and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

OCTOBER 25, 2014:


Federal judge again rules man competent to stand trial in 2007 Bessemer bank robbery and teller deaths

A man charged in the 2007 shooting deaths of 2 tellers during a Bessemer bank robbery is competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The trial of William Merriweather Jr., who could face the death penalty if convicted, has been delayed more than 7 years as he was evaluated by federal prison doctors and his defense attorneys argued he was incompetent to stand trial. The delays have frustrated families of the 2 tellers and 2 other tellers who were wounded.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor had ruled in February 2013 that Merriweather was competent to stand trial. The judge set a trial date, which was then delayed twice as Merriweather's attorneys argued that previously undisclosed nurses notes from his mental evaluation at a federal prison plus a doctors' new concerns deserved new look at competency.

Proctor held a second competency hearing this summer, a decision he explained in Friday's ruling. "In light of the belated disclosure of the nurses' notes, (federal prison) Dr. (Christine) Pietz's concerns about Merriweather's mental state, and the fact that this is a capital case, the court found that a supplemental hearing was warranted," he stated.

On Friday the judge issued his 124-page ruling denying defense attorney's renewed quest to have Merriweather ruled incompetent.

Proctor denied the request, stating: "The record makes it clear that Merriweather has a comprehensive understanding of the criminal trial proceedings: he understands the charges against him; he has the ability to discuss his various options with his lawyers; he can consider options available to him; and he suffers no memory impairment that would make him unable to assist in his defense."

A new trial date will be set, Proctor stated in a Friday order.

Merriweather ruling

Merriweather is charged with 1 count of killing during the commission of a bank robbery and 2 counts of use of a firearm during a crime of violence related to the May 14, 2007 bank robbery.

According to prosecutors, Merriweather was wearing a green baseball-style cap, white shirt, tie, and slacks and shoes partially wrapped in electrical tape, when he walked into the Wachovia Bank branch on Ninth Avenue in Bessemer.

Minutes later, Merriweather walked out of the bank with $11,255 cash and the bank manager in tow as a hostage. Inside, bank tellers Eva Lovelady Hudson and Sheila McWaine Prevo lay dead and two others, Anita Gordon, Latoya Shaniece Freeman, were seriously wounded.

Merriweather didn't make it out of the parking lot after being wounded by a sheriff's deputy.



Jefferson Parish sheriff asks federal judge to toss out former death row inmate's lawsuit

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Damon Thibodeaux, the former Marrero resident who accuses the detectives of violating his constitutional rights by coercing his false confession that landed him on Louisiana's death row.

Thibodeaux, 40, who now lives in Minnesota, spent 15 years under threat of execution for his 1st-degree murder conviction in the death of Crystal Champagne. The 14-year-old Westwego girl was strangled with a wire and severely beaten during an attempted rape along the Mississippi River batture in Bridge City on July 19, 1996.

Thibodeaux confessed to Sheriff's Office detectives after a 9-hour interrogation that culminated with his 4:20 a.m., statement on July 21, 1996, to then-Sgt. Dennis Thornton. Then 22 and a river boat deck hand, Thibodeaux said that Champagne, his cousin, wanted to have sex with him and that he drove her to the river. During the sex, she said it hurt, and she fought back before he strangled with his hands and finishing her off using a wire he retrieved from his car.

"Did it make you mad that she was still moving?" Thornton asked. "I would say that I got scared, so I killed her," Thibodeaux responded.

Primary evidence

That confession was the primary evidence the Sheriff's Office obtained in leading to Thibodeaux's conviction and death sentence in 1997. Thibodeaux recanted three days after he gave it and asserted his innocence ever since. The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the coerced confession argument in affirming his conviction and death sentence.

But following a 5-year investigation with Innocence Project attorneys that began in 2007, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., concluded he could not have confidence in the confession and volunteered to have Thibodeaux's conviction vacated.

Thibodeaux was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on Sept. 28, 2012. Last year, he sued Sheriff Newell Normand, 6 detectives and the Sheriff's Office's insurer in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. His attorneys assert he was intellectually vulnerable and that detectives violated several of his constitutional rights in forcing and tricking him to falsely confess.

Thibodeaux seeks unspecified monetary damages. The case is pending before Judge Jay Zainey.

'He was there'

Despite Connick's stance, the Sheriff's Office is standing by its investigation and detectives. In fact, the Sheriff's Office does not concede that Thibodeaux was not somehow involved with the crime.

During the 1997 trial, Thibodeaux's attorneys argued the confession was coerced. They said nothing about it being false, Sheriff's office attorney Danny Martiny wrote in his request last month to have the lawsuit dismissed.

During a deposition he gave July 22 in the federal case, Thibodeaux "admits that this 'false confession' notion was the brainchild of his post-conviction capital defense attorney and came about only as a last resort after the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction," Martiny wrote. "This is precisely because his confession is not false."

Thibodeaux's deposition testimony contradicts his long-held claims that the detectives fed him details that he "parroted" back in his confession, such as where and how she was killed, Martiny says. Yet, according to the Sheriff's Office, he accurately described those details in his 1996 confession.

"Most telling, if not chilling, is that (Thibodeaux) was not 'fed' the information concerning the ligature used to strangle Crystal; rather, (Thibodeaux) was able to accurately state that she was strangled with a wire because there was a wire 'in [his] car,'" Martiny wrote.

"No one 'fed' (Thibodeaux) the fact that the ligature was wrapped twice around Crystal's neck and the knot tied on the left side and yet (Thibodeaux) described it perfectly," the sheriff's attorney wrote. "The only conclusion to draw is the obvious one; (Thibodeaux) knew all of these things because he was there."

Conflicting views

In an Aug. 5 affidavit he provided to the Sheriff's Office, Connick said he concluded following a lengthy investigation that Thibodeaux's confession is "unreliable." But he said he does not blame the Sheriff's Office.

"I am of the opinion that Thibodeaux was not illegally coerced or mistreated during his interrogation on July 20-21, 1996, and that the statements he made were freely and voluntarily given," Connick said in the affidavit. "Be that as it may, I concluded that without his confession, the conviction of Thibodeaux could not stand and that, therefore, in the interest of justice, it should be vacated."

He said his decision "was based upon my assessment of the state's ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the offense charged."

The conflict among Jefferson Parish's law enforcement officials appears to underlie the state's ongoing opposition to Thibodeaux's attempts to get money through Louisiana's wrongful conviction compensation fund. He says he's entitled to the maximum $250,000 the state pays to wrongfully convicted people.

Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell's office, which responds to all compensation requests, has argued in state court in Jefferson Parish that Thibodeaux must prove he is "factually innocent." Otherwise, the assistant attorneys general argue, Thibodeaux is not entitled to compensation.

Thibodeaux's attorneys, Herbert Lawson and Sarah Johnson, argue that Connick and a state court judge would not have set a guilty man free. They say Thibodeaux is entitled to compensation. That request is pending in the 24th Judicial District Court.

Confession obtained illegally

Those attorneys also filed the federal lawsuit. They have not filed their response to the Sheriffs Office's request to have the lawsuit dismissed.

In Thibodeaux's lawsuit, the attorneys say the Sheriff's Office knew details in his confession did not match the crime scene. As such, the detectives should have known the confession was false, his attorneys say.

During the investigation that began in 2007 and culminated with Thibodeaux's release from prison, attorneys established that the confession was obtained through "means that were unconstitutional and illegal."

They point out that there's no physical evidence that links Thibodeaux to the crime, and that experts have concluded that Champagne had not had sex on the day she died. That evidence, they say, debunks Thibodeaux's confession that he not only had intercourse with her before killing her, but that he ejaculated, too. No evidence of semen was found at the scene. A detective speculated that maggots might have eaten it.

Martiny, the sheriff's attorney who also is a state senator, argues that the detectives who obtained Thibodeaux's confession followed proper procedure. While he was under questioning, Champagne's battered and mostly nude body was discovered on a concrete slab beside the river under the Huey P. Long Bridge. Detectives continued interrogating Thibodeaux in what had become a murder investigation.

'If I gave them something'

In his July 22 deposition, Thibodeaux denies detectives fed him certain details. But he said he felt threatened because he would not give the deputies what they wanted: A confession. "I was not allowed to sleep," he testified "I was not allowed to eat. I was not allowed to leave."

And so said he he lied to the detectives. He said he made up a story about having a dream about a black man raping and killing a young girl next to the river. Walter Gorman, then a major who has since retired, "made it pretty clear that I'm, if I didn't (give) him what he wanted, something was going to happen," Thibodeaux testified. Gorman "sat next to me, put his arm around my chair and called me a son of a bitch," Thibodeaux testified.

He says the detectives tricked him, saying they had "compelling evidence" proving that he raped and killed the teenager, when, in fact, there was no such evidence other than his false confession.

He was told he flunked a polygraph, he testified. He was told the media would not be sympathetic toward him, and that inmates in jail aren't kind to people who rape and kill children, he said.

He said Thornton told him that if he did not confess, he'd get the death penalty. And, Thibodeaux testified, the detective described to him how executions are carried out: "They lay you on a table, stick a needle in your, and they give you 3 drugs. One numbs, you, the other one paralyzes you, and the other one stops your organs."

He said he confessed. "I thought if I gave them something they'd let me go," Thibodeaux testified.

(source: The Times-Picayune)


Prison reform on Green agenda

Anita Rios says running as a 3rd-party candidate for governor comes with a freedom not available to her mainstream rivals.

The 60-year-old Green Party candidate from Toledo is using that freedom to do some unconventional things, such as standing up for Siddique Abdullah Hasan and other inmates convicted for their roles in the deadly 1993 Lucasville prison riot.

Hasan, sentenced to death as one of the Lucasville 5, will participate by telephone from death row in a campaign event with Rios in Cleveland today, focusing on Ohio's criminal-justice system and what the Greens believe are inherent problems with the death penalty.

Of the Lucasville 5, Rios said, "The trial failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt their guilt. I think that's absolutely a fact." She praises Hasan and the others for showing leadership in quelling a potentially even more violent situation.

The 11-day rebellion was the longest deadly prison riot in U.S. history, leaving 10 people dead, including a prison guard.

(source: Associated Press)


Officer quits over destroyed items in slaying

A federal judge is weighing whether to dismiss murder charges against 2 men accused of killing a federal informant after a Kentucky state trooper mishandled and destroyed evidence. The trooper has since resigned after admitting he didn't have authorization to dispose of the evidence.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 3 in Lexington to review the actions of former detective Jeff Senters.

The hearing comes in the case of Jimmy D. Benge and Gerald Lee Sizemore. Prosecutors are weighing whether to seek a death sentence for the men if they are convicted of conspiring to kill Eli "Big Eli" Marcum in December 2012.

Prosecutors say the pair killed Marcum in Clay County because he gave information to federal investigators about a drug pipeline from Florida.


Believing authorities already had the knife used to kill a federal informant, Kentucky State Police Detective Jeff Senters threw out a different knife and a burned phone cable found near the stabbed and torched body of Eli "Big Eli" Marcum. No one witnessed the disposal of the items, and no one authorized it.

Senters' actions prompted the former Trooper of the Year to resign and drew the attention of a federal judge, who is considering dismissing charges against three men in a possible death penalty case because potentially exculpatory evidence isn't available for testing.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar scheduled a Nov. 3 hearing to review Senters' actions and determine if the case should be dismissed.

Records obtained by The Associated Press detail how Senters helped gather evidence on a rural ATV trail in southern Kentucky, where he found a knife and a yellow cord near Marcum's remains in December 2012. The records also show, and Senters said, he returned to a witness a cellphone used by Marcum the day of his death without checking the calls made on it, violating state police policy that would require keeping it until the case was over.

2 men, Jimmy D. Benge and Gerald Lee Sizemore, face a possible death sentence if convicted on federal charges of conspiring to kill Marcum because he gave the Drug Enforcement Administration information about a pill pipeline running from Florida to Clay County in the drug-riddled Appalachian area of Kentucky. A 3rd man, Vernon "Red" Delph, pleaded guilty on Oct. 17 to his role in the death and helping dispose of Marcum's remains.

Benge is charged with paying Sizemore an undisclosed sum to kill Marcum. Senters, the state trooper, resigned Aug. 16. His phone number could not be found and he did not respond to two letters mailed to his address seeking comment.

Marcum went missing in early December 2012. As part of a plea agreement, Delph told prosecutors that Sizemore stabbed and choked Marcum before the 2 men took the body to a rural area and lit it on fire. After family members found Marcum's remains along a dirt road in rural Clay County on Dec. 8, police recovered items at the scene, including a small knife a 1/4-mile from the remains and a partially burnt telephone cord 1 yard from Marcum's head.

At an evidentiary hearing in federal court in Lexington in July before he resigned, Senters said the knife and cord were tossed out because they didn't appear to have any connection to Marcum's slaying and he consulted with both the Clay County coroner and the state police DNA analyst before destroying the items on Oct. 1, 2013. Senters said the knife used to kill Marcum appeared to be larger given Marcum's 6-inch puncture wound and the blade found at the scene was small.

"And once I called about the cord and what the lab had told me, no, I didn't think that the knife, nor the cord, were valuable - or was valuable in this case," Senters said.

In Kentucky, it is a felony to destroy evidence that may be used at trial without a judge's order. At the time Senters destroyed the knife and cord, a Clay County judge had also issued an order requiring the preservation of any evidence in a state case brought against Delph.

Defense attorney Kent Wicker said the destroyed evidence could have been used for DNA testing and fingerprinting to explore whether anyone else may have been involved in Marcum's death. Wicker said the phone could have shown who Marcum spoke with in the hours before his disappearance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Parman wrote in court briefs that the items were of little to no evidentiary value and their disposal shouldn't impact the outcome of the case.

In an interview in February, a defense investigator asked Kentucky Medical Examiner Dr. John Hunsaker whether, in his opinion, one of 4 knives, including the one Senters identified as the murder weapon, was used to kill Marcum. Hunsaker answered "no."

Senters said he didn't know agency policy on getting rid of items collected at a crime scene and thus didn't intend to destroy potentially exculpatory evidence.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Mark Christeson's Oct. 29th execution scheduled despite grave errors by his former attorneys and severe mental impairment; Activists to hold 11 vigils around the state

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is asking Governor Nixon to halt the upcoming scheduled execution of Mark Christeson because his federally appointed counsel abandoned him - missing a key filing deadline that forfeited federal review of his case - and then deceived him about the status of his case.

Further, MADP is concerned about Christeson's mental competency. Christeson's cognitive struggles are documented from his earliest days in school and include consistent placement in special education, IQ tests in the mid-80's and school achievement tests in the 1st to 3rd percentile. His intellectual impairment no doubt contributed to his inability to protect his rights.

Christeson was convicted of the rape and murder of Susan Brouk and her 2 children, Adrian and Kyle. MADP deplores the crimes he is convicted of and the senseless loss of life they represent. We mourn with the family of the victims and remember them in thought and prayer at 11 vigils around the state.

Christeson's childhood was marked by violence and sexual abuse in his family home. At age 11 he was removed from his mother's custody and placed in the foster care of his cousin. The family compound on which he lived was notorious for violent fights, drug trafficking, extreme poverty and incest - including sexual abuse of Mark by the man the state entrusted to care for him. Numerous times Christeson attempted to flee his troubled surroundings by running away.

"Mark's case is a tragic story on all sides. Our conscience is shocked by his violent acts and the senseless loss of life. But a further look reveals Christeson had been a victim his entire life - surrounded by violence, scarred by sexual abuse and too mentally impaired to understand how he might get out of that life" said Rita Linhardt, Chair of the Board for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "As a society, we failed to protect Mark in his most vulnerable years. Now society wants to fail Christeson again by exacting the ultimate revenge on him. This is not justice for anyone."

Missourians will gather around the state for eleven vigils to remember victims of violence and urge the state to not commit another act of violence in their names.

(source: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)


Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals postpones all Oklahoma executions----The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has granted the state's request to postpone all 3 scheduled state executions. The stays push each date back 60 days, putting 2 in January and a 3rd in February.

All 3 of the state's scheduled executions have been stayed until 2015, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided Friday.

In an Oct. 13 motion, Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the court to push the executions of Charles Frederick Warner and Richard Eugene Glossip to January in order to give the state Corrections Department time to implement new execution protocol and secure the necessary drugs and medical staff. The motion also asked for a 3rd execution, that of John Marion Grant, to be postponed until February.

The court decision places Warner's execution Jan. 15, Glossip's on Jan. 29, and Grant's on Feb. 19.

Despite an earlier confirmation from Corrections Department employees that they were prepared to proceed with the executions - the earliest of which was scheduled to take place Nov. 13 - department Director Robert Patton has praised the move.

In a news release issued when the Attorney General's office asked for the stay, Patton said: "While we continue to work diligently to meet the mandates of the training required in the protocol, we feel we should not rush the training."

State Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie declined to comment on the status of any training execution staff are undergoing or whether the state has successfully acquired the necessary drugs and medical staff.

Warner originally was scheduled for lethal injection April 29, the same night as Clayton Derrell Lockett. Warner's execution was stayed by Gov. Mary Fallin after problems occurred during Lockett's execution, which lasted 43 minutes and garnered international attention.

After Lockett's execution, Fallin ordered the state Public Safety Department to conduct an investigation. The report from that investigation, released in September, found a lack of proper training and back-up planning created a recipe for disaster. The lethal cocktail administered to Lockett collected in muscle tissue in his groin, largely due to an improperly placed IV in his femoral vein.

Guided by the state's investigation, the Corrections Department revised its execution protocol, adding contingency plans and training for staff. Some members of the execution team now are required to recieve several weeks of training leading up to each lethal injection, and additional medical equipment to assist in the placement and integrity of the IV and drug lines were added to the execution room.

In September, a federal judge questioned whether the state could implement the new protocol and training in time for the executions of Warner and Glossip.

"The steps that need to be taken can hardly be completed by (Nov. 13)," U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said at the time.

Friot made the comment during a hearing for a case where 21 death row inmates are seeking to stop the state from executing them in the same manner as Lockett. Dale Baich, 1 of the attorneys representing the inmates, said in an emailed statement the postponements will give them the time necessary to properly litigate the case.

"This process will take time, and it is entirely appropriate that the state has proposed to reschedule the execution dates while more information is gathered and improvements to Oklahoma's lethal injection system can be made, in an open atmosphere with public oversight," Baich wrote.

Renovations also were made to the state's death chamber in McAlester, by widening the "chemical room," where executioners administer the drugs, and reducing the number of seats for media witnesses from 12 to 5.

In a separate court action, the Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday set another execution date.

The court ordered Benjamin Robert Cole Sr. to be put to death March 5.

Cole was convicted in 2004 of 1st-degree murder for the death of his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna Cole.

Claremore police said Cole was playing video games and was distracted by Brianna's crying. Cole flipped the infant over by her legs, tearing her aorta.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Court allows Oklahoma to delay executions due to lack of drugs

An Oklahoma court accepted a motion from the state on Friday to delay 3 planned executions so prison authorities can obtain a fresh batch of lethal injection drugs and implement new protocols drawn up after a troubled execution this year.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rescheduled the executions of death row inmates Charles Warner, Richard Glossip and John Grant, which were planned for this year. They were delayed by about 2 months each.

In September, Oklahoma said it would put in place new execution protocols after a doctor and a paramedic failed nearly a dozen times to place an IV during the April execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett.

His execution was halted about 15 minutes after it started due to the IV problems, which caused lethal injection drugs to leak into the death chamber. Lockett, who witnesses said was twisting in pain on the gurney, eventually died from drugs that has been absorbed into his tissue.

"Given that the torturous execution of Clayton Lockett followed a rush to execute, Oklahoma officials must now take all necessary steps and precautions to ensure that they will be capable of completing a lethal injection execution in a humane and legal manner before any executions may proceed," said Madeline Cohen, an attorney for Warner.

(source: Reuters)


Oklahoma death row inmate denied clemency

A state board voted unanimously on Friday not to recommend sparing the life of a former Oklahoma City motel manager who is scheduled to die for the 1997 beating death of the motel's owner.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted against recommending the governor grant clemency for 51-year-old Richard Glossip, who spoke to the board via a video link from death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Glossip was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Barry Alan Van Treese of Lawton at a west Oklahoma City motel. A co-defendant confessed to beating Van Treese, but said he did so at Glossip's direction.

Glossip has maintained his innocence and his attorneys argue that he's been a model prisoner for 17 years.

"There's no question that my client never killed anybody," said Glossip's attorney, Mark Henricksen. "He's been a good prisoner, and his life has value. That's why we're asking for clemency."

Glossip had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday reset the execution dates of Glossip and two other death row inmates after the state said it needed more time to secure the necessary drugs and train the execution team on new protocols.

The court reset Glossip's execution date for Jan. 29. Charles Warner's execution was set for Jan. 15, and John Marion Grant's execution was moved to Feb. 9.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution since the April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and moaned on the gurney before being declared dead 43 minutes after the procedure began. His problematic execution prompted state officials to renovate the death chamber, install new medical equipment and develop new execution protocols.

Glossip is among 21 death row inmates who have sued the state seeking to block their executions, arguing that by tinkering with the lethal injection chemicals, the state is experimenting on death row inmates and violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


Lethal injections under ethical, legal scrutiny at UR symposium

Panelists at a University of Richmond Law Review symposium Friday criticized lethal injection as a flawed and sometimes inhumane death penalty method plagued by transparency issues.

They discussed how the frequently used 3-drug combination for lethal injection paralyzes the muscles so those being put to death can't express pain they feel when the drugs are administered improperly.

Joel Zivot, a professor of anesthesiology at Emory University School of Medicine, explained that drugs are not made for killing, and that effective drugs are made through testing and patient feedback.

"The dead inmates can't complain ... there's no verification process," said Zivot, explaining why lethal injection will always be a flawed method for capital punishment.

He said medicine and doctors need to be removed from the death penalty. "I am not an expert in killing," he said.

Currently, 32 states, including Virginia, have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in every state.

Other panelists echoed Zivot's concerns about lethal injection. The panelists all raised the issue of a lack of government transparency in the lethal injection process.

Eric Berger, a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, said many states withhold information about the lethal injection process, which he argued infringes on the inmates' Eighth Amendment right to legally fight against "cruel and unusual punishment."

"Secrecy is proven to be a successful litigation strategy," Berger said.

Panelist Deborah W. Denno, a law professor at Fordham University's School of Law, said she believes death by firing squad is more humane than lethal injection. Berger suggested that supporters of the death penalty support lethal injection because it appears to be a bloodless and humane method. Zivot echoed that argument.

"The cruelty of it all has been hidden from you, but I assure you the cruelty is there," Zivot said.

The event at the University of Richmond also included discussions about the politics and future of the death penalty. Among the panelists was Frank Green, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who has witnessed about a dozen executions as a media representative. Former Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley said his perspective on criminal justice changed from punitive to rehabilitative after working with prisoners as the president of the Prison Fellowship. As a state senator, Earley said he fought for tougher sentencing, abolishing parole and lowering the age of juveniles who are tried as adults. Now, he supports diverting nonviolent offenders and people with drug problems to rehabilitation programs. "I see the 2nd half of my life as correcting what I did with the 1st half of my life," said Earley, a panelist for Friday's discussion on the politics of the death penalty.

He said many prisoners he met in crowded prisons had mental health or substance abuse problems. He recalled one visit in western Michigan, when he saw a whole wing of the prison dedicated to heavily medicated prisoners with visible mental health problems. He said he thought at the time, "This is not the place for them."

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


In abuse case, death penalty is requested

Military prosecutors yesterday sought the death sentence for an Army sergeant, only identified as Lee, 26, who is charged with leading a group of soldiers in the systematic abuse of a young conscript that ultimately resulted in his death. Prosecutors also requested life sentences for 3 of his accomplices.

"Given the combination of evidence, we have concluded that the convict [Lee] can be charged with murder," the prosecution stated yesterday at the military court in Gyeonggi.

4 soldiders in the Army's 28th Infantry Division were charged on Sept. 2 for murder after it was discovered in July that they had attempted to cover up the details of the private's death. The young conscript, surnamed Yun, died April 6 after enduring extreme physical and sexual abuse by his superiors.

Investigators concluded last month that his death was caused primarily by crush syndrome, which results from major trauma to skeletal muscle, and secondary shock from prolonged violence.

(source: Korea Joongang Daily)


Petition to overturn Asia Bibi's death penalty surpasses 200,000 signatures

A petition on appealing for Asia Bibi's death sentence to be overturned has attracted more 230,000 signatures.

Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy was upheld by a court in Pakistan last week, prompting outcry from the country's persecuted Christian minority.

She was sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws after colleagues accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument.

Bibi's lawyers have said they will appeal the ruling and it will be down to the Supreme Court to decide if she will be executed or not. So far, no one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has had their sentence carried out.

The #SaveAsiaBibi petition was started by Emily Clarke, the same person who started the #SaveMeriam petition on in support of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim which gained over a million signatures.

The Daily Mail reported this week that Bibi's 2 young daughters, Esham and Esha Masih, were abused by the same religious fanatics who led the charge against their mother.

They told the paper that when the allegations were first brought against Bibi, angry villagers turned up at their house and beat members of the family, even tearing off Bibi's dress.

Esham, now 14, told the Daily Mail: "I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested. I could not sleep properly. The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again."

She added: "They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us.

"After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle's house. But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away."

The situation for Christians in Pakistan is precarious because of the blasphemy laws. Human rights groups say they are frequently misapplied to persecute Christians, settle personal vendettas or seize their property. When a Christian is accused of blasphemy, their families often have to go into hiding because of the threat of violent mobs. Even Christians who are acquitted of all charges in the courts have to go into hiding straight after their release from prison because of the threat to their lives.

2 high profile politicians who spoke up in defence of Asia Bibi were both assassinated in 2011. Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was killed by his own bodyguard, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by members of the Pakistani Taliban.

Last month, a police officer shot and killed Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti in a Rawalpindi prison where he was being held on a blasphemy charge.

Bhatti was accused in 2012 of sending insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad's mother in text messages, but family members said the police investigations showed the phone to be registered to someone else.

Muhammad Asghar, a 70-year-old from Edinburgh sentenced to death in January for blasphemy, was injured in the attack.

(source: Christian Today)

IRAN----female execution

Reyhaneh Jabbari was Hanged this Morning----Despite several months of international calls for halting Reyhaneh's death sentence, Iranian authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari early this morning. Iran Human Rights strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution.

The 26 year old Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj early this morning, reported the Iranian state media. She was sentenced to "qesas" (retribution in kind) for murdering "Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi" in 2007, reported the state run Fars news agency. Reyhaneh had claimed that she stubbed Mr. Sarbandi in self defence. In the past months Iran Human Rights (IHR) together many other human rights groups and the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed had called for a halt of the execution and providing her a fair trial.

IHR strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "We send our condolences to Reyhaneh's family and everyone who made an attempt to stop this execution. Like many others who are executed in Iran, Reyhaneh was not subjected to a fair trial and due process. Through the inhumane "qesas" law, the Iranian authorities try to put the responsibility of the execution on the family of the murder victim, but it is the Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Judiciary who are responsible and must be held accountable for the execution of Reyhaneh and hundreds of other executions every year".

Background: Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for 2 months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Reyhaneh's case has attracted much attention inside and outside Iran and her scheduled execution has been postponed twice on April 15 and September 29.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Text of Reyhaneh Jabbari's will in a voice message to her mother

Reyhaneh Jabbari, the Iranian woman who was hanged today by the Iranian regime's henchman after 7 years imprisonment had released her will in a voice message.

In a heart-rending message to her family in April - beginning with her mother Sholeh - 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari tells how she trusted the law, but has faced death for the crime of defending herself against an agent of Iranian regime's intelligence who tried to abuse her.

English translation of Reyhaneh Jabbari's will

Dear Sholeh, today I learned that it is now my turn to face Qisas (the Iranian regime's law of retribution). I am hurt as to why you did not let me know yourself that I have reached the last page of the book of my life. Don't you think that I should know? You know how ashamed I am that you are sad. Why did you not take the chance for me to kiss your hand and that of dad?

The world allowed me to live for 19 years. That ominous night it was I that should have been killed. My body would have been thrown in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner's office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don't have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.

However, with that cursed blow the story changed. My body was not thrown aside, but into the grave of Evin Prison and its solitary wards, and now the grave-like prison of Shahr-e Ray. But give in to the fate and don't complain. You know better that death is not the end of life.

You taught me that one comes to this world to gain an experience and learn a lesson and with each birth a responsibility is put on one's shoulder. I learned that sometimes one has to fight. I do remember when you told me that the carriage man protested the man who was flogging me, but the flogger hit the lash on his head and face that ultimately led to his death. You told me that for creating a value one should persevere even if one dies.

You taught us that as we go to school one should be a lady in face of the quarrels and complaints. Do you remember how much you underlined the way we behave? Your experience was incorrect. When this incident happened, my teachings did not help me. Being presented in court made me appear as a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless criminal. I shed no tears. I did not beg. I did not cry my head off since I trusted the law.

But I was charged with being indifferent in face of a crime. You see, I didn't even kill the mosquitoes and I threw away the cockroaches by taking them by their antennas. Now I have become a premeditated murderer. My treatment of the animals was interpreted as being inclined to be a boy and the judge didn't even trouble himself to look at the fact that at the time of the incident I had long and polished nails.

How optimistic was he who expected justice from the judges! He never questioned the fact that my hands are not coarse like those of a sportswoman, especially a boxer. And this country that you planted its love in me never wanted me and no one supported me when under the blows of the interrogator I was crying out and I was hearing the most vulgar terms. When I shed the last sign of beauty from myself by shaving my hair I was rewarded: 11 days in solitary.

Dear Sholeh, don't cry for what you are hearing. On the first day that in the police office an old unmarried agent hurt me for my nails I understood that beauty is not looked for in this era. The beauty of looks, beauty of thoughts and wishes, a beautiful handwriting, beauty of the eyes and vision, and even beauty of a nice voice.

My dear mother, my ideology has changed and you are not responsible for it. My words are unending and I gave it all to someone so that when I am executed without your presence and knowledge, it would be given to you. I left you much handwritten material as my heritage.

However, before my death I want something from you, that you have to provide for me with all your might and in any way that you can. In fact this is the only thing I want from this world, this country and you. I know you need time for this. Therefore, I am telling you part of my will sooner. Please don't cry and listen. I want you to go to the court and tell them my request. I cannot write such a letter from inside the prison that would be approved by the head of prison; so once again you have to suffer because of me. It is the only thing that if even you beg for it I would not become upset although I have told you many times not to beg to save me from being executed.

