apply to everyone on death row who would face that method of execution. If there are multiple death row inmates involved in a case, the execution of 1 doesn't moot the case. And if a grant means a courtesy 5th and a stay, granting on a method-of-execution claim stops the death penalty in its entirety for every state that follows that method of execution until the cases are decided many months later. Given that methods of execution are currently in flux, and the Court might want to grant in multiple method-of-execution claims over the next few years, some Justices may worry that the courtesy 5th will amount in practice to a 4-Justice-imposed death penalty moratorium for a few years while the Court works through the various methods and claims. If there are 5 Justices on the Court who think the relevant methods of execution are constitutional, that 5-Justice majority may not want to let the 4-Justice minority do that.

Of course, to readers who oppose the death penalty, a moratorium is a good thing rather than a bad thing. But for the Justices who don't see constitutional problems with the death penalty generally, this dynamic might give some Justices 2nd thoughts about the use of the courtesy 5th for method-of-execution claims. Or at least it's a possibility. We'll know more later in the week. Stay tuned, as always.

(source: Orin Kerr is the Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor at The George Washington University Law School, where he has taught since 2001----Washington Post)

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

In taking up execution case, justices highlight importance of 1 vote

There are 9 justices on the Supreme Court. It takes 4 votes to hear a case, but it takes 5 to stay an execution. That can leave a lethal gap.

A death penalty case can be important enough to claim a spot on the court's docket of perhaps 75 cases a year. But the prisoner who brought it may not live to see the decision.

In agreeing on Friday to hear a challenge to the chemicals Oklahoma uses to execute condemned prisoners, the court brought fresh attention to the life-or-death importance of a single vote.

The lead petitioner in Friday's case, Charles F. Warner, was already dead. He was executed 8 days earlier, after the Supreme Court refused to stay his execution. The vote was 5-4.

"What happened to Charles Warner was not an isolated glitch," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University and the author of a new article on the court's voting procedures in capital cases. "It was a typical, if high-visibility, example of a systemic flaw in the machinery of justice that has gone unrepaired for far too long."

The case the court agreed to hear used to be called Warner v. Gross, No. 14-7955. On Friday, taking account of Warner's death, the court changed the caption to Glossip v. Gross, No. 14-7955.

It may change again. The new lead petitioner, Richard Glossip, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.

The other 3 petitioners in the case also have execution dates in coming weeks, all of them well before the court is expected to hear arguments in the case, in late April.

The Supreme Court did not say on Friday whether it would stay the other 3 executions. In a statement, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, made a pointed reference to the fact that it took only four votes to grant review. He seemed to indicate that the state was prepared to proceed with the executions.

The petitioners' lawyers will doubtless seek stays. In Glossip's case, they will have to act quickly.

How the court responds will illuminate the current vitality of its fitful commitment to a procedure it sometimes uses to bridge the voting gap: the "courtesy 5th" vote to stay executions. Such votes are said to be available once the court makes a formal decision to grant review of a condemned prisoner's case.

Justice Lewis F. Powell explained his reluctant decision to cast such a courtesy vote in a 1985 concurrence. The inmate's case had "no merit whatever," he wrote. "But in view of the unusual situation in which 4 justices have voted" to hear it, he wrote, "and in view of the fact that this is a capital case with petitioner's life at stake, and further in view of the fact that the justices are scattered geographically and unable to meet for a conference, I feel obligated to join in granting the application for a stay."

But such a 5th vote is not always forthcoming. In the late 1980s, the question of when courtesy votes were warranted was a source of tension on the court, and by 1990 the consensus broke down entirely.

"For the 1st time in recent memory," Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a dissent that year, "a man will be executed after the court has decided to hear his claim."

Thomas C. Goldstein, the publisher of Scotusblog, has written that a courtesy 5th has been uniformly available since the later part of the tenure of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who served from 1986 to 2005. If there are 4 votes formally to grant review, Goldstein wrote, a courtesy 5th vote for a stay will always materialize.

But "Supreme Court Practice," the leading manual on Supreme Court procedure, is agnostic. Goldstein's observation "may well be true," its authors wrote.

"On the other hand," they added, "no statute or Supreme Court rule requires such a practice, no judicial opinion states that this is the current internal voting procedure of the court, votes on certiorari are generally kept confidential, and the experience of the 1980s reveals that such a practice can break down under pressure."

The courtesy 5th is, then, a convention rather than a rule, and one that requires an actual vote from an actual justice whose inclinations are necessarily to the contrary. And it seems to apply only after a formal vote to grant review.

In other settings, the gap persists. At least 4 inmates have been put to death since August over the objections of 4 justices.

"The court's willingness to allow executions to go forward with 4 justices voting for a stay seems coldblooded to me," said Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, a lawyer for Leon Taylor, 1 of the inmates.

At the confirmation hearing of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in 2005, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., asked him to commit to providing a 5th vote.

"How do you feel if you were chief, if you had 4 other justices now voting for a stay of execution?" Leahy asked. "Do you feel, as chief, you should do the courtesy of the rule of 5 and kick in the 5th one?"

The nominee seemed receptive, if a little tentative.

"I don't want to commit to pursue a particular practice," he said. "But it obviously makes great sense."

In his new article, to be published in The Hofstra Law Review, Freedman considered the history of the court's practices in this area and made a recommendation. "I propose that in any capital case, regardless of its procedural posture, an execution will be stayed if 4 justices so desire," he wrote.

"The justices deserve time to think," he said. "A statement by 4 of them that they want that time should suffice to postpone a potentially fatal deadline."

Whatever it does, he wrote, "the court should address the problem in a reasoned and public way."

(source: Adam Liptak, New York Times)

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

Panic Attack, Bad Back: Theater Shooting Brings Jury Excuses

One prospective juror said she had a panic attack. Another claimed to have a bad back. A 3rd is in the military and worried he would be deployed during the trial of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes.

Even as an unprecedented 9,000 prospective jurors were summoned for questioning, both sides in the mass murder trial are worried about letting too many potential jurors go.

Prosecutors have asked the judge not to reveal why he releases jurors, for fear of handing out a road map for others trying to avoid serving.

And defense attorney Daniel King warned the judge who was listing off the reasons to let people go: "You have to consider the fact that people may not want to sit on this jury."

It won't be easy for those picked. Jury selection alone could last until June, and the trial could run into October. The court will pay jurors just $50 a day during that time, and employers only have to pay their workers for the first 3 days of jury service.

It's unusual for a mass shooter even to see a trial. Many killers take their own lives; others end up with plea agreements. Prosecutors in the Holmes case rejected a plea offer from defense lawyers, pushing the case toward a grueling trial that will replay the massacre.

The chosen 24, including 12 alternates, won't be allowed to talk to anyone - even each other - about the case, which means bearing the stressful experience alone. Mental health counseling will be available, but only after jurors reach a verdict.

"The length that you have to be on this case, and then to tell someone they can't talk about it, that is a huge burden," said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton law professor. "Who wants to live in that bubble?"

The jury's job will be not only to decide whether Holmes was insane when he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during the July 2012 attack, but they also might be asked to decide whether he should be executed.

Jurors will be shown graphic photos from the theater, where police say Holmes slipped in through a back door wearing a gas mask and body armor, threw gas canisters into the audience and opened fire during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie on July 20, 2012. They will hear harrowing testimony from people who scrambled for exits or dived for cover, shielding loved ones amid gunshots, screams and the blaring movie soundtrack.

Research has shown jurors in death penalty cases have suffered nightmares, flashbacks and symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, said James Acker, a researcher on death penalty juries at the State University of New York in Albany.

"They'll be barred from sharing what they're going through and thus not be able to share their feelings, either," Acker said.

Federal prosecutors in Boston are confronting a similar dilemma as they try to find people to serve as jurors for the murder trial of accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another death penalty case.

Some of those potential jurors have also cited personal hardships that would make it difficult to serve on the trial, which is expected to last 3 to 4 months. Several have said they run their own businesses and can't afford to miss work for that long. Others have said they are the primary caregivers for their children, have prepaid vacations scheduled or have business trips planned. One man told the judge he runs a delicatessen with his wife, who is 5 1/2 months pregnant.

But the Holmes case is even more challenging, as evidenced by the far greater number of jurors called. The 9,000 jurors - more than have ever been summoned for a court case in American history, according to experts - represent nearly 1 out of every 50 residents of suburban Arapahoe County.

So many notices went out that witnesses to the attack received them, as did relatives of staffers in the local district attorney's office. They were immediately dismissed. The number has already been whittled to 7,000 because many summonses were undeliverable.

Judge Carlos Samour last week dismissed 213 potential jurors who either had doctors' notes, couldn't speak English or weren't residents of Arapahoe County, where the trial is unfolding.

The potential juror excuses are treated with heavy scrutiny. Samour wouldn't dismiss a woman who said she was so sick she needed an ambulance; he just allowed her to come back another day.

The judge on Thursday dismissed the woman who complained of a panic attack after making her describe her condition under oath. Later that afternoon, another woman also cited panic attacks as a reason she couldn't serve. This time, Samour just asked her to come back another day.

Excuses vary, and they show the broad cross-section of those called: One potential juror is the sole caretaker of his severely disabled wife. Another worried his orthodontics business would suffer. Still another needed to find day care.

The financial strain will be difficult. Some businesses pay for more than the three days of service required by Colorado law, but many don't. That limits jury service to those who won't suffer serious financial hardship - retirees, government employees, those who work for large corporations - which can alter the panel, said Joseph Rice, managing partner of the Jury Research Institute, a California-based trial consulting firm.

"All of a sudden, you've taken a jury of your peers, which is supposed to be a random cross-section of the community, and now it has become dramatically skewed," he said.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Boston bombing jury excludes some Catholics

As the quest for a jury in the Boston Marathon bombing trial approaches its 4th week, some of the area's 2 million Roman Catholics are growing frustrated with criteria that effectively disqualify followers of church teachings.

Potential jurors in bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial must be able to impose the death penalty or a life sentence with no possibility of release. That standard eliminates Catholics who heed the catechism of the Catholic Church, which says a death sentence is not to be used when "non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor." Cases warranting the death penalty "are very rare, if not practically non-existent," according to the catechism, because government has other means to keep the public safe from convicts.

"It is both ironic and unfortunate that Catholics who understand and embrace this teaching will be systematically excluded from the trial," says the Rev. James Bretzke, professor of moral theology at Boston College. "It is frustrating."

Judge George O'Toole had hoped to hear opening arguments Monday, but they have been delayed because individual questioning of jurors, which began Jan. 15 after questionnaires were filled out, is taking longer than anticipated. A new start date has not been scheduled.

O'Toole has denied 2 defense motions to move the trial out of Boston, but the protracted jury selection process is keeping the issue alive. On Thursday, Tsarnaev's lawyers filed a third motion for a change of venue, asking the court to give juror questionnaires "fresh evaluation."

The defense cited the attitudes of prospective jurors, saying of the 1,373 who filled out questionnaires, 68% already believe Tsarnaev is guilty and 69% have a connection or allegiance to people, places or events in the case.

Finding a jury in Boston is already proving to be a challenge.

1 prospective juror fought back tears as she recalled having met Martin Richards, an 8-year-old who was among the 3 people killed in the April 15, 2013, twin bomb explosions, which also injured more than 260. Others described personal ties to injured victims or police, or expressed a belief that Tsarnaev is guilty. A Catholic theologian said he couldn't impose the death penalty.

With hurdles to overcome in jury selection, some local Catholics lament that the pool is likely to be purged of people trained in their faith to grapple with matters of justice and mercy.

Refusing on religious grounds to impose the death penalty "shouldn't be enough to disqualify them," said Michele Dillon, a University of New Hampshire sociologist and co-author of American Catholics in Transition. "We're supposed to have a jury of one's peers. And if one's peers are informed by this sort of religious ethos, then that surely deserves some kind of recognition."

Not all local Catholics have qualms about the way jurors are being chosen. The Rev. Michael McGarry, director of a socially progressive Catholic congregation called The Paulist Center in downtown Boston, is a longtime activist for abolition of capital punishment. Still, he isn't bothered by the fact that he, like others who would refuse to impose death, would be ineligible for the jury if summoned.

"They're doing the right thing by saying you shouldn't allow people who are not open to the death penalty at all," McGarry said. "Nor should you allow people who are eager for blood."

Greater Boston is 46% Catholic, according to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, but religion isn't necessarily a strong shaper of local attitudes. Massachusetts is the fourth least religious state after nearby New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, according to the Gallup Poll, which looks at worship attendance and how important people say religion is in their daily lives.

Yet when faced with extraordinary decisions, even less-observant Catholics turn to church teachings for guidance, according to Dillon. They're apt to do so if tapped for the Tsarnaev trial, she said.

"If they identify as Catholic, part and parcel of why they do that is because they believe these teachings have a lot of value," Dillon said. "They make up their own minds, but it gives them pause" to consider what the church teaches.

Nationwide, 62% of Catholics favor the death penalty for murderers, according to the General Social Survey's most recent data from 2012. That is a substantial decline from 30 years ago, when 82% of Catholics favored it.

In the interim, the Catholic Church ended its support for routine use of capital punishment via Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.

Catholics aren't obligated to heed church teaching on the death penalty, Bretzke said, because the teaching is not considered infallible.

"I don't think it much matters from the defense side" whether a potential juror is Catholic, said Karen Fleming-Gill, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based jury consultant who's worked on 60 capital cases. "There are plenty of Catholics who will impose the death penalty."

(source: USA Today)

IRAN----executions

Prisoners Hanged in the Prison of Minab

7 prisoners with drug-related charges were executed in the courtyard of Minab prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), On Saturday 24th January, 7 prisoners on drug-related charges in Minab prison were executed by hanging.

Hossein Heidarizadeh from Garook village and Khosro Rostami from Meshe village were among the executed prisoners who were charged with carrying and storage of 2 kilogram drugs and were sentenced to death.

These executions have not been announced by the official Iranian Media.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

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

Iranian Chief Rabbi 'Pressured' Into Mohammed Cartoon Ban----Iranian Jewish community responds to Rabbi Ahmadinejad's blaming of Charlie Hebdo victims, saying authorities behind it.

A week after the Chief Rabbi of Iran sharply blamed the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris for causing their deaths by "insulting" Mohammed, the founder of Islam, members of the Iranian Jewish community have revealed he made the statements "under the pressure of the authorities."

In the rare statement to Iranian media, Rabbi Mashallah Golestan Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying those who "violat(e) God's prophets" are liable to the death penalty under Jewish law - despite the fact that Judaism in no way recognizes Mohammed as a prophet, insulting a prophet does not per sa carry a death penalty, and the death penalty can only be issued by the currently non-existent Sanhedrin supreme religious court.

But members of the Islamic regime's small Jewish community this week distanced themselves from the statements, and clarified that he was likely pressured into making them.

At the same time, members of the community said "there's no place for harming religion."

The rabbi was quoted as saying France should shut down the satirical magazine, claiming "to harm any religion is an offense to God, and violation of God's prophets is forbidden."

He added that those who violate this "are subject to 1 of the 4 forms of capital punishment - burning, stoning, strangling, and decapitation," according to "Jewish customs" which "of course have nothing to do with contemporary Zionism."

Rabbi Ahmadinejad replaced Iran's former chief rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Hamadani Cohen, after his death last year.

Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the revolution in 1979 but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe; there are now only about 8,500, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.

Iranian Jews who have left the country have revealed that while Tehran outwardly presents a tolerant face regarding its Jewish community, Iranian Jews still face forms of persecution - including a functional ban on speaking about or supporting Israel, the Islamic Republic's sworn enemy.

They add that the regime often coerces or otherwise pressurizes the country's remaining Jews to exhibit their "support" for Tehran's stances, including enmity towards Israel.

Last March it was revealed that 8 Iranian Jews between 1994 and 1997 were murdered on their way to Israel; more recently, an Iranian Jewish community member told AFP that a glass ceiling still exists in Iran for Jews in various fields and that murderers convicted of killing Jews receive light sentences.

(source: Israel National News)

QATAR:

Blood money or execution? Parents of murdered US teacher in Qatar choose killer's punishment

The family of an American teacher murdered in Qatar has been granted the right to choose whether the man who allegedly killed their daughter should be executed, AFP has reported.

A Qatari court ruled that the parents of Jennifer Brown, who was murdered in November 2012, can decide between execution, compensation - blood money in Islamic law - or a pardon for the Kenyan security guard accused of murder.

The death penalty is still legal in Qatar, although an execution has not taken place for 12 years.

Jennifer Brown had only been in the country for 2 months before she was murdered at her home provided by the school that she worked for.

The man accused of killing her reportedly confessed, although the case has been adjourned several times.

If the Pennsylvania-based parents choose to pardon the Kenyan security guard, he will likely serve a prison term.

The case has been adjourned until 8 March.

(source: albawaba.com)

PAKISTAN:

Superintendent Adiala Jail refuses to execute death row convict

Superintendent Adiala Prisons Malik Mushtaq has refused to execute the convict of famous Wah Cantt murder case despite issuance of black warrant. The District and Session Judge Rawalpindi summoned Malik Mushtaq over his refusal to implement the court order.

Earlier, D&J Rawalpindi Muhammad Tanvir Akbar while issuing black warrant of convict Shoaib Sarwar had ordered Superintendent Malik Mushtaq to execute the convict on February 3.

But Malik Mushtaq while refusing the judge's order to execute the convicts contended that the federal government had decided to execute the convicts of only terrorism incident while Shoaib had been handed down death penalty in a simple murder case.

On the other hand, D&J Muhammad Tanvir Akbar while taking notice of the Adiala Jail Superintendent refusal to implement the court order summoned him on Tuesday.

It is to be mentioned here that Sarwar was convicted in July, 1998 by a Rawalpindi district and sessions judge for the murder of Awais Nawaz on January 21, 1996 in Wah Cantt.

(source: thenewstribe.com)

CHINA:

Death penalty upheld for child trafficker

A court in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday confirmed and upheld the child trafficking conviction and death sentence of a man claiming to be Vietnamese.

The region's higher people's court announced that it agreed that Huang Qingheng was guilty of orchestrating the exchange of more than 20 infants and children for financial gain since 2010 .

The children were either smuggled from Vietnam to be sold in China, mainly in Guangdong Province, or pregnant Vietnamese women were sent to China to sell their unborn children.

11 of the children have been rescued by Chinese police.

The other 23 members of Huang's gang, who are both Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, were given jail terms ranging from 22 months to life imprisonment.

The local police said that Huang's nationality are yet to be verified.

(source: Global Times)

INDONESIA:

ASEAN rep rues Indonesia execution----Indonesia's representative on ASEAN's human rights committee says he's now on the back foot in any talks on abolishing the death penalty.

Indonesia's representative on ASEAN's human rights commission regrets his country has regressed on the death penalty, missing a chance to lead in the region.

Rafendi Djamin says Indonesia could be encouraging its neighbours Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia towards abolishing capital punishment.

"We have been trying to convince other countries in the region to have a death penalty moratorium," he told AAP.

"But now, it's like we're refusing to lead the way."

President Joko Widodo is backing the execution of 64 drug offenders on death row, to show he is serious about winning the war on narcotics.

6 people were sent to the firing squad last week, and Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, of the Bali 9 heroin trafficking attempt, could be next.

Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty that lasted 4 years.

Mr Djamin says Mr Joko's policy is a swift reversal.

"Under SBY, clemency was looked at case by case," he said.

"President Jokowi's statement that he will reject clemency in general for all drugs cases does not respect individual rights."

Mr Joko, known better as Jokowi, has defended the executions with National Narcotics Board (BNN) research showing up to 50 drug deaths every day in Indonesia.

But Mr Djamin says the president ignores other advice.

Many of the 189 people sentenced to death in the past 25 years were drug offenders, he said, "so where's the deterrent effect?"

A long-time rights advocate internationally, Mr Djamin says Indonesia has also taken too lightly the recall of ambassadors to The Netherlands and Brazil in protest of their citizens' executions.

"This was not some random act," he said of the diplomatic retreats.

"The fact that the king of (The Netherlands) makes efforts to save one of his citizens and then recalls his ambassador, that's something serious."

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights meets next month and Mr Djamin holds his position until the end of the year.

His comments follow concerns from former constitutional court judge Jimly Asshiddiqie, that Indonesia looks increasingly inconsistent on the death penalty.

While it lobbies for its citizens on death row overseas to be pardoned, it's again enacting the death penalty on home soil.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are preparing a final court challenge to their death sentences, after Mr Joko denied them clemency.

(source: sbs.com.au)

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

Lindsay Sandiford: Death row gran from Yorkshire could be executed by firing squad in Indonesia within weeks ---- The 58-year-old, who was found guilty of drug trafficking in 2013, has been asked to sign a document that officially confirms her death sentence.

A death row gran who was convicted of trafficking cocaine in Indonesia fears she may face the firing squad within weeks.

Lindsay Sandiford, 58, is currently behind bars at the infamous Kerobokan Prison in Bali but has been asked to sign a court document on Monday that will formally confirm her death sentence.

All of her appeals have been denied.

Furthermore, it is reported that she now fears that this could effectively fast-track her execution after Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo pledged to show no mercy to foreigners convicted of drug crimes.

"We want to send a warning to international drug syndicates that Indonesia doesn't want to be a stopping place, market place or even a place for producers of narcotics," said the newly elected leader speaking previously.

Indonesia began a wave of executions last Sunday with 5 foreigners, including a Dutchman and a Brazilian, killed by firing squad.

Days later, the 2nd of 2 Australians on death row in the same prison as Mrs Sandiford had their clemency appeals rejected. Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, are now expected to be shot dead next month.

The Gazette reports that Mrs Sandiford, originally from Redcar in North Yorkshire, was sentenced to death in January 2013 after she was found with the cocaine as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, in May 2012.

The grandmother and mum-of-2 claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to protect her children, whose safety was at stake.

She has no legal representation after the British Government refused to fund a lawyer for her.

Last year she wrote to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond asking him to reverse his decision not to pay the 38,000 pounds costs of another appeal against her sentence.

Fundraisers from across the country raised money to help pay for a solicitor for Mrs Sandiford, who lived in Cheltenham before her arrest.

She had criticised the UK Government, but lost an appeal against the policy to not provide funding for legal fees in July last year.

(source: The Mirror)

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

Indonesia resolute on death policy

Dismissing outcry over the executions of 5 foreign nationals convicted of drug crimes, the government remains committed to applying capital punishment to the crime of drug trafficking. Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said the government demanded that countries respect Indonesia's firm stance against narcotics due to the rampant spread of drug abuse in the country.

She said the government had rejected an appeal from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who has requested clemency for two Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, both convicted drug traffickers. "I have replied to the letter and explained that Indonesian policy was about law enforcement against serious drug crimes," Retno said.

Your comments:

While much of the world is headed toward abolition of the death penalty, Indonesia appears to be doubling down.

In this particular instance, I feel that Indonesia has the right idea while much of the world is in the throes of a "legalize everything" fit of insanity.

There certainly is disparity in who receives the death penalty, so rooting out a corrupt judicial system and a double standard is essential.

However, this does not negate the reality that the death penalty not only has a 100 % prevention rate for recidivism it is the best form of retribution (rehabilitation of inmates is a pipe dream) available.

Smurgle

The death penalty hasn't been abolished in the US and what might appear to be retroactive to some isn't really of any concern to the Indonesian Supreme Court's agenda.

I believe it's a positive step in that the Indonesian legal system can't be swayed by trends from abroad. It has its own agenda, like it or not, like an oak growing against the elements and unlike a feather that can be blown in any direction.

Gamala Himsa

When you look at the death penalty in Indonesia for drugs compared to like 5 years for murder, it really looks ridiculous. Is drug trafficking worse than murder? The penal system in Indonesia seems way off.

Jbl Nor

We must not let international drug rings win.

Cedeer

I am an opponent of the death penalty but what I think should be applied (and this includes white collar criminals, in particular corruptors) would be life sentences with the chance of a parole and forced manual labor so they can give back to society what they stole from them.

IAM Groot

If the state executes someone wrongly convicted there is no chance to ever right that wrong. Executing someone might fulfill a primal urge for vengeance, but it also legitimizes taking someone's life.

Pesci

There will be some sort of backlash from Australia. Tourism in Bali will take a massive hit in the short term and I suspect annual financial aid will certainly be affected.

Relations with Malaysia were severely affected for over 10 years when they hung Barlow and Chambers back in 1986 and Malaysia is an ally.

Indonesia is not even an ally so it's going to be very interesting.

Tim

I am not in favor of the death penalty for multiple reasons. I would be more impressed if Indonesia cracked down on corruption. As it stands, while the harm caused by drug smugglers is immense, the Indonesian authorities positively encourage and reward corruption, especially among the elites.

However, I would be more impressed if various protesting countries were not killing their diseased and disabled, even their children (Belgium) through euthanasia. Of course, it is "voluntary" but history shows that voluntary quickly becomes involuntary.

So I am not taking the complaints of the likes of the Netherlands too seriously and I don't suggest that Indonesia does either. But the legislators could do with listening to the wishes and aspirations of the people. You know, just for a change. Try something new and see what happens.

Atom

I am happy to read that your justice system won't be "bullied" by countries like Australia. While Australian laws do not invoke the death penalty, we, the citizens, have never been afforded the opportunity to vote on this issue. Technically, our government speaks for all Australians.

However, on the capital punishment issue, Australians of all political persuasions are not united.

Many of us are in favor of the death penalty, especially for serious crimes, including drug smuggling. Please don't be bothered by childish tantrums and saber rattling like recalling ambassadors.

That means nothing to "the man on the street" here. To the average Australian, Canberra is basically a blot on the landscape. I know dozens of people who have never been to Canberra but have been to Bali.

Neil Ross

(source: Readers Forum, The Jakarta Post)

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

Death penalty in Indonesia: once again on scene

Indonesia, a country where a warm climate prevails throughout the year, is located in the Southeast Pacific and is an attractive location for many tourists. With its unique composition made up of thousands of islands, it is regarded as the 4th most beautiful country in the world. The Republic of Indonesia has an overwhelmingly Muslim population, the largest in the world at 87%.

Yet together with Japan, Vietnam, China and a few others, Indonesia is considered among the countries with the toughest punishment laws. The laws go even as far to give the death penalty to crimes of murder, drugs and terrorism, and not holding foreigners exempt from this penalty.

...and the year 2015 started with the execution of 6 people.

Just a few days ago, the death sentence for 6 drug convicts was carried out. They included five foreigners from different countries, along with an Indonesian. Their executions were ultimately carried out despite all international efforts and even personal pleas from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo who refused their appeals.

With the goal of preventing drug trafficking in Indonesia, which has become the largest drug market in Southeast Asia, Jokowi, newly in his office, stated that there would be no clemency for drug dealers on death row. It seems Jokowi acted amid fears of appearing not so tough and decisive, after the criticism he received during his presidential race. Yet this raises concerns over his commitment to human rights, which he promised to defend.

In general, Indonesians are known to be secular people who hold in high esteem principles of human rights and democracy. A study by the US-based Pew Research Center shows that 61% of Indonesian Muslims are in favour of democracy. This is in line with the fact that democracy exists in the essence of Islam and is by no means contrary to Islamic teaching.

God advises people not to impose on anyone saying in 1 verse, "You have your religion and I have my religion."

According to the Quran, even non-Muslims are treated with the utmost care and they are given the right to openly profess and practise their religion. Islam prescribes fair treatment of all including one's enemies. Indeed, in Islamic history, Wahshi ibn Harb was known for killing a leading Muslim, Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib - uncle of the Prophet Muhammad - but later repented, became a Muslim and passed into history as one of the esteemed companions of Prophet Muhammad.

Prophet Muhammad did not deny him the right to repent; he preached Islam to him, giving him the opportunity to feel remorse and correct his actions. The Quran always advises us to forgive, to teach what is right and not to intervene if the other party does not comply. Islam forbids taking one's life, saying taking one's life is like taking the life of all mankind. Such a practice takes away any opportunity for that person to reform and redeem himself.

The right to life is the most basic and innate right of a human being. It exists in the basis of every religion and in universal laws. Indeed, without the right to life, all other rights and freedoms are meaningless.

The death penalty is the most terrifying violation of this right, enshrined in international agreements and declarations. Those in favour of the death penalty maintain that it is the most effective way of deterring serious crimes and protecting social order.

However, the state's right to punish does not include putting an end to life. Capital punishment is murder; it makes no difference that it is murder at the hands of the state. And no matter what their crime may be, sentencing someone to death is an unacceptably cruel and primitive. Punishment exists to discipline people.

Taking someone's life, even though they have made a wrongful action, eliminates any means of correcting and reintegrating him into society. There may still be some among those on death row who might benefit from reforming and education. We should not forget that human beings are fallible, and everyone deserves the opportunity to repent and reform himself.

As for others who make evil-doing a habit, there is always the possibility of life imprisonment. It is true that the malevolence and unbounded greed of the criminal organisations trafficking in drugs cannot be ignored or understated.

An Indonesian agency showed 40 to 50 people die each day from illegal drug use in Indonesia. Yet, in order to disrupt and dismantle such international drug organisations, killing their recruits is not the proper method.

To break the power of drug organisations and reduce the threat they pose to countries, first proper law enforcement should be put to better effect in controlling the drug problem by targeting both foreign and domestic trafficking organisations. Secondly, educating society, from the youngest to the eldest, without ruling out the criminals should be the priority of the state policy.

In case of Indonesia, educating the public with the true teachings of the Quran would be the way to go. The teaching of Islam guides Muslims to act with utmost benevolence, with the sole intention of gaining the approval of God.

Therefore, one of the most important characteristics of a Muslim is that he forgives, and is compassionate and merciful toward others.

In the Quran, believers are commanded to take care of even the captives, feed them and do not ask for any repayment. This is how Muslims find this a means to communicate religion to them, and strive for their finding guidance in case they would take heed. Yet, taking someone's life through execution eliminates any means of educating and preaching.

The government of Indonesia should also not forget this superior moral understanding commanded in the Quran during the future trials and awarding of punishments. Otherwise, this error will quickly tarnish the democratic image of Indonesia, which it has painstakingly built in the last years.

Indonesians should not forget that healthy and peaceful societies cannot be built on fear. The warm, loving and compassionate approach of Islam should prevail in society. People should be forgiving and caring for each other.

(source: Opinion; Harun Yahya has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science----Malaysian Insider)

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

A plea to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

To President Joko Widodo and Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo,

I write this letter in response to the recent execution of 6 inmates in Indonesia, with the hope that it will encourage you to reform drug policy and grant clemency to death row inmates convicted on drug charges across the nation, so that they may have the chance to re-enter society as reformed and rehabilitated persons capable of leading a healthy and productive life. I am aware that there are many people who oppose your decision to carry out the death penalty including the many governments of various nations, members of the presidential cabinet, activists, and human rights groups. However, with this in consideration, I would like to offer a different perspective - one that comes from my personal experiences with 2 of the individuals currently facing execution in Indonesia. In the name of Life I express the sincere hope that this letter finds you.

My Testimony

In 2009, at age 17, I was convicted on charges for possession of a schedule I narcotic. I was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment - a short period by Indonesian standards. The court was clement on account of my age, and I started my prison term at the end of 2009 in LP Kerobokan in Bali. Though the system should clearly distinguish between adults and minors, I was put with the general population of adult prisoners, which included violent offenders convicted for rape, murder and terrorism.

It was during my time in the penjara (jail) that I met 2 Australian inmates, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who I would find out had received the death penalty for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali and into Australia. At first I avoided contact with most other inmates. One day, however, Andrew and Myuran - who goes by Mayu - came to the newcomer block to help me with the transfer process so that I could be moved to Block B, where foreign prisoners are held. They had heard from other inmates that a 17-year-old had arrived at the prison, so they came looking for me to offer their help. I was hesitant at first; the 1st thing to learn if you are incarcerated is to avoid being indebted to other prisoners. Kerobokan isn't as violent or dangerous as many other prisons in the world. Still, I have seen what happens to prisoners who can't pay their debts - some are beaten or stabbed, others are raped or tortured, sometimes they're killed. I learned afterwards that Andrew and Mayu didn't want anything in return; they were simply offering their help because I was young and didn't have any contacts inside. Over the next few months I would become friends with the 2, eventually sharing a cell with Andrew, without the 2 of them asking for anything in return but my friendship. To this day - 5 years after my release - I continue to visit them.

Any person who has met Andrew and Mayu can attest that they are very generous and normal people - in fact it is the 1st comment anybody will make about them. On days when I didn't have much to eat, Andrew and Mayu shared their food with me. On 1 occasion in the prison yard, for no apparent reason, a prisoner tried to start a fight with me. Andrew intervened, declared that there was no problem and the issue was resolved peacefully. Andrew didn't respond with aggression; in fact he prevented the situation from turning violent. This is how he handles situations - calmly and peacefully. I have always been amazed at how the two of them carry themselves in the face of execution. In their short lives Andrew and Mayu have contemplated their actions more than most people can say of themselves.

During the time I was in prison, drugs were easy to find in LP Kerobokan. Many prisoners were addicts and were taking drugs daily - others drank arak (a local rice liquor). I spent 1/2 of my time in prison sharing a cell with Andrew and in that time neither Andrew nor Mayu took drugs or were involved in distributing drugs. They didn't even smoke cigarettes.

Andrew leads church services inside the prison, as well as teaches cooking classes and English courses to other prisoners. Myuran also teaches English and cooking classes. In more recent years, he [Myuran] has established an art program, in which he teaches other prisoners how to paint and draw. Occasionally the prison showcases the prisoners' art in galleries outside of the prison. All the proceeds go into buying new materials for the program.

Andrew once told me in his own words, 'I know what it's like to be a junkie - I've been one. But you know, it's no good. So I got clean. As for what I've done [his crime], I just thought it would be a quick payday, nothing more, nothing less. It was stupid and selfish, and if I could tell my younger self not to do it, I would. But I was young and didn't understand. All I can do is move forward and try help people'. When I asked him what he would do if he would be released, he said he would be a counselor or a pastor and encourage other youths not to make the same mistakes he made. Not surprisingly, Mayu gave similar answers. Mayu is in his final year of university studying art, and is mentored by artist Ben Quilty.

I was released in January of 2010, exactly 5 years ago. A few months before I was arrested I was expelled from high school. After my release I went back to school and finished with a 98 % grade average, the highest of hundreds of students in the class of that year, and I can say with honesty that I would never have achieved this had I not met Andrew and Mayu. I have witnessed them rehabilitate themselves, and with every passing year they accomplish more and grow into more beautiful people. They have influenced me to do the same. They have changed the lives of many prisoners through their programs and continue to help rehabilitating prisoners by offering education and guidance.

I try to stop responding to people who argue that Andrew and Mayu would have destroyed lives if they succeeded in smuggling drugs into Australia. I wonder if any of these people have served prison sentences - 10 years is a long time to reflect. Andrew and Mayu are different now than they were back then. They are changing lives and helping people recover from a life of drugs. A legal system should not employ a penalty of retribution. Drug smuggling should be illegal, hard drugs are destructive to society and measures must be taken to stop the import/export and distribution of drugs. Unfortunately, as many well-developed countries have learned in the past, the war on drugs only brings further destruction to society and the death penalty does virtually nothing to deter people from smuggling narcotics and/or other illegal substances. Many nations that are seasoned in the war on drugs have abandoned capital punishment and have moved forward with policy reforms. The death penalty has no place in the 21st century. A government must protect and respect the sanctity of all human life, including those convicted on drug charges. These people have a right to live and deserve a 2nd chance. Your constitution protects this right.

Please, Mercy

Xander

(source: Xander, a former inmate of Kerobokan Jail, echo.net.au)

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

Death penalty at home is not in Indonesia's best interests overseas

Indonesian President Joko Widodo's decision to refuse clemency to death row prisoners in drug cases and the following execution of five foreigners and one Indonesian raises once again the nation's use of the death penalty.

Now Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have had their clemency bids denied and they potentially await the same fate, subject to substantive judicial review proceedings, along with more than 60 other prisoners, including other foreigners.

Is it fair to execute prisoners long after they have been sentenced, especially those who show rehabilitation? Is this not cruel and unusual punishment?

The decision also raises questions of justice and Indonesia's best interests given the burden Indonesia has with its own citizens facing execution overseas.

The context is clear. The world trend is decisively in favour of the abolition of the death penalty. On December 18, 2007, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Interestingly, Indonesia abstained. Nearly all of Indonesia's neighbours are abolitionist with only Malaysia and Singapore having the death penalty.

Under international law the death penalty can only be imposed for " the most serious crime". This expression has come to be interpreted as "for serious, violent crime", not drug offences.

Indonesia retains the death penalty despite having the right to life as a guarantee in its constitution. In a case bought by Indonesian citizen Edith Yunita Sianturi, Bali 9 member Scott Rush and others in 2007, the Indonesian Constitutional Court upheld the constitutional validity of the death penalty by majority of 6 to 3.

The minority judges were almost scathing in their dissent and held that the death penalty was unconstitutional, violating the right to life. The majority in a joint judgement upheld the validity of the death penalty and, contrary to international law, held that the death penalty for drug offences fell within the category of "most serious crime".

However, the majority judgment made certain recommendations which are contrary to the justifications given for the President's recent decision.

Significantly, the majority judges accepted that the death penalty did not act as a deterrent, certainly no more a deterrent than life or other significant imprisonment term. They also made several important recommendations, including that the death penalty should not be a primary form of punishment, rather one that is "special and alternative". Further, that it should be able to be imposed with a prohibition period of 10 years, so that if "the prisoner shows good behaviour, it can be amended to a lifelong sentence or imprisonment for 20 years".

The sentences of the 6 recently executed prisoners were all imposed when the death penalty was considered "a primary form of punishment". This is also the case for Chan and Sukumaran.

The blanket statement from Jokowi that he will not grant clemency to condemned drug offenders is contrary to the recommendations of the Constitutional Court. It is also against the clemency applicants' legitimate expectations that he would consider the merits of each application, including good behaviour and rehabilitation.

The past 5 years have shown the great distress caused in Indonesia by the imposition of the death penalty upon its citizens overseas, usually poor migrant workers. In 2010, Indonesia had more than 220 citizens facing execution overseas, mainly in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Malaysia, China and Vietnam. Indonesia has more than 1.3 million of its poorest citizens working as migrant domestic workers.

A series of controversial beheadings of female migrant workers in Saudi Arabia caused widespread public anger among ordinary Indonesians. There was a perceptible change of mood in Indonesia about the death penalty and the importance of mercy.

It was in response to this mounting problem that Indonesia introduced its de facto moratorium on the death penalty to help secure clemency for its own citizens on death row overseas. Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono granted clemency in some cases, including drug cases.

The combination of the moratorium, mercy and excellent diplomacy worked. Former foreign minister Marty Natalegawa was widely reported as saying that the moratorium had helped Indonesia secure clemency and the return of many citizens.

Yet Indonesia still has more than 90 citizens facing execution overseas. The country has a lot more at stake than Australia or any other nation in the region.

President Jokowi's clemency stance came very early in his term in response to opposition claims that prisons were overcrowded and death row prisoners were clogging up cells. The opposition sought to wedge the new President.

Indonesia does have a growing problem with drugs and drug crime, like all countries in the region. The problem requires a more sophisticated response than the executions of mules and expendable persons. But what is clear is that the President's decision is contrary to the Constitutional Court's recommendations, international law and the successful efforts that achieved clemency for Indonesian citizens overseas.

Then, there is the issue of justice. Is it fair to execute prisoners long after they have been sentenced, especially those who show rehabilitation? Is this not cruel and unusual punishment? What does it do to Indonesia's excellent diplomatic reputation? What effect does it have on police and intelligence co-operation at a time of increased need for international engagement? From Indonesia's own experience, the government must know executions raise fundamental issues and values.

Indonesia could deport long-serving foreigners on condition that they face justice in their home countries. After all, in the cases of the two condemned Australians, they were apprehended as a result of Australian Federal Police advice in respect of drugs intended for Australia not Indonesia.

The shared burden of citizens facing execution overseas throws up a range of issues. The careful political response of former president Yudhoyono, which helped reduce Indonesia's burden, is now jettisoned. Yes, the death penalty is always political. Perhaps that is why in the current political climate, Indonesian observers are questioning whether the new President's decision is in Indonesia's best interests.

(source: Colin McDonald, QC, is a retired barrister who was the Australian senior counsel for Bali Nine members Renae Lawrence and Scott Rush; Brisbane Times)

AUSTRALIA:

Opposing the death penalty

One of the defining characteristics of the Australian democracy is its opposition to the death penalty.

Australia no longer kills criminals, and it fundamentally disapproves of the practice in other countries.

That's not to say that all Australians feel that way. Far from it. Surveys often find a substantial proportion of the population is in favour of capital punishment for severe crimes.

For Australian politicians, called upon to express themselves strongly about the plight of their countrymen on death row in foreign countries, this ambivalence might sometimes create a certain amount of reluctance to be too vocal.

The case of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - 2 of the so-called Bali 9 facing execution in Indonesia - is perhaps illustrative of some of the issues.

The case has been working its way through the Indonesian court system for a decade, ever since the 9 were arrested while trying to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin into Australia.

That's a very large quantity of a very harmful drug that would surely have caused considerable harm, and destroyed lives, had the smuggling operation succeeded. Many people presumably adopt the view that this was a serious crime, that the would-be smugglers knew the risks and that they have deserved no special sympathy for their plight.

But now that 2 of the 9 have almost exhausted all the possibilities of appeal available in Indonesia, many Australians are calling for some kind of political intervention to avert the killings.

Indonesia's new president, Joko Widodo, has explicitly refused clemency.

The fact that Indonesia has just executed another 6 convicted criminals, including citizens of Brazil and the Netherlands, suggests it will be difficult for Australia to prevent Chan and Sukumaran from suffering the same fate.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have stated that they are working as hard as they can to persuade their Indonesian counterparts that there are special circumstances in the case of the Australian prisoners. The pair are reported to have reformed, and to have done much to improve conditions for other inmates of the Kerobokan jail where they have been detained.

It appears possible the condemned men may be able to obtain a judicial review of their cases, although it is understood the Indonesian government can, if it chooses, execute them in the meantime.

While hope continues to exist, Australia will surely keep pressing for a compromise. It should do so not because the men have reformed or because of any particular circumstances that relate to the individuals themselves.

Opposition to the death penalty is a matter of principle, and on that basis, Australia should always oppose such executions.

(source: Editorial, Newcastle Herald)

JANUARY 25, 2015:

TEXAS:

Family forgives killer as they prepare for upcoming execution

They've waited 18 years.

They've forgiven the man who brutally murdered their sister, but they want to see his sentence carried out.

They want justice for Vicki.

On Thursday, Robert Charles Ladd, 57, is scheduled to be executed in Texas' infamous death house at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.

Several members of the family of Ladd's victim, Vicki Ann Garner, plan to witness the execution, including her sisters, Teresa Wooten and Kathy Pirtle.

The sisters and their families have ridden an emotional roller coaster through the years topped with the deaths of their parents, who did not live to see their daughter receive justice.

GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN

Vicki loved the Dallas Cowboys and never gave up on her team, even during their more unsuccessful years.

On Sundays, Vicki could be found on the edge of her couch, wringing her hands. If the Cowboys won, she'd cheer, but if they lost, she'd say, "You'll get them next time."

Vicki also loved Elvis Presley - his music, movies and everything else about the King. A trip to Graceland excited her so much she said she felt she was in Heaven.

She also loved wrestling, and her sisters said they didn't dare suggest it was fake or they'd see her angered.

Kathy and Teresa remembered their sister as giving the best hugs in all of Texas.

"Vicki was sweetness and a unique individual," Kathy said. "When she hugged you, you knew you had been hugged. She gave the best hugs."

"She was one of the most loving, tender, gentle and naive people one could ever meet," Teresa added of her mentally disabled sister. "She was an angel on earth."

Teresa said Vicki was considered intellectually and developmentally disabled, but she was high-functioning, meaning she could live alone under supervision of health care professionals. Vicki worked for the Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare System in Tyler, where she also was a client.

Emily Biasini, the women's maternal aunt, said her niece was a person everyone remembered.

"She was an adorable child, and she left an impression on everyone she met as an adult. She thrived in Tyler, and she left an impression," Emily said.

Vicki's life may have been cut short, but she lived life and had fun.

"She might be gone, but we will never forget her," Teresa said.

Teresa and Kathy said they never will forget the moment they learned Vicki was dead.

On Sept. 25, 1996, Ladd sexually assaulted, strangled and beat Vicki to death before setting her body on fire.

Vicki was 38 years old.

THE MURDER

As she got ready for work the morning of Sept. 26, 1996, Teresa heard her husband, Michael, talking on the phone.

His tone was subdued, his voice shaky, and she knew something was wrong.

"He hung up, walked into the bathroom. I asked what's wrong. He just wrapped his arms around me and softly said Vicki is gone," she said. "It was devastating.

Miles away in Canton, Kathy also received the same news from their parents, Gene and Lawanta Garner, after they were notified by Tyler police.

"Part of our hearts were broken that day, and they have been ever since," Teresa said.

The family learned through Tyler police in days following the murder that Ladd had previously served time in prison for a 1978 triple homicide in Dallas. Ladd was sentenced to 40 years in that case but was released after serving only 13.

Police told the sisters that Ladd murdered Vicki in her Tyler apartment, then burned her body to hide evidence.

Detectives also learned Ladd was selling items from Vicki's apartment, and evidence, including DNA, linked him to the crime scene.

Ladd went to trial almost a year later and was prosecuted by Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen Jr. and assistant D.A. David Dobbs.

The duo showed jurors the evidence putting Ladd in the apartment and committing the crime.

After deliberating only 18 minutes, the jury that convicted Ladd in the murder returned with the harshest of all possible sentences - the death penalty.

Teresa said the family was pleased with the verdict, because it meant Ladd would not hurt anyone else. He would not walk the streets again, but they still had questions.

BETRAYAL

Why was their sister killed by a man, who should've been in prison?

They family questioned how Ladd had been released after he was convicted of killing a Dallas area woman and her 2 small children.

They felt betrayed by the justice system, which they said failed them and all of the residents of Texas and allowed a killer to kill again.

"If he would have still been in prison, then our sister would be alive today," Teresa said, who now works as a sexual assault director in Mount Pleasant. "He was released on mandatory release, because the laws had changed, and this allowed him to kill our sister."

The family was not the only ones to question Ladd's release.

Dobbs, who assisted then-D.A. Skeen, said the case was one that shocked prosecutors in Smith County.

"We were furious when we found out that (Ladd) had only received 40 years in the Dallas case and then was let out after serving such a short portion of that sentence. That case happened at a time when the state prison system was completely overrun and broken. That would not happen today," he said.

The family did not hesitate when stating they blamed the system.

"I personally could live with him locked up for the rest of his life, but I don't trust the state to keep him locked up," Kathy said. "They are subject to the laws changing, and if they get someone in legislation, they could change everything overnight."

The family has learned during the past 18 years that the system is not perfect.

In 2003, while en route to witness Ladd’s scheduled execution, the family learned Ladd was granted a stay.

"All we could do is just turn around. It was really hard," she said.

The family believed the case would go back through the process quickly, but it was stalled in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas Judge Richard Schell's court, where it sat for almost 9 years without movement.

The court did not answer questions as to the delay, but District Clerk records show no activity from 2005 until 2013.

"Truth be told ... I think it just fell through the cracks. No one was putting on any pressure until I wrote the Office of Attorney General in October 2011, and they filed a writ of mandamus with the 5th Circuit," Teresa said.

In 2013, Judge Schell denied an appeal filed on Ladd's behalf in his court in 2005, but the ruling came 2 years after Vicki's mother's death in 2011, and while her father, Gene, was in intensive care with only days to live.

THE LONG YEARS

Though the case may be coming to an end, the years of turmoil took its toll on the family.

Kathy and Teresa clasped each other's hands as they talked of how the murders changed their parents.

"I think the hardest part in all of this is watching mother and daddy age over night over this," Kathy said.

Teresa agreed saying, "from that day, you could see a change in their personalities. They continued to live, but you could see the anguish written on their faces. With each trial process, they relived that day over and over. In fact, we all did."

The sisters said despite their parents forgiving Ladd, they believed the grief cut their parents' lives short.

Their mother, Lawanta, died in 2011 at 78, and their father, Gene, died in 2013 at 83.

"It's really been a long, hard journey. Over the course of time, we have lost both our mom and our dad, and neither one of them ever saw justice," Teresa said of the lengthy process.

Her sister, sighed and added, "It's been real emotional roller coaster of ups and downs."

Kathy's husband, Clint, said Vicki's death created a ripple effect in the family, but all of the couples managed to stay committed to each other, and the family as a whole grew stronger.