My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don't want to rot under the soil. I don't want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don't want the recipient know my name, buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me. I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don't want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don't want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away. The world did not love us. It did not want my fate. And now I am giving in to it and embrace the death. Because in the court of God I will charge the inspectors, I will charge inspector Shamlou, I will charge judge, and the judges of country's Supreme Court that beat me up when I was awake and did not refrain from harassing me. In the court of the creator I will charge Dr. Farvandi, I will charge Qassem Shabani and all those that out of ignorance or with their lies wronged me and trampled on my rights and didn't pay heed to the fact that sometimes what appears as reality is different from it.

Dear soft-hearted Sholeh, in the other world it is you and me who are the accusers and others who are the accused. Let's see what God wants. I wanted to embrace you until I die. I love you.


April 1, 2014

(source: NCR-Iran)


Execution of young woman a bloody stain on Iran's human rights record

The execution of Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari who was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation and trial is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International today.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was executed in a Tehran prison this morning. She had been convicted of killing of a man whom she said tried to sexually abuse her.

"The shocking news that Reyhaneh Jabbari has been executed is deeply disappointing in the extreme. This is another bloody stain on Iran's human rights record," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"Tragically, this case is far from uncommon. Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial."

Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is an abhorrent form of punishment and should never be used under any circumstances.

More information:

Next week Iran will hear recommendations from UN member states during it's UN Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty International is calling on states to use this opportunity to strongly condemn Iran's use of the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)


Iran executes Reyhaneh Jabbari despite international opposition

Iran has executed a woman despite an international campaign to halt her hanging. In a trial termed as a flawed and unfair, Reyhaneh Jabbari was convicted of murdering a man who attempted to rape her.

26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn, according to IRNA, Tehran's official news agency which quoted the prosecutor's office. A Facebook page dedicated to campaigning for Jabbari posted the message "Rest in Peace," following the execution of the sentence.

Tehran was due to execute Jabbari on September 30, but postponed carrying out the death penalty for some days. Reyhaneh Jabbari's mother visited her daughter in prison on Friday, October 24. This is a customary practice which precedes executions in Iran, Amnesty International said, on Friday, again calling on Iran to reverse the sentence and give her a retrial.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, an interior designer by profession, was arrested in 2007 following the stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. Jabbari says she acted in self defense and that the victim, a Ministry of Intelligence employee Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, had tried to sexually assault her.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's human rights rapporteur in Iran confirmed earlier this year that Sarbandi had hired Jabbari to redesign his office, but took her to an apartment instead and sexually abused her. The victim's family, however, insists that Jabbari had planned the murder; while on trial, she confessed to buying a knife 2 days before the killing.

Unfair trial

Following her arrest, Jabbari was held in solitary confinement and had no access to her lawyer or her family for 2 months. She was allegedly tortured during this period, according to a statement by Amnesty International. She was convicted of murder by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. Her lawyer sought a review of her sentence in the Supreme Court, which upheld her execution in 2014.

The sentence was then passed on to the Office of Implementation of Sentences in Tehran which allowed the family of the victim to request her execution any time. The UN and other international rights groups insisted that Jabbari's confessions were obtained after pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors and that she had had no chance of a fair trial.

In its statement, Amnesty said that Sarbandi's connections with the Ministry of Intelligence may have been a reason for authorities to avoid a just investigation into the murder. The authorities allegedly told Jabbari that she would be awarded clemency if she agreed to replace her lawyer with someone introduced to her by the authorities.

Efforts to grant Reyhaneh Jabbari a pardon had intensified in the last couple of days. The United States and European Union leaders demanded a repeal of her sentence, to no avail.

(source: Deutsche Welle)


Thousands of Bahrainis protest Saudi death sentence against Sheikh Nimr

Demonstrators in Bahrain have taken to the streets in support of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death by Riyadh.

On Friday, protesters in the coastal village of Malikiyah and on the island of Sitra condemned Saudi Arabia for sentencing the dissident cleric to death and demanded his release.

On October 15, a Saudi court handed down the death penalty to Sheikh Nimr after convicting him of sedition.

The cleric was attacked and arrested in July 2012, accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.

In reaction to the sentence, people took to streets in the Saudi city of Qatif to condemn the move. There have also been demonstrations in other countries.

On Friday, a senior Iranian cleric warned Saudi Arabia against executing the death sentence.

"We warn Saudi Arabia...that this government will pay a heavy price for a [possible] execution of a Shia cleric," Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahhedi Kermani told worshippers at the weekly Friday prayers in Tehran.

Human rights activists say the sentence issued for Sheikh Nimr was politically motivated.

Amnesty International has denounced the verdict, calling it "appalling".

Rights groups say Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are committing systematic human rights abuses.

(source: Ahlul Bayt News Agency)

OCTOBER 24, 2014:

TEXAS----new execution date:

Manuel Garza has been given an execution date for April 15 (2015); it should be considered serious.


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----278

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----517

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

279------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------518

280------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------519

281------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

288------------Apr. 15-------------------Manuel Garza---------527

(sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice & Rick Halperin)


Jury finds Seminole man guilty of 1st-degree murder in killing of estranged wife----Dwayne White, 44, on trial for 1st-degree murder

A Seminole County man accused of murdering his estranged wife was found guilty of 1st-degree murder on Thursday.

A Seminole County man accused of murdering his estranged wife testified in his own defense on Thursday.

Dwayne White, 44, for on trial for the Aug. 29, 2011 stabbing death of 42-year-old Sarah Rucker.

Once the state rested its case on Thursday, White's defense team asked the judge to toss out the case. The judge denied the request and the defense then asked for the case to be declared a mistrial because of an evidence gathering issue. The judge also denied that request.

Prosecutors said there are bloody hand print matches and cellphone pings that prove White slashed Rucker's throat with a pocket knife.

The state said Rucker can be heard on a 911 call begging her husband to stop beating her not long before her death.

White has continuously denied killing Rucker but admitted to fighting with her a few hours before she was discovered face-down in a pool of blood outside a Longwood sandwich shop.

White had previously claimed he was nowhere near the sub shop, but testified on Thursday that he did go to the sub shop. He admitted he found Rucker's dead body, but didn't call police. He said he panicked and went home.

In the recorded statement, White repeatedly indicated that it was unfair how focused law enforcement authorities were on him.

When investigators asked White how they were going to resolve the path to the truth he said, "The resolution is to go find who did it, and stop saying I did it."

Investigators said there is a documented history of domestic violence between the separated couple.

A jury came back with the guilty verdict only a few hours after starting deliberations. The state is seeking the death penalty in this case. The jury will be back in court Tuesday for a hearing on the death penalty portion.

(source: WESH news)


Surviving victim of Carr brothers speaks out against court ruling

My name is Andy Schreiber. I am 1 of 2 surviving victims of the Carr brothers' December 2000 murderous crime spree in Wichita. I've sat silently for more than 12 years, but I'm now breaking that silence to share my thoughts on the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling vacating the death sentences for both brothers (July 26 Eagle). This decision left me no choice but to speak out.

The death penalty is a legally acceptable penalty: It is not murder. It is a valid and legal form of punishment that was voted on and enacted by the Kansas Legislature. What the Supreme Court has done - not only in the Carr brothers' case, but in all other capital murder cases since the death penalty was re-enacted in 1994 - is effectively eliminate the death penalty by judicial edict. A majority of the Supreme Court justices have allowed their personal political views of the death penalty to cloud their impartiality in these cases. The reason the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated several of the death sentences vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court is because these decisions were legally flawed.

Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial. I challenge anyone to find a perfect capital murder trial where no errors were made, especially a case as complicated as this one. However, in a case like this one where evidence of guilt is so overwhelming and where any error, when weighed against the totality of the evidence presented against each defendant, could not possibly have resulted in a different verdict had it not occurred, the case should be affirmed. That was basically then-Justice Nancy Moritz's dissenting opinion in this 6-1 decision to vacate both death sentences.

Any retrial or resentencing is an enormous waste of time and taxpayer money, not to mention the anguish it will cause the victims and our families, as we're forced to relive each and every horrifying detail of the crimes all over again - twice - because of the separate penalty trials ordered by the state Supreme Court.

In the 14 years since these vicious crimes were committed, those of us affected by these 2 animals have picked up the pieces and carried on with our lives. We've started families and careers, though all the while haunted by the possibility of having to do this all over again.

Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson are 2 of the justices who voted to vacate the death sentences in this case. Appointed Supreme Court justices must face a retention vote every 6 years, and both Rosen and Johnson will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. I urge you to speak out, just as I have here, and vote "no" to remove Rosen and Johnson from the bench.

(source: Opinion,

MISSOURI----impending execution

Religious leaders ask Governor to stop execution

Religious leaders from around Missouri are calling on Gov. Jay Nixon to call off the scheduled execution of Missouri death row inmate Mark Christeson.

Christeson is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing a mother and her 2 children near Vichy in February 1998. A jury in Nevada convicted Mark Christeson in 1999 of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and recommended a death penalty.

The letter, signed by several religious leaders including Bishop James Johnston of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, asks the governor to grant Christeson clemency based on allegations of attorney incompetence and questions about Christeson's mental competence. The letter calls out the federally appointed defense counsel for "egregious actions" in missing deadlines for federal review of the case.

The letter also points out that Christeson was enrolled in special education classes when he was in school, was 18 at the time of the murders, had low performance in school and suffered several head injuries that resulted in him losing consciousness. It also notes Christeson's family had a history of mental illness, chaos, violence and pedophilia.

The signers also argue that the death penalty does not protect or heal communities, but promotes vengeance and the perpetuation of violence.

(source: KSPR news)


Arizona challenged to abandon secrecy on death penalty drugs

The secrecy imposed by Arizona on the source and quality of the lethal injection drugs it uses to kill death row inmates has been challenged in a new lawsuit brought by the Guardian and other media organizations.

In the lawsuit, filed with a federal court in Phoenix, the Guardian together with the Associated Press and four of Arizona's largest news outlets argue that the state's refusal to disclose any information about its lethal injection drugs is a breach of the public's 1st amendment right to know about how the death penalty is being carried out in its name. It follows a groundbreaking first amendment case brought by the Guardian and others in Missouri in May.

In tune with many other death penalty states, Arizona has gone to great lengths to hide the provenance and nature of the medical drugs it uses to execute prisoners. Supplies of the medicines have run low in the wake of a worldwide boycott of US executions, and as a result the department of corrections has had to resort to increasingly imaginative sources which it has shrouded in secrecy in an effort to keep supply lines open.

But recent botched executions have highlighted the problematic nature of such creative sourcing and secrecy, and the heat has been turned up on death penalty states to subject themselves to more accountability. In Arizona, it took Joseph Wood almost took hours to die from an experimental concoction of midazolam and hydromorphone.

Eyewitnesses reported the prisoner gulping more than 600 times. It was later revealed that Wood had been injected with 15 doses of the 2-drug cocktail out of the view of public witnesses to the execution.

Use of midazolam in executions in recent months has proved particularly problematic and contentious. It has been associated with gruesome and prolonged deaths in Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The Arizona complaint has been joined, in addition to the Guardian and the Associated Press, by 2 of the state's most important newspapers, the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star. 2 major television channels, KPNX-TV Channel 12 and KPHO Broadcasting Corporation, are also party to the suit.

The action is lodged in the US district court in Arizona and is directed against Charles Ryan, director of the department of corrections, and the state's attorney general, Thomas Horne, both in their official roles. The Guardian and fellow plaintiffs are represented by the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale law school, with the assistance of Ballard Spahr LLP in Phoenix.

Unlike most other lawsuits that have been brought relating to the creeping secrecy that surrounds lethal injection drugs - which have argued the prisoners' constitutional rights have been violated - the Arizona lawsuit starts with the principle that the public has a right to know how capital punishment is being carried out.

The complaint argues that "the public cannot meaningfully debate the propriety of lethal injection executions if it is denied access to this essential information about how individuals are being put to death by the state." It says that the established constitutional right of public access to aspects of government procedures means that the state should be obliged to reveal "the source, composition, and quality of drugs, as well as the protocols, that have been or will be used in lethal injection executions and to view the entirety of anexecution".

This is the 4th lawsuit that the Guardian has launched against various manifestations of secrecy in the US death penalty. As well as the actions in Arizona and Missouri, there are ongoing legal complaints currently before the courts in Pennsylvania and in Oklahoma, where the state is being challenged for having drawn the curtain halfway through the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April.

(source: The Guardian)


Pakistani beheaded in Saudi for smuggling heroin

Saudi Arabia today beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of smuggling heroin into the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Butha Mushtaq was the third Pakistan executed on drug charges in Saudi Arabia since October 15.

He was found guilty of smuggling heroin concealed in capsules which he had swallowed, and executed in the capital Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

His execution brings to 59 the number of people beheaded in Saudi Arabia this year.

Last year, 78 people of various nationalities were executed in the Gulf Arab state.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

In September, a United Nations independent expert called for moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which has faced harsh criticism from human rights group for carrying out executions.


Protests in Saudi after Shia death sentences

More than 100 people protested in eastern Saudi Arabia on Friday to oppose death sentences against a Shia religious leader and seven others convicted after earlier demonstrations, an activist said.

Following Friday prayers they marched in the community of Awamiya to oppose "all harsh sentences and the death penalty against eight people," the activist told AFP.

On Tuesday a Saudi court sentenced to death 2 people "as a deterrent to others" in connection with protests by members of the minority Shia community that began 3 years ago.

They were tried on charges including "participating in marches and rallies that caused riots" in Awamiya, the official Saudi Press Agency reported without identifying the accused.

The activist said those sentenced to death were teenagers at the time of their arrest, and are among a total of eight who have received the death sentence.

Among them is Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind the demonstrations, who was sentenced last week.

The activist said protesters also gathered on Thursday night in the Saudi Gulf coastal community of Qatif to oppose the death penalty and support Nimr.

"The people here are very angry but they are also afraid," the activist said, asking for anonymity.

Several other accused have received multi-year jail sentences.

Following Nimr's conviction Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Minister of Shiite-majority Iran, said "such measures do not contribute to the restoration of peace and calm in the region."

(source for both Agence France-Presse)


8 prisoners hanged in Kerman and Shiraz

6 prisoners in Adelabad, Shiraz prison, and 2 prisoners in Shahab, Kerman prison were executed by hanging on 23rd October.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), at dawn of 23rd October, 6 inmates in Adelabad, Shiraz prison, were executed by hanging.

These 6 inmates that 3 of them were charged with drug trafficking and the other 3 were charged with armed robbery, were taken to solitary confinement the day before execution.

Also, 2 prisoners who were sentenced with drug related charges were executed in Kerman prison, Shahab.

Another prisoner named Saeed Ashayeri, was taken to solitary confinement along with these 2 inmates the day before of execution, but his execution sentence was delayed for unknown reasons

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Reyhaneh Jabbari at Imminent Danger of Execution----Shole Pakravan, Reyhaneh's mother, has been told to visit her daughter for the last time before the execution. Iran Human Rights urges the international community to react before it is too late.

"They called from the prison office now. Told me to go to an address they gave me for the last visit. She (Reyhaneh) will be transferred tonight. Tomorrow is set for her execution". Shole Pakravan, Reyhaneh Jabbari's mother, wrote these phrases on her Facebook page at about 4 pm Tehran time.

The 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to "qesas" (retribution in kind) for allegedly subbing a former intelligence officer, Morteza Sarbandi, seven years ago. Reyhaneh has later said that she stubbed him in self defence. Reyhaneh was scheduled to be executed on September 29, but her execution was postponed.

IHR urges the international community to react to stop Reyhaneh's execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: "Rehyaneh Jabbari has been subjected to unfair trial and her execution is against Iran's international obligations and must be stopped. We ask the UN, EU and all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop Reyhaneh's execution".

Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for 2 months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Reyhaneh's case has attracted much attention inside and outside Iran and her scheduled execution has been postponed twice on April 15 and September 29.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Halt execution of woman set to be hanged at dawn

The Iranian authorities must stop the execution of a woman due to be hanged tomorrow morning after being convicted for the killing of a man whom she said tried to sexually abuse her, said Amnesty International.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 after a deeply flawed investigation and trial. Her execution was due to be carried out on 30 September but was postponed for 10 days.

"Time is running out for Reyhaneh Jabbari, the authorities must act now to stop her execution," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"The death penalty is a despicable punishment that is both cruel and inhumane. Applying such a punishment in any circumstances is an affront to justice, but doing so after a flawed trial that leaves huge questions hanging over the case only makes it more tragic."

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. She was placed in solitary confinement for 2 months and was denied access to a lawyer or her family. She was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009.

Reyhaneh Jabbari apparently admitted to stabbing in the back Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, whom she said had tried to sexually assault her. However, she said that another man who was also in the house at the time killed him. Her claims do not appear to have ever been properly investigated.

Iran's judicial authorities are also reported to have pressured Reyhaneh Jabbari to replace her lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jedari Foroughi, for a more inexperienced one, in an apparent attempt to prevent an investigation of her claims.

Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution has been deferred a number of times, including in the last month.

"Instead of repeatedly rescheduling Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution date, the Iranian judiciary should order a re-trial that complies with international standards for fair trial without recourse to the death penalty," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Reyhaneh's mother told Amnesty International that she met her daughter for 1 hour today, but prison officials refused to give the family any details of Reyhaneh's imminent transfer to a place of execution.

(source: Amnesty International)


Stop Woman's Execution ---- Legal Process Plagued With Irregularities

Iran's judiciary should vacate the death sentence of Reyhaneh Jabbari and ensure that she receives a fair trial. She was convicted of murdering an older man in what she says was self defense. On September 29, 2014, prison authorities transferred Jabbari to a prison west of Tehran without explanation, raising fears that her execution was imminent, but then returned her to her original prison cell overnight.

Jabbari was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death in 2009 by a Tehran criminal court for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a doctor and a former Intelligence Ministry employee. Later that year the Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence. Jabbari admitted stabbing Sarbandi in the neck, but says that he attempted to sexually assault her. She also said that a 3rd person in the room may have caused Sarbandi's death. Jabbari's lawyers contend that the judiciary did not properly investigate the cause of death and deprived their client of a fair trial. Tehran's prosecutor's office had been reviewing the case.

"In light of the serious substantive and procedural questions raised in this case, and the fact that it's still under review, officials risk being complicit in irreversible harm if they execute Jabbari," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Iran's judiciary should immediately reverse its death sentence and allow her a fair retrial."

Sholeh Pakravan, Jabbari's mother, told Human Rights Watch that on September 28, 2014, prison authorities allowed her and Jabbari's lawyer to meet with her. They met in Gharchak prison, also known as Shahr-e Rey prison, in Varamin, 55 kilometers south of Tehran. Pakravan said that a day later she learned that prison authorities had transferred her daughter to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, and that they planned to execute her early on September 30. Pakravan said sources inside both prisons, including employees of the prisons, informed her of her daughter's impending execution.

Pakravan told Human Rights Watch that the Tehran prosecutor's office had been reviewing her daughter's case file, and that the authorities had not informed her or the lawyer that they planned to execute Jabbari. Iranian law requires judiciary authorities to inform lawyers and family members in advance of an execution.

Pakravan said she and others then traveled to Rajai Shahr prison to learn more about Jabbari's whereabouts and condition. Official and semi-official news outlets said, however, that unnamed "informed judicial sources" denied that officials had transferred Jabbari to Rajai Shahr prison, or that they planned to execute her.

A source familiar with the case told Human Rights Watch on the morning of September 30 that Jabbari had contacted her mother a few hours earlier from Gharchak prison to tell her that she was alright, and that plans to execute her had been halted for the time being. Another informed source said that authorities presented documents to the family showing they had transferred Jabbari back to Gharchak prison on September 29.

Pakravan said that no official has informed her or her family that the execution order has been halted, and she believes her daughter's life is still in imminent danger. Iran's judiciary previously halted Jabbari's execution in April 2014 to review the conviction and death sentence.

Mohamed Ali Jedari Foroughi, Jabbari's lawyer until recently, told Human Rights Watch that during the 6 months he was in charge of Jabbari's case, prison authorities only allowed him to visit her twice. He said judiciary officials prevented him from examining Jabbari's case file while Tehran prosecutor's office was reviewing it despite the serious questions and ambiguities about Sarbandi's cause of death. According to other reports, officials placed Jabbari in solitary confinement immediately after her arrest for 2 months and denied her access to a lawyer or her family.

Under Iranian law, in murder cases, the victim's survivors retain the right to claim retribution in kind, to pardon the alleged killer, or to accept compensation in exchange for giving up the right to claim retribution. Sarbandi's family has refused to pardon Jabbari. In 2014, Iran's judiciary has executed at least 500 prisoners, many of them on murder charges, according to rights groups.

Human Rights Watch has called on Iran's judiciary to impose a moratorium on all executions in the country due to serious concerns regarding substantive and due process violations leading to Iran's implementation of the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment.

"It is unconscionable that in addition to enduring the pain of having their daughter on death row, Jabbari's parents must also deal with a judiciary that refuses to play by its own rules and fails to provide them with sufficient and clear information regarding her condition," Stork said.

(sourcve: Human Rights Watch)


'I was tortured by the men who sentenced my Christian mother to death for blasphemy': Daughter of Asia Bibi on death row in Pakistan reveals her hell at hands of religious fanatics----Asia Bibi was accused of making disparaging remarks about Mohammed

2 young daughters of a Pakistani Christian woman on death row for 'blasphemy' today told how they were tortured by a mob of religious fanatics because of their mother's alleged comments.

Asia Bibi has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after she was accused of making disparaging remarks about the prophet Mohammed during an argument.

While working as a berry picker in 2009, the 46-year-old got into a dispute with a group of Muslim women who objected to her drinking their water because, as a Christian, she was considered 'unclean'.

As a result of the initial allegations, the family were savagely beaten by angry villagers at their house and forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats.

Now, as the family launches a second court appeal against Ms Bibi's death sentence, her husband and two daughters have spoken exclusively to MailOnline about their horrendous ordeal and their lingering hope that she will be released in time for Christmas.

Her oldest daughter, Esham Masih, who was 9 years old when the family came under attack, told how she came back from school one day to find her mother being abused by a gang of men.

'My friends told me that people were torturing my mother at the fields where she used to work,' she said.

'I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men. They had even torn her clothes.'

Esham, now 14, ran back home to get her mother a new dress, but when she came back the gang had returned.

'I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested. I could not sleep properly.

'The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again.

Asham said the gang called her offensive Punjabi terms that translate roughly 'mother f*****' and 'sister f*****'.

When she asked one of her attackers for water, they instead smashed the glass against the wall to torment her.

'They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us.

'After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle's house.

'But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away.'

Ms Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, said his other daughter, 15-year-old Esha who has special needs, had also been abused.

'All those people who abused and tortured my wife knew me very well, but they did not respect anything,' he told MailOnline at his house in a Christian district of Lahore.

'They became so cruel. They even didn't spare my daughters and tortured them.

Bowing his head in shame, Mr Masih said: 'I was so afraid that day.

'I do not think it could have helped her or our family if I had tried to save her that day.

'I might also have ended up in jail as a blasphemy-accused and there would be no one to help my daughters.'

Mr Masih, who used to work at brick kiln as a labourer in his village, said their lives have been destroyed.

'I was born in that village. I spent almost 45 years of my life in that village. I had so many friends in that village but I do not want to go back there.'

'I have restricted my movement. I am afraid of being recognised as Asia's husband in public.

'I have almost stopped communicating with Muslims. I am afraid they could recognise me. Just imagine how tough it will be for my wife to live in prison.'

In November 2010 Ms Bibi was sentenced to death by a lower court, becoming the first woman in Pakistan's history to be given the death penalty for blasphemy.

Over the past 4 years Ms Bibi has languished in the high-security District Jail Seikhupura, 22 miles north-west of Lahore, before being moved to a more remote prison.

The shocking case hit global headlines after 2 prominent politicians who tried to help Ms Bibi were assassinated, 1 by his own bodyguard.

Lawyers showered the killer with rose petals when he appeared in court and the judge who convicted him of murder had to flee the country.

Ms Bibi's lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said her accusers have contradicted themselves many times since first raising their complaint.

2 witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said.

A Muslim prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Ms Bibi had confessed to the supposed crime in front of him.

Last week, despite international outrage and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for her release, Ms Bibi lost an appeal to have her sentence overturned, meaning she now faces death by hanging.

The decision of the Lahore High Court has thrust the family back into public spotlight, placing their safety in jeopardy once again.

'This is too dangerous for all of us', said Mr Masih. 'We have changed 5 residences during the last 5 years. The blasphemy accusation on my wife has ruined our family.

'I could not sleep properly after the decision of The Lahore High Court. We could be attacked or framed in similar kind of case.'

Human rights groups say Pakistan's blasphemy law is increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence. There are also no penalties for false accusations.

Those accused are sometimes lynched on the spot. If they are arrested, police and the courts often allow trials to drag on for years, as in the case of Ms Bibi.

The delays tend to be caused because officials are afraid of being physically attacked if they release anyone they feel had been wrongly accused of blasphemy.

Only 1 person has been executed since Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on executions in 2008.

This year has seen a record number of blasphemy cases as well as increasing violence against the accused.

The crime of blasphemy was sealed into Pakistani law under British rule but strengthened during the years of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who died in a plane crash in 1988.

In recent years, however, the country - which is 96 % Muslim - has seen a surge in accusations of insulting Islam, says Islamabad-based think-tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies.

But many analysts see the claims as score-settling or a front for property grabs, and in fact have nothing to do with Islam.

If found guilty, defendants can expect the death penalty.

The charges are hard to fight because the law does not define blasphemy so presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

It can also be very difficult to find a lawyer willing to defend those accused of the crime.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan but the accused are often lynched or languish for years in jail without trial because lawyers are too afraid to defend them.

Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law were shot dead.

Ms Bibi - a farm worker from rural Punjab - released a memoir called 'Blasphemy' last year, in which she described her torment at not knowing how long she has left to live.

Talking about how she ended up being accused of blasphemy, she says: 'I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using 'their' cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.

Mr Masih believes his wife has been falsely accused simply because of her religion.

'My wife was framed in the charge of blasphemy only because of her faith.

'The day our house was attacked by an angry mob at our village, she was offered to convert to Islam to get out of trouble but she denied as she has not committed any crime.

'There is no pressure on her in jail to convert to Islam. Authorities, in fact, are somewhat helpful,' he said that he was hopeful to get justice from the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

He has called on the Pope and President Barack Obama to help secure the release of his wife.

'We need help from all quarters. Barack Obama should play a positive role and convince Pakistani government to ensure justice in Asia's case.'

The family have struggled to look after Esha, who has difficulties with her speech and walking, after her mother's arrest.

Speaking in broken words, Esha said: 'I miss my mother too much.'

Both sisters go to a private school being run by Joseph Nadeem, executive director Renaissance Education Foundation, a Christian educationist who has been helping the family since December 2010.

'Esham is a brilliant student, but she goes through spells of depression regularly,' said Mr Nadeem.

Esham, who visits her mother once a month in prison, said: 'It is tough living without her. I hope she would soon be released and would celebrate Christmas with us.

'I love my mother and miss her a lot. I request everybody to pray for her.'

(source: Daily Mail)




Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, has had her appeal rejected by the Lahore High Court of Appeal.

View the full Urgent Action, including case information, addresses and sample messages, here.

On 16 October the Lahore High Court rejected the appeal against the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges. Asia Bibi, who is 45 years old and has 5 children, was initially found guilty of blasphemy on 8 November 2010 and sentenced to death under Section 295C of Pakistan's Penal Code for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

There are serious fair trial concerns. Asia Bibi claims the evidence of her alleged blasphemy, which has been accepted by successive courts, was fabricated, and that she did not have access to a lawyer during her detention and the final day of her trial in 2010. Asia Bibi's lawyer has maintained that the case against her is based on hearsay. Human rights activists have voiced concerns that judges of the Lahore High Court may have rejected the appeal out of fear for their safety. Religious groups demanding her execution were present in court.

Asia Bibi has been kept in almost total isolation for her own protection since she was first arrested in 2009. Her mental and physical health have reportedly deteriorated during her time in detention including on death row, and her family and lawyers continue to fear for her safety. In December 2010, a prominent Islamic cleric offered half a million Pakistani rupees (about US$5,000) to anyone who killed Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi should never have been imprisoned, as the blasphemy laws are inconsistent with Pakistan's international human rights obligations to ensure the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The laws are often used to settle personal disputes, and those accused of blasphemy often become targets of violence. International law allows for the imposition of the death penalty only for the "most serious crimes", which has been interpreted to refer to intentional killing only. While no one has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, since the blasphemy laws in their current form entered into force in the 1980s dozens of people from different religious communities, including Muslims, have been attacked and killed by private individuals following blasphemy accusations, including while in detention.


Asia Bibi, a farm laborer from Ittanwali village in Pakistan's Punjab province, was first arrested in June 2009 following accusations of blasphemy. Although the exact details are contested, according to her family and lawyers, some of her Muslim co-workers refused to share water with her because she is Christian. An argument then ensued after which the co-workers allegedly told a local cleric that Asia Bibi had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

The cleric informed local police who arrested and charged her with blasphemy. Asia Bibi denies the allegations and her husband, Ashiq Masih, claims her conviction was based on "false accusations". However the trial judge "totally ruled out" the possibility of false charges and said that there were "no mitigating circumstances”. She was sentenced to death by a court in Nankana, Punjab on 8 November 2010. 

View the full Urgent Action here.

Name: Asia Bibi (f)

Issues: Death penalty, Freedom of expression, Unfair trial

UA: 266/14

  Issue Date: 24 October 2014

Country: Pakistan

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

EITHER send a short email to with "UA 266/14" in the subject line and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action.

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after the below date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us at or to the Urgent Action Office address below.


Please write immediately in English, Urdu or your own language:

* Calling on the authorities to release Asia Bibi immediately and unconditionally, and take effective steps to guarantee her safety and that of her family;

* Pressing them to reform the blasphemy laws as a matter of urgency and to provide effective safeguards against their abuse, with a view to eventual repeal of the laws;

* Calling on them to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions and commute all death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty, emphasizing that the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif

Prime Minister House, Pakistan

Secretariat, Constitution Avenue

Islamabad, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 51 9220404


Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

And copies to:

Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights

Pervaiz Rashid

Room 305, S Block, Pakistan Secretariat Islamabad, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 51 9210062


Chief Minister, Punjab Province

Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif

Chief Minister's Office

7, Club Road, GOR I

Lahore, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 42 99204301

Twitter: @CMShehbaz

Salutation: Dear Chief Minister

Also send copies to:

H.E. Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani, Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan

3517 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 686 1534

Phone: 1 202 243 6500


Please share widely with your networks:

UA Network Office AIUSA -- 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003

T. 202.509.8193 -- F. 202.509.8193 -- E. --

(source: Amnesty International)


David Cameron writes to Ethiopian PM on behalf of British political dissident on death row

The Prime Minister has personally intervened in the case of a British father-of-3 facing the death sentence in Ethiopia, after the man's children appealed for his help.

David Cameron wrote to the Ethiopian Prime Minister in a bid to save the life of Andargachew "Andy" Tsege, 59, whose plight was revealed by The Independent last Friday.

His actions were in response to what he described as "very touching messages" from Mr Tsege's children, who are calling for the Prime Minister to help get their father home.

Mr Tsege, who came to Britain as a political refugee in 1979, was arrested at an airport in Yemen in June and promptly vanished. 2 weeks later it emerged he had been sent to Ethiopia, where he has been imprisoned ever since. The Briton, a prominent opponent of the Ethiopian regime, is facing a death sentence imposed 5 years ago at a trial held in his absence.

Menabe, his 7-year-old daughter, recently wrote to Mr Cameron asking him to help get her "kind, loving and caring dad" out of prison. Her twin brother, 7-year-old Yilak, simply asked: "What are you doing to get my dad out of jail?" Mr Tsege's 15-year-old daughter, Helawit, summed up the mood of the family in her letter: "Please, please, please (!) bring him back soon. We miss him so much."

The 59-year-old sought asylum in Britain in 1979 after being threatened by Ethiopian authorities over his political beliefs (Reprieve) Responding to the children's appeals, the Prime Minister claimed the government is taking the case "very seriously". In the letter to Yemi Hailemariam, Mr Tsege's partner and mother of their children, Mr Cameron admitted "Ethiopian authorities have resisted pressure" from British officials to have regular "access" to Mr Tsege.

"As a result of the lack of progress to date I have now written personally to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to request regular consular access and his assurance that the death penalty (which the British Government opposes in all circumstances) will not be imposed," he added. "I very much hope that there will be further progress to report in response to my letter," he concluded.

Responding to the news, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, commented: "The Prime Minister says he is 'concerned' - but where is the outrage at this flagrant breach of international law, and the ongoing abuse of a British citizen?"

She added: "Andy's small children are terrified of losing their father, his partner is desperate with worry, and we are no closer to seeing Andy released and returned to safety. Enough delays - we need firm action now to bring him home to London."

Reprieve has begun legal moves which could result in a judicial review to force Foreign Office officials to press for Mr Tsege's immediate release and return to Britain - something which the Government has resisted to date. A letter to Treasury Solicitors, sent last week by lawyers acting for the charity, argues: "Far from not being 'entitled' to request his return, the UK Government has every reason to do so and we urge you to exercise that power as a matter of urgency."

Meanwhile, Mr Tsege's family remain in limbo. The past 4 months have been "agonising" said Ms Hailemariam. "Waking up every day not knowing where Andy is or how he's being treated is taking a terrible toll on my children and myself." She added: "The Prime Minister has told our family that he is taking action, but it seems like next to nothing is being done to get Andy back. The children and I need him here with us in London. The Government must demand his return, before it's too late."

(source: The Independent)


Experts: Texas Slowly Moving Away From Executions

For years Texas has executed more prison inmates than any other state, but some believe that trend is coming to an end.

Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says Texas is joining the rest of the nation in slowly moving away from executions.

"One of the main factors driving this movement away from the death penalty, in Texas and nationally, is the rate or the incidents of wrongful convictions," Houle explained.

According to Houle, there has also been an ongoing decline in the number of people sentenced to death row. In Texas, she says, the number of new death sentences has dropped about 75 % in the last decade.

So far this year, Texas has carried out nine executions and Miguel Angel Paredes is scheduled to be put to death on October 28.

Even with the expected death of Paredes, Houle says, "We will have carried out the fewest executions in Texas, this year, since 1996."

In addition to fewer death sentences, Houle said the lower number of executions is directly related to recent revelations about wrongful convictions.

Some activists are even taking to the streets to demand the death penalty be abolished. Rallies are planned across the state before the end of the year, and kick off this weekend in Houston with the 15th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

(source: CBS news)


After 2 years on the run, Mission capital murder fugitive captured

Police nabbed a 23-year-old man wanted for a 2012 fatal shooting and armed kidnapping.

Carlos Olvera stood Thursday in Mission Municipal Court to face charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping after more than 2 years on the run.

Police said Olvera was believed to have been hiding in Mexico after Rigoberto Olivarez's shooting death in December 2012.

U.S. Border Patrol agents caught Olvera, of Diaz Ordaz, Tamps., trying to illegally enter the U.S. near Sullivan City on Tuesday. A check of Olvera's fingerprints linked him to the outstanding warrant for the Mission capital murder case.

Olvera is 1 of 4 suspects investigators say participated in a home invasion and botched kidnapping in the 1200 block of West 24th Place that left Olivarez fatally shot.

"I did not shoot," Olvera told Mission Municipal Judge Jonathan Wehrmeister in Spanish during his arraignment. "I did not have a weapon."

Wehrmeister ordered Olvera, a Mexican national, to be held without bond ahead of his trial. If convicted of capital murder, he faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Olvera provided investigators with a statement of accused - considered a form of a confession - following his arrest, Mission police Det. Eduardo Hernandez Jr. said. He identified Jorge Ruiz, Eric Gomez Torres, and Ramon Nevarez as fellow participants in the fatal shooting and kidnapping.

The other suspects may still be in Mexico, where they fled after the 2012 crime, police said.

Investigators believe the 2012 home invasion stemmed from drug trafficking and that Olivarez knew Olvera and the other suspects.

Police have said Olvera and 2 married couples, including Olivarez and his wife, were at a small party Dec. 22, 2012.

Ruiz and Torres kicked in the door, ordering the 2 couples to lay down on the ground, police said following the incident.

Witnesses told investigators that both men wore black masks during the attack.

Ruiz carried a .223-caliber assault rifle later recovered after an 8-hour manhunt where the suspects escaped a high-speed chase with police. That rifle was later identified as the one that killed Olivarez, whose body was found in the kitchen of the house. He suffered 14 gunshot wounds in the attack.

(source: The Monitior)


Does the death penalty or life in prison cost more for taxpayers?

Does sentencing someone to death, really cost less? Or is it more cost effective to keep someone alive in prison?

The whole conversation sparked from a story we posted about a Lauderdale couple, Patricia and Matthew Ayers, being sentenced to 2,000 years in prison for sexual abuse of a child.

Many people took to Facebook to voice their concerns, saying things like: "Death penalty, cause I don't want my tax dollars feeding them!"

"Electric chair is cheaper, the way it is now, we have to pay for them as long as they live."

But, is that really the case?

"If you'd asked me, which is cheaper, my answer to you is, for my purposes, it doesn't matter," Broussard says.

The Vera Institute of Justice estimated in 2010 it cost around $17,000 to house an inmate for a year.

Assuming Patricia and Matthew Ayers live to 75, the average life expectancy in Alabama, that's between $570,405 and $708,685 in costs to the taxpayers to keep them in prison.

That may be a lot, but when you compare it to the costs associated with the death penalty, we're looking at possibly an even bigger number.

A study by the Urban Institute in Maryland found that it cost about $37.2 million for each of Maryland's 5 executions since the state re-enacted the death penalty in 1978.

"In court-appointed cases, and most capital murder cases are handled by an attorney who is appointed to represent a client on that case, which means the state as a practical matter, is going to pay that fee," says attorney Russell Crumbley.

According to, the average inmate spends a decade on death row.

"The whole appellate process is exhaustive and it is for the purpose, ultimately, of making sure that the person really is guilty. That is the ultimate punishment in our system," says Crumbley.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, there are 193 inmates currently on death row.

Arthur Lee Giles has been on death row for 35 years.

"Probably, in my career, me personally, I've had 6 people on death row, and I've been here 25 years," says Broussard.

And he says the punishment fits the crime.

"I'm sure there's a lot of debate about what's the cheaper way to go, but of something of this magnitude, I have no interest in how those numbers fall," Broussard says.

Since the death penalty was enacted in 1983, Alabama has executed 56 people.

(source: WAAY TV news)


Gov. Brownback speaks out against justices who overturned Carr death penalty

The state's high court is getting a lot of attention after Gov. Sam Brownback came out Thursday against the justices who overturned the death penalty ruling for the infamous Carr brothers. The move comes after his campaign drew criticism for releasing an ad linking his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, to the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling.

"Remember the Carr brothers? Five savage murders. Caught. Prosecuted. Death row. Then, liberal judges in Topeka changed that," the ad says. It then goes on to say Kansans could expect similar rulings because, as governor, Paul Davis would have the power to appoint justices.

The ad has since been criticized by Davis, the former DA who prosecuted the Carrs, Nola Foulston, and by the families of the brothers' victims. But Gov. Brownback defended the ad.

"Paul Davis wants to continue to appoint liberal judges to that court," Brownback said in a debate Tuesday in Topeka. "I want to appoint judges who will interpret the law, not rewrite it as they choose to see it to be."

And on Thursday, Brownback went further and endorsed the removal of 2 state supreme court justices, Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen, both of whom are up for a retention vote in November.

But, legal experts say the justices ruled according to the law.

"The trial judge failed to give each Carr brother a separate trial during the death penalty phase," said Dan Monnat, of Monnat & Spurrier. "Since when is it only a liberal idea to follow fundamental constitutional principle? Since when is it only a liberal idea to give an accused person a fair trial?"

Kansans for Justice, an organization comprised of the Carr brothers' victims' family members and friends shares the governor's view that the justices should not be retained in November, but say they are not interested in making the issue about politics.

"We are saddened the case becomes about politics and not about our loved ones who we've lost," said Amy James, the media spokesperson for Kansans for Justice.

Jonathan and Reginald Carr killed 5 people and a dog in a gruesome crime spree in December of 2000.



Death penalty in the Colorado gubernatorial race

Over the past few election cycles, Colorado has become an important "battleground state" and a bellwether for larger electoral trends. Featuring contested races for both a Senate seat and the Governor's mansion, it is arguably the most important site of the upcoming midterm elections. The gubernatorial contest has Bob Beauprez, an established figure in the Colorado Republican party, attempting to unseat (the previously very popular) Gov. Hickenlooper.

Social issues have entered the 2 campaigns in some expected ways - abortion, health care coverage, gun safety laws, and marijuana legalization. But during these gubernatorial debates, the issue of the death penalty has also briefly held the spotlight.

Back in May, Beauprez made a campaign promise that surprised many, since he presents himself as a faithful Roman Catholic. "When I'm governor," he said during a GOP debate, "Nathan Dunlap will be executed." Or, in a headline offered by Mother Jones, "Elect Me, and I'll Kill that Guy."

No one would deny that Dunlap, whose death sentence has been stayed by Hickenlooper, was convicted of absolutely horrific crimes. And supporters of Hickenlooper also admit that the Governor did not handle his own decision to stay the execution very well.

But the Catholic Church's position on the death penalty in modern societies is very well-known, despite these facts. No. 2267 of the Catechism reads: "Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'"

The official document for forming consciences of Catholic voters in the United States, "Faithful Citizenship," inveighs against the death penalty in 5 different sections, saying "continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified" and "the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty." To these ideas we can add recent realities: the exoneration of North Carolina's longest-incarcerated member of "death row," or the frightful, bungled executions that have taken place in recent years.

So how can Beauprez defend his explicit campaign promise to order an execution? On October 9, during a general election debate, he did so by reference to a private conversation with former Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput.

Here's the Denver Catholic Register's write-up of the Q & A:

The comment came in response to a question asked by Kyle Clark of 9News who asked: "Mister Beauprez, you have said that your opposition to abortion is rooted in your strong Catholic faith. You have called elected pro-choice Catholic Democrats 'heretics.' I'm curious how you came to decide that your church is right on sanctity of life for the unborn, but wrong on sanctity of life as it applies to the death penalty, which you support."

Beauprez responded: "Because I've talked to, let me quote him, Archbishop Charles Chaput. And people are very confused about this and that's why I went to him, as, I think, a credible source on what Church doctrine is. Many Catholic clergy believe, as the governor now says he does, that they're anti-death penalty. But the archbishop made it very clear to me. He said, 'Bob, you pray on it, sleep on it, reach the conclusion that is right for your soul and, he said, I'll back you up, because Church doctrine is not anti-death penalty.' I want to be very clear about that."

Clark followed up: "Pope Francis recently said that the death penalty should not be used, even in the case of a terrible crime, but you feel that the archbishop told you otherwise?"

Beauprez answered: "Yes ... the archbishop was very clear on that. He said there are many in the clergy that have a policy position and that's the difference between that and Church doctrine. A policy position that is opposed to the death penalty. And that's fine. I'll just stipulate: There's moral reasons to be anti-death penalty."

In terms of rhetoric, Beauprez's defense was sound: when he was running for office in the past, he consulted with the highest Catholic official in his jurisdiction, and was told to follow his conscience. But the resurfacing of this anecdote invited questions about what Archibishop Chaput had actually said. His new archdiocese has offered a short statement:

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said through a spokesman that Archbishop Chaput would be unable to comment on a private conversation between himself and the gubernatorial candidate.

However, they added that "Scripture and long Church teaching uphold the basic legitimacy of the death penalty. But, the Church also teaches that in the developed world, the circumstances requiring the death penalty for the purposes of justice and public safety rarely exist. Therefore the death penalty should not be used."

As in the Catechism, the death penalty has a "legitimacy" in theory but "should not be used." Some have asked whether this statement gives "wiggle room" for Catholic candidates for office, but Chaput's record elsewhere would seem not to grant any.

In 2002 Archbishop Chaput criticized Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for supporting the death penalty, calling it "cafeteria Catholicism." Scalia's is only 1 voice - albeit an influential one - without any power to carry out capital punishment. Beapurez, on the other hand, promises to disregard church teaching precisely as one who has executive authority - the power to execute.

We should not miss that peculiar feature of the situation in Colorado: this Catholic candidate for office has made an explicit campaign promise to contravene a clear and weighty doctrine of Catholic moral teaching - and to do it himself. There is hardly a "degree of cooperation" argument in this case, as we have with other moral reasoning about democratic elections and candidates' values.

With most other issues, a politician's platform indicates aspirations to certain goals, which sometimes include indirectly facilitating an immoral practice, usually one that is already readily available to the electorate. But in this case, Beauprez promises that his election will directly lead to Dunlap's execution. The causal link between the stroke of his pen and the sting of a needle is beyond doubt.

It's a macabre campaign promise for anyone to make, but especially for a Catholic.

(source: Commonweal)


Colorado Considered Giving Death Row Inmates More 'Leisure Time' Outside Cells

Colorado's Department of Corrections considered allowing death row inmates, who are normally confined to their cells, to have 4 hours per day of "leisure time" in which they can walk around inside and outside the facility.

Details of this idea were spelled out in an internal email in March, which was recently obtained by the website Complete Colorado.

"We allow offenders with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole to walk around our medium and close custody facilities, who pose no different risk than those with sentences of the death penalty," wrote DOC employee Kellie Wasko. "So are we really managing those offenders whose sentence is different - however, the same - effectively and equally? We believe that we can do better!"

She goes on to describe a new policy that would allow death row prisoners to be allowed out of their cells for 4 hours, together, without staff members present in a communal area called a "dayhall." Prisoners can also spend time outdoors or in shower areas, she wrote.

"[W]e decided that while they are out in the dayhalls, and we are assessing how this will work, we would consider this dayhall a 'NO STAFF ZONE' at this time," Wasko wrote. "So that means that while the offenders are out in their dayhall for their out-of-cell time, staff will not enter into that dayhall for any reason while we assess how this will work for our organization."

In an article on its website, Complete Colorado wrote that it's unknown whether the Department of Corrections actually implemented the new policy, but an unidentified staffer said it's troubling the idea was even proposed.

"Just the mere fact they would even put it out department-wide that they were looking to implement something like that had so many staff shaking their heads," the employee told the site, noting the employee does not work on death row.

The changes were proposed as Colorado began an overhaul of its policies on solitary confinement, known as administrative segregation. Last year, an inmate who'd spent much of his time in solitary murdered corrections chief Tom Clements and a pizza delivery man while on parole. Clements' successor, Rick Raemisch, spent 20 hours in solitary as an experiment, leaving with what he described as an "urgency for reform" in an article he wrote about the experience in the New York Times.

Colorado has three inmates on death row: Richard Ray, convicted of ordering a hit on witnesses set to testify against him on another murder charge; Sir Mario Owens, the man who pulled the trigger in the witness killings; and Nathan Dunlap, who killed 4 people in a holdup at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.

Although Wasko said in her email that the inmates have no history of behavioral problems in their current confinement to solitary, and should therefore be allowed out of their cells from time to time, District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office prosecuted Dunlap, said a change in policy makes no sense.

"The reason for Administrative Segregation is pretty obvious," he told Complete Colorado, "which is, once you've told someone, 'We're going to leave you in prison until we have the ability to kill you, until we have the ability to take your life,' they are a much bigger risk than others."

(source: Daily Caller)


2nd Juror Dismissed From Death Penalty Trial After Talking to Reporter

Things aren't looking good in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial now that 2 jurors have already been dismissed from the case just 2 days into the trial.

The penalty phase of the Jodi Arias retrial started on Tuesday as prosecutors presented their opening arguments to persuade the jury into sentencing the convicted boyfriend killer to the death penalty.

However, one of the 12 jurors was let go due to an ongoing family emergency on the 1st day of the retrial. The next day, a 2nd was let go for talking to a reporter that she thought was HLN talk show host Nancy Grace.

Altogether 12 jurors and 6 alternates were selected from a pool of hundreds of people earlier this month. However, there will be a mistrial if there are less than 12 jurors to serve on the panel.

Juror No. 9 was dismissed Wednesday after she asked a freelance TV journalist if she was Nancy Grace, a nationally renowned television personality and a vocal opponent to Arias, reports AZ Central.

The incident took place during a morning break as Beth Karas, a former on-camera reporter and commentator for HLN, was being interviewed by 12 News about the case.

Although Karas says she realized that a juror was standing nearby, she assumed that she couldn't hear the interview. Once she returned inside of the courthouse, a woman approached asked if she was Nancy Grace. In response, Karas told her that she used to work with Grace and then reported the incident to the court.

As a result, Juror No. 9 was dropped from the case and Maricopa County Judge Sherry Stephens reiterated to the remaining 16 jurors that they are prohibited from discussing the case, watching TV, consuming news media and using social media, reports USA Today.

Arias, 34, was convicted of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in May 2013. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart in his Phoenix home in 2008. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower.

Although the aspiring photographer was found guilty in the case, the 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.

(source: Latin Post)


Terror suspects linked to Al Shabaab further remanded

Police are yet to conclude investigations in a case involving 10 terror suspects linked to Al Shabaab arrested last month from Kisenyi in Kampala.

State prosecutor, Edward Muhumuza, on Thursday told Buganda Road Court that Police were yet to conclude investigations.

Grade One Magistrate Simon Zirintuusa remanded the suspects to Luzira Prison until November 7. They are battling charges of aiding and abetting terrorism contrary to Section 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. On conviction, the penalty is death.

Additionally, they are charged with the offence of belonging to a terrorist organisation contrary to Section 11(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Procedurally on completion of the probe, the Police informs the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which notifies court of the development by formulating an indictment.

The committal papers containing the indictment are then forwarded to the High Court, which has jurisdiction to try the capital offence of terrorism.

Lawyers David Mushabe, Richard Rugambwa, Andrew Manzi, and Noah Sekabojja, represented the suspects.

They are Mohamed Abdulkdir Hirsi alias Mohamed Abdul Aziz Adan, ,31, businessman; Somali national resident of Katwe-Kibirige House, Makindye division, Abdi Abdullahi Bootan, 26, driver; Somali refugee resident of Kisenyi opposite Delta Petrol station Rubaga division.

Others are Hassan Abduwali Mohamoud, 25, Somali refugee, resident of Kisenyi, Rubaga division,Mohammed Ahmed Gele, 28, driver Somali refugee, resident of Lubaga Road, Rubaga division.

Also included are Yasimin Abdullahi Aden, 20, a housewife, Somali refugee, resident of Kisenyi, Rubaga division, Hodan Ahmed Dahir, 23, unemployed Somali national, resident of Kisenyi, Mengo Yusufu Osman Hussein, 29, businessman, Somali refugee, resident of Namalwa I zone, Bukesa, Rubaga division Abdi Mohamed, 29, Somali refugee, resident of Namalwa I zone, Bukesa, Rubaga division, and Abdul Kadir, 24, unemployed Somali refugee, resident of Mengo Kisenyi opposite Missionary Poor School, Rubaga division.

The Kenyan national is Mohamed Yusuf Farah, 31, a manager at Hauliers Transport, resident of Bulange, Mengo, Rubaga division.

(source: New Vision)


Parents of Myanmar Murder Suspects Arrive in Bangkok

The parents of the 2 Myanmar suspects charged with killing 2 British tourists on Koh Tao island arrived at Bangkok's Don Muang airport 22nd October to be met by a throng of reporters.

3 parents and 1 uncle of the accused have flown in with the help of the Myanmar government and the Thai authorities and will be briefed by the Myanmar embassy before heading south to Samui Island where the suspects are being held, according to local Thai media.

They arrived at the airport carrying photos of Thailand's King Bhumibol and were clearly distraught as they talked with reporters.

After hours of discussion with lawyers from the Lawyers' Council of Thailand, the 2 men have recanted their confessions.

Ko Zaw Lin Oo and Ko Win Zaw Tun have said in a statement to prosecutors that they confessed to the murders of Ms Hannah Witheridge, 23, and Mr David Miller, 24, on 15th September under duress or violence and now fully retract their confession.

The 2 Myanmar migrant workers are charged with conspiracy to murder and rape, plus robbery, and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

(source: Burma News International)


Koh Tao murder suspects to meet parents tomorrow

The parents of the 2 young Myanmar workers facing the death penalty in Thailand for allegedly murdering 2 British tourists on a resort island last month met with Thailand's Human Rights Commission, the Lawyers Council of Thailand and Myanmar's ambassador to Thailand yesterday to discuss the controversial case.

"Their parents arrived here today. They met with Myanmar's ambassador to Thailand, Thailand's Human Rights Commission and the Lawyers Council of Thailand also joined the meeting," lawyer Aung Myo Than from the Myanmar Embassy said yesterday.

A press conference was held after the meetings, Aung Mo said. "Thai media were supportive of the parents ... They said all Thai people want to know the truth about the case," he added.

The 2 accused workers have retracted their confessions. Their lawyers said they were tortured and forced into making them.

They have been jailed as they face court proceedings over the killing of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, whose battered bodies were found on Koh Tao (Turtle Island) on September 15.

Their parents, along with the special envoy from Myanmar observing the case, will visit the pair at a prison on Samui Island on October 24.

Thai police have come under intense criticism for repeated mistakes in their investigation into the murders, and it has been widely alleged that the 2 21-year-old Myanmar migrants were used as scapegoats in what has turned out to be an alleged bungled effort to protect that country's carefully crafted image as safe haven for tourists.

Thai authorities have strongly denied allegations that the pair are scapegoats, insisting the case is built on solid evidence, which includes DNA samples of the accused that matches samples taken from the body of Witheridge, who was also raped.

Thailand's foremost forensic scientists, however, has cast doubt on this, saying the crime scene had not been sealed and protected and that no forensics expert had been called in to assist in the investigation.

Prosecutors confirmed they received a letter from the defence team saying the suspects had withdrawn their confessions and alleged that they had been tortured.

The murders on the rowdy island - which is well-known among backpackers for its beach parties, cheap alcohol and easily available drugs - have raised questions about Thailand's reputation as a tourist destination globally, while in the country fresh questions about the reliability and trustworthiness of the country's notoriously corrupt police force have been raised.

Thai authorities have agreed to allow British police to observe their investigation.



The uncomfortable truth about executions

After a leaked report revealed China executes 3 times more people than the world combined, here are the facts about capital punishment across the globe

This week the Dui Hua Foundation exposed the shocking number of executions that took place in China in 2013.

According to the US-based pressure group, China executed 2,400 people.

The number, which is troubling in itself, is even more disturbing when put into a global context - as it reveals last year China executed 3 times more people than the world combined.

The total number of executions for the rest of the world was 778 people in 2013, according to Amnesty International.

The next highest execution rate was Iran is the next biggest executor with at least 369, followed byIraq with at least with at least 169.

Other uncomfortable facts have come out of the latest round of statistics - for example, Belarus remains the only European country to still have the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Japan, India, Malaysia and South Sudan, prisoners were not told they were to be executed - and neither were their lawyers or even their family.

Amnesty International say that despite these shocking numbers the global trend remains towards abolition - with 173 of 193 members of the United Nations execution-free.

(source: The Telegraph)


UK 'aid for executions' in spotlight as Pakistan set to restart hangings

More than 100 prisoners apprehended in UK-funded drug arrests are now facing execution in Pakistan, after a judge scheduled a hanging that would end the country's 2-year death penalty moratorium.

A 1-month stay of execution granted to Pakistani prisoner Shoaib Sarwar expires next Monday (27th October), leaving Mr Sarwar at imminent risk of death. The hanging, if it takes place, would be Pakistan's 1st execution since 2012, and would throw into question the lives of at least 112 drug offenders currently on Pakistan's death row - including a number of British nationals, who were sentenced to death in trials falling short of international standards.

While the UK government's Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty lists Pakistan as a 'priority country', the UK has given more than 12 million pounds to support anti-drug operations in Pakistan, where drug possession can carry a death sentence. UK funding has covered training for officers in Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force as well as intelligence and equipment, while ministers have failed to take steps to prevent the aid leading to death sentences. Last week, Denmark announced it would reconsider similar aid in light of the moratorium's possible collapse.

Pakistan's specialist drug courts maintain a conviction rate of more than 92 per cent, and can hand down a death sentence to anyone convicted of possession of more than 1kg of drugs. The Pakistani Anti-Narcotics Force lists death sentences on its website as "Prosecution Achievements."

In correspondence with legal charity Reprieve, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed that the UK has ended counter-narcotics funding to Iran due to "the exact same concerns" as Denmark; the latter country redirected funding in 2013 after concluding donations were "leading to executions". On Pakistan, however, Mr Clegg said the UK would continue its funding, despite being "acutely aware that this assistance must not compromise our clear opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances, including for drug offences".

Asked what Britain's aid stance would be if Pakistan's moratorium collapses, Mr Clegg promised that the Government would "urge the Pakistan authorities to abolish the death penalty", but failed to address the issue of the 100+ death row prisoners whose arrests were funded by the UK.

Reprieve has asked the British Government to make its aid conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offences - consistent with its position on similar aid to Iran - and to accept responsibility for the link between its support for drug operations and the application of the death penalty, including for British nationals.

Reprieve's Death Penalty Team Director Maya Foa said: "Despite calling Pakistan a "priority country" in its strategy to abolish the death penalty worldwide, Britain has sent millions of pounds to help Pakistani forces arrest and sentence people to death for alleged drug offences. The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade - they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet 'quotas'. British aid for executions breaches the Government's own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad."



Wife could face death penalty

The Perth-based sons of a man murdered in Bali arrived on the island yesterday as police revealed their mother, who allegedly ordered the killing, could face the death penalty.

Noer Ellis remains in police custody after allegedly confessing to arranging hit men to kill her husband, British-Australian expatriate Robert Kevin Ellis, whose body was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in a ditch in a rice field this week.

Police said Mr Ellis was set upon in the kitchen of the couple's villa in Sanur by 5 killers who slashed his throat.

Police will allege Mrs Ellis paid her maid's boyfriend $14,000 to kill Mr Ellis, most of it to be paid after the crime.

Police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said the pair and a second maid would also be charged.

He said 2 charges were being weighed up - murder, carrying up to 15 years jail, and premeditated murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

4 others were still wanted for involvement in the crime.

"Some have fled Bali and some are still hiding in Bali," Mr Hery said. "We urge them to surrender.

"Wherever they are, we will hunt them down."

The couple's sons, Jon, 23, and Peter, 19, arrived in Bali yesterday and were still coming to terms with the tragedy, according to long-time family friend Ross Taylor.

Mr Taylor, president of the Indonesia Institute, said the sons were yet to decide whether to visit their mother in custody.

"There needs to be a discussion as to where they proceed from here," Mr Taylor said.

"There are issues regarding meeting their mother, how that will be dealt with, and it's extremely complex and emotionally charged."

Their uncle, Mr Ellis' brother, was in Bali providing support.

The brothers, who went to Wesley College and studied at Edith Cowan University, released a statement on Wednesday. It said they were devastated by their father's death.

"Dad has been such a vital part of our lives," they said.

Mr Taylor said business and financial concerns had led to "tension" between Mr Ellis and his wife in the past year.

He said Mr Ellis was a successful, well-liked businessman who had lived in Indonesia for many years.

(source: The West Australian)


5 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran----4 prisoners, among them 1 Afghan citizen, sentenced to death for drug-related charges and 1 prisoner charged for murder were hanged in 2 different prisons in northern Iran.

4 prisoners were hanged for drug-related charges in the prison of Rasht (Northern Iran) on Saturday October 18, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Gilan Province. 1 of the prisoners identified as "A. M." (32 year old, name of father Gholam Rasoul) was an Afghan citizen and was sentenced to death for possession of 1995 grams of heroin. The other prisoners were identified as "M.H." (46) charged for participation in buying, possession and trafficking of 27 kilograms of opium; "M.A." (44; son of Ismaeil) for one kilogram of Crystal and 330 grams of heroin; "M.A." (34, son of Tavakol) for buying 2200 grams of Crystal said the report.

According to the state run Iranian news agency Fars, a 35 year old man was hanged in the prison of Amol (Northern Iran) yesterday morning, Wednesday October 22. The prisoner was sentenced to "Qisas" (retribution in kind) for murdering 1 of his friends in 2008, said the report.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

OCTOBER 23, 2014:


Death Penalty for PA Prisoner Thrown Out

Blocking the execution of a Pennsylvania prisoner, a federal judge cited lapses by defense counsel with respect to evidence of childhood abuse and medical history.

Darrick Hall was 1 of 3 men convicted for the Dec. 18, 1993, armed robbery of a Chester County laundromat, and Hall was convicted for murdering the laundromat attendant. Prosecutors showed that while Hall and his 2 accomplices were changing clothes after the shooting, they joked about the guns they had used.

Though the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty for Hall, U.S. District Judge James Gardner found Wednesday that habeas relief is required because of deficiencies by Hall's trial attorney.

Even a basic investigation into Hall's life would have unearthed evidence of extreme childhood abuse and a history of significant head traumas and seizures, according to the 180-page ruling.

While the two witnesses Hall's attorney called, Hall's former girlfriend and his mother, provided brief testimony on Hall's overall character, evidence that his father regularly raped and beat his mother, pulled knives on her and threatened to kill her fell through the cracks because of defense counsel's research lapses, Gardner found.

Hall has since submitted an affidavit from his mother that Hall's father once kept her "in the house and repeatedly raped and beat her until friends were able to free her." Four affidavits also show that Hall witnessed his father breaking his mother's arm.