"It disturbed the family dynamic somewhat. ... Not so much the marriage, but in how we related to our children and everything. There was a ripple effect throughout everything that we did. It seemed everything happened at the most inopportune time whenever you're trying to be supportive ... you have to push everything aside and take care of that," Clint, a retired state trooper, said.

Kathy said the fabric of the family unit was stretched, but it never broke. Her sister agreed.

"It really has been a tough time for all of us. I can tell you that without Michael, I wouldn't have made it. This man has been throughout the past 18 years my rock, and I don't know what I would have done without him," she said clutching her husband's arm.

In a soft-spoken voice, Michael replied, "It was a really tough time, and you see a lot of emotions, but the days are getting shorter for him. He will have judgment day pretty soon."

The sisters said memories of their sister sometimes come out of the blue and cause waves of emotion that overcome and drain them.

"You find yourself wondering why this is bothering me, it doesn't even connect that it bothers you, because of something that happened 18 years ago," Teresa said.

As Ladd's scheduled date with death approaches, the family has opened their hearts and allowed the healing to begin, but reservations remain.

JUSTICE REALIZED

Despite losing their daughter tragically, Gene and Lawanta decided they needed to forgive the man who took her life.

Teresa said, a few years after the murders, her mother and father wrote Ladd, telling him they forgave him of the crime.

But the burden did not subside, and Teresa and Kathy find themselves carrying that burden with the help of their families.

They want to forgive, but they can never forget.

"For me it's been an on-going process. You know I forgive him, and I'm at peace, and then something happens, and so it's a constant thing. I can't say I have forgiven and totally let go of it, but I am working on it," Kathy said.

Teresa said she wrote Ladd a letter telling him she forgave him, but she stressed the forgiveness was not for him, but for her peace of mind.

Her forgiveness came after her letter-writing campaign that got the case back on track after the 9-year delay.

Even with the forgiveness, the man still manages to strike fear in the family. They recalled the emotions they felt in November when they came face-to-face with Ladd at a hearing.

"In all honesty, it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be," Teresa said. "When he walked in, it was just that looking at him brought everything back. He looked incredibly scary, more than I had imagined or more than I remembered."

Teresa said her current line of work in advocacy for sexual assault victims was inspired out of years dealing with the murder of her sister.

"I could not be there during Vicki's darkest moment," Teresa said. "She was alone, and that is something that has been my nightmare for 18-plus years. She died hurt, afraid and alone. ... It was Vicki, and what happened to her that brought me here. I couldn't be there for Vicki, but I can be here now for survivors of rape, assault and sexual violence, and I do that in memory of her," she said.

Kathy and Teresa are concerned about how they will feel if Ladd's execution is carried out Thursday, but they know that it will mean justice for Vicki.

The Tyler Paper reached out to Ladd and requested an interview from death row, but he refused the request.

Vicki's family will be in Huntsville at 6 p.m. Thursday for the planned execution.

"We are not going to celebrate his death, but we will be there to witness it, and then celebrate Vicki finally getting justice," Teresa said.

(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----1

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----519

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

2------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------520

3------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------521

4------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------522

5------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------523

6------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------524

7------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

8------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

9------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------527

10-----------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------528

11-----------Apr. 23-------------------Richard Vasquez------529

11-----------Apr. 28-------------------Robert Pruett--------530

12-----------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------531

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Man Accused In Gun Shop Owner's Death Now Facing Attempted Escape Charges

A man awaiting trial in the shooting death of a western Pennsylvania gun shop owner is now accused of having tried to escape from the county jail.

State police in Indiana County say 44-year-old Jack Edmundson Jr. of Saltsburg is now charged with felony attempted escape and related counts.

The Indiana Gazette reports that he is accused of trying to saw through a steel bar in front of a cell window, but police and jail officials were tipped off in June about his possible intentions after reviewing telephone conversations.

Prosecutors allege that Edmundson grabbed a gun from a display case at Frank's Gun & Taxidermy in Conemaugh Township on Dec. 31, 2013, and killed 62-year-old Frank Petro.

District Attorney Patrick Dougherty says he plans to seek the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Ga. inmate who's come close to death 3 times to die Tuesday

A Georgia death row inmate who has come within hours of execution 3 instances is as soon as once more scheduled to die this week.

Warren Lee Hill, 54, who was sentenced to death in August 1991, was initially scheduled to die 2 1/2 years ago. Challenges filed by his lawyers have provided short-term reprieves on 3 occasions and twice have properly halted all executions in Georgia for months at a time.

His case has also drawn national focus to Georgia's toughest-in-the-nation regular for death row inmates to prove intellectual disability in order to be spared execution on these grounds. State law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibit the execution of the intellectually disabled, but Georgia needs proof beyond a reasonable doubt of that disability.

Hill was sentenced to death in Lee County for the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike. At the time Hill was already serving a life sentence for murder in the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend.

Hill started exhibiting indicators of intellectual disability at an early age, and all medical doctors who have examined Hill now agree he's intellectually disabled, Hill's lawyers have argued. The state has consistently argued Hill's defense has failed to prove beyond a affordable doubt that he is intellectually disabled, and Georgia's strictest-in-the-nation regular has repeatedly been upheld by state and federal courts.

Hill has a mild intellectual disability, giving him the emotional capacity of an 11-year-old, Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Hill told The Associated Press.

"That's who we're going to execute if we execute Warren Hill - a boy in a man's body," Kammer stated. "An 11-year-old can write letters and can talk articulately at instances, but we never count on an 11-year-old to be in a position to handle hard circumstances without enable."

Lawyers for the state have repeatedly argued Hill is not intellectually disabled, saying he supplied for his loved ones from an early age and was a recruiter in the military, in addition to other proof.

A U.S. Supreme Court opinion from May possibly that invalidated a Florida law mentioned folks facing the death penalty must have a fair opportunity to show the Constitution prohibits their execution.

Hill's lawyers argued that selection also invalidates Georgia's strict typical because psychiatric diagnoses are topic to a degree of uncertainty that is practically impossible to overcome.

The state's lawyers reject that argument, saying Georgia's the burden of proof is not in conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court selection and that the high court in its 2002 selection left that up to the states.

Hill nonetheless has a federal appeal pending, and his lawyers are also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take into consideration his arguments based on the higher court's ruling in the Florida case. He also has a clemency hearing Monday ahead of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity in Georgia that can commute a death sentence to life without the need of parole.

Hill was very first set for execution in July 2012. But the day prior to he was set to die, the state announced it was altering its execution approach from a 3-drug combination to a single drug injection and reset his execution for about a week later.

Hill's lawyers filed challenges to the state's last-minute switch in execution protocol, saying that transform necessary a public hearing ahead of it could be instituted below existing administrative procedures. The Georgia Supreme Court halted the execution much less than two hours before Hill was to be put to death to give the justices time to contemplate that challenge.

Executions in Georgia were effectively place on hold for about 6 months even though that challenge was pending.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in February 2013 that the execution method change was legal. The next day, a new execution date 2 weeks later was set for Hill.

Days ahead of the execution was set to occur, Hill's lawyers submitted statements from the 3 medical doctors who examined Hill in 2000 and testified at his trial that he was not intellectually disabled. The physicians wrote in new statements that they had been rushed at the time of Hill's trial and new scientific developments had surfaced considering that then. All 3 reviewed facts and documents in the case and wrote that they believed Hill is intellectually disabled.

As Hill was being prepared for lethal injection, an 11th Circuit panel issued a keep to give the judges time to evaluation the new physician statements. The 3-judge panel cited procedural rules in an April 2013 ruling rejecting Hill's request to submit his case to a federal court for reconsideration primarily based on the new statements.

Hill's 3rd scheduled execution date was in July 2013. A Fulton County Superior Court judge issued a short-term remain to take into consideration Hill's challenge to a new state law prohibiting the release of information and facts about the supply of Georgia's supply of lethal injection drugs. The Georgia Supreme Court in May perhaps upheld that law.

Executions were properly stopped for about 10 months though that challenge was deemed.

He is now set to be executed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

TBI: Evidence analysis in Bobo case done

Authorities say they have completed their analysis of more than 460 pieces of evidence in the case of a woman whose partial remains were found 3 years after her disappearance, possibly bringing defense attorneys a step closer to seeing how prosecutors have linked their clients to her.

2 men, Zachary Adams and Jason Autry, were arrested last spring and charged with murder and kidnapping in the case of Holly Bobo, a nursing student who was 20 when she disappeared from her Decatur County home in April 2011. In October, John Dylan Adams was charged with raping Bobo. All have pleaded not guilty.

No trial has been set, and the defendants' lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The attorneys said they had not received any evidence linking their clients to the crime. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine said Thursday that some hair samples have been sent to the FBI for testing, but the TBI has analyzed all the evidence it has received.

Still, it was unclear when the defense would receive any information. District Attorney General Matt Stowe told The Associated Press that they would get the evidence they're requesting "at some point."

At the time of Bobo's disappearance, her brother told police he saw a man dressed in camouflage leading her into the woods near her home in Parsons, located about 110 miles east of Memphis. Last September, more than 3 years later, authorities said 2 men searching for ginseng found Bobo's skull in a wooded area not far away.

Bobo's disappearance and the subsequent lengthy search attracted national attention as authorities distributed posters with her photograph throughout the South.

Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to seek the death penalty. Hearings scheduled for this month have been postponed to an undetermined future date.

Jennifer Lynn Thompson, Adams' attorney, says state prosecutors have not even told her who found Bobo's remains or where they were found.

"I do not understand what is happening," Thompson said. "I have never before been involved in a case where there is no information about why my client was charged."

In the motion to dismiss, Thompson and Fletcher Long, Autry's lawyer, asked the judge to force prosecutors to produce "all dental record analysis and forensic studies" performed on the skull.

Adams has been in jail since March and Autry has been in jail since April. At a court hearing Dec. 17, Decatur County Circuit Judge Creed McGinley expressed concern that prosecutors had not yet provided key evidence to defense attorneys. He ordered the state to begin turning it over by Dec. 24.

Thompson says the state missed that deadline.

Then, TBI Director Mark Gwyn - who has said the Bobo investigation has been the most exhaustive and expensive in agency history - announced he was suspending all work on the case after Stowe accused TBI agents of misconduct.

Stowe took office Sept. 1 after defeating District Attorney Hansel McCadams, who had indicted Adams and Autry.

The dispute was only resolved after Stowe stepped down from the case and Jennifer Nichols, a Shelby County attorney who was Stowe's co-counsel on the case and who had worked with death-penalty cases, was appointed as a special prosecutor. She is the 3rd prosecutor in the case, which Stowe said is unusual.

He said the fact that multiple prosecutors have been involved, plus the complex nature of the case, have contributed to the delays.

"We're talking about terabytes and terabytes of information," he said.

Attorney Steve Farese, who serves as an adviser to the Bobo family, said the recent developments in the case are "different" than in other cases, and he acknowledged that the family is concerned with how the case is going.

"But they understand that this is a tedious process and they want to make sure everyone has their t's crossed and their i's dotted and to get this thing done right," Farese said.

Later, Farese added: "No one should lose focus that this is about justice."

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

It's time to repeal the death penalty

My Catholic faith tells me that taking the life of another is a mortal sin.

I have never taken the life of another human being and would never commit such a crime. If a convicted killer is executed by our state, that person is killed in the name of the people of Kansas. If I do not speak out against the death penalty, I share in that guilt.

Members of the Kansas Legislature will be considering repeal of the death penalty this session. If repeal successfully passes, a person convicted of capital murder in the future would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Isn't that a better choice for us Kansans who do not believe in taking a human life? It's vital for those of us who support repeal to let our views be known now. Please write your legislators today.

MARY LOU WEIDENBACH, Topeka

(source: Letter to the Editor, Topeka Capital-Journal)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Glossip execution faces possible delay

About 10 people who did not physically commit the act of murder - but who instead paid to have it done - have been executed in the United States since 1977, according to Death Penalty Information Center.

"It is not unprecedented, but it is the exception." said Richard Dieter, director of the center.

Richard Glossip, 51, could join the group. He was convicted in Oklahoma City in 1998 of firstdegree murder for orchestrating the killing of his then boss, Barry Van Treese. Prosecutors said he paid a man named Justin Sneed to kill his Budget Inn motel boss before Treese could confront him about $6,000 missing from the business.

The guilty verdict from 1998 was overturned and he was granted a new trial. He was retried in 2004. Again, jurors convicted Glossip and he was sentenced to death.

Glossip, though, has steadfastly maintained his innocence. He told CNHI reporter Janelle Stecklein in November he has come to terms with his scheduled execution. "I've thought about it so long, I got to a point, if it gets to that stage, I'm ready for it," said Glossip. "You've got to be prepared. If you're not, it's not going to go well for you."

Glossip's execution was scheduled for this upcoming Thursday. However, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the use of Midazolam has many predicting Glossip's execution will be delayed. Supporters are also hopeful Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin may decide to spare his life.

"Richard's case is a quintessential example of why we need to put down this system that is broken," said Sister Helen Prejean, who was portrayed in the 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking."

Prejean is a well-known advocate against the death penalty. She is listed as Glossip's spiritual advisor and will attend his execution, if it happens.

"He had no motive to kill Barry Van Treese," Prejean told the News-Capital. "The claim that he did it was because the books were messed up, but no receipts (prove that and) there is no evidence he was doing anything wrong with the business."

(source: McAlester News)

ARIZONA:

Prosecutors and Defense Psychologist Get Into Heated Exchange About Arias's Relationship Status In Death Penalty Trial

Day 28 of the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial continued on Thursday as prosecutors once again attacked defense witness psychologist Dr. Robert Geffner during another testy cross-examination.

When first called to the witness stand by the defense on Tuesday, Dr. Geffner delivered a graphic testimony that painted the murder victim, Travis Alexander, as an emotionally abusive and manipulative boyfriend. He also focused on the sext messages that Alexander sent to multiple women while seeing convicted killer Jodi Arias.

According to analyst Beth Karas, Geffner's testimony supports the defense's "position that Travis Alexander treated women a certain way, presented himself to the Mormon community one way, but he was a highly sexual person, a little bit manipulative and controlling of women," reports KPHO.

Karas added that the new revelations about Alexander's interactions with other women "may help the jury understand where Jodi Arias was coming from. It's not a defense to the murder; she's guilty of the murder, but it might convince some of them she doesn't deserve to die" for the murder.

Geffner also said that Alexander lied to women about being a 30-year-old virgin in order to coax them into sleeping with him.

However, on Thursday, Geffner endured another day of tense and awkward questions from prosecutor Juan Martinez, who poked holes in his testimony and made note of the inconsistencies found in Arias' stories to different psychologists.

Martinez pointed out that Arias is a well-documented liar to discredit the psychologist's testimony. He also attacked Arias' claims that her ex-lover slammed her and broke one of her fingers, reports KPHO.

At one point, Martinez and Geffner had a heated exchange over the different dates Arias gave the psychologist as to when she and Alexander began dating. The 2 then began a big debate over what constitutes "official" dating and whether Arias and Alexander were in a real relationship, reports USA Today.

Martinez also pointed out that Geffner and other psychologists only have Arias's word and journal to prove that they were really in a relationship, ABC 15 reports. Plus, he burned holes in allegations that Alexander was abusive and consumed pornography.

Although Arias was found guilty of 1st-degree murder last May in the death of her ex-boyfriend, in her 1st trial, jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, the retrial will determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart in his Phoenix home. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and she shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower and took pictures of him.

(source: Latin Post)

OREGON:

Trial in killing of toddler delayed till 2016

The trial of a Washington state woman charged with drugging and killing her 2-year-old daughter at an Oregon coastal resort has been put off a year.

It also has been scheduled for the summer in the expectation of testimony from the surviving daughter, who at 13 is attending school for the first time.

The decision Thursday from Judge Cindee Matyas means Jessica Smith, 41, of Goldendale is scheduled to stand trial beginning in late June 2016.

The trial, expected to last 3 weeks, had been scheduled to begin in July.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to an aggravated murder charge that could result in the death penalty, as well as to a charge of attempted aggravated murder for the slashing that nearly killed the 13-year-old.

Smith and her husband were divorcing and involved in a custody dispute over the children.

Smith's lawyers told the judge they couldn't prepare for a July trial because they have other aggravated murder trials in Multnomah and Clackamas counties this year. They said they could handle an April 2016 start.

Greg Smith, the father, said by telephone at the hearing that he'd prefer a trial as soon as possible. But if the trial were to be put off until spring 2016, it would be better to delay it further to make sure the girl doesn't miss classes, Greg Smith said.

Jessica Smith told the judge that the date nearly 2 years from the time of her arrest was acceptable. She is being held without bail.

One of her lawyers, William Falls, said he expects to file a motion about mental health issues, a possible defense.

The 2-year-old was found dead Aug. 1. She had been sedated with an over-the-counter antihistamine, according to the state medical examiner. Asphyxiation by drowning was the main cause of death, and the drug was listed as a contributing cause.

(source: The Register-Guard)

USA:

'Death-Qualified' Juror Search Slows Marathon, Theater Cases

1 prospective juror was brutally frank when asked whether he could consider a sentence of life in prison for the man accused of bombing the Boston Marathon.

"I would sentence him to death," he said, then added: "I can't imagine any evidence that would change how I feel about what happened."

Another prospective juror said he couldn't even consider the death penalty, telling the court, "I just can't kill another person."

The 2 men are on opposite sides of the capital punishment debate, but both unlikely to make it on the jury for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: to be seated for a death penalty case a juror must be willing - but not eager - to hand down a sentence of either life or death.

The process of finding "death qualified" jurors has slowed down jury selection in federal case against Tsarnaev, who is charged with setting off 2 bombs that killed 3 people and injured more than 260 during the 2013 marathon. It is expected to do the same in the state trial of James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in a suburban Denver movie theater in 2012.

The process is designed to weed out jurors who have strong feelings for or against the death penalty. A 1985 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court said a juror can lawfully be excused if his or her views on the death penalty are so strong that they would prevent or substantially impair their ability to follow the law.

But death penalty opponents have long said the process is fundamentally unfair. They argue that death-qualified juries do not represent a true cross-section of the community because they end up being made up of either death penalty supporters or people willing to impose it under some circumstances.

"You end up with a jury with less women, less blacks, less Democrats ... you end up with a jury that is skewed in ways that make it probably more conservative, more accepting of prosecution arguments, of state authority," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes executions.

The Capital Jury Project, a consortium of university researchers, interviewed about 1,200 jurors in 353 capital trials in 14 states beginning in the early 1990s. The group's research has shown that death penalty juries are more likely to convict and that jurors often make up their minds about what punishment to hand down long before they're supposed to, said William Bowers, director of the project.

After reaching a verdict, a trial enters the penalty phase, when prosecutors present evidence of aggravating factors, such as the brutality of the crime, to argue in favor of the death penalty while defense attorneys present mitigating factors, such as abuse as a child, to argue against it. Juries are then supposed to weigh those factors when deciding whether a defendant should get life or death.

"The principal finding is that half of the jurors said they knew what the punishment should be before the penalty stage of the trial and another 1/4 of them said they were pretty sure," Bowers said. "The thing they don't recognize or seem to have overlooked is that they are not supposed to decide what the punishment is until they hear the evidence in the 2nd phase."

Death penalty opponents have argued that to get around this kind of pre-judgment, separate juries should be chosen to hear evidence in the guilt phase and the punishment phase. But that idea has not gained traction.

Another finding of the research was that death penalty opponents are also more willing to consider an insanity defense, something that will come into play in the case of Holmes, whose attorneys don't dispute opened fire during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" but argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Holmes' lawyers, citing data from the Capital Jury Project, argued that his jury should not be death-qualified, but Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. rejected their challenge, saying he is bound by rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Colorado Supreme Court holding that death-qualification is constitutional.

In the Holmes case, an unprecedented 9,000 jury summonses were mailed. As of Friday, 210 prospective jurors had been excused over 4 days. Individual questioning is set to begin next month.

In the marathon bombing case, 1,373 people filled out juror questionnaires. Individual questioning of prospective jurors has been slowed as the judge has probed people at length about their feelings on the death penalty. The judge had originally said he hoped to question 40 jurors each day, but during the first 5 days only averaged about 15.

Capital punishment supporters say the current system of screening out strong pro- and anti-death penalty jurors is the only fair way to choose juries in death penalty cases.

"The process simply says that jurors must be willing to abide by the law," said John McAdams, a Marquette University professor who supports the death penalty.

"The law says that certain kinds of aggravated murders should get the death penalty," he said. "Jurors have to be willing to listen to the evidence and have to be willing to impose the death penalty if, in their judgment, the crime was sufficiently heinous to call for the death penalty."

(source: WBUR news)

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

The Supreme Court Lethal Injection Case Could Have Major Implications For Inmates Everywhere

Following a number of high-profile cases involving controversial death-row inmates, the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the use of lethal injections and whether such practices violate the Constitution's measures against cruel and unusual punishment. The decision to review the procedure marks the 1st time the high court has addressed the issue since 2008, when it unilaterally denied a challenge to the practice. Now, however, following a single-line issue published late Friday afternoon, the Roberts Court has agreed to hear a case brought forward by three inmates awaiting execution who say the lethal dosage of drugs is unconstitutional.

The lawyer representing the prisoners, Oklahoma-based attorney Dale Baich, told USA Today:

The time is right for the Court to take a careful look at this important issue, particularly given the bungled executions that have occurred since states started using these novel and experimental drugs protocols.

He refers to the controversial execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, whose allegedly painful and inhumane execution brought into question the legality and humanity of the lethal injection procedure. Since then, however, the state has put to death convicted child rapist and killer Charles Warner without any claim of foul play. Still, some lawyers say, the usage of the fatal combination of drugs can be excruciating, especially if used in the wrong order.

In an earlier challenge presented by Oklahoma defense attorneys, NBC News reports, naysayers of the penalty and the lethal injection have noted:

There is a well-established scientific consensus that it cannot maintain a deep, coma-like unconsciousness. For these reasons, it is uncontested that midazolam is not approved by the FDA for use as general anesthesia and is never used as the sole anesthetic for painful surgical procedures.

According to these lawyers, their clients are acutely aware of intense pain during their final moments, making the entire procedure entirely unacceptable under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Attorneys have further claimed:

The lethal injection landscape has changed significantly since Baze v. Rees in 2008. At that time, every state was using the same three-drug combination, which the lawyers in Baze conceded was humane if administered properly. Today, states are not using that 3-drug protocol and instead are using experimental drug combinations. The drug protocol used in Oklahoma is not capable of producing a humane execution, even if it is administered properly.

The Supreme Court is expected to come to a conclusion on the issue by late June at the latest after hearing the case in April. A number of the Court's more liberal justices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, have previously expressed reservations about the current policies in place regarding lethal injection executions. Following a recent decision to ignore a similar petition from an inmate in Missouri, Justice Sotomayor remarked,

The questions before us are especially important now, given states' increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution. Petitioners have committed horrific crimes and should be punished. But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death. I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions.

Now, these considerations are more salient than ever as the entire court prepares to hear a case that has the capacity to change the entire landscape of capital punishment in the United States. In the coming weeks, the scheduled executions of a number of death row inmates will be stayed while the Court begins to weigh arguments and evidence pertaining to the issue.

Many of the issues that have recently arisen around the drugs used in lethal injections followed the boycott of a number of European companies who refused to provide the necessary sedatives that, ostensibly, make the procedure more painless and humane. The United States, which remains one of the few "developed nations" that still makes use of the death penalty, has come under significant fire by other nations for the seemingly antiquated capital punishment system. Still, executions continue to happen by state jurisdictions, and in the states of Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, and Arizona, the same apparently ineffective pain killer is used as the 1st of the 3 injections. Ohio, however, has announced that is will halt all executions until a superior alternative can be found.

(source: bustle.com)

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

Supreme Court agrees to review execution protocols?

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's procedures on executing death row inmates, an action that opens the door to a ruling on how executions are handled across the nation.

The court's action comes after a year in which convicted murderers executed in Oklahoma, Arizona and Ohio appeared to suffer and took many minutes to die. In response, death penalty opponents went to court, asking judges to halt executions and to review the procedures used to carry them out. The executions also prompted supporters of capital punishment to suggest that states return to older methods of putting people to death.

The Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty constitutional, but questions remain about the methods used to carry it out. Here is a primer to understanding the issues involved.

What did the Supreme Court do?

The nation's top court decided that it would consider a challenge from three Oklahoma inmates who argue that the procedure and drugs used in lethal injections violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

It appears that 4 judges, the liberal wing of the court, voted to take up the issue even though the 5-jurist conservative majority had approved an execution in Oklahoma on Jan. 15. It takes only 4 of the 9 justices to agree to hear a case.

Why now?

Some of the justices have been eager to act after a year in which three executions in three states had serious problems, with inmates seeming to suffer while being put to death. In recent years, many states have had to scramble and change their procedures because they have had problems finding a supply of the right drugs.

What is the legal issue? Is it just a question of pain?

The 8th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, but exactly what that means is always open to interpretation. When the Supreme Court in 2008 last looked at lethal injections, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that it takes more than pain to violate the Constitution.

"Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' that qualifies as cruel and unusual," the justice wrote.

Does the current case have ramifications beyond Oklahoma?

The Supreme Court potentially could decide the national standards for the use of lethal injection, the primary method of execution used by the states and the federal government.

Right now the procedures vary. Many states use a three-drug combination with three injections: an anesthetic or sedative, followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate, then potassium chloride to stop the heart. However, some states use a 1- or 2-drug combination that usually includes a lethal dose of an anesthetic or sedative.

How did we get to this point?

Before 2008, death-penalty states used sodium thiopental to induce unconsciousness.But the U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the drug, and the European Union, where capital punishment is banned, prohibited the export of the drug to stop it from being used in U.S. executions. That meant that states had to find substitutes. Pentobarbital was used extensively, but its producer also objected to its use for executions.

As supplies of pentobarbital dwindled, states considered alternatives, including turning back to older methods, such as gas chambers. Oklahoma and other states turned to the drug midazolam.

Is there a problem with midazolam?

Opponents of the death penalty say yes.

"The drug protocol used in Oklahoma is not capable of producing a humane execution, even if it is administered properly," said Dale Baich, one of the attorneys representing Oklahoma death row prisoners who brought the case to the Supreme Court. 3 of the 4 states that use midazolam have had problems. Only Florida, the 1st state to use the drug, has not had a reported any difficulty.

Last April, Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett, who witnesses said kicked his legs and grimaced before dying 43 minutes after the lethal injection began. A state investigation found problems with the way the execution team inserted the needle.

Oklahoma revamped its procedures, including a 5fold increase in the amount of midazolam. It used the new procedures to put Charles Warner to death earlier this month without incident.

Ohio had used midazolam months before Lockett was put to death, and the inmate in that execution, Dennis McGuire, gasped and choked before taking about 25 minutes to die. Last July in Arizona, Joseph R. Wood gasped and snorted for more than 90 minutes before he died. Arizona and Ohio have said they won't use midazolam and other drug mixtures again.

What does Oklahoma say about the Supreme Court's action?

"Oklahoma's execution protocol has been affirmed as constitutional by 2 federal courts," Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt stated on Friday. "We will continue to defend the constitutionality of this protocol in order to preserve [the Department of Corrections'] ability to proceed with the sentences that were given to each inmate by a jury of their peers."

What happens next?

The 3 death row inmates will ask for stays of execution, and will probably receive them. Prisoners in other states will also seek delays while the court hears arguments, probably in April, and issues a ruling, expected by June.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

QATAR:

Qatar Court Tells U.S. Family to Decide on Execution

A Qatari court ruled Sunday that the parents of an American teacher murdered in the Gulf state should decide whether her alleged killer is executed.

The Pennsylvania-based family of Jennifer Brown can choose between the death penalty, compensation -- "blood money" under Islam law -- or a pardon for the Kenyan security guard charged with 1st degree murder, the judge ruled.

Although the death penalty can still be handed down as a punishment in Qatar, it has been 12 years since the last execution took place.

If the Browns choose to pardon the security guard, who has yet to be convicted, court officials said he was still likely to serve a prison term.

Jennifer Brown, 40, was murdered in her company-provided home in November 2012.

She had only arrived in energy-rich Qatar 2 months earlier to teach at the English Modern School in the city of al-Wakrah.

The security guard has reportedly confessed, but the case has moved slowly through the Qatari legal system and been adjourned several times.

The teacher's father, Robert Brown, has expressed frustration at delays in reaching a verdict.

A U.S. embassy representative was present at Sunday's hearing, which the judge adjourned until March 8 to hear from the Browns.

(source: Naharnet)

JAPAN:

Slight drop seen for 1st time in Japanese who support capital punishment

In a sign of wavering support for capital punishment, the 1st decline in the percentage of Japanese who support the death penalty has been noted, although the support rate remains about 80 %, according to a Cabinet Office survey released Jan. 24.

The decline in support is the 1st since the survey, which is conducted every 5 years, began in 1994, it added.

The high percentage in the survey apparently shows the public's continuing sympathy for victims of violent crime.

However, movie director and author Tatsuya Mori, who calls for abolition of the death penalty, said that the decline in the support rate is attributable to the Shizuoka District Court’s approval of a retrial in March for death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, 78.

"(Due to the decision,) many people were made aware of strong-arm investigation tactics and unfair proceedings in trials," Mori said.

Hakamada, a former professional boxer, was on death row for decades after being convicted of murdering 4 people in 1966. He was released from prison in March after the court ordered a retrial.

The Cabinet Office conducted the latest survey in November 2014 on 3,000 men and women aged 20 years or older throughout the country through direct interviews. A total of 1,826 people, or 60.9 percent, gave valid responses.

According to the survey, 80.3 percent of the respondents said that having a death penalty is unavoidable, marking a decline of 5.3 % points from 85.6 % in 2009. Until then, the corresponding figures had continued to rise from 73.8 % in 1994 to 79.3 % in 1999 and to 81.4 % in2004.

On the other hand, 9.7 % of the respondents in the 2014 survey said that capital punishment should be abolished. That was a rise of 4.0 % points from 5.7 % in 2009.

In the 2014 survey, those who replied, "I don't know" or "I cannot reply yes or no" constituted 9.9 %.

The survey also asked the respondents about the reasons for their replies. They were allowed to give plural answers.

Of the respondents, 53.4 % of those who approved the death penalty said that if it is abolished, the feelings of victims or their families will not be assuaged. In addition, 52.9 % replied that those who committed heinous crimes should pay with their lives.

Besides, 47.4 % answered that if vicious criminals were allowed to live, they could commit similar violent crimes again.

On the other hand, 46.6 % of the respondents who sought the abolition of capital punishment said that if the results of the trials were later found to be false, it is impossible to restore the lives of the executed death-row inmates.

The 2014 survey also asked respondents about whether the death penalty should be abolished if a sentence of life imprisonment without parole was introduced in Japan. In response, 51.5 % replied that it should not be abolished while 37.7 % said that it should be abolished.

The reply showed that more than 50 % believe that life imprisonment without parole cannot become a substitute for capital punishment.

As for the results of the 2014 survey, Mikio Kawai, professor of sociology of law at the Toin University of Yokohama, said, "I think that those who approve of capital punishment are not giving their all-out support (to it). In their minds, the percentage for support and non-support is about 50-50."

However, Kawai added, "When they think about how to punish violent criminals, they will have strong resistance to the complete abolition of the death penalty."

He predicted that the support rate for the death penalty will continue to remain high.

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)

INDONESIA:

Aussie executions 'not in Bali please'----Bali's governor is in favour of the death penalty but doesn't want Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed on the resort island.

Bali's pro-death penalty governor doesn't want Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed on his island, believing it may spoil the harmonious climate.

Made Mangku Pastika, a former head of Indonesia's national narcotics agency, testified against members of the Bali Nine in a 2007 challenge of their death sentences.

Then, he described drug traffickers as "mass murderers" who were deserving of death.

Sukumaran and Chan have now been denied presidential clemency and only a last-ditch legal bid stands between them and the firing squad.

Indonesia has yet to set a time and place for the executions.

But General Pastika says they shouldn't be carried out in Bali.

"If it's possible, please not in Bali, just somewhere else," he told reporters, without giving his reasons.

Asked if it was for the sake of Bali's people, he said: "I think they want Bali to keep in harmony, remain safe, remain peaceful. So if possible, not in Bali, please." Aussies still make up the bulk of tourists to the so-called Island of the Gods.

Indonesia is awaiting data to confirm it had a record one million visits from Australians in 2014, the vast majority of them to Bali.

The Australian families of Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, will also arrive in Bali this week.

Both families spoke on Saturday about their anguish for the Sydney men, who they believe have reformed and deserved to have their sentences commuted to life.

"I've been told my son will be taken out and shot at any time," Raji Sukumaran, mother of Myuran, told reporters.

"I don't know what to do."

Both families said they trusted Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Australian government would do all they could to stop the executions.

However, diplomatic efforts failed to save citizens of The Netherlands and Brazil, who were among 6 drug offenders executed last week.

Of those 6, 5 were shot at Nusakambangan, an island prison in Central Java known as "Indonesia's Alcatraz".

(source: sbs.com.au)

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

1 on death row, 5 face life term

6 Nepali nationals are languishing in Indonesian prison since a decade, with 1 of them being on death row on charge of drug smuggling.

Documents retrieved from Indonesia's Office of the Attorney General show Indra Bahadur, who was arrested with 900 gram of heroin in 2001, is currently waiting capital punishment there.

Other Nepalis Nar Bahadur Tamang, Bala Tamang, Til Bahadur Bhandari, Bir Bahadur Gurung and Gopal Sherpa Lama are doing lifetime after the court found them guilty of smuggling drugs into the country.

Indra Bahadur (referred as 236 Pid.B/2001/PN.TNG) was given death sentence by Indonesia's district court on August 13, 2001. That ruling was upheld by High Court on October 30, 2001 and by the Supreme Court on August 28, 2002. Local newspapers reported that Indra’s request for clemency was denied by then President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Not much has been known about Indra and other Nepalis, while government officials in Kathmandu are completely unaware of their plight. Nepal does not have embassy in Indonesia, though Nepal's mission in Malaysia looks after its affairs in the world's largest Muslim nation.

Indonesia executed 6 convicted drug traffickers, including 5 foreigners, by firing squad last week.

Indonesian authorities have pledged no clemency for drug offenders despite widespread international pressure. Australia, Nigeria and Brazil have strongly reacted to the execution of their citizens in the past weeks.

Nar Bahadur Tamang and Bala Tamang (referred as Case 351/Pid.B/1999/PN.TNG) were the 1st Nepalis to be arrested in Indonesia on charge of drug smuggling. The duo, caught with 1.75 kg of heroin in 1999, were initially sentenced to death by a district court on January 25, 2000. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the High Court in West Java on May 29, 2000 which was upheld by the Supreme Court on April 23, 2001.

Til Bahadur Bahandari and Bir Bahadur Gurung (referred as Case 346 / Pid.B / 1999 / PN.TNG), arrested in connection with the same case, were also sentenced to death initially but the High Court commuted it to life prisonment on May 25, 2000 and upheld by the apex court on April 23, 2001.

Another Nepali Gopal Sherpa Lama (passport no: 2939586) was arrested on March 26, 2007 with 650 gram Shabu, a narcotic.

Last week, the Informal Sector Service Center (Insec) had issued a statement claiming that five Nepali nationals were awaiting death sentence in Indonesia. The Insec's statement follows the condemnation by the Commission for the Disappeared and victims of Violence (KontraS), an INGO, of the execution of 6 foreigners by the Indonesian government on January 18.

"Our statement was based on information provided by rights group in Indonesia. They claim that 5 Nepalis are waiting the death penalty and many more could be imprisoned. We had asked them to meet the 5 Nepali in person, but the Indonesian law does not allow it," said Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Insec chairperson.

"The government should appeal for clemency and repatriate these citizens. It needs to tackle the situations where an growing number of Nepalis going for overseas jobs are being used as drug couriers."

Meanwhile, the government officials concede their ignorance about the case. "We are not aware about such cases. The ministry will do needful after finding out the truth and nature of their case," a Foreign Ministry official said. Minister of State for Labour Tek Bahadur Gurung said his ministry is ready to help if it gets such requests.

(source: ekantipur.com)

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

Foreign Office: UK strongly opposes the death penalty

The Foreign Office says it's recently made representations to the Indonesian Government about the death penalty. It is offering consular assistance to Lindsay Sandiford who is sentenced to death by firing squad in Bali.

"We continue to offer consular assistance to Lindsay Sandiford and her family at this difficult time. The UK strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception. We have recently made representations about the death penalty to the Indonesian government, and we will continue to do so." - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

(source: itv.com)

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

Executing reformed prisoners is absurd

As far as reversals go, they do not come much more galling: after campaigning successfully to have its own citizens spared the death penalty in other countries, Indonesia has - in the words of Prime Minister Tony Abbott - returned to the "pretty barbaric" practice of killing criminals by firing squad.

Unless the archipelago nation has a last-minute change of heart, the executions of Bali nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran appear imminent. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has rejected pleas for clemency for both men. While there is a slim possibility of a further judicial review, their prospects are dire.

Last Sunday, Indonesia executed five foreigners and one Indonesian for drug crimes. Mr Joko has vowed that the remaining drug convicts on death row - now numbering 58 - will face the same fate.

Some have put the argument that, as Chan and Sukumaran committed a crime in a country where it has long been well known that drug traffickers face the death penalty, they should suffer the consequences. They were part of a plot to transport more than eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Sydney in 2005.

But this simplistic line ignores key points, both general and specific to this instance.

The Sunday Age has long argued that the death penalty is wrong in all cases. Human life is sacrosanct; taking a life in response to a crime lowers the state to the level of the criminal, and is not effective as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

Even if it were, it would not be justified: revenge is a primitive motive that civilised societies should strive to rise above, and there is a long, inglorious history of jurisdictions that impose the death penalty killing people later proved to be innocent. Once the state kills someone there is no going back.

In this case, there is no doubting Chan and Sukumaran's guilt, and there is no doubting that the penal system has worked. There may never have been a clearer case of unrepentant criminals, as the pair initially were, having turned over a new leaf.

In a decade in prison, Chan has gained a certificate in ministry and now runs a prison church service. Sukumaran teaches computing and design to other inmates, runs a T-shirt printing business and has learned to paint, winning praise for his exhibited work. They have arranged for inmates to receive a first-aid course, cooking lessons, philosophy and psychology classes. Successive governors of the notorious Kerobokan jail, where they are held, have backed the call for clemency. Former governor Siswanto went so far as to appear as a witness on their behalf. Melbourne Pastor Christie Buckingham, who has visited the pair regularly, said: "We've never actually seen people so totally reformed."

To execute rehabilitated prisoners is not only absurd, but would be an opportunity lost: Mr Joko would be better served by promoting the pair as examples of the efficacy of the Indonesian prison system, and as role models to fellow convicts.

As Sukumaran put it himself in a message via his lawyer on Friday: "We are trying really hard to make up for what we did. If you don't accept that people can change, no one has the incentive to change."

The Sunday Age accepts Mr Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have made sincere efforts to convince their Indonesian counterparts to commute the Australians' sentences, and praises their efforts. We accept that much of this lobbying has necessarily occurred behind the scenes, but it is possible the time for raising the stakes has arrived.

Both Brazil and Holland recalled their ambassadors following the execution of their citizens last Sunday despite pleas for clemency from the highest levels. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "outraged and dismayed" over the executions, and that relations between the two countries had been affected.

It is hoped Australia's leaders are warning that Indonesia killing its citizens would have similar ramifications for the vital relationship between these 2 neighbours.

(source: Comment, The Age)

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

They shoot from the lip over drugs

I went to sleep half expecting to wake up to the sound of gunshots. That's ridiculous, of course. The executions were more than 500km away. Still, it's surreal knowing you're in the same country as 6 people counting down the hours until they're taken out and shot.

The next day, it was all everyone was talking about. We tourists hadn't expected it would happen at midnight. We didn't think any countries still used firing squads.

The guy taking us on the tour of Bali sat in the front passenger seat of the car. We told him about the New Zealander in jail near our resort. We explained how Antony de Malmanche says it wasn't his fault, that he was duped by someone else, but authorities would have to believe his story to save him from being shot. Because, that's what may happen to him. And for us, that's hard to accept because, back home, even if his story wasn't true, we wouldn't shoot de Malmanche.

"In New Zealand," the tour guide asked, "you don't kill them for drugs?"

He didn't seem surprised to hear that no, a bag of P won't get even the worst reoffenders killed.

"So for what crimes do you kill?"

Well, for nothing, of course, we replied. We haven't used capital punishment since 1957. At that he seemed surprised.

"Not for murder even?"

Not even for that. And I will admit I felt a little smug revealing that. Showing off our sophisticated judicial system with its balance of punishment and rehabilitation, justice and forgiveness, made me feel just a little proud.

I expected the tour guide to want to know more, to be keen to better understand our clearly superior ideas. Capital punishment is abhorrent and so, surely, the Indonesian people will be embarrassed at their Government's brutality. But no, our tour guide was unapologetic.

"Executing the drug bosses," he explained, "that's fair. The workers at the bottom, no, but the bosses, yes. It saves our young people. It saves them from drugs."

In Indonesia, they call the drug trade an "extraordinary crime". The risk of death is supposed to deter anyone from trying to make a buck off smack, but it doesn't work. Drug-running foreigners turn up anyway. They move in and live the high life. They rub it in the locals' faces, driving luxury cars down narrow streets along which they - the Balinese - hock knock-offs and trinkets to eke out a living.

If they get caught - and can't buy their way out of trouble - it's Kerobokan they'll end up in. That's the jail Antony de Malmanche may find himself in. It's where Schapelle Corby spent years. Capital punishment or not, the sight of the prison should be enough to deter mules. The walls badly need paint. The iron roofing is falling off the guard turrets. If it's that bad on the outside, it must be hell on the inside. We tell the guide we wouldn't stick prisoners in anything that bad.

Then he wants to know more about this crazy judicial system in New Zealand, with no death penalty.

He asks, "If you don't shoot, how do you punish someone who kills another person?"

To that I answer that they go to jail. "For how long? Forever?"

No, not forever. For life. But, I explain, "life" isn't a whole life. It means the murderer could sometimes be out in 10 years. And then I see his absolute surprise and all my smugness evaporates.

(source: Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the (New Zealand) Herald on Sunday)

UNITED KINGDOM:

UK diplomats clash over Briton on death row in Ethiopia: Officials' fury after Foreign Secretary claims he couldn't 'find time' to help father-of-3 facing execution

Andargachew Tsege was snatched by officials at Yemen airport last June

The 59-year-old was transferred to Ethiopia where he is thought to remain

Father-of-three moved to London in 1979 from native African country

He was dubbed 'Ethiopian Mandela' after exposing government corruption

Leaked emails revealed British officials' frustration at political inaction

Philip Hammond said he could not 'find time' for phone call on issue

An explosive row has erupted between diplomats and Ministers over their reluctance to help a British man on death row in Ethiopia.

A series of extraordinary emails, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, reveal officials' increasing frustration at political inaction over Andargachew Tsege.

Tsege, 59, a father-of-t3 from London, was snatched at an airport in Yemen last June and illegally rendered to Ethiopia. There are concerns he may have been tortured.

Yet Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he could not 'find time' for a phone call to raise the issue and did not want to send a 'negative' letter.

In one email, an exasperated official asks: 'Don't we need to do more than give them a stern talking to?'

Tsege, who has lived in the UK since 1979, has been called Ethiopia’s Nelson Mandela. Tsege fell out with his university friend ex-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, after he exposed government corruption and helped establish a pro-democracy party.

In 2009, he was sentenced to death in his absence for allegedly plotting a coup and planning to kill Ethiopian officials - claims he denies.

He was abducted on June 23 while en route to Eritrea, emerging 2 weeks later in Ethiopia, where he has since been paraded on TV. It is not known where he is being held.

The diplomatic exchanges disclose how officials were dismayed when British Ministers rejected requests to raise the case with Ethiopia.

'I feel so shocked and let down,' said Tsege’s wife Yemi Hailemariam. 'I thought Britain was a nation driven by fairness but it seems my husband's life is simply not valued.'

The series of emails begins on July 1, with Foreign Office officials confirming his capture: 'His detention in Yemen is significant news, and could get complicated for the UK.'

Diplomats noted that neither Yemen nor Ethiopia informed Britain about the rendition of its citizen. 'It feels a bit like I'm throwing the kitchen sink at the Yemenis but I want them to think twice before they do this again,' wrote 1 senior figure at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa.

He also noted that a prominent Ethiopian minister had given assurances over Tsege's treatment - 'but I wouldn't take them with complete confidence'.

Ethiopia has claimed Tsege tried to recruit other Britons to become involved in terrorism. But the regime has used anti-terror laws to jail journalists and silence political rivals, and UK officials had not seen credible evidence.

One diplomatic cable says: 'All we have seen are a few pictures of him standing in an Eritrean village - hardly proof that he was engaged in terrorist training.'

3 weeks after Tsege's kidnap, the Foreign Office's Africa director wrote that Ministers 'have so far shied away from talking about consequences... their tone has been relatively comfortable'.

On July 21, Hammond's office was still reluctant to talk to his Ethiopian counterpart on the phone.

'I don't think we are going to be able to find time for that at the moment,' wrote his private secretary. He also turned down sending a 'negative' letter, asking for it to be rewritten 'setting out areas of co-operation. It can end with a paragraph on the Tsege case.'

Despite concerns over Ethiopia's human rights record, the nation receives 376 million pounds a year in UK aid. One farmer there is suing Britain, claiming the money was used to usurp him from his land.

Hammond is believed to have finally called his counterpart at the end of July, 1 month after the kidnap. It is understood he focused on requesting consular access rather than condemning the capture.

Reprieve, which campaigns against the death penalty said: 'These shocking emails show the Foreign Secretary appears to have blocked any meaningful action that could potentially bring this British father home to his family, unharmed.'

The Foreign Office said they were 'deeply concerned' by Tsege's detention and were lobbying for further consular access as well as seeking confirmation the death penalty would not be carried out.

(source: Daily Mail)

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

Voters split along party lines over reintroducing death penalty

A YouGov poll for the Evening Standard suggests that more Londoners support a reintroduction of the death penalty than oppose it.

The death penalty was abolished 50 years ago in the UK.

Between the 19th and 21st of January the poll of 1,034 London adults (18+) asked:

'The death penalty for murder was abolished in 1965. It has been suggested that a full review of how Britain deals with terrorists should be carried out, including possibly a debate on bringing back capital punishment. To what extent would you support or oppose the re-introduction of the death penalty for murder in the case of terrorist attacks?'

31% said they strongly favoured reintroducing the penalty for these cases, whilst 18% tended to support it, making the total in favour stand at 49%.

On the other hand, 28% said they strongly oppose any reintroduction of the penalty for these cases, with 14% saying they tend to oppose it, meaning that 42% oppose the idea.

Additionally, a total of 10% said they did not know.

The poll, whilst only asking London adults showed an interesting split.

Despite the small sample sizes for those intending to vote Liberal Democrat, 63% said they would oppose any reintroduction, whilst just 30% said they would be in favour of a change. The party is strongly pro-human rights so such numbers are unsurprising.

The party with voters most in favour of reintroducing the penalty was UKIP. 80% of those planning to vote for the party said they would support the reintroduction, whilst 19% disagreed. Back in August 2014, UKIP's health spokesperson, Louise Bours MEP, called for the reintroduction of the penalty, according to the Independent. However, it is important to note that the sample size for UKIP voters was also quite small in the poll.

As for those voters intending to vote Labour, 44% said they supported reintroduction, compared to the 49% who said they opposed a change to the current system, suggesting a near even split.

And as for those intending to vote Conservative, a majority said they would favour a change. 61% said they would support reintroduction, whilst 30% would be against such a change.

Overall, it's unlikely that the death penalty will come back any time soon, with countries continuing to abolish it across the world, but the data shows an interesting divide amongst voters for different parties.

(source: hereisthecity.com)

PAKISTAN:

2 more LeJ activists to be hanged on Feb 3

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Saturday issued death warrants for 2 murder convicts belonging to banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) for February 3.

Attaullah and Muhammad Azam had been convicted for killing Dr Ali Razi Peerani in the area of Soldier Bazar in June 2001.

The ATC had awarded capital punishment to them, over which the 2 approached the Sindh High Court and then Supreme Court, but both the appellate courts rejected their appeals.

Finally, Attaullah and Azam appealed before the president, who dismissed their mercy appeals as well.

In 2013, the ATC issued death warrants for these convicts, but due to the moratorium the 2 could not be hanged.

The ATC again issued death warrants against the 2 on December 19, 2014 for December 30, but the heirs of the convicts moved a petition in the Sindh High Court that had declared the issuance of black warrants as contradictory to the rules.