Hall's father took money allotted for food and household expenses and used them for drugs, the affidavits showed. When Hall was 5, his father was arrested and his mother began a relationship with another man who beat Hall. Around this time, his mother "began drinking as a way to cope with the abuse," the court found, citing the affidavits.

Hall's medical history meanwhile includes seizures and a bicycle accident when he was 8 years old that resulted in the loss of consciousness, according to the ruling. A psychological evaluation when Hall was a child revealed an IQ score of 73, significantly below average.

Applying the holding of the 1984 Supreme Court case Strickland v. Washington, Gardner said that the outcome of Hall's trial may have been different but for the failure by his attorney to introduce evidence of Hall's extreme emotional or mental disturbance and inability to fully appreciate the criminality of his conduct.

"Because trial defense counsel's inadequate investigation and presentation of mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of petitioner's trial fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and because petitioner suffered prejudice as a result of trial defense counsel's deficient performance, I conclude that petitioner is entitled to relief from his death sentence," the opinion states.

A new sentencing hearing will take place in the next 180 days.

Pennsylvania prison records show that Hall, 43, is being held at Graterford.

(source: Courthouse News)


Prosecutors accept proposed trial delay for Colorado cinema gunman

Prosecutors in the Colorado theater massacre case do not oppose a defense request to delay the murder trial of accused gunman James Holmes until early next year, court papers showed on Thursday.

A ruling by the judge on whether to postpone the trial is pending.

Earlier this week, public defenders asked Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour to postpone the trial, which is set to begin in December, because they needed more time to review results of a 2nd sanity examination.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more during a midnight screening of Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

His lawyers have conceded Holmes was the lone shooter, but said he was undergoing a psychotic episode.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the shooting spree, and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

The onetime neuroscience doctoral candidate has undergone two mental examinations since invoking the insanity defense.

Samour ordered a 2nd psychiatric evaluation after agreeing with prosecutors the 1st evaluation, conducted last year, was deficient. The 2nd sanity exam involved 22 hours of videotaped interviews with Holmes, according to court papers.

The results of neither examination has been made public.

In their motion to continue the trial, defense lawyers said the second examination, which was completed last week, "raises significant new issues" that will require "extensive litigation."

In their written response, prosecutors said the defense request is "reasonable" and suggested a trial date for the third week of January. Under Colorado law, prosecutors must prove a defendant was not insane at the time of the crime.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they have not received from a state mental hospital that oversaw the testing all the underlying documentation surrounding the latest evaluation. Samour on Thursday ordered the hospital to produce the materials by next week, or explain why they might not be able to provide that information by that deadline.

(source: Reuters)


Where Does California's Death Penalty Stand?

The acceptance of a San Diego case for review by the U.S. Supreme Court has inadvertently put the spotlight once again on the death penalty in California. The high court will review a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned the conviction of Hector Ayala. He was found guilty of a 1985 triple murder in San Diego and sentenced to death. The appeals court said the absence of black and Hispanic jurors was possibly race-based.

And the larger issue of the legality of California's death penalty is also in litigation. California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, is appealing a ruling that found that long delays make the state's capital punishment law unconstitutional.

(soruce: KPBS news)


California prison system agrees to end racial segregation

An agreement reached this week in California will see that prison officials are no longer allowed to segregate inmates by race in the event of lockdowns at facilities across the state.

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday published a stipulated settlement reached between the state's prison system and a group of inmates that should once and for all resolve a long-standing class action suit filed High Desert State Prison inmate Robert Mitchell in 2008.

According to the Times, Mitchell claimed in a 2008 filing that it was the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's policy that "when there is an incident involving any race, all inmates of that race are locked up." The instance that spawned the suit, an inmate-on-guard attack in 2006 at High Desert, left all black detainees confined to an African American-only wing of the facility for 14 months, solely because of race, which prison officials argued was necessary to control violent prison gangs that are often ethnicity-exclusive. Once the agreement posted by the paper this week becomes official, then that will change.

"The parties have conducted extensive negotiations over several months to resolve Plaintiffs' demands that CDCR change its statewide policies and practices concerning modified programs and lockdowns," the settlement reads in part. "Those negotiations have been undertaken at arm's length and in good faith between Plaintiffs' counsel and high-ranking state officials and their counsel. The parties have reached agreement on statewide policies and practices that CDCR has already begun to implement to settle Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The parties freely, voluntarily, and knowingly, with the advice of counsel, enter into this Stipulation for that purpose."

Specifically, the settlement says the CDCR will no longer implement race-based modified programs or lockdowns, and that, instead, security measures taken to control inmates in certain circumstances will be imposed based on individualized threat assessments.

"CDCR will only place an inmate on a modified program that impacts a security threat group if an individualized review of that inmate's central file indicates an affiliation, based on sufficiently reliable and current information, with the security-threat group impacted by the modified program," it reads.

Additionally, the settlement stipulates that inmates subjected to any sort of lockdown must be allowed to partake in outdoor activity time if the duration of the period exceeds 14 days: a major change given that, according to the Associated Press, prison officials in the Golden State impose more than 600 lockdowns in an average year.

"The prisons will still be able to maintain security, while prisoners will no longer be targeted for lengthy lockdowns just because of their race or ethnicity," Rebekah Evenson, an attorney for the prisoners, said of the agreement in a statement to Reuters.

"We see this as a tremendous result," Evenson told the Times.

A federal judge is expected to next review the agreement at an upcoming hearing, Reuters reported, and will then likely approve it.

(source: RTT news)





Pope: no to death penalty and to inhuman prison conditions

Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in "all of its forms" and for the improvement of prison conditions.

The Pope was addressing a group of members of the International Association of Criminal Law whom he received in the Vatican.

In his discourse the Pope also addressed the need to combat the phenomena of human trafficking and of corruption.

And he stressed that the fact that the enforcement of legal penalties must always respect human dignity.

In a dense and impassioned discourse to the Jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the "life sentence" is really a "concealed death sentence", and that is why - he explained - he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.

Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope's speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming "violence and private and public acts of vengeance" that are always in search of a scape-goat.

Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty as does the Catechism, Francis decried the practice and denounced "so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions" calling them "deliberate homicides" committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:

"All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed".

And Pope Francis had words of harsh criticism for all forms of criminality which undermine human dignity, there are forms of his - he said - even within the criminal law system which too often does not respect that dignity when criminal law is applied.

"In the last decades" - the Pope said - "there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine."

He said this conviction has pushed the criminal law system beyond its sanctioning boundaries, and into the "realm of freedom and the rights of persons" without real effectiveness.

"There is the risk of losing sight of the proportionality of penalties that historically reflect the scale of values upheld by the State. The very conception of criminal law and the enforcement of sanctions as an 'ultima ratio' in the cases of serious offenses against individual and collective interests have weakened. As has the debate regarding the use of alternative penal sanctions to be used instead of imprisonment".

Pope Francis speaks of remand or detention of a suspect as a "contemporary form of illicit hidden punishment" concealed by a "patina of legality", as it enforces "an anticipation of punishment" upon a suspect who has not been convicted. From this - the Pope points out - derives the risk of multiplying the number of detainees still awaiting trial, who are thus convicted without benefiting from the protective rules of a trial. In some countries - he says - this happens in some 50% of all cases with the trickledown effect of terribly overcrowded detention centers:

"The deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world are an authentic inhuman and degrading trait, often caused by deficiencies of criminal law, or by a lack of infrastructures and good planning. In many cases they are the result of an arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom."

Pope Francis also speaks of what he calls "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and sanctions," and compares detention in maximum-security prisons to a "form of torture". The isolation imposed in these places - he says - causes "mental and physical" suffering that result in an "increased tendency towards suicide". Torture - the Pope points out - is used not only as a means to obtain "confession or information":

"It is an authentic 'surplus' of pain that is added to the woes of detention. In this way torture is used not only in illegal centers of detention or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, in rehabilitation centers for minors, in psychiatric hospitals, in police stations and in other institutions for detention or punishment".

And Pope Francis said children must be spared the harshness of imprisonment - as must, at least in a limited way - older people, sick people, pregnant women, disabled people as well as parents if they are the sole guardians of minors or persons with disabilities.

The Pope also highlighted one of the criminal phenomena he has always spoken out against vehemently: human trafficking which - he says - is the result of that "cycle of dire poverty" that traps "a billion people" and forces at least 45 million to flee from conflict:

"Based on the fact that it is impossible to commit such a complex crime as is the trafficking of persons without the complicity, be it active or of omission of action of the State, it is evident that, when the efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are not sufficient, we find ourselves before a crime against humanity. This is even truer if those who are responsible for the protection of persons and the safeguard of their freedom become an accomplice of those who trade in human beings; in those cases the State is responsible before its citizens and before the international community".

Pope Francis dedicates an ample part of his discourse to corruption. The corrupt person - according to the Pope - is a person who takes the "short-cuts of opportunism" that lead him to think of himself as a "winner" who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. "Corruption" - the Pope says "is a greater evil than sin", and more than "be forgiven, must be cured".

"The criminal sanction is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish leaving the big fish to swim free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that must be persecuted with greatest severity are those that cause grave social damage, both in economic and social questions - for example grave fraud against public administration or the dishonest use of administration".

Concluding, Pope Francis exhorted the jurists to use the criteria of "cautiousness" in the enforcement of criminal sanctions. This - he affirmed - must be the principle that upholds criminal law:

"The respect for human dignity must operate not only to limit the arbitrariness and the excesses of State officials, but as a criteria of orientation for the persecution and the repression of those behaviors that represent grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person".

(source: Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis blasts life sentences as 'hidden death penalty'----Pontiff slates countries facilitating torture and says using prisons to fix social problems is like treating all diseases with 1 drug

Pope Francis has branded life-long prison terms "a hidden death sentence" in an attack on "penal populism" that included severe criticism of countries that facilitate torture.

In a wide-ranging speech to a delegation from the International Association of Penal Law, the pontiff said believers should oppose life-long incarceration as strongly as the use of capital punishment.

"All Christians and men of good faith are therefore called upon today to fight, not only for the abolition of the death penalty - whether it is legal or illegal and in all its forms - but also to improve the conditions of incarceration to ensure that the human dignity of those deprived of their freedom is respected.

"And this, for me, is linked to life sentences. For a short time now, these no longer exist in the Vatican penal code. A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty."

In comments likely to enhance his reputation as one of the most liberal of popes, Francis went on to slam the risk of sentencing becoming disproportionately severe.

"In recent decades a belief has spread that through public punishment the most diverse social problems can be resolved, as if different diseases could all be cured by the same medicine."

Reiterating Catholic teaching that capital punishment is a sin, the pope also made what appeared to be a thinly veiled attack on the European countries which have facilitated US demands for extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to detention centres in parts of the world where they can be tortured with impunity.

"These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising ... the principle of placing human dignity above all else."

(source: The Guardian)


Pope Francis Defends Prisoners' Rights, Calls For Abolition Of Death Penalty

Pope Francis is speaking up for some of the most outcast members of society - the prisoners.

The pontiff issued a call for the abolition of the death penalty on Thursday, harshly criticizing prison systems around the world for overstepping boundaries, mistreating inmates, and failing to recognize the sanctity of human life.

"All Christians and men of good will are called today to fight not just for the abolition of the death penalty in all its forms, whether it be legal or illegal, but also the goal of improving prison conditions, out of respect of the human dignity of people deprived of their freedom," the pope said during a meeting with the International Association of Penal Law.

Francis added that locking people up for life amounts to a "hidden death penalty," noting that Vatican City has removed the life sentence from its criminal code, ANSA reports.

The pontiff also lashed out against the use of torture and the criminal punishment of children. He urged for the "special treatment" of elderly prisoners.

Francis' speech reaffirmed the Catholic church's long-held position on the death penalty.

In America, support for the death penalty has dipped as low as 42% in 1966 and reached as high as 80% in 1994, according to Gallup. Since the peak in the mid-1980s, public support for the death penalty has dropped to 63% and has remained relatively stable since 2008.

According to Gallup, "These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as six U.S. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it."

(source: Carol Kuruvilla; Huffington Post)


3 Afghan nationals executed for drug trafficking

At least 3 Afghans were hanged to death in Iran over drugs smuggling charges, Afghan officials said.

The officials further added that the deceased individuals were originally residents of northeastern Takhar province.

Provincial governor spokesman for Takhar province, Sanatullah Temori, said the dead bodies were handed over to their families and buried in Kalafgan district.

(source: Khaama Press)


Pakistan Supreme Court Could Overturn Christian Mother Asia Bibi's Death Sentence Despite Radical Pressure, Says International Christian Concern

International Christian Concern has expressed hopes that Christian mother of five Asia Bibi could see her death sentence overturned by Pakistan's Supreme Court, despite pressure on judges from radical groups that are determined to see her executed.

"I think the chances of the Supreme Court overturning the death sentence are much greater than that of the High Court. In many cases, especially blasphemy cases, court decisions are influenced, either by ideology or threats, by local radical groups. Generally, the High Court is more insulated from this influence," William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, told The Christian Post in an email on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, in Asia's case, she is very high profile and the radical groups tracking her case and advocating for her death have already shown what they are willing to do to keep Asia's death sentence confirmed. Shabaz Bhatti, a federal government minister, and Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, were murdered for speaking out against the blasphemy charge against Asia," Stark continued.

"I am just speculating, but I am sure that the Justices deciding Asia's case at the Lahore High Court were thinking about Bhatti and Taseer and their own personal safety when they made their decision to confirm the death sentence."

Bibi, who was first sentenced to death in 2010, saw her punishment upheld by the Lahore court last week. The mother was accused of blaspheming against Islam following an argument with Muslim women during an incident in 2009. Several human rights and persecution watchdog groups have pointed out, however, that blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores and persecute religious minorities in the heavily Islamic country.

Stark said that raising awareness is a very important step in affecting change in situations like Bibi's case.

"If Asia is a household name for Christians around the world and people are paying attention to her case, Pakistan and the justices ruling on her case will know that whatever decision they make will be seen and will be scrutinized. In some cases, just knowing that 'the world is watching' can affect the decisions of cases like this," Stark told CP.

"The blasphemy charge against Rimsha Masih in 2012 is a great example of this. After Rimsha, a young Christian girl, was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, there was an international outcry that ultimately led to her being released and resettled in a safe country."

Christian leaders in Pakistan have been calling out for Pakistani authorities to reverse Bibi's sentence, while a group working to protect Christians from blasphemy laws urged international pressure on Pakistan.

Haroon Barkat, director of the Masihi Foundation, said earlier this week that "international pressures and mobilization can be useful" in influencing the case. He said that above all, "the political will of the government and of the highest authorities in Pakistan is needed" to put an end to the many false blasphemy cases in the country.

Stark agreed that it could help if the U.S. applies pressure on the situation, especially since Pakistan remains one of the U.S.'s top recipients of international aid.

"Having the U.S. government call on Pakistan to uphold international human rights standards as part of receiving aid shouldn't be that far-fetched," he said.

When asked about how Bibi's case compares to the one of Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan from earlier this year, Stark said that in some ways the cases are similar, but also different.

"In both cases, these women are Christians and have been sentenced to death for crimes against Islam in countries that promote Islam as the state sponsored religion. Both women also come from countries where Christians are in the minority and are heavily persecuted. Obviously, both of these cases bring up religious freedom issues for minority populations living in the Muslim world," ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia said.

Ibrahim was initially facing the death penalty in Sudan for refusing to identify as a Muslim and for marrying her Christian husband Daniel Wani. Following a large international campaign, Sudan decided to release her, allowing her eventually to leave the country and come to the U.S., where Wani is a citizen.

Stark pointed out that Wani's American citizenship is a major difference between the cases, as it makes Ibrahim's two young children Americans as well.

"I believe this benefited Miriam greatly when it came to spurring NGOs, the U.S. government and U.S. citizens to action, ultimately leading to her release and resettlement in the U.S. That connection doesn't exist for Asia, making her easier to forget about and harder to push for action on," he said.

As Bibi's defense team prepares an appeal to the Supreme Court, other Christian groups are calling on people to offer prayers for the mother.

Open Doors noted that Bibi has spent much of the past five years in solitary confinement to protect her from other inmates, while the high-profile nature of the case has forced her family to go into hiding.

"Even her legal team face threats to their careers, families, and lives. Please pray for Asia, her family, her legal team, and the judge who will hear her appeal, and ask your church to do the same," the group said.

Open Doors added that it is contacting diplomats from around the world to raise awareness for Asia's case.

(source: Christian Post)


Somalia Islamist Militants Stone 18-Year-Old to Death for Rape

Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia publicly stoned an 18-year-old boy to death after he was accused of rape, the al-Qaeda-linked group and witnesses said.

The teenager, named as Hassan Ahmed Ali, was accused of raping a 28-year-old woman at gunpoint and sentenced to death by a local judge, al-Shabaab's Radio Andalus reported. About 100 people witnessed the killing yesterday afternoon in the main square of Dharuuro, a village in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, Mohamed Dhubow, a resident, said by phone.

"Dozens of masked fighters" threw stones at the teenager, who'd been buried up to his neck, Dhubow said. "No one could help him."

Al-Shabaab have been fighting Somalia's government since at least 2006 in their campaign to establish an Islamic state. Somali government forces, backed by African Union soldiers, have made gains against al-Shabaab since forcing the Islamist fighters to withdraw from the capital, Mogadishu, 3 years ago.

Somalia's government expects to liberate areas still controlled by the militants within the next 6 months after capturing the insurgents' coastal stronghold of Barawe in early October.

(source: Bloomberg News)


Death Watch: San Antonio Gun Brother----Appeals denied for Paredes and 2 others

Ultimately, it mattered not whom Miguel Paredes killed but rather if his trial jury could determine that he assisted in or enforced the deaths of 2 of 3 individuals who lost their lives in September 2000. Paredes was only 18 at the time and affiliated with San Antonio's Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos. His boss, John Saenz, had gotten mixed up in a bad drug deal with Adrian Torres, gang leader of SA's Mexican Mafia. Saenz brought Torres to his house one Sunday afternoon while Paredes and an accomplice, Greg Alvarado, were waiting respectively in the garage and an adjacent bedroom.

Torres didn't leave alive; neither did Shawn Cain and Nelly Bravo, who rode with Torres to Saenz's house. Paredes and Alvarado came out of their respective hiding spaces after the Mafia members entered; with Saenz, they shot and killed all 3 visitors. Their bodies were found a few days later in Frio County, southwest of San Antonio, where they'd been bound and burned and left by Paredes and other Pistoleros. All involved parties were arrested 2 days later, Sept. 19, 2000, except for Alvarado, who was caught several days later.

Testimonies from Saenz's neighbor as well as his brother Eric, a member of the Pistoleros who doubled as an informant for the San Antonio office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, linked Paredes to the murders. Eric's testimony, which detailed both onsite realizations after the shootings, as well as information gleaned from a conversation he had with his brother, revealed Paredes to have said that Eric "should have been there, that I would have had some fun." He further testified against Paredes by saying the 18-year-old, known as "Fat Boy" within HPL circles, "didn't look like [the murders] fazed him," while John "looked like he was not in his right mind" during the period of time in which gang members rid Saenz's house of the bodies.

Paredes was found guilty of capital murder and, after being painted as a young gang member with an already established history of crime violence (including murder, kidnapping, and the burning of a woman's body after she'd overdosed on drugs), sentenced to death on Nov. 9, 2001. His primary accomplices - Alvarado, who pleaded guilty, and Saenz, who claimed self-defense - were both handed life sentences.

In November 2003, Paredes began a series of applications for habeas corpus relief that largely hung on 5 grounds. Beginning with a state effort and concluding with a federal appeal, he argued that he'd been made subject to a grand jury that, at 8% Hispanic, wasn't "a fair cross section" of the community (at the time, Bexar County was 34% Hispanic); that he received ineffective trial counsel; that the trial court erred in allowing the jury to conclude that Paredes killed or intended to kill any 2 of the 3 victims (and not specifically pin 2 exact murders on him); that the Texas capital sentencing statute is "arbitrary and capricious and violates the Eighth Amendment because it contains vague and undefined terms for aggravating factors"; and that the trial judge "uncritically and unconditionally accepted the prosecutor's findings without any judicial guidance."

Each effort for relief was eventually denied. Some - such as Paredes' claims against proper representation on the jury and against the effectiveness of his trial counsel - were procedurally barred from review. An Aug. 2010 appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was refused on many of the same grounds. 5 months later, in January 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Paredes' writ of certiorari.

Paredes is set to be executed on Tuesday, Oct. 28. He'll be the 11th inmate executed this year, and 519th since the reinstatement of Texas' death penalty in 1976.


Earlier this month in unrelated cases, the U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from 32-year-old Derrick Dewayne Charles, a Houston native who'd been sentenced to death in 2003 after being found guilty of strangling his 15-year-old girlfriend Myiesha Bennett, raping and strangling her 44-year-old mother Brenda Bennett, and fatally beating his girlfriend's 77-year-old grandfather Obie Lee Bennett. And last Tuesday, the 5th Circuit refused an appeal from Raphael Holiday, convicted of killing his 18-month-old daughter and her 2 half-sisters when he set their Madison County house on fire in September 2000. Neither of the 2 have yet to receive their execution dates.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Let an innocent man spend his last days at home

Max Soffar, an innocent man on death row in Texas, has just a few months to live.

He's dying of liver cancer, and his last wish is to hold his wife, Anita, in his arms.

His lawyers continue to present evidence of his innocence to the courts. But a false confession Soffar signed 34 years ago, as a drug-addled and brain-damaged youth, will likely keep him locked away - unless Gov. Rick Perry intervenes.

Soffar is spending his last days locked in a cell the size of a small bathroom for 23 hours per day. His only breaks are for brief showers and recreation in a cage. Aside from the guards who shackle him and the medical staff who care for him, he has no human contact. Soffar sees his wife and others allowed to visit him but, separated from them by glass, can't touch them. He sits on a metal stool bolted to the floor, peering through the window, straining to position his cancer-ravaged body comfortably.

Soffar's case is like others I've seen in my years with the Innocence Project. He signed a police statement confessing to involvement in a notorious Houston triple murder, but the 3 days of interrogation weren't recorded. No other evidence inculpates him - no fingerprints, no witness identification and no forensic evidence. And like the recent exoneration of our death row client Damon Thibodeaux, Soffar’s confession doesn't match the facts. An appellate judge found that Soffar's statement "appears to be a tale told by one who heard about the robbery-murders rather than by one who committed them."

Indeed, nearly 30 % of DNA exonerations (including death penalty cases) involve false confessions. Again and again, our clients have described an overwhelming pressure to confess, even when their statements are false, when police isolate them from the world for hours or days, tell them they're lying, cut them off at every turn and threaten devastating consequences if they don't concede.

Proving that a confession in a death penalty case was false can be extremely difficult. For Soffar, whose case doesn't have DNA evidence to support his innocence, this has meant decades of legal work - efforts that still need more time. Time that he no longer has. For Soffar and so many others, I wish DNA evidence were as easy to come by as TV shows and movies suggest. In truth, fewer than 10 percent of crime scenes contain DNA that could identify the true perpetrator. The coffee cup, the cigarette butt - these are lucky breaks, not the norm.

Take the recent exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown in North Carolina. Like Soffar, they were youths (ages 19 and 15) and intellectually disabled when they falsely confessed to murder and rape. Like Soffar, they were sent to death row based only on statements the police wrote and asked them to sign; no other evidence linked them to the crime. Like Soffar, their interrogations weren't recorded. And just like in Soffar's case, the jury never heard about a far more plausible suspect in the crime. For McCollum and Brown, there was a key difference: The crime's perpetrator left his DNA at the scene on a cigarette butt.

The DNA revolution has freed many innocents. But the lesson we should learn is that the practices leading to wrongful convictions - including coercive and manipulative interrogations - occur throughout the criminal justice system. And they occur whether or not DNA evidence exists that proves innocence. One simple fix, already required in 24 states, 850 other jurisdictions and recently adopted by the FBI, is to videotape interrogations from Miranda warnings forward. This reform, recommended years ago by Texas' Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, should be at the top of the Texas Legislature's list when it convenes next year.

But Soffar's only hope to die at home lies with the governor. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recently denied Soffar's petition for clemency. Citing the absence of an execution date for him, the board said, "It has been determined that Mr. Soffar's request will not be considered by the Board at this time." But nothing in Texas law requires Perry to accept the board's absurd refusal to decide this issue now, before Soffar dies. The governor can and should order a more comprehensive review.

Governor Perry, this isn't a question of politics, of being for or against capital punishment, or even of whether Max Soffar is guilty or innocent. It's a humanitarian appeal - an issue of mercy, compassion and human decency.

Please allow Max to die in peace, close to his loved ones who have suffered greatly for so long.

(source: Barry Scheck,


Accused murderer one step closer to Delaware trial----Mathew Burton could face death penalty in death of Nicole Bennett----Matthew Burton is 1 step closer to being extradited to Delaware to face trial for the 2012 death of Nicole Bennett. Burton has been fighting extradition in order to have his trial in Maryland, where he would not face the death penalty.

Matthew Burton is 1 step closer to being extradited to Delaware to face 1st-degree murder charges in the 2012 death of Nicole Bennett.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld a decision by the Circuit Court of Worcester County Sept. 30 to deny a writ of habeas corpus, filed by Burton to block his extradition to Delaware. While the writ was denied, Burton's extradition was stayed until the end of his Maryland appeals.

David Paulson, spokesman for the Maryland Attorney General's Office, said Burton's appeals window is still open until the Court of Special Appeals issues a mandate on the case, expected within the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, Delaware prosecutors await the end of Burton's appeals in Maryland, so he can be returned to Sussex County for trial.

"Mr. Burton is 1 step closer to facing justice in Delaware," Delaware Department of Justice spokesman Jason Miller said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley had signed Burton's extradition back to Delaware in Oct. 2013, according to court documents, but under Maryland law, Burton had the right of appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Burton wants to keep the case in Maryland, according to the Court of Special Appeals opinion, because in Maryland, Burton would not face the death penalty; O'Malley signed a repeal of the state's death penalty in May 2013. In Delaware, Burton could receive the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Maryland has withdrawn charges against Burton, who will be charged in Delaware with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree murder during the commission of a felony and 1st-degree rape.

Jurisdiction in the case became an issue because Bennett's body was found off a rural road in Worcester County, Md., but Delaware and Maryland State Police say the crime took place in Sussex County.

A passer-by found Bennett's body on an embankment off of Swamp Road, Worcester County, on June 15, 2012. An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore determined she had been asphyxiated. Her husband, Kevin, reported her missing when she did not come home from Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro, where she had worked late the evening of June 14, 2012. Burton worked as custodian at the church. The Bennett family has filed a wrongful death suit against the church for employing Burton, who had a history as a sex offender.

Police found Bennett's car parked at the church, locked with her personal belongings inside; police later learned Burton, the church custodian, was also at the church while she was there. Bennett's body was found 6 miles from the church. DNA evidence gathered by Maryland State forensic technicians connected Burton to the crime. A U.S. Marshal's Task Force arrested Burton July 6, 2012, following a traffic stop on Route 1 near Rehoboth Beach.



Delaware board nixes commutation for killer

Delaware's Board of Pardons has refused to hear a commutation request from a killer whose sentencing led to changes in Delaware's death penalty law.

James Llewellyn Jr. is 1 of 4 men convicted of robbing and murdering 2 armored car guards in December 1990. The defendants all received life sentences after jurors could not unanimously agree on the death penalty.

The killings so outraged the public that legislators held a special session in 1991 to change the law, giving judges the final say on whether to impose the death penalty after considering a jury's recommendation.

After reviewing a recent petition by Llewellyn, pardons board members agreed that they would not recommend commutation of Llewellyn's sentence, and that there was no reason to hear from him when they meet Thursday.

(source: Associated Press)


NCCU program focuses on exoneration of brothers

The exoneration of two half-brothers who falsely admitted to murdering an 11-year-old girl shows that confessions aren't always true, according to an attorney for one of the men.

"The only evidence that linked these two young boys to the crime was their confessions, which later turned out to be false," attorney W. James Payne said Tuesday. "A key learning point is that just because individuals may confess to crimes doesn't mean that they actually did them."

Payne spoke Tuesday at the N.C. Central University School of Law about the September exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after they served 30 years in prison. Payne was Brown's lawyer.

The men were freed after a presentation in Robeson County Superior Court by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission showed that DNA evidence linked another man to the 1983 crime.

Payne said police got confessions from the men, who were mentally handicapped. At the time they were arrested, McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15.

They were accused of a grisly slaying. An autopsy showed that the girl, Sabrina Buie, died from suffocation after a stick was used to push panties down her throat. She was raped and her nude body found in a field in the small Robeson County town of Red Springs.

A story told by a high school student led police to McCollum and Brown, who were interrogated for more than four hours by three officers.

Payne said there were "huge" inconsistencies in the stories they told police - "big, fat inconsistencies." But they signed confessions and were charged with murder and convicted. McCollum, now 50, ended up on death row before he walked out of Central Prison in Raleigh last month.

Brown walked out of Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County the same day.

Both men initially got death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was sent to death row again, and Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser last month overturned the convictions, saying the fact that another man's DNA was found on a cigarette butt near the girl's body contradicted the case presented by prosecutors.

A man who is in prison for committing a similar murder in Red Springs less than month after Sabrina was killed is being investigated for possible connection to the girl's death. But so far, he has not been charged.

Also speaking at the program was Sharon Stellato, associate director of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency that looks into claims of false convictions. The commission's work helped bring about the men's exoneration.

Stellato said no DNA was ever found that linked McCollum or Brown to the crime.

Since the commission began its work in 2007, it has helped exonerate seven people in North Carolina.

"What many people don't know about the commission is that we often confirm guilt," she said. "We're a neutral fact-finding agency, out there seeking the truth."

Tuesday's event was sponsored by the NCCU Law Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Project.

(source: The Herald-Sun)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Gadsden County murderer files appeal weeks before execution

Gadsden County man Chadwick Banks, who was convicted of the double murder in the 1992 slaying of his wife and stepchild, filed an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday.

Banks was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Nov. 13.

A letter submitted to the court by Banks' attorney Terri L. Backhus of Tampa appeals the denial of a Oct. 15 motion to vacate judgement.

Banks, now 43, was on probation for 2 aggravated assault charges when he entered the Gadsden County home of his wife Cassandra Banks around 2:30 a.m. and shot her in the head while she slept.

He then went into the bedroom of his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper and raped her before also shooting her in the head.

After pleading no contest to the crimes, Banks was found guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of sexual assault on a victim under 12 years old by a Gadsden County jury in 1994. The jurors voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty.

His direct appeals have been denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Following the denial of his 1st appeal, the court called the double murders "heinous, atrocious and cruel" enough to warrant death.

"In the early morning hours, Banks sat outside the trailer for several minutes before entering. He then shot his wife as she lay sleeping," said the court in 1997.

He appealed again in 2001, but the high court again denied his request.