On Saturday, the ATC reissued death warrants against Attaulah and Abdullah for February 3.

The last execution in Karachi was carried out on January 15, as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi activist Mohammad Saeed alias Maulvi was hanged inside the Karachi Central Jail.

An anti-terrorism court had found the man guilty of shooting deputy superintendent of police (retd) Syed Sabir Hussain Shah and his young son Syed Abid Hussain Shah and sentenced him to death in April 2001. Saeed had killed both his victims on sectarian grounds in an ambush near the Malir City railway crossing.

An anti-terrorism court had issued black warrants for his execution on January 3 after the years-long moratorium on death penalty was lifted in the wake of the Peshawar school attack. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had announced that more than 500 convicted terrorists would be hanged across the country.

Mercy appeal of the convict was also turned down by the president. Strict security measures were taken outside the Karachi jail and besides extra contingents of police, army and Rangers personnel were also deployed in and outside the prison premises.

So far 19 death row prisoner have been executed in the country since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on death penalty on December 17, 2014, a day after the carnage in Peshawar. The moratorium had been in place unofficially since 2008.

(source: The News)

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

Death penalty won't solve terror: Ayesha Jalal

The lifting of moratorium on death penalty in Pakistan had been demanded by the military high command for a long time, said Pakistani academic Ayesha Jalal at a seminar here on Saturday.

The moratorium was lifted after Taliban gunmen attacked an army school in Peshawar and killed more than 130 children in December last year.

Describing the revocation of the moratorium as a "sort of knee-jerk reaction," Ms. Jalal said: "I do not believe that going back to death penalty will solve the problem of terror which is deeply embedded and needs to be addressed at multiple levels by Pakistan."

She claimed that the move points to the "inefficacy of the judiciary which cannot convict people fast enough or adequately enough."

Ms. Jalal said that it was the problems in the judicial system that was "driving the return of capital punishment."

She said there was an "ideological dimension" on lifting the ban on capital punishment as it was the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party who introduced it.

"The party that is currently occupying power in Pakistan [Pakistan Muslim League (N)] has been in favour of death penalty." She claimed that the U.S. was "losing interest in Pakistan," adding that the U.S. "interest in Pakistan has been in the Army and nothing else." "Those who want Pakistan to retain its democracy would like to see America taking less interest in Pakistan," Ms. Jalal added.

(source: The Hindu)

NIGERIA:

'Obey Laws of Foreign Nations'

The Federal Government has appealed to Nigerians travelling abroad to adhere to the laws, rules and regulations of nations they visit to avoid running foul of the law and finding themselves in trouble.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni, made this appeal while speaking on the recent execution of 2 Nigerians, Daniel Enemuo and Solomon Chibuike Okafor (who had been travelling as a Malawian citizen) by Indonesian authorities for drug trafficking.

12 Nigerians remain on death row in the Asian nation which maintains a hard stance against drug trafficking related offences. "Most substantially, we as Nigerians must also look inwards; we must ensure that our nationals, as they move around the world must take full cognisance of the fact that certain countries, particularly in Asia, have the death penalty and do not take issues pertaining to drug trafficking lightly," he said.

(source: All Africa News)

MALAYSIA:

Kedah police seized drugs worth RM110,000

Kedah police had seized more than 3 kilogrammes of heroin and syabu with street value of RM110,000 following the arrest of 7 traffickers in separate arrests in Alor Star and Langkawi between Wednesday and Friday.

State Narcotic Investigation Department chief Superintendent Abd Razak Md Zin said in the 1st bust, police nabbed 2 men after seizing 2.3kg of heroin and 407gm of syabu in their Toyota Vios car at Kuala Kedah on Wednesday.

He said in another haul the following day, police arrested a 32-year-old drug trafficker upon his arrival at Kuah Jetty in Langkawi and seized 250gm of syabu from the suspect, who later led police to a house in Kedawang.

"In the follow up raid, the Langkawi Narcotic Investigation Department rounded up two men and a woman after seizing 72.6gm of heroin and 0.5gm of syabu plus a WY pill from the suspects," he said in a Press conference at the state police contingent headquarters here today.

Abd Razak said in a separate raid in Langkawi on Friday, police nabbed a 38-year-old drug trafficker in Taman Nilam and seized 100gm of heroin from the suspect.

He said all cases were being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

(source: New Straits Times)

IRAN----executions

At least 12 people have been executed for drug-related charges in Iran today.

2 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Arak (Central Iran) early Sunday morning 25. January. According to the official website of Iranian Judiciary in Markazi Province, both the prisoners were executed for drug related charges. The prisoners were identified as "Milad Z" charged with possession and trafficking of 2950 grams of heroin, and "Alireza A" for possession and trafficking 2950 grams of heroin, said the report.

Earlier today Iran Human Rights reported about executions of 10 prisoners for drug-related charges in Kerman (Southeastern Iran).

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

Executions of Kerman: 10 Prisoners hanged for Drug-Related Charges Today----Besides today's executions of 10 prisoners, there are reports about 3 group executions during the last week in Kerman. None of these executions are announced by the official sources.

10 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Kerman early Sunday morning 25. January. All the prisoners were convicted of drug-related charges. None of the executions have been announced by the official Iranian sources.

According to the reports by reliable sources Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been in contact with 8 of the 10 prisoners executed today are identified as: 1) Rahmatollah Mokhtari, 2) Mohammad Shahriari, 3) Ebrahim Abai, 4) Mehri Raeisi, 5) Mansour Behrouzi, 6) Hassan Ramyar, 7) Ghodratollah Roudbari, and 8) Mohammad Karim Morad Zehi. Names of the 2 other prisoners are not known yet.

The families of the prisoners were informed about the executions and were given the chance to meet them for the last time.

According to IHR sources there have been 3 group executions on Sunday January 18, Tuesday January 20 and Thursday January 22 in the prison of Kerman. IHR is investigating about the details around these executions.

In December 2014 IHR reported about the unannounced mass-executions of drug-convicts in the prison of Kerman.

Despite the fact that several Iranian officials have announced that they are not happy about the high number of executions for drug-related charges, IHR has noticed a sharp increase in the number of drug-related executions during the past few months.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

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

10 Prisoners Hanged in Taibad Prison

10 prisoners, who had been charged with drug related crimes, were executed in Taibad prison by hanging.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), on 11th January, 10 prisoners, who had been charged with drug related crimes, were executed in Taibad prison by hanging.

1 of them was named "Mohammad Rasool Etemadi Khah" but there is no information about the others name, yet.

Iranian official Media have not reported these executions, yet.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

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

Freedom Hanging from a Rope in Iran

Despite an outcry from the international community and several human rights organizations against the use of capital punishment in Iran, the world still sees an increasing amount of images of hangings being carried out, ones that are justified by the Iranian regime as being a righteous duty for them.

Under the rule of Hassan Rouhani, Friday morning news was again met with 9 more prisoners being hung in Iran, including 3 as public executions. 3 other men were put to death in the city of Bonab, where this increase in number has caused the international human rights organizations to be worried and on their toes as to when the Iranian regime would strike again.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) highlights how capital punishment in Iran, has escalated to such an extent that quite a number of executions are not even privy to the public. A group of 5 prisoners was hanged in Adelabad Prison, in the city of Shiraz, that was kept quiet by the authorities.

It has been reported that since Hassan Rouhani has become President of this clerical regime, over 1,200 people have been executed and hundreds more have been subjected to degrading and inhumane punishments such as amputation, flogging in public and being paraded naked in streets. The NCRI has been frequently denouncing this oppressive regime, by highlighting cases of death penalties under any justification. On New Year's Day, it was reported by them, that 14 prisoners were hanged, including 4 women. The United Nations General Assembly last month slammed the violations of human rights by the Iranian regime, where it criticized it for using inhuman punishments and its 'mullah' dictatorship to cause fear for its civilians, through these unnecessary executions.

The Iranian Resistance has repeatedly condemned the carrying out of medieval punishments and executions by the clerical regime in Iran and has called for referral of the regime's violations of human rights record to the United Nations Security Council. Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition has elaborated on the movement's vision for a future Iran, through their Ten Point Plan. In that, they have made it quite clear that they support and are committed to the abolition of death penalty, where for this to be possible, separation of religion and state is necessary. Only then would any form of discrimination against the followers of any religion and denomination will be prohibited.

The International Federation For Human Rights , has also criticized the continuation of the death penalty in Iran, providing insight into this 'state terror policy' of Iran, one that violates the basic human right of all human beings born free and equal in dignity. At a time when momentum is gathering across the world to abolish capital punishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran currently ranks 2nd for number of executions and 1st for per capita executions in the world. Iran can never be free, unless it can break away from the shackles of its 'mullah' leaders, ones that are breeding fear and extremism through these hangings.

(source: Iran Focus)

AUSTRALIA:

Take aim, fire at will: Australian hypocrisy on a high pedestal

The Australian media is engaged in a surreal form of hypocrisy by criticizing the execution of those convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia. Canberra's exceptionalism stands out as it puts its double standards with respect to human lives and dignity on a high pedestal, problematizing the death penalty only when Australians are put before the firing squad.

First, Indonesian state treatment of convicted drug traffickers differs only slightly from Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers desperately trying to seek refuge in Australia and convicted drug traffickers vacationing in Bali are similar "abject bodies": individuals that the sovereign state does not want and plans to effectively and efficiently dispose of.

In a nutshell, the only difference between Indonesian and Australian treatment of "abject bodies" lies merely in each country's preferred legal methods and the distance considered comfortable and acceptable by its public. Indonesia provides open and accessible trials, opportunities for appeal, sympathetic media coverage, rehabilitation programs and a chance at being granted presidential clemency.

On the other hand, Australia seemingly prefers secretive on-the-spot extra-judicial actions, better known as "on-sea-matters" that the Abbott government refuses to comment on. Furthermore, Indonesia prefers openly using its own firing squad, having solid legal justification and being fully accountable for the lives it takes.

Meanwhile, Australia prefers the outsourcing and subcontracting of their deeds to private companies and offshoring them to distant locations that are conveniently out of sight and out of the mind of its public, such as Manus Island, Nauru and Cambodia. In July 2014, the forced return of Australian-bound refugees to Sri Lanka also indicated that Canberra is content with practices bordering on "forced disappearance" of civilians at sea while effectively breaching international legal principles of non-refoulement, the UN Refugee Convention and UN Convention against Torture. Asylum seekers, sometimes including children, in Australian detention facilities have undergone hunger strikes, sewn their lips shut, inflicted self-harm and attempted suicide, swallowed razorblades and even burned themselves to death in protest at the "Australian solution".

Currently, 700 asylum seekers are on hunger strike in Manus Island. 2 asylum seekers from the camp, Reza Barati and Hamid Kehazaei, have already died but not a single asylum seeker has been successfully resettled to date. This makes the facility more of a death camp than a resettlement camp.

Second, insistence on saving individual Australians misses the bigger picture which should be the abolition of the death penalty and upholding human dignity in Indonesia, Australia and beyond. When former president Yudhoyono left his presidency, he controversially granted Schapelle Corby parole. His act of conceited generosity fostered Australian exceptionalism, giving the impression that the death penalty is avoidable by turning convicted Australians into media darlings, concluding backroom negotiations, having your appeal heard by the president and finding legal loopholes that Australians can exploit.

Before concerned Australians can start seeing the bigger picture and join ranks with like-minded liberals and reformists in Indonesia, Australian parents will continue to worry about their youth vacationing in Bali, knowing that once caught experimenting with recreational drugs, their loved ones might be sent to the firing squad.

Third, implying that executions will affect bilateral relations to the disadvantage of Indonesia is ridiculous. Former Australian prime minister John Howard and opposition leader Simon Crean were not opposed to the execution of convicted terrorists Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Imam Samudra in 2008 and Canberra, through its counterterrorism aid, had actually subsidized the bullets used to execute them. Australian media coverage of their executions was surprisingly detailed and even savored many of its graphic moments.

Australia's main ally, the United States, enforces the death penalty in the majority of its states and one of Canberra's largest trading partners and paymaster, China, performs one of the highest numbers of executions worldwide and has only stopped harvesting organs from executed prisoners this year. If anything, Australian hypocrisy and exceptionalism risks worsening its public image in Indonesia as a neighbor that not only disrespects international law and Indonesia's borders, but now also Indonesian law and legal corridors.

Australian government appeals are neither heroic nor heartfelt; Canberra is merely trying to save their own "subject bodies" from the firing squad, while slowly disposing of "abject bodies" it does not want through inhumane detention camps or returning them to foreign regimes that will probably finish the job for them. Indonesia paying "blood money" to save the "subject bodies" of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia from beheading is no less hypocritical as these efforts are done against the backdrop of killing off "abject bodies" that were once warmly received as guests in Bali.

Australia and Indonesia betray human rights and violate human dignity alike by abusing the criminalized and illegal "abject bodies" in surprisingly similar ways, differing only in their preferred legal methods and comfortable distance acceptable to their respective publics. All lives matter greatly, not just Australian ones.

Any debate that does not start from these fundamental premises of equality of human life and dignity is not worth visiting and is a waste of the Indonesian public's valuable attention and time.

(source: Pierre Marthinus; The writer is executive director for the Marthinus Academy in Jakarta----The Jakarta Post)

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

Australian stars and public figures plead for mercy for Bali 9

Asher Keddie, Germaine Greer and Alan Jones are among those who have thrown their support behind 2 Australians facing the death penalty in Indonesia, in a powerful star-filled video calling for mercy.

Sydney-based artist Ben Quilty who formed a bond with Bali nine death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan over art classes at the notorious Kerobokan Prison posted the video to social media on Saturday.

"Some of my favourite people are standing for mercy," he wrote. "Myu and Andrew, we are walking this path with you."

Sukumaran and Chan have spent nearly a decade behind bars in Bali for their roles in an attempt to smuggle heroin into Australia from Indonesia.

Both Australians have recently lost their final bids of clemency to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Their deaths by firing squad are considered imminent.

The impassioned video features Australian stars and public figures expressing their opposition to the killing of the reformed men and includes quotes from Kerobokan inmates whose lives they have touched.

Among the familiar faces to express support are Megan Washington, Claudia Karvan, Missy Higgins, Bryan Brown, Richard Roxbugh and David Wenham.

The video, which was also uploaded to the Mercy Campaign website, points to an online petition addressed to Mr Widodo calling for the Australians to be spared, which has garnered more than 1500 signatures and was forced to relocate due to the heavy web traffic it was receiving.

Written in English and Indonesian the petition argues both men have turned their lives around and helped other prisoners do the same.

"They are a true credit to the Indonesian Penal system, which has enabled their rehabilitation," it states.

"They deserve to be in jail, but not to be killed."

Quilty is also putting together a tribute concert for the men.

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

Aussies on death row part of a grim line to have faced possible death sentence

Death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan stand in a grim line of nearly 90 Australians who have faced a possible death sentence overseas in the past 30 years.

1/3, or 28, of the 87 Australians arrested abroad for capital crimes were sentenced to execution. Only 16 were acquitted or had the charges dropped, while drug trafficker David McMillan managed to escape Thailand's Klong Prem prison in 1996 before he could be tried.

Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia handed down the most death sentences, while Malaysia and Singapore are the only countries to have executed Australians since mid-last century.

Indonesian lawyers for Sukumaran and Chan will lodge a 2nd request for judicial review this week. If rejected, the Sydney men will become the 5th and 6th Australians to be executed since 1967, the year of Australia's last execution, the hanging of Ronald Ryan.

19 of the 28 death sentences were later commuted to jail terms. At least 3 Australians - Chan, Sukumaran, and Pham Trung Dung in Vietnam - remain on death row, while four others arrested last year, await sentencing.

The fate of Harry Chhin, who received a suspended death sentence in 2005 in China, remains unknown. His case was set for review in 2007, but his status, in a country that regards prisoner executions as a state secret, is unknown.

Only 1 death row inmate, Donald Tait, has managed to escape execution by having his Thai verdict overturned.

Of those arrested overseas for capital crimes, 9 in 10 were detained for drug offences. The smallest amount was carried by Aaron Cohen, who was sentenced to life in a Malaysian prison in 1985 after being caught with 34 grams of heroin. Cohen, who was 19 when arrested and reportedly born a heroin addict, was detained with his mother Lorraine. She was sentenced to death. Both were pardoned in 1996.

The youngest, Gordon Vuong, was only 16 when he was sentenced to 13 years in a Cambodian jail in 2005. The oldest, an unnamed 71-year-old woman, was arrested in Vietnam allegedly with 2.8 kg of heroin in December last year.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties considered the death penalty "barbaric", said president Stephen Blanks.

"Every criminal is entitled - even the worst murderers, the worst drug dealers - to the opportunity to reform themselves."

The number of Australians arrested overseas each year has tripled in the past 20 years, mirroring a rise in travel overseas, figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show.

In 2014, nearly 370 Australians were imprisoned overseas and more than 1200 Australians were arrested while abroad.

(source for both: Sydney Morning Herald)

JANUARY 24, 2015:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Death row inmate's case draws international attention

Georgia's next scheduled execution Tuesday has drawn national and international attention because of findings that the inmate, Warren Lee Hill, is intellectually disabled.

This will be the 4th time Hill will have been prepared for death by lethal injection, and his last hopes Monday rest with the state Board of Pardons and Parole, or last-minute intervention by a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is no doubt that Hill murdered 2 people on separate occasions, but the question is whether the state can legally execute a man who has an IQ of 70. That is a nationally-recognized benchmark for intellectual disability. Georgia was the 1st state to prohibit executing the intellectually disabled but its standard of proof is the most difficult to reach - beyond a reasonable doubt. All the other death-penalty states require only proof that an inmate is more likely than not intellectual disabled, or proof by a preponderance of evidence

"Georgia is about to execute someone with mentality of an 11-year-old - a young boy in man's body," said Hill's attorney Brian Kammer.

Lee County prosecutor Plez Hardin disputes that. He points out that Hill held jobs as a teenager to help support his family, graduated from high school and was a marksman and petty officer in the Navy. Hardin said Hill was evaluated before and after his trial.

"He only started malingering or showing signs of mental retardation many years into his appeals," Hardin said. "It's very clear he's not mentally retarded."

In the past 2 1/2 years as Hill has come close to execution, groups like the European Union, the American Bar Association and the American Association on Intellectual and Development Disabilities, and international media have lobbied for him to be spared, arguing that Georgia law makes it too hard, if not impossible, for him to prove he is intellectually disabled. Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, have written letters urging that he not be executed.

All the while, his death sentence has remained intact even though 2 state court judges who heard his appeals found Hill to be intellectually disabled, but only by a preponderance of the evidence. And 3 experts who testified for the prosecution in the 1991 trial have changed their opinions and said Hill is intellectually disabled beyond a reasonable doubt.

Neither Hill nor his 2nd victim, Joseph Handspike, are sympathetic characters.

Hill was in prison for the 1986 shooting death his 18-year-old girlfriend when he used a nail-studded board to beat Handspike. At the time of the 1990 attack, Handspike was also in prison for murder, and he was known as a sexual predator. Hill claimed he murdered his sleeping cellmate because Handspike had threatened to sexually assault him.

Even as he waits for the death sentence to be carried out, Hill has unresolved appeals before courts.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing a request that Hill be allowed a 2nd round of appeals.

At the same time, Kammer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to also consider Hill's case in light of a ruling by the justices last spring in a Florida case. The high court ruled in May states cannot solely rely on intelligence test scores when deciding whether a murderer is eligible to be executed. The justices said IQ tests are imprecise and contain a margin of error, creating a risk that an inmate with a borderline intellectual disability will be wrongfully put to death.

Kammer said he will stress that same U.S. Supreme Court ruling when he goes before the Parole Board on Monday.

"The courts are conflicted," Kammer said "There's a moral conflict here that's playing out in the courts."

Hill's 3 scheduled executions in 2012 and 2013 were stopped with hours to spare by state and federal courts to allow time to consider arguments about the drugs used to put those convicted to death and about his disability.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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

Georgia bishop asks pardons board to spare inmate's life

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Bishop Rob Wright Jan. 26 sent a letter to the chair and members of Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles asking them to spare the life of an intellectually disabled death-row inmate. Warren Lee Hill is scheduled to be executed Jan. 27.

Hill, whose intellectual disability has been twice confirmed by lower courts, had his final appeal to the State Supreme Court denied Jan. 20. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which meets Jan. 26, provides Hill with a last opportunity for avoiding the death penalty unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes.

In his letter Wright made a biblical argument against executing Hill. "While many people support capital punishment, Holy Scripture clearly shows Jesus never taught that we should murder a human being, no matter how heinous the crime."

He told the board that he was greatly encouraged in July 2014 when they commuted the death sentence to life without parole in the case of Tommy Lee Waldrip.

"Your decision was a victory for morality and human dignity and I praise you for your action. Today I urge you to again take the courageous path and spare the life of Mr. Hill," he said.

Since 1984, Georgia has executed 56 people, an average of 2 per year. However, in the past year Georgia has increased the frequency of executions with 6 scheduled executions.

Since 1954, The Episcopal Church has called repeatedly for an end to executions. Wright said in a letter to more than 200 clergy in his diocese that he hopes they will express concern to state officials - and physically witness their opposition to the death penalty. "As we all know, capital punishment can never bring an end to killing," he said.

This is not the 1st time Wright has called an end to Georgia executions. In December, he wrote a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urging a halt to the practice. At that time Robert Wayne Holsey was facing execution. Holsey was executed Dec. 9 for the murder of Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

On Jan. 13 the state also executed Andrew Howard Brannan, a decorated war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court records. Brannan was put to death for the 1998 murder of 22-year-old Laurens County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Wayne Dinkheller.

Georgia is the only state to require evidence of intellectual disability to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. All other states use a less-strict standard of proof.

In a New York Times editorial published Jan. 23, the editors said "Mr. Hill's case is a catalog of everything that is wrong with the death penalty."

Vigils protesting the death penalty are planned for outside Georgia's death-row prison and in Atlanta and 10 other locations throughout Georgia, according to Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty website.

(source: Episcopal News Service)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

James Herard sentenced to death for 2008 fatal shooting----Judge says Dunkin' Donuts robber 'looking for someone to kill' during body count contest

A man already serving multiple life sentences for his role in the robberies of several Dunkin' Donuts robberies in Broward and Palm Beach counties was sentenced to die Friday.

Broward County Judge Paul L. Backman ruled that James Herard, 25, should receive the death penalty for ordering the execution of Eric Jean-Pierre in November 2008.

Herard, who was 19 at the time, was convicted in May of 1st-degree murder in the death of Kiem Huynh, 58, a customer who was shot in the back as a warning to other store patrons during a Thanksgiving 2008 robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts in Tamarac.

That was 1 of 4 Dunkin' Donuts robberies -- along with robberies at stores in Delray Beach, Sunrise and Plantation -- Herard organized as leader of the "BACC Street Crips" gang.

The capital punishment sentence stems from the murder of Jean-Pierre, who was fatally shot while walking home from a bus stop.

Backman cited Herard's violent criminal history in his sentencing order.

Herard, "along with fellow gang members Tharod Bell and Charles Faustin, were looking for someone to kill" as part of a competition to see who could get the most number of body counts, Backman wrote. Herard wanted to "get Tharod a body" when he encouraged Bell to shoot Jean-Pierre at Herard's "urging and prodding," Backman wrote.

Jean-Pierre was then shot in the chest with a 20-gauge shotgun.

"You might as well give me that body because Tharod would not have done that if I didn't provoke it," Herard said in his statement to police.

Backman cited the murder as "cold, calculated and premeditated."

Before the sentencing began Backman warned Herard, who was fitted with a stun belt, not to make any outbursts, citing his previous demeanor in court.

"First time you open your mouth and make any comments during this process -- the 1st time -- you're going to get zapped once," Backman said. "2nd time, twice."

"I highly doubt it," Herard repeated as Backman spoke.

"Don't test me on that," Backman said. "After I'm finished, you can say whatever you would like."

"Like I say, I highly doubt it," Herard said.

"If you'd like I'll start right now with it," Backman said.

"By all means," Herard replied.

Herard is already serving 9 life sentences in Palm Beach County.

His attorney plans to appeal, arguing that his client's sentence shouldn't be more severe than the sentence for the person who pulled the trigger.

Bell and Faustin are already serving life sentences for their roles in the Dunkin' Donuts robberies.

(source: local10.com)

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

Capital Punishment Is Anti-Conservative and Bad in Florida, Group Claims

It may surprise you to discover a growing number of social conservatives and libertarians are questioning the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values.

More and more -- even in Florida -- they're rethinking and rejecting the death penalty, according to the man who is carrying the message across the nation, Florida included.

"American criminal justice," says Marc Hyden, "is a system marked by inefficiency, inequity and inaccuracy."

Hyden is the national coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a network of political and social conservatives. And he has a special interest in Florida.

"Florida leads the nation in people being released from death row for wrongful convictions, as well as by the Timely Justice Act ... not to mention there's no requirement for a unanimous jury verdict in capital cases," he told Sunshine State News.

He said of the 150 death row inmates exonerated nationwide since 1973, 25 were in Florida. Illinois is the state recording the next highest innocence number, with 20.

This is why twice in recent months Hyden has embarked on speaking tours with liberty, tea party, and Republican groups in Florida -- in the Panhandle, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Orlando.

Hyden finds capital punishment "doesn't pass the conservative litmus test" on 3 counts: It isn't pro-life, isn't fiscally responsible and doesn't remotely represent limited government.

"Probably the biggest misconception of all is that it's cheaper to execute a prisoner in a capital crime than give him life without chance of parole. It isn't. In fact, it isn't even close. Capital punishment is a fiscal monster," he said. "The initial trial in a capital case is the most expensive part, far more than life-without-parole trials. And it costs twice as much to house an inmate on death row than in a maximum security prison."

In fact, Richard C. Dieter of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center confirms that death penalty trials alone can cost $1 million more than ones in which life without parole is sought.

And a 2011 California study found the cost of incarcerating a death-row prisoner can outpace the cost of housing a general-population prisoner by $100,000 a year.

In some states, a death penalty case can bankrupt a county. Seattle Times writer Jonathan Martin found that in Washington state, criminal justice costs consume 80 % of county budgets, and administrators routinely worry about the financial devastation a capital case will cause.

Worse, says a story in the New York Daily News, states pay for the death penalty whether they use it or not. In New Jersey, prior to abolishing it, taxpayers spent more than 1/4-billion dollars on a capital punishment system that, over 23 years, executed no one.

Said Hyden, "The DNA era has given us irrefutable proof that our criminal justice system sentences innocent people to die. Evidence we once thought reliable, like eyewitness identification, is not always accurate. DNA evidence has led to hundreds of exonerations, but it isn't available in most cases.

"Despite our best intentions, human beings simply can't be right 100 % of the time. And when a life is on the line, 1 mistake is 1 too many. "

Hyden and many of the others who espouse the CCATDP point of view believe the United States government has perverted the relationship between citizen and state. They point to warrantless surveillance, militarized police and indefinite detention as mainstays in our way of life in the 21st century. How, they ask, can a government that so easily disregards the fundamental principles that created -- and limited -- it, be trusted with questions of life and death?

Hyden, who previously worked for the National Rifle Association, said CCATDP, launched in 2013, is a good fit for him personally. He describes the organization as an individual- and grant-supported nonprofit, with supporters rather than members per se in all 50 states -- including a growing number in Florida. Its parent group is Montana-based Equal Justice USA.

Many of the nation's conservative-thought leaders are strong supporters, including Ron and Rand Paul, Oliver North, Jay Sekulow, Ramesh Ponnuru and Richard Viguerie.

Says Ron Paul on the CCATDP website, "I believe that support for the death penalty is inconsistent with libertarianism and traditional conservatism. So I am pleased with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty's efforts to form a coalition of libertarians and conservatives to work to end capital punishment."

There is no visible move afoot to end capital punishment in Florida, Hyden said.

(source: sunshinestatenews.com)

UTAH:

Don't return Utah to dark ages of firing squad

The Utah Legislature should not reinstate the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah. In 2004, after a year of exhaustive study and debate, the firing squad option was repealed. The Utah Sentencing Commission made a unanimous recommendation to do so.

We all decided then that there were good reasons to do so, and those reasons remain valid today. Convicted murderers gained national notoriety due to the negative media frenzy about the method of execution, and the victims were forgotten. Utah endured international condemnation for resorting to this archaic and barbaric method of execution. Executions became Wild West sideshows.

The firing squad was repealed in 2004 to eliminate the media circus caused by the firing squad and to remove the opportunity for murderers to gain fame thereby. In fact, more than a generation ago, most states abandoned the firing squad as a relic of a more gruesome past. Notably, a recent NBC poll reported that only 12 % of Americans support the use of the firing squad. And Utah would be the only state that actually still carries out executions by firing squad.

The firing squad problem is just one example of the defects of the death penalty generally. Compared to a system where life without possibility of parole is the maximum sentence, it is extraordinarily expensive, costing at least $1.6 million more per case, according to a 2012 Utah legislative audit. A single case can bankrupt a small county. Ending the use of the death penalty would promote the state's current effort to stop wasting taxpayer dollars by making data-driven decisions to reduce corrections costs, thus providing funds that can be reinvested in other ways to increase public safety.

In addition, the death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, even for similar crimes, and it disproportionately targets the poor and minorities. Only 2 % of counties nationally account for most executions. So whether you are subject to the death penalty basically depends on your ZIP code.

The system also risks the execution of innocent people. The execution of even 1 innocent person is intolerable. But nationally, death penalty exonerations since 1973 hit 150 this year, which is more than 10 % of all executions. Plus, the lengthy appeals process required in death penalty cases leaves the victims' families with open wounds for decades.

Many members of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty also oppose the firing squad bill on moral grounds. For them, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is reason enough. For these many reasons the death penalty is falling into disuse nationally. This year only 7 states had executions, executions hit a 20-year low, and new death sentences hit a 40-year low.

Finally, the secretive way Utah carries out firing squad executions further demonstrates our moral qualms about it. The shooters remain anonymous so as to not become the subjects of public scrutiny and scorn. And one of them is given blanks, so that by that deception each of them can pretend that he did not just kill a defenseless person. Moreover, the prison staff who have to plan and participate in these premeditated killings often suffer for years afterward, and later regret their part in the process.

So there are a lot of reasons that in 2015, Utah should just say "no" to the firing squad, just like we did in 2004, and for the same reasons we had then.

Ralph Dellapiana is director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

(source: Op-Ed; Ralph Dellapiana, Salt Lake Tribune)

CALIFORNIA:

Clash expected over double-murder trial’s postponement

A defense attorney and Orange County prosecutor are expected to clash in court Friday over a postponement of a double-murder defendant's death penalty trial so the defense can pursue evidence of alleged governmental misconduct.

The last time the attorneys met to discuss the trial of Daniel Patrick Wozniak, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler gave the defendant's attorney until today to file a motion to have the Orange County District Attorney's Office removed from the case and the death penalty taken away as punishment for alleged misconduct claims.

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who represents Wozniak and Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history, filed an abbreviated version of the motion late Thursday and is seeking a delay in the trial.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy filed a response this week slamming Sanders' tactics, accusing him of filing misconduct claims against nearly every prosecutor he has faced, including 2 who are now judges.

Those claims from Murphy has prompted Sanders to signal that he will ask all judges in the county to recuse themselves from overseeing Wozniak's trial.

Sanders wants Stotler to schedule a pretrial hearing for Feb. 27, well past the scheduled Feb. 13 trial date, which has been postponed several times. Sanders wants to file his full motion alleging governmental misconduct on Feb. 27.

In the Dekraai case, Sanders' motion was more than 500 pages and led to months of evidentiary hearings before another judge, who found misconduct occurred, but that it was due to negligence, not a criminal conspiracy.

However, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said he limited his analysis to just Dekraai's case and will soon hold hearings based on newfound evidence that may contradict testimony from sheriff's officials, who said they had nothing to do with placing Dekraai in a cell next to a government informant to collect damning information from the defendant, which would have violated Dekraai's constitutional rights because he was by then represented by attorneys.

Informants can listen for incriminating statements but cannot elicit them.

If Stotler refuses Sanders' request, the attorney said he would file a motion to dismiss charges, according to legal papers he filed this week. Sanders said he needs more time to gather evidence regarding Murphy's claims that the attorney is a serial accuser of prosecutorial misconduct.

Sanders has been pushing prosecutors to provide any correspondence between Murphy and his fellow prosecutors as well as the 2 judges.

Murphy argued in his response that Sanders' request is overly broad, that he is not entitled to that information, and that there has been no correspondence anyway.

Murphy also contradicted Sanders' arguments that his claims all had merit and that the attorney misrepresented what happened in each case.

"Mr. Sanders has accused 16 different prosecutors of misconduct in 13 separate cases," Murphy said in his motion.

As for Sanders' complaints that prosecutors have withheld evidence from defense attorneys in violation of the law, Murphy said Sanders has not lived up to a rule that compels him to provide prosecutors with information about expert witnesses in Wozniak's death penalty trial.

"This case is 4 1/2 years old and we have yet to receive a single meaningful page of discovery from the defense," Murphy wrote. "The defense isn't simply permitted to call opposing counsel, or sitting members of the Orange County bench, because they want to."

(source: mynewsla.com)

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

Defense tries to bar death penalty in OCC students' killings

Defense lawyers are trying to take the death penalty off the table for a man accused of murdering 2 Orange Coast College students in Costa Mesa more than 4 years ago.

According to grand jury testimony, Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 30, has admitted to police to killing Samuel Herr, 26, and Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, in 2010 so he could steal $50,000 from Herr's bank account.

Prosecutors say Wozniak staged Kibuishi's body to look like Herr had sexually assaulted her. He also is accused of dismembering Herr's body so he could hide the remains in a park.

Wozniak's case has been slowed by accusations of misconduct that his public defender, Scott Sanders, has leveled against the Orange County district attorney's office and Orange County Sheriff's Department.

On Thursday, Sanders filed an 80-page summary of what he believes to be a culture of Orange County law enforcement withholding evidence that could be helpful to defendants and misusing jailhouse informants to violate defendants' constitutional rights.

He says Wozniak was approached by a jailhouse informant to elicit a confession.

"The Orange County district attorney's office, and related law enforcement agencies, have proved over decades that they are willing to decide on their own who is guilty and who is not, who deserves to live and who to die, and to illegally create and withhold evidence in the pursuit of enforcing those decisions," Sanders wrote.

He argued that capital punishment should be ruled out for his client.

But prosecutor Matt Murphy shot back that the filing had little or nothing to do with Wozniak's case. Prosecutors say they will not use any information from jailhouse informants in Wozniak's trial.

"This has to be the biggest dud in the history of Orange County jurisprudence," Murphy said in court.

Sanders' summary is only a preview of his allegations, not an official request to dismiss the death penalty in the case, which caused some confusion in court Friday.

"I don't know what that is," Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler said. "This isn't an actual motion."

Sanders explained that he wanted to give the court an idea of what he's been doing but said he needs more time to craft a final motion that he said could run 20,000 pages, an idea that Murphy mocked.

"Not only is that absurd, it's obscene," Murphy said, reminding Stotler that 3 deadlines for Sanders' motion have already passed.

At times, Stotler had to rein in Murphy and Sanders as they spent most of Friday's hearing arguing about previous insults and accusations they have thrown at each other.

A deadline for Sanders' motion to bar the death penalty is unclear. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 13.

The 2 sides will return to court Monday for another hearing.

(source: The Daily Pilot)

USA:

Midazolam and the Supreme Court----Only 1 week after refusing to stay Charles Warner's execution, the justices will now hear his fellow inmates' appeal on a questionable lethal-injection drug.

What changed?

Last week, the state of Oklahoma executed Charles Warner after the Supreme Court refused to halt his execution while he appealed the constitutionality of the drugs used to kill him. Warner and 3 other death-row inmates argued that midazolam, a sedative used by Oklahoma and 3 other states in lethal injections, did not properly induce unconsciousness and would therefore lead to a horrifyingly painful death.

A 5-justice majority, however, denied Warner's request for a stay without comment, and the state of Oklahoma executed Warner shortly thereafter. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and three other justices dissented, arguing that Warner and the other inmates had raised serious questions about Oklahoma's lethal-injection procedures. "I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions," Sotomayor wrote.

Those hopes were not in vain. On Friday, the Supreme Court granted the three remaining plaintiffs' petition to hear their case, titled Glossip v. Gross, after it was relisted for further consideration. The justices gave no indication why they would refuse to stay Warner's execution, then agree to hear his case 7 days later. Requests for the Court to stay the other three inmates' executions are forthcoming, said Dale Baich, one of their attorneys.

The Supreme Court has not addressed a lethal injection protocol's constitutionality since Baze v. Rees in 2008. A 6-justice majority ruled then that a 3-drug cocktail - the sedative sodium thiopental, the paralytic pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride - did not violate the Eighth Amendment. But without sodium thiopental to anesthetize a condemned inmate, the court wrote, there would be "a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of suffocation from the administration of pancuronium bromide and of pain from potassium chloride." In other words, the inmate would die in agony as he or she suffocated to death.

Amid intense pressure by anti-death-penalty activists, the last American drug maker to produce sodium thiopental withdrew from the market in 2011. State officials scrambled to find alternative sources in overseas markets, leading to a European Union embargo of lethal-injection drugs and raids by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to seize stockpiles of sodium thiopental that had been imported without a license.

Without sodium thiopental, states then experimented with alternative cocktails. Midazolam, a sedative from the benzodiazepine family, was first used for executions in Florida as part of a 3-drug cocktail without apparent complication. Outside of the Sunshine State, however, it has led to at least 3 botched executions. Last January, Dennis McGuire told observers during his execution with midazolam and hydromorphone in Ohio that he could "feel his whole body burning" as he died. In July, Joseph Wood gasped for air for 1 hour and 57 minutes in Arizona during his executions with the same 2-drug cocktail.

Oklahoma first used a 3-drug midazolam cocktail identical to Florida's to execute Clayton Lockett last April. During his execution, an improper IV placement failed to deliver enough of the paralytic drug into his bloodstream, and he died of a massive heart attack while writhing in pain. In the aftermath, the other 4 Oklahoma death-row inmates appealed for a stay of their executions, arguing that midazolam did not produce a "deep, comalike unconsciousness" and was therefore an unacceptable substitute for sodium thiopental. As Justice Sotomayor observed last week, this paralytic's absence may have revealed pain and suffering that would otherwise be unobservable. This possibility raises serious questions about all executions performed with midazolam, including those carried out without incident in Florida.

The Supreme Court has never struck down an existing method of execution as unconstitutional. A ruling that forbids midazolam would reverberate even throughout states that do not use the sedative. No execution chamber in the U.S. currently uses the Baze cocktail, and no pharmaceutical company currently provides its key ingredient to American death rows. Even states like Texas, which uses a single-drug protocol with pentobarbital in its lethal injections, could find themselves on unsure constitutional footing.

(source: The Atlantic)

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

US death penalty: Supreme Court to decide lethal injection case ---- US high court last week allowed Oklahoma execution to go on, despite questions over drugs used

The US Supreme Court revealed on Friday that it would look into lethal injections in Oklahoma, just a week after it allowed the execution of a man in that state, despite questions about the deadly drugs combined for the lethal injections.

The Oklahoma case was brought by 3 death row inmates in the state who say that lethal injections violate the US Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, according to a report from Reuters. All 3 of the inmates who brought the case are scheduled to be put to death within the next 2 months.

Questions have surrounded the 3-drug lethal injection process used in Oklahoma since April 2014, when the state botched the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. Execution officials had a difficult time placing Lockett's IV for the injection and it took 43 minutes for him to die, during which he was seen writing in pain, according to reports of the incident.

An investigation into Lockett's execution revealed that it wasn't the drugs that caused the slow, painful death, but the IV connection. Still, the state altered its lethal injection procedure following the Lockett debacle.

The Lockett case brought up questions of whether the Supreme Court would halt further executions in Oklahoma, pending a procedural review. On 15 January, the Supreme Court declined to halt the execution of Charles Warner, who was convicted of raping and murdering an 11-month-old baby.

The inmates who brought the case before the high court are Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole. Glossip is slated to be killed on 29 January for arranging the murder of his former boss. Grant's execution is scheduled for 19 February, after he was convicted of stabbing a correctional officer to death. Cole, who is to be killed on 5 March, was convicted of killing his 9-month-old daughter.

It was not immediately clear if the Supreme Court would halt any of the 3 executions while it's waiting to hear the case, which is to be argued on April, with a decision expected before July.

(source: The Independent)

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

Supreme Court To Take Up Use Of Lethal Injection

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review Oklahoma's method of execution by lethal injection, taking up a case brought by three death row inmates who accuse the state of violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The high court just last week allowed the execution of a convicted killer to go ahead in Oklahoma over the objection of its four liberal members.

The 3-drug process used by Oklahoma prison officials for carrying out the death penalty has been widely debated since the April 2014 botched execution of inmate Clayton Lockett, a convicted murder. He could be seen twisting on the gurney after death chamber staff failed to place the IV properly.

The inmates challenging the state's procedures argue that the sedative used by Oklahoma, midazolam, cannot achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and was therefore unsuitable for executions.

On Jan. 15, the high court declined to halt the execution of another Oklahoma inmate, Charles Warner, who was convicted of raping and murdering an 11-month-old baby. The court was divided 5-4, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing a dissenting opinion.

Although 5 votes are needed to grant a stay application, only 4 are required for the court to take up a case.

The inmates say the 3-drug protocol used by the state can cause extreme pain in violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

After the Lockett execution, the state revised its protocols by increasing the amount of midazolam used to render an inmate unconscious. Lower courts signed off on the change, as did the divided Supreme Court.

In her dissent in the Warner case, Sotomayor said she was "deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that midazolam cannot be constitutionally used as the 1st drug in a 3-drug lethal injection protocol."

The inmates want the court to decide whether its 2008 decision in a case called Baze v. Rees in which the justices upheld the three-drug execution protocol used by Kentucky applies to Oklahoma's procedures. Lawyers for the inmates say that the Oklahoma protocol is different, so the reasoning of the 2008 ruling should not apply.

The inmates are Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole. Glossip, who arranged for his employer to be beaten to death, is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 29. Grant, who stabbed a correctional worker to death, is due to be put to death on Feb. 19. Cole, convicted of killing his 9-month-old daughter, is scheduled to be executed on March 5.

The brief court order did not note whether the court had agreed to stay the executions.

The case will be argued in April, with a decision due by the end of June.

(source: Reuters)

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

The botched executions behind the Supreme Court case on lethal injection

Late Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court announced it would review lethal injection procedures used for many death row inmates across the country after a few of botched executions raised concerns about whether the procedure is unconstitutional.

Those problematic executions include Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma inmate in April who died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the lethal injection process was started. After the 1st of a 3-drug cocktail was supposed to make him unconscious, Lockett began writhing on the gurney. Months earlier in Ohio, Dennis McGuire struggled and choked for several minutes and took nearly 25 minutes to die from the lethal injection. Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood took nearly 2 hours to die, with witnesses saying he gasped and snorted for much of it. Other cases of problematic executions have been reported.

The question before the court now is whether the lethal injection protocol, which has undergone unexpected changes in the past few years, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

How lethal injection has changed

Until a few years ago, most lethal injections used a three-drug combination - an anesthetic, a paralytic drug and a drug stopping the heart. The most common anesthetic used was sodium thiopental, but in 2011, its sole manufacturer said it would no longer make it after Italian officials banned export of the drug for capital punishment. So states started using a different anesthetic, pentobarbital - until its manufacturer, a Danish company known as Lundbeck, protested its use in executions.

In turn, states started using new and untested combinations to carry out lethal injections, which is still the main method of executions in the United States. A Germany company said it would stop providing its anesthetic for lethal injections, and a compounding pharmacy last year refused to provide drugs to execute a Missouri inmate.

There's been a high level of secrecy

There's also been secrecy about where and how states are getting these new drugs. As my colleagues reported last April, following Lockett's execution:

In their scramble to carry out death sentences, prison officials from different states have made secret handoffs of lethal-injection drugs. State workers have carried stacks of cash into unregulated compounding pharmacies to purchase chemicals for executions. Some states, like Oklahoma, have relied on unproven drug cocktails, all while saying they must conceal the source of the drugs involved to protect suppliers from legal action and harassment.

"It looks like a street-level drug deal," said Dean Sanderford, a lawyer for Lockett. "And they're keeping all the information secret from us. .?.?. They don't need to be carrying out any more executions until they come clean, until we know exactly what happened with Clayton’s execution and everything about these drugs, where they’re getting them."

What's changed in Oklahoma

After a review of Lockett's death, Oklahoma a few months ago announced changes to its lethal injection procedure. The state says it will now use 5 times as much of the sedative midazolam, which it used for the 1st time in Lockett's execution last year. The state last week executed its 1st inmate since Lockett, and there were no apparent signs of distress.

What other states have done

The high-profile botched executions haven't changed much for states around the country. As the Boston Globe reported last month, some states are looking at other ways of executing death row inmates. Oklahoma is apparently looking at becoming the first state to use "forced deprivation of oxygen," while Tennessee may bring back the electric chair and Utah may reinstate the firing squad, according to the Globe.

Support for the death penalty is down

Nationwide support for the death penalty has been declining, but at least 60 % of people still favor it. After series of botched executions, pollsters expressed doubt those incidents would change public attitudes in a significant way. Still, at least 6 states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and 18 states in total ban it.

(source: Jason Millman, Washington Post)

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

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case jury is slow to form

The 1st full work week of jury selection in the trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended Friday with a total of 81 prospective jurors facing questioning in what is turning into a tedious process, as both prosecutors and defense attorneys challenge the suitability of potential panelists.

Tsarnaev, 21, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted in the April 2013 bombing that killed 3 and injured hundreds more, and lawyers on both sides of the case have sparred over whether potential jurors are suitable to serve.

Jurors must be willing to hand out the death penalty if Tsarnaev is convicted, but they must also be open to granting a lesser sentence of life in prison. And many jurors seemed to struggle to give definitive answers when questioned.

"I'm not a huge fan of the death penalty, but I also know I don't really know. . . . I don't know what to think about it," said 1 potential juror, a software developer for a consulting firm.

"It's one of those things you wish you never have to do, but there are times you realize you need to do it," he said.

The potential jurors have not been identified by name.

US District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. plans to seat a final panel of 12 jurors and 6 alternates, though he has abandoned his goal of completing the task by Monday. The selection of a jury for a death penalty trial could take a month, if not longer. It took O'Toole 6 days to question the 81 potential jurors, and the process of culling jurors from the initial pool of 1,373 people will continue next week.

The judge has not said how many of the jurors he has questioned so far have been entered into the final pool of qualified panelists, and he has let lawyers and prosecutors argue over their qualifications in closed hearings.

Defense lawyers have asked the judge to be more thorough in determining whether jurors have any bias or presumptions in the case. They also asked in a 3rd request Thursday to relocate the trial to a district outside Boston, saying it will be impossible to pick a jury in the same city where the bombs went off. The judge has not decided on the latest request.

3 people were killed and more than 260 were injured when the bombs went off at the finish line on April 15, 2013.

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan also allegedly shot and killed an MIT police officer. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a confrontation with police in Watertown.

(source: Boston Globe)

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

Death Penalty Fast Facts

Here's a look at the death penalty in the United States.

Facts:

Capital punishment is legal in 32 U.S. states.

Connecticut and New Mexico have abolished the death penalty, but it is not retroactive. Prisoners on death row in those states will still be executed.

As of October 2014 there were 3,035 inmates awaiting execution.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, 1,394 people have been executed. (as of December 2014)

Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty. In Japan, the 2013 per capita execution rate was 1 execution per 15,809,458 persons.

Federal Government: (source: Death Penalty Information Center)

The U.S. government and U.S. military have 69 people awaiting execution. (as of October 2014)

The U.S. government has executed 3 people since 1976.

Females:

There are 57 women on death row in the United States. (as of October 2014)

15 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. (as of October 2014)

Juveniles:

22 individuals were executed between 1985 and 2003 for crimes committed as juveniles aged 16 and 17.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juveniles is unconstitutional. This means that 16 and 17-year-olds are ineligible for execution. And reverses 2 1989 cases in Kentucky and Missouri.

Clemency:

Clemency Processes around the Country.

275 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a pardon.

Timeline:

1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the 1st state to move executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 - Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890 - William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 - 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 per year.

June 29, 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 - A 10-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 - Oklahoma becomes the 1st state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the 1st person executed by lethal injection.

1984 - Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the 1st woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.

1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.

1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age 16 or 17.

1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.

1996 - The last execution by hanging takes place in Delaware, with the death of Billy Bailey.