If he is executed, Banks would be the 19th Florida death row inmate killed during Scott's 1st term in office, the most of any Florida governor. Banks would be the 89th prisoner executed since 1979 following reinstatement of the death penalty in Florida.

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)


Florida debate turns bitter over executions

The 3rd and final debate between Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist was dominated by personal attacks in one of the closest governors races in the country.

In the debate, hosted by CNN and affiliate WJXT in Jacksonville, the two candidates took aim at each other in a showdown that covered a wide range of topics, including economic policies, the death penalty, and voting rights for felons.

Death penalty

A heated moment came when Crist accused Scott of delaying an execution so that his attorney general could attend a political fundraiser.

"She asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on," Scott said in response. "She apologized."

In September 2013, Pam Bondi apologized for delaying the planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore, a notorious rapist and murderer, because it conflicted with a fundraiser.

Scott denied at the time that he knew the reason for the delay.

"Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?" Crist pressed.

"What would you like her to do?" Scott asked.

Crist went on to blast Scott for not answering questions.

The night got off to a breezy start, this time with no fan on stage for Crist and no protest from Scott.

"Everybody's comfortable here?" asked CNN's Jake Tapper, who co-moderated the debate with WJXT's Kent Justice. His question was a subtle reference to last week's seven minute standoff.

The debate quickly transitioned into a testy exchange with personal attacks over wealth.

Scott blamed Crist for the loss of more than 800,000 jobs while he was governor from 2007-2011, saying Crist is out of touch with average Florida voters because he grew up with wealth.

"I grew up with families that struggled. I don't know my natural father. I lived in public housing. I have an adopted dad," Scott said. "I didn't grow up with money. You did. You grew up with plenty of money. Charlie, you lost more jobs than any state but one."

Hammering back, Crist argued he was not responsible for the "economic meltdown" that occurred nationally during his tenure. He returned the attack against wealth, blasting Scott for being the one who's out of touch.

"You don't know me and you can't tell my story," Crist said. "But I know you are worth about $100 million or $200 million today and God bless you for that wealth, but the way you got it was pretty unsavory."

Scott, a former health care CEO, ran into controversy when his company, Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion for alleged Medicare fraud last decade.

Restoring rights for felons

Scott took a jab at Crist for bringing voting rights back to felons who had completed their sentences for nonviolent convictions.

"Here is Charlie's plan: You commit a heinous crime, as soon as you get out of jail, you get to vote. Stalk, you get to vote. You have intentional permanent disfigurement of a child and you walk out of jail and you get to vote," Scott said. Crist fired back, accusing Scott of "lying" and saying the restoration law only applied to nonviolent criminals.

(source: CNN)


Rick Scott Refuses To Say If He Knowingly Delayed An Execution For A Political Fundraiser

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) refused to say if he had knowingly granted a request to delay an execution so that Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) could hold a political fundraiser, repeatedly saying "she apologized" instead.

During a debate Tuesday night, the moderator asked Democratic nominee Charlie Crist if he believed that Scott did not take executions seriously. Crist hit Scott on the delay, saying, "Just this past year, an execution here in Florida was delayed by the governor so the attorney general could go forward and have a political me and my way of thinking, that doesn't sound like someone is taking that solemn duty as seriously as they should."

Scott shot back, arguing that Crist "doesn't know all the facts." Crist, however, did not let it go, asking Scott repeatedly to explain what happened. "I asked him a simple question. Did the Attorney General ask you to delay the execution so she could go forward with her political fundraiser?" he asked.

"She asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on," Scott said. When Crist continued to push, Scott repeated "she apologized" 4 times, asking Crist "What would you like her to do?"

The execution in question was that of Marshall Lee Gore, who was sentenced for the murder of 2 women in the 1980s. Gore's execution, which was delayed several times due to questions about his sanity, was scheduled for September 10, the same day as Bondi's "hometown campaign kickoff." According to The Tampa Bay Times, Bondi's office asked for a delay, which Scott granted. Gore was executed on October 1st.

The sheriff who investigated one of the killings called the decision to delay the execution "a slap in the face, not only for the law enforcement officers involved but for the families who have waited 25 long years." Gore's lawyer said that when he asked for why the execution was delayed, the governor's office would only say that it was a request by the attorney general. Bondi later apologized, saying, "We absolutely should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved."

Since coming to office in 2011, Scott and Bondi have overseen over 18 executions; Crist oversaw 5 during his term as governor. Scott has been criticized of his support for the 2013 Timely Justice Act, which reduced delays in the death penalty by reducing the amount of time between when the clemency process was exhausted and when the execution was carried out.



Attorneys for accused serial killer Michael Madison seek special prosecutor for death-penalty case

Defense attorneys for accused serial killer Michael Madison want a judge to throw Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty's office off the case and appoint a special prosecutor.

McGinty on Wednesday blasted the move, calling it a delay tactic.

"This is why death-penalty cases take 15 to 20 years and cost millions of dollars: The defense will do anything to avoid trial, truth and accountability," McGinty said. "They believe they alone are doing God's work as they attempt to frustrate justice in these mass-murder cases."

Madison's attorneys John Greene, Christine Julian and David Grant filed a document in Common Pleas Court this week that indicates the request to remove McGinty stems from a controversial psychiatric examination of Madison, who is charged in the slayings of three women in 2013.

His trial is slated to begin Nov. 3 before Judge Nancy McDonnell, but that date is highly unlikely. If he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The case has stalled because of the evaluation, as the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court are examining whether it was appropriate. On June 2, McDonnell ruled that prosecutors could have an expert interview Madison.

McGinty argued that Madison's attorneys had retained psychological experts, and prosecutors should be allowed to have their own expert.

Defense attorneys, however, said they will not make an issue of Madison's mental health at the trial, and they said the examination could violate Madison's right against self-incrimination, as he would be forced to answer questions.

Just days after McDonnell's decision, Madison's attorneys appealed to the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals. But the expert, Dr. Steven Pitt, already had begun examining Madison, and he was forced to stop after 3 hours.

In a hearing with attorneys in McDonnell's chambers, prosecutors said the notes and recordings of Pitt's evaluation had been placed "in a secure location where no one - including them or their staff - had access," according to the filing by Madison's lawyers.

But defense attorneys said that they have since learned "that some members of the prosecution team, including Prosecutor McGinty, have communicated with Dr. Pitt concerning what he learned during the Madison evaluation," the defense filing said. "Accordingly, the information provided about the accessibility of Mr. Madison's evaluation at that in-chambers conference was not accurate.

"In light of this development, Mr. Madison's defense team has serious concerns about the whereabouts and security of the data Dr. Pitt did obtain and his conclusions based thereon," the filing said.

The document said that if an appellate ruling indicates McDonnell was incorrect in ordering the examination, "the harm stemming from that decision is incurable, unless this prosecutor's office is removed from Mr. Madison's case and replaced by a special prosecutor."

Defense attorneys said McGinty has the "duty to prosecute crimes zealously. The public expects no less. What the public neither needs nor wants nor should expect is a prosecutor's office that oversteps its role and violates its obligation to do justice rather than seek victory - all at the expense of a defendant's right to a fair and reliable trial and sentencing."

A spokesman for McGinty's office, Joe Frolik, said the office will respond to the motion with its own filing. McDonnell will have a hearing on the issue Oct. 27. Frolik said the office "refutes any idea that we have had access to the walled off information from Dr. Pitt."

McGinty, in his statement, ripped the request.

"Defense stalling tactics already have dragged this case out for 15 months," McGinty said. "Now they are shooting for nothing short of endless delay with yet another frivolous motion. They aren't even waiting for decisions on their previous motions, which they know will be dismissed soon. Instead they file this, using a false premise to ask for our office's removal from the case.

"They purposefully avoided proper procedure that required them to have the court psychiatric clinic examine the defendant first. They don't want a neutral professional examination. Instead they want a hired-gun shrink who is biased by his or her own moral opposition to the death penalty and who will find mental illness where a neutral professional would not. Then they refuse to cooperate with the court or any other psychiatrist so the jury hears only their tainted report."

Madison, 37, is charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape. He is accused of killing Angela H. Deskins, 38; Shirellda Terry, 18; and Shetisha Sheeley, 28. Their bodies were found last July near his apartment off Hayden Avenue in East Cleveland.

In an interview with police, Madison admitted that he killed Sheeley, who had been missing since September 2012, according to court documents.

He told police that he did not remember killing Terry or Deskins, blaming his lack of memory on drinking and drugs.



Inmates in Tennessee sue state to uncover execution methods

The 1st of 11 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates in Tennessee did not meet the executioner as planned on Oct. 7. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled

Sept. 25 to postpone Billy Ray Irick's execution, as he and the other 10 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates are in the middle of a complex lawsuit against the state.

In granting Irick's motion to postpone his execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court laid out strict rules concerning time limits for appeals and motions going forward to expedite court proceedings in Davidson County Chancery Court. Irick had his execution postponed once in light of the pending lawsuit.

He was convicted of raping and murdering a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he was babysitting in 1985. As of press time, the court had not yet set another date for Irick.

The inmates scheduled for execution through 2016 are suing the state of Tennessee over a few fundamental questions: What are the identities of the execution team? What method will the state use to execute them? What drugs will be used? Who manufactures them? And have they been adequately tested?

Attorneys for the inmates also challenge the state's alternative form of execution: the electric chair. The inmates and their lawyers are calling both methods "cruel and unusual."

On Aug. 22, attorneys for the inmates changed the scope of the lawsuit because of the new Tennessee law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam that allows the state to use the electric chair as a backup if the necessary drugs for lethal injection are unavailable. On Sept. 17, Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman accepted an amendment to the lawsuit including objections to the constitutionality of using the electric chair.

Several pharmaceutical companies recently refused to sell their products, proven successful for use in executions in the past, if they were to be used in future executions.

Because of those refusals, Tennessee switched from using sodium thiopental - a deadly combo of 3 drugs - to just using pentobarbital. Before the court postponed Irick’s execution, the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) said it had enough pentobarbital on hand to carry out the execution via lethal injection.

"We are confident that we will have the necessary chemicals when needed," said Neysa Taylor, a spokesperson for TDOC.

By ushering in the return of the electric chair, Haslam made Tennessee 1 of only 8 states that remain in favor of using the device.

"Prior to the new law, an inmate was only subject to the electric chair in Tennessee if they chose to be," said Kelley Henry, federal public defender in Nashville.

Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the 32 states that still have capital punishment, but some states allow inmates the option of electrocution, hanging, firing squad or the gas chamber.

Henry said that with the change Tennessee now "stands alone as the only jurisdiction in the world to involuntarily impose the electric chair on its condemned citizens."

The lawsuit also comes as botched lethal injections across the country have at times left inmates conscious, even sometimes gasping for air for several minutes after the procedure has been performed.

Daryl Holton, who was electrocuted in Tennessee in 2007 for murdering his 3 sons and a stepdaughter in 1997, showed signs of being conscious after the 1st surge of electricity went through his body.

When Tennessee passed the law earlier this year to bring back the chair, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said courts should anticipate some challenges as inmates got closer to their execution dates.

"There certainly have been some gruesome electrocutions in the past, and that would weigh on courts' minds," Dieter said.

The next hearing in the Davidson County Chancery Court remains to be decided, but officials said it would likely be mid-October before the next round of motions are heard.



Man accused of kidnapping, killing man could face death penalty----Elizabethtown murder suspect faces death penalty

A man accused of kidnapping and killing a man in Munfordville could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hardin County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Octavio Correa.

Correa is now charged with capital murder.

Police said Correa and Tiffany Hodges kidnapped Saul Flores in July.

Hodges is charged with complicity to murder.

Investigators say Hodges told them she saw Correa shoot Flores in the head.

Correa and Hodges are being held at the Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.

Prosecutors did not say whether they would seek the death penalty against Hodges.

(source: WHAS news)


Former DA Foulston: Brownback's Carr brothers ad 'beyond disgraceful'

The former district attorney who prosecuted the Carr brothers murder case said Wednesday she thinks it's "reprehensible" for Gov. Sam Brownback to use the case as fodder in a re-election campaign ad.

"This case has devastated our community for almost 14 years," former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said in a statement sent to Kansas news media. "It is beyond disgraceful that Sam Brownback would exploit this tragedy and make the victims' families relive that horrific crime every time they turn on their television just for the sake of getting re-elected."

Foulston, who retired last year as district attorney, is the most recent Democrat to hold a countywide elected office in Sedgwick County.

In a statement issued by his campaign staff, Brownback, a Republican, said he appreciated Foulston's service in prosecuting the Carr brothers, but he reiterated that he thinks his opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, would appoint judges who are more liberal than those Brownback would select.

At issue is a Brownback campaign ad that attempts to link Davis to a controversial decision by the Kansas Supreme Court to vacate the death sentences of Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers were convicted of murdering 5 people, including a brutal execution-style quadruple murder, during a weeklong crime spree of killing, rape and robbery in Wichita in December 2000.

"Brownback panders to the emotions of citizens to suggest that in some way Paul Davis caused or created the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling in the Carr cases," Foulston said. "I am very disappointed that the governor, who is also an attorney bound by the Rules of Professional Responsibility, has forgotten his legal obligations in a political last ditch effort to recklessly undercut the qualifications and integrity of the Kansas Supreme Court and Paul Davis."

Davis, a lawyer, had no role in the original case or the appeal.

In setting aside the Carrs' death sentences, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial judge, the late Sedgwick County District Court Judge Paul Clark, erred by refusing to hold separate sentencing proceedings for the 2 brothers. Their lawyers had argued that trying the brothers in the same penalty phase forced them to damage each others' defenses.

The Supreme Court also found that jurors had not been properly instructed in the required standards of proof for a death sentence and that the Carrs' rights were violated by admission of hearsay evidence during the penalty phase.

The state Supreme Court upheld their convictions on 1 count of capital murder and they remain in prison.

Foulston, who is now in private practice, said she was disappointed in the state Supreme Court decision and noted it has already been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "There will ultimately be justice for the victims and their families," she said.

Brownback said during and after a debate Tuesday that he thinks it's justified to link Davis to the Supreme Court decision because Davis would appoint judges who are more liberal than those Brownback would pick.

Davis also opposes Brownback-proposed legislation to expand the governor's power in appointing Supreme Court justices.

"The Kansas Supreme Court is a very liberal court," Brownback said Tuesday. "Paul Davis wants to continue to appoint liberal judges to that court. I want to appoint judges who will interpret the law, not rewrite it as they choose to see it."

Foulston said: "If Sam Brownback wants to have a debate about judicial selection or the death penalty, that is an appropriate discussion to have. But to try to exploit this (Carr) case and reopen the wounds and pain experienced by the families and this community for political gain is reprehensible."



Nun discusses death-row visits----Author talks to students about capital punishment

Sister Helen Prejean, one of the nation's most ardent advocates against the death penalty, held the rapt attention of Animas High School students Wednesday with an interactive presentation.

Prejean, in town to discuss her book, Dead Man Walking, the Common Reading Experience for incoming freshmen at Fort Lewis College, squeezed in an hour with AHS students in a seemingly perpetual-motion schedule.

Prejean, 75, walked students through what can go wrong with all the delivery systems used in capital punishment in the United States - hanging, firing squad, electric chair and lethal injection.

Students in Matt Dooley's humanities class who are spending the week addressing issues on capital punishment were able to answer some of the questions Prejean posed.

Prejean, who has accompanied 6 inmates to their execution, then related her experience with Elmo Patrick Sonnier, the title character in Dead Man Walking.

She established a pen pal relationship with Sonnier, who with brother, Eddie, executed David LeBlanc, 16, and Loretta Bourque, 18, with 3 shots each in the back of the head. She ended up as his spiritual advisor.

Brother Eddie, who drew 2 life sentences, died in prison in January 2014.

Prjean recounted the apprehension that gripped her as she heard gates clang behind her on her 1st visit to Sonnier on death row.

But through the wire mesh screen in the holding pen where Sonnier sat, "his face was human," Prejean said.

After writing the draft of Dead Man Walking, Prejean met the parents and family members of the young victims.

Prejean used numbers to make some points.

California has 744 people on death row.

On average, Texas has double the number of murders compared with states that don't have the death penalty.

Prejean urged her listeners to sort out their feelings on capital punishment.

"I ask you," Prejean said, "how are we going to respond to society's need to make ourselves feel safe?"

(source: Durango Herald)


Jury to weigh death penalty in 1983 Garden Grove killing

More than 30 years after raping a woman and stabbing her to death in a desolate alley behind a Garden Grove bar, a convicted killer once again faces the possibility of returning to death row.

Jurors will decide whether Richard Raymond Ramirez should spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 22-year-old Kimberly Gonzalez in November 1983.

Ramirez met Gonzalez at Mr. Barry's Bar on Westminster Avenue, played pool and danced with her, kissed her and then walked with her to an alley behind the business, where he attacked her and stabbed her more than 20 times.

"As she fought for her life, that man raped her, stabbed her and killed her," Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told a jury Wednesday in the Santa Ana courthouse. "For that he deserves the ultimate penalty."

Prints on a beer bottle found near her body led police to Ramirez, and DNA evidence processed years later tied him to the rape.

Ramirez's attorney acknowledged that his client killed Gonzalez, warning the jury that facts that will arise during the ongoing trial will only worsen their view of Ramirez. The attorney asked the jurors to try to understand the trauma that shaped Ramirez's life in deciding whether to sentence him to death, however.

"He has spent the last 31 years in prison, every single hour, every single day. We are not asking that he be anywhere else," Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill told the jury. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. He just doesn't deserve the death penalty."

Ramirez grew up in a home dominated by his alcoholic and abusive father, a man left permanently damaged by his time in the Korean War, Hill said. His mother, who endured constant beatings and at times rapes during her relationship with Ramirez's father, ultimately escaped the relationship, only to leave her children to fend on their own as she tried to enjoy her newfound freedom, the attorney added.

Hill acknowledged that Ramirez had been tried as a juvenile for the rape of another woman. The rape and killing of Gonzalez occurred shortly after Ramirez was released from the California Youth Authority.

A jury in 1985 convicted Ramirez of rape, sodomy and murder, and he was sent to San Quentin. The conviction was overturned in 2008, however, when a federal judge determined that the jury foreman had lied about his job status, not telling the court that he was a candidate for a job with the FBI, a position he later attained.

Prosecutors decided to re-try the case. Ramirez was convicted for a 2nd time in 2013. But a jury that same year deadlocked on whether he should receive the death penalty, leading the judge to declare a mistrial.

(source: Orange County Register)


4th penalty phase underway in 1983 killing

A prosecutor on Wednesday portrayed a convicted rapist and killer as a knife-wielding misogynist who deserves the death penalty.

A defense lawyer countered during opening statements at the sentencing retrial of Richard Raymond Ramirez that his life should be spared due to a dysfunctional childhood with an alcoholic father.

Ramirez was first convicted of the rape and murder of Gonzalez in March 1985. The current proceedings mark the fourth time a jury will try to decide his punishment in the attack on 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez in an alley behind a Garden Grove bar in 1983.

City News Service said Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom that the 55-year-old Ramirez loathed women, having raped another victim in 1977.

In November 1983, Ramirez danced, played pool and kissed Gonzalez at the bar before leaving with her. Hours later, her body and a beer bottle with Ramirez's fingerprints were found outside.

"She's nearly naked, bloody and dead," Yellin told the jury.

The 1st jury could not reach agreement on a verdict; a 2nd jury recommended he receive a death sentence.

The case took an unusual turn 6 years ago when a federal judge overturned Ramirez's initial conviction after finding a juror had failed to disclose that he was applying to become an FBI agent.

Last year, Ramirez was convicted again of the crimes, and this time, DNA linked him to Gonzalez. But again, jurors could not agree on what penalty he should face.

Defense attorney Mick Hill said there was no excuse for the crimes his client committed but asked jurors to consider Ramirez's childhood with an alcoholic father who subjected him and his brother to "human cockfighting" with other neighborhood children.

"He's spent the past 31 years in a jail cell," Hill said of his client. "We're not telling you he deserves to be anywhere else."

(source: Associated Press)


Testimony: Mom planned murder of children with Cobb ties

Disturbing new details emerged last week in a California court in the year-old case of a mother charged with killing her son and daughter just days after her ex-husband was granted full custody of the children in Cobb County.

Marilyn Kay Edge was arrested in September 2013, and charged with 2 counts of murder after 13-year-old Jaelen and his 10-year-old sister, Faith, were found dead in a motel room in Santa Ana, Calif.

Police allege that Edge poisoned, then suffocated and drowned the children, who were both found in the bathtub of the motel room.

The Orange County Register reported this week that according to Orange County Grand Jury testimony made public last week, Edge methodically planned the murders as she drove her children from Cobb County to Arizona - where she had moved a year earlier after her ex-husband was granted visitation rights - and on to the California coast.

"She wanted the children to have a nice day, a nice time," Santa Ana police Det. Eddie Nunez told the grand jury. "They liked the beach, so she took them to Huntington Beach. And then she was going to take them to dinner and then she was going to kill the children."

According to the Register, a Cobb judge ordered Edge to turn the children over to their father 3 days before they were killed.

Instead, she "left the courthouse in a car that she borrowed from her parents and drove toward Arizona," Orange County Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told the grand jury. "She decided that rather than do what the court had ordered, she was going to kill her children and herself."

Yellin told the grand jury that on the way back to Arizona, Edge bought packets of over-the-counter sleeping pills at different stores, and shopped for more medicine in Arizona before traveling on to California.

But Edge had a hard time getting the children to take the sleeping pills when the 3 got back to the Santa Ana Hampton Inn & Suites after a day at the beach and dinner.

"She had crushed them up and put them in liquid," Yellin told the grand jury, according to the Register. "It was juice or soda or something like that, but it had made the taste unappealing and so the children were resistant to drinking it.

"But ultimately, she was able to get enough of it in them to where they lost control of their abilities to fight what was coming."

Yellin said Edge then decided to drown the children, and put them in a tub full of water.

Nunez, the Santa Ana police detective, told the grand jury that Edge told him Jaelen stayed in the tub, but Faith got out and laid down on the couch, according to the Register.

Nunez said Edge grabbed a pillow, "put it over Jaelen's face and held him under the water until he stopped kicking and he was dead."

Edge then gave Faith more of the medicine, according to Nunez.

"She tried to get her back in the bathtub, and what she did is she lied to her and told her there was a fire in the building and that they needed to go and get in the bathtub and get under the water for safety reasons," Nunez testified. "But that didn't work. She ends up getting the pillow that was in the bathtub and puts the pillow over Faith. When she was on the couch, she smothered her."

As previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Edge then attempted to commit suicide, crashing her car into an electrical box outside a shopping center, and trying to choke herself with a belt or rope as rescuers worked to free her from the car.

Edge is being held in the Orange County Jail without bond. The charges carry a maximum penalty of death, but prosecutors have not said if they will seek the death penalty.

(source: Atlanta Jounral-Constitution)


Americans' Support for Death Penalty Stable

6 in 10 Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, generally consistent with attitudes since 2008. Since 1937, support has been as low as 42% in 1966 and as high as 80% in 1994.

Americans' support for the death penalty has varied over time, but apart from a single reading in 1966, the public has consistently favored it. Support ebbed from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, when the application of the death penalty was questioned and ultimately led to the Supreme Court's invalidating state death penalty laws. Subsequent to that, newly written laws passed constitutional muster and states began to use the death penalty again in the late 1970s, with support among Americans increasing to 70% or more in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s.

The broader trend over the last 2 decades has been diminished support for the death penalty, including a 60% reading last year, the lowest since 1972.

Over the last 2 decades, Democrats' support for the death penalty has dropped significantly, from 75% to 49%. Now, Democrats are divided on whether it should be administered to convicted murderers. Republicans' and independents' support is also lower now - down 9 and 18 % points, respectively - though both groups still solidly favor the death penalty.

Americans Tilt in Favor of Death Penalty Over Life Imprisonment

Gallup's long-standing question asks about basic support for the death penalty, but does not explicitly mention an alternative punishment for murderers. Gallup separately asks Americans to choose between the death penalty and "life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole" as the better punishment for murder. Support for the death penalty has been significantly lower using this approach, but Americans still tilt in favor of it by 50% to 45%. These attitudes are similar to recent years, but show reduced support for the death penalty from the 1980s and 1990s.

Democrats' opinions have also shifted markedly on the death penalty vs. life imprisonment question. 2 decades ago, Democrats preferred the death penalty by a wide margin, but they now prefer life imprisonment by nearly the same margin. Independents' and Republicans' views have changed less, although both show increases in support for life imprisonment.


The death penalty has always been controversial, and this year, the issue made headlines again amid a botched execution attempt in Oklahoma.

Americans' support for the death penalty has stabilized at a lower level than was the case prior to 2008, and is well below the highs from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. And in recent years the public has shown only a slight preference for the death penalty over life imprisonment as the better penalty for murder. These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as 6 U.S. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it.

Democrats are mostly responsible for this shift in attitudes, and thus it is not surprising that most of the states that have abolished the death penalty in recent years are Democratic leaning. The death penalty is another example of how Democrats' and Republicans' opinions on political matters have become increasingly divergent compared with recent decades, including their views of the job the president is doing and on issues such as global warming and labor unions.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on 1,017 telephone interviews conducted Oct. 12-15, 2014 (for the favor/not in favor question), and 1,252 telephone interviews conducted Sept. 25-30, 2014 (for the death penalty vs. life imprisonment question). Each is based on a random sample of adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.



Death penalty urged for Blackwater guards

4 former Blackwater guards found guilty for their role in the 2007 massacre of at least 14 civilians in Baghdad's busy Nisur Square should be executed, relatives of victims say.

Their convictions followed a 2-month trial that heard how they opened fire with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers in Baghdad's bustling Nisur Square as they escorted a diplomatic convoy.

The shooting exacerbated Iraqi resentment toward Americans and exemplified the impunity enjoyed by private security firms on the US payroll in Iraq.

"They should be executed in the same place in Nisur Square where they committed the crime," Hussein Ali Abbas, the brother of one of the victims said on Thursday.

His brother Saadi was on the way to visit a friend when the shooting occurred, and tried to flee but was gunned down anyway, Abbas said.

"The conviction is not enough," he said. "Justice was not achieved."

Khaled Walid, whose father was among those killed, agreed: "Everyone said they should be sentenced to death."

"I demand the harshest sentence," said Saddam Jawad, whose mother was killed. "If there is the death penalty in America, we demand the death penalty."

But the death penalty is not on the table for any of them.

1 guard, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, which carries a potential life sentence. The others were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and will be jailed for at least 15 years for each killing.

Before the incident, Slatten allegedly told acquaintances he wanted to "kill as many Iraqis as he could as payback for 9/11," court documents showed.

Iraqi officials say 17 civilians were killed, while US investigators recorded 14 deaths. A further 18 Iraqis were wounded.

In the aftermath of the killings, Blackwater was forced to cease operating in the country.

But a US diplomatic cable released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks said hundreds of former Blackwater guards kept working in Iraq for other companies.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Statement of Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, on Today's Gallup Poll

"Within the margin of error, the Gallup Poll continues to register historic lows in support for the death penalty. Support has dropped over 15 % points since its high of 80% in 1994. This overall decline in public support is also reflected in the decrease in executions, death sentences, and the number of states carrying out the death penalty. The recent exonerations from death row and the botched executions earlier this year have likely contributed to the public's growing dissatisfaction with a flawed system. Other recent polls have indicated that when given a choice between a sentence of life without parole and the death penalty, the life sentence is the public's first choice.

(source: Death Penalty Information Ceneter)


Better reason to oppose death penalty

I found the Oct. 21 Commentary piece by Meg Penrose ("Implementing the death penalty has become too costly") very disturbing because she suggested that execution should be decided on economic grounds.

I believe the death penalty must be eliminated entirely. No, I do not feel compassion for some of the most despicable humans who commit the most heinous crimes. Such people should be incarcerated for their rest of their lives.

The real problem with the death penalty is that a jury might be wrong. If a jury became infallible, I'd have no problem with the death penalty.

Harvey Waxman

North Kingstown

(source: Letter to the Editor, Providence Journal)


Pope Francis calls for abolition of death penalty

Today, the Holy Father received delegates from the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), addressing them with a speech focusing on the issues in their subject area that have recourse to the Church in her mission of evangelization and the promotion of the human person.

The Pope began by recalling the need for legal and political methods that are not characterized by the mythological "scapegoat" logic, that is, of an individual unjustly accused of the misfortunes that befall a community and then chosen to be sacrificed. It is also necessary to refute the belief that legal sanctions carry benefit, which requires the implementation of inclusive economic and social policies.

He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians. In this context he also talked about the so-called extrajudicial executions, that is, the deliberated killing of individuals by some states or their agents that are presented as the unintended consequence of the reasonable, necessary, and proportionate use of force to implement the law. He emphasized that the death penalty is used in totalitarian regimes as "an instrument of suppression of political dissent or of persecution of religious or cultural minorities".

He then spoke of the conditions of prisoners, including prisoners who have not been convicted and those convicted without a trial, stating that pretrial detention, when used improperly, is another modern form of unlawful punishment that is hidden behind legality. He also referred to the deplorable prison condition in much of the world, sometimes due to lack of infrastructure while other instances are the result of "the arbitrary exercise of ruthless power over detainees". Pope Francis also spoke about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, stating that, in the world today, torture is used not only as a means to achieve a particular purpose, such as a confession or an accusation - practices that are characteristic of a doctrine of national security - but also adds to the evil of detention. Criminal code itself bears responsibility for having allowed, in certain cases, the legitimacy of torture under certain conditions, opening the way for further abuse.

The Pope did not forget the application of criminal sanctions against children and the elderly, condemning its use in both cases. He also recalled some forms of crime that seriously damage the dignity of the human person as well as the common good, including human trafficking, slavery - recognized as a crime against humanity as well as a war crime in both international law and under many nations' laws - the abject poverty in which more than a billion people live, and corruption. "The scandalous accumulation of global wealth is possible because of the connivance of those with strong powers who are responsible for public affairs. Corruption is a process of death ... more evil than sin. An evil that, instead of being forgiven, must be cured."

"Caution in the application of penal codes," he concluded, "must be the overarching principle of legal systems ... and respect for human dignity must not only act to limit the arbitrariness and excesses of government agents but as the guiding criterion for prosecuting and punishing behaviors that represent the most serious attacks on the dignity and integrity of the human person."



Kabwe man sentenced to death for killing wife

A 40-year-old man of Kabwe has been sentenced to death by hanging by the Kabwe High Court after it convicted him of killing his wife.

This was in a matter in which Vincent Macheleta was charged with the murder of Lidia Nkoshi.

Kabwe High Court judge Elita Mwikisa convicted and imposed the death penalty on Macheleta on Tuesday, this week.

"Having found you guilty of this charge, I sentence you to death by hanging," Ms Justice Mwikisa said.

The convict, on unknown dates but between February 17 and 18, last year, in Kabwe, is alleged to have murdered his wife, Nkonshi.

In delivering judgment, Ms Justice Mwikisa told Macheleta that the court had found him guilty as charged.

During trial, the court heard that Macheleta and Nkonshi had gone drinking at a local pub in Katondo township on the material day.

Ireen Mwape, 29, sister of the deceased, testified that she found the couple enjoying themselves at the named pub.

Mwape told the court that Macheleta indicated to her that his wife was behaving strangely and that he would kill her (jokingly).

Mwape said she was surprised to be informed the following day that her sister was dead.

She told the court that the body of the deceased was found 5 metres from her matrimonial home.

And arresting office Evans Mushanga, 25, from Chowa police station testified that he received a report from William Mubanga, 33.

(source: The Daily Mail)


Saudi convicts 27 for plotting attack on US forces

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced 27 people to prison for planning a series of attacks against U.S. forces in Qatar and Kuwait, with more than half of the defendants charged on Wednesday with also trying to join forces with a group in Syria to smuggle fighters to Iraq, official media reports said.

The same court also sentenced on Tuesday 2 Saudi citizens to death and a 3rd to 12 years in prison for taking part in violent protests in the eastern town of al-Awamiya, a Shiite stronghold where protests erupted in 2011 demanding greater rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.

The verdicts were announced by the official Saudi Press Agency. The state media reports did not say when the al-Qaida-linked attacks were planned, and did not name the Syrian group with which 14 of the defendants allegedly tried to form an alliance.

The al-Qaida-linked members on trial included 25 Saudis, a Qatari and an Afghan national. They were given varying sentences of between 6 months to 30 years in prison. The state news agency said the group planned to attack U.S. troops in Qatar with grenades, rockets and mortar fire.

The U.S. conducts missions over Iraq from al-Udeid air base in Qatar. It also has bases in Kuwait.

The cell is comprised of 41 members, 38 of which are Saudi nationals. The remaining 3 are from Qatar, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Verdicts for 13 people were handed down late Tuesday and another 14 were sentenced on Wednesday.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, created to try terrorism cases, found members of the group guilty of planning to send someone to Iraq for training on how to make car bombs to target foreign troops in Qatar and Kuwait. They were also found guilty of planning to carry out directives from al-Qaida's branch in Iraq.

One of the group's alleged leaders, a Qatari national, received a 30-year prison sentence. Another alleged cell leader, a Saudi national, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the SPA reported. The Afghani was sentenced to 3 years in prison and ordered deported upon his release on charges he helped raise money for fighters in his home country.

In the case of the 3 Shiite Saudi nationals, the Specialized Criminal Court said the men were guilty of chanting hostile slogans to destabilize the country, using violence during protests and helping provide cover for someone opening firing at police.

Protests briefly broke out in al-Awamiya in the Eastern Province last week after revered Saudi Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr was sentenced to death for a number of charges that largely related to his support for anti-government protests.

Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have long complained that the courts often give protesters harsher sentences than those handed down to extremist fighters.



Ghulam Azam's appeals case deferred

The Supreme Court yesterday fixed December 2 to begin hearing of 2 appeals filed by convicted war criminal Ghulam Azam, and the government challenging the tribunal verdict upon a defence plea.

Arguing on behalf of the Jamaat guru, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said there was no hurry to begin the case since the convict had been ill and the court had many important pending cases to deal with.

"If the court starts hearing in this case, it will take a long time. There is no need to start the hearing so quickly," said Mahbub, also an adviser to the BNP chairperson.

"Ghulam Azam is 92 years old and got 90 years' imprisonment. He is now dying at the CCU of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU)," he added.

On the other hand, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said: "If the hearing is deferred, the other appeals cases will also be delayed."

Suffering from diabetes and lung complications, the former Jamaat chief has been treated at BSMMU's cardiac ICU since October 9.

The same bench has so far disposed off appeals cases of Kamaruzzaman, Delawar Hossain Sayedee and Abdul Quader Molla. Of these, the case against death row convict Kamaruzzaman, a senior Jamaat leader, is awaiting verdict.

Ghulam Azam was sentenced to 90 years' jail term on July 15 last year by the International Crimes Tribunal 1 on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

On August 5, the Jamaat supremo filed an appeal against the verdict seeking acquittal while the government challenged the verdict on August 12 pleading for death penalty and a ban on the anti-liberation political party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

After the hearing, the attorney general told reporters: "Though Ghulam Azam's counsel filed the appeal first, the government will begin their hearing first.

"During the hearing, we will place arguments to award him capital punishment."

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Egypt court gives death penalty to 7 jihadis

An Egyptian military court has sentenced to death 7 members of the Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and 2 to life in prison on charges of planning and executing attacks on the military, media reported.

The attacks, known as the Arab Sharkas case, led to the death of 2 military officers.

The condemned were charged with planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces and attacking military facilities. The ruling has been approved by Egypt's grand mufti, a necessary procedure in Egyptian law.

This is the 1st trial against the Sinai-based jihadi group, which claims to support the Islamic State (IS), the Sunni radical group operating in Syria and Iraq, Xinhua reported citing state-run media Ahram Online.

Terrorist attacks have been on the rise since the ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the army last July, and the massive security crackdown on his supporters left about 1,000 dead while thousands were arrested.

The attacks targeted security men and their premises in the restive Sinai Peninsula and then extended to hit the capital and provinces across the country.

A recent official report said the toll from such attacks has reached nearly 500, most of whom were soldiers and policemen. The Al Qaeda-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

(source: IANS)


Death sentence commuted

A Lahore High Court division bench on Wednesday converted the death penalty handed down to 2 convicts in Maulana Azam Tariq murder-attempt case into life imprisonment.

Ghulam Raza Naqvi and Zaheer Ahmad filed an appeal against their conviction, saying the trial court handed down the death penalty ignoring many grave facts of the case. They said the trial court relied on the witnesses of the prosecution only and there was no independent witness against them. The appellants asked the court to set aside their conviction and order their acquittal.

An anti-terrorism court of Sargodha had awarded death sentence to the convicts on 2 counts - under Section 302 of the PPC and Section 7 of the ATA.

The bench set aside the death penalty handed down to the convicts under ATA and converted the other one given under PPC into life term.

The prosecution accused the convicts of carrying out an attack on the convoy of Maulana Azam Tariq in 1994. 2 guards of the Maulana were killed in the attack.

(source: Dawn)


Asia Bibi's Husband Expresses Distress Over Death Sentence

Asia Bibi has been on death row for several years, and after the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected her last appeal, Bibi's husband has become distraught over the sentence.

"This appeal was [a] ray of hope but the rejection of the appeal has shattered my confidence in the Pakistani legal system," Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih said to the British Pakistani Christian Association according to Christian Today.

Shamim Masih of the British Pakistani Christian Association said that Ashiq was "weeping bitterly" over the result of his wife's death sentence.

"I have not told my children about the court decision. How can I? I am too scared of their reaction - they are already very depressed. We all were expecting her to come home and now this happens," Ashiq said.

Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced in 2010 under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Her lawyers have 30 days to file an appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court in Islamabad. This is a long process that could take additional years of waiting, which could pose a problem as Bibi's health conditions worsen.

"How can I tell my children their mother is not free? This will kill them," Ashiq said.

In Muslim-majority Pakistan, blasphemy laws are upheld in the strictest form, and these charges can lead to the death penalty. Many reports have claimed these laws are sometimes used to settle personal scores. Belder believes that the Lahore High Court rejected Bibi's appeal under pressure by Islamists in the region.

Bibi's case drew international attention when 2 politicians who defended her - Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatt - were assassinated in 2011 after they spoke out for reforms on the blasphemy laws in the country.

Other Christian leaders in Iran have spoken out against the ruling. Bishop Rufin Anthony called for a "Day of Prayer" for Bibi as the court's decision was "heart breaking," according to BosNewsLife. In addition, Bishop Thomas Dabre of neighboring India called Bibi's death sentence "an affront to the dignity of us all."

Samira Shackle wrote in the Guardian that change will not come to the blasphemy laws because extremist groups have power in Pakistan due to the majority of the public sharing their ideologies.

"The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly," she said.

"While this self-censorship is entirely understandable in a country where the authorities provide little protection, it gives extremist ideas the space to flourish and grow. Without people in the halls of power willing to stand up and call for change, there is little hope for Bibi."

2 European Parliament legislators, Peter van Dalen and Bas Belder, have said that they plan to make an official appeal to Parliament on this case, according to BosNewsLife. They also plan on requesting the European parliament's president, the European Union's foreign policy chief, the European Commission president, and the Pope to act now to free Bibi.

"I am saddened and condemn this cowardly decision by Pakistani judges," Van Dalen said. "It's terrible that they did not find courage to acquit this young wife and mother of five children. Asia Bibi is innocent. She is already spending 5 years on death row, and must be freed now."

Bibi was 1st arrested in 2009 she got into an argument with Muslim women regarding sharing the same drinking water. This resulted in the Muslim women filing blasphemy charges against her for insulting the prophet Mohammed. If the death sentence remains upheld, Bibi will be the 1st woman in history to be legally executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

(source: Christian Daily)


David Cameron pledge over death penalty Leith man

The Prime Minister has pledged his support to resolve the "appalling" case of an elderly Edinburgh man who faces the death penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan - but has come under fire for getting details wrong.

Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from severe paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death in January after penning a series of letters where he claimed to be the Prophet Mohammed.

The 70-year-old grandfather - a former grocer from Leith - is currently in hospital in Rawalpindi after he was shot by a policeman in Adiyala Jail last month.

His devastated family have called on the British Government to intervene as they believe Mr Asghar, who was sectioned briefly in Edinburgh in 2010, is not receiving the specialist care he needs behind bars.

Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions yesterday, David Cameron said he had raised the case personally at the highest levels in Pakistan.

In response to a question by Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore, Mr Cameron said: "It's appalling the way this man has been treated and it is particularly appalling that he was actually shot while in prison, supposedly being protected by the Pakistani authorities.

"We have raised this case and I have raised this case personally with the leaders of Pakistan.

"We obviously are looking at the case for a prisoner transfer, but they had to be suspended in recent years because Pakistan released prisoners that we returned to them - so there is a problem there. But we take this case very, very seriously and we are raising it at every level in Pakistan."

But lawyer Aamer Anwer, who represents Mr Asghar's family, told reporters afterwards that such transfers had not been suspended and could be used to return Mr Asghar to Scotland.

He said: "The Asghar family are deeply alarmed that the PM has got it so completely and utterly wrong on the question of the prisoner transfer agreement."

Mr Anwer said he had been advised by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond that a prisoner transfer agreement was an option for his client. He said: "Scotland of course has its own legal jurisdiction and the Scottish Prison Authority would deal with any prisoner transfer rather than England.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed this afternoon to the Scottish Government following a request from myself for clarification that the PTA is not suspended," Mr Anwer added.

Mr Asghar's daughter, Jasmine Rana, 40, presented a petition to the Prime Minister last week which was signed by 70,000 people including comedian Frankie Boyle and actor David Morrissey.

The family have also met with Mr Salmond who called for Mr Asghar to be transferred to a Scottish prison.

(source: Edinburgh News)


Britain urged to suspend aid to Pakistan as hangings loom----Campaigners call for British aid to Pakistan to be halted as Pakistan prepares to hang 1st prisoner in 6 years

Britain is under pressure to suspend aid to Pakistan as the country prepares to resume executions.

Shoaib Sarwar, a convicted murderer, is scheduled to be hanged on Monday, ending a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty and opening the door to the executions of thousands more on death row.

Britain will this year spend 446 million pounds in Pakistan, making it the largest recipient of overseas aid in the world.

It includes millions of pounds to support anti-drug trafficking operations by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), under a United Nations scheme to halt the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.

British aid has provided extensive training, as well as bullet-proof vests, night vision goggles, vehicles, body scanners and paid for the maintenance of helicopters.

Drug possession is a capital offence, and 111 drug offenders are on Pakistan's death row, including British nationals who were convicted in trials which critics argue fell short of international standards.

Reprieve, the charity that campaigns against the death penalty, said Britain risks being "complicit in a gross human rights abuse" if drug mules caught by a force trained and equipped by Britain are executed.

The ANF prides itself on securing a conviction rate of more than 92 %. Its annual report notes the organisation's "thirst" for guilty sentences, adding: "Fear of having 92 % chances of being convicted would surely forbid a sane man from falling prey into the hands of drug traffickers". There are widespread allegations of police corruption and fabricated evidence in trials.

British aid in Pakistan is frequently judged on its success in increasing the number of arrests and successful prosecutions.

Britain and Denmark suspended funding for a similar UN anti-drugs programme in Iran because the Tehran regime was using the death penalty for drug offences.

Sarwar, 1 of 8,000 people on death row, was due to be hanged on September 18. The execution was postponed twice until Monday.

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve's death penalty team, said continued British aid for the program must be made conditional on Pakistan abolishing the death penalty for drug offences.

"The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade; rather, they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet quotas," she said.

"British aid for executions breaches the Government's own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad."

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: "Our aid relationship with any government is based on an assessment of commitment to our partnership principles, including to human rights."

A Foreign Office spokesman added: "We are concerned by any suggestion that executions might resume in Pakistan. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and continues to urge the Government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, and as a minimum to maintain its de facto moratorium on executions."

The Coalition has committed to spending 0.7 % of GDP on overseas aid. MPs on the International Development Select Committee have called for aid to Pakistan to be cut, arguing that it is a middle income country whose leaders failed to collect and pay taxes.

(source: The Telegraph)


Australian's wife could face death penalty----Accused of arranging the murder of her Australian husband, Indonesian woman Noor Ellis could face the death penalty in Bali.

A woman accused of arranging the murder of her Australian businessman husband in Bali could face charges carrying the death penalty.

The development in the case comes as the couple's Perth-based sons arrive in Bali to mourn their father, Robert Ellis, 60.

Mr Ellis was found dead in a watery ditch alongside a lonely rice field on Tuesday.

He was set upon in his own Bali kitchen by 5 killers who slashed his throat "like killing a pig", police say.

His wife of around 20 years, Indonesian Julaikah Noor Aini, known as Noor Ellis, is accused of ordering the crime while furious over money and infidelity.

Police will allege she paid Arli, the boyfriend of her maid known as "F", $14,000 to kill Mr Ellis, most of it to be paid after the crime.

Police spokesman Hery Wiyanto says the wife, Arli, "F" and a 2nd maid known as "Y" will be charged.

F is accused of "lifting and dumping" Mr Ellis' body, while Y apparently cleaned up the bloody kitchen.

Mr Hery said 2 charges were being weighed - murder, carrying up to 15 years jail, and premeditated murder - which carries a maximum penalty of death.

4 others were still wanted for assisting Arli, he said.

"Some have fled out of Bali and some are still hiding in Bali," he said.

"We urge them to surrender. Wherever they are, we will hunt them down."

The couple's sons Jon and Peter Ellis, both Perth-based students, arrived in Bali on Thursday.

They released a statement on Wednesday saying their father was a huge influence in their lives.

They were "completely devastated" by his death, they said.

Police say the roles each of the accused played in the crime are still being established, with another re-enactment to be staged for investigators on Friday.

(source: AAP)


Prisoner hanged after 6 years on death row

The authorities in a prison in a northern city of Iran hanged a young man after he had been on death row for 6 years.

The 35-year-old prisoner was executed on Wednesday (October 22, 2014) in a prison in Amol - a city in the northern Mazandaran province.

The head of the regime's judiciary identified the prisoner by his initials - H.S., reported state-run Fars news agency.

Meanwhile, on the same day 10 other inmates have been transferred to isolation to await their execution in 3 prisons across the country.

3 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in a prison in the southern city of Kerman.

In Adel-Abad prison in the southern city of Shiraz 6 inmates who have been sentenced to death were transferred to isolation to be executed in coming days.

3 of the inmates had been arrested on drug related charges.

A truck driver who had been sentenced to death for drugs being found on his truck without his knowledge has been transferred to await his execution in city of Zahadan, southeastern Iran.

In Iran, under the rule of mullahs and under Hassan Rouhani, the death penalty is being widely used.

Since August 2013 when Hassan Rouhani took office as a 'moderate' president, over 1000 - mostly officially announced - executions have been carried out in Iran.

At least 27 women and more than a dozen prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those hanged, many publicly.

(source: NCR-Iran)


300 People in Kurdistan Region Waiting Execution

The number of people in Kurdistan Region who are waiting to be executed increases with each passing day, even though the capital punishment has not been implemented in the region for almost 15 years.

However, some experts believe that death penalty is necessary to be implemented in Kurdistan Region, due to the current situation since Kurdistan is in fight with the Islamic State (IS) militants.

According to information obtained by BasNews that currently in all Kurdistan region prisons, about 300 people are waiting to be executed, even though the sentence has not implemented in Kurdistan region in the last decade.

A source from one of the Kurdistan Region prisons who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the cost of each of these prisoners who's their fate have been decided by the court is waiting execution almost US $8 per day, on the Kurdistan government.

The head of Law Committee in Kurdistan Parliament, Valla Farid told BasNews that the implementation of death penalty has been stopped in the Kurdistan Region. There is no draft law in the parliament to review the case of those people that have been decided by court to be executed.

She believes that there should be more clarity on capital punishment law and there must be a decision made on weather the death penalty to be implemented or stopped permanently.

Member of the Law Committee in Kurdistan Parliament Goran Azad told BasNews and stated, "The final decision must be made on death penalty, either to carry out the punishment or cancel it because it has caused many problems that these people who are sentenced to death and they are counted as died people while they are still alive."

"A number of Kurdistan judges came to Parliament and talked about this issue. They stated that there are some criminals that should be executed because of the extent of their crimes," added Azad.

He also mentioned that there is some crimes in Kurdistan Region that is way worse than the crimes of Islamic State (IS) militants.

"Therefore, we can't say that this law is only for terror crimes not other ones. Kurdistan Parliament and other governmental establishments must seriously discuss this issue law, and they have to make a decision and decide that is should be implemented or removed completely," explained Azad.

Social Expert, Salih Rahman told BasNews that, "It is better to have a serious discussion about this law as well as holding a session in the parliament about it because the destiny of those people is between death and life, and I am sure that they will prefer death instead of that."

Rahman noted that perhaps this punishment has its importance now in time of war in order to protect the life of other people in general.

(source: Bas News)

OCTOBER 22, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution




Cargill appeals capital murder conviction, seeks to dodge death penalty with new evidence

A convicted murderer from Whitehouse wants a 2nd chance. At least 1 medical expert now backs up the story Kimberly Cargill has been telling for the last 4 years.

Cargill famously admitted in 2012 to having burned the dead body of Cherry Walker. She has steadfastly maintained her innocence as far as actually killing Walker.

Cargill has always said she burned the body because she was scared due to Walker having been subpoenaed to testify against her in a child custody case. She told jurors during her trial that she was worried the perceived motive would cause people to assume she had murdered Walker if she had simply gone to a hospital.

An application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Cargill's attorneys seeks to vindicate Cargill's claims.

"What was remarkable about Kim's case was that there was no cause of death identified by the medical examiner," attorney Derek VerHagen with the Office of Capital Writs said. "Yet she was still tried and convicted of capital murder."

"I'm telling you the truth here today," Cargill told jurors in 2012. "She started to have a seizure."

The writ is similar to an appeal. In this case it's focused on new evidence from a Epilepsy specialist - a Dr. Samden Lhatoo -who believes Cargill's story lines up exactly with a rare phenomenon called Sudden Unexpected Death Epilepsypsy (SUDEP).

"Through vigorous cross-examination for over a couple of days, she stuck to her guns about what happened and we have a nationally renowned expert saying 'Yes, that is supportable,'" Brad Levenson with the Office of Capital Writs said.

Levenson and attorney Derek VerHagen want Dr. Lhatoo to testify in the same court where the trial happened, in front of the same judge. The crux of their argument is that Cargill's original defense attorneys knew about Dr. Lhatoo from the beginning and should have put him on the stand back then.

"They put their client, Ms. Cargill, on the stand and didn't support it with an expert who could have, in our opinion, convinced a jury, at least 1 juror, that Ms. Cargill was innocent," Levenson said.

"It feels good to her to actually be, you know, believed by someone," VerHagen said. "And to have someone validate what she's always maintained to be the truth."

Prosecutors argue that Smith County's 241st District Court isn't the appropriate place for such testimony at this point. They believe rulings from the state's top criminal court have already made it clear that new evidence belongs in an appeals court (as opposed to a trial court).

The District Attorney's office filed a response with the court asking Judge Jack Skeen Junior to limit his fact-finding to affidavits filed by the original trial attorneys. And that's what the judge ordered.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham, who tried the case and continues to hold office, issued the following statement:

"Kim Cargill was convicted by a Smith County jury of Capital Murder and sentenced to death based on the overwhelming evidence, including DNA evidence, as well as her own admissions regarding her dumping and setting the body of the mentally retarded victim on fire in order to destroy evidence.

"Cargill has been afforded every right under the law to which she is entitled, during the trial of the case and the during the appellate process. Judge Skeen carefully followed the law, during not only the trial of the case, but also in his consideration of the 11.071 writ filed by the defense.

"The facts at trial showed the extreme brutally and heinous nature of this crime and what Kim Cargill is capable of doing to another human being. At all times, during the trial of the case and now, the parties involved and the Court, want to insure that Cargill is afforded all the rights she is entitled to under the law in the prosecution of this case."

"This is a very strong case."

Levenson and VerHagen believe the new evidence goes hand in hand with any argument about ineffective trial attorneys, and they want it heard in court.

"It would seem a no-brainer that the state would want to entertain the evidence to make sure they got that convenience right and that an innocent person is not put to death by the state," Levenson said.

Levenson and VerHagen said they plan to keep fighting to have the new evidence heard. If not, they've at least established their efforts as part of the case's record in case a higher court is more sympathetic.

(source: CBS news)


State To Seek Death Penalty For Parents Charged With Toddler's Death

State Attorney Bill Eddins said Tuesday that the State intends to seek the death penalty against against Christopher L. Redd and Jennifer Gail Perry for 1st degree murder in the death of their 2-year old child.

Pensacola Police said Redd and Perry failed to seek medical treatment for their son after he was severely burned by boiling water. He suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over more than 40 % of his body.

The parents told police that the child, Bryson, managed to spill boiling water that was on the stove. They said Bryson acted like a typical two-year old and they did not seek medical treatment until until days later. In the meantime, they had searched burn treatments on the internet and had applied products purchased at local retailers, according to an arrest report. Additional, Perry had received prescription medication for a burn she suffered on her finger, and she said she applied the leftovers to the child.

Bryson died after being taken to Baptist Hospital.

Both told police they delayed medical treatment because they would not know what story to tell the hospital about the burns, and they were concerned Bryson and their two other children would be removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families.



Lucas County prosecutor seeks dates for executions

The Lucas County prosecutor's office asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday to set execution dates for 2 former Toledo men convicted of burying a man alive in 1993 and leaving him to die.

Archie J. Dixon, 41, and Timothy Hoffner, 42, are both on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution for aggravated murder. They were also convicted of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and forgery.

"Since his conviction and sentence, Hoffner and his attorneys have pursued all available avenues of appeal afforded under both Ohio and federal law," reads a motion filed with the high court on behalf of Prosecutor Julia Bates. "Every court that has examined Hoffner's claims has upheld his murder conviction and his death sentence."

A similar motion was filed in Dixon's case.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year reinstated Dixon's conviction and death sentence after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned them on the grounds that his conviction had been tainted.

The body of Christopher Hammer, 22, was found in a shallow Sylvania Township grave. Hoffner, Dixon's accomplice, had led police to the body. Hoffner and Dixon reportedly led Mr. Hammer to the wooded area, let him smoke a cigarette and say a prayer, and then buried him alive.

Kristen Wilkerson, Dixon's girlfriend, was convicted of kidnapping but was released from prison after she cooperated with police.

A federal judge has issued a moratorium against carrying out Ohio's death penalty as he explores changes the state has made in its process after problems experienced in an execution early this year. The moratorium is set to expire in February.

Should the state Supreme Court grant the motions, the executions will likely not occur for 2 more years.

The court already has set dates for executions through Sept. 21, 2016.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Death penalty considered for Hammond murder suspect: Prosecutor

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Tuesday he and his staff have begun a review to determine whether they will file the death penalty against suspected serial killer Darren Deon Vann.

Although charges have been filed in only 1 of the 7 homicides that Vann is suspected of committing, Carter said Tuesday he has already considered whether Vann, 43, might qualify under Indiana law for the death penalty.

Vann is expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday in Crown Point.

On Monday, Vann was charged with murder, murder in perpetration of robbery and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in the death of 19-year-old Africa Hardy.

Carter said the other cases for which charges are expected involving 6 other victims, 4 of whom are still unidentified, are being carefully prepared with an eye toward factors that could be used to aggravate the penalty to death.

"We take each case separately," Carter said, who plans to personally prosecute Vann. "There is no reason for urgency. He's being held on the 1 murder. He's not going anywhere."

The review process includes Carter assembling about a dozen of his staff members and police detectives to weigh the strength of the case. If the staff agrees that it should be pursued as a capital case, Carter and his top 2 deputies would travel to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association death penalty review board to present the case there.

The board meets quarterly and last met in September.

"Once they give me the thumbs up or thumbs down, then we will decide," Carter said.

In an interview with police after Hardy was found dead in the bathtub at Motel 6 in Hammond, Vann said he made contact with an escort service and arranged to meet Hardy at the motel, court records state. Hardy sent one of her associates a text that Vann, who used the name "Big Boy Appetite," had arrived at the room at 5:13 p.m. Friday. After more time passed than would be normal for that type of appointment, the woman called up Hardy's cell phone from 5 to 8 but got no response. She then sent text messages to Hardy's phone and received a response that didn't make sense, prompting her to eventually go to the room with a friend, where they discovered Hardy's body.

Vann told police that Hardy began fighting with him when the sex got rough and he strangled her first with his hands and then with an extension cord, court records state.

(source: Gary Post-Tribune)


May 2015 Execution Requested For Rodney Berget

The South Dakota Attorney General's Office has asked that the Department of Corrections set the execution date for Rodney Berget sometime during the week of May 3-9, 2015.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning after Attorney General Marty Jackley said the South Dakota Supreme Court denied Berget's request to have a new death penalty hearing.

Berget was sentenced to death in February of 2012 for his role in an attempted prison escape that resulted in the murder of Correctional Officer Ron 'RJ' Johnson.

Berget had asked for a new sentencing hearing after discovering he has a newfound son and grandkids. Berget had asked that the new evidence should be presented at a new death penalty hearing.

Jackley's request for a new sentencing hearing has been filed in Minnehaha County.


The Crime That Put Berget On Death Row

Rodney Berget was sentenced to death in February of 2012 for his role in an attempted prison escape that resulted in the murder of Correctional Officer Ron 'R.J.' Johnson.

In April of 2011, 48-year-old Rodney Berget and 48-year-old Eric Robert devised what they thought was a crafty plan to break out of prison.

Security video shows Robert wearing correctional officer Ron Johnson's uniform and pushing a cart with a box to the west gate of the prison.

Inside the box was another inmate, Rodney Berget.

When Robert was confronted about not swiping his card at the gate, Robert and Berget started attacking the officers. That's when they called for back-up. Numerous correctional officers took Robert and Berget back into custody.

Robert and Berget both pleaded guilty to the crime and were sentenced to die by lethal injection.

Robert was executed in October of 2012 for his role in the murder.

But in January of 2013, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed the death sentence for Berget after his lawyer appealed on the grounds that Berget's rights of self-incrimination were violated.

1 month later, Berget's attorney asked for a new sentencing hearing in front of a jury, because Berget recently discovered he had a son and grandchildren.

But the judge in the case said Berget wouldn't get to use that new relationship as evidence to argue against the death penalty.

Berget was scheduled to die by lethal injection in January of this year, but before that could happen the Supreme Court ordered a delay when Berget's attorney again filed another appeal.

But the Supreme Court denied the new hearing and upheld Berget's death sentence.

Berget's defense lawyer Jeff Larson says he'll likely request a stay of the date if it's granted.

(source for both: Keloland)


Political ad critical of governor's stance on death penalty----Republicans release emotional video relating to 1993 pizza shop murders

The father of a victim in the 1993 murders of four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora criticizes Gov. John Hickenlooper for sparing the killer from execution.

Dennis O'Connor speaks in a 13-minute, emotionally intense political video posted Sunday on YouTube by the Denver-based "A Better Colorado Future" and supervised by Republicans Andy George and Kelly Maher.

Here's the link to the video:

O'Connor's daughter, Colleen, 17, was killed in the December 1993 shootings. A 5th person who was shot, survived.

Nathan Dunlap, 40, was convicted of the murders in 1996 and sentenced to death. However, in May 2013, Hickenlooper granted Dunlap a temporary reprieve.

Political analysts believe the Dunlap case will be a key factor in Hickenlooper's bid for a 2nd term.

(source: KRDO news)


James Holmes interviewed for 22 hours in sanity exam for Aurora movie theater shooting trial

The doctor whose sanity examination could prove to be the key piece of evidence in the upcoming Aurora movie theater shooting trial interviewed the gunman for 22 hours to compile his report, according to a new court filing.

The report of the exam - the 2nd of James Holmes conducted by a court-appointed psychiatrist - was filed last week. The name of the doctor who performed the evaluation, his conclusions and many other details about the exam are sealed.

But, in a court filing Monday that was made public Tuesday, defense attorneys say the "video recording of the second sanity examiner's interview with the defendant" spans 22 hours.

That's significant, the defense argued, because it meant they had too much work to do reviewing the video to meet a key Monday deadline.

Under Colorado court rules, the defense must turn over to prosecutors a list of evidence they plan to introduce during a death-penalty sentencing hearing and the names of witnesses they expect to call. The defense argues that disclosure of some of that information violates self-incrimination protections, and Monday was the deadline for the defense to give that contested material to the judge so he can decide if it must be shared.



Nun, author addresses death penalty from different sides----FLC Common Reading Experience writer all over town

Nov. 4 is the anniversary, and it weighs heavily on Sister Helen Prejean.

Sister Helen Prejean discusses the upcoming reading play "Dead Man Walking" on Tuesday with Fort Lewis College students who will be acting in it at 4 and 7 p.m. today in Roshong Recital Hall.

Nov. 4 is the day Elmo Patrick Sonnier and his brother, Eddie, killed Loretta Ann Bourque, 18, and her boyfriend, David LeBlanc.

That murder led to a lifetime mission of advocating against the death penalty for the 75-year-old nun, who has been in town this week to talk about her book, Dead Man Walking, the Common Reading Experience assignment for incoming freshmen this year at Fort Lewis College.