January 31, 2000 - A moratorium on executions is declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan. Since 1976, Illinois is the 1st state to block executions.

2002 - Atkins v. Virginia. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 2003 - Before leaving office, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois's death row, due to the flawed process that led to the death sentences.

June 2004 - New York's death penalty law is declared unconstitutional by the state's high court.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile killers is unconstitutional. The 5-4 decision tosses out the death sentence of a Missouri man who was 17-years-old when he murdered a St. Louis area woman in 1993.

December 2, 2005 - The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd in North Carolina marks the 1,000th time the death penalty has been carried out since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Boyd, 57, is executed for the 1988 murders of his wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and father-in-law, Thomas Dillard Curry.

June 12, 2006 - The Supreme Court rules that death row inmates can challenge the use of lethal injection as a method of execution.

December 15, 2006 - Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspends the death penalty after the execution of prisoner Angel Diaz. Diaz had to be given 2 injections, and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die.

December 15, 2006 - Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose rules that lethal injection in California violates the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

December 17, 2007 - Governor Jon Corzine signs legislation banning the death penalty in New Jersey. The death sentences of 8 men are commuted to life terms.

September 2007 - The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case of Baze and Bowling v. Rees, in which two Kentucky death row inmates challenged Kentucky's use of a 3-drug mixture for death by lethal injection.

December 31, 2007 - Due to the de facto moratorium on executions, pending the Supreme Court's ruling, only 42 people in the U.S. are executed in 2007. It is the lowest total in more than 10 years.

April 14, 2008 - In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upholds Kentucky's use of lethal injection. Between September 2007, when the Court took on the case, and April 2008 no one was executed in the U.S.

March 18, 2009 - Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signs legislation repealing the death penalty in his state. His actions will not affect 2 prisoners currently on death row, Robert Fry, who killed a woman in 2000, and Tim Allen, who killed a 17-year-old girl in 1994.

November 13, 2009 - Ohio becomes the 1st state to switch to a method of lethal injection using a single drug, rather than the 3-drug method used by other states.

2010 - Execution by firing squad is used for the last time in Utah, with the death of Ronnie Lee Gardner.

March 9, 2011 - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announces that he has signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in his state, more than 10 years after the state halted executions.

March 16, 2011 - The Drug Enforcement Agency seizes Georgia's supply of thiopental, over questions of where the state obtained the drug. U.S. manufacturer Hospira stopped producing the drug in 2009. The countries that still produce the drug do not allow it to be exported to the U.S. for use in lethal injections.

May 20, 2011 - The Georgia Department of Corrections announces that pentobarbital will be substituted for sodium thiopental in the 3-drug lethal injection process.

July 2011 - Lundbeck Inc., the company that makes pentobarbital (brand name Nembutal), the drug used in lethal injections, announces it will restrict the use of its product from prisons carrying out capital punishment. "After much consideration, we have determined that a restricted distribution system is the most meaningful means through which we can restrict the misuse of Nembutal. While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can't make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons' access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection." Lundbeck also states that it "adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment."

July 7, 2011 - Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr., a Mexican national, is executed by lethal injection, in Texas for the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of Adra Sauceda in San Antonio. Despite pleas from the U.S. State Department and the White House, Texas Governor Rick Perry does not grant clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court does not intervene.

November 22, 2011 - Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon grants a reprieve to Gary Haugen, who was scheduled to be executed December 6. Kitzhaber, a licensed physician, also puts a moratorium on all state executions for the remainder of his term in office.

April 25, 2012 - Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signs S.B. 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, into law. The law goes into effect immediately and replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. The law is not retroactive to those already on death row.

June 22, 2012 - The Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down the state's execution law, calling the form of lethal injection the state uses unconstitutional.

August 7, 2012 - The Supreme Court allows the execution of Marvin Wilson, 54, a Texas inmate with low IQ.

November 6, 2012 - A measure to repeal the death penalty in California fails.

May 2, 2013 - Maryland's governor signs a bill repealing the death penalty. The legislation goes into effect October 1.

June 26, 2013 - Texas executes its 500th prisoner since 1982, Kimberly McCarthy, for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth. McCarthy is the 1st female executed in the U.S. since 2010.

November 20, 2013 - Missouri executes white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon. He was blamed for 22 killings between 1977 and 1980.

January 16, 2014 - Ohio executes inmate Dennis McGuire with a new combination of drugs, due to the unavailability of drugs such as pentobarbital. The state used a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, according to the state corrections department. According to witness Alan Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch, the whole execution process took 24 minutes, and McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes.

February 11, 2014 - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces that he is issuing a moratorium on death penalty cases during his term in office.

May 22, 2014 - Tennessee becomes the 1st state to make death by electric chair mandatory when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

May 28, 2014 - A judge in Ohio issues an order temporarily suspending executions in the state so that authorities can further study new lethal injection protocols.

July 23, 2014 - Arizona uses a new combination of drugs for the lethal injection to execute convicted murderer Joseph Woods. After he was injected it took him nearly 2 hours to die. Witness accounts differ as to whether he was gasping for air or snoring as he died.

September 4, 2014 - The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issues a report on the controversial April execution of inmate Clayton Lockett. Complications with the placement of an IV into Lockett played a significant role in problems with his execution, according to the report. An autopsy confirmed that Lockett died from the execution drugs and not from a heart attack, but many consider it botched nonetheless because it took 43 minutes for him to die.

November 19, 2014 - A Utah legislative committee votes 9-2 to endorse a bill that will allow the execution of condemned prisoners by firing squad if drugs needed for lethal injection are not available. The bill is scheduled to be heard by full Utah Legislature convening in January 2015.

December 22, 2014 - A U.S. district court judge in Oklahoma rules that future scheduled executions may proceed after he denies a preliminary injunction request filed by 21 Oklahoma death row inmates stemming from the problematic execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29th.

December 22, 2014 - Arizona's state-commisioned review board decides that the execution of Joseph Woods was "handled appropriately," but that it will be changing the combination they use in future executions from a 2 drug formula to a 3 drug formula, or a single drug injection if the State can obtain it (pentobarbital).

December 31, 2014 - Outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley takes the state's last 4 inmates off death row, commuting their sentences to life in prison without parole in one of his final acts in office.

January 8, 2015 - Ohio announces that it is reincorporating thiopental sodium, a drug which it used in executions from 1999-2011, into it's execution policy. The state is also dropping the two-drug regimen of midazolam and hydromorphone.

(source: CNN)

IRAN----executions

Iran executes 73 activists

Civilians Defense Association in Iran announced that the security authorities carried out death sentences against 73 detainees in their prisons last month, including the executions of18 Kurdish political activists.

The Association said in a statement that the death penalty of the 73 prisoners took place in the period between December 20, 2014 and January 20, 2015, pointing out that the real numbers may exceed the documented ones.

Speaking to ARA News in this regard, human rights activist Abdul Majid Temir said: "The tyrannical practices of the Iranian regime and its horrible violations against basic human rights come amid an international silence.

"The international community is neglecting the sufferings of Iranian activists."

"The criminal practices of the Iranian authorities committed against dissidents and politicians raise major concerns in entire Middle East, not only in Iran," Temir argued.

Temir pointed out that the Shiite regime persistently interferes in the internal affairs of all neighboring countries, causing unrest.

"The Iranian authorities suppresses its people publicly, and interferes in the internal affairs of its neighbors. We've seen no action by the international community in this regard," he said.

"The recent convergence between the U.S. and Iranian interests came especially after the emergence of the Islamic State group in the region showing concerns that its terrorism and brutality would spread across the region," Temir told ARA News.

"Syria is being subjected to massacres at the hands of al-Assad regime, the major ally of Iran and Russia, and the silence of the Western powers contributes to the increased sectarian tension in the region."

"West should bear its responsibility towards the deteriorating human rights issues in the Middle East," he said.

According to reports, Iran is experiencing the highest execution rates in the world along with China. .

(source: ARA news)

MALAYSIA:

Govt assists SA man sentenced to death in Malaysia----Deon Cornelius was found guilty of drug trafficking after he was caught carrying 2kg of methamphetamine.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says the South African High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is rendering consular support to a South African man who was sentenced to death for drug-related offences in Malaysia.

Security guard Deon Cornelius was found guilty of drug trafficking after he was caught carrying 2 kilograms of methamphetamine at the Penang International Airport in 2013.

He says the bag was given to him by a man named "Tony" to bring to Malaysia and that he was unaware of its contents.

However, the judge found that he had knowledge of the drugs in the bag and that he only mentioned "Tony" as an afterthought.

The 28-year-old has been sentenced to death by hanging.

The department's Nelson Kgwete says they are dealing with the matter and are in constant communication with Cornelius's family.

"It is in our interest as the South African government to ensure we uphold the rights of our people and one of the most important rights is the right to life and that is why we will be making interventions on behalf of the South African citizen."

Cornelius's family initially thought he would get a 10-year-sentence under a deal with Malaysian prosecutors.

Cornelius, who has a 5-year-old daughter, was charged under Malaysia's Dangerous Drugs Act which carries a mandatory death sentence.

(source: Eyewitness News)

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

Australia opposes death penalty, at home and abroad----Australia opposes the death penalty for its citizens both at home and abroad, but Malaysia and Indonesia are not budging on their use of capital punishment for serious offences.

In the past month, Australia has been vocally opposing the death penalty for its citizens - both at home and abroad - at a time when 2 Australians face capital punishment in Indonesia and another in Malaysia for drug trafficking.

However, Malaysia is not budging on its use of the death penalty - seeking to extradite a high profile convicted murderer from Australian shores to face death by hanging back home.

At a court near Malaysia's international airport in Sepang, an Australian woman expressed gratitude to those working to prove her innocence and spare her life. Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was charged with drug trafficking in December, which carries a mandatory death sentence in Malaysia.

However, her lawyers said she was duped by scammers into carrying 1.5 kilogrammes of crystal meth into Malaysia from Shanghai.

Mrs Pinto Exposto said: "Thank you to my lawyers, they're working very hard on my case. And I made some friends here and I want to say thank you to all of them because I don't have family and friends here."

Her ongoing case comes at a time when Australia has made very clear its stance against the death penalty for its citizens, both at home and abroad.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been publicly lobbying for mercy for 2 Australians facing execution by firing squad in Indonesia - Bali 9 drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

So all eyes are on Australia, now that Malaysia wants to bring to justice a runaway convicted murderer from Australian shores to face the death penalty at home.

Sirul Azhar Umar fled to Queensland after being found guilty of the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian woman who served as interpreter on controversial Malaysian defence contract negotiations.

Australia's extradition legislation does not allow Sirul Azhar to be surrendered to another country to face possible capital punishment. But the ex-police commando is at the centre of one of Malaysia's most high-profile scandals and Putrajaya is not expected to let him get away without a fight.

(source: ChannelNewsAsia.com)

EGYPT:

Retrial ordered in mass death penalty caseMuslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo ---- Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been sentenced in swift mass trials

A court in Egypt has ordered a retrial for 37 Muslim Brotherhood members sentenced to death over an attack on a police station in 2013.

They were among more than 500 backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi sentenced to death in a mass trial.

Most of the death penalties were later commuted to life in prison. A retrial was also ordered for 115 other defendants sentenced to life.

The 2-day trial and its outcome had drawn international condemnation.

The defendants had been convicted of attacking the police station in Minya, south of Cairo, following a deadly crackdown on pro-Morsi supporters by security forces that August.

The original trial also saw some 377 people sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

There have been a number of mass trials of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt where defendants have received heavy sentences.

The cases and speed of the hearings have drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups and the UN.

(source: BBC news)

JAPAN:

Cabinet Office poll: 80% of respondents think death penalty 'permissible'

According to a Cabinet Office opinion poll released Saturday, 80.3 % of respondents considered the death penalty a "permissible" sanction, and just 9.7 % of them felt it should be abolished.

The rate remained high, apparently reflecting respondents' views that the feelings of crime victims and their relatives should be taken into account, and that serious offenders should receive the harshest punishment, the Cabinet Office poll, conducted every 5 years, indicated.

The proportion of respondents who felt the death penalty is permissible stood at 85.6 % in the previous poll conducted in 2009, and at 81.4 % in the 2004 poll.

In the latest poll, carried out last November, respondents were asked whether they thought the death penalty was "permissible." In the previous polls, participants were asked whether they thought capital punishment was "permissible in some cases" only.

When asked to cite their reasons, and with multiple answers allowed, 53.4 % of those who deemed capital punishment permissible said the victims' anger could never ease if the system was abolished and offenders were allowed to live. Another 52.9 % replied that perpetrators of heinous crimes should pay with their life.

Among those opposed to the death penalty, 46.6 % cited potential miscarriages of justice and 41.6 % said offenders should be kept alive to atone for their crimes.

Respondents in the latest poll were for the 1st time asked whether they would support the abolition of capital punishment if Japan introduced a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. The rate of those in favor came to 51.5 %, against 37.7 % who still wished to retain the death penalty.

The poll was conducted on 3,000 adults under an interview format from Nov. 13 to 23. Of them, 60.9 % provided valid responses. No margin of error was given.

(source: Japan Times)

UKRAINE:

Rebel-led Donetsk Republic to approve death-penalty law----In Europe, only Belarus still has capital punishment

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine will approve a law allowing capital punishment, said Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the Republic, according to Russian media sources on Friday. The only European country with the death penalty is Belarus. In Russia, the death penalty is under a moratorium, meaning it is indefinitely suspended.

(source: gazzettadelsud.it)

INDONESIA:

Death penalty necessary to save Indonesia from drug scourge

"Bloodless murderers" is the term that Kamaluddin Lubis, a prominent activist, once used to describe drug dealers - arguing that they ought to be executed for their crimes. To some such a label might be over the top, but it succinctly portrays this man's misery: drug abuse claimed the life of one of his sons. And he is not alone.

Government data shows there are 4.5 million drugs users in Indonesia, and every single day around 50 of them lose their lives. In 2013, the surge in drug abuse was the highest among students, with an increase of 60%. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to predict what kind of future this country has if nothing is done to halt this scourge.

The government understandably will not just sit back as more and more Indonesians fall prey to drug abuse. That is why the government rightly is hell-bent on enforcing the law against those who are responsible for the spread of illicit drugs, including by putting to death drug traffickers, regardless of their nationality.

Of course the situation becomes more intricate when those executed are foreign nationals. Unsurprisingly, the countries whose citizens are executed in Indonesia will be disappointed, and some have even recalled their ambassadors from Indonesia for consultation after a total of 6 drug convicts were put to death on January 18.

Although this reaction is understandable, some caveats are in order.

As stated earlier, Indonesia is currently dealing with a severe drug crisis involving millions of people, so effective law enforcement is indispensable to deter others from committing the same crime. Despite many claims to the contrary, several studies have affirmed the deterrent effect of the death penalty.

A Wall Street Journal article mentions that every execution of a murder convict prevents 74 murders in the following year. And in Singapore, which applies the death penalty, the number of drug offenders has declined by two third since the 1990s.

The death penalty obviously cannot be our only weapon - more robust preventive measures and rehabilitation are needed - but it should remain an important part of our comprehensive strategy to win the war on drugs. One can argue that capital punishment is not effective enough or inhumane, but when all is said and done every country has the sovereign right to prosecute criminals in accordance with its national laws and international law norms that it agreed to.

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Indonesia has ratified, allows the death penalty under certain conditions, which Indonesia has met.

The death sentence can only be imposed for the most serious crimes, and Indonesia deems drug trafficking to fall into this category. Despite the debate on what is meant by "the most serious crimes", the ICCPR's preparatory works show that the omission in defining the term was intended by the negotiating parties to leave room for state-specific interpretation. There is indeed a trend toward restricting the scope of the term, as expressed in various non-binding statements in United Nations forums.

For example, the UN Economic and Social Council Resolution 1984/50 limits the most serious crimes to intentional offences resulting in lethal consequences. Nevertheless, even with the narrower interpretation of the term, drug trafficking would still qualify as one of the most serious crimes since it is an intentional offence that contributes to the death of too many of our people.

Moreover, the death penalty is carried out pursuant to the judgement of the Indonesian Supreme Court, the final court of appeal within the Indonesian judiciary, after a fair trial at the District Court and the High Court. Offenders are also offered the chance to ask the president for clemency, which in the latest cases was denied. Simply put, the rendering of the death sentence in Indonesia has been done in accordance with due process of law.

Other countries whose citizens are convicted can raise their objection, but the final verdict rests with the country where the prosecution takes place. Indonesia is fighting tooth and nail to protect its citizens abroad, but we do so in conformity with local laws. And when a verdict is handed down, we respect this decision even if we disagree.

After all: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Regardless of the recent controversy, the Indonesian government is determined to maintain and bolster ties with the countries that have summoned their ambassadors.

It is not unusual for countries to have disagreements, but our shared interests and mutually beneficial partnerships - such as on trade and investment - are too profound to sacrifice. While governments, scholars and NGOs are rigorously debating this imbroglio, the voices of the victims of drug abuse and their families often remain unheard.

But the Indonesian government should be commended for not turning its back on Kamaluddin Lubis and millions of others who have gone through unspeakable misery. For them and for countless others who are at risk of being ensnared by the drug menace, the government should make sure that those responsible for this scourge pay the steepest price.

* Astari Anjani and Dimas Muhamad work at the Policy Analysis and Development Agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

JANUARY 23, 2015:

FLORIDA:

Court upholds former Eau Claire County man's death penalty

A former Eau Claire County man sentenced to death for the murders of 2 women lost his appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Nearly 15 years ago, Bill Marquardt was convicted of stabbing and shooting a woman and her adult daughter to death in Florida. Before that, he was also charged in the stabbing and shooting death of his mother in Chippewa County, but a jury found him not guilty.

In 2012, Marquardt was sentenced to death for the Florida murders. He recently appealed his conviction and sentence to death on 5 grounds.

Florida's Supreme Court rejected his appeal on Thursday.

A date has not been scheduled for his execution.

(source: WQOW news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Sledge exoneration drives another nail in NC death penalty

Today's exoneration of Joseph Sledge after 36 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit gives rise to 1 overriding question today:

How many more men wrongfully convicted and imprisoned (or even sent to death row) is it going to take before the stubborn defenders of the death penalty in North Carolina finally admit that it is simply impossible to impose such a punishment in a fair and foolproof way?

Unless one simply goes along with the mind-boggling and terrifying position of Antonin Scalia that there is nothing wrong or unconstitutional with executing a person "who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a court that he is 'actually' innocent," any honest person must simply admit that the time has finally come to end the death penalty once and for all.

(source: Rob Schofield; ncpolicywatch.org)

USA:

Supreme Court will review lethal injection drug protocol used in executions

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review the lethal injection protocol used in many executions around the country, after allowing an Oklahoma inmate last week to be put to death using the drugs.

The court's 4 liberals would have granted Charles Frederick Warner a stay but were overruled.

But it takes only 4 votes to accept a case, and the court will review a petition put forward by 3 other inmates on the state's death row.

In a 2008 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that lethal injections did not violate the Constitution's ban against cruel and unusual punishment. But the drug protocol that the court considered in that Kentucky case is no longer used, because the drugs are difficult for states to obtain.

In Warner's case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried that it had not been proven that the state's new procedure was valid, following a botched effort in the execution last year of Clayton Lockett.

"Petitioners have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished," Sotomayor wrote. "But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death. I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions."

She was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. But that was one vote short of issuing a stay in Warner's case, who was executed without apparent incident.

The new case, Glossip v. Gross, will likely be heard in April.

(source: Washington Post)

TEXAS:

Ward death penalty appeal denied

A Commerce man is still facing death by lethal injection, after being convicted of capital murder for killing of one of the city's code enforcement officers almost 10 years ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Thursday rejected the latest appeal from Adam Kelly Ward of his 2007 conviction. Ward's attorneys had argued Ward's trial counsel was deficient.

The court also denied a writ of habeas corpus filed in Ward's behalf last year.

In the writ, Ward contended his 2007 conviction and death sentence were unconstitutional because he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel, was not tried by an impartial jury, and is severely mentally ill.

The court reviewed the case and in a 63-page opinion denied the writ in a unanimous ruling, also noting Ward failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.

Ward's defense counsel then filed the formal appeal with the court, which was the basis of this week's ruling.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in February 2010 ruling, also denied an appeal raised by Ward, who was convicted of capital murder involving the shooting death of Michael "Pee Wee" Walker.

Walker was working as a code enforcement officer for the City of Commerce when shortly after 10 a.m. on June 13, 2005, he was taking photos of alleged code violations at the home where Ward lived on Caddo Street. The 2 engaged in a verbal altercation, which ended when Ward shot Walker as many as 9 times with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

In order to have been convicted of capital murder, the prosecution had to show Ward knowingly and intentionally either obstructed Walker's ability to do his job or retaliated against Walker for doing his job as a public servant, while in the course of committing the killing.

(source: Royse City Herald-Banner)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Attorneys spar over a killer's life

15 years ago, Houston police officer Tony Blando was handcuffing a man he caught driving a stolen Lexus.

One arm of car thief Jeffrey Williams was already in cuffs when he spun around, pulled out a handgun and shot Blando fatally in the chest. Williams, 23, had shot another person in an earlier robbery.

During his trial, he was described as a loner with an IQ that put him as borderline developmentally disabled. He came from an intact, church-going family, but his mother said "something up there was not right."

A jury sentenced him to death, and the state of Texas executed him in 2013.Geographically and culturally, Texas is far apart from Manchester. But homicide prosecutors say that Blando's killing is similar enough to the 2006 murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs to show that our state's 1st death sentence in nearly a half-century is not out of the ordinary.

6 years ago, Michael Addison was sentenced to death by a Hillsborough County jury. The verdict has been upheld on appeal. All that remains - at least for the New Hampshire Supreme Court - is to decide whether the death sentence is similar - the legal word is proportional - to similar crimes.

So prosecutors and Addison's lawyers have scoured websites and researched cases from around the country - including Texas, Indiana, Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, California - all to prove their case.

Where they're not looking, however, is New Hampshire.

It's not like there aren't similar crimes. Consider the 1997 killing of Epsom police officer Jeremy Charron. There are a lot of similarities between the 2 cases.

Charron's killer, Gordon Perry, had a lengthy criminal record, as did Addison. Perry and a buddy had robbed a convenience store before killing Charron. (Addison and his accomplice had gone on a lengthier crime spree in the days leading to Briggs' murder.)

A police manhunt followed both killings. (Perry’s accomplice actually leaned out of a car speeding on the highway and shot at police.)

The biggest similarity: Both offered to plead guilty to life in prison to avoid the death penalty.

Perry's plea bargain was accepted, and he is serving his sentence in Maine. Then Attorney General Kelly Ayotte wouldn't accept Addison's guilty plea, forcing him to stand trial.

In her closing argument, Ayotte, who is now a U.S. senator, gave her reasons for seeking the death penalty. Addison would face as many as 63 years behind bars for a prior robbery spree, so a life-without-parole sentence would mean little, she said.

"This cold-blooded murder cannot be an afterthought," she said then. But the Supreme Court isn't comparing Perry to Addison. That's because of rules the court laid out in making the comparisons between Addison and other death-penalty cases.

Any case has to involve the killing of a police officer without premeditation. That rules out other New Hampshire capital crimes - mostly murder for hire - that didn't involve a police killing or premeditation. Any case has to involve a jury verdict. That rules out the Perry plea bargain.

Any comparison had to involve a defendant, like Addison, who was deemed to not be a danger if sentenced to prison.

And so, lawyers have researched cases from across the country and read legal briefs (it's easier nowadays online.) Attorney General Joseph Foster's team found a mere 10 cases they claim fit the Addison mold. Juries issued only 2 life sentences; the remainder were death sentences.

Addison's team of public defenders came up with 366 cases. 153 received a life sentence.

"Both sides are cherry picking," said Albert "Buzz" Scherr, a former public defender and a law professor at University of New Hampshire.

It all comes back, he said, to the Supreme Court and its definition of what cases can be compared to Addison. To Scherr, it was a question of making the task manageable. If researchers had to look at cases involving plea-bargains and charging decisions - which are made by prosecutors - it wouldn't be easy.

"Those are all messier criteria to select cases with," he said.

They also eliminate any New Hampshire comparisons. So if Addison is eventually executed, that execution will be justified by jury decisions made in places like Texas, Georgia and New Jersey.

Phil McLaughlin is the former attorney general who ended up offering Perry the plea bargain. At the time, he had no qualms about the death penalty, he said. Now McLaughlin, the son of a former Nashua police detective, opposes it.

The Perry case was weaker than the Addison case. McLaughlin said state police sat on evidence that was favorable to Perry, and some evidence pointed to Perry's accomplice as the killer.

McLaughlin doesn't compare the Addison verdict to the Perry case. He compares it to the John Brooks case.

The same year that Addison, a black hoodlum from Boston, was sentenced to death, the wealthy Derry businessman avoided a death sentence when a New Hampshire jury sentenced him to life in prison.

Brooks planned the murder and paid people to do it, McLaughlin said. Addison killed Briggs spontaneously.

"One of them happened to be white. One of them happened to be black. I cannot reconcile that," McLaughlin said. "Let's go 20 years out and explain that to my grandchildren."

(source: Union Leader)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Revisit the death penalty? Not even now

Massachusetts has a reputation for deep opposition to the death penalty. But as the Globe's Milton Valencia has reported, many potential jurors in the federal terrorism trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seem comfortable with the idea of capital punishment, when it comes to the accused Boston Marathon bomber.

So can we expect Beacon Hill to revisit capital punishment for state crimes? So far, the answer is no, for 2 reasons: The Democratic caucus in the State House has become more liberal, and constituents haven't been vocal on the issue.

For a long time, Republican supporters of the death penalty could rely on support from a cadre of centrist Democrats. In 1997, a bill to reinstate capital punishment was defeated with a tie vote in the House. 8 years later, then-Governor Mitt Romney introduced legislation to reinstate the death penalty for crimes involving torture, terrorism, multiple murders, or the slaying of a police officer - as long as there was "conclusive scientific evidence," such as DNA samples, connecting the defendant to the crime. That initiative lost in the House by a wider margin, 100 to 53, but still attracted some Democratic support.

As more progressives have filled the ranks of State House Democrats, it has become harder for a capital punishment measure to make it very far. In 2013, Democratic legislator James R. Miceli of Wilmington filed a budget bill amendment that would have reinstated the death penalty along the lines Romney proposed. It was beaten back without much debate, despite the fact that the Marathon bombing had recently occurred. At the time, some lawmakers said they didn't want to respond to 1 crime with a "knee-jerk reaction."

That mood seems to remain among the public at large. Some legislators say that, despite the Tsarnaev trial, they haven't heard a hue and cry about the death penalty from constituents. That says something about how conflicted Massachusetts residents can be about the issue. It also says something heartening about the Commonwealth's approach to criminal justice: One case, however tragic or appalling, doesn't warrant a rewriting of the law.

(source: Opinion, Noah Guiney; Boston Globe)

NORTH CAROLINA:

State judges exonerate Joseph Sledge

8 inmates have now been found innocent after investigations by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The commission, established in 2006, is the 1st of its kind in the nation: a state agency with the power to investigate claims of innocence. Since 2007, the commission has reviewed more than 1,600 applications.

The other inmates exonerated and freed by three-judge panels after a commission investigation:

-- Greg Taylor, 2010, the f1t prisoner freed through the commission process. Taylor had been wrongly convicted of killing Jacquetta Thomas in downtown Raleigh in 1993.

-- Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson, 2011. The two men had been convicted of a robbery and murder in Buncombe County in 2001.

-- Willie Grimes, 2012. Grimes was already on parole for a 1987 rape and kidnapping conviction in Hickory for which he served 24 years.

-- Henry McCollum and Leon Brown of Robeson County, half brothers, 2014. They were cleared of the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl after serving 31 years behind bars. After the commission began to investigate, the district attorney agreed to have their conviction overturned.

-- Willie Henderson Womble, 2014. The district attorney in the case joined efforts to have Womble cleared of a 1976 robbery and murder.

Joseph Sledge is innocent.

Those simple words reverberated through a small county office Friday afternoon, a stone's throw from the Columbus County courthouse where Sledge's life was derailed in 1978. Sledge has waited more than 13,000 days to hear them.

Sledge has been proclaiming his innocence of the murders of Josephine and Ailene Davis since he was initially blamed in 1976. From the start, he has asked prosecutors, police and judges to take another look at his case. It took nearly four decades for the justice system to correct its mistake.

Sledge spoke briefly during the hearing. "Davis family members, I'm very, very sorry for your loss," he said. "I hope you get closure in this matter."

Catherine Brown, granddaughter of Josephine Davis, had appeared before the commission in December to argue against Sledge's release. She appeared in court on Friday to tell the judges that her family is heartbroken. She asked the community for help in finding the actual killer.

Sledge becomes the eighth man exonerated through a unique process established in North Carolina in 2006 to freshly examine claims of innocence from prisoners with cases long considered hopeless. The Innocence Inquiry Commission examined Sledge's case for more than a year, building on an investigation by the nonprofit North Carolina Center for Actual Innocence.

The commission voted unanimously in December to send Sledge's case to a 3-judge panel for further review.

The hearing on Friday was mostly procedural. Columbus County District Attorney Jon David bypassed a hearing on the evidence, deciding instead to join efforts to exonerate Sledge. He apologized to Sledge and said he would reopen the case, using new DNA evidence to help find the killer.

A 3-judge panel, led by Johnston County Superior Court Judge Tom Lock, heard evidence about the DNA testing on hairs collected from the crime scene in 1976. The judges heard from the clerk who discovered the hairs in 2012, lying flat in an envelope on the highest shelf in the clerk of court's storage room.

The hairs - long thought to be destroyed or lost - were Sledge's salvation. They had been collected from the victims' exposed torso or bloody forehead, leaving detectives to believe the killer had left them behind. DNA testing in late 2012 proved what Sledge had insisted all along: Those hairs did not belong to him.

For years, Christine Mumma, Sledge's attorney and director of the Center on Actual Innocence, investigated Sledge's case. The commission joined the effort 1 1/2 years ago.

The 2 entities interviewed dozens of people, testing memories that had faded over decades. Commission staff discovered crime scene evidence and investigators' notes that local sheriff's deputies had said for years had been lost or destroyed. They commission spent $60,000 on forensic testing.

2 of Sledge's siblings came to court today to greet him after decades of separation. They plan to take him to his native Georgia, where their mother saved some land for Sledge, hoping this day might eventually come.

Friday's exoneration entitles Sledge to compensation from the state, which must now pay him $750,000 for the 36 years he spent in prison.

(source: newsobserver.com)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Executing prisoner in Georgia would be a travesty of justice

Warren Lee Hill Jr., a 54-year-old Georgia man, has killed 2 people - his girlfriend in 1986, for which he was sentenced to life in prison, and a cellmate in 1990, for which he was sentenced to death. After a convoluted legal odyssey that has included 5 previous appeals to the Supreme Court and a reprieve from a 2013 execution date, the state of Georgia is now planning to put him to death by lethal injection Tuesday - an unconstitutional act that would once again spotlight the inanity of the nation's capital punishment system.

Why is it unconstitutional? Because he is not eligible for the death penalty. 4 defense experts testified in 2000 that based on his IQ of 70 - the statistical threshold for intellectual disability - and his limited adaptive skills, Hill is intellectually disabled. The state of Georgia countered with 3 experts who worked in a rush; only 8 days passed from their 1st assessment to their testimony. 2 of the experts relied heavily on the observations of the third, who in 2013 conceded in an affidavit that he had been ill-prepared to assess Hill and retracted his conclusion. The other state experts have retracted their testimony as well. Now all seven agree that Hill is intellectually disabled.

Under the Supreme Court's 2002 Atkins vs. Virginia decision, executing someone who is mentally retarded, to use the jargon of the time, violates the 8th Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.

Nevertheless, Georgia says it will execute him anyway - and it may be able to do so on a technicality. In 2013, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it could not consider a new challenge based on the experts' revised affidavits because the court had already rejected a previous appeal over Hill's intellectual disability. So in deference to procedural rules, Georgia - and the federal court system - may be about to put to death a man who has a constitutional right to leniency.

The legal system relies on rules to work, but justice requires common sense. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider the case Monday and should, on both legal and humanitarian grounds, commute Hill's sentence to life in prison without parole (a sentence supported by relatives of his victim). If the board doesn't act, the Supreme Court should intervene, as Hill's lawyers have asked, and end this travesty.

(source: Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times)

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

Support Clemency for Warren Hill

January 23, 2015Terry Barnard, Chair

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles

Floyd Veterans Memorial Building

Balcony Level, East Tower

2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E.

Atlanta, GA 30334-4909

Dear Chairman Barnard and members of the board,

I am writing to urge you to grant clemency to a man deserving of mercy, Warren Hill. The Board of Pardons and Paroles is an essential component of the justice system, and as members of the Board, you contribute mercy and grace to a system that is often unable to consider either. This Board has the tremendous responsibility of evaluating the decisions of the Courts and occasionally modifying sentences when they do not serve the public interest or meet evolving standards of decency. I come to you now pleading for the life of Warren Hill, a 55 year old man with intellectual disability (formerly known as "mental retardation"). Warren grew up in poverty in Elberton, Georgia with his brothers and sisters in a household where they were exposed to chronic domestic violence in which Warren's alcoholic-dependent father would viciously assault his mother. In turn, Warren's mother took her anger and despair out on Warren, beating him regularly. Warren suffered from debilitating seizures throughout his childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Warren has a family history of "mental retardation" and borderline intellectual functioning. His jury heard almost nothing about these topics at his 1991 capital trial in rural Leesburg, Georgia. With only the choices of a life sentence with the chance of parole or the death penalty before them, jurors sentenced Warren to death.

Several jurors who sat on Warren's original jury have since stated under oath that they would have sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole had that been an option at the time of his 1991 trial. And, having subsequently learned that ample evidence was available demonstrating that he is significantly intellectually limited, including an undisputed IQ of 70 accompanied by significant adaptive deficits in basic coping skills involving things like communication, social skills, functional academics, abstract thinking, judgment, and impulse control, among others; the former jurors have indicated that life without parole is the most appropriate sentence for someone like Warren Hill. Furthermore, there is unanimous agreement by every doctor who has examined him that Warren Hill is a person with intellectual disability.

Importantly, a Georgia state court judge, convinced by the evidence, found Warren to be "mentally retarded" by a preponderance of the evidence in 2002, the same year the United States Supreme Court banned the execution of those with intellectual disability because their unique disability places them at "special risk of wrongful execution." Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). However, Warren still faces execution solely because Georgia is the only state in the country to impose the law's heaviest burden of proof, "beyond a reasonable doubt," on defendants seeking to prove that they have an intellectual disability and are thus ineligible for execution.

Numerous mental health and disability groups, including the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Arc of Georgia, Georgia-based All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD) and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), have expressed their opposition to Mr. Hill's execution.

I am deeply concerned that if Georgia puts Warren Hill to death, it will have failed to uphold its moral and legal obligation not to execute persons with mental retardation 13 years after passage of legislation banning such executions. I believe that the public interest would be served by commuting Warren Hill's sentence to life without the possibility of parole. The Board's discretion to commute Mr. Hill's death sentence is Georgia's last chance to prevent an unconscionable execution. The Board has the opportunity to act as the "fail safe" in this case where the legal mechanism of our capital punishment system made a mistake which it cannot or will not act to correct.

I ask you to please show Warren Hill mercy and grant him clemency.

Sincerely,

(see: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ph9PB6lzJif8MClWgXW8Ff2YJDUjxrcNBhq3VT6aSEM/viewform)

(source: google.com)

FLORIDA:

Broward judge sentences Dunkin' Donuts killer to death

James Herard, the convicted killer already serving multiple life sentences for his role in a slew of robberies at Dunkin' Donuts stores in Broward and Palm Beach counties, was sentenced to death Friday for the Nov. 2008 murder of Eric Jean-Pierre in Lauderhill.

Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman pronounced his sentence after spending 45 minutes reading from Herard's lengthy list of offenses. He called Herard "the sole driving force" in Jean-Pierre's murder, more responsible than the person who actually pulled the trigger.

Herard, 25, wearing a red jail jumpsuit, shook his head repeatedly, grinned, and reclined in his chair and made faces while Backman read his decision.

"The aggravating factors in this case are overwhelming," Backman said. "The defendant's actions ... clearly showed indifference to human life."

The defendant's mother, the only family member to attend the hearing, sobbed uncontrollably as he was led from the courtroom.

Herard, 25, was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the death of Kiem Huynh, 58, a Dunkin' Donuts customer who was shot in the back as a warning to other store patrons during a violent Thanksgiving Day 2008 robbery in Tamarac.

That robbery was the deadliest of four incidents jurors said Herard coordinated as a leader of the "Bacc Street Crips" gang. The other robberies were in Delray Beach, Sunrise and Plantation.

But the jury that convicted Herard recommended by an 8-4 vote that he be put to death for the earlier murder, which was otherwise unrelated to any of the robberies.

Herard and fellow gang member Tharod Bell were engaged in what they called a "body count contest" on Nov. 14, 2008 when they set their sights on Jean-Pierre, a 39-year-old restaurant worker whose only mistake, the judge said, was walking home after a long shift and crossing paths with Herard and Bell.

In a recorded statement to police, Herard said he goaded Bell into shooting the victim with a 20-gauge shotgun. "Tharod would not have done it if I did not provoke him," Herard said.

Backman noted that Herard had already tried to kill another fellow gang member who had refused to shoot a rival a month before. Bell would have faced Herard's murderous wrath if he refused to follow Herard's instruction, Backman said.

"He put the shotgun in Bell's hands," Backman said.

Bell pleaded guilty, and as part of a plea agreement, he is scheduled to be sentenced to 50 years in prison Friday afternoon. Bell is already serving 7 life sentences following his 2012 conviction in the Delray Beach robbery case.

Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman, aware of the plea deal, was tasked with deciding whether to follow the jury's recommendation in sentencing Herard, knowing he was not the actual shooter. He did not mention Bell's negotiated sentence while issuing his ruling.

Defense lawyer Mitch Polay said he will contest the sentence, arguing the actual shooter should not get a more lenient sentence than someone who merely encouraged him to commit the crime.

Backman defended his decision, calling Herard a major participant in the murder of Jean-Pierre.

Other members of the gang have already been sentenced.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)

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

Man Convicted of Killing Toddler Facing Death Sentence

A Tampa Bay area man convicted of killing his former girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter is facing a possible death sentence.

A Pinellas County jury convicted 29-year-old Joel Cruz on Thursday of 1st-degree murder. The panel will reconvene next week to recommend either life in prison or the death penalty. A judge will make the final decision.

Authorities say Ananhie Fernandez was repeatedly beaten while in Cruz's care in May 2013. Cruz had put the girl to bed, but when the girl's mother discovered the injuries, she had Cruz take them to the hospital, where the girl died.

Cruz had tried to claim the injuries came from a fall, but the medical examiner testified the injuries couldn't have been an accident.

(source: nbcmiami.com)

OHIO:

Death penalty trial set to begin in 2 weeks

A man about to go on trial over accusations that he killed 2 people - and facing the dealth penalty for those crimes - decided to waive the jury and have 3 judges consider the case.

Before Hager Church could put his choice on the record he changed his mind Thursday a couple times and finally told the judge he wants a trial by jury.

Church, 30, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 3 on 2 counts of aggravated murder and aggravated arson in the June 14, 2009, house fire that killed Massie "Tina" Flint, 45, and her boyfriend, Rex Hall, 54. The fire was at a house at 262 S. Pine St.

The trial is expected to last 3 weeks.

The prosecution and Church's defense team heard the final round of jury excuses Thursday. Some people wanted to be excused for medical reasons, a wedding and old age. One woman wanted to take a grandchild to Disney World with the Make a Wish Foundation.

Another person was excused for having a felony conviction, an automatic disqualifier.

Church is serving a life sentence with no chance for parole for a separate case in 2010. He was convicted of beating a woman to death inside her home for a few dollars and costume jewelry.

(source: limaohio.com)

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

Ohio's death-penalty secrecy is wrong and must not be allowed to ake effect

Condemned murderer Charles Warner went to his death in Oklahoma earlier this month, but not before telling witnesses to his execution what he was feeling.

"My body is on fire." he said, although wintesses reported no signs of obvious distress.

Warner was given a 3-drug cocktail that killed him in about 18 minutes. The 2nd drug administered was a paralytic, which could have prevented Warner from expressing the true extent of the pain he may have gelt, claimed his lawyer.

Nobody knows for sure and Warner is dead, so we can't ask him.

Ohio has jettisoned a similar multidrug cocktail, last used to kill Dennis McGuire about a year ago in a prolonged procedure that Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr insists did not cause McGuire to suffer, although others disagree.

Ohio now plans to return to an old method -- a 1-drug protocl, either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, drugs the state previously used until their manufacturers declined to continue providing them for executions -- but with a significant difference: The drugs will be concocted per largely secret deals by compounding pharmacies not subject to the same oversight as regular drug manufacturers.

The General Assembly passed an ill-advised law at the end of last year that allows the pharmacies to remain anonymous for 20 years after they stop doing business with the state, and the names of others involved in the process, such as doctors, to remain confidential forever even though the law has a 2-year sunset provision.

Such a law is repugnant and wrong. U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost should grant a recent request by 4 condemned Ohio inmates to prevent the law from going into effect in March, pending a final ruling on their lawyers' challenge to the law's constitutionaltiy.

There is no reason -- and much peril -- in trying to shield those who prepare death-penalty drugs from scrutiny. The drugs are being paid for with taxpayer funds -- meaning those contracts should be open to public review. Nor should the state try to shield medical personnel from professional sanctions in this manner.

This editorial board las long oppowed the death penalty on moral, practical and fairness grounds. If secrecy is the only way the state believes it can carry out the death penalty, then surely it is time to eliminate the death penatly altogether.

(source: Editorial, Plain Dealer)

INDIANA:

State senator pushes to expand death penalty reach to schools, campuses

An Indiana lawmaker wants to expand the reach prosecutors have to pursue the death penalty.

There are currently 16 factors prosecutors in the state can consider when pursuing the death penalty. Killing a child or a police officer are 2 of those factors, but there isn't one for location. Senator Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) wants to change that to include schools and college campuses.

No one at the Indiana Statehouse could hear the bells that tolled on the Purdue University campus Wednesday.

They tolled for Andrew Boldt. The bells marked the 1 year anniversary of his on-campus killing.

"Safety has become something people think more about, therefore we need to provide them the tools and procedures to try to make them as safe as possible," Ronnie Wright, the director of Emergency Preparedness and Planning at Purdue University, told Eyewitness News Wednesday. "There are a number of factors to be considered in proposing the death penalty in Indiana. Committing murder on school grounds is not one of them," Hershman said.

So Cousins was sentenced to 65 years in prison after pleading guilty to Boldt's murder. Cousins then took his own life in a state prison last October.

"In this case, you are looking at a particularly vulnerable population. I think the public policy that we want our schools to be as safe as possible suggests that this makes sense," Hershman continued.

He is hoping it might be a future deterrent. He couldn't hear the bells tolling at Purdue on Wednesday. He just wants to make sure no one else has to hear them again either.

Senate Bill 385 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and could be up for a hearing as early as next week.

(source: WTHR news)

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

Indiana Senate backs death penalty for beheading crimes

A bill making intentionally decapitating someone a crime eligible for the death penalty has been approved by the Indiana Senate.

Senators voted 45-4 on Thursday in favor of the proposal.

Bill sponsor Sen. Brent Steele says current state law only allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for anyone convicted of torturing or mutilation before a killing or decapitating someone who is already dead.

Death penalty opponents contend the measure isn't necessary and that capital punishment amounts to "recycling the violence."

The proposal now goes to the Indiana House for consideration.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

The hidden cost of the death penalty in Colorado. 9NEWS at 4 p.m. 01/22/15.

Following months of questioning by 9Wants to Know on how the state is spending money on death penalty cases, a pair of bipartisan state legislators have introduced legislation to bring more transparency to the Colorado Public Defender's Office.

The bill, yet to be introduced to a committee in the Colorado House, would compel the Colorado Public Defender as well as the Colorado Office of Alternate Defense Counsel to release more records under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).

In June of last year, 9Wants to Know filed multiple open records requests under CORA with the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, the Colorado State Courts, and the state public defender's office in an effort to better understand how taxpayer money is being spent in death penalty cases in Colorado.

The requests mostly centered on the case against theater shooter James Holmes who currently faces the death penalty in Arapahoe County for killing 12 and injuring 70 in 2012.

The CORA requests were fulfilled by both prosecutors and the state court system, but the public defender's office correctly cited case law as part of its reasoning for denying 9News' request.

HB 1101 seeks to tweak the law and open up more of the public defender's office records to the public.

"One of the arguments we hear all of the time is that the death penalty costs the state a tremendous amount of money. At this point I don't know how much is spent on it because there is no way that information is available," said Rep Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), one of the bill's sponsors.

Rep. Fields' son was murdered by 2 men who currently sit on Colorado's death row.

"Why can't this basic information be provided? It's not anything that's supposed to be protected or something that's sensitive. It's basic information. I'm curious as it relates to how much was spent on my own son's trial, and I have don't have access to that information," said Rep. Fields.

Doug Wilson, the head of the Colorado Public Defender's Office, has declined numerous requests by 9News to comment on either the proposed legislation or the open record requests.

(source: KUSA news)

WYOMING:

Wyoming Senate approves fire squad death penalty

A bill passed the Wyoming Senate and is moving on to the House which will put into a law secondary form of execution: The firing squad.

Currently the state law has the gas chamber as the second option, but that poses a problem, because Wyoming doesn't have a gas chamber.

Sen. Bruce Burns said, "I don't have any great interest in if it's a firing squad or hanging or electrocution, the other part of the bill is more important which opens up the secondary form of execution."

Senator Burns says the majority of people in the state support the death penalty, but there is disapproval in the legislature, and house members are already speaking out against the bill.

Sen. Floyd Esquibel said, "To methodically execute someone goes against our human nature."

"We have made mistakes in this nation. We have executed innocent people which to me is unforgivable and the state should not in any way be in the business of executing innocent people," said Rep. Cathy Connolly.

Representative Connolly is sponsoring a bill in the house which abolishes the death penalty and imposes a maximum of life in prison for the most heinous crimes, which she says would immediately end the problems the Department of Corrections is seeing with trying to get lethal injection drugs. For some who voted in support of firing squads, they see this as an international issue.

The European Union is holding those drugs back.

In other words the European Union is trying to affect domestic policy in the United States.

There hasn't been an execution in Wyoming since 1992. This past November, a federal judge overturned the death sentence for the state's lone death row inmate, so even though an execution isn't likely in the near future Senator Burns says this execution bill will make sure steps are in place for when that time comes.

Representative Connolly says most Western democracies do not have the death penalty and argues abolishing it in Wyoming could save the state a lot of money.

(source: Fox news)

CALIFORNIA:

California's Chief Justice: 'Hard to Say the Death Penalty Is Working'

The 7 members of the California Supreme Court spend about 25 % of their time on death penalty appeals, an extraordinary allocation of scarce resources that no doubt frustrates them.

In an interview with KQED this week, I asked Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to assess the state of capital punishment in California, given that there hasn't been an execution since 2006 even though there are more than 700 inmates on death row.

"It's difficult to say it's working," she said in her typically cautious manner. "And there's no talk in the state legislature of fixing it."

"Fixing it" would mean spending more public money to expedite appeals and reduce the average wait time of more than 20 years between convictions and executions. Faster executions? Of course that’s the last thing Democrats want.

In some ways Cantil-Sakauye has seen the high court shift leftward right out from under her. When Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose her to replace retiring Chief Justice Ronald George in 2010, the court had just one member appointed by a Democratic Governor - Carlos Moreno.

In Cantil-Sakauye's 1st week on the job, Justice Moreno announced he was leaving (perhaps because his dream of being Chief Justice himself had evaporated). Brown replaced him with UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu, whose nomination to the federal bench was scuttled by Republicans.

Since then Brown has named 2 more associate justices, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and federal government attorney Leondra Kruger. Things are changing at a fast enough pace that the court's website says "photo to come" next to the bios of Cuellar and Kruger.

Long Talks With Jerry Brown

None of Gov. Brown's nominees had any previous experience as judges. All 3 are Yale Law School grads like Brown. Will that matter?

"I think time will tell if that makes a difference or not," Cantil-Sakauye said, adding that Justice Liu was "a wonderful colleague and brilliant."

As for the other 2, "they appear so far to be very deferential to the trial courts and understanding of their role."

When asked what she thought Gov. Brown was looking for in appointing 3 inexperienced (on the bench) justices she said thought the governor was looking for "new thinkers, bigger thinkers" on the bench. "It's a diversity of sorts he's looking for."