Bridget Irish, coordinator of the program, said the book is selected a year out, so it's just happenstance that America has been engaged in a death-penalty conversation after several botched executions this year.

On Monday, Prejean shared the spiritual side of her journey in a talk called "Christian Faith & Catholic Social Justice" with an audience of about 120 at St. Columba Catholic Church. On Tuesday, she addressed an audience of about 850 at FLC's Whalen Gym.

"The death-penalty discussion is a journey," she said. "Of course, you have to feel outrage when an innocent life is horribly taken. Of course, you think that the person who did something so horrible should die. But integrity can be maintained even when we're swept away on a river of anger."

Prejean began her advocacy after seeing her 1st execution, that of Patrick Sonnier, whom she had served as a spiritual adviser.

"The American people are never going to get close to this; it's a secret ritual," she remembers thinking afterward. "My job is to get out there and tell them. April 5, 1984, that "when my mission was born."

But first, she had to experience the pain of victims' families, and she said Lloyd LeBlanc, David LeBlanc's father, is the hero of Dead Man Walking because he taught her about the grace of forgiveness, that forgiving is strength, not weakness.

The flaws in the American justice system add power to Prejean's stance.

"We're up to 144 and counting of people wrongfully convicted, and it's not just DNA, which applies in 1 case out of 4," Prejean said. "About 90 % are related to prosecutorial misconduct. When I started, I thought it would be a fluke to wrongfully convict someone, but I've learned that in all these appeals, if the attorney didn't make a formal objection in the original trial, the appeals court won't listen."

Prejean shared other statistics: About 98 % of people sentenced to death are poor; 8 out of 10 are there because they killed a white person, even though more than 50 % of murder victims are people of color; about 90 % were violated as children.

"Catholics pride themselves on being for life," she said. "To render a man defenseless and take his life, where's the dignity in that?"

Prejean worked with Pope John Paul II to strengthen the church's position against execution, but not all Catholics agree.

"Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia knows he's part of the death process and said he doesn't lose any sleep over this," she said about 1 of the 5 Catholic justices sitting on the highest court in the land. "He says we still have the death penalty here even though it's been abolished in Europe because we have more Christians in this country, and Europe follows Freud instead of Jesus."

People who saw the movie got the message, too, she said.

"I know authors complain about how a movie ruins their book, but it wasn't that way for me," she said. "I worked hand-in-hand with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and they were determined to stay true to the book. Tim asked an important question: 'Everybody knows we shouldn't execute the innocent, but what about the guilty?'"

(source: Durango Herald)


'The only just punishment in this case is death': Prosecution insists Jodi Arias should be executed for killing her ex-boyfriend and shows grisly new crime scene pictures

Prosecutors in the sentencing retrial of the lurid case of Jodi Arias finished his opening statements Tuesday by telling jurors the Arizona murderer deserves the harshest sentence of them all.

'The only just punishment in this case is death,' Juan Martinez told the Maricopa County Superior Court.

The sentencing retrial of Arias, 34, started with a new jury and opening statements by lawyers to decide whether the convicted murderer should live or die after the brutal killing of her ex-boyfriend.

Arias had her hair cut to shoulder-length for her return to the courtroom and appeared to have it dyed darker. She was wearing a new pair of nude-framed glasses - perhaps because earlier this month, a Phoenix food bank auctioned off the glasses she wore at the original trial and raised close to $1,000 for charity.

Also on Tuesday, defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi began opening statements, telling jurors it was up to them to write the final chapter to the story.

He warned the jury that it will see graphic evidence about the killing and relationship between Arias and victim Travis Alexander - but said she should not be executed because she is mentally ill.

Prosecutor Martinez proved his point by showing jurors a picture of Arias' victim, ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, with his throat slit.

'This is how much she loved him,' Martinez told the jury, according to ABC.

The victims' siblings were in court today along with Arias' parents and brother.

Arias was convicted of murder last year but the first jury was deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison.

That required a new jury and trial to decide her punishment.

A new jury that was picked over the past several weeks will listen as the former waitress tries to make another case that her life should be spared.

400 people were called as prospective jurors. Many of them were cut after they said they either made up their minds about the case or knew too much to be impartial. Some jurors cited their objection to the death penalty.

They won't consider whether or not she's guilty - that's already been decided.

The retrial is expected to last into December.

Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, slit his throat so deeply she nearly decapitated him and shot him in the forehead.

Arias was found guilty of 1st degree murder in the death of former boyfriend Travis Alexander, but the jury deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison. Now defense attorney Kirk Numi (pictured) is facing off against prosecutors in a battle where Arias' life, and fate, hang in the balance

She left his body in his shower where friends found him about 5 days later at his suburban Phoenix home.

She acknowledged she killed Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

Prosecutors said it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after the victim wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Weeks after Arias was convicted, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on her punishment.

Her attorneys have since sought, unsuccessfully, to dismiss the death penalty as an option.

If another deadlock occurs, the death penalty would automatically be removed as an option, leaving a judge to sentence Arias to 1 of 2 options: life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

The sentencing retrial will be a mini-trial of sorts to get a fresh jury - of 12 women and 6 men, including 6 alternates - up to speed on the case.

At her last trial, she testified for 18 days, describing for jurors an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he was physically abusive.

Her 1st trial drew a global following and inspired spectators to wait in line in the middle of the night to get a coveted seat in the courtroom.

This time around, the judge has ruled that cameras can record the proceedings, but nothing can be broadcast until after the verdict.

Judge Sherry Stephens has shut the media and public out of nearly every hearing in the case and drawn complaints from First Amendment lawyers that she has gone too far.

Judge Stephens said the hearing closures are intended to protect Arias' right to an impartial jury.

Attorney David Bodney, who represents several media outlets fighting for transparency in the case, said there have been repeated violations of the public's constitutional right to attend proceedings in the case.

The costs of defending Arias have topped $2.5 million and will mount during a 2nd penalty phase. Prosecutors have declined to provide their costs to try the case.

(source: Daily Mail)


4th penalty phase underway for 1983 killer

Richard Raymond Ramirez has been convicted twice of the 1983 rape and murder of a woman in an alley behind an Orange County bar.

Now, lawyers will argue before a jury whether the 55-year-old killer should be sentenced to death or finish his life in prison.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday in the 4th penalty phase Ramirez will face for raping and stabbing to death 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez in Garden Grove.

The case took an unusual turn six years ago when a federal judge overturned Ramirez's initial conviction after finding a juror at his 1985 trial failed to disclose he was applying to be an FBI agent.

Last year, Ramirez was convicted again of the crimes, but jurors could not agree on what penalty he should face.

"The hurdle to prove is that the crime and everything he had done when he was out was so horrific it still, even after all this time, warrants the death penalty," said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County. He said Ramirez denied killing Gonzalez at his earlier trial before DNA evidence linked him to the crime.

A message was left for Ramirez's attorney, Mick Hill.

Ramirez was convicted of the rape and murder of Gonzalez in March 1985. A 1st jury could not reach agreement on a verdict; a 2nd jury recommended he receive a death sentence.

Prosecutors say Ramirez and Gonzalez left the bar together about 1 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1983. They say Gonzalez's half-naked body was found later that morning, and nearby, a long-necked beer bottle with Ramirez's fingerprints.

(source: Associated Press)


U.S. Supreme Court To Decide San Diego Man's Death Sentence

The U.S. Supreme Court said this week it will consider reinstating the death sentence of a San Diego man who was found guilty of killing 3 people in a drug robbery in San Diego.

Hector Ayala was convicted and sentenced to death in 1980, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in 2012 that Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all 7 black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.

California appealed the 9th circuit's decision and asked that Ayala's death penalty sentence be reinstated.

Steve Semeraro, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said it's been common in recent years for the Supreme Court to consider cases where the 9th Circuit has overturned a sentence.

In Ayala's case, Semeraro said, "The defense attorney objected because the prosecutor was striking all of the black and Hispanic jurors from the jury pool. The judge said, 'OK I'll hear that objection, but I'm going to exclude the defense attorney from the argument.' Pretty much everyone agrees you can't do that."

The Supreme Court, without commenting on the case, agreed on Monday to consider the appeal, which will determine the constitutionality of dismissing minority jurors.

The case will be argued this winter.

"There's a chance that the Supreme Court might affirm. And when you have a situation like this case, where every single juror of color was removed from the jury, that raises a lot of red flags," Semeraro said.

(source: Associated Press)


Should Arbitrary Factors Mitigate Punishment? In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

On October 2, the day after a Chester County, Pennsylvania jury convicted Duron Peoples of 1st-degree murder in the contract killing of barbershop owner Jonas "Sonny" Suber, the jury unanimously informed Judge David Bortner that the appropriate sentence would be life without parole, and not death.

The jurors decided that mitigating factors cited by the defense - Peoples' upbringing in poor socio-economic circumstances, his self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer, and the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case - outweighed the prosecution's plea that the "murder for hire" deserved a sentence of death.

The local newspaper commended County jurors and prosecutors for their reluctance to impose the death penalty upon convicted murderers. In the editorialists' opinion, that only four defendants convicted of murder in the county are on death row demonstrates the district attorney's "wisdom" to withdraw the death penalty when it "serves the interest of justice."

Which begs the question: does withdrawing the death penalty in light of mitigating factors serve the interests of justice? Or does the practice promulgate greater injustice by allowing a lucky few to avoid their due?

In short, why should a few arbitrary factors mitigate the punishment for cold-blooded murder?

So what if Mr. Peoples was raised in poor socio-economic circumstances? Countless children are bought up in poor socio-economic circumstances, but they do not become murderers. Should an accident of birth determine the severity of punishment for a heinous crime?

So-called "mitigating" factors also marginalize men and women from similar backgrounds who choose to live law-abiding lives rather than blaming a life of crime on difficult circumstances.

Consideration of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case hints that a murderer need only hire a trigger man to do his dirty work and absent himself from the scene to insulate him from culpability. Even so, the prosecution's so-called "circumstantial" case convinced the jury that Peoples was guilty of 1st degree murder.

The kicker is Peoples' self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer. The selfish, self-centered, violent life to which Peoples was "addicted" should properly be an aggravating circumstance.

"Mitigating factors" also create a invidious, constitutionally suspect double standard by arbitrarily holding members of a certain class to a higher standard of conduct than members of a favored class.

And with fewer "mitigating factors" in their background, it follows that those subject to this stricter standard theoretically are more deserving of capital punishment for similar crimes than the Peoples of the world. Where is the justice (or logic) in that?

A 1st-degree murder verdict establishes beyond reasonable doubt a defendant's degree of culpability. Once degree is established, it is past time for excuses and justification.

Sentencing is the time when justice is done.

In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

(source: Opinion,


Drug Maker Mylan Takes $70 Million Hit in Battle Over Lethal Injection

Alabama's plan to use a new drug to execute death-row prisoners is causing headaches for the pharmaceutical company that makes the chemical.

An anti-death penalty organization convinced a German financial firm to pull a $70 million investment in Mylan, the manufacturer of rocuronium bromide, a paralytic that is part of the state's untested 3-drug lethal injection.

Jens Erhardt, managing director of asset manager DJE Kapital, told NBC News that his firm sold all its Mylan shares about a month ago because the drug giant would not guarantee its products won't wind up in executioners' syringes.

"We don't want to support this," Erhardt said. "If clients find out we have shares in companies that supply that drug, we have problems with our clients."

DJE was tipped off to the situation by Reprieve, a London-based activist group pushing Mylan to take steps to prevent rocuronium bromide from being used to kill inmates.

Under pressure, other pharmaceutical companies have barred their distributors from selling medicine to correction departments - causing shortages that have left death-penalty states scrambling for new sources and new drug combinations.

But Reprieve said Mylan, the Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical company that is one of the biggest generic drug makers, has refused to go that far.

"There are simple and effective steps pharmaceutical companies can take to protect their medicines from being sold for use in lethal injections, and over a dozen companies - the vast majority of affected companies - have taken exactly these steps," said Maya Foa, head of Reprieve's death penalty team.

"To date, Mylan has not taken steps to protect its medicines from being sold for use in executions, and this is a matter of concern to responsible investors."

A spokeswoman for Mylan declined to say whether Alabama had obtained its product for upcoming executions and refused to answer questions beyond a written statement:

"Mylan is committed to setting new standards in healthcare and providing access to affordable medicines for the world's 7 billion people. We are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of quality and integrity in everything we do. We only distribute our products through legally compliant channels, intended for prescription by healthcare providers consistent with approved labeling or applicable standard(s) of care."

Alabama adopted a new 3-drug combination last month after it ran out of pentobarbital - its previous lethal-injection agent - because the manufacturers have banned it from executions.

The new protocol includes the sedative midazolam hydrochloride, rocuronium bromide to arrest breathing, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. No other state has used the exact combination, though Florida's protocol is very similar.

The campaign to dry up supplies of rocuronium bromide, which was first reported by the Financial Times, comes as states struggle to obtain drugs for lethal injections and cope with the fallout from a trio of botched or troubled executions.

The common drug in those three cases was midazolam, which some experts say is not a strong enough anesthetic to stop an inmate from experiencing a harrowing death. Reprieve and other execution opponents charge that rocuronium bromide and other paralytics mask a prisoner's pain and distress.

Alabama has asked a court to set execution dates for nine inmates, but correction officials have not said whether they have an adequate supply of drugs for those or where they obtained the chemicals. The state attorney general declined to comment.

(source: NBC news)


George W. Bush's Revenge: A Federal Appeals Court Goes on the Rampage

A court dominated by Bush appointees issues extreme opinions on abortion, voter ID, and the death penalty.

When George W. Bush departed the White House, he left behind a giant deficit and expanded government spending for Medicare drug benefits that caused conservatives to grumble. But he did make a mark that right-wingers can cheer - by shaping the federal courts for years, perhaps decades.

As Bush has retreated to painting, federal judges he placed on the bench have been implementing a conservative vision in some of the most contentious areas of federal law. The best example of this is a string of recent decisions on hot-button issues from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which the ABA Journal has dubbed "the nation's most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court."

The 5th Circuit handles appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and it has become increasingly powerful as the Supreme Court has been hearing fewer and fewer cases. This month, the court - which has 6 George W. Bush appointees out of 15 judges - infuriated civil rights and pro-choice groups with 2 decisions overturning lower court rulings in Texas.

In 1 case, the 5th Circuit cleared the way for a new Texas voter ID law to take effect just days before early voting begins, even though a lower court judge had found, after a long trial, that the law amounted to a poll tax and unconstitutional suppression of voting, particularly by minorities. (The Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's ruling on Saturday.) In the other case, the court ruled that Texas could implement a new restrictive abortion law that would effectively shutter many of the state's remaining abortion clinics. (The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked this abortion law.)

The 5th Circuit has been consistently hostile toward abortion rights. Prior to this recent decision, it had already okayed most of Texas' new restrictive law that has led to the closing of 28 clinics. The law requires abortion providers to seek admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and forces clinics to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical center.

The appellate court did strike down an identical law in Mississippi in July, but only because it would have caused the closing of the state's sole abortion clinic, effectively banning a constitutionally protected procedure in the state. Mississippi had argued that women could still obtain abortions in Tennessee. In the Texas case, the 5th Circuit found that under the contested law, even though women would have to trek hundreds of miles to terminate a pregnancy, they would still be inside Texas, making the restrictions acceptable.

Last year, the 5th Circuit ruled that Scott Panetti, a profoundly mentally ill Texas man who represented himself at trial wearing a purple cowboy suit and referred to himself as "Sarge," was sane enough for execution. (Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Panetti.) This court has never found anyone too mentally ill for execution.

After nearly 6 years of the Obama presidency, only 4 of the 13 federal appellate courts now have a majority of GOP appointees, and the 5th Circuit is 1 of them. 23 judges currently sit on the 5th Circuit, including 8 senior judges who are semiretired but can and do still hear cases. 15 of those are GOP nominees. And of the 15 full-time judges, 10 are Republican appointees, including George W. Bush's 6. Ronald Reagan picked 4 of the full-time judges. As for the 5 active Democratic appointees, Barack Obama selected 3, and Bill Clinton nominated 2. There are 2 vacancies on the court.

Several of the 5th Circuit's loudest voices are luminaries of the right-wing legal movement and are regular speakers at conferences hosted by the Federalist Society, the conservative legal affairs outfit. They have been prominent in the recent hot-button cases. Among them is Bush appointee Priscilla Owen, a former Texas Supreme Court justice. Owen made a name for herself on the Texas high court by opposing requests from minor girls to obtain abortions without their parents' permission.

Last year, Owen voted to execute Panetti, the mentally ill man from Texas. She has also been a key player in earlier 5th Circuit decisions approving restrictive Texas abortion laws. In 2013, Planned Parenthood filed suit to block the Texas law that required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A lower-court judge ruled part of that law unconstitutional, finding that its only purpose was to drive abortion providers out of business. He blocked that provision from taking effect. Owen wrote the opinion for a 5th Circuit panel of 3 judges that overturned that ruling and allowed the law to take effect. This decision resulted in the almost immediate closing of 14 of the state's 36 abortion clinics.

In 2010, Owen was part of a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit filed by a high school cheerleader who had been kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for a basketball player she said had raped her. (The athlete ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.) These judges ordered the cheerleader's family to pay the school district $45,000 for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Joining Owen in the infamous cheerleader decision was another high-profile George W. Bush appointee, Edith Brown Clement. She is one of the judges who recently signed off on Texas' controversial voter ID law, and she's been a vociferous defender of BP in litigation over damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In 2012, to avoid a trial, BP signed a settlement agreement with lawyers representing people and businesses injured by the spill. In the agreement, BP promised to compensate the victims. But after the claims started rolling in and created a much higher tab than BP expected, the company tried to convince the 5th Circuit to let it out of the settlement agreement. The court's judges have been unsympathetic to the arguments - except Clement, who in May, wrote a dissent that Bloomberg Businessweek described as sending a "distress signal to the Supreme Court," in an effort to get the high court to step in on BP's behalf.

Last year Clement and another Bush appointee on this court, Catharina Haynes, dominated a 3-judge panel that upheld a Louisiana statute that allows a woman who has an abortion to sue the provider at any point in the following 10 years, even if she signed a risk waiver. The law also prevents abortion doctors from accessing a state-run fund that helps cover malpractice verdicts and settlements. Abortion providers had argued that the law was illegal because it treated them differently than other doctors and placed an undue burden on the right to an abortion by making it difficult for doctors to practice in the state. A lower-court judge agreed, but Clement and Haynes overturned that decision.

Prior to the George W. Bush years, the 5th Circuit was already famous as a home for judges with reputations as conservative ideologues. This includes Edith Jones. A Reagan appointee, Jones in 2006, made the Texas Observer's list of worst judges in the state for, among other rulings, her decision upholding the execution of a man whose lawyer had slept through his trial. Jones hasn't been part of any of this month's controversial decisions, but in 2012, she was on a 3-judge panel that upheld another Texas abortion law - a mandatory sonogram law that forced doctors to give women seeking an abortion medically unnecessary information designed to persuade women to change their minds.

Jones was frequently considered on George W. Bush's short list as a potential Supreme Court nominee, but critics suggested that she'd never get confirmed after members of Congress learned about her performance on a sexual-harassment case. "After hearing testimony that a woman had endured, among other things, a co-worker pinching her breast at work, Jones retorted, 'Well, he apologized,'" wrote the Observer.

Last week, the Judicial Council of the DC Circuit concluded an investigation into a misconduct complaint filed against Jones regarding a speech she gave at a Federalist Society event in 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania law school. In her comments, Jones allegedly made a host of inflammatory and racist statements, including remarks about pending cases.

According to affidavits filed with the complaint, Jones said that the death penalty provided a "positive service" to defendants because they are "likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution." She also allegedly suggested that "African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime," are "prone to commit acts of violence," and become involved in more violent and "heinous" crimes than people of other ethnic backgrounds. The judicial council ended its inquiry without issuing any firm finding because, it said, it could not find a recording of Jones' remarks.

The 5th Circuit hasn't always been a conservative bulwark. In the 1950s, it played a pivotal role in integrating the South after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. But in the past half century, it's been dominated by ultraconservative GOP appointees who tend to be sympathetic toward the gas and oil corporations that frequently appear before the court. The 5th Circuit will likely remain in the hot seat, given that it fields litigation involving contentious redistricting fights in Texas, the BP oil spill, additional reproductive rights restrictions, and more death penalty cases.

Obama has done little to restore balance on this court. He floated the names of a couple of potential candidates almost a year ago, but he has not nominated anyone to fill the 2 vacancies, 1 of which is 2 years old. The delay is not just his fault. The vacancies are reserved for nominees from Texas, and usually such judicial appointments need some support from the home-state senators. But Texas' 2 senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Republicans eager to oppose the president, have not been working with Obama to fill the 2 positions. Obama could nominate candidates without the backing of Cruz and Cornyn, but doing so would likely spark a partisan fight. Liberal judicial activists have criticized the president for being too deferential to Cruz and Cornyn. But whether that charge is true or not, Obama may end up not getting the chance to add any more judges to the 5th Circuit - especially if Republicans assume control of the Senate after

(source: Mother Jones)


Man, woman stoned to death for adultery in Syria: monitor

A man and a woman have been stoned to death for adultery in separate executions in jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, a monitoring group reported on Tuesday.

The man was executed in Idlib province in an area controlled by Islamist groups including the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence on all sides of Syria's civil war.

It is the 1st documented case of a man being stoned to death for adultery since Syria descended into civil war in 2011 and hardline Islamic groups emerged as powerful players in areas that slipped from government control, the Observatory said.

The woman was executed in Hama province in an area controlled by Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes, the Observatory said.

A video posted online appeared to show her execution. A bearded fighter is shown passing down the sentence in the presence of other gunmen and her father, who appears to approve of her execution.

Her hands and feet are then tied with a rope and she is forced to kneel in a pit. Covered head to toe, she begins to pray out loud as large rocks are seen striking her body. The video shows the logo of Islamic State.

The 2 incidents, which Reuters could not independently verify, appear to be unrelated.

The woman's execution was the 3rd of its kind in Islamic State-run territories in Syria, according to the Observatory.

Islamic State controls around a third of Syria and Iraq after having acquired new territory with lightening speed earlier this year. It quickly established a fierce reputation by crucifying, beheading and carrying out public executions of anyone deemed a threat to its rule.

Islamic State routinely carries out sentences of lashing against men in territories it rules for offences that range from adultery and subversion to blasphemy and missing prayer time.

In July, Islamic State stoned 2 women to death under similar circumstances to the Hama stoning. One was of a 26-year-old widow, according to the Observatory.

Syrian society is unaccustomed to sentences like stoning and lashing. For decades, the country was ruled by a government that implemented a mixture of Islamic and secular laws. Offences such as adultery were rarely prosecuted.

The fighter overseeing the woman's execution appears to lay the blame for her crime on her husband, suggesting he had been absent. He urges "all men to treat women well" before the stoning begins.

"Do not leave women. Do not be absent from them for longer than the time period permitted (by Islamic law). Return to God, brothers. And take good care of women," he says.

At one point he addresses the woman as "honorable sister", and asks her for final words. "I advise every woman to protect her honor more than her life," she says. And I ask every man, before he marries off his daughter, to scrutinize her new marital environment. That’s all," she says in a faint voice.

It is not clear exactly when the video was shot, or how the woman was found guilty of adultery - a conviction that would require at least 4 witnesses according to Islamic law.

(source: Reuters)


In China, legal reforms fail to reach Uyghurs on death row----While death sentences decrease across the country, punishment grows tougher for minority Muslims in Xinjiang

When Husanjan Wuxur, Yusup Umarniyaz and Yusup Ahmat faced trial on terrorism charges in a Xinjiang court on June 16, their fate was all but certain.

Maintaining China's 99.9-% conviction rate, the judge found all 3 Uyghur men guilty of a deadly attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last October and sentenced them to death. No independent media or international observers were permitted inside the Urumqi courthouse.

On August 23, Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat were executed.

Lawyers and rights groups say they are concerned that the recent spate of Xinjiang-related executions and death sentences undermines recent legal reforms that had prompted a sharp decline in executions recently in China.

On Monday, China advocacy group Dui Hua estimated another reduction last year. About 2,400 people were in 2013 put to death, the US-based organization said. The figure is still more than 3 times the total number in the rest of the world combined but represents a significant decline on the estimated 7,000 executions in China in 2006, the year before a number of legal reforms were introduced.

Meanwhile, less than 5 months after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a 'strike hard' campaign against terrorism in restive Xinjiang, China has handed down death sentences on close to 40 Uyghurs and executed at least 20, according to state media. Hundreds of civilians, police and government officials have died in separatist attacks this year, which Beijing blames on growing Islamic extremism in China's northwestern-most region.

"For sure what we've seen in regards to terrorism is that [the number of] people receiving the death penalty has increased dramatically," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based China researcher for Amnesty International, which runs a worldwide campaign against capital punishment.

"We're very worried about this from multiple angles," he added.

The week after Xi's promise in May to use "extremely tough measures and extraordinary methods", China held 2 mass trials for the 1st time since the 1990s. The 2nd, on May 27, handed down at least 3 death sentences on charges including "violent terrorism", according to state news agency Xinhua. Altogether 55 people were tried and found guilty - most on lesser charges - as 7,000 people watched at the stadium in Yining City, Xinjiang.

Amnesty International and Chinese lawyers interviewed by said the return of mass trials is part of a wider recent decline in legal standards.

"As far as we know, the Uyghurs who were given death sentences had their lawyers appointed by the local legal department, no independent lawyers are allowed to defend them," said rights lawyer Li Fangping, who has defended Uyghurs on lesser charges. "Not only were independent lawyers not allowed to engage in the death sentence cases in Xinjiang, but also independent media were not allowed to report the cases. The authorities want to control this information."

Trials like that of Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat have been broadcast live on state-run CCTV across China. But independent media and international observers have been banned from courtrooms hearing Xinjiang-related terrorism cases.

Nee says he believes mass trials and convictions of Xinjiang terrorism suspects beamed live across the country serve a double purpose for the Chinese Communist Party.

"On the one hand, it's a message to the Han community, and then it's also meant to be a threat or a message of intimidation towards people who are considered to be terrorists. It's very much for public consumption," he said.

In early January, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti gave an interview to Australia's ABC television in which he challenged Beijing's official version of events during the Tiananmen Square attack - among other criticisms of the government - and was detained 12 days later. Last month, the same Urumqi court that sentenced Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat to death for the attack condemned Tohti to life in prison on charges of separatism.

"Almost all of the human rights lawyers I have spoken with now have a negative opinion of the legal system, they say it is going backwards," said Mo Shaoping, a commercial and human rights lawyer who runs a law firm in Beijing.

Otherwise, progress on legal reforms - particularly on use of the death penalty - has been significant in recent years, he added.

Amid growing criticism outside the country, China ceased removing internal organs from executed prisoners for donation in May, 2007. Since then, in theory, written consent is required from the prisoner and their family before execution.

In August 2010, China reduced the number of categories that incur the death penalty from 68 to 55 and there is speculation this will be reduced again in the near future.

This has been viewed as something of a symbolic gesture given only a handful of these categories - particularly murder, terrorism and drug-dealing - have resulted in death sentences in recent years.

The key reform has been a review process which means the Supreme People's Court in Beijing reviews every death penalty handed down in provincial court, prompting restraint in lower courts and a dramatic estimated decline in executions - the actual number remains a state secret in China.

"The recent attitude when it comes to handing down sentences is: 'be cautious'," said Mo.

Since January 2007, the Supreme People's Court has built up a team of more than 400 judges at 5 new attached courts whose sole task is to review death sentences.

During the review process, special judges will often interview the defense lawyer and the convicted prisoner, sometimes by live camera feed from the prisoner's holding cell, said Mo.

Last year, the Supreme People's Court overturned a death sentence handed down on a woman found guilty of murdering her abusive husband in Sichuan province in November, 2010.

Typically reviews take 6 months, or as long as 2 years in complicated cases.

Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat were executed just 68 days after they were sentenced to death for the attack on Tiananmen Square, and Chinese state media has rarely mentioned a standard review of other similar cases.

Last month, the Supreme People's Court Vice President Shen Deyong urged courts in Xinjiang to "speed up" trials of terror suspects while maintaining that cases involving ethnic minorities in China should be handled "no differently" from any other, according to Xinhua.

"The process has definitely been sped up," said Amnesty's Nee. "With the 'strike hard' campaign in Xinjiang, that would be the huge anomaly, in a way, where the oversight that seems to be getting better in China in general seems to be absent here."

As Xi's administration fights an expanding, violent separatist campaign in Xinjiang, the primary drag on the legal system remains the same old problem, said lawyer Mo: political interference.

"The judicial system is not independent from the leadership of the party. So therefore we have to look at everything in the justice based on this reality," he said.

While it remains a topic of debate as to why the government has recently refined its legal system - commentators say a combination of international pressure and efforts by Chinese lawyers have helped - there is wide agreement that Xinjiang remains among the toughest issues to address with Beijing. Few channels for dialogue exist.

Among them is Dui Hua, which has helped free hundreds of political prisoners by communicating directly with officials in Beijing.

"I have raised the names of Uyghurs detained for 'splittism' (the Chinese government's term for separatism) but have not specifically raised executions in Xinjiang," Dui Hua's founder John Kamm said by email.

European countries including France and Germany have a regular rights dialogue with China, but results have been "limited", particularly on the most sensitive issues, said Markus Loening, Germany's Human Rights Commissioner until the end of last year.

"The death penalty has been a major issue at each of these dialogues," he said. "We have been urging the Chinese government to abolish and restrict the use of it as much as possible until abolishment. We also made the case that defendants must have a fair trial."

Uyghur activists outside of China say that recent Xinjiang-related trials have been anything but.

Rather than contain the problem, China's manipulation of the judiciary is making things worse, said Alim Seytoff, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project based in Washington DC.

"The increased use of the death penalty by the Chinese government will not deter the Uyghur people's yearning for freedom and democracy," he said. "As the PRC's founder Mao Zedong once said: "Where there is repression, there is resistance.' It is a vicious cycle."



Iranian regime executed a man in Marivan

An Iranian man has been hanged secretly in the main prison in the city of Marivan after he had been held 8 years in jail.

Haydar Masror was hanged last Thursday. The Iranian regime's judiciary has not announced his execution.

Previous reports have indicated that the Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of four executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Woman, daughter arrested in Vietnam for using kindergarten as meth store

Police in Da Nang have arrested a kindergarten manager for concealing at her school more than 2 kilograms of meth for her drug trafficker mother.

Investigators said Tuesday they had taken in Pham Thi Bich Phuong, 22, after arresting her mother Pham Thi Nga, 43, Sunday and making the biggest drug haul ever in the central city.

The police caught Nga at a bus station with more than 2,340 ecstasy pills.

They then found 140 grams of methamphetamine at the Honey Hotel she was running in the city and more than 2 kilograms of meth at the Sao Sang nursery she opened.