When Chief Justice Ronald George retired in the middle of the 2010 gubernatorial election, he said he was stepping down so his replacement would be named by Gov. Schwarzenegger rather than Jerry Brown, who was widely favored to win.

It's doubtful Gov. Brown would have named Tani Cantil-Sakauye to the high court. Nonetheless she says, "I find him interesting and fascinating person and I can never judge where a conversation with him will go or where it will end. But it always lasts longer than we both anticipate."

(source: KQED news)

OREGON:

Trial in Cannon Beach killing set for late June 2016, mental health defense anticipated

A lawyer for Jessica Smith, the mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter and trying to kill her 13-year-old daughter in a Cannon Beach resort hotel last summer, said he'll likely pursue a mental health defense.

"I can very much anticipate filing motions concerning mental health issues," Smith's attorney, William Falls, said in court Thursday before the judge set a trial date for June 28, 2016.

Smith, 41, has pleaded not guilty to allegations of aggravated murder stemming from the July 31 drowning death of her younger daughter, Isabella, and attempted aggravated murder in the slashing of 13-year-old Alana.

Smith sat between her 2 defense lawyers in court. She was dressed in a bright yellow Clatsop County inmate suit, her wrists handcuffed together in front of her throughout the hearing. She wore makeup and had her long black hair in a bun, with a few curling locks falling against her cheeks.

She appeared to listen to the arguments, whispered to her lawyers at times and stood briefly and acknowledged to Clatsop County Judge Cindee Matyas that she waived her right to a speedy trial.

"Yes, I am your honor," she said, smiling at the judge, when Matyas asked if Smith was in agreement with the push by her lawyers to continue the case until next year.

Smith was taken into custody in August on a logging road off U.S. 26 shortly after the girls were discovered and gave a detailed interview to an FBI agent about what happened. The interview was recorded and videotaped, according to court records and testimony.

"This case is not much of a whodunnit," Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said as he questioned the need for the defense team to set a trial nearly 2 years from when the crimes occurred.

During most of the hearing, Marquis characterized two years as "way, way too long" and "kind of ridiculous." He pushed for a summer 2015 trial, citing concern for Alana Smith.

"Time goes by much much slower when you're 12, 13," he said.

Marquis and Jessica Smith's defense lawyers spent much of the time squabbling about the trial date.

The judge said she agreed that 2 years was too long and urged the 2 sides to reach a middle ground. Smith's lawyers then said they'd accept an April 2016 date.

But Greg Smith, who lives in Washington and listened to the proceeding by phone, said he'd rather have the trial after his daughter could complete the school year.

"I think it would be preferable to wait," he said.

Alana Smith, had never attended school before her mother's arrest, is now enrolled in school for the first time and is in the custody of her father.

"We're trying to minimize the collateral damage to this child," Marquis said.

Though Marquis said he's not happy about having to wait, he told the court he wanted to respect the family's wishes.

Jessica Smith's lawyer signaled that he'd prefer to resolve the case before trial or proceed with a case in which the death penalty is removed as an option, leaving either life with the possibility of parole or a life sentence without the possibility of parole on the table.

Marquis said prosecutors have not decided yet whether to seek the death penalty because they have not received any discovery or mitigation information from the defense.

The defense must submit its discovery to the state by April 7. "I will furnish everything I can by that day, and hopefully get an ongoing dialogue (with the state) instead of this fussing back and forth," Falls told the court.

The defense lawyers asked for records from a second interview that Alana Smith gave to CARES Northwest forensic specialists in late December. The state expects to provide that material within 10 days.

Pretrial motions will be heard on May 12.

Falls and co-counsel Lynne B. Morgan have argued in court papers that defending Smith in a case that could bring the death penalty requires extensive preparation.

Marquis had urged the judge to give special consideration to Smith's surviving daughter.

The defense lawyers said they do not know what witnesses or experts they would call at Smith's trial because they're in the "very beginning" phase of preparing for a trial.

Marquis responded in a 5-page legal brief, pointing out that "experienced defense counsel" should already have a clear idea of what evidence the state will present at trial.

"This case is different than many in a couple of regards," Marquis wrote. "The state's discovery is virtually complete, and has been for months, giving experienced defense counsel a clear picture of what the state's evidence against their client will be and the names, addresses, and statements of witnesses, including substantial statements by their own client."

Marquis, in written documents, also argued that defense lawyers should not be allowed to file any legal papers with the judge contesting the trial date that are sealed, as defense lawyers had requested. Marquis said the defense can seek a delayed trial without having to disclose their trial strategy.

On Thursday, Falls did enter as an appellate exhibit a sealed envelope that he said contained information his team wanted to present to the court to preserve as evidence should an appeal ever be raised in the case. He said he was not asking the court to look at it now, and Judge Matyas said she had no intent to open it.

Cannon Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn discovered the girls on a king-sized bed in Room 3302 of the Surfsand Resort on the morning of Aug. 1 after housekeepers had knocked on the door and noticed blood inside.

Isabella Smith died of asphyxiation by drowning after she was heavily sedated with an over-the-counter antihistamine, the state medical examiner ruled. Alana Smith suffered cuts to her neck and wrists, and told medics that her mother had slit her throat and wrists with a razor blade, according to court documents. Alana Smith told authorities that her parents had separated in April. The children were set to have a visit with their father on the day they were discovered in the hotel room.

(source: The Oregonian)

USA:

100 jurors dismissed in Day 3 of Aurora theater shooting trial

The 3rd day of jury selection for the Aurora movie theater shooting trial ended Thursday with 100 jurors being dismissed, as attorneys on both sides began the hard work of poring over hundreds of juror questionnaires.

The reaJsons for releasing most of the jurors were not disclosed. As in previous days, a handful were dismissed because of medical issues, for not speaking English or for having a personal connection to the case.

Most of those dismissed came from the groups of jurors who filled out questionnaires on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, when a combined 266 jurors showed up for duty. That means dozens of jurors from those 2 groups will be called back for the second phase of individual questioning, which will begin in mid-February and will plod along at the pace of 18 jurors per day.

Sensing the slog, Judge Carlos Samour encouraged both sides to work together to release clearly unfit jurors from duty.

"Otherwise," Samour told the lawyers Thursday, "we're going to end up having individual questioning sessions with folks we all know from the get-go are not going to end up on this jury."

Though he said Thursday he thinks more jurors should probably be dismissed based on their questionnaires, Samour has previously said he will dismiss jurors at this initial stage only if both sides agree.

Hundreds more potential jurors filled out questionnaires at the courthouse Thursday, bringing the total number of jurors who have reported for duty in the case to around 665. In this 1st phase of jury selection, waves of potential jurors are expected to continue reporting to the courthouse for several weeks.

The questionnaires ask jurors for their views on the criminal justice system, the death penalty and mental illness. Jurors who say they have already made up their mind about the case and can't be fair are likely to be dismissed.

James Holmes faces 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other offenses for the July 2012 attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Defense attorneys say Holmes was suffering a psychotic episode at the time of the attack.

(source: The Denver Post)

IRAN----executions

9 more prisoners hanged, 3 in public

9 more prisoners hanged in Iran, including 3 in public as the wave of executions continues under Hassan Rouhani.

3 men were put to death in the city of Bonab in the East Azarbaijan province on Wednesday morning.

On the same day, another group of 5 prisoners were hanged in Adelabad Prison in southern city of Shiraz that has not been announced by the regime.

The hanging followed the execution of a 26-year-old prisoner in the city of Torqabeh, in north-east Iran, on Monday. The prisoner was identified only with his initials of M.S.

At least 8 prisoners have been hanged in public since the beginning of the New Year in Iran.

More than 1,200 men women and children have been executed in Iran since Hassan Rouhani became president in July 2013.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

IHRDC Chart of Executions by the Islamic Republic of Iran - 2015

This chart documents executions of people by the Islamic Republic of Iran beginning in January 2015. The official announcements are noted but, as the Iranian government does not announce many executions, it is difficult to know the exact number.

IHRDC is thus unable to confirm the unofficial reports but has provided links to PDFs of the original sources. It will update this list on a regular basis.

see: http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/1000000564-ihrdc-chart-of-executions-by-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-2015.html

(source: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistanis vote yes to death penalty

According to the Gilani Research Foundation Survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan, 95 % of Pakistanis agree that if convicted a person should be given the death penalty, only 4 % of Pakistanis disagreed.

A nationally representative sample of adult men and women, from across the four provinces was asked, "Please tell us, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following sentence: 'Convicted should be given the death penalty'" In response to this question, 81 % of the respondents said they agree with this statement a lot, 14 % of the respondents said that they agree with this statement, while 4 % of the respondents disagreed with the statement and 1 % did not respond.

The study was released by Gilani Research Foundation and carried out by Gallup Pakistan, the Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International. The survey was carried out among a sample of 2582 men and women in rural and urban areas of all 4 provinces of the country, during December 22 - December 29, 2014. The error margin is estimated to be approximately 2-3 % at 95 % confidence level.

(source: Pakistan Today)

JAPAN:

Former death row prisoners spearhead calls for reform of Japanese legal system

Revelations that inmates on Japan's death row were wrongfully convicted have sparked national debate and calls for reform of the death penalty.

While many countries in the region are abolishing the death penalty, Japan is sentencing more people than ever to hang, with 12 killed in the last 2 years.

But now former inmates who were put on death row after being wrongly convicted have started a reform movement, demanding legal representation for suspects, an end to detention without charge, and full video-taping of interrogations.

The public is backing them, with a campaign of demonstrations. But the country's government still insists it needs the death penalty.

Iwao Hakamada spent decades waiting to be executed for a crime he did not commit.

Mr Hakamada was wrongfully convicted of brutally murdering a family of 4 in 1968.

The police tortured him for 23 days to secure a confession, and at his trial the prosecution fabricated evidence.

"The police will do anything to get a confession," his sister Hideko said.

"Iwao had to sign off on what the police wrote - it's usual for the police to do this."

In 2007 one of the judges who sentenced Mr Hakamada to death publicly admitted the court got it wrong.

It took 7 years for Mr Hakamada to be released, after 46 years on death row.

His body may be free but his mind is not, as he has been diagnosed with institutional psychosis.

"I think it's natural to go crazy if you confined in a small space for more than 40 years, but you think they could have treated him more humanely," said Hideko, who devoted her life to getting her brother released.

Now, Iwao Hakamada paces up and down for 12 hours a day in a small apartment in central Japan.

'Make the suspect confess no matter what'

Japan has 125 death row inmates and it is emerging that, like Iwao Hakamada, some of them may be innocent.

Hiroshi Ichikawa was a prosecutor for 13 years and describes the system as fatally flawed.

As a prosecutor, he said he fabricated confessions and threatened 1 suspect with death.

"I was told 'make the suspect confess no matter what'," he said.

"It's an order telling you to make up a confession."

I want them to investigate no matter what, I want them to hurry up and capture the real criminal before it's too late.----Toshikazu Sugaya

In the Japanese justice system, it is the confession and not the trial that virtually guarantees a guilty verdict.

The prosecution has an astonishing 99 % success rate, but Mr Ichikawa said he wanted that to change.

"It's nonsense to force a confession - I want the culture to change so they can accept acquittal," he said.

The alarming problem in cases of wrongful conviction is that the culprits could still be at large.

Toshikazu Sugaya was accused of being a paedophile and a serial killer of 3 young girls in 1991.

He was convicted of murdering 1, but after 19 years of jail, DNA tests revealed he was innocent.

Mr Sugaya says the real killer has a pattern - he kills girls between 4 and 8 years of age, in a 20-kilometre radius, and strikes about twice a decade.

And he claims the police are not investigating the case properly.

"I want them to investigate no matter what, I want them to hurry up and capture the real criminal before it's too late," he said.

(source: ABC news)

MALAYSIA:

SA man caught with drugs in Malaysia sentenced to death; Deon Cornelius was found carrying 2 kilos of drugs after arriving at Penang International Airport in 2013.

A South African security guard has been sentenced to death by a High Court in Malaysia after being found guilty of drug trafficking.

Deon Cornelius was found to be carrying 2 kilograms of methamphetamine after arriving at Penang International Airport in 2013.

The 28-year-old has now been sentenced to death by hanging.

Cornelius's family initially thought he would get a 10-year-sentence under a deal with Malaysian prosecutors.

His wife, Angelique Cornelius's Facebook page is full of loving messages for her husband, but in her latest post, she shares the devastating news of his sentence.

2 kilograms of methamphetamine were found inside Cornelius's laptop bag.

He says the bag was given to him by a man named "Tony" to bring to Malaysia and that he was unaware of its contents.

However, the judge found that he had knowledge of the drugs in the bag and that he only mentioned "Tony" as an afterthought.

Cornelius, who has a 5-year-old daughter, was charged under Malaysia's Dangerous Drugs Act which carries a mandatory death sentence.

(source: EyeWitness News)

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

Altantuya's killer to file for clemency soon, says lawyer

Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 1 of the 2 former police commandos sentenced to death for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, will file for an application to obtain a pardon without further delay.

His lawyer Datuk Hazman Ahmad said he would be meeting his client next week to take further instruction before writing to the Attorney-General.

"Besides the legal process, it is also the constitutional right of a convict to write to the authorities to be pardoned for the crime committed," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Hazman said he would proceed without delay although another convict, Corporal Sirul Azhar, has fled.

Sirul and Azilah have been free since August 23, 2013, after the Court of Appeal overturned their murder convictions.

However, the Federal Court reinstated the convictions and upheld the death sentence for both men last week.

Evidence in court revealed that Altantuya, a Mongolian translator, was murdered before her body was blown up by C4 explosives on October 18, 2006, in the outskirts of Shah Alam, near the capital city Kuala Lumpur.

Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, a confidante of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was charged with abetting Azilah and Sirul but was acquitted by the High Court in 2008 without his defence being called. The government did not appeal.

Despite the conviction, the motive for the murder of Altantuya was never revealed.

Sirul left for Australia last October and was absent when the Federal Court last week delivered the verdict that both were guilty of the murder.

The 43-year-old was reported to have been arrested in Brisbane, Australia 3 days ago and Malaysian authorities have made a formal request that Sirul be extradited to Malaysia.

However, Australian law dictates that a person facing the death penalty in his or her home country cannot be extradited.

It was also reported today that Sirul has been released by the Australian Immigration authorities but that his passport is being withheld.

Sirul's lawyer are expected to file a legal challenge on any attempt to extradite Sirul and legal experts share the view that the process will take time.

Meanwhile, Hazman said he would write to the Attorney-General's Chambers to obtain the pardon for his client who is now held in solitary confinement in Sungai Buloh prison.

"The Attorney-General will then present a paper with his reccomendations to Selangor Pardons Board which will be chaired by the state ruler," he said, adding that the matter was referred to the state because the crime had taken place in the state.

The Federal Constitution states that the board is required to consider the written opinion of the Attorney-General before advising the ruler.

Lawyer M. Visvanathan said the ruler had absolute discretion when a convict made a plea for his life to be spared.

"Usually the death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment if the plea for clemency is allowed," he added.

Meanwhile, the New Straits Times reported today that the Australian authorities have released Sirul with conditions attached and that his movements in the country are also being monitored.

"His passport is being held, but Australian Immigration released him on certain conditions, including having to come forward if required by the authorities there," a Wisma Putra spokesman told the NST.

Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that Putrajaya had formally asked Australia to hand over Sirul, who fled there last October ahead of a court decision last week that upheld his death sentence.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim was reported as saying that the matter had been referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers for repatriation.

Australian media has reported that Sirul will not be sent back as Canberra forbids repatriating suspects who face the death penalty, setting up a potential tug-of-war.

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop, who is in Washington, was reported as saying that she was "not in a position to give any details in relation to the matter", or how it would affect the relationship between the 2 countries.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

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

Australian mother in drug case 'duped in romance scam', says lawyer

An Australian mother of 4 charged in Malaysia with the capital crime of drug trafficking was duped into carrying the drugs after falling for an online romance scam, her lawyer said today.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 52, was arrested on Dec 7 after arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) en route from Shanghai to Melbourne.

A routine Customs check discovered a hidden compartment in a bag she carried, which contained 1.5kg of suspected crystal methamphetamine, or "ice". She was charged on Dec 19.

Exposto has denied knowledge of the drugs, saying she accepted a bag that she thought contained only clothing from a stranger who asked her to take it to Melbourne.

One of her lawyers, Tania Scivetti, said Exposto had become involved in an online romance with a person claiming to be a US serviceman.

She travelled to Shanghai to meet him, only to discover that another person had been posing as her supposed love interest. It was there that she was tricked into carrying the drugs, Scivetti said.

"Basically she had been duped into believing she was going to see him, but instead she was duped into becoming a (drug) mule," Scivetti said.

Scivetti provided no further details.

Drug trafficking carries a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Anyone with at least 50g of "ice" is considered a trafficker, subject to the death penalty.

Exposto originally hails from East Timor but has been an Australian citizen since 1985, her lawyers have said.

She appeared in a court outside Kuala Lumpur on Friday for the scheduled presentation of test results on the substance found in the bag, but the court was told the chemist's report was not yet ready.

A new date was set for Feb 27.

The defence is yet to enter a plea as the court now handling the case has no jurisdiction over death-penalty cases. The case is expected to be moved up to a higher court.

Hundreds of Malaysians and foreigners are on death row, many for drug-related offences, though few have been executed in recent years.

2 Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the 1st Westerners executed in Malaysia - in a case that strained bilateral relations.

(source: therakyatpost.com)

PHILIPPINES/SAUDI ARABIA:

THE KING AND I -- Spared from death, OFW Lanuza writes in praise of Saudi monarch

Mercy and compassion, the phrase recently associated with the papal admonition, is something the late Saudi monarch Abdullah is seen as a living example of. And the best poster boy of such is a Filipino worker on death row for whom the king shelled out P27 million in blood money.

King Abdullah will be remembered as "the 1st Saudi king to contribute blood money to save the life of an overseas Filipino worker," according to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who as presidential adviser on OFW concerns worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs in the difficult campaign to stay the execution of that OFW, Rodelio Celestino "Dondon" Lanuza.

In 2013, King Abdullah gave 2.3 million Saudi Riyals to spare Lanuza from the death penalty. "He also generously extended more than once the deadline for foreign workers to correct their residency or work status to legalize their stay in the Kingdom," Binay recalled.

King Abdullah's "kindness and compassion was extraordinary," the vice president said in a statement on the death of the Saudi monarch; and no one best shows appreciation of that than Lanuza himself, who wrote an open letter cum ode to the Saudi king soon after learning of his passing.

Here, below, is the text of Lanuza's letter, shared with InterAksyon.com by the Center for Migrant Advocacy:

Bismillahir Rahmannir Rahim

When you save one life, it is as if you saved the entire world.

It is a sorrowful moment, to learn that a great man already left us, the king of Saudi Arabia.

I am one of the thousand few, that this great man willingly and selflessly helped.

Many had known and witnessed the tremendous help and assistance he extended to me.

He spared my life. I would forever be indebted and grateful to him.

Many thanks to you, from my family and I, from the bottom of our hearts.

We are one in sorrow. I am sure you are on your way to Jannah.

Again, our deep condolences to your family. And deep gratitude to the one of the greatest man I've known.

You will be remembered HRH King Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, forever.

Eesa "Dondon" Lanuza

(source: interakyson.com)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9: Execution date yet to be set for Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

The Indonesian attorney-general's office has received notice that Australian drug trafficker Andrew Chan is to be executed.

However, a time and place for the execution has not yet been decided after Chan and his fellow Australian death row inmate, Myuran Sukumaran, were denied presidential pardons.

The ABC's Indonesia correspondent says Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran need "new evidence" to get a judicial review.

If they can't do that, they won't get the review and it will be up to the processes in the attorney-general department to decide when the execution is scheduled. The government plans to execute 14 more people this year.

As far as other options for holding off the process or delaying the process, the attorney-general spokesman said there were technicalities effectively around the way that it works, in the scheduling of the execution and in certain things that need to be provided.

They need to be provided with appropriate religious support. He cited a case of one of the women who was executed last Sunday had converted from Buddhism to Catholicism, so there was a delay because they had to find an appropriate Catholic priest to be able to give her counselling in her final moments.

There are just some technicalities around the process itself but effectively the government is determined to send a strong message against drug smugglers. It's determined not to allow any leniency or clemency for drug smugglers. So potentially we could see these 2 men facing the firing squad as soon as the government can manage to schedule it.

The letter declaring that Andrew Chan's bid for a presidential pardon had been denied, arrived in Bali yesterday.

The attorney-general Muhammad Prasetyo previously said that Chan and Sukumaran would be executed together because they were convicted for the same crime.

The pair were given the death penalty for their role organising the so-called Bali 9 heroin trafficking attempt.

Mr Prasetyo's office confirmed that it received a copy of the letter yesterday, but was yet to decide where or when the pair would be executed.

It is expected the 2 Australians would get approximately 3 days' notice leading up to their executions.

Meanwhile, the men will attempt to appeal for a judicial review.

Technically the men have exhausted their legal avenues for appeal and have already had one judicial review at the Supreme Court level.

However, they are pressing for a review of the entire legal process as well as the president's clemency decision itself.

The 6 people put to death in Indonesia last weekend were denied clemency just a month earlier, and given 3 days' notice of their execution.

An expert in Indonesian law at Melbourne University, Dave McCraem, said it was difficult to predict when the pair would face the firing squad.

"There are no certain timelines with executions in Indonesia. You only have to look at the 6 executions last weekend to see that," he said.

"The woman from Vietnam who was executed was sentenced in 2011 whereas the other 5 people had been in prison for more than 10 years."

Pardon denial 'barbaric": Australian artist Quilty

Archibald Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty said it was barbaric to deny a presidential pardon for 2 Australian drug smugglers being held in Indonesia.

He had advocated for clemency to be granted to Sukumaran and Chan, and has visited them in Bali for the past 4 years.

Quilty told 702 ABC Sydney he was devastated by the news.

"Obviously it's very bleak. It's very very bleak, and the outcome is very barbaric," he said.

"I'm bringing my children up to know that you never punch, you never hit, you never shirt-front and you definitely don't shoot people, and that forgiveness and compassion are the two things that if my children have, I'll be proud of them no matter what."

Flawed masculinity is a recurring theme in artist Ben Quilty's work, which explores young men facing their ultimate fears and own mortality.

Quilty, who has run art lessons for Sukumaran and other inmates, said the pair should not have to die for foolish decisions they made as young men when they have made such gains since then.

"I can promise you, you sit in front of them and can see it in their eyes and realise the way they have rehabilitated themselves - and the Indonesians have rehabilitated them as well, they should be applauded for it," he said.

"But to then, at the end of 10 years of this incredible rehabilitation, to put bullets in their chests is just unfathomable. I can't get my head around it."

Melbourne pastor Christie Buckingham also visited the pair frequently, and said she had no doubt they had been reformed.

"In Indonesian law there is a place for rehabilitation, there is a place if the condemned is rehabilitated that they will not be executing," Ms Buckingham said.

"These boys are reformed, I can vouch for them, other people who have seen them can vouch for them, the governor of the prison made an unprecedented appeal that he has seen their reform."

(source: ABC news)

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

Hopes that Bali 9 pair will be spared----Campaigners for 2 Australian drug traffickers on death row in Indonesia haven't given up hope that the men can be saved.

Australian supporters of Bali 9 death row inmates Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran say hope is not lost for the pair despite both having their last pleas for mercy rejected.

Local support for Chan and Sukumaran has soared since Chan was told on Thursday his bid for clemency from Indonesian President Joko Widodo had failed.

Brigid Delaney, co-founder of the organisation Mercy Campaign, which is working to save the men's lives, said support for Chan and Sukumaran was growing stronger, with more than 50,000 signatures gathered on two petitions seeking mercy for the men.

Interest in the case had been so strong the Mercy Campaign website crashed temporarily before being upgraded, and traffic on its Facebook site had increased "1000 %", Ms Delaney said.

"Hope is not lost," she said.

Final hopes for Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, now rest on a judicial review being sought by their Indonesian and Australian lawyers, and continuing diplomatic efforts behind the scenes.

It is not clear that Indonesia's supreme court will allow the review to proceed.

Ms Delaney said the lawyers hoped to present new evidence about the turnaround Chan and Sukumaran had made during their nearly 10 years in prison.

However, their 1st attempt to lodge the new appeal was foiled by a requirement that anyone seeking a review appear in person at the court - an option not open to the imprisoned Australians.

Chan, 31, is destined to face a firing squad for his 2005 drug trafficking offence, along with Sukumaran, 33, who has also lost his bid for a pardon.

News of Chan's rejection came as the Australian lawyer for the pair, Julian McMahon, was visiting them in Bali's Kerobokan prison.

Mr McMahon told the 9 Network that Chan prayed with a group of fellow inmates after receiving the news, then went to comfort another prisoner who was seriously ill.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Australian government would not make further public comments but was "continuing to make every possible effort" to stop the executions.

"While Australia respects Indonesia's sovereignty, we are asking that Indonesia reconsider its decision to execute 2 Australian citizens," he said in a statement.

Mr Abbott said both men were reformed and had helped to rehabilitate other prisoners.

He said he had spoken with both men's families on Friday and it was "an unimaginably difficult time" for them.

Deputy federal opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said the opposition stood with the government in pleading for clemency from Indonesia.

"Of course these 2 young men have done the wrong thing and of course they should be punished," she said.

"But Labor always believes that the death penalty is wrong. The death penalty is wrong for anyone in any circumstance and we will always advocate for Australians facing the death penalty."

Indonesia's attorney-general has not named a time or date for the execution of Chan and Sukumaran.

6 people were executed for drug offences in Indonesia on Sunday - the 1st of 26 prisoners the country's government has said will be killed this year.

(source: sbs.com.au)

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

Capital punishment and public opinion

The campaign to abolish capital punishment in Indonesia suffered a huge setback following the execution of 6 drug traffickers over the weekend. The voices of abolitionists were drowned out by those who came out in support of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who used the executions as an important part of his war against drug abuse in this country. Public opinion in Indonesia is still overwhelmingly in favor of retaining capital punishment, certainly for the most heinous crimes, including drug trafficking, which is rampant in this country and has such deadly effects. The execution of the 6 people who had lingered on death row for years may have revived the debate on capital punishment. Looking at public opinion and social media, retentionists have not only prevailed, but they also won more recruits.

11th-hour appeals last week in phone calls to Jokowi for stays of execution from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and King Willem of the Netherlands, whose citizens were among the 6 executed, fell on deaf ears. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also been on the phone with Jokowi trying to save two convicted Australian drug traffickers, whose executions are apparently imminent. Abbott has to prepare for disappointment and Indonesia for more diplomatic fallout.

The foreign leaders' interventions, well-meaning as they are, may even have done a disservice to the abolitionists' cause. The executions have now been turned into a question of Indonesia's national pride with accusations flying about the West imposing its human rights values on us. But, as the saying goes, the harder they push, the stronger Indonesia pushes back.In response to these foreign meddlers, Indonesia has invoked its sovereignty rights and legal system, which recognizes the death penalty. And with 58 more on death row, we can expect a few more executions, including many non-Indonesians, in the coming days or weeks, just to make a point.

The human rights campaigners and abolitionists have now learned to their dismay that compassion is not President Jokowi's strongest suit, if he has any at all.

They should have known better. We have a leader who nurtures his power and political legitimacy mostly from public opinion, perhaps more than any other president before him because he does not control any political party.

This may have been the reason why barely 3 months into office, Jokowi ordered the executions of the dozens of drug traffickers on death row. His sagging popularity must have improved for taking a strong stand on drug abuses and for standing up to foreign meddlers.

His predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono waited at least a few years, although he too used capital punishment to shore up his public support. It was no coincidence that he ordered the executions of 10 people in 2008 and four in 2013 - both times 1 year before a general election.Taking someone else's life is murder. There is no other word to describe it. These are murders legitimated by the country's law and, more importantly, by public opinion.

The nation accepted uncritically President Jokowi's repeated argument that 40 to 50 people die every day because of drug addiction. Even if this fatality figure was true, how many people in this country die of smoking and smoking-related diseases? And how many people die, many of slow death, because of poverty and poor access to health care because the country's elite have been stealing money through rampant corruption. Since more people die of heart diseases, can you make a similar argument of how many people die because of eating too much meat?

The National Narcotic Agency (BNN) says more than 4.2 million people in this country are addicted drug users, making Indonesia a haven and a lucrative market for drug traffickers. Jokowi has declared Indonesia under a state of emergency.

This is something that many Indonesians will quickly embrace because it gives them a convenient scapegoat. Surely the responsibility of containing drug abuse first and foremost must fall on parents and the family and then the school, the religious leaders and their communities and then on the law enforcement agencies and the government. Supporters of the death penalty for drug traffickers rely on religious leaders endorsing the killing of human beings, even though most major religions advocate compassion and forgiveness above any act of vengeance.

The jury is still out that the death penalty will deter drug traffickers, but then this matters little in Indonesia. Public opinion very much wants it.Little did the public know that Indonesia was close to abolishing the death penalty from its books in 2008. A small band of abolitionists submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court and it lost by a single vote. Insiders say the vote would have been 5 to 4 in favor of abolition, but at the last minute 1 judge switched sides to retain capital punishment, apparently because he too sensed that was what the public wanted.

The campaign to abolish capital punishment is not over by any means. Clearly a large part of the battle has to be fought in the public sphere. Abolitionists need to organize and get their act together and most of all they need to learn how to win public opinion to their side.

(source: Commentary; Endy Bayuni, who is a senior editor of The Jakarta Post)

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

Australia asks Indonesia to rethink death penalty for 2 drug offenders

Australia called on Indonesia on Friday to reconsider its decision to execute 2 Australians convicted of drug offences, a move that is likely to strain already fragile ties between the 2 neighbours.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the 2 members of the so-called Bali 9 who were arrested at Bali's Denpasar airport in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8 kg (18 lb) of heroin to Australia were reformed characters who had helped rehabilitate other prisoners.

"The prerogative of mercy should be extended to them," Abbott said in a statement. "Australia opposes the death penalty at home and abroad."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, has pledged no clemency for drug offenders, drawing criticism from rights activists at home and abroad.

Indonesia executed 6 convicted drug traffickers, including 5 foreigners, by firing squad last week. Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors from Jakarta, while Nigeria summoned the Indonesian ambassador in Abuja to protest against the execution of their citizens.

Abbott said he and Foreign Minister Julia Bishop had made direct representations to their Indonesian counterparts and "are continuing to make every possible effort through the most effective channels" to stop the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

It was not immediately clear when the executions of Sukumaran, 33, and Chan, 31, might take place.

Bishop said earlier this week she would not rule out recalling the Australian ambassador should the executions be carried out.

"This is an unimaginably difficult time for the families of these young men," Abbott said. "I spoke with both families today and will ensure the government continues to support them."

Indonesia has a record of imposing severe penalties for drug trafficking, resuming executions in 2013 after a 5-year gap.

Relations between Indonesia and Australia hit a low in late 2013 after reports that Australia had spied on top Indonesian officials, including then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.

Indonesia froze military and intelligence cooperation with Australia and restored relations in May 2014.

Abbott said the government would make no further public comment on the case in the interests of the convicted men.

(source: Reuters)

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

Funds up to $12,000 raised for Bali drug accused Antony de Malmanche

More than $12,000 has been raised for Dannevirke-born Antony de Malmanche's fight against a meth charge in Bali.

Money raised on website Give a Little was donated by 186 different people, some pledging as much as $500.

The 52-year-old Whanganui resident faces the death penalty or 5 years' imprisonment after being arrested and accused of trying to smuggle 1.7 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine into the country.

His lawyer, Craig Tuck, said it was a "fantastic" start, but the trial would cost over $100,000.

Tuck, offering his services pro bono, said costs would mount during the case, which could last 10 months.

4 Indonesian lawyers were working on the case at a "heavily discounted rate" but general costs would mount through research and travel costs.

Tuck is not allowed to represent de Malmanche in Indonesian court.

De Malmanche was receiving "incredible" support from the public, Tuck said.

He had been receiving messages and phone calls from people wanting to help, because they realised he was in a "very dangerous situation".

Family media liaison James Bellamy agreed $12,000 was a good start and a sign the public's perception was changing.

"In the beginning, there were not a lot of sympathetic comments," Bellamy said.

Through almost daily conversations he had with family, friends and the public, opinion was starting to shift in de Malmanche's favour, he said. The help being given through the Give A Little page was a good indication.

"The process is a long one. It's just great to know that there is 186 people out there who care."

Shaun de Malmanche, the accused's son, started a Facebook page to garner support.

Bellamy visited de Malmanche in Bali a couple of weeks ago.

"He was a lonely man. Not a lot had been going his way; finally he felt that something good had come his way and he went for it." But he was taken advantage of and faces paying the ultimate price.

"No-one deserves the death penalty for being naive," Bellamy said.

De Malmanche's lawyers will argue the man was a "trafficked person" who was both vulnerable and unaware he was carrying drugs.

The accused said he fell victim to an online dating scam which took him to Hong Kong and eventually Bali, where he was found to be carrying the drugs.

He has been held in a Bali prison since early December.

Give a Little service manager Nathalie Whitaker said the cause was an "unusual case", as he was still defending the charge.

She said all causes had to be legally sound and it was up to the donor's decision to support each cause. "It's certainly no issue for us because they are not using the funds for illegal purposes."

(source: Stuff)

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

Does the death penalty deter drug smugglers?

Vivi was a curious 15-year-old when she had her first taste of putauw; the Indonesian word for street-grade heroin, in the early 1990s.

She recalls the bitterness ... and then vomiting copiously. Her friend reassured her that if she had putauw every day for at least 3 days the nausea would vanish.

Gradually she began taking larger and larger amounts. "When I became addicted bit by bit my social life was gone," Vivi says. She dropped out of college in her second year, left her mother's home and joined the junkie community around Kampung Bali, a slum area of Jakarta, where alley street vendors would hide the "PT" under dishes used to grind peanuts for Gado Gado.

It was to be a 15-year addiction. Withdrawal from putauw was so horrendous; the itching, the body aches, the diarrhoea, Vivi would do almost anything to feed her habit. She once smuggled 15 grams of heroin from Thailand in a cavity in the sole of her shoe.

Vivi's mother Martha, a respected journalist at an Indonesian newspaper, discovered not only her daughter, but also her younger son were drug addicts.

"When my children were still on drugs they didn't realise the troubles they brought to me. I had to quit my job because I couldn't concentrate. It made my life like a beggar's life. I felt I was dead. I run out of words to describe how drugs ruin someone or a family."

Martha is now in her 60s. She has no hesitation in supporting the Indonesian government's policy of executing drug felons, which resulted in six prisoners facing the firing squad last weekend.

Another 58 are on death row, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Bali Nine masterminds who were sentenced in 2006 for their role in attempting to smuggle more than 8 kilograms of heroin out of Indonesia.

Both the Australians have lost their appeals for clemency from Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo. An attempt to secure a second judicial review of their cases is to be lodged but their prospects are very grim.

An appointment with a firing squad, where they would be executed together, looks likely.

For Indonesia's president, the scourge of drug abuse in Indonesia will "ruin" the nation. There is nothing short of a drug emergency. There can be no clemency.

While the scale of Indonesia's drug problem is debated, few begrudge a serious government effort to address the issue.

The puzzle is that Jokowi, as the president is widely known, is hanging his anti-narcotics campaign so heavily on the death penalty, bucking the trend of declining executions in Indonesia and the region.

He has a fervent desire to rid Indonesia of drug abuse, to be sure. But there is also a strong strand of politically motivated populism, and ignorance, behind the strategy.

Certainly, the views of Martha and her president are shared by many in Indonesia.

Polls show support for the death penalty in Indonesia generally sits at around 75 %. There is widespread concern by families they will lose children to drugs, a fear fed by endless media stories about drug crime, death and accidents.

Despite public opinion, executions in Indonesia have been increasingly rare. Just a handful at the beginning and end of the final term in office of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

To understand the turnaround from Jokowi, who presented as a compassionate and progressive presidential candidate, another recent poll provides a clue.

It shows 3/4 of Indonesians are unhappy with his performance, a stunning fall from grace for a president who took the job only months ago after being elected with Obama-like fervour.

With his patron, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, exerting huge influence, his cabinet has been stacked with questionable political appointees. The legislature is controlled by his political enemies.

A laudable and necessary move to eradicate fuel subsidies has caused consternation in the villages.

The furore over the appointment of a suspect in an active graft investigation (and Megawati acolyte) to the crucial job of national police chief prompted a Jakarta Globe headline "How Jokowi wasted his mandate of 88 days".

As his reputation as a heroic, can-do politician from outside the corrupt ruling elites is taking a battering, Jokowi is turning to nationalist issues. A crackdown on illegal fishing by foreigners has been cranked up, along with the executions.

"Jokowi believes in the death penalty. He's fully committed to it [but] there's clearly a sizeable element of domestic politics in what's unfolding," says Greg Fealy, an Indonesian analyst from the Australian National University.

Jokowi insists he is just implementing Indonesian law. He has always stated his support for the death penalty, which Indonesia regards as an important deterrent.

According to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), 40 to 50 Indonesians die every day from drugs. It predicts the number of drug addicts will increase to 5.8 million people this year, out of a population of 250 million.

The agency says these statistics, which are widely quoted by Indonesian government members, are based on 2011 data from the University of Indonesia which surveyed hospitals, schools and rehabilitation centres.

Reliable statistics on drugs and drug-related deaths are notoriously hard to come by in the region.

The UN's World Drug Report lists only 447 drug-related deaths in Indonesia in its latest report, almost certainly an underestimation,

Even on the BNN's numbers, Indonesia's figures are, per head, on par with Australia, where there were 1427 overdoses in 2012.

Attorney-General, H.M. Prasetyo, says executions were needed to "save the nation".

"We need to wage war and of course we can't compromise. There is no forgiveness for narcotics criminals. [Implementation of the death penalty] provides a deterrent effect."

Indonesia, certainly, has the right to tackle the issue of drug abuse, but does the death penalty work as the attorney-general suggests and deter drug trafficking? Many argue there is little evidence of a link.

Some countries where drug trafficking carries the death penalty - such as China and Iran - still have big drug problems, says John Ryan, the CEO of drug research and advocacy organisation Pennington Institute.

"The scale of people who get caught drug trafficking and the scale of the drug market proves most people think they will get away with it and are prepared to play Russian roulette."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was also sceptical. "I don't believe that executing people is the answer to solving the drug problem and certainly the trafficking of drugs in and out of Indonesia," she told Sky News this week.

Jeffrey Fagan, who provided expert testimony during a constitutional challenge against the death penalty in 2007, said drug offenders are prone to "hyperdiscounting".

"Their reasoning in the face of threats of harsh punishment is skewed."

If the death penalty did deter drug traffickers, it would suggest that supply would reduce in the particular country, pushing up prices. Drug use would then also fall.

But a study of the experience of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia between 1999 and 2005, a time when Singapore and Malaysia were executing heavily and Indonesia was not, shows that drugs were significant cheaper in Singapore and Malaysia Drug use also rose in both countries and remained more prevalent in Singapore than Indonesia.

"During this era, 73 persons were executed in Singapore [including more than 1/2 who were drug offenders], compared to 2 in Indonesia," Kagan said. "Yet drug trafficking was increasing and drug prices were lower in Singapore."

Attorney-General Prasetyo describes the tentacles of crime syndicates spreading beyond the major cities to rural areas, saying 45 per cent of south-east Asia's narcotics market is in Indonesia.

But intimately involved with these syndicates are Indonesia's police force and, it is alleged, military.

Only this week in Jakarta, 5 police were arrested by anti-narcotics agents, including a member of BNN. 1 of them had in their possession 7000 ecstasy tablets and 700 grams of methamphetamine.

As well as being directly involved, bribe-taking by police is endemic. Notorious night spots where drug use is rife are also reportedly owned by military and police figures.

Jokowi's support for a graft suspect as the new police chief does not inspire confidence that he is prepared to tackle the issue seriously.

Dave McRae, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne, believes the focus of a counter-narcotics strategy should be on high-level members of drug syndicates.

Many of the drug felons on death row in Indonesia were arrested in possession of drugs. "On face value they look like couriers or lower-level players," says McRae. "It is difficult to imagine high-level members of drug syndicates would be in direct possession of narcotics."

Indonesia's judiciary is also riddled with graft, a seemingly impenetrable barrier to convictions for drug barons.

McRae says rampant drug use in the prison population also needs to be addressed. It prevents rehabilitation and many drug dealers continue to organise their networks on the outside.

Indeed, the principle of rehabilitation has recently been enshrined in Indonesia's sentencing laws, but seems to have been jettisoned by Jokowi as well.

For Chan and Sukumaran, who have started multiple skills, anti-drugs and religious programs at Kerobokan prison, the development is devastating for their bid to live.

Vivi's years of heroin addiction included a stint in prison. The 2 women in the cells on either side of her; 1 Thai, the other Nigerian; continued to deal drugs behind bars.

"They would use their mobiles to arrange business outside prison," Vivi says. For a cut, the prison guards would act as go-betweens.

Unlike her mother, Vivi, now 41 and clean, does not support the death penalty for narcotics. She knew Rani Andriani, an Indonesian woman who was executed last weekend for her role in an international drug ring.

Vivi says the sentence was unfair; that Rani was merely a courier, while her cousin Ola, whose life was spared, had introduced her to crime and was a bigger fish.

Marcus Mietzner, a leading analyst of Indonesian politics, says the Jokowi strategy betrays its main motivation - "showing political toughness".

"Had the Jokowi government offered alternative approaches to the drug problem, that would have been a different story. Better prevention through health and education, fighting corruption in the narcotics police, and so forth - this would have shown a real commitment to the drug issue itself," he says.

"Instead, Jokowi presents an uncompromising stance on executions as the most important element of the war on drugs. It is not going to work, and everyone knows that."

Vivi would like to see prison reform. She wants guards to be paid better so they do not supplement their salaries with drug money. And she would like to see better security at customs, particularly at sea ports where the putauw arrives in shipping containers from Chiang Mai and Myanmar.

"It's like a plant," Vivi says. "You can't just cut the top leaves off, you have to destroy the roots."

(source: The Age)

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

2nd Dutchman on Indonesia death row appealing case

The Dutchman Siegfried Mets, who has been sentenced to death in Indonesia, is going to submit a revision request in February. This is according to his lawyer, Bart Stapert. Mets is convicted of involvement in importing ecstasy.

Stapert was also Ang Kiem Soei's lawyer, the Dutchman who was executed by an Indonesian firing squad last weekend.

According to Stapert, he has new evidence in Mets' case. "There is certainly new evidence that was not raised in the first instance and in appeal. This applies in particular to circumstances about his background that would make the death penalty unjustifiable." According to Stapert, this new evidence will "very likely lead to a different punishment than the death penalty".

Stapert admits that he is using the extra eyes that are now focused on Indonesia after the recent executions. "Given the recent developments in Indonesia, including the execution of my other client, we will not wait any longer. You don't want to ask the gods and take no risk with the timing." According to Stapert, Indonesia is being pressured from all sides. "If that leads to a stay of execution, then that will also favor my own client."

(source: NL Times)

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

Indonesia Faces Criticism for Executing Drug Offenders

Indonesia is facing widespread international criticism after executing 6 people, including 5 foreigners. All 6 were found guilty of violating Indonesian drug laws. Other countries had urged Indonesian officials to cancel the death sentences. After the executions were carried out, 2 of the countries ordered their ambassadors in Indonesia to return home.

Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors from Jakarta after Indonesia rejected their appeals not to execute their citizens.

A Brazilian and Dutch citizen were among 6 people who received the death sentence for violating Indonesian drug laws. The other criminals were from Malawi, Nigeria, Vietnam and Indonesia. All 6 were shot to death on Sunday.

Amnesty International has criticized the executions as what it called a "retrograde step for human rights" in Indonesia.

Indonesia began executing some criminals in 2013 after five years without executing anyone. No prisoners were put to death last year.

But 2 Australians could be executed soon. They were sentenced to death in 2006 after being found guilty of leading a drug group known as the Bali 9. Members of the Bali 9 attempted to bring more than 8 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia nearly 10 years ago.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop refused to say whether her government would order home its ambassador to Indonesia if the two Australians are executed.

"It's been a long-standing position of successive Australian governments to oppose the death penalty so the Indonesian government is in no doubt where the Australian government stands on this issue."

Joko Widodo became Indonesia's president 3 months ago. He has said there will be no easing of the country's strong position against drug dealers.

Indonesia's top law enforcement official, Muhammad Prasetyo, has also defended the executions of those who were sentenced for serious drug crimes. He says the death sentence is necessary to protect the country against drugs.

He says Indonesia must be strong and never compromise with anyone involved in trafficking illegal drugs.

(source: Voice of America)

SOUTHEAST ASIA:

Drugs and the death penalty in Southeast Asia

Every few years, Southeast Asian countries make headlines for their capital punishment practices, and invariably these headlines come when foreigners are sentenced.

On Thursday, Andrew Chan, an Australian accused of drug trafficking in Indonesia, lost his appeal for presidential clemency. He is 1 of 2 Australians (the other, Myuran Sukumaran, lost his appeal in December) who will be executed by firing squad.

Under the new Indonesian president, this year has already seen 6 convicted drug traffickers executed. Among those executed were citizens from Brazil, Vietnam, The Netherlands, and Nigeria. These executions have, once again, brought Indonesia's death penalty into the international spotlight. Human Rights Watch has called out Indonesia's double standards. While Indonesia carries out the death penalty on drug traffickers, Jakarta has since 2010 lobbied Saudi Arabia to pardon one of its citizens on death row for murder. With thousands of Southeast Asians working in Saudi Arabia (many often in precarious employment positions), it is not uncommon for migrant labourers to face capital punishment. Most recently, the beheading of a Myanmar citizen in Mecca earlier this month caused uproar when a video circulated of the woman pleading her innocence moments before the sentence was carried out.

The persistent work to highlight such cases, particularly by NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, has contributed to gains made in some Southeast Asian countries to abolish the death penalty.

In January last year Myanmar commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment. There have been no known executions in the Myanmar since 1989, nor in Laos since that time. Thailand has not carried out capital punishment since 1988. In effect these states are what Cornell University's Death Penalty Worldwide database describe as 'abolitionist de facto'. The Philippines, East Timor and Cambodia have abolished capital punishment entirely. Brunei hasn't carried out any known executions since 1957 (though with the enactment of the 1st wave of hudud law last year, that tide may turn).

Yet capital punishment is still practiced in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Most controversially, all these countries permit the death penalty for drug trafficking.

In a mass trial last year, Vietnam's highest court upheld the death sentence for 29 drug traffickers. In 2005, Singapore executed Melbourne man Van Tuong Nguyen for drug trafficking. Most recently, 2 Singaporeans were executed for the trafficking of pure heroin in July last year. In Malaysia, drug traffickers are among the 900 currently on death row. In Indonesia, of the 133 people on death row in 2012, more than 1/2 (71) were there for drug trafficking.

While the influence of powerful religious conservative groups is certainly a factor in the maintenance of capital punishment in Indonesia and Malaysia (just as it is in the US), a more holistic analysis of why the death penalty continues in Southeast Asia must place greater weight on the damage done by narcotics.

The region has a long and troubled history with narcotics. Drug gangs and their huge profits threaten internal security and development. Drug-related diseases such as HIV devastate populations and drug-fueled violence terrorises communities across Southeast Asia. It was against this backdrop that ASEAN set the ambitious (or fanciful) goal of having a drug-free region by 2015. Given recent rates of production, it was a pipedream.

The Golden Triangle still produces a quarter of the world's heroin. According to the UNODC 'almost all the heroin produced in the Southeast Asia is consumed in East Asia and the Pacific'. In 2011 the region consumed 65 tons of pure heroin with a retail sales volume of approximately US$16.3 billion. Crackdowns on heroin production in the Golden Triangle have led to the advent of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), which are easier to produce. In the Greater Mekong subregion some 1.4 billion ATS, known locally as yaba, are consumed annually, with an estimated market value of US$6.5 billion.

From the Golden Triangle, narcotics are then trafficked and consumed through the region. That trade will likely become easier at the end of the year when the ASEAN Community is set to introduce freer movement around the region. This in itself could see a push for stricter application of death penalty laws.

For law enforcement, the trade in narcotics has its upside. Extracting bribes from tourists caught taking drugs is big business. For poorly paid police, such bribes can net thousands of dollars (sometimes a year or more worth of pay). The incentives for them to crack down on drugs are therefore skewed. The threat of capital punishment exerts fear on drug offenders and therefore increases the bribes that can be extracted. Drug kingpins are seldom charged, let alone put to death. Rather it is the lowly traffickers and drug users who suffer the most grievous of punishments.

It is perhaps a strange logic, but abolishing the death penalty will go a long way to improving law enforcement and governance in Southeast Asia, thereby diminishing drug trafficking, which is the ultimate aim of governments that enforce the death penalty. If the region is serious about tackling drug trafficking it would be wise to abolish the death penalty. Tackling the scourge of drugs in Southeast Asia means tackling the death penalty.

(source: The Interpreter)

JANUARY 22, 2015:

MISSOURI----stay of impending execution

Supreme Court stays execution for man who fatally stabbed former Post-Dispatch reporter

The Missouri Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for Marcellus Williams, who had been scheduled to die on Wednesday for the fatal stabbing of former Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle at her home in University City in 1998.

Williams had argued that he was entitled to additional DNA testing. Although the state's high court did not say why the execution was delayed, it could provide more time for courts to consider his claim.

Williams killed Gayle, 42, at her home in the gated Ames Place neighborhood on Aug. 11, 1998. Williams was burglarizing the home when Gayle, who had been taking a shower, surprised him. He stabbed her repeatedly while she fought for her life.

A jury convicted Williams at a trial in 2001. He was sentenced to death by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien.

The judge also ordered Williams to serve consecutive terms of life in prison for robbery, 30 years for burglary and 30 years each for 2 weapons violations.

Before sentencing, Williams told the judge he lacked jurisdiction - that only God had that authority.

Gayle was a Post-Dispatch reporter from 1981-92. She left the paper to do volunteer social work with children and the poor.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

TEXAS----impending execution

ACLU attorney files paperwork to halt execution of ETX man convicted of murder

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney has filed paperwork to halt the execution of an East Texas man convicted of murder.

According to the Smith County 114th District Court, attorney Brian Stull has filed a "post-conviction writ of habeas corpus" in order to halt the execution of Robert Charles Ladd. Stull has filed the paperwork challenging Texas legal procedures to determine intellectual disability in the wake of Hall v. Florida.

"Undersigned counsel has insufficient time to prepare a more thorough application, but begs the Court's patience to consider this important issue, to grant a stay, and to set this case for further briefing and a hearing," wrote Stull.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Robert Charles Ladd, 57, is set to be put to death by lethal injection on Thursday, January 29, 2015, for the rape and strangulation murder of Vicki Ann Garner on September 25, 1996.

Court documents state Ladd also robbed Garner's home before setting it on fire.

1996 crime scene

Police were able to connect the murderer to the crime scene after DNA was found on Garner and a television set taken from her home. Authorities said he exchanged it for crack cocaine. Ladd was found guilty capital murder on August 23, 1997, and four days later he was sentenced to death.

Ladd's execution had been put on hold in 2003 when old evidence showed the suspect was mentally challenged; he received an IQ score of 67 . 2 other appeals were previously denied in 1999 and 2000.

Then District Attorney Jack Skeen disagreed with the stay and stated he believed Ladd knew exactly what he was doing when he brutally murdered Garner, a mentally-challenged woman.

Ladd was also convicted of murdering a woman and her 2 children and then setting her house on fire in 1978. He was released from prison after serving 16 years of a 40-year sentence.

(source: KETK news)

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

1 week from execution, death row inmate makes final plea to be spared due to "intellectual disabilities"

A North Carolina lawyer intervened unexpectedly Wednesday in the impending execution of a Tyler man convicted of murdering a woman in the 1990s.

Robert Charles Ladd was found guilty of capital murder in August of 1997. A jury sentenced him to death for breaking into 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner's home in Tyler on September 25, 1996, killing her and then setting her body on fire before stealing various items from her home.

A lengthy application for a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus field Wednesday in Smith County's 114th District Court seeks a stay which would halt Ladd's planned execution on January 29. This latest request comes after more than a decade of attempts on Ladd's part to convince judges at all levels of the criminal justice system of his own mental disabilities. In some cases, being mentally disabled disqualifies a criminal from potential execution under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney Brian Stull told the court he had just been retained by Ladd a week prior to the filing, and though he believes there is a case to be made in Ladd's favor, he would need more time to do so.

The crux of Stull's argument is that a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case, Hall v. Florida, nullifies a 7-pronged approach laid out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for determining whether someone's intellectual disability is severe enough to qualify for exemption from execution under the Eighth Amendment.

"In Hall," Stull wrote, "the court confirmed that states' procedures must conform to accepted clinical standards and must afford defendants a 'fair opportunity' to establish an exception based on intellectual disability."

Stull said the state's current system currently relies on several "subjective" criteria.

The underlying issue is that the state's evaluation system has yet to come under legal scrutiny in the wake of Hall. Stull argues, as a result, that Ladd's case should prompt a full evidentiary hearing in order to begin the process of applying the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision to existing Texas law.

Such a hearing would force a delay in Ladd's execution proceedings. As of Thursday afternoon, Judge Christi Kennedy had yet to rule on the initial request.

(source: KYTX news)

NEW JERSEY:

'Blind Faith' Killer Robert Marshall Gains Parole Hearing

Convicted killer Robert O. Marshall has been granted a full hearing before the state Parole Board, according to an article in the Asbury Park Press.

Marshall, 75, a former Toms River insurance salesman who was well-known in the community, has been in prison for 30 years, since his Dec. 19, 1984 arrest in the September 1984 murder-for-hire of his wife, Maria. The story of Marshall, the murder and his trial and conviction became widely known via the best-selling 1989 novel "Blind Faith," by Joe McGinniss, as well as the 1990 TV miniseries that was based on the book.

Marshall was convicted in 1986 of arranging Maria's murder so he could collect on a $1.5 million life insurance policy to pay off his debts and get out of his marriage, because he had fallen in love with another woman.

Marshall initially was sentenced to death, but in 2006 that sentence was overturned on appeal due to what the court ruled was ineffective counsel. He was resentenced to 30 years to life in prison at that time, and New Jersey abolished the death penalty a short time later.

Marshall sought early release on the grounds of health issues in 2012, but that request was rejected by Judge Wendel E. Daniels.

Maria Marshall was murdered Sept. 7, 1984, as she and her husband returned to Toms River from a trip to Atlantic City. Robert Marshall pulled off at the Oyster Creek picnic area in Lacey Township -- the rest area has since been closed. He told investigators he was hit on the head and knocked out while he was changing a flat tire, and when he regained consciousness, he found Maria dead of 2 gunshot wounds.

One of the men accused in the case, Larry Thompson of Louisiana, who was found not guilty by a jury, admitted last year that he was the triggerman.

Robert Marshall's hearing before the full parole board is set for March.

(source: patch.com)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court upholds death penalty in Craigslist killer case

The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence against a Georgia man who came to be known as the "Craigslist Killer" after he murdered a woman in Jacksonville.

David Kelsey Sparre, 23, was convicted of killing Tiara Pool in July 2010 inside her Hodges Boulevard apartment. Sparre, who lived in Waynesville, Ga., arranged to meet Pool through Craiglist while her husband was deployed at sea. He later said he killed Pool for the "rush."

"It was brutal murder," said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who prosecuted Sparre. "One where the death penalty was certainly justified."

During trial de la Rionda said Sparre stabbed Pool about 90 times while killing her. De la Rionda also said Sparre tortured the victim and took pleasure in it.

Sparre arranged to meet Pool while her husband, with whom her marriage had become troubled, was deployed at sea. Pool had placed a Craiglist ad looking for male companionship while her sons were out of town with grandparents.

After Sparre answered her ad, the victim traded sexually suggestive texts with him before meeting up with him at a local hospital. He was there with his grandmother, who was having heart surgery.

According to police and prosecutors, Sparre left the hospital with Pool and had sex with her in her Hodges Boulevard apartment before killing her. He cleaned up some of the evidence before leaving and later told police he'd learned about forensic investigations from watching TV.

After killing Pool, Sparre stole her husband's PlayStation 3, and then drove Pool's car back to the hospital to be with his grandmother. Police later found Sparre by tracking his emails, text messages and phone calls.

At a death-penalty hearing prior to sentencing, Chief Assistant Public Defender Refik Eler, who defended Sparre at trial, had planned to introduce evidence that his client was mentally unbalanced and had been abusing drugs and alcohol since he was 11.

But Sparre instructed Eler not to present any evidence on his behalf. And reiterated that instruction to Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, who ruled that Eler couldn't present the evidence against Sparre's wishes.

With no defense, and friends and family of Pool testifying for the prosecution during the hearing, the jury that convicted Sparre unanimously recommended he get death and Senterfitt complied with the recommendation.

On appeal Tallahassee Public Defender Nada Carey argued that Senterfitt abused her discretion by not considering all the evidence that would have kept Sparre off death row. She said it didn't matter that Sparre didn't want it brought up.

Carey said the justices should mandate that every time a death-penalty defendant refuses to present evidence in his or her own defense, a special counsel should be appointed to present mitigating evidence. But Justice Peggy Quince seemed lukewarm to the idea during oral argument in December, 2013.

"How do we honor the defendant's right to not present mitigation while urging the judge to consider all the evidence," Quince said. "I'm not sure both can be done."

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that defendants have a right to not present evidence in their own defense. It also has ruled that trial court judges have the right to appoint special counsel when they believe it's appropriate.

But Carey told the justices there are no guidelines for when special counsel is appointed, it's up to the individual judge. And the Supreme Court needs to step in and establish guidelines because right now people are not being sent to death row in a fair and uniform manner.

Justice Barbara Pariente agreed that there needed to be some guidelines for when a special counsel was appointed. But she also expressed skepticism that Sparre should be resentenced.

Sparre sent a letter to the mother of his child saying he wanted to know what it was like to stab someone, and with that type of evidence justifying death, Senterfitt may have been justified in rejecting any argument for life without parole, Pariente said.

(source: jacksonville.com)

OHIO:

Ohio wants death row inmates' 1st Amendment challenge to lethal injection law dismissed

A new state law that shields the names of companies providing lethal injection drugs is not a free speech violation, attorneys for the Ohio prisons agency argue as they ask a federal judge to dismiss a challenge of the law by 4 death row inmates.

Nothing in the law that takes effect in March infringes on prisoners' First Amendment rights or affects their ability to argue issues in court, according to a court filing by the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Mandates in the law limit the information the state will provide the public, including the inmates, according to the attorneys representing the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

"Refraining from providing information is an entirely different enquiry than suppression of a person's speech," the attorneys said in Tuesday's filing.

Inmates also allege the restrictions treat them differently than other groups, arguing that state lethal injection expert witnesses could have their identity shielded under the law, while defense witnesses wouldn't get the same protection. The state disputes the unequal treatment allegation.

"Proponents of the death penalty have no greater access to the information than the opponents," the state attorneys said.

Supporters of the new law say shielding the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs is necessary to protect drugmakers from harassment and ensure the state gets supplies of the drugs.

Ohio executions have been on hold since a troubling 26-minute execution a year ago during which a prisoner getting a first-ever 2-drug combo repeatedly gasped and snorted.

The state has ditched that 2-drug method and said it will use 1 of 2 different anesthetics in the future, neither of which it has on hand and both of which may be hard to find.

Attorneys for the inmates say there is no evidence whatsoever of companies being harassed.

The lawsuit was filed in December on behalf of Ohio death row prisoners Ronald Phillips, Raymond Tibbetts, Robert Van Hook and Grady Brinkley.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Richard Glossip, Death Row Inmate Set To Die Next Week: 'I Think About Just Being Able To Hug My Family'

Richard Glossip wakes up each day knowing that at 6 p.m. on Jan. 29, he's going to die.

The 51-year-old has been on death row ever since he was convicted of 1st-degree murder nearly 17 years ago on the testimony of a single witness. Glossip has maintained his innocence from the start, and now he's hoping that a last-minute reprieve from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) -- or the White House -- can spare him from becoming the 196th person to be put to death by the state of Oklahoma.

Justin Sneed, a young contract handyman who worked and lived at the Best Budget Inn that Glossip managed in Oklahoma City, confessed to beating motel owner Barry Van Treese to death with a baseball bat on Jan. 7, 1997. Prosecutors said Glossip feared losing his job and recruited Sneed to kill his boss. Sneed would later testify that Glossip promised him $10,000 to commit the crime. Both men were convicted of 1st-degree murder. In exchange for his testimony, Sneed received a life sentence without parole; Glossip received a death sentence.

A judge told Glossip that if he admitted his involvement in Van Treese's death, he would be sentenced to life in prison and eligible for parole in 20 years. Glossip said he refused to perjure himself by admitting to something he didn't do.

Last month, Glossip went on a hunger strike, which drew more attention to his case. He had already brought several anti-death-penalty advocates into his corner, including Sister Helen Prejean, the nun and clemency advocate behind the memoir Dead Man Walking. A Change.org petition calling for Fallin to spare Glossip's life has garnered more than 11,000 signatures.

If Glossip is executed as planned, he'll leave behind four children: Christina, 35; Erica, 32; Tori Lynn, 28; and Richard Jr., 26, as well as two grandchildren, ages 14 and 8. The Huffington Post spoke to him by phone earlier this week.

glossip

I laugh all the time. I know the guards done think I flipped, completely crazy, because I laugh at the TV all the time.

I love British comedies. Especially this one called "Last of the Summer Wine." It's these 3 guys, these old buddies who have been friends for years and years since school. And it's about the things they enjoy, like climbing a hill and lying in the grass. They don't need cars, homes, all that fancy stuff. They just need a cup of tea or to go lie on a hill somewhere.

And you watch that, it makes you realize you didn't need all them things in life either. All you need to live is a simple life. A simple life will always be the best.

You just gotta make do with what you have. And I do. Anything funny that comes on, I'll watch, and I'll sit and laugh with it. It helps me get through every day, knowing something's there to laugh at.

It doesn't always have to be a serious thing every day that you get up. Just because you're facing being executed, don't mean you can't laugh and try to live a life as best you can while you're in your situation.

I'm proud to say a lot of people down here say I've made a difference in their lives, and it's helped them to cope with this a lot better. You gotta spend the time you have no matter where you are, make the best out of the situation.

My last cellie, Wendell Grissom -- he ended up seeing that you don't have to live every day in this place miserable. That you don't have to be mad at a guard because he does something to you that you didn't like. It's their job; you can't be getting mad and kicking on the door and screaming at people just because they decided they didn't like what you're doing at the time.

Grissom had that problem at first. Even his pen pal in England wrote me and said, "I've never seen such a big change in a person." She said his demeanor is so much better since he met me.

And that makes you feel good, knowing you could help change somebody. To make a difference. Letting it destroy your mind or taking whatever peace you have left is just crazy. You just can't let that happen to you.

I didn't realize I had that much strength to deal with this for so many years. People complain about the simple things in life that they don't have. Like a new car or this or that. I get up every day facing this and I fight. It surprises me that I have it in me. I sure didn't think I did.

I thought I'd have been a granddad many times over. I am a granddad, and I'm happy about that. But a lot is different now, that's for sure. I just thought life would be totally different.

I have 2 grandkids that I've never seen except in pictures. It gives you something to look forward to. That if something should happen, and this should change, I would get to see these people and get to be part of their lives. They'd get to see me, who I am, and see that this place hasn't changed me.

Every now and then I'll lie back and think about that. I really do. I just think about amazing things that could happen if I were to be set free.

I think about just being able to hug my family. Being with them at mealtimes. And I miss working so bad, it's unbelievable. I love to work. I've always loved to work.

That's one of the things I miss most in life. Being able to get up and go to work each day, and bust my ass each day, as I always have. I know it sounds strange and simple.

My oldest daughter just got back into my life. We had written each other several times since I've been locked up, but as for phone conversations, we just started talking on the phone a little over a month ago. She was so excited to talk to her dad, since we haven't seen each other for so long.

When your family starts getting back in your life and you see how much they loved you, even after all the years you've been separated from them, it helps keep you very, very strong. Especially over these last couple of weeks.

They showed up at my trial without my consent. I really didn't want them there. I didn't want them drug into this mess. That's what it was. A mess.

I didn't want them visiting me in prison, which made them very upset, for the most part. I didn't want them seeing me through the glass and cuffs and shackles. I didn't want them seeing their dad like that. I wanted them to remember me as I was.

My uncle was a preacher, so I had to grow up in the church. But I've never really been away from the church for long periods of time. I've always believed.

I think [being on death row] makes you a lot stronger in your beliefs. Or you better let it make you a lot stronger in your beliefs, that's for sure. When you get down close to where I'm at now, it's a comfort to know that you've made peace with everything. Especially God.

A lot of people ask if I hate [Sneed]. I don't hate him. Hatred ain't gonna do anything for you. I don't know what people believe in the afterlife, or what's going to happen. I don't even know, to be honest with you 100 %, what I believe. But I do believe that there is something after this life, and that I don't want to be going through it hating everybody.

I don't give up hope in any way, shape or form. Because until they lay you on that table and stick them needles in you and you're completely dead, you always have hope. I'll never let them take that away from me, no matter what.

I'm not afraid of dying. Everybody dies. It's just a part of life: You're born, you die, that's it. But I do want people to know that I'm innocent.

Everybody's skeptical when you first tell them you're innocent. When you're on death row and in prison, people come up and say, "I'm innocent; I didn't do it." But when you look into the case and start seeing for yourself, "Hey, something ain't right here," then it really kind of bugs some of these people that I'm not more angry than I am. That I'm taking this like I am. But I'd rather take it like this than be miserable every day up until that day.

A lot of reporters have asked me, "If you got out tomorrow, would you be bitter toward all of the things that have happened to you?" I told them, "No, I wouldn't." I'm not a bitter person now, and I don't want to be a bitter person ever. Things happen. It's unfortunate that they do. But all I can do now is fight.

My friends say, "You just can't seem to catch a break." Maybe now I'll catch the break. Who knows. It's not over till it's over.

(source: Huffington Post)

INDONESIA:

Bali 9: hypocrisy, politics and courts play out in death row lottery

One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is that its administration is fundamentally unfair. Too often, the question of who receives a death sentence and whether and when it is actually carried out becomes more a matter of politics than of facts and law.

This is certainly the case for the two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, on death row in Indonesia. They find themselves at the centre of a series of complex political controversies, all of which could directly affect their chances of survival.

Sukumaran and Chan are the only members of the Bali 9 still sentenced to death for their role in attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali to Australia in 2005. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has now rejected both Sukumaran's and Chan's pleas for clemency, leaving the pair facing execution by firing squad.

Clemency is last hope on death row

An application for clemency is usually made when the judicial process is exhausted. It is intended to be the last chance for a lighter sentence before execution takes place. The Chief Prosecutor's office has indicated they usually execute co-offenders together.

Jokowi's decisions on Chan and Sukumaran are consistent with recent statements he has made that he would not grant clemency to drug offenders. The death penalty is available in Indonesia for 17 offences but usually only imposed for drugs, terrorism and murder.

For decades the majority of executions in South-East Asia have been for drugs offences. Now Indonesian officials have said they aim to build a reputation for harsh treatment of drug offenders to match neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, where, unlike Indonesia, death is mandatory in many drugs cases.

Jokowi's refusal to grant clemency also reflects a decision made in 2013 by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to end the informal moratorium on executions he put in place after the Bali bombers (Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Amrozi) were executed in November 2008. In 2013, executions resumed, targets were set and 4 prisoners met their deaths. Last weekend, 6 more were executed, including 5 foreigners.

A double standard for Indonesians abroad

Indonesia's efforts to prevent its own citizens being executed overseas therefore seem odd indeed. In recent years it established a taskforce and spent millions of dollars to hire lawyers and, where permitted, pay "blood money" to ensure that Indonesian domestic workers in countries including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia escape the death penalty.

This obvious double standard has drawn much criticism, including from Indonesian civil society. The government justifies it by drawing a clear distinction between, on one hand, its overseas workers - many of them maids who have murdered abusive employers - and, on other other hand, drug offenders, whom it categorises with terrorists as "mass murderers". This distinction has support in Indonesia, where a high-profile "war on drugs" policy has been in place for years and many locals rely on overseas workers for remittances.

However, it does make it much harder for Indonesia to run an in-principle argument in favour of the death penalty, as leading Indonesian human rights organisations such as NGOs KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) and LBH (the Legal Aid Institute) have been arguing.

Many Indonesians still support the death penalty, including some active anti-drug NGOs. There is, however, a growing debate about whether it is still appropriate in an open liberal democratic state committed to human rights of the kind Indonesia claims to have become since Soeharto fell in 1998.

A question of politics as much as law

This ambivalence over how the death penalty sits with recognition of human rights is reflected in the "bob each way" decision the Indonesian Constitutional Court made in 2007. It held that execution is not inconsistent with the guarantee of right to life in its liberal post-Soeharto constitution.

However, the court also recommended that prisoners who have been on death row for 10 years and have shown reform and rehabilitation should have their sentences commuted to imprisonment.

Jimly Asshiddiqie, the Constitutional Court Chief Justice at the time, has recently complained that the government has completely ignored this part of the judgment. He has also indicated discomfort with his court's decision to uphold the death penalty, suggesting the time may be right to abolish it.

Sukumaran and Chan were arrested in 2005, and prison authorities have described them as reformed model prisoners. If the Constitutional Court's proposal was implemented they would have a strong argument for their death sentences being replaced by long jail terms.

As this suggests, Indonesia may be undergoing a slow transition towards abolition. Many newspapers, including the leading daily, Kompas, have published articles criticising Jokowi's decision to resume executions. But this shift in public opinion does not seem to big enough or moving fast enough to save Sukumaran and Chan.

It may not move Jokowi much either. Indonesian political observers say that while he is a strong democrat and anti-corruption reformer, he is personally morally conservative and not greatly focused on human rights issues.

They also say that Jokowi is under massive political pressure to match the decisive hardline "tough guy" image of his defeated presidential rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, who made much of "standing up" to foreign influences.

Jokowi lacks strong elite support and is fighting hard to build a workable coalition to overcome Prabowo's stranglehold on the national legislature, which has so far prevented any laws being passed. While granting mercy to Sukumaran and Chan might have helped Jokowi with the 2nd-rank challenge of building a relationship with Australia, he might well have seen it as too damaging for his own political survival.

Courts divided over appeal rights

Sukumaran and Chan's lawyers have announced they will soon lodge a 2nd application with the Supreme Court to re-open their case. This is known as a "PK" or "Reconsideration".

As might be expected, lawyers for the pair will argue that Sukumaran and Chan's rehabilitation should be taken into account. Indonesian authorities have said they will probably not execute while a related court case is pending, but the PK faces 2 problems. Both relate to political tensions between the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, Indonesia's judicial "twin peaks".

The Constitutional Court says there is no limit on the number of PKs a person may bring. The Supreme Court says only one is possible. The Supreme Court seems not to consider itself bound by the Constitutional Court, and may therefore reject Sukumaran and Chan's 2nd PK out of hand.

For the same reason, if the Supreme Court does consider the PK on its merits, it may pay little heed to the Constitutional Court's suggestion that after 10 years' rehabilitation, death penalty sentences should be commuted. Discussions have been arranged between the 2 courts to resolve their differences, but so far without much success.

This all means that despite the huge effort being made by their Indonesian and Australian lawyers - and by the Australian government - Sukumaran and Chan's future hangs on matters that have little to do with the actual crimes they committed or their own conduct since then.

Whether Sukumaran and Chan are executed depends on how all these factors play out and, in particular, the timing. In Indonesia, as in most countries that execute, death row is little more than a grim lottery.

(source: The Conversation)

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: Homicide, Drugs, Mental Incapacity----Glen Garcia White's time is running out

Although Garcia Glen White had a clean criminal record throughout much of his 20s, between 1989 and 1995 the Houston native killed a total of 5 people during 3 separate incidents.

It's the 2nd of those 3 that sent the now-51-year-old to death row. In 1989, White was at the home of Bonita Edwards smoking crack cocaine when the 2 got into an argument. White pulled a knife on Edwards and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and chest. When Annette and Bernette, Edwards' twin 16-year-old daughters, hearing her cries, came out of their room to investigate, White stabbed them both to death. Found days later, Bernette had a towel wrapped around her neck and shoved into her mouth. Annette's body was lying facedown, semi-nude, with her head on a pillow and a blanket partially covering her.

It took 6 years for Houston police to tie the murders back to White. In 1995, during questioning for a convenience store robbery that resulted in the death of shop owner Hai Pham, White's friend and accomplice Tecumseh Manuel told authorities that White was responsible for the Edwards' deaths (and had killed another woman, Greta Williams, in the weeks before that). White was brought in, and eventually confessed to all 5 killings. He was charged with and convicted of capital murder. During his punishment phase, the state used the Williams and Pham murders as evidence of White's continuing danger to society. He was sentenced to death in September 1996.

Appeals of White's sentence have painted him as a "kind, gentle soul" and "caring parent, devoted son and sibling" who fell into drug addiction after a knee injury derailed his college football prospects (and led to his departure from Lubbock Christian University). They note the brain damage White suffered after being hit by a baseball bat, and his below-average IQ, as well as the ways in which a detective used White's intellectual deficiency to circumvent his requests for legal representation during the interrogation in which he confessed to the killings. White's attorney Patrick McCann said during a 2002 application for writ of habeas corpus, that the confession should never have been entered into evidence. He added that 6 years of good behavior (and a clean record before his introduction to crack) suggested that White was no longer a threat to society. McCann has accused the Court of Criminal Appeals of being apathetic and suggested that the trial jury's conclusion that White might be a future threat could not be considered as factual, because the jury cannot foresee the future – although consideration of future dangerousness is one of the state's legal standards for capital punishment.

Successive appeals on many of the same grounds - and McCann's claim that new DNA testing could suggest the presence of another person at the murder scene - have all been denied.

In April 2013, White filed a petition for a rehearing with the 5th Circuit on the grounds that he wasn't given the opportunity to properly exercise his right to counsel, and that, as someone with an IQ "of approximately 87," he has the mental capacity of a 12- or 13-year-old and is thus, "in essence, a juvenile." A circuit judge denied that appeal in June. 6 months later, the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

White's fight to overturn his pending execution continues. Earlier this month, McCann and co-counsel Mandy Miller filed with the CCA in hopes that judges will reconsider White's "borderline intelligence" and thus view his case "under a more lenient, deferential standard." Additionally, McCann said he's filed a motion suggesting that White's 1995 confession should be inadmissible because his invocation of counsel deserved due deference. And in a separate appeal, McCann and Miller are calling on judges within the CCA to appoint a special administrator to ensure that the drugs used to kill White won't cause any constitutionally barred suffering. "If we lose that, we will probably file with the Supreme Court," said McCann. The attorney also stressed that he's called on Manuel to step forward and admit to falsely implicating White during his questioning in 1995, but concedes that "it's not looking particularly bright at this moment."

Time's running out on their efforts, as White's Jan. 28 execution date draws closer. Should McCann and Miller prove unsuccessful, White will become the 2nd person to be executed under Governor Greg Abbott, the 2nd Texas inmate put to death in 2015, and the 522nd since the reinstatement of the state's death penalty in 1976.

"At this point I don't think that they'll give us a stay," McCann admitted. "There are some interesting issues if they wanted to bite, and some procedural due process, but I don't think there's going to be anything they'll bite on. I just wish the CCA could have considered having someone come in and look at this with a fresh set of eyes."

(source: Austin Chronicle)

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

American Sniper Chris Kyle's Murder: All About the Upcoming Trial

While American Sniper is earning Oscar nominations and setting box-office records, the man accused of killing Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL played by Bradley Cooper in director Clint Eastwood's film, faces trial for Kyle's murder in just a few weeks.

On Feb. 2, 2013, nearly 4 years after Kyle quit the military, he and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were allegedly shot and killed on a Texas gun range while helping former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, then 25, cope with his PTSD. Routh's trial is set to begin Feb. 11.

"My client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity," Routh's attorney, J. Warren St. John, tells PEOPLE. Prosecutors for the State of Texas have said they are not seeking the death penalty in the case.

One growing issue: With the film's success, finding an impartial jury may be difficult.

"The film will be an issue," St. John says. "I think any case with significant publicity has an issue with picking a jury. I've had them in the past, and anything that has significant national attention makes it hard to pick a jury."

St. John is unable to comment on any specifics of the case because of a court-mandated protective order preventing many involved from speaking to the media. (Citing the "unusually emotional nature of the issues involved in the case" and the "extensive local and national media coverage this case has already generated," a judge in 2013 issued the gag order preventing attorneys and family members and others from talking to the media.)

Routh's attorneys filed a motion in 2013 to change the location of the trial. "That was denied by the trial court, so now, you can't move the trial," St. John says. Routh has been in jail since the killings.

"No one wants to hurry up and do this, and then have it done wrong," says a court insider. "Everyone is taking the time to do it right."

Movie May Pose a Challenge

Houston criminal defense attorney George Parnham, who represented Andrea Yates (who was convicted of drowning her 5 children, then on appeal in 2006 found not guilty by reason of insanity), agrees that the movie poses challenges for Routh's trial.

"It's going to be very difficult for him to get a fair trial, not only because of the movie, but because of the media surrounding the movie," he tells PEOPLE. "Mr. Kyle is a hero in many people's eyes. Due to the fact that this movie has gained intense public attention, it's doubtful that a fair jury can be selected anywhere."

Parnham believes Routh's legal team should contest the gag order. "The only thing people will know about him is what they see in the movie," he says.

To win, Parnham says, Routh's lawyers will need to focus on the effects of PTSD and how "irrational" the shooting was.

"Kyle was reaching out to help this disturbed man, and ends up as a Good Samaritan, dead. That doesn't make sense," says the attorney. "This is an absolutely irrational act, and that has to be driven home to the general public."

(source: PEOPLE magazine)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Jurors hear openings in case of accused Pennsylvania killer

Opening statements started in a Pennsylvania courtroom on Wednesday in the case of an accused killer whose alleged victims were discovered buried in his backyard, prosecutors said.

Hugo Selenski, 41, is on trial in Luzerne County Court for the strangulation and beating deaths of a pharmacist and his girlfriend in 2002.

He faces more than 10 charges including homicide and conspiracy. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett, along with other human remains, in Selenski's backyard in 2003.

Prosecutor Jarrett Ferentino cautioned jurors that they were about to journey through a world of "manipulation, violence and greed."

"It's a world that leaves its victims bound and broken," Ferentino said. "What you will hear will shock you, will horrify you and will break your heart."

He said the victims were bound and beaten, with their eyes covered with duct tape, and strangled with plastic flex ties.

The motive was to steal money to cover a bad check Selenski's girlfriend had written to buy a house, he said.

Selenski, his head shaved, appeared relaxed as he sat with his attorneys, taking notes and chatting.

The defense suggested in opening statements that another man, Paul Weakley, a friend of Selenski from jail, had committed the murders.

Weakley led authorities to Selenski's house where the remains were discovered. Two other people were also identified from the remains besides Kerkowski and Fassett.

Selenski went on trial in 2006 in a double-homicide case involving the other 2. A jury acquitted him of 1 murder and was unable to reach a verdict on the other.

Kerkowski had disappeared while he awaited sentencing for illegally selling prescription drugs. He and Selenski were friends, the prosecutor said.

Selenski is already serving a prison sentence in the state's Pocono Mountains region for a robbery conviction.

(source: Reuters)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Science-schmience, Georgia just wants to execute this intellectually disabled man ---- Warren Hill has had intellectual disability his entire life

Here's a riddle: Unless the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles or the U.S. Supreme Court steps in, Warren Hill will be executed on January 27th in Georgia. Yet if Hill lived in any other state, he would be safe from execution. How could that be?

The answer is that Hill is a person with intellectual disability - a category of people the U.S. Supreme Court has banned from the death penalty - but Georgia's unscientific standard for proving his disability prevents him from the protection he'd have in any other death row state.

It's undisputed that Hill has had intellectual disability his entire life. All 7 doctors who have examined him agree, even those hired by the State. 2 Georgia Courts, 1 in 2002 and another in 2012, have also found Hill to be a person with intellectual disability by a preponderance of the evidence.

Yet unlike every other death row state, which uses a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, Georgia requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," the heaviest burden of proof in the law. This is significant because there's a clear consensus that it's virtually impossible to prove one's intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt in a capital case. Not only does this fly in the face of science, but it tragically results in the execution of persons with intellectual disability.

Hill's case has galvanized a wide range of supporters, both in Georgia and nationwide, particularly those in the intellectual disability community. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, All About Developmental Disabilities, the Arc of Georgia, the Arc, and the largest national group for intellectual disability rights, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), all oppose Hill's execution. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter have called for clemency in Mr. Hill's case, as has the family of the victim, specifically citing Hill's intellectual disability.

Several members of Mr. Hill's original jury have stated under oath that life without parole is the appropriate sentence; they say they would not have given him the death penalty at trial if life without parole had been an option. A poll even found that a majority of Georgians do not support executing a person with intellectual disability like Hill. The will of U.S. Supreme Court and Georgians is clear: in this country, we do not execute persons with intellectual disability. Yet if the Court or the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles does not step in, that is exactly what will happen on Tuesday. You can sign a letter in support of clemency for Warren Hill and learn more about the case at www.SaveWarrenHill.com.

(source: the-newshub.com)

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

Ga. Death Row Case Spurs Debate About Proof Of Mental Disability

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a clemency hearing for death row inmate Warren Lee Hill Jr., who is set to be executed next Tuesday.

Hill's lawyers have argued he is intellectually disabled and should not be executed. Georgia has one of the strictest standards in proving mental disability.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that it was cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment for states to execute inmates who are intellectually disabled.

But a few states, including Georgia and Florida, set their own standards to measure and prove mental disability.

In Georgia, an inmate has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she has an intellectual disability.

The legal standard is not the same as a clinical standard, said Margaret Nygren, executive director and CEO of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

"When clinicians need to explain about standard deviation and standard errors of measurement, it's very hard to get to that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' legal standard," Nygren said.

She said most states have a standard of preponderance, or, majority of the evidence.

But Georgia House Speaker David Ralston told WABE that Georgia's requirement is lawful.

"Our death penalty laws, to my knowledge, have been upheld as constitutional to this point. I don't know that there needs to be a national sort of standard in these cases," Ralston said. "As long as each state's death penalty statutes conform to the constitutional requirement as the federal courts set them out, then I think that's the goal we ought to have."

Hill's lawyers say they'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing a 2014 ruling, Hall v. Florida, which strengthened protections for inmates with mental disabilities.

Hill's been scheduled to be executed 3 times in the past before winning stays.

Hill is convicted of killing a fellow inmate in 1990 while serving a life sentence for the murder of his girlfriend. His clemency hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26.

(source: WABE news)

OHIO:

Warren man could face death penalty in stabbing death

A Warren man accused of stabbing his 71-year old great uncle could face the death penalty if convicted.

The Trumbull County grand jury handed up a superseding indictment against Marcus Honsaker on Wednesday. The indictment adds a specification needed to Honsaker's charges for the death penalty to be considered.

Honsaker faces charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and tampering with evidence.

Donald Giovannone was found stabbed to death in November 2014, Honsaker was arrested on Thanksgiving Day 2014.

He is currently being held in the Trumbull County Jail.

(source: WFMJ news)

KANSAS:

Man charged with capital murder in shootings of twin brother, sister-in-law

Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a 24-year-old man with capital murder in the shootings last week of his twin brother and sister-in-law at a south Wichita apartment complex.

Luis Alvarado-Meraz made his 1st appearance in Sedgwick County District Court on Wednesday before District Judge Joe Kisner on the charge and on 2 alternative counts of 1st-degree murder. Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, he showed no emotion when the judge told him what offenses he faced in the Jan. 14 slayings of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and Manuel’s 22-year-old wife, Lucero Rodriguez - the couple he shared a home with at The Shores.

He said little more than "Yes, your honor," and "I understand" when questioned by the judge.

But the announcement brought tears to relatives of the brothers present in the courtroom to witness the first legal proceeding in the county's latest death penalty-eligible case.

Police have said a family member found Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and his wife shot to death at their home, near Pawnee and Broadway, early on Jan. 15 and called 911. Authorities think the couple was killed around 7 p.m. the night before. Luis Alvarado-Meraz was arrested in the 700 block of East Mount Vernon about 16 hours later.

In the criminal complaint filed in his case, Luis Alvarado-Meraz is accused of "unlawfully, intentionally, and with premeditation" killing the young couple at the same time or in the course of 2 connected actions on Jan. 14. The document also gives a notice of "penalty elements" that says prosecutors plan to present evidence of aggravating circumstances connected to the killings at Alvarado-Meraz's sentencing proceeding if he is convicted of capital murder.

Neither police in interviews nor court documents filed in the case give insight into what motivated the shootings.

Kisner on Wednesday set Luis Alvarado-Meraz's bond at $1 million. The judge also set an initial date of Feb. 4 for a preliminary hearing in the case, but the proceeding is expected to be postponed.

Family members comforted one another but offered no comments following Wednesday's hearing.

Alvarado-Meraz will be represented by court-appointed defense attorney Mark Manna of Topeka. If convicted of capital murder, he would face either life in prison without parole eligibility or the death penalty.

On a financial affidavit filed with the court, Alvarado-Meraz said he was single and self-employed as an oil painter. Next to a question that asked the reason he received no unemployment benefits, Alvarado-Meraz wrote: "ilegal Alien."

(source: Wichita Eagle)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Join fight to stop man's execution

Richard Glossip was sentenced to death by the state of Oklahoma for the murder of Barry Van Treese and is scheduled for execution on January 29. There is no physical evidence linking him with the crime; his conviction is based solely on killer Justin Sneed's statement, who initially insisted he acted alone and only later implicated Richard in a plea bargain sparing him the death penalty.

Richard has always maintained his innocence - refusing a plea deal that would have spared his life, as it would have required him to admit the crime. His claim is supported by the killer's daughter, who says her father confessed to her he implicated Richard only to make a deal and save himself.

Sister Helen Prejean (portrayed by Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking) has joined the fight to save Richard's life. Others who would like to help can do so by signing the online petition at www.change.org/p/mary-fallin-save-richard-glossip-s-life, pleading with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to spare Richard's life.

REV PATRICK G BURKE

Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

(source: Belfast Telegraph)

ARIZONA:

Death row inmate wants to end appeals

A Golden Valley murderer on death row is asking the courts to put him to death.

Brad Lee Nelson was convicted and sentenced to die for the June 2006 murder of his 14-year-old niece in Kingman. Nelson is asking to represent himself, withdraw from future post-conviction relief appeals and accept his death sentence.

In a status hearing Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss ordered Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith and Nelson's attorney, David Goldberg, to file arguments whether or not Nelson needs to have a mental health exam. The attorneys have until Feb. 20 to respond.

In April 2012, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld Nelson's conviction and death sentence for the beating death of Amber Leann Graff, also of Golden Valley. Nelson, 43, was convicted in November 2009 of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death a month later.

The Supreme Court ruled against several defense arguments including that the murder was not premeditated, that the death penalty was a cruel and unusual punishment and that aggravating factors violated his Constitutional rights.

Graff's body was found June 9, 2006, at a Kingman motel. Graff and her younger brother were left in Nelson's care while their mother was in the hospital. Nelson took a rubber mallet and smashed the girl's head in and sexually molested her.

The morning of the murder, Nelson had gone to a nearby department store to buy a rubber mallet. He also took his then 13-year-old nephew back to the department store to buy a shirt. His old shirt and a sleeping bag were found with Graff's blood on them.

Returning to the motel, Nelson's nephew found his sister's bloody body still in bed. Kingman police officers arrested Nelson, who later confessed to a corrections officer at the jail that he killed his niece. During the trial, defense attorneys admitted that Nelson killed his niece but argued that the murder was not premeditated nor was it a 1st-degree murder.

(source: Mohave Daily News)

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

Inside The Mind Of Jodi Arias: Played Or Player? Psychologist Testifies About Graphic Sexting

Psychologist Dr. Robert Geffner took the witness stand again on day 26 of the Jodi Arias murder trial, saying that Travis Alexander was a bit of a player who liked to graphically "sext" not just Arias, but other girls as well.

"Sexting" is a term that combines sex and texting, usually in which people give graphic detail of sexual content, or send sexual or naked photos. The defense is trying to show that Alexander was an abusive and manipulative boyfriend.

Analyst Beth Karas is presenting information on Travis in attempt to spare Arias' life, which hangs in the balance if she is sentenced to death in the stabbing and shooting death of on-again, off-again boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was found in his Mesa apartment in June 2008.

The jury is trying to decide if Arias will get life in prison or the death penalty for the murder of her ex-lover after Judge Sherry Stephens struck down the motion to take the death penalty option off the table. Arias' lawyers appeared to make a strong case when they filed a motion to eliminate the death penalty as an option, but late Wednesday afternoon Stephens ruled against the motion.

Legal expert Dwayne Cates said he didn't think the judge's ruling would affect the case, because it is very unusual for a jury to sentence a woman to the death penalty. It has happened before, such as in the case of a female serial killer, but it is very rare. Disparities among races and genders regarding the death penalty are one of the most common arguments for opposition of capital punishment.

"We are learning that Travis Alexander was a bit of a player. He liked to sext many women at the same time he was still seeing Jodi Arias. It supports their position that Travis Alexander treated women a certain way, presented himself to the Mormon community one way. But he was a highly sexual person, a little bit manipulative and controlling of women. It may help the jury understand where Jodi Arias was coming from. It's not a defense to the murder; she's guilty of the murder, but it might convince some of them she doesn/t deserve to die."

Jodi Arias has been described as a psychologically unstable woman who suffers from bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and someone who chronically skipped her medications. Travis Alexander and Arias had a lurid sexual affair, complete with photos, shortly before she killed him in 2008. She photographed the seemingly consensual sex acts and then the various stages of his death and blood loss, then put the camera through the washing machine, but the film was not destroyed and police were able to see the murder through the killer's own photographic documentation.

(source: inquisitr.com)

IDAHO:

Idaho prisons department proposes expanded execution secrecy

Idaho lawmakers have introduced a bill that would formally expand the secrecy surrounding executions.

The Senate Judiciary and Rules committee agreed Wednesday to move forward the legislation from the Idaho Department of Correction. The bill would incorporate existing department policy on confidential execution records into state law, and broaden that language to include records involving the source of lethal medications used for executions.

It would also make it illegal for the department to turn over the records in response to subpoenas or other preliminary legal inquiries.

Deputy prisons chief Josh Tewalt said the bill was designed to ensure that the identities of both the people involved in carrying out an execution and the source of the drugs used in the lethal injection process are kept confidential.

"We rely on people outside the agency, in the form of consultants and professionals in the medical field, who if participation was known could certainly have an impact in their life, safety and professional ramifications," Tewalt told the committee. "And to that end, we believe it's wholly appropriate for the protection of certain confidential information as it relates to them, to reside in Idaho code as well."

Currently, the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act - commonly called IDAPA by state lawmakers and agency officials - states that some execution records are exempt from disclosure under Idaho's Public Record law. But the public records law itself doesn't specifically state what those exemptions are, although it does give the Board of Correction authority to set rules under IDAPA.

The IDAPA rule on releasing execution-related records is fairly broad: "The Department will not disclose (under any circumstance) the identity of the on-site physician; or staff, contractors, consultants, or volunteers serving on escort or medical teams; nor will the Department disclose any other information wherein the disclosure of such information could jeopardize the Department's ability to carry out an execution."

The new legislation is phrased largely the same, but would add the phrase, "including the source of any lethal substances, shall be confidential," and move the whole thing to the state law. The bill would also add an additional sentence to the law, saying that the records would not be easily obtained through the legal process typically used in lawsuits and anti-death penalty cases.

"Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any such confidential information shall be privileged and shall not be subject to discovery, subpoena or other means of legal compulsion," the bill reads.

Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Meridian, asked Tewalt if the language could limit any kind of court proceedings.

Mark Kubinski, the deputy attorney general who represents the Department of Correction, acknowledged that the language was broad, but said a judge would still be able to order the department to turn over the records so they could be viewed privately, in the judges' chambers or a closed courtroom.

"That last phrase in the statute, what that speaks to is preventing the disclosure of the information to the public," Kubinski said. "I don't think that limits the ability of the court to access that information."

Public access to records detailing states' supplies of lethal injection drugs has been a point of contention in many death penalty states as the drugs have become increasingly more difficult for corrections departments to obtain.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Eerie hunch revealed by key witness in Carnation murder trial

A chilling 911 call and an eerie hunch that came true. A key witness in the 2007 Christmas Eve murders of six members of a Carnation family testified Wednesday about the horrific crimes.

Linda Thiele first discovered the crime scene and, at the time, made a staggering prediction, which came to light in court Wednesday at the trial of Joseph McEnroe.

McEnroe is charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Sitting in the witness stand with her face in her hands, it's obvious, although it's been 7-years, what happened that Christmas Eve day is still too painful to for Thiele to bear.

"Hi, there's been a murder," Thiele told the 911 dispatcher. "There are 3 bodies. I came up right now, she works with me."

Thiele listened with jurors to the 911 call she made on December 26th, 2007.

"There's a baby, a man and woman, and she's my best friend," she told the dispatcher.

What she didn't know is there were 6 bodies, including sister and brother; Olivia and Nathan, just 5- and 3-years old.

"When I stepped over the body I could see the body had been shot in the face," Thiele said.

2 days prior to her discovery, three generations of the Anderson family had been obliterated -- murdered in cold blood on Christmas Eve in Wayne and Judy Anderson's home on a hill in a rural wooded piece of property.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole also took jurors back to that day, revealing 8 minutes of video that had never before seen of the crime scene. It was shot by detectives.

The point-of-view shots walk along the Anderson's gravel driveway, shrouded in mature trees. The camera passed a gate and post at the beginning of their driveway marked "Keep Out." The investigator walked the camera past a mobile home surrounded by some outbuildings.

Defendants Michele Anderson and her then-boyfriend McEnroe lived there. The camera revealed the couple's home with crime tape surrounding it.

Then jurors saw a small shed in the backyard behind the house. The video showed where Wayne Anderson's body was dumped in the cold, his lifeless body covered with cardboard.

There was also a glimpse of Judy Anderson's body, a denim pant leg visible through the shed's cracked open door. The couple died 2 days before being discovered.

The other bodies were inside the couple's home, in the living room -- shot likely where they had been sitting just moments prior.

"I recognize the body of what I know now is Scott, Erica, and the baby," Thiele testified on Wednesday.

Later she would learn Olivia's body was there, too, burrowed beneath her mother Erica, likely trying to get away, said O'Toole.

He said McEnroe -- who sat like a frozen statue in court during the chilling 911 recordings -- and his then girlfriend Michele Anderson, gunned down Michele's family because they were angry over money.

O'Toole said during her "confession," Michele told a detective that her brother Scott owed her money, promised to fix her car a year prior and her family was pressured her to pay rent for living in their trailer on their property.

Thiele, who worked with Judy Anderson for the Postal Service, told the 911 operator she suspected Michele.

"The gate is locked, which makes me wonder if her daughter did it, because I might be up here with a murderer," she told the dispatcher.

McEnroe faces the death penalty if convicted. His attorney blamed a chaotic upbringing and Michele's influence.

Judy Anderson had been wrapping Christmas gifts, a roast was in the oven, and her husband Wayne was getting ready for their loved ones to arrive for dinner just prior to their brutal murder.

"They were all shot in the head. They were all shot in close range," said O'Toole.

When Judy didn't show up for work on December 26, Thiele called her house and her cell, but no answer. Shortly thereafter, she left work and went to the Anderson's home. She knew exactly where it was because it was on her postal route. She told the jurors before she left the Carnation Post Office she started to cry.

"I knew there was something wrong," she said.

McEnroe's trial is expected to take up to 3 or 4 months. Michele Anderson goes on trial later this year.

His case was recently delayed over defense arguments regarding a not guilty versus a not guilty by reason of insanity.

(source: KOMO news)

USA:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev judge parries complaints

U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. yesterday continued to fend off claims by the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev defense that they can't seat a fair jury in Boston, saying he's "satisfied" with progress so far, though he vowed to "expedite" the culling of 1,350 juror candidates.

O'Toole has said he wants testimony to start next week, and it is unclear whether he will meet that goal. With jury selection entering its 8th day today, 61 people have been interviewed. It remains unclear if there are enough acceptable candidates to seat 12 deliberating jurors and 6 alternates, or how many more will have to be interviewed.

O'Toole and the opposing trial teams spent part of yesterday poring over screening questionnaires completed by prospective jurors they'd planned to follow-up with face-to-face. At least 10 were rejected sight unseen. The attorneys ultimately met with 5 women and 4 men.

Defense attorney David I. Bruck called the direct exposure to the Patriots Day terrorist attack acknowledged by jurors so far "extraordinary."

He told O'Toole his refusal to grant Tsarnaev a change of venue has left the trial in "uncharted seas," as, Bruck claims, no tragedy akin to the marathon bombings has been tried in the city where the event occurred.