At the nursery, the meth was hidden in 14 milk bottles in the teachers' room.

Phuong told the police her mother opened the school to serve as a drug haven and told her to manage it since she is studying to be a teacher herself.

Pham Thi Nga, 43, has been arrested in Da Nang City for running a meth and ecstasy business that used a kindergarten as a meth store.

She said they believed hiding the meth at the school would help evade police detection.

The police said the duo moved to Da Nang from Lang Son Province on the China border in 2011 to establish a drug business supplied from China.

She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opening the hotel and kindergarten and investing in real estate to cover up her drug business.

She used the hotel as a supply point for her mules, most of them ex-convicts, rather than to let out rooms.

The police also found 7 machetes and a gun she used to arm her staff at her house and hotel.

Nga was divorced in 2013 and is living with a Da Nang ex-convict.

Anyone convicted for possessing more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of meth faces the death penalty in Vietnam, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


Fate of Pakistani woman rests with country's supreme court

Organizations are watching and waiting for Pakistan's supreme court to take up the case of Asia Bibi.

Attorneys for Bibi say they plan to appeal her death sentence for blasphemy. A court upheld that penalty last week, ending speculation as to how the court might rule.

Bibi is a Christian wife and mother who is accused by her Muslim co-workers of blasphemy.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the decision has disappointed the ministry and Bibi's family.

"I think they had a lot of hope that the court would do the just and right thing, and that she even this week might be back home with her husband and back home with her daughters," Nettleton tells OneNewsNow.

Nettleton points out that the charge against Bibi was not brought for several days after her alleged blasphemous comments.

"The other thing is that the person who reported it to the police, or actually filed the initial report, was a man who wasn't even there when she allegedly made these comments," says Nettleton. "It's not like he was an eye witness."

Attorneys for Bibi raised those issues in court.

Nettleton offers this possible reason for the verdict: "There was 25 mullahs in the courtroom observing and our contacts in Pakistan say around 2,000 Muslims gathered outside the courthouse just to remind the judges, Hey, we're watching what you do on this case and you better do it the way that we think you should."

Assuming Bibi's attorneys do appeal and Pakistan's supreme court agrees to hear the case, Nettleton says it's not known when arguments will be made in the courtroom.



Death Penalty Upheld; Battle Not Over for Asia Bibi

The family of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, is still praying she'll be spared from death.

Late last week, a high court upheld a previous decision to execute her, but the battle is far from over. She has one remaining chance to be acquitted.

When CBN News met with Bibi's family in late summer 2011, they were hoping and praying she would return home by Christmas. That was more than three years ago.

Now comes news the Pakistani High Court upheld her conviction and death sentence for alleged blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

And that has her family very upset.

Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs said it was a very difficult day for Bibi, her husband and daughters.

"When this hearing was finally held, I think their hopes were 'Finally, there's going to be justice,'" Nettleton told CBN News. "I think of Asia's daughters in particular [thinking] 'Finally, our mom's going to be free. She's going to come home to us,' and all of those hopes were dashed. This was a very difficult day for Asia, her husband, Ashiq, and for their daughters."

Asia's husband, Ashiq, he told CBN News he was very proud of his wife.

"Asia never left her faith. She's faithful and she never denied her faith," he said.

Nettleton says the evidence against her was tenuous. He believes the high court judges did not overturn her conviction because they were likely threatened by militant Islamists.

"There were about 25 mullahs that attended the hearing - that were sitting in the courtroom - and about 2,000 outside the courthouse bringing the message to bear to the judges, 'Hey, we're watching how you'll rule on this case. We know who you are. We know where you live - that we know where you live [means] you're not out of our reach,' and I think that pressure was reflected in the fact that the verdict was upheld," Nettleton said.

Ashiq said his wife's imprisonment and conviction came as no surprise because Christians are a small, persecuted minority in Pakistan's Muslim-dominated society.

"It's written in the Bible, 'In My name you will face persecution and people will blame you and curse you,' and we are facing that," he said.

Asia has 1 more chance for acquittal. Her case is now on appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court.

Nettleton says even if the court eventually frees her from prison, her life will still be in danger.

"She's not safe there," he said. "There is a mullah who has already issued a death reward for killing her. She will need at the very minimum to relocate to a safe place within Pakistan and more likely she and her family will have to leave the country for their safety."

So for now, there's 1 last chance, but the final Supreme Court decision could take months if not years.

And just like they did 3 years ago, her daughters remain faithful to the Lord no matter what the eventual outcome.

"We know God is alive. We know He is with us. He will be with us forever!" her daughter said.

(source: CBN News)


Ghulam Azam Verdict----SC hearing on appeals likely today

The Supreme Court is going to start hearing 2 appeals filed by convicted war criminal Ghulam Azam and the government against his verdict and a judgement as well as seeking a ban on Jamaat respectively.

The former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer's appeal against his 90-year jail sentence has been enlisted on today's list of the Appellate Division for fixing a date for hearing.

A 5-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain is set to fix the date.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 in its verdict on July 15 last year jailed Ghulam Azam for 90 years for masterminding crimes against humanity and genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.

The tribunal in the verdict said Ghulam Azam, now 92, deserved capital punishment but was given jail terms due to his old age and poor health.

Later on August 5 last year, Ghulam Azam filed an appeal with the SC seeking an overturn of his conviction and the jail sentence claiming the judgement was not a verdict at all in the eye of law, as the charges brought against him had nothing related to offences or crimes against humanity and genocide.

On the other side, the government on August 12 last year submitted a separate appeal to the apex court seeking death penalty for Ghulam Azam and a ban on the anti-liberation political party Jamaat-e-Islami.

In the appeal, the government said Jamaat had committed crimes against humanity and atrocities during the war and the party had not changed its anti-liberation stance since independence.

The party has not even apologised for its criminal and anti-liberation activities, the appeal petition said, adding that Jamaat was termed a criminal organisation by one of the international crimes tribunals.

2 other appeals filed by former Jamaat's Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury are also in the pipeline for hearing.

Mojaheed and Salauddin have been convicted and sentenced for atrocities and crimes against humanity they committed in 1971.

(source: Daily Star)

OCTOBER 21, 2014:


Sentenced to death, inmate now faces new penalties

The Georgia Supreme Court says that the death penalty is not enough punishment for a Walker County killer.

In an opinion released Monday morning, the justices unanimously ruled that the sentence was "favorable to the defendant" in the case of Donnie Allen Hulett. In April 2004, a jury convicted Hulett of murdering 2 brothers, and Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood sentenced him to death.

The top court's decision could delay Hulett's execution in a case that has dragged on for 10 years. A month after his conviction in 2004, attorneys for Hulett asked for a new trial, as often happens after a guilty verdict in a criminal case.

But the appeal lingered for 9 years. Wood did not deny Hulett's request for a new trial until 2013. And because Wood did not deny the motion until last year, Hulett's attorney did not appeal it further up the judicial chain until this year.

Now, because of an error 10 years ago, Hulett is due to return to Walker County Superior Court for a new sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court said Wood was too soft.

In all, the jury convicted Hulett in 2004 of 17 different crimes. Those crimes included 2 counts of malice murder.

When Wood sentenced Hulett, he gave him the death penalty for malice murder and "merged" all the other charges. But the Supreme Court justices say Wood should not have done that. They ruled that Wood should have punished Hulett separately for a couple of his crimes: robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The Supreme Court says that those crimes were committed separately from the murder.

The court's reasoning? If Hulett had not been found guilty of murder, he would have still been guilty of robbery. And if Hulett had not been found guilty of robbery or murder, he would have still been found guilty of carrying a firearm when he was not allowed to have one.

The Supreme Court found that Wood was unfair to prosecutors, though prosecutors asked Wood to "merge" the charges when he sentenced Hulett. No prosecutor has objected to that since the sentencing.

Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein wrote, "if we notice a merger issue in a direct appeal, as we have here, we regularly resolve that issue, even where (it) was not raised in the trial court and is not enumerated as error on the appeal."

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said the Supreme Court's ruling surprised him. 10 years ago, he asked Wood to "merge" the charges because he thought that would reduce Hulett's chances of winning an appeal down the line.

"We try to err on the side of caution," he said.

(source: TimesFreePress)


Parents face death penalty in toddler's death

2 Pensacola parents who failed to seek treatment for their severely burned toddler have been charged with murder and are facing the death penalty, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Christopher Redd, 39 and Jennifer Gail Perry, 29, were both charged with 1st-degree felony murder in the death of their 2-year-old son Bryson.

According to the couple's July arrest report, Perry told the Pensacola police that boiling water from the stove fell onto the child. According to the PPD, he had second and third degree burns over 35 % of his body.

The report said the family waited approximately 2 weeks before calling 911 because they had been previously investigated by the Department of Children and Families and didn't know how what to say about Bryson's injuries.

Both are being held in Escambia County Jail without bond, and their next scheduled court date is Dec. 16.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Florida quadruple-murder suspect faces death penalty after leaving bodies to rot on hill ---- Adam Matos, 28, allegedly lived with the bodies for a week as the decomposed in a field a short distance from the Hudson, Fla., home. He's accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Megan Brown, her new boyfriend and her parents, then fleeing the scene with his 4-year-old autistic son.

A callous Florida killer who cops say lived beside the rotting bodies of his ex-girlfriend and her 3 family members for a week after killing them now faces the death penalty in the heinous quadruple murder.

Adam Matos, 28, was busted the day after authorities found the four bodies stacked up on a hill Sept. 4 in Hudson, a waterfront town 45 miles north of Tampa.

Matos shot dead ex Megan Brown, 27, bludgeoned her new boyfriend, 37-year-old Nicholas Leonard, to death, before shooting and beating the woman's parents, Gregory and Margaret Brown, both 52, to death.

Margaret Brown had a plastic bag pulled over her head, while Gregory Brown had been shot in the chest.

Between the killings and his arrest, Matos cared for his autistic son, Ismael "Tristan" Santisteban while covering up his crimes, police said. According to court documents, he told neighbors the family was on vacation and used Margaret Brown's debit card to buy pizza for the 4-year-old and a shovel for the burials.

Matos, 28, has been in police custody since Sept. 5, when a SWAT team cornered him in a downtown Tampa hotel. Ismael was with him, unharmed.

The arrest ended a frantic 12-hour Amber Alert search for the boy. Police began hunting for the father-son duo on Sept. 4 when they found the 4 bodies and no trace of Matos and Tristan.

Police believe Matos killed the 4 on Aug. 28 and then lived at the home with the bodies nearby for a week, the Tampa Tribune reported.

That was the last day anyone saw the family alive, and was the same day Megan Brown called police to report Matos had held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her, the Tribune reported.

He fled before cops arrived, but neighbors spotted Matos at the house later that afternoon, sweaty and out of breath, according to police records.

Matos had lived in the home with the Browns since July, when he moved with them from Pennsylvania to Florida - and stayed even after Megan Brown broke up with him. Days later, when the Browns' next-door neighbors, Ryan McCann, asked where Megan and her parents were, Matos told him the three had taken a trip to West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Matos sold 6 of the family's dogs through listings, earning $50 for each pup the family had bred. He used Margaret Brown's debit card to buy a shovel from Walmart - which he likely used to bury his victim's bodies near the house, police said. He also used the card to order Papa John's.

Police visited the house on Sept. 4 after a worried friend couldn't get in touch with any of the Browns. When officers saw birds circling the air, they discovered the maggot-covered, decomposing bodies.

Inside the home, cops found weapons, as well as blood-soaked sheets and rugs and blood and maggots inside a minivan in the home's garage, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Matos faces 4 1st-degree murder charges and pleaded not guilty. He is next due in court Dec. 9. During a jailhouse interview last month, the accused killer proclaimed his innocence - though he admitted the evidence pointed at him.

(source: New York Daily News)


Alleged Ohio highway shooter faces death penalty

A man accused of kidnapping his estranged girlfriend from her Kentucky home and fatally shooting her on Interstate 75 in Ohio faces 5 charges and the death penalty.

A Warren County, Ohio, grand jury indicted Terry Froman on Monday on 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of kidnapping and 1 charge of discharging a firearm on I-75 in the Sept. 12 death of Kim Thomas, of Mayfield, Ky.

Froman, 41, of Illinois, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

He also faces capital charges in Kentucky in the shooting death of Thomas' 17-year-old son, Michael "Eli" Mohney. Authorities say Froman executed Mohney as he tried to defend his mother from the kidnapping at their home.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Warren County will prosecute Froman first before he is transferred to Kentucky.

Thomas was found dead, shot multiple times, across the back seat of Froman's white 2004 GMC Yukon after Froman, with police on his tail, stopped the SUV on the berm of I-75 in Turtlecreek Township. He allegedly shot Thomas, then shot himself in the chest. A spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol had said Froman tried to commit suicide, but his injuries were not life-threatening.

The incident shut down I-75 for about6 hours.

"There is evil in the world and I think what we believe happened in this particular case is evidence of that."

A multistate search for Froman began early Sept. 12 after Thomas' co-workers at a Mayfield, Ky., nursing home went to her nearby residence to check on her when Thomas did not show up for work.

Authorities in Graves County, Ky., said Froman is accused of fatally shooting Mohney, in the residence before abducting Thomas. A bloodied Thomas tried to flee at a Food Mart in Paducah, Ky., on the morning of Sept. 12, but Froman caught her, put her in the vehicle and took off.

Froman then stopped at his mother's home in Paducah covered in blood. His mother called police after he left, Graves County Commonwealth Attorney David Hargrove said earlier.

"This is a case that has rocked that community of Graves County, Ky.," Fornshell said.

Froman and Thomas had lived together but broke up in late August or early September, Fornshell said.

Fornshell said he called Thomas' family and spoke with her father Monday morning before holding a news conference to announce the indictment.

"I could tell he was choked up about the fact that at least the 1st step of justice had started," Fornshell said. "There is evil in the world and I think what we believe happened in this particular case is evidence of that."

(source: USA Today)


Dunlap death row decision by Gov. John Hickenlooper haunts victim's father but not other family members

The father of slain 17-year-old talks about Gov. John Hickenlooper's decision to grant the killer an indefinite reprieve.

A heartbroken father whose daughter was killed during a rampage at a suburban Chuck E. Cheese blistered Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for granting an indefinite reprieve to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap.

Dennis O'Connor called Hickenlooper a "coward" in a tough-to-watch 13-minute video released Monday by A Better Colorado Future, a political 527 overseen by Republican political operatives Andy George and Kelly Maher. His daughter, Colleen, was 17.

"He took the coward's way out at the expense of my daughter," O'Connor said. "He's a coward who doesn't deserve to be in office. If you can do anything, Coloradans, get this guy out of here before he screws everything up."

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, faces a challenge from former Congressman Bob Beauprez, a Republican.

O'Connor's former wife, Jodie McNally-Damore, has a different opinion of Hickenlooper's decision. Dunlap, she told CNN, "deserves to stay exactly in the hole that he's in -- let him rot."

And Colleen's cousin, Gillian McNally, told Colorado Public Radio that she "fully supports" Gov. Hickenlooper's decision. "I actually thought it was very brave," McNally said.

Maher said her organization has cut a 30-second and a one-minute campaign ad from the video, but still is making a decision on how to proceed.

Colleen was shot at the Aurora pizzeria where Dunlap he used to work at before being fired. He killed four people and severely injured a 5th. Dunlap was scheduled to be executed last year and some thought the Democratic governor might commute the killer's sentence to life in prison, instead, but the governor chose an indefinite reprieve. Hickenlooper said 3 jurors have said if they knew Dunlap was bi-polar they wouldn't have voted to give him the death penalty.

"This is an awful tragedy and Nathan Dunlap will die in prison," the governor's campaign manager, Brad Komar, said when asked about the video. "The governor's decision was based in his opposition to the death penalty while respecting that others disagree. It is a legitimate question whether the state should take a life."

(source: Denver Post)


Arizona jury to consider death penalty for murderer Jodi Arias

An Arizona jury will be sworn in on Tuesday to decide whether 34-year-old convicted murderer Jodi Arias will be executed for the 2008 slaying of Travis Alexander, court officials said.

After months of delays, a 12-member jury is set to be impaneled in Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix in the penalty phase retrial of the former California waitress.

Arias was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in May 2013 for killing Alexander, 30, in his Mesa, Arizona, home. Alexander was found slumped in his shower after being stabbed 27 times, having his throat slashed and being shot in the face.

Arias testified for 18 days, claiming she acted in self-defense, while prosecutors said she murdered Alexander in a jealous rage.

The jury found her guilty and quickly decided that she was eligible for the death penalty. But they deadlocked on what her punishment should be, prompting Judge Sherry Stephens to declare a mistrial.

The 5-month trial featured lurid testimony and grim crime-scene photographs, drawing many U.S. television and Internet viewers with the aid of live-streamed broadcasts. The penalty phase retrial, however, will not be broadcast live.

It took roughly 3 weeks to seat the new jury, from a pool of roughly 400 people. If that jury deadlocks, the death penalty will be off the table, and Stephens will decide if Arias gets life in prison, or life without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

(source: Reuters)


Church to appeal Asia Bibi death penalty

Catholic leaders in Pakistan will appeal to their country's Supreme Court after a lower court upheld the death penalty for a blasphemy ruling against a Christian mother of 5 children.

"Like it or not, we have to accept the court order," Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service.

4 days earlier, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010. "The only option before us now is to appeal against the verdict. We have applied for a certified copy of the verdict. We will appeal against it in the Supreme Court," Father Mani said, adding Christians were praying for an acquittal.

A statement from the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, a Catholic group named for a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

"Bibi has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy. We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done (when the appeal is heard in the Supreme Court). For now that is our only hope," said the statement by the Catholic advocacy group.

Bibi, an "untouchable" low caste, was accused of blasphemy after an argument with her Muslim neighbour over a drinking glass in the fruit field where they worked together. She was the 1st Christian woman convicted under the blasphemy law that provides for mandatory death sentence even for unintentional acts or words of blasphemy.

2 prominent critics of the blasphemy law lost their lives in their bid to get Bibi released on bail following her conviction.

Salman Taseer, a Muslim and governor of Punjab province, was shot dead on January 4, 2011, by his Muslim body guard after he initiated a clemency petition.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year old Catholic and federal minister for religious minorities who closely worked with Taseer with the clemency petition, was killed 2 months later in Islamabad.

More than 96 % of Pakistan's population of more than 180 million people are Muslims. While Christians and Hindus account for over 1.5 % each, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and tribals account for the remaining 1 %.

(source: Catholic Herald)


Diplomatic talks continue concerning the fate of 3 Seychellois nationals on death row in Egypt

All diplomatic avenues are being engaged in an attempt to save the lives of 3 Seychellois nationals whose time is running out after having been sentenced to death in Egypt for drug trafficking, says the Seychelles government.

The Seychelles President James Michel this morning conveyed a letter addressed to his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pleading for clemency for the 3 men.

The letter was handed to the new Egyptian Ambassador to Seychelles Mahmoud Ali Talaat after he presented his credentials to the Seychellois Head of State this morning.

The matter relating to the death penalty imposed on the 3 Seychellois men was the main topic of discussion.

Talaat told journalists in an interview at State House that the Seychelles President had expressed the grief that the people of Seychelles and the families of the 3 men are currently going through.

"The President (James Michel) expressed how important it is to the Seychellois people and for the families of the 3 who are sentenced to death," he said adding that he will convey the message to Cairo as soon as he arrives in Nairobi where he is based.

"I will convey his message to his excellency the President of Egypt and to the government. I'm not a law expert so I do not know what could be done about it but I will convey the message...Let's hope for the best. As I said I have to convey the message to my president and we will see from there, but normally the Egyptian government never gets involved in the judiciary."

The Seychelles Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Barry Faure is currently in Cairo where he yesterday discussed the matter with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was on Wednesday last week that it was confirmed that the Egyptian Court of Cessation had upheld the death penalty imposed on Ronny Norman Jean, Yvon John Vinda and Dean Dominic Loze, rejecting their appeal.

The 3 men were sentenced to death by execution on April 7, 2013 and the sentence was confirmed on June 3, 2013.

They men were arrested on April 22, 2011 by the Egyptian police onboard a boat near the Red Sea coastal town of Marsa Alam. They were together with a British national identified as Charles Raymond Ferndale, who is said to be the owner of the vessel and another Pakistani national.

They were accused and charged for attempting to smuggle 3 tonnes of cannabis packed in 118 bags into Egypt.

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam who was also present at the State House meeting, said Seychelles has made several diplomatic representations since the 3 men were sentenced to death on April 7, 2013.

He said the 1st was to the former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi after they were sentenced. Morsi was ousted by the military in July 2013.

Adam noted that another appeal was also made after the death sentences were upheld by the Egyptian Court of Appeal.

Then there was the final appeal to the Court of Cassation, which is the last legal recourse. Now that the court has pronounced itself and upheld the death penalty the Egyptian president has 1 month during which he may intervene on the matter.

Nevertheless Adam said it is a very difficult situation as questions may be asked to the Egyptian authorities as to "why this case and not others" while adding that "if the appeals are unsuccessful, we must prepare ourselves for what can happen."

"....Egypt has shown that it is very open to listen to Seychelles and I think this is the mark of the strength between the 2 countries. But we are also conscious that like in Seychelles the executive cannot interfere in the judiciary," said Adam.

"Because Seychelles is not a country that applies the death penalty we are appealing for clemency in that their sentence could be reduced to life imprisonment....but it will be a question for the Egyptian legal authorities to look at. We hope for a positive answer but we have to be respectful of the Egyptian justice system."

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister said his ministry is in contact with the families of the condemned men adding that "the 3 are in a very difficult and emotional situation."

Adam also told journalists that a possible execution date has not yet been confirmed and that they await to hear from the lawyers on the matter.

He also said that negotiations for clemency are being coordinated with the UK Government since a Briton was also arrested together with the 3 Seychellois and subsequently sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

The Seychellois public have also expressed concern about the fate of the 3 Seychellois nationals in Egypt while several efforts are ongoing to plead for mercy on social media sites and newspapers.

The former Seychelles President James Mancham has also added his voice to the plea for clemency for the three Seychellois men. Mancham has also sent a letter to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi calling on him to show mercy on them.

Seychelles and Egypt established diplomatic ties in 1976.

While the situation of the 3 men on death row dominated discussions during talks between the newly accredited ambassador and Michel the possibility to enhance cooperation between the two countries were also highlighted.

"We discussed different matters in the trade field, how trade could be doubled or even tripled or quadrupled, we should make more efforts in that respect using what we have now which is the COMESA. There are lots of agreements that could be signed between both countries. Egypt can supply various experts in different fields especially in the health field," said Talaat.

Apart from increasing trade and cooperation in the health sector, tourism is another area which the two sides feel can be explored further.

(source: Seychelles News Agency)


Egypt court upholds death penalty for militant----Ansar Bait Al Maqdis have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks

An Egyptian military court on Tuesday confirmed death sentences against 7 Islamist militants convicted of attacking and killing army officers, the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram reported online.

The confirmation was made after the tribunal received a report from the country's chief legal Islamic authority, the Grand Mufti, on an initial ruling issued by the court in August, according to the paper.

Under Egypt's criminal law, civil and military courts have to refer preliminary death sentences to the Grand Mufti for an advisory opinion.

The military court also handed down life imprisonment to 2 defendants in the same case related to the killing of 2 army officers during a security crackdown on an arms cache manned by suspected Islamist insurgents in the province of Qaliubia earlier this year.

The defendants are members of Ansar Bait Al Maqdis, a Sinai-based militant group that has claimed a series of deadly attacks against Egyptian security forces since the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in mid-2013.

(source: Gulf News)


Yero Removes Ebhos From Death Row

The governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ramalan Yero has signed a release order for Thankgod Ebhos, an inmate on death row in Benin City prison after 19 years on death row.

The governor signed the release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under section 212 of the Nigerian constitution.

The long winding road to Thankgod Ebhos' release began with the intervention of the international human rights organisation, Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI). The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.

In a statement by Miss Esther Akpa, Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) France, Mr Ebhos is one of nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria’s 54th Independence Day celebration.

According to the statement, Mr Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous four inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo State government. Thankgod, the 5th inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the four who did not escape the hangman's noose.

"In February this year the ECOWAS court ruled in Thankgod's favour by granting the injunction and ordering the federal government to remove his name from the death row list. The final judgment from the same court on the 10th of June, 2014, reiterated the order to take off Thankgod's name from death row.

(source: Leadership Nigeria)


Reprieve for Death Row Inmates in Kaduna

In an unprecedented turn of events, reprieve has eventually come the way of Thankgod Ebhos and Sunday Eze Onyeabor, 2 death row inmates formerly in Benin prison, following the signing of their release order by the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero.

The governor signed their release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under Section 212 of the Nigerian Constitution. Ebhos is one of the nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria's 54th Independence Day celebration.

Onyeabor was sentenced to death in 1994 and had been on death row for 20 years, while Ebhos was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995 and has been on death row for 19 years.

The duo, who have appeals pending at the Court of Appeal are beneficiaries of Avocats Sans Frontieres France's Saving Lives (SALI) project initiated in 2011, which has since recorded the release of 48 inmates from prison.

Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous 4 inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo state government.

Ebhos, the 5th inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the 4 who did not escape the hangman's noose.

The long winding road to Ebhos release, however, began with the intervention of the international human rights Organization, Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI).

The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.

In February this year the ECOWAS court ruled in Ebhos' favour by granting the injunction and ordering the federal government to remove his name from the death row list.

The final judgment came from the same court on June 10, 2014, which reiterated the order to take off Ebhos' name from death row.

The court at that time stressed that any attempt to execute Ebhos, while his appeal was still pending at the Court of Appeal, would be a gross violation of his right to appeal as contained in section 6(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Ebhos' son, Ebhodaghe Solomon, who spoke to ASF France about the challenges he went through in the process of appealing for help with his father's case, expressed joy at the news of his release.

"It has been a very long process,' he said. "Some lawyers and organizations that I took my father's case to promised to help and nothing came out of it even after they had collected money. ASF France handled my father's case like it was a family matter. The way someone would fight for their family, that is the way they took my father's case."

Also Oneyeabor's niece, Arinze Georgina, who was appreciative of the governor's gesture, commended ASF France's effort in handling her uncle's case.

Meanwhile, Avocats Sans Frontieres France has commended the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero for this gesture and urged the Katsina State government to consider following suit in the case of Maimuna Abdulmumini, who was sentenced to death as a minor.

According to ASF France Head of Office, Angela Uwandu, "The death penalty is absolutist in nature, and should be totally expunged from our laws."

"Thankgod's release today underscores the impact that the decision of the ECOWAS court could have on the status of death row inmates. If Thankgod Ebhos had been executed prior to the judgment of the ECOWAS court, his execution would have been irrevocable and the chance to experience this freedom would have been lost," she added.

(source: The Guardian)


13 executed in a day, 6 inmates die in a prison due to dire conditions

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of 4 executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city,

Also at least 5 death row prisoners in Urumyeh Central Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement since October 18 to await their execution.

Meanwhile, Iranian regime officials continue to pledge to continue on violations of human rights in Iran.

Commenting on the latest reports by international bodies on the violation of human rights in Iran, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the mullah's Judiciary, said on October 15: "The more they attack us on the issue of human rights, the more we become determined to carry out sentences," IRGC affiliated YJC website reported.

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


High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not "shy away" from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

"We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned," Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

"While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it".

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari'ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

"In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas," Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state's preferred method of implementing capital punishment.

(source: Minivan News)


High Court Rules Out Capital Punishment

The High Court cannot impose the death penalty on murderers in Zimbabwe until the legislature enacts a law spelling out the circumstances under which one can be hanged, Justice Charles Hungwe has said.

The landmark ruling spared Jonathan Mutsinze of the Jerusalem Church of Marondera the hangman's noose for killing a policeman and a security guard in the course of an armed robbery.

Justice Hungwe said there was no law defining "aggravated circumstances," a condition for one to be hanged.

In the absence of the Act, Justice Hungwe said, the courts cannot impose capital punishment.

He said life imprisonment was appropriate in Mutsinze's case.

Justice Hungwe ruled that the new Constitution under Section 48(2) stated that death penalty could only be imposed on a person who commits murder under "aggravated circumstances" but there was no Act defining the aggravated circumstances or setting out the conditions under which capital punishment can be imposed.

Justice Hungwe said before the introduction of the new Constitution, the death penalty would be imposed after the court found no extenuating circumstances and the extenuating circumstances were well-defined.

"Section 48 of the new Constitution brings in a new legal terrain, which recognises everyone's right to life including prisoners.

"Section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits death penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of murder committed with aggravated circumstances and that the law must allow the court a discretion on whether or not to impose the penalty.

"In my view what the Constitution has done is to unfetter the exercise of the discretion which was previously fettered under Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

"The omission of reference to extenuating circumstances and the introduction of aggravated circumstances, in my view, must be interpreted to mean that what is envisaged in an Act of Parliament, will define the term (aggravated circumstances) or set out conditions on which the court will impose death penalty," he said.

"Alternatively, and in any event, the absence of the definition of the term or what constitutes aggravated circumstances, must mean that they were to be defined in the envisaged law."

Justice Hungwe interpreted the situation to mean that Zimbabwe was moving away from the death penalty.

"I interpret the legal position to be that in keeping with its international obligations and best practices, Zimbabwe intends to move away from death penalty," he said.

Justice Hungwe's ruling confirms an argument by prominent Harare lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu in a separate case in which the National Prosecuting Authority was seeking an order barring the High Court from imposing the death penalty on Zimbabwean murder suspects extradited from countries that do not recognise death sentence.

Countries like South Africa are holding on to murder suspects for fear they will be executed when extradited to Zimbabwe.

When Adv Mpofu was asked to give his own analysis of the law as a friend of the court, he said while the old Constitution specifically made provisions for the death penalty, the new order left that decision to the legislature.

Mutsinze, who had been in remand prison for 10 years awaiting sentence, was finally sentenced after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application for stay of prosecution.

He was convicted of murder with actual intent, which usually attracts the death penalty, but the loophole saved him and he was slapped with a life sentence.

(source: The Herald)

OCTOBER 20, 2014:


Texas death penalty too easily doled

On Oct. 8, a 49-year-old man who was looking death in the eyes was able to walk away a free man.

According to the Houston Chronicle, in 2005, Manuel Velez was charged in the death of his girlfriend's son, Angel - who passed away a day before his 1st birthday.

The Huffington Post said Velez was with the boy when he started struggling to breathe and sought help, but ultimately the child could not be saved. It was only a few weeks after the death that Velez became a person of interest, despite not having a history of violence, and he was sentenced to death row at the age of 40.

Angel's mother - and Velez's girlfriend - Acela Moreno was also found guilty of the child's death and charged with capital murder; however, she agreed to a plea deal and was only required to serve 5 years of a 10-year sentence before being sent to Mexico.

Back