"Many, obviously, have a view about this case because of the extensive publicity," O'Toole said of the jurors, but added, "That's far from limited to the local community. In general, I'm satisfied with the course we've been following."

Meanwhile, the selection of Bay State residents who might decide if Tsarnaev is guilty - and if so, whether he should live or die - continues to yield unique attitudes.

The son of an Iranian woman who was majoring in psychology until he ran out of money said of the death penalty, "I think it would be merciful if you believe in an afterlife."

An unemployed emergency room nurse who is planning to drive cross-country in April in an RV with her boyfriend said she'd be willing to put their trip on hold and live in the vehicle if she's picked as a juror. Though she declared herself "really in the middle," she said she'd vote to kill Tsarnaev "if I felt it was appropriate."

Tsarnaev, 21, literally fighting for his life against charges he killed 3 marathon spectators and murdered an MIT police officer in April 2013, while injuring or disfiguring 260 others, appeared detached yesterday, coloring on a paper cup, slumping in his chair and looking away when the subject of his possible execution came up again and again and again.

(source: Boston Herald)

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

Tsarnaev Trial Openings Delayed

Openings in trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not begin on Monday, as jury selection is taking longer than expected, court officials say.

Tsarnaev is charged with 30 federal counts in the April 15, 2013, bombings and in the killing days later of an MIT police officer. 3 people died and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line.

Tsarnaev, 21, could face the death penalty if convicted of any of 17 capital charges against him.

Questioning of potential jurors will continue Thursday.

Last week, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. began individually questioning people who could become jurors.

Although he has not said publicly how many people have been excused from juror service so far, many of the 34 people questioned last week appeared to disqualify themselves when they gave a variety of answers including: they already believe Tsarnaev is guilty, they would not consider imposing the death penalty under any circumstances, they know someone who treated those injured in the bombings, or that serving on the predicted lengthy trial would be a severe financial hardship.

On Tuesday, at least four people questioned said they either had no preconceived opinions on Tsarnaev's guilt, or if they did, they could put them aside and listen to the evidence before reaching decisions on guilt or punishment, whether life in prison or the death penalty.

One woman, a teacher, said she attended the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, the same school Tsarnaev attended, but years before him. She said she also once lived in Watertown, where residents, including her boyfriend and other friends, were told not to leave their homes several days after the bombings as authorities searched for Tsarnaev after a shootout with police. She also has 2 brothers who are Marines, 1 of whom fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorities have said that Tsarnaev indicated in a note he wrote inside a boat he was captured hiding in that the bombing was in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim countries.

Judge Questions Potential Tsarnaev Jurors

[NECN] Some in Tsarnaev Jury Pool Say They Could be Fair in Jury Trial

The woman told the judge those circumstances would not affect her ability to be impartial.

"You're supposed to assume someone is innocent until they're proven guilty," she said in response to questions from O'Toole.

The woman said that after the bombings, she saw a television interview with one of her history professors. The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, who taught Chechen history at UMass-Dartmouth, is on the prosecution's witness list.

Williams told several media outlets after the bombings that he had tutored Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, on Chechen history while he was still in high school. Williams told the New Bedford Standard-Times that Tsarnaev "wanted to learn more about Chechnya, who the fighters were, who the commanders were."

Another woman, who works in the billing office of the Massachusetts General Hospital physicians' organization, said she hasn't formed an opinion on Tsarnaev's guilt or innocence and would be able to consider both possible sentences if Tsarnaev is convicted.

"I do believe in the justice system and I believe it's up to the justice system to make that determination," she said.

When asked by defense lawyer David Bruck about her reaction when she received a jury summons and later realized she could be asked to serve on the jury, she said: "I looked at it as my duty and even as a privilege should I be asked to be a part of this."

Others said they already believe Tsarnaev is guilty and could not be impartial. One woman said she posted her disapproval on Facebook after a story on Tsarnaev was featured in Rolling Stone magazine.

"I thought it was very wrong," she said. "I just said it's wrong, and it's not the kind of person you want on the cover of Rolling Stone."

Another man said he does not believe he could consider life in prison as a punishment and feels strongly "that the death penalty is in order" for Tsarnaev.

Another potential juror, an architect and father of 2 children, said it would be difficult for him to vote against the death penalty in cases involving the death of a child. An 8-year-old boy was killed in the bombing.

"I also am concerned about how to go about impartiality given the circumstances of the case," he said.

A total of 9 jurors were questioned on Wednesday, and 61 jurors have now been questioned altogether. Attorneys are expected to go straight to sidebar to discuss the jury panel when they return from lunch at 2 p.m.

(source: NECN)

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

Massive Aurora theater shooting trial will make history----"It is very difficult to estimate how long the process of selecting 24 jurors will take. Our best estimate is that it will take us until approximately May or June to select a jury," he said.

2 1/2 years after he opened fire on an Aurora movie theater, James Holmes sat in an Arapahoe County courtroom this week for the start of his jury trial.

The trial, which isn't expected to be complete until the fall, started January 21 with jury selection.

The process of choosing 24 jurors - including 12 alternates - from a pool of 9,000 is expected to take almost 5 months. The initial phase alone, where jurors fill out the lengthy juror questionnaire, is expected to run well into February.

Experts say seating a jury in James Holmes' 1st-degree murder trial is unlike any other in state history.

"I would think this would be the biggest jury call in the state's history," said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor who now teaches law at university of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Once the jury is seated - likely in May or June - the size of the jury itself will be unique.

Alan Tuerkheimer, a senior litigation consultant for Zagnoli McEvoy Foley LLC. in Chicago, said that juries typically have just a few alternate jurors, sometimes as many as 6. But 12 is unprecedented, he said.

"I have never seen that many alternates," he said.

Court officials expect between 130 and 150 jurors to report to court Tuesday afternoon for the 1st day of jury selection in the Aurora theater shooting trial.

During the 1st day of jury selection, Judge Carlos Samour, Jr. said that while court officials have called 250 people to appear, only 188 of that initial group remain eligible. Some potential jurors have been dismissed because they have connections to people involved in the trial, and Samour said other summonses were undeliverable.

At each session, Samour said he expects between 130 and 150 prospective jurors will report.

After sending out a total of 9,000 summonses, Samour said there are about 7,000 potential jurors remaining in the pool.

When the jurors report, they will hear a 30-minute introductory speech from Samour, watch an 18-minute video that all jurors in the state watch and then receive their juror questionnaires.

According to court documents, the questionnaire includes 75 questions, but in court Tuesday, Samour said the questionnaire has 77 questions.

With that many questions, Samour said he expects some prospective jurors to need more than 2 hours to complete it, while others could finish in about 45 minutes.

"It is difficult to tell how long it's going to take them to fill it out," he said.

In an October order laying out the final version, Samour bluntly admitted that at 75 questions, it was lengthy.

"The questionnaire is extensive," he wrote.

Steinhauser said jury questionnaires often try to extract some personal information about the clients - including their personal experiences with mental illness, law enforcement or other extremely private issues.

Because of that, the questionnaires are rarely if ever seen by the public.

"When we ask jurors for a lot of very personal and sensitive information, the goal is that the information be between the judge and the attorneys," she said.

Steinhauser said she has tried cases where after the lawyers were done reviewing prospective juror's answers, they were required to return the answers to the court.

In this case, Samour has ordered the 2 sides to destroy the questionnaires - including any electronic copies - once they are done with them.

In his opening remarks to jurors, Samour said jurors should answer honestly and in detail because those that don't fill questionnaires out in detail stand a better chance of being called back for individual questioning.

From February through May, Samour said some jurors will be dismissed, and others will be called back for a 2nd round of questioning as the court tries to whittle the pool to 100 to 120 potential jurors.

That group will be called back a 3rd time in May or June for a 2-day group questioning session, he said.

But, Samour said, those are only hopeful estimates.

"It is very difficult to estimate how long the process of selecting 24 jurors will take. Our best estimate is that it will take us until approximately May or June to select a jury," he said.

The trial itself - including a possible death penalty phase - will then run from May or June into September or October, he said.

Because Holmes is appearing in court in the presence of potential jurors, he is allowed to wear civilian clothes. He sat quietly next to his lawyers wearing a black blazer, blue and white striped shirt and khaki pants.

Unlike previous hearings, where Holmes appeared wearing a jail jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled, Holmes' hands were not cuffed during jury selection. His left leg, however, was chained to the floor with a cable that is hidden from the jury's view.

(source: Aurora Sentinel)

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

America's Secret Lethal Injection Cocktails

After a series of botched executions, states are increasingly hesitant to reveal information about the drugs used to put prisoners to death.

Among Oklahoma death-row inmate Charles Warren's final words last Thursday night were, "My body is on fire." His complaint was not picked up by the microphone in the execution chamber, but by reporters listening through the glass.

As part of a new state policy, the microphone in the execution chamber is turned off after the inmate's official last words. Oklahoma officials rolled out the new rules after the botched execution last April of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on a gurney for more than 40 minutes before dying.

There is good reason to doubt the truthfulness of Warren's last words: He was only on a saline drip when he first started complaining. But what is beyond question is the increased secrecy surrounding lethal injections in the U.S.

Over the past several years, Oklahoma and many other states have aggressively blocked news organizations, inmates and advocacy groups from getting more information about the drugs that led to several FUBAR executions. States have refused to disclose where the drugs were obtained, their efficacy, and the qualifications of the corrections officials administering them, among other things.

And in turn, news organizations and lawyers for death row inmates have filed numerous lawsuits over the past year in Oklahoma, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Arizona challenging these restrictive policies.

"In contending that midazolam will work as the State intends, Dr. Evans cited no studies, but instead appeared to rely primarily on the web site Drugs.com," Sotomayorwrote.

"The concern is that, as a matter of government transparency, there are certain actions that the public has a right to know about," David Schulz, co-director of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale, said in an interview. "That transparency is critical for knowing how executions are carried out. An execution is probably the single most important action a state can take in the name of its citizens."

Schulz is representing several news organizations in 1 of 3 lawsuits challenging Missouri's secretive lethal injection policies. A judge heard arguments in all 3 cases on Wednesday.

The Associated Press, The Guardian U.S., The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Springfield News-Leader argue that the Missouri Department of Correction's denial of public records requests regarding lethal injections violates the Missouri Sunshine Law, as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

Missouri officials contend much of the information is exempt under Missouri's "black hood" law, which protects the identity of executioners. Schulz said the Department of Corrections used to interpret the statute as protecting only the execution team and medical personnel in the execution chamber. However, in October 2013 the state broadened the statute to cover pharmacies and "individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure."

"We think its highly significant that when state officials originally issued execution protocols, they did not include the pharmacists," Bernie Rhodes, another lawyer representing the news organizations, said in an interview following Wednesday's hearing. "It was only when they had trouble finding pharmacies that they rewrote the protocols."

Rhodes said the judge did not appear to lean one way or another during the hearing. A decision on whether or not Missouri is complying with its transparency laws is expected in about 2 weeks.

The Missouri Times reported last year that the state went so far to avoid leaving any paper trail that a state official drove to neighboring Oklahoma and paid $11,000 in cash for lethal injection drugs, essentially acting as a drug mule.

Missouri and several other states with similar laws say the pharmacies require anonymity to protect them from harassment, and that many pharmacies might stop making the drugs altogether if they are at risk of being identified.

Here's how Dorinda Carter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction, explained it to The Tennessean: "There were persons or entities able and willing to supply the necessary chemicals, but they were unwilling to do so without the protection of confidentiality."

In 2011, the European Union banned the export of sodium thiopental, the primary drug used in lethal injections in the U.S. And as reserves of the drug ran out, states turned to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies to put together new cocktails.

Oklahoma, Florida and several other states rely on a combination of the sedative midazolam and 1 or 2 other drugs. Midazolam is not approved for use as a general anesthetic by the FDA. In 2014, 3 botched lethal injections in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Ohio involved midazolam.

To understand why reporters are so interested in digging up records on new lethal injection protocols - and perhaps why state officials are so eager to hide them - consider Mike Oakley, the former general counsel for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. According to court filings, Oakley said his research on midazolam included "WikiLeaks or whatever it is."

Or take Dr. Roswell Evans, whom the state of Oklahoma presented as an expert witness on midazolam in a 10th Circuit case challenging the constitutionality of its execution protocols. Evans testified that, although midazolam wasn't commonly used as an anesthetic, it functioned like one at high enough doses.

In a dissenting opinion to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision rejecting a last minute appeal to halt Warner's execution, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that Evans' sourcing was, shall we say, a little thin.

"In contending that midazolam will work as the State intends, Dr. Evans cited no studies, but instead appeared to rely primarily on the web site Drugs.com," Sotomayor wrote.

So, to recap: America's neurotic position of keeping the death penalty legal, while also requiring it to be as bloodless and sterile as possible, has led to a situation where states are relying on experimental combinations of drugs that are vetted by a quick glance at popular reference websites and purchased in secret from anonymous, barely regulated pharmacies with significantly less reliable products than major pharmaceutical companies.

Ohio announced it would stop using midazolam earlier this month, instead opting for 2 other drugs that will likely have to come from compounding pharmacies. Naturally, the Ohio legislature passed a law in December shielding the identity of such pharmacies.

On Monday, attorneys for 4 Ohio death-row inmates filed a petition asking a federal court to stop the law from taking effect, arguing it violated the inmates' First Amendment right to free speech and to petition the government.

After Lockett's botched execution in 2014, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin halted all executions in the state and ordered an internal review and overhaul of the state's lethal injection protocols.

Oklahoma's new policies include more training and a higher dosage of midazolam, equal to that administered in Florida, where lethal injections have gone relatively smoother. Oklahoma also expanded its execution chamber to hold more monitoring equipment.

It was surely just a coincidence that the expanded chamber came at the expense of the size of the witness room and required the state to cut the number of media observers at executions from 12 to 5.

Or maybe it wasn't. Corrections officials told local news outlet KFOR that even if there is space available, they would not allow more journalists inside the witness room.

Among the reporters excluded from the witness room last Thursday night was The Oklahoman's Graham Lee Brewer. Brewer covered the Lockett execution, where officials drew a curtain over the viewing window when Lockett began writhing on the gurney. (The ACLU promptly filed a lawsuit against the state for drawing the curtain.)

However, Brewer's newspaper is no longer guaranteed a spot under the new rules. Brewer lost out to an AP reporter and four television stations.

But Brewer said being excluded from the witness room isn't as frustrating as not being able to get his hands on state records. As part of Fallin's review, investigators interviewed more than 100 corrections officials, witnesses and experts about went wrong at Lockett's execution. None of those interviews have been released.

"Those interview transcripts are where all the good stuff is," Brewer said in an interview. "Unfortunately those documents have been sealed by a federal court. As a reporter, that's the kind of information I want."

If Oklahoma and like-minded states have their way, Brewer and other reporters will never get it.

(source: The Daily Beast)

ENGLAND:

Nearly 1/2 of Londoners support death penalty for terrorists

Nearly 1/2 of Londoners back bringing back the death penalty for terrorist murders, a shock poll reveals today. The YouGov survey for the Standard showed 49 % of adults in the capital support capital punishment for murder during terrorist attacks, such as the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Men are more hardline, with 55 % believing terrorist killers should be executed, compared to 42 % of women.

Older people are more likely to favour the death penalty for such offences, according to the poll carried out after the Paris atrocity in which three terrorists killed 17 people.

54 % of Londoners aged 40 and over supported the re-introduction of the death penalty which was abolished in 1965, while the figure for the 25 to 39-year-old age group was 44 %, and 38 % among 18 to 24-year-olds.

The findings, which also showed a large proportion of Londoners, 42 %, opposed to the death penalty even for deadly bombings, sparked calls for a debate at Westminster on toughening Britain's anti-terror laws.

"Parliament should listen carefully and be prepared to debate this," said Enfield North Conservative MP Nick de Bois, though he stressed it would not currently be allowed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Esher and Walton Conservative MP Dominic Raab, though, warned: "Bringing back the death penalty would be the propaganda coup of the century for Al-Qaeda and ISIL."

Tanya Abraham, of YouGov, stressed the issue "clearly divided" people.

She added: "More men, Conservative and UKIP supporters, and older people think they should bring it back, while more women, Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters think it should remain off the statute books."

Prime ministers and foreign ministers were meeting in London today to discuss how to step up the battle against the Islamic State (previously known as ISIL) which has seized control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

David Cameron told his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi that the UK would do "everything we can" to stop the flow of foreign fighters who were travelling to join IS and cause "mayhem".

Speaking in No 10 he said: "The threat from extremist terror you face in Iraq is also a threat we face here in the UK."

The focus of the talks were on military support for Iraqi government and Kurdish fighters and cutting off IS finances.

Mr al-Abadi insisted his country's forces had reversed IS advances and wanted to wipe out the extremist group but was facing a "real crisis".

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stressed it would be "months" before Iraqi security forces were ready to take on IS fighters in significant new combat operations.

Hundreds of young British Muslim men, and some women, have travelled to join IS and other terror groups and a small number are feared to have returned to the UK with plans to launch terror strikes here.

US-led coalition forces have carried out more than 1,000 air strikes inside Iraq - around 100 conducted by RAF aircraft - against IS and other terror groups.

* YouGov interviewed 1,034 adults in London between January 19 and 21.

(source: London Evening Standard)

INDONESIA:

Chan loses bid for death penalty clemency

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan will face an Indonesian firing squad together unless an extraordinary court appeal or diplomatic efforts succeed.

Bali court officials on Thursday confirmed presidential clemency had been denied to Chan, 2 weeks after his fellow Bali 9 ringleader, Sukumaran, received the same news.

It extinguishes his last hope of being spared the death penalty for the 2005 heroin trafficking plot.

Denpasar District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said the letter arrived at 1.20pm local time on Thursday.

"The letter's content is Presidential Decree Number 9/G year 2015 regarding clemency rejection for Andrew Chan," he said.

"The head of the district court then told me to register and make a disposition, and tell the convicted.

"The presidential decree was for only 1 convict, Andrew Chan."

Lawyers for the Sydney pair are preparing an application for a judicial review, an extraordinary appeal to re-consider their case.

Earlier on Thursday, Jakarta-based lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis and Melbourne-based barrister Julian McMahon met Chan and Sukumaran at Kerobokan prison.

Mr Lubis told reporters they had discussed plans for a judicial review, a mechanism that's in dispute among Indonesia's courts.

The constitutional court has allowed for prisoners to request more than one judicial review to re-examine their circumstances, but the supreme court argues the reviews should only be considered once.

Mr Lubis says the move is about ensuring all avenues available to Sukumaran and Chan are explored.

"The constitutional court realises the courts must give the maximum ... effort to ensure all convicted people receive justice," he said.

Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, desperately want a 2nd chance to use their lives for good, he said.

"I believe there have been lots of changes within them and I had truly hoped that their clemency requests would be granted by the president," he said.

While the judicial review submission is being prepared, Bali's courts are also considering whether the pair could personally front the court for the hearing.

Mr Lubis says the petitioner is usually required to front the courts, but in this case, the prisoners are from the super-maximum section and would require additional security.

The courts will make a decision next week.

On Sunday, an Indonesian and 5 foreigners were executed by firing squad despite pleas for clemency.

Ahead of the executions, Indonesia's attorney-general said Sukumaran's execution was on hold until Chan's clemency decision because they would be executed together.

President Joko Widodo argues Indonesia is in the grips of a drug crisis that needs the "shock therapy" of enacting the death penalty.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged Mr Joko to show mercy to the 2 "well and truly reformed" Australians.

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor would continue to support government representations for both Chan and Sukumaran.

"We urge clemency for anyone facing the death penalty, whoever and wherever they may be," he said.

(source: sbs.com.au)

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

133 convicts in Indonesia awaiting execution, says law minister

A total of 133 convicts are on death row in Indonesia, the country's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly said on Wednesday, days after the execution of 6 people sparked a fierce debate and a diplomatic backlash.

"We want to give accurate information, the number of death-row convicts in various prisons is 133," Laoly said in a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission III on law.

He said 57 of the 133 were drug convicts, 2 were terrorism convicts and 74 were general-crime convicts.

The 6 people executed on Sunday had been convicted of drug offences and were the 1st to face the firing squad under the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Brazil, the Netherlands, and Nigeria, whose nationals were among the 6 convicts, recalled their ambassadors in protest. Several Indonesian civic bodies also called for the death penalty to be abolished.

But Jokowi has rejected any possibility of compromise, arguing that rampant drug use has placed the country in a "state of emergency" over the years.

Attorney General Prasetyo said on Tuesday that following the six executions on Sunday, the Attorney General's Office would execute 60 more death-row convicts but he declined to mention when or where the executions would be carried out.

(source: straitstimes.com)

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

ASF, LEDAP Condemn Execution of 2 Nigerians, Others in Indonesia

Human rights groups, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France), have condemned the recent execution of 2 Nigerians by the Indonesian government.

The groups gave the condemnation on Wednesday in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

NAN reports that the Nigerians, Daniel Enemuo and Solomon Chibuike Okafor, were executed alongside 5 others for drug trafficking on Monday.

Others executed were from Brazil, Indonesia, Malawi, the Netherlands and Vietnam.

Mr Chino Obiagwu, National Coordinator, LEDAP, condemned the executions, noting that the organisation was totally against the use of the death penalty under any circumstances.

According to him, the use of the death penalty, whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world is very cruel, especially in a situation where there is no guarantee for fair trial.

On her part, Head of Office, ASF France, Nigeria, Mrs Angela Uwandu, said the organisation was in the fore front for the abolishment of the death penalty.

She noted that the deceased persons alleged crimes did not fall within the serious crimes under the international law.

Uwandu said:"We condemn the execution of the Nigerians.

"However, it is an opportunity to remind the Nigerian government that the death penalty should not have any place in our criminal justice system in the 21st century," she said.

(source: All Africa News)

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

Firing squads becoming more common in Indonesia, experts say

They walk under darkness to a remote, open place - with a man of God speaking words of comfort.

Then, if they like, a blindfold. Another choice: To stand or sit.

Then the crack of rifle fire.

Death by firing squad is making a comeback in Indonesia, according to experts and local media accounts.

The archipelago nation executed 6 people last weekend - following an unofficial moratorium in 2014. That doesn't bode well for Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer, the Chicago-area pair on trial for murder in Bali - should they be convicted.

"The relevance to the case involving the Chicagoans is that Indonesia does carry out its death penalty from time to time and the pattern is irregular," said Northwestern University Professor Jeffrey A. Winters, who specializes in Southeast Asian politics. "So the threat is real."

A pregnant Mack, 19, and Schaefer, 21, are being tried separately at the Denpasar District Court on Bali. They could face the firing squad if found guilty of the premeditated murder of Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, last August.

Last week, Cook County Judge Neil H. Cohen, noting the potential peril Mack faces, authorized the release of $150,000 in trust-fund cash to help pay for the teen's defense.

The 6 people put to death - including 5 foreigners - were all convicted drug traffickers. Indonesia executed 5 people in 2013, but none in the 4 years before that, according to Death Penalty Worldwide, run by Cornell University Law School. The executions drew widespread condemnation from Amnesty and other human-rights groups.

"This is a seriously regressive move and a very sad day," Rupert Abbott, Amnesty's research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement. "The new administration has taken office on the back of promises to make human rights a priority, but the execution of 6 people flies in the face of these commitments."

On the eve of the executions, Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo told reporters: "What we do is merely aimed at protecting our nation from the danger of drugs."

But Winters said that shouldn't necessarily offer comfort to Mack and Schaefer.

Drugs may be of a national concern, but protecting tourism is key on the Island of Bali, Winters said.

"Bali is the most important tourist center in Indonesia, and the judges there will be particularly sensitive to maintaining a sense of safety and security in Bali," the professor said.

And it's possible, Winters said, that Mack's and Schaefer's fates ultimately might have more to do with politics.

"The pattern appears to be that in recent years [that] whenever the government needs a major distraction, it uses executions as a way of changing a national discussion," Winters said, noting Indonesian President Joko Widodo is currently dealing with a major controversy over his selection for national police chief.

In any case, Mack's and Schaefer's fates won't be decided for some time, with their trial expected to last from 2 to 4 months.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

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

Sydney play to donate profits to Bali Nine clemency campaign

Belvoir Street is rushing through a production of the play Bondi Dreaming with profits to go towards supporting convicted Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran through Reprieve Australia. The organisation provides assistance to people facing the death penalty.

Chan and Sukumaran are now on death row in Indonesia, awaiting the outcome of Chan's clemency bid. They were both identified as the supposed "ringleaders" of the operation to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin back to Australia and sentenced to death in 2006.

When their final appeal was rejected, and with the death penalty looming, Sydney playwrights Sam Atwell and Nick Bolton decided to bring back the multiple award-winning play first staged in 2008 at the Seymour Centre.

Bolton believes that the death penalty imposed on the 2 is barbaric and calls for mercy, as he believes that the pair have "truly reformed themselves after the mistakes they made in the past".

Bolton met the Chan and Sukumaran in 2011 when he went to Bali before the play's third season, calling it a "life-changing experience, because they were not what you thought they would be".

"Both of them had learned Indonesian within the jail and were running several services for fellow inmates."

This restaging of Bondi Dreaming will have its opening night on January 29, just two weeks after Belvoir Street signed off on the production, with the cast and crew working for free.

Bolton said his job is becoming easier by the day as more people undertake a variety of tasks - helping with publicity or simply selling tickets.

As the decision on the fate of Chan and Sukumaran approaches, Bolton said it's becoming harder and harder to separate the play from the haunting reality in Bali. "Anything but the death penalty would be a victory."

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

IRAN----execution

3 Prisoners Hanged Publicly in Northwestern Iran

3 prisoners were hanged in the public in town of Bonab (Northwestern 220115-BonabIran) reported the Iranian state media. According to the state run Iranian news agency Mehr, the prisoners were convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 12 year old girl in October 2014. The public hangings took place today, Wednesday 21. January.

According to a local website the prisoners were identified as "Hamed", "Siyavash" and "Ali". The report didn't mention how old the men were.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Iran Threatens to Hang Facebook Activist for Insulting Muhammad

Iranian leaders are threatening the imminent hanging of 30-year-old Soheil Arabi. His great crime? Posting on social media.

Many in the West talk of the "moderation" of Iran's regime. Foreign Minister Mohamed Zarif flies around the world claiming that Iran is committed to peace, justice and human rights. That would come as news to the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Iranian jail for nothing more than advocating freedom and democracy.

Soheil Arabi is one of those activists whose Facebook posts landed him on death row. What was Arabi's great "crime"? He is charged with "spreading corruption on Earth," (mofsed-e-filarz), punishable by death in Iran.

Soheil was first arrested and sentenced to death in November 2013 on the charge of "insulting the Prophet" (sabb-e-nabi). Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran explains:

Anyone who swears at or commits qazf [false accusation of sexual offenses] against the Great Prophet [of Islam] (peace be upon him) or any of the Great Prophets, shall be considered as sab ul-nabi [a person who swears at the Prophet], and shall be sentenced to the death penalty.

In Iran, there is no freedom of speech. Broadcasting is limited to one corporation, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), whose head is appointed by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Iranian newspapers are censored by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The last refuge for Iranian activists is Facebook and the Internet. Facebook, despite being officially banned, has gained a lot of popularity among Iranians in recent years. They use clever circumvention tools to outfox the regime.

Soheil created his Facebook page in August 2012, naming it "a generation that does not want to be silent." He criticized the regime as the cause of socio-eco-political problems in the country.

The charge of mofsed-e-filarz was added to his case when the court deemed that he had insulted the Prophet on eight different Facebook pages that he administered.

It was then that his fate was sealed. Article 286 of Islamic Penal Code notes:

Any person, who extensively commits felony against the bodily entity of people, offenses against internal or international security of the state, spreading lies...that causes severe disruption in the public order of the state and insecurity, or causes harsh damage to the bodily entity of people or public or private properties, or causes distribution of corruption and prostitution on a large scale, shall be considered as mofsed-e-filarz [corrupt on earth] and shall be sentenced to death.

The problem is that in Iran, almost any criticism of the system can be regarded as "disrupting the internal security of the state," and punished by death. This article has been used to execute thousands of Iranian dissidents since the 1979 Revolution.

Soheil created his Facebook page in August 2012, naming it "a generation that does not want to be silent."

A few months ago, Iran executed Mohsen Amir-Aslani, who was charged with insulting the prophet Jonah. Another similar case was the Iranian blogger, Sattar Beheshti, who was tortured to death in November 2012 for criticizing the Islamic Republic of Iran on Facebook.

Sharia law is taking lives in Iran, and the Islamic Republic has been tightening its grip on the Iranian people for 35 years. Iran is a perfect example of what a religious state is capable of, and why the ideas of democracy and freedom are not compatible with Sharia law.

A state that doesn't respect its people will not respect its neighbors either. The brutal Iranian theocracy is not only a threat to its own people but also a threat to the world. Pressuring the regime and saving Soheil Arabi's life is a matter of Iranian and global importance.

Mojtaba Safari is an Iranian blogger based in Canada since 2008.

Movements.org is a crowdsourcing platform created by Advancing Human Rights which connects activists from dictatorships with people around the world with skills to help them.

(source: The Daily Beast)

UNITED NATIONS:

UN concerned by death penalty for drug crimes in Asia

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) is concerned about the continued use of the death penalty for drug crimes in parts of South East Asia. The UN rights office has especially urged the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon.

Listen the report by correspondent Peter Kenny:

"Last Sunday, 6 people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals," said the commission's spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

"60 others remain on death row for drug-related offences," she said. "We are particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after the President reportedly stated that he will reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes."

Shamdasani said that Indonesia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant says that anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.

According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment can only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing and not to drug offences.

(source: Vatican Radio)

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

Death penalty in SE Asia

We are concerned about the continued use of the death penalty for drug crimes in parts of South East Asia. Last Sunday, 6 people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals. 60 others remain on death row for drug-related offences. We are particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after the President reportedly stated that he will reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes.

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, "anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence." We urge the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence.

Today, a court in Vietnam also reportedly sentenced 8 people, including 2 women, to death for heroin trafficking. We call on Vietnam not to carry out these executions, to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

In South East Asia, drug-related crimes are punishable by death in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. While these crimes are also punishable by death in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic and Myanmar, these 3 countries are abolitionist in practice and have not carried out executions since 1957, 1989 and 1988, respectively.

According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment can only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing. Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships do not fall under the threshold of "most serious crimes" required under international law for application of the death penalty.

(source: Scoop News)

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

Diplomacy and the death penalty in Indonesia

When Socrates, Plato and Aristotle deemed that to some extent the death penalty was appropriate, their thoughts apply to the present situation in Indonesia.

Capital punishment in this country is reserved only for serious crimes, such as narcotics and terrorism. Countries practicing the death penalty in the world, including those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, share similar arrangements.

Interestingly, most executions have been carried out for narcotics cases in those countries. The death sentence is considered the last resort after a selective and prolonged legal process.

Apart from its complicated process, the death penalty also has limitations. Chief among them is the right of clemency where a death-row convict may be pardoned.

Qualifications, for example, children and pregnant women are exempt, serve as additional restrictions as prescribed in the ratified 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nevertheless, many human rights activists firmly contend that the death penalty violates basic human rights in all aspects.

In Indonesia, this claim was dismissed in 2007 when the Constitutional Court decided that human rights do have limitations and as a consequence, in some cases, the death penalty is acceptable.

In practice, there is relatively little issue about the death penalty for Indonesian convicts, yet when it comes to foreigners, matters are more sensitive and complicated.

With bilateral relations at stake, the death penalty raises a problem of its own, particularly on the issue of clemency and consular notification.

As history has shown, diplomatic and political considerations have played a considerable role in the process of granting clemency.

On many occasions, the president has to make tough and last-minute decisions. Non-legal reasons such as reciprocity, aid and bilateral support have to compete with rule-of-law elements such as protection of Indonesians abroad, the gravity of the crime and the supremacy of the law.

Consular notification is also prone to complexities if not properly exercised. The United States had to learn this the hard way.

In the 2004 Avena and Other Mexican Nationals case, Mexico argued before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the US failed to inform 51 Mexican nationals of their right to consular access including those sentenced to death row in the US.

The ICJ ruled in favour of Mexico and upheld Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Currently, an official publication of the US Department of State that is intended as instructions for federal, state and local enforcement and other officials mandates the right to consular access, particularly for death penalty-related crimes.

Another issue regarding consular notification is re-notification, whether a foreign mission is required to be re-notified when their nationals are sentenced to death or when their clemency requests are denied and the time of execution nears.

The US encourages its officials to carry out re-notification and Singapore mandates 14 days of re-notification in the case of execution. Japan and Malaysia, on the other hand, do not practice re-notification.

The complexity of the death penalty also comes from international pressure. With the abolition of the death penalty gaining more support, Indonesia has come in for criticism for maintaining capital punishment.

In the diplomatic arena, much of this complexity occupies the work of the Foreign Ministry. As the assigned window to the international world, the ministry functions not only as messenger but also defender of its nationals as mandated by law.

Efforts are continuously carried out to seek relevant legal and political justification both at home and abroad.

At home, diplomatic notes and visits from foreign missions requesting, relaying, confirming and, in some instances, negotiating clemency have become the Foreign Ministry's day-to-day business.

The arguments put forward in response to these diplomatic notes and visits may seem classic and clichéd, but they are nonetheless valid.

One of the most common arguments conveyed is the notion of an independent judicial system that is beyond the ministry's reach.

It argues that the legal process is distinct from the political process and the death penalty is a product of the legal process.

Even in the context of clemency where international politics may come into play the final decision is in the hands of the president who holds the prerogative to grant mercy.

As if the arguments are not clear and repeated enough, diplomatic notes and visits remain adamant. The persistency of foreign missions in exercising their consular duty is second to none.

Ideas such as good bilateral relations, respect for human rights and extradition are thrown in, hoping for a possible loophole, if not a miracle.

Ironically, if the situation was reversed, Indonesian missions abroad would simply do the same in exercising their consular function to assist Indonesian nationals.

In some extreme conditions, the Indonesian government has had to go the extra mile to save its nationals from execution, such as those in the Middle East and Malaysia.

In conclusion, as of now the death penalty remains the law of the land in Indonesia and as such diplomacy works in support of enforcing the law.

Albert Einstein put it succinctly in his famous statement that nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws that cannot be enforced.

(source: Opinion; Sunan J. Rustam works for the Foreign Ministry at the political, legal and security affairs desk----The Malaysian Insider)

SAUDI ARABIA:

How Saudi Arabia's harsh legal punishments compare to the Islamic State's

Following the lashing of blogger Raif Badawi and leaked footage that showed the public execution of a woman accused of beating her daughter, Saudi Arabia's harsh interpretation of sharia law and its use of capital punishment have come under international scrutiny.

For many, the Saudi justice system sounds not unlike that of the Islamic State, the extremist Islamist group which has struck fear in much of the Middle East.

This week, Middle East Eye, a Web site that focuses on news from the region and is frequently critical of Saudi Arabia, contrasted a set of legal punishments recently announced by the Islamic State with the corresponding punishments in Saudi Arabia.

While Saudi Arabia isn't particularly forthcoming about its use of capital punishment (and Middle East Eye doesn't cite its source) and accurate information from within the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate is hard to ascertain, information from news sources and human rights organizations suggest the chart is at least broadly accurate.

Crime Islamic State punishment Saudi Arabia punishment

blasphemy death death

treason death death

murder death death

acts of homosexuality death death

slander 80 lashes judge's discretion

drinking alcohol 80 lashes judge's discretion

adultery (if married) death by stoning death by stoning

adultery (if note married) 100 lashes and 1-year exile 100 lashes

stealing amputation of hand amputation of right hand

banditry (theft) amputation of hand and foot amputation of hand and foot

banditry (theft and murder) crucifixion death

One key difference between the Islamic State and Saudi Arabia, of course, is that the latter is a key U.S. ally in the region - and a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. Some experts argue that the fundamentalist brand of Islam practiced by both has theological links, however, and Riyadh's recent crackdown has been interpreted as an act of appeasement for Saudi hard-liners.

Saudi Arabia's own concern about the Islamic State is likely genuine (plans to build an enormous wall along its border with Iraq are a good sign of that), but for many Americans, the extremist group's rise is also bringing with it a renewed skepticism about American allies in the region.

(source: Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post)

JANUARY 21, 2015:

TEXAS----execution

Texas executes man convicted of killing 3 in San Antonio

A 41-year-old Texas prisoner was put to death Wednesday evening for the slayings of 3 people during a robbery at their San Antonio home more than 21 years ago.

Arnold Prieto, who spurned a plea deal for a sentence of less than life in prison, became the 1st inmate to receive a lethal injection this year in Texas, which carried out 10 executions in 2014.

He was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. CST, 20 minutes after a lethal dose of pentobarbital began flowing into his veins.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Prieto replied: "There are no endings, only beginnings. Love y'all. See you soon."

As the injection began, he said he could smell it, then uttered, "Whoa."

He immediately began snoring, each snore a bit more quiet. After about 5 snores, he stopped moving.

Prieto was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die for his role in the September 1993 fatal stabbings of Rodolfo Rodriguez, 72, his wife, Virginia, 62, and Paula Moran, their 90-year-old former nanny who lived with them. Each victim was stabbed or cut multiple times with an icepick, screwdriver or knife.

The attackers took jewelry and about $300.

Prieto's sister was among witnesses watching through a window. 4 sons and a daughter-in-law of the slain couple watched through a window in an adjacent room. They declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Prieto smiled and nodded to the people he selected to watch him die as they walked into a witness room. He made no eye contact with relatives of the victims in the other room.

Prieto 2 decades ago turned down the plea deal, refusing to testify against one of other men with him during the robbery.

"There was a way out," one of Prieto's trial lawyers, Michael Bernard, recalled last week. "We just couldn't get there."

No late appeals were filed in the courts Wednesday to try to halt his punishment.

Prieto and 2 brothers related to the Rodriguezes were arrested in Carrollton, a north Dallas suburb, seven months after the killings. The case went unsolved until an informant's tip led police to Carrollton, where a grandnephew of the slain couple implicated himself, his brother and Prieto.

Prieto was the only 1 of 3 to get the death penalty.

Authorities said Prieto told them he and brothers Jesse and Guadalupe Hernandez believed the Rodriguezes had about $10,000 cash used for a checking-cashing business they operated out of their home.

Prieto told police the three had been using cocaine and continued to do so during their 300-mile drive from Carrollton to San Antonio. Virginia Rodriguez fed them breakfast after they arrived. Then she, her husband and Moran were attacked.

Prieto previously was jailed for more than a year and received probation for vehicle burglaries. He also was indicted in January 1994 on federal charges of engaging in organized criminal activity for the theft of 163 laptops worth $676,000 from a Dallas warehouse where he'd worked.

Jesse Hernandez, now 38, is serving a life sentence for the slayings. He was the fiance of Prieto's sister and father of her child. The killings occurred a day before his 17th birthday, making him too young for the death penalty. Charges against his brother, Guadalupe, were dropped because of insufficient evidence.

Prieto becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 519th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. He becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became governor of the state; Abbot was inaugurated just yesterday, Jan. 20.

Prieto becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1398th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. There are 5 more executions scheduled in the USA this month....last year, there were 6 executions in the month of January.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----1

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----519

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

2------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------520

3------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------521

4------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------522

5------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------523

6------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------524

7------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

8------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

9------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------527

10-----------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------528

11-----------Apr. 23-------------------Richard Vasquez------529

11-----------Apr. 28-------------------Robert Pruett--------530

12-----------May 12--------------------Derrick Charles------531

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Soliz's death penalty appeal rejected

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a man convicted of killing a woman in Godley in 2010.

Mark Anthony Soliz, 32, was convicted in the 413th District Court in Cleburne and received the death penalty. He remains on Texas death row.

Soliz, a Fort Worth resident, shot and killed Nancy Weatherly, 61, during a robbery of her home near Godley. Earlier the same morning, Soliz shot and killed Ruben Martinez, a delivery man at a Fort Worth convenience store. In the several days leading up to those killings, Soliz engaged in a carjacking, armed robbery and several other shootings.

Fort Worth resident Jose Ramos, who participated in many of the crimes with Soliz and was present during both killings, received life in prison.

The Supreme Court made their ruling with no comment.

The process of appeals for Soliz is far from over, Johnson County District Attorney Dale Hanna said on Wednesday.

"The writ process begins now, which is a whole other round of appeals," Hanna said. "All that will go through the federal district court, the court of appeals and back to the Supreme Court and then appeals to the governor."

Once that process concludes 413th District Judge Bill Bosworth will set Soliz's execution date.

Even after the Supreme Court rules again there will be more appeals to stay Soliz's execution, Hanna said, attacking every aspect of the original case, methods of execution and cruel and unusual punishment arguments.

Hanna said he remains convinced that, once the appeal process runs its course, Soliz will be executed.

(source: Cleburne Times-Review)

NEW JERSEY:

New Jersey should revive the death penalty

Re: "Only victims get the death penalty" (Rabble Rouser, Jan. 12)

I am in favor of the death penalty and have always been a very vocal advocate for giving criminals what they deserve for any kind of murder - their own death. But giving Osvaldo Rivera 110 years in jail is not a death penalty but a penalty for the New Jersey taxpayers who have to keep this criminal and other monsters alive for the rest of their rotten lives.

Rivera needs to be executed. Only his execution brings the right and final kind of justice for the family of Dominick Andujar. What kind of justice is the family of Autumn Pasquale getting? None, as one of the Robinson brothers goes to jail for a few years and the other brother gets off. Both brothers should have been given the death penalty. But through the stupidity of former Gov. Jon Corzine, he signed away New Jersey's death penalty and commuted all death sentences to life in prison.

New Jersey needs a death penalty - and a death penalty that is used.

Jesse Timmendequas, the murderer of Megan Kanka, is a perfect example. He was given the death penalty and he spent over 12 years on New Jersey's death row. He was sentenced to die long before Corzine signed the death penalty away. Yet New Jersey's governors were afraid to kill him or anyone on death row.

Ever since New Jersey's death penalty has gone, there have been numerous heinous murders, too many to mention. In every city and every county of New Jersey, someone is murdered. To me, there is no justice until criminals pay for their crimes with their lives. Execution of these criminals is the only true justice for all victims' families.

Little Amber Andujar is a child, and she will grow up to hate the fact that her brother's killer is still alive, and she will at some point voice that opinion.

Rivera will never live 110 years to fulfill that sentence, but if he were executed then we could all forget about him, as he would have gotten what he deserved - an eye for an eye, a death for a death.

It's a shame that we can't send our murdering criminals to Texas. Now that's a state that knows justice.

Cheryl Gilbert

(source: Letter to the Editor, Courier Post)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Clemency hearing set for Georgia inmate set to die next week

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a clemency hearing for a Georgia death row inmate set to be executed next week.

The board said in a statement Wednesday that the clemency hearing for Warren Lee Hill will be held Jan. 26. Hill is set to die Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson.

Hill was serving a life sentence in 1990 for the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend when he killed a fellow inmate. A jury in 1991 convicted Hill of murder and sentenced him to death.

Hill's lawyers have long argued that he is intellectually disabled and therefore shouldn't be executed.

The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Pinellas man facing death penalty in killing of 2-year-old girl

When Karina Mora saw that her 2-year-old daughter had somehow gotten seriously injured, she knew she had to act fast. She asked her boyfriend to drive her to All Children's Hospital.

But for some reason, Joel Adrian Cruz did not show the same urgency, Mora said in court on Wednesday. Cruz didn't want to drive to the hospital. Then he got in his van with Mora and the girl, but turned toward a different hospital. Then he stopped at a gas station, because he said the engine was overheating.

Eventually, as they finally drove from mid Pinellas toward the St. Petersburg children's hospital, Cruz said to Mora: You're not going to snitch on me are you?

This is what Mora told a jury on Wednesday in the trial against her ex-boyfriend Cruz, 29. He is accused of murdering Ananhie Fernandez by beating her repeatedly in Largo in May 2013. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

Ananhie, nicknaamed "Chunky," loved the water and a bathing suit with butterflies on it, her family members have said.

Cruz had gone to his brother's apartment in the Largo area with Ananhie and returned to the apartment he shared with Mora. After talking to Cruz for a while, Mora checked on her girl and discovered that her body was unnaturally stiff, and she was wheezing.

Cruz later offered changing stories about what happened, Assistant State Attorney Kate Alexander said. At one point he said a box of tools fell on her, and another time he said she may have gotten hurt when he tried to protect her by pushing her out of the way. But Alexander said there were too many blows to Ananhie for these explanations to make sense.

The trial got off to a strange start, because former Pinellas-Pasco assistant medical examiner Dollett White balked about offering her testimony in the case, partly because it's unclear how much she or her office would be paid for doing so.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone gave her a strongly-worded warning warning.

"We're not going to have a situation where a person who's having his life on the line ... is going to have the case jeopardized because of game playing," the judge said. He ordered White to prepare and to testify or face "direct criminal contempt."

It's basically unheard of locally for a medical examiner to refuse to testify. It would be similar to a homicide detective deciding to keep quiet about a murder investigation.

Bulone noted that it's often hard to get witnesses with rap sheets "a mile long" to testify truthfully in criminal cases, and then remarked on "how absolutely amazing it is that we have a professional who is a medical examiner whose duty is to do justice ... who refuses to review the materials and wants to play games."

White, who now has a similar position in Maricopa County, Arizona, initially said she could not provide complete testimony until a formal agreement was worked out between her former employer and her current one. But later in the day, after Bulone's comments, she did testify.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

INDIANA:

New bill allows prosecutors to seek death penalty for murders on school property

The maximum sentence Cody Cousins could get was 65 years in prison for killing Andrew Boldt. But if a new bill is passed into law, someone who commits a similar crime could face the death penalty.

"Immediately after my sentencing on Cody Cousins, in that press conference, the first text message I got was from Sen. Hershman who said what can we do," Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington said.

That's when Harrington and Hershman got to work. Hershman crafted a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for murders committed on school grounds. "The current law doesn't include in that definition of school property higher education, which is obviously in this case of Cody Cousins showed one of the weaknesses in the law," Harrington said.

A weakness Harrington said Cousins knew about.

"He knew what the penalty might be, and he accepted it before he committed this act," Harrington said. "You never know trying to hindsight what would have happened in a criminal's mind. But we can certainly go forward and make sure that if anyone else ever reviews our statutes, they are going to know that they are looking at life without parole or death for doing a similar act."

Harrington said other prosecutors across the state are behind the bill too.

"I've spoken to prosecutors mainly in the other counties that have higher education, and they are all in agreement that this is a law that we need to pass," Harrington said.

The bill may be heard as early as next week at the Statehouse.

Cousins was sentenced to 65 years behind bars in September and later took his own life in prison.

(source: WLFI news)

MISSOURI:

Anti-death penalty groups meet at the Capitol

Several groups opposing Missouri's death penalty gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday morning.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), the NAACP, and the ACLU of Missouri gathered with the community for a Moratorium Now! event. These opponents of Missouri's Death Penalty say that the state is rushing executions on death row. This lobby day was to announce the filing of House Bill No. 561 which will halt rushing executions.

Representative John Rizzo is in support of this bill and has filed legislation to place a moratorium on the death penalty until 2018. Rizzo was unable to attend the gathering, but left a statement for the session. Rizzo says in his statement, "I am convinced that any meaningful discussion about the ultimate penalty must be preceded by a thorough state specific assessment of the accuracy and fairness with which it is applied."

The state executed a record high of 10 inmates in 2014. This is the most in Missouri since 1899. There were 35 more people living under a death sentence at the years end and now several others, including that group, could be executed.

The ACLU explains that legislative remedies are urgently needed because on January 28th, Marcellus Williams, even though he has a strong case to prove his innocence, could be wrongly convicted. There is a lack of physical and DNA evidence tying him to the scene of the crime. Missouri executed at least 7 individuals, including John Middleton in July-even if significant doubt of their guilt persists.

Other bills have been filed this year that would evaluate the costs and would require a review of every case.

(source: connectmidmissouri.com)

WASHINGTON:

There is no reasonable argument for keeping the death penalty----2 simultaneous death penalty cases in King County won't make the public any safer, but they will be ruinously expensive. End the death penalty.

The specter of 2 death-penalty cases happening simultaneously at the King County Courthouse is unprecedented. Yet, a 3rd is soon on the way.

None of those cases will make the public safer. They are ruinously expensive - and will continue to be for years to come. They keep alive a penalty that is inconsistently applied from county to county and sustain the possibility, however small, that a civil society will make the ultimate mistake.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg defends these relatively rare attempts to seek the death penalty because the pending cases - involving the assassination of a Seattle police officer and the mass killing of a Carnation family, including 2 young children - are so egregious. They are truly heinous crimes.

But the fact is, the effort to impose the death penalty is most likely symbolic. Since Washington reinstated capital punishment in 1981, 3/4 of the death sentences have been overturned in the pepper mill of the appeals process. Out of 33 cases, 5 inmates have been executed.

There is no convincing evidence those executions will deter future murders. In a comprehensive analysis published last year, the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies found that studies claiming that capital punishment lowered homicide rates were too flawed to be taken seriously.

And, intuitively, the deterrence argument also fails. Consider Christopher Monfort, the alleged assassin of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton in 2009. He portrays himself as an ideological revolutionary, and he appears to have targeted police in warped retaliation for police misconduct. That irrational act knows no deterrent.

But the death penalty does come at an enormous cost. Adding this penalty to an aggravated murder case in Washington boosts police and legal costs by at least $1 million, according to a conservative estimate by Seattle University researchers. That figure includes the cost of incarceration.

In fact, the real costs of the death penalty are likely higher. Monfort's defense alone has spent about $4 million. Taxpayer costs for the Carnation cases - the one against Joseph McEnroe that started this week, and another pending capital case against his ex-girlfriend, Michele Anderson - are nearly $10 million.

The clearest argument in defense of the death penalty is simply vengeance. But a civil society instead owes victims and their families swift and certain justice. The death penalty provides neither. It adds years to the length of cases, prolonging uncertainty for victims' families, and it is often overturned or reversed.

Gov. Jay Inslee effectively ended the death penalty, at least while he is in office, by refusing to sign any death warrants. He and the Legislature should go further and end capital punishment altogether, hopefully before King County jurors add more to death row.

(source: Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Mark Higgins, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus)----Seattle Times)

VIETNAM:

Is Vietnam ready to abolish death penalty?

On January 19, a day after saying it had tried in vain to stop Indonesia from executing a Vietnamese drug convict, Vietnam, where heroin trafficking is rampant, sentenced eight drug mules to death.

Earlier, on January 5, following blanket media coverage about appeals by death row inmates, the apex prosecutors' office had launched a review of 16 convictions that showed signs of miscarriage of justice.

On December 4, a day before a murder convict was to be executed by lethal injection, President Truong Tan Sang had ordered a last-minute reprieve and instructed related agencies to investigate if there had been a wrongful conviction.

In a country where death sentences are often handed down to those convicted of drug offences and murder, analysts increasingly raise 2 major questions: Has the death penalty played any role in deterring those crimes? And, in the context of increasingly disturbing media reports about wrongful convictions, how can Vietnam ensure innocent people are not executed?

There is a 3rd, possibly more important, question: Is the country really equipped to carry out executions?

Minority

"Vietnam belongs to an increasingly small minority of countries in the world that continues to apply the death penalty despite the clear global movement towards abolition and decreased use of capital punishment," Delphine Lourtau, a lead researcher at the Cornell University Law School-run website Death Penalty Worldwide, told Thanh Nien News.

In the past couple of years Vietnam has been one of just around 20 countries to carry out executions. In Asia, 10 out of 51 states did so in 2013. The US carried out 35 executions last year according to deathpenaltyinfo.org, with only 12 of the executed being white.

Tran Van Do, deputy chief justice of the Supreme People's Court, said at a conference last December that courts around Vietnam sentence some 200 people to death every year.

In 2009 Vietnam amended its Penal Code, reducing the number of crimes punishable by death to 22 from 29. The country remains among a handful of states that consider economic offenses like fraud and corruption serious enough to warrant death.

There are no official statistics in the public domain on the number of death sentences carried out in Vietnam. But with at least 500 people awaiting executions, "Vietnam's death row is amongst the 12 largest in the world, and only four Asian countries have more death-sentenced prisoners," Lourtau said.

Vietnam switched to lethal injection from firing squad in 2011.

But an EU refusal to sell drugs for lethal injections led to a delay in executions until August 2013, when Vietnam began manufacturing them.

In a 2013 decree the government said "drugs that make a person lose consciousness, relax the muscles, and stop the heart" would be used.

In a letter to the Vietnamese health ministry later that year, the British, Danish and German medical associations expressed "grave concern" about such locally produced drugs, which they called "a 3-drug protocol".

"The use of 3 drugs is controversial because of the potential for executions resulting in excruciating pain for the prisoner if insufficient anesthetic is administered," the letter said.

"In the United States of America, where the three-drug protocol was originally pioneered, the Supreme Court has declared that the punishment would amount to medical torture if the first drug did not fully anesthetize the prisoner."

In April 2014, a botched execution in Oklahoma in the US using the 3-drug protocol left a convicted killer writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney, leading Oklahoma prison officials to halt the proceedings before the inmate's eventual death from a heart attack, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, miscarriages of justice in Vietnam seem to be getting increased media coverage in recent years.

The most recent high-profile case was that of Nguyen Thanh Chan, 55, of the northern province of Bac Giang.

Chan was found guilty of murdering a local woman and sentenced to life in prison in March 2004. 4 months later the Supreme People's Court dismissed his appeal and upheld the sentence.

But his wife's persistent investigation forced the real murderer, another local man, to give himself up in October 2013. Chan was released a month later and the Supreme People's Court officially cleared his name in January 2014.

In what was Vietnam's 1st public review of police torture in September, Truong Trong Nghia, an outspoken lawmaker who is also vice chairman of the Vietnam Bar Association, condemned the practice as a threat to the integrity and stability of the political system.

"Wrongful verdicts, threats and torture are critical threats to the system itself. The [victims'] descendants will hold us accountable," he said in the National Assembly.

"Vietnam belongs to an increasingly small minority in the world that continues to apply the death penalty despite the clear global movement towards abolition and decreased use of capital punishment."

No letup

The police busted around 20,000 drug-related cases in 2014 and arrested nearly 30,000 people, some 1,500 more than in the previous year, the Ministry of Public Security said in its year-end report in December.

A report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in May 2014 acknowledged that in Vietnam drug crimes involving foreign elements and drug trafficking activities by road and air continue to rise.

"The fighting of drug criminal forces is getting more aggressive. Many new synthetic drugs are going to penetrate into Vietnam," the report said. "The number of addicts in the country has not decreased, the use of synthetic drugs has increased and spread to many places."

Vietnamese authorities also admit that the number of violent, grisly murders and robberies across the country is showing no signs of falling, even as the media carries story after story of people not hesitating to kill for the most trivial reasons.

Globally, opponents of capital punishment point out that decades of scientific research has never been able to prove that the death penalty has any deterrent effect.

They say it has long been observed that crime rates do not correlate with the application of the death penalty. In fact, in many jurisdictions (such as Canada and some US states), the murder rate actually declined in the years following the abolition of capital punishment, they add.

In a definitive report published in April 2012, the US-based National Research Council of the National Academies looked at 3 decades of studies on the deterrent effect of the death penalty on homicide and concluded that they were all methodologically flawed.

"So it's clear that the deterrence argument cannot and should not be relied upon as the basis for retaining capital punishment," Lourtau said.

Against people's will?

But Vu Thi Thuy, a Vietnamese law instructor at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, said whether or not the death penalty helps deter crimes depends very much on the agenda of the researchers.

"Those who want to oppose capital punishment will tailor their research to substantiate their argument. Those who are for it will publish research proving otherwise."

The bottom line is that "a society free of capital punishment is one that has developed to a certain high level in tandem with its citizens' awareness of the law," she said.

"Vietnam's current socio-economic conditions don't allow for that [abolishing the death penalty]."

The country is looking to scale back the death penalty, with debates continuing in the National Assembly.

But what tops the agenda is not whether the country should abolish the death penalty altogether: it is how many crimes the law should make punishable by death.

A majority of lawmakers support reducing them to less than 10 from the current 29 by removing those like rape and smuggling.

Against the backdrop of an EU campaign for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, the proponents of its continuation in Vietnam are saying they do not want further delays in executing death-row inmates.

Some even urge a return to the firing squad.

Even if the country looks to abolish the death penalty, international practices have shown that a referendum would be needed, Thuy said.

"Overall, I'm pretty sure that the people would think that the death penalty still needs to be in place."

She cited a survey of 500 people she did in 2007 in which 92 % of the respondents backed the death penalty.

"I don't think that rate would change much now."

(source: Thaqnh Nien News)

GLOBAL:

Diplomacy and the death penalty in Indonesia

When Socrates, Plato and Aristotle deemed that to some extent the death penalty was appropriate, their thoughts apply to the present situation in Indonesia. Capital punishment in this country is reserved only for serious crimes, such as narcotics and terrorism. Countries practicing the death penalty in the world, including those in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, share similar arrangements. Interestingly, most executions have been carried out for narcotics cases in those countries. The death sentence is considered the last resort after a selective and prolonged legal process.

Apart from its complicated process, the death penalty also has limitations. Chief among them is the right of clemency where a death-row convict may be pardoned. Qualifications, for example, children and pregnant women are exempt, serve as additional restrictions as prescribed in the ratified 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Nevertheless, many human rights activists firmly contend that the death penalty violates basic human rights in all aspects. In Indonesia, this claim was dismissed in 2007 when the Constitutional Court decided that human rights do have limitations and as a consequence, in some cases, the death penalty is acceptable. In practice, there is relatively little issue about the death penalty for Indonesian convicts, yet when it comes to foreigners, matters are more sensitive and complicated. With bilateral relations at stake, the death penalty raises a problem of its own, particularly on the issue of clemency and consular notification.

As history has shown, diplomatic and political considerations have played a considerable role in the process of granting clemency. On many occasions, the president has to make tough and last-minute decisions. Non-legal reasons such as reciprocity, aid and bilateral support have to compete with rule-of-law elements such as protection of Indonesians abroad, the gravity of the crime and the supremacy of the law. Consular notification is also prone to complexities if not properly exercised. The United States had to learn this the hard way. In the 2004 Avena and Other Mexican Nationals case, Mexico argued before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the US failed to inform 51 Mexican nationals of their right to consular access including those sentenced to death row in the US. The ICJ ruled in favor of Mexico and upheld Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Currently, an official publication of the US Department of State that is intended as instructions for federal, state and local enforcement and other officials mandates the right to consular access, particularly for death penalty-related crimes.

Another issue regarding consular notification is re-notification, whether a foreign mission is required to be re-notified when their nationals are sentenced to death or when their clemency requests are denied and the time of execution nears. The US encourages its officials to carry out re-notification and Singapore mandates 14 days of re-notification in the case of execution. Japan and Malaysia, on the other hand, do not practice re-notification. The complexity of the death penalty also comes from international pressure. With the abolition of the death penalty gaining more support, Indonesia has come in for criticism for maintaining capital punishment.In the diplomatic arena, much of this complexity occupies the work of the Foreign Ministry. As the assigned window to the international world, the ministry functions not only as messenger but also defender of its nationals as mandated by law. Efforts are continuously carried out to seek relevant legal and political justification both at home and abroad. At home, diplomatic notes and visits from foreign missions requesting, relaying, confirming and, in some instances, negotiating clemency have become the Foreign Ministry's day-to-day business. The arguments put forward in response to these diplomatic notes and visits may seem classic and cliched, but they are nonetheless valid. One of the most common arguments conveyed is the notion of an independent judicial system that is beyond the ministry's reach. It argues that the legal process is distinct from the political process and the death penalty is a product of the legal process. Even in the context of clemency where international politics may come into play the final decision is in the hands of the president who holds the prerogative to grant mercy.

As if the arguments are not clear and repeated enough, diplomatic notes and visits remain adamant. The persistency of foreign missions in exercising their consular duty is second to none. Ideas such as good bilateral relations, respect for human rights and extradition are thrown in, hoping for a possible loophole, if not a miracle.

Ironically, if the situation was reversed, Indonesian missions abroad would simply do the same in exercising their consular function to assist Indonesian nationals. In some extreme conditions, the Indonesian government has had to go the extra mile to save its nationals from execution, such as those in the Middle East and Malaysia. In conclusion, as of now the death penalty remains the law of the land in Indonesia and as such diplomacy works in support of enforcing the law. Albert Einstein put it succinctly in his famous statement that nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws that cannot be enforced.

(source: Opinion, Sunan J. Rustam, Yogyakarta----The writer works for the Foreign Ministry at the political, legal and security affairs desk.----The Jakarta Post)

PAKISTAN:

Death penalty or life, for killing in the name of honour

The Senate standing committee on interior approved an amendment bill on Wednesday declaring honour-killing an unpardonable offence.

Culprits of honour killing would be handed either the death penalty or life imprisonment as per the amendment bill. It also proposes to outlaw compromises between the culprit and the aggrieved party in such cases.

The bill was proposed by Senator Sughra Imam of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

In 2012 alone, 705 people were killed in the name of honour, but majority of the culprits got away due to leniency in existing laws.

To remove shortcomings in the relevant legislations, the bill proposes 5 amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

In the standing committee's meeting held earlier today, Senator Imam was of the opinion that in such cases, the complainant and accused are often the same - enabling culprits to escape the law.

She added, that women are not the only victims of honour killings as men also suffer in such cases.

(source: geo.tv)

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas To Execute Arnold Prieto Today Over Screwdriver Attack

Texas plans to execute on Wednesday a man who was convicted of stabbing 3 people to death with a screwdriver, including his great-uncle and great-aunt, in a San Antonio home robbery in 1993.

Arnold Prieto's execution by injection is planned for 6 p.m. CST at the state's prison death chamber in Huntsville. If it takes place, Prieto, 41, will be the 519th person executed in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state.

Prieto and 2 other men went to the home of Rodolfo Rodriguez, 72, and his wife, Virginia, 62, who cooked the visitors breakfast. Prieto and Jesse Hernandez then used screwdrivers to attack the couple, also killing Paula Moran, 92, who was in the house, the Texas Attorney General's Office said.

The 3 ransacked the house, stealing cash and goods valued at a few hundred dollars, it said.

Hernandez was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime and could not be sentenced to death because he was a minor. He is currently serving a life sentence.

The other person with the assailants, Lupe Hernandez, brother of Jesse, was not charged.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no appeals seeking a halt of Prieto's execution had been filed.

(source: Reuters)

NORTH CAROLINA:

With executions in limbo, families wait for justice

Every day, it comes to him.

Sometimes it's a momentary jolt when he sees an old friend of his son's from high school. Or maybe it surfaces when he glances at the framed picture of his son, appearing so young and strong in his red Erwin High wrestling singlet, looking into the camera with a young man's confidence, the kind cemented by a state championship.

Other times, George Lane just sort of drifts off in his mind, maybe wondering how many kids his boy would have now, and if they, too, would be fearless and fun-loving. With all his heart, Lane believes the only solace - the only real closure, if life truly offers such a thing - he and his wife, Dorothy, will ever have will come only when Mark's killer is put to death, as the state mandated in 1992.

"You think about it every day, every time you pick up the paper and you see a murder or a death penalty, not just in this state but in any state, where somebody has slipped through the cracks," Lane said, sitting in the office of his store, Leicester Pawn & Gun. "And you wonder when you're going to get the letter that says he slipped through the cracks and he's now been relieved of his death penalty.

"You think, 'Why does he have the right to do that, when 12 persons on a jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder and they determined that he should receive the death penalty?'"

Like several other states, North Carolina is struggling with its death penalty and what will happen to the 150 prisoners on death row, including nine men from Buncombe County. Another man sits on federal death row.

The Tar Heel state has not had an execution since 2006, and the death penalty is mired in a de facto moratorium while lawyers and judges sort out legal cases pinned to 2 separate issues: the makeup of juries and possible discrimination against blacks being litigated under the now-defunct Racial Justice Act, and the legality and constitutionality of our death penalty drug protocol.

"There's no official moratorium - the legislature has never said it's going to halt executions - there are just so many court cases and litigation that nothing has happened, and nothing is scheduled," said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, which oversees corrections.

Historically, North Carolina has not been reluctant to employ the death penalty. Since 1910, when the state took over executions from the counties, North Carolina has put to death 404 men and women, including 43 between 1984 and 2006, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

U.S. Supreme Court action essentially eliminated the death penalty in 1962, but it returned nationally in 1976 and in North Carolina in 1984.

Today, Mark Lane's killer, Edward Earl Davis, remains where he's resided since the early 1990s: on death row at Raleigh's Central Prison.

Davis, 58, and his half-brother, Roger D. Hood, 42, were convicted in the Aug. 16, 1991, slaying of Lane, with Davis receiving the death penalty and Hood getting life in prison.

"I can't even imagine what it's like to lose a child," said Dorothy Lane, who's been married to George for 23 years. "But now, after so many years, I've seen it just come over George - I've seen him become so sad, so many times - I know you can't ever get over the death of a child."

The legal issues at hand

Ken Rose, senior staff attorney with the N.C. Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Raleigh, knows victims' families continue to endure stomach-churning grief, and he says those feelings are valid.

"But the death penalty is a public policy that has to involve a purpose for the society that is more than just revenge on a behalf of a particular person or family, no matter how much we sympathize with their loss," Rose said.

2 separate issues have sidetracked executions since 2007 and likely will for the foreseeable future.

"First and foremast is the lethal injection litigation, which has been ongoing since 2007," Rose said. "There have been 2 important injunctions imposed; the most recent in 2014, and that prohibits the state from executing anybody."

Litigation on that issue started in state court but is now in the federal court system.

1 of the legal questions is whether the protocol for an execution - the specific manner in which lethal drugs are administered - has to go through the state rule-making process, Rose said.

Typically, any state agency enacting regulations has to put the proposed procedures through the public rule-making process, which usually involves publishing the proposal and taking public comment.

The question is whether that procedure applies in the death penalty protocol. That issue went to federal court and has now been remanded back to Wake County Superior Court for a decision.

The other related issue involves the separation of powers. The legislature has given "almost unlimited authority to the Secretary of Public Safety to devise and enact a protocol, as far as drugs can be procured, training of staff, and the credentials of staff," Rose said.

"All of these things may seem esoteric, but the truth is we've seen executions in several places that have been botched, in some cases taking over an hour or more," Rose said.

Death penalty opponents also have questioned if the protocol constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment," which the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

Before the legal challenge, North Carolina had used a 3-drug protocol to bring about death: a fast-acting barbiturate to relax the prisoner, followed by a paralytic drug, then a potassium chloride to stop the heart.

"The problem with that, we had argued, if the barbiturate does not work or is administered in error, then the person would be tortured and you wouldn't know it, because the paralytic makes a person unable to move, speak or able to do anything," Rose said.

In 2013, the Department of Public Safety adopted a single-drug protocol, but the issue remains in the court system.

The 2nd thread of legal challenges surrounds the Racial Justice Act cases. 2 cases are pending in the N.C. Supreme Court concerning the application of the act, while several others remain pending in superior court.

The Lanes and other families question why the act, passed in 2009 but then repealed 2 years later, even applies in many of these cases in which the convicted murderer and victim are of the same race.

All of the 9 Buncombe County prisoners on death row filed motions under the act to have their death sentences converted to life without parole. Statewide, 4 of these cases are on appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court, and Rose said decisions could come down any day the court is in session.

"In general the issue does not depend on the race of the defendant or the victim," Rose said. "It has been a practice in the state of excluding African-American jurors by prosecutors using pre-emptive strikes."

The implication is that juries therefore have not been truly representative of the population.

"The issue is about participation in the jury," said Sean Devereux, an Asheville attorney who has represented Davis in his post-conviction appeals. "People are entitled to a jury of their peers, and there is a perception that African-Americans see things differently."

Hard to understand

None of this placates the Lanes, and much of it seems like legal hair-splitting.

"My son did not get a reduction in his death sentence to life, and the man who took this away from him should not have this benefit, either," George Lane wrote to the Attorney General's office in 2013, after being notified of Davis' appeal under the Racial Justice Act.

No one disputes that Eddie Davis is a bad character. Before killing Lane, Davis was convicted of murder in the 1975 stabbing death of a 60-year-old man in Columbus, Ohio. He was paroled the year before he killed Mark Lane.

He and Hood conducted armed robberies at a McDonald's in Canton, as well as others in Georgia and Tennessee. Davis had escaped jail in Tennessee, where he was being held on a robbery charge, before the Lane murder.

The Lanes said trial testimony showed that Davis and Hood had been in their shop, at that time located farther west in the heart of the Leicester community, earlier in the day. They returned just before closing at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, 1991.

Mark Lane, 22 at the time and never one to back down, was shot at three times, once in the hand and twice in the abdomen, and died. His girlfriend was in the shop with him.

"They made her get down like a dog and crawl into the office," Dorothy Lane said.

The men were arrested more than a week later in Savannah, Georgia, after a high-speed chase across 2 states.

George Lane said the convicts were cold-blooded and merciless, and that lack of empathy weighs heavily in his mind when it comes to Davis getting the death penalty and any potential suffering he may endure.

"Why should I care or the society care what kind of pain or agony he goes through when they're putting him to death? My son had no choice of what his agony was when he was laying on the floor and they shot him the third time," Lane said. "So why does this enter into it? He's guilty. So if they shoot him by firing squad, or they hang him, or chop his head off, he's got it coming to him."

The bigger picture

Since 1976, when the ultimate penalty was reinstated in the U.S., America's prisons have put to death 1,397 people. But 18 states no longer have a death penalty, and another 3 have enacted moratoriums.

Recent exonerations of death row inmates, as well as botched executions, have begun to erode support for executions. Since 1973, 150 people have been exonerated and freed from death row in 26 states, including 9 in North Carolina, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Studies have also found that minorities are much more likely to receive a death penalty.

Public opinion also seems to be shifting. A 2013 poll of 600 North Carolinians by Public Policy Polling found 68 percent of respondents support replacing the death penalty with life without parole if the offender had to work and pay restitution to the victim's family, while 63 percent supported repealing the death penalty if the money saved was redirected to effective crime fighting tools.

Devereux said the country may be reaching a point where the death penalty simply no longer makes sense, particularly from an economic standpoint.

Duke University released a study in 2009 that found the state could save at least $11 million annually by abolishing the death penalty. The average cost for housing a standard state prison inmate in North Carolina is almost $80 a day, while the estimate for a death row inmate is nearly $96 daily, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Studies have also shown the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.

Devereux said Buncombe County, like much of North Carolina, saw an increase in death penalty cases in the 1990s because of state legislation that gave prosecutors little leeway in pursuing life in prison instead of the death penalty in cases involving an aggravating factor, such as another felony being committed during the murder.

Statewide, the number of death sentences in North Carolina has steadily declined, with 3 last year, 1 in 2013 and none in 2012. In 2011, 3 were handed down, compared to 4 in 2010, 2 in 2009 and 1 in 2008. The trend mirrors the nation - Amnesty International noted the number of death sentences nationwide "has been lower than any time since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976."

Nationally, executions also have declined, from a high of 98 in 1999, to 43 executions in both 2011 and 2012.

At their shop on New Leicester Highway, the Lanes have an extensive video surveillance system, and most employees carry firearms.

The Lanes hope and pray for the only type of closure that will satisfy them: a letter from the state telling them that Davis' execution has been scheduled. Both are deeply religious, and they feel the Bible calls for harsh punishment for those who intend to deprive others of life, as George says, those who "wake up in the morning intending to do bad."

Only the ending of Davis' life would allow them to move on with theirs.

"It would give me closure to know that I don't have this still hanging over me and wondering what's going to happen," Lane said. "It's a part of my life that I could close."

History of executions in North Carolina

Public hangings were common in North Carolina until the state took over administration of the death penalty in 1910.

Walter Morrison, a laborer from Robeson County, became the 1st man to die in the electric chair in 1910. Between 1910 and 1961, the state executed another 361 people.

Since 1910, there have been 3 methods to carry out executions, all at Central Prison in Raleigh. For the first 28 years, the state used the electric chair. In 1936, the state 1st used the gas chamber. In 1983, inmates waiting for execution were allowed to choose lethal injection or the gas chamber. In 1998, lethal injection became the state's only method of execution.

(source: Citizen-Times)

FLORIDA:

Rick Scott Is About to Break the Modern Record for Most Executions by a Florida Governor

Next month, Rick Scott will win the distinction of "Florida's Most Deadly Governor" when he surpasses Jeb Bush in the number of executions under his watch since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Since taking office in 2011, Scott has signed 21 death warrants -- the same number Bush did in 2 full terms as Florida's governor. But on February 26, Jerry Correll is scheduled to die for his 1986 conviction of stabbing to death 5 people, including his own daughter, his ex-wife, and her mother, sister, and niece. Unless Correll's execution is stayed, Scott's death penalty tally will go up to 22.

Needless to say, anti-death penalty activists aren't happy with this trend.

"Gov. Scott has led Florida on a killing spree of blood vengeance that is ill-advised, unnecessary, and, given Florida's national record for wrongfully convicted people released from death row, could put the blood of innocents on all our hands," says Mark Elliot, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Elliot adds that many death row inmates have been exonerated, making it plausible that innocent people have been wrongly executed.

"Since the 1970s, 25 people have been exonerated and released from Florida's death row. At the same time, 90 people have been executed," he says. "That's more than 1 exoneration for every 4 executions."

Scott already had the distinction of ordering more executions than any Florida governor during a 1st term since the death penalty was brought back in 1976, ending a 10-year moratorium as the constitutionality of capital punishment was being contested in federal courts.

Bush had the previous 1st-term record with 11, but Scott beat that less than 3 years into his term with the November 12, 2013, execution of Darius Kimbrough, who was sentenced to death for the 1991 rape and murder of 28-year-old Denise Collins.

Here's how Scott stacks up to other Florida governors since 1976:

Governor Years in Office Number of Executions

Rick Scott 2011-present 21

Jeb Bush 1999-2007 21

Lawton Chiles 1991-1998 18

Bob Graham 1979-1987 16

Bob Martinez 1987-1991 9

Charlie Crist 2001-2011 5

(source: browardpalmbeach.com)

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

Former Supreme Court Justice speaks on capital punishment, his book

Almost 5 years after his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court, former Justice John Paul Stevens spoke to UF students and the general public Tuesday afternoon about his personal thoughts on topics ranging from the death penalty to the Second Amendment.

Stevens, along with 3 UF Levin College of Law professors, addressed current issues regarding the U.S. Constitution to a full audience at 12:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

As part of a lecture series hosted by the law school, Stevens answered questions regarding his recently published book, "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution," as well as advocated for states' rights to regulate gun control.

"I certainly believe the elected representatives of the people should be deciding this, not federal judges at a national level," he said.

Lyrissa Lidsky, the associate dean for international programs and a professor at the law school, asked Stevens whether he had any regrets during his time on the Supreme Court.

He then went on to discuss his role in a ruling regarding the death penalty.

"One case that I voted incorrectly in, having openly spoke about it many times, was the Texas capital punishment case," Stevens said, sharing the story of the 1976 Jurek v. Texas case that led to the widespread adoption of the death penalty in the U.S. court system.

He brought up a separate case to further illustrate his point.

"There is a Texas case in which they executed the wrong defendant," Stevens said. "It is a risk that a civilized society should not allow to develop, which is an adequate reason to amend this practice."

Natalie Mendez, a 19-year-old UF business sophomore, said she agrees with Stevens and hopes to see the death penalty abolished.

"I don't think that the government should run the risk of killing innocent people, especially when we run the risk of jailing innocent people," she said. "That's something you can't erase."

(source: The (Univ. Florida) Alligator)

WEST VIRGINIA:

Will GOP in power, will W.Va. restore death penalty?

In Delegate John Overington's 30 years in the Legislature, he's always fought to restore the death penalty. Now that his fellow Republicans are in power, he's hoping this is the year he sees success.

"The Democrats have not been supportive," explained Overington, who has represented Berkeley County since 1985. "They knew there was public support, but didn't want their members on the record. There were public hearings, but that was it."

West Virginia abolished the death penalty in 1965.

After so many heinous crimes over the years in West Virginia and nationwide, the death penalty ought to be on the table in the Mountain State, Overington said.

Overington can point to many examples of defendants he believes deserved the death penalty. There's the Eastern Panhandle case of Antonio Prophet, the Lorton, Va., man convicted in 2012 of killing 22-year-old Angela Devonshire and her 3-year-old son Andre White by setting their Bunker Hill home on fire in 2010.

He points to repeat offender Ronald Turney Williams. "He murdered a Beckley police officer in 1975, escaped from prison, murdered a West Virginia state trooper, [then] murdered a man in Arizona who caught Williams burglarizing a home," Overington said. "If we had the death penalty, 2 people would still be alive.

"When you have a repeat offender, that's a compelling reason for the death penalty on a number of levels. It's not revenge. It's a sense of justice."

Overington's latest death penalty bill calls for the punishment under certain conditions, including when a murder is especially "atrocious or cruel"; when it occurs while the defendant is incarcerated or is an escaped convict; when the victim is a firefighter, peace officer, correctional officer, parole officer, judicial officer or anyone killed in the performance of his or her duty; or when the defendant has a significant history of felony convictions involving violence or the threat of violence.

"The death penalty would take place when there is no question of guilt," Overington said.

Some opponents of the death penalty point out there's no cost-savings to executing convicts because the appeals process typically lasts for years and costs more than what's spent on decades of incarceration. Overington believes the appeals process needn't drag on.

"I would like to see the appeal process in death penalty cases shortened by making sure the defense is well-organized and funded so that there is only 1 appeal instead of years of appeals, which is tremendously expensive," he said.

For Overington, the needs of survivors and victims' families looms large.

He cites mass murderer Richard Speck who tortured, raped and murdered 8 student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital in 1966. Speck was sentenced to death, but the sentence was overturned due to issues with jury selection and he died in prison in 1991.

"1 nurse survived the attack by hiding under a bed," Overington said. "She lived her life in a self-imposed witness protection program. She was terrified while Speck was alive.

"The death penalty gives closure."

Overington said he also believes in representing the people who sent him to Charleston.

"I'm marveled at candidates who are elected and don't do what the public wants them to do," Overington said. "I have a citizens poll each year and the response has been overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty."

(source: Spirit of Jefferson)

KENTCUKY:

Prosecutors continue pushing for death penalty for Ricky Kelly in 2005 murder case

A murder for money and drugs: that's what prosecutors say happened in 2005.

Now prosecutors want the suspect, Ricky Kelly, to face the death penalty. Prosecutors say Kelly killed LaJuante Jackson to protect a drug trafficking organization.

Prosecutors claim Kelly hunted Jackson down and shot him more than 10 times.

The case started at the state level, then went to federal court and has now been seen sent back to the commonwealth.

Kelly's attorney, Amy Hannah, says prosecutors have a long way to go before that happens.

"Stop trying to kill Ricky Kelly," Hannah said. "If they want to kill him, they've got to follow the rules, and they've got to do it right. Up until this point, that hasn't happened."

"The death penalty was sought, I believe, for the last 4 or 5 years on this case, in federal court and in state court," said Leland Hulbert, the lead prosecutor on the case.

Since 1996, Kelly has been charged with 8 murders.

Prosecutors say they are still investigating whether or not to try the other cases.

Both sides say they're hoping to go to trial in June.

(source: WDRB news)

MISSOURI:

U.S. Supreme Court faults St. Louis lawyers in death penalty ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed 2 lower courts and said that a triple murderer on Missouri's death row, whose execution last fall was delayed, should be granted a replacement of the 2 St. Louis lawyers on his case.

The ruling also means convicted killer Mark Christeson can argue that he should be allowed to appeal his case in federal court, an avenue that was blocked when the lawyers missed a deadline.

The ruling says Christeson's attorneys, Eric Butts and Phil Horwitz, admitted failing to meet with Christeson until 6 weeks after his federal appeal was due. It also says there was no evidence they had communicated with him before that. The lawyers filed the appeal 117 days late and subsequently blamed it on a miscalculation.

The high court said both attorneys now have a "conflict of interest" in arguing that the deadline should be waived because of their mistake.

"Advancing such a claim would have required Horwitz and Butts to denigrate their own performance. Counsel cannot reasonably be expected to make such an argument, which threatens their professional reputation and livelihood," reads the unsigned 7-2 opinion.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would not reopen the case without "briefing and argument" to show whether the lawyers' conduct was merely an error or "the kind of abandonment" that needs intervention.

Tuesday's ruling notes that Christeson still must demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances" to justify the reopening of the case.

Horwitz and Butts did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment Tuesday.

Christeson was too poor to afford counsel. He was represented at trial by the state public defender's office. A federal judge in western Missouri appointed Horwitz and Butts, who are paid for their work, in 2004 to handle the federal appeals after state court appeals were exhausted.

Christeson was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to death for raping Susan Brouk, 36, and murdering her and her 2 children in 1998, near Vichy, Mo.

Christeson, then 18, and his cousin, Jesse Carter, then 17, wanted to steal Brouk's SUV and drive to California, court records show. The documents say Christeson raped Brouk, and that she recognized Carter.

Officials said the men drove the victims to a nearby pond, where Christeson cut Brouk's throat, then cut the throat of her son, Kyle, 9, and held him under the water. Christeson then suffocated Brouk's son Adrian, 12, and threw Brouk into the water, where she drowned.

Tuesday's ruling represents a victory for St. Louis University Law School adjunct professors and Death Penalty Clinic students, who began looking into the case last year at the request of Butts and Horwitz.

1 of the SLU lawyers, Joseph Perkovich, said his team met with Christeson and realized the condemned man was unaware his appeals had been exhausted.

After Butts and Horwitz refused to turn over their files, Perkovich said, he and his colleagues began attempting to oust them, to make the argument in court that Christeson was not represented effectively.

Perkovich and his colleagues from the "public interest, nonprofit" law firm Phillips Black have argued Christeson has "severe cognitive disabilities" making him totally reliant on his lawyers.

Butts and Horwitz fought to remain on the case, and lower courts, including the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis, agreed multiple times.

U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple wrote in October that the two lawyers had appeared on behalf of Christeson in other legal challenges to the death penalty. He also warned of an "untenable precedent" that outside lawyers could delay an execution "by simply waiting until the 11th hour and then 2nd-guessing the work of appointed counsel."

But Perkovich said Butts and Horwitz had merely signed on to legal challenges being filed by other inmates.

The SLU team helped Christeson win a stay of his execution just hours before it was scheduled on Oct. 29.

The Missouri attorney general's office, which argued against the delay, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Perkovich said the case was partly a product of a "beleaguered" system that represents the poor in capital cases. He said the process was further strained by a series of execution dates recently set by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Perkovich said he and his colleagues "have no appetite for taking down attorneys" but were ethically bound to protect Christeson's interests.

Horwitz and Butts, who do criminal defense work here, continue to be appointed to federal defense work. In U.S. District Court in St. Louis, it was as recently as December for Butts and July for Horwitz.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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

The Near Death of Mark Christeson ---- He was nearly executed because his lawyers missed a filing deadline. Now the Supreme Court has weighed in on what should happen next.

In a case emblematic of a law that has cost scores of condemned inmates their final appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that in the "interests of justice," a Missouri death row inmate whose attorneys missed a crucial filing deadline should be entitled to new lawyers.

The ruling marks the latest development in the case of Mark Christeson, who in October received a stay of execution mere hours before he was to die by lethal injection.

Christeson's is 1 of at least 80 capital cases where attorneys have missed a 1-year deadline established by Congress in 1996 for filing federal habeas corpus petitions, according to an investigation published by The Marshall Project and The Washington Post in November. Because of the late filings, most of those inmates lost access to what is arguably the country's most critical safeguard in death-penalty cases.

Christeson was sentenced to death for 3 murders committed in south-central Missouri in 1998. He was convicted of raping 36-year-old Susan Brouk, then cutting her throat. He was also convicted of killing Brouk's 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

After the Missouri Supreme Court denied Christeson's 1st 2 appeals, a U.S. District Court judge in 2004 appointed 2 St. Louis-area attorneys, Eric Butts and Philip Horwitz, to represent Christeson in preparing his final appeal in federal court. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (or AEDPA), which was signed by President Clinton to streamline capital appeals, Christeson's filing deadline was April 10, 2005.

But Butts and Horwitz didn't meet with Christeson until more than 6 weeks after the deadline. When they filed the petition, it was 117 days late. The 2 attorneys, who did not respond to interview requests, attributed their miscalculation to a lack of clarity in court rulings in how to determine the deadline, according to court records.

Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, a missed filing deadline can be forgiven only in "serious instances of attorney misconduct." But the U.S. District Court and a federal court of appeals refused to substitute in attorneys to make that argument for Christeson, leaving Butts and Horwitz with what the U.S. Supreme Court today called an "obvious conflict of interest."

"Advancing such a claim would have required Horwitz and Butts to denigrate their own performance," the Supreme Court wrote. "Counsel cannot reasonably be expected to make such an argument, which threatens their professional reputation and livelihood."

The court reached its decision without briefing or oral argument, which is typically done when justices believe that a legal principle is sufficiently settled, making such steps unnecessary. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the court should have asked for the arguments to be more fully developed before acting.

Joseph Perkovich, a New York City attorney who had asked to be substituted in as counsel for Christeson, said today that AEDPA makes it "extremely onerous" for condemned inmates to overcome procedural obstacles. "So it's a red-letter day for us to get a positive result from any court, much less the highest court in the land," he said.

2 other attorneys - Jennifer Merrigan of Philadelphia and John Mills of San Francisco - have been working with Perkovich to argue that Christeson is entitled to new attorneys free of any conflict of interest. All have been working on the case without compensation.

Christeson's request to have his petition reviewed despite the missed deadline received support from more than a dozen former state and federal judges, who filed a brief on Christeson's behalf with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Cases, including this one, are falling through the cracks of the system," they wrote. "And when the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the very legitimacy of the judicial process."

(source: The Marshall Project)

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

Missouri group calls for moratorium on death penalty, next execution scheduled for next week

Opponents of the state's death penalty say Missouri is engaged in a rush to execution and should place a moratorium on them while the death penalty is studied.

Staci Pratt is the state coordinator for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. She says the scheduled execution of Marcellus Williams on Jan. 28 lends increased urgency to legislation targeting the state's death penalty policies and procedures.

Democratic Rep. John Rizzo, of Kansas City, has filed a bill to create a task force to evaluate the death penalty and halt executions until at least January 2018.

Missouri executed 10 men last year.

Bills also have been filed this year to evaluate the costs of carrying out the death penalty, abolish it and require a review of every case.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Arias jury hears statements from scared witnesses

The Jodi Arias trial continued with the defense's expert witness describing Arias's relationship with Travis Alexander and statements from witnesses who claim they're too scared to testify in open court.

Dr. Robert Geffner took the stand again Tuesday morning. Geffner's testimony had been on hold from previous trial dates while the defense team called witnesses out of order.

Geffner testified he interviewed Arias and read transcripts of emails, chats and text messages that she and Alexander sent, both to each other and to other people.

Those text messages, at times explicit, show Alexander was communicating with several women at the same time as Arias. The defense claims Arias was a victim of emotional and physical abuse as a way to mitigate her punishment.

Geffner testified Arias was a victim of abuse based on Alexander's relationships with other women. Geffner told the jury Alexander engaged in a pattern of using women for sex.

Defense attorneys also attempted to admit statements by witnesses who were reportedly afraid to testify in open court. They claim they were harassed after the 1st trial and were afraid of the repercussions if they were seen to be supporting Arias."They're in love with him," Geffner said. "They're interacting with him without necessarily knowing the others are."

Prosecutor Juan Martinez made a lengthy objection in which he went through the statements paragraph by paragraph, asking for certain statements to be excluded.

Some of those statements dealt with the witness's opinion of the fairness of the guilt phase of the trial, or of Jodi Arias's innocence.

After a lengthy sidebar and deliberation, parts of those statements were admitted.

Arias was convicted of stabbing, shooting and slashing the throat of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008. She stabbed him 27 times and shot him once in the head.

After a jury was unable to reach a decision about whether she should receive life in prison or the death penalty, a new jury was impaneled to retry the sentencing phase of the trial. That retrial has now lasted 4 months.

(source: The Arizona Republic)

CALIFORNIA:

Brown appointees to Supreme Court renew hopes in death penalty cases

On the day justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Leondra R. Kruger were sworn in this month, the California Supreme Court issued a 4-3 ruling leaving in place a death sentence for a man with a long criminal record..

With Gov. Jerry Brown's newest appointees now on the court, the death row inmate plans to ask the justices to reconsider. If both new justices join the dissenters, the ruling could be overturned before becoming final.

"I am never optimistic," said Cliff Gardner, the lawyer for the condemned man. "On the other hand, it was a 4-3 decision, and the court is changing."

Past turnover on the state's highest court has led to some immediate, dramatic reversals. In the long run, the new composition could affect an array of cases, including medical malpractice and medical marijuana, but probably will be most felt in the criminal arena. The court, long dominated by former prosecutors, has affirmed about 90% of the death sentences it has reviewed. Criminal defendants rarely win.

"Brown certainly seems to have reshaped this court in a fairly dramatic way," said Jan Stiglitz, a co-founder of the California Innocence Project, which is representing a client in a case before the newly constituted court.

Instead of appointing former prosecutors, Stiglitz said, "Brown has brought in not just people from the outside but people who don't have this background that sort of predisposes them to be cynical in criminal cases."

But little experience in criminal law also can be a handicap, critics said.

Former prosecutors have "stared evil in the face and know what it looks like," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty. None of the Brown appointees have had prior judicial experience.

"The academic view of criminal law is what produces bad decisions," Scheidegger said.

Cuellar, the court's only Latino, is a former Stanford law professor. Kruger, the only African American justice, has worked primarily in Washington, where she represented the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Goodwin Liu, Brown's first appointee last term, was a law professor at UC Berkeley.

Cuellar and Kruger both asked questions and followed arguments closely when they attended their first hearing on the court this month. Cuellar was animated and eager, Kruger soft-spoken and serious.

Legal analysts expect the Brown justices may form a new majority with Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, a moderate to liberal Republican appointee. Unlike the other Republican appointees, she was never a prosecutor. She worked for the federal government on civil rights matters and as staff attorney on appellate courts.

Werdegar was among the dissenters in the Jan. 5 death penalty ruling, which is technically still pending. Court decisions generally do not become final for 30 days, and the losing side may ask for reconsideration. Such requests are routinely denied - except in times of court turnover.

"I would not be surprised if they decide to reconsider" the death penalty case, Santa Clara University School of Law professor Gerald Uelmen said. "And I base that on the precedent. It has happened before."

When new justices were added to the court in 1996, a 4-3 ruling that upheld a state law requiring minors to obtain a parent's permission for an abortion was not yet legally final. The newly constituted court decided to rehear the case.

1 of the new justices joined the 3 dissenters, and the abortion law was struck down.

When conservatives replaced liberals after an election that ousted former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two colleagues, the new majority decided to reconsider a death penalty sentence the Bird court had just overturned. The conservatives issued a new ruling upholding the death sentence.

Courts are loathe to take such actions because "it highlights all too much how the content of the law may be determined by the membership of the court," UC Davis School of Law professor Vikram Amar said.

"We like to believe the law is this thing that exists independently of personality," Amar said. "And if courts rapidly changed course in a case that was just decided, it says to the public that it matters who is on the court."

And of course it does matter, he acknowledged.

"We change the meaning of law over time by changing the membership of courts," Amar said. "That is a reality, but that reality exists alongside this fiction that law is this objective thing."

In the 4-3 ruling Jan. 5, the majority of the California Supreme Court agreed to uphold the death sentence of Gary Lee Grimes, a Shasta County man who participated in a 1995 home invasion that resulted in the killing of Betty Bone, 98.

An accomplice who committed suicide had said he killed Bone - and only his DNA was found on a weapon. Regardless of who actually killed her, Grimes was legally subject to the death penalty.

The jury found him guilty. During a separate proceeding to decide whether Grimes should be sentenced to death or life without parole, the trial judge excluded testimony that would have shored up evidence that Grimes was not the actual killer.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writing for the majority, said the excluded evidence would not have changed the jury's mind about the death sentence.

"We conclude that the exclusion of ... statements regarding defendant's lack of participation in the killing was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," Cantil-Sakauye wrote.

Werdegar, Liu and another justice assigned temporarily to fill a court vacancy said the excluded testimony should have been permitted.

The 3 justices would have upheld the guilty verdict but overturned the death sentence. The dissenters said testimony that Grimes did not perform the killing might have swayed the jury to spare his life.

Liu, until this month the only Democratic appointee on the court, may finally have enough votes to change the outcome in other cases as well.

He has expressed concern in minority opinions about the court's readiness to uphold verdicts in the face of racial bias in jury selection and to overlook legal errors as harmless.

Liu "probably is looking to build a consensus and become a leader of a working majority," UC Davis' Amar said.

That could come quickly in another case as well.

Liu wrote a dissent in a 4-3 decision in 2012 that upheld the murder verdict against William Richards, a San Bernardino man convicted of killing his wife, Pamela, in 1993. Richards, 65, was tried three times.

Juries were hung in the first 2 trials. In the 3rd, a dental expert testified that a lesion on the body was a bite mark that matched Richards' unusual tooth pattern. The jury returned a guilty verdict. The expert later recanted, saying he had been mistaken.

In response to the case, the Legislature passed a bill that said discredited forensic testimony amounts to false evidence and is grounds for a new trial. The California Innocence Project has asked the California Supreme Court to consider the case again in light of the new law.

2 of the 4 justices who voted to uphold Richards' conviction are no longer on the court.

"It is our hope that the California Supreme Court is going to take this very seriously, and the other justices are going to see that Justice Liu's minority opinion is the one that should carry the day," said Alexander Simpson, associate director of the innocence group.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

USA:

The U.S. needs a more humane death penalty

With the execution of Charles Warner on Thursday, Oklahoma carried out its 1st execution in over 8 months. This delay came after the botched April execution of Clayton Lockett. After several attempts to find a usable vein to insert the IV, the physician finally located one in the groin area. The execution went wrong when it was discovered that Lockett's vein had exploded and that he was still conscious. This led to Lockett writhing in pain before finally dying of a heart attack 43 minutes after the initial injection. These 2 executions initially sparked debate over the use of capital punishment, but the real debate should focus on the method of execution.

32 states still use the death penalty, and all 32 of them use lethal injection as their mode of execution.

Until recently, most states used a 3-injection method: the 1st used for general anesthesia, the 2nd being a muscle relaxer and the final drug stopping the heart. The recent discontinuation of this method came about when major pharmaceutical companies stopped selling the drugs needed to carry out executions.

To counteract this shortage, many states have had to turn to other less-regulated pharmaceutical companies. This turn has led to the emergence of several variations of one and two drug lethal injection methods. Many states, including Oklahoma, have also refused to disclose the cocktails being used in lethal injections. All of this has led to several botched executions and many court cases.

According to one Amherst study, 3 % of all executions in the U.S. have been botched in some way. While this percentage is relatively low - considering the extreme pain one endures during a botched execution - that number is way too high.

In 2014 alone, there were 3 major botched executions including Ohio man Dennis McGuire, previously mentioned Oklahoman Clayton Lockett and local Arizonan Joseph R. Wood. According to witness at the Ohio execution, McGuire "gasped for air" for over 25 minutes before dying, all while making "choking sounds."

In July, Joseph R. Wood was executed at Florence State Prison in Arizona. The execution lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. According to eye witnesses, Wood gasped for air for a majority of the duration of the execution, while state officials claim that he was simply snoring. All 3 of these cases clearly demonstrate how terribly wrong lethal injection can go.

With the increased number of botched executions, the question remains on how to humanely execute prisoners. Ironically enough the answer may come from a convicted murderer. During the 1990s, euthanasia activist Jack Kevorkian carried out 130 assisted suicides with the use of carbon monoxide. While the practice of assisted suicide remains a hotly debated subject, Kevorkian's long-time assistant firmly believes that carbon monoxide might be the most humane way of executing prisoners. Assistant Neal Nicol states that their method is "an extremely painless way of passing" and that "there are no twitches, movements, or signs of discomfort at all." While the idea of using Kevorkian's method may seem unethical, if there is any chance that it may help people pass more painlessly, the method should be explored further.

While the death of Clayton Lockett has rightly ignited the debate over the death penalty, the honest truth is that the U.S. will continue to execute prisoners for the foreseeable future. Lawyers and prisoners will continue to question the constitutionality of the death penalty and courts will continue to uphold the previous rulings. The case that should be made instead is that the current form of lethal injection is performed under less-than-ideal circumstances and should be considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Alec Grafil, statepress.com)

IRAN----execution

Young Man Hanged in North-Eastern Iran

1 man was hanged in the prison of Torqabeh (near Mashhad, north-edam1eastern Iran) Monday morning 19. January. According to the Iranian daily newspaper Khorasan, the 26 year old man who was identified as "M. S." and convicted of murdering another man under a street fight in 2008, was sentenced to qesas (retribution in kind).

(source: Iran Human Rights)

*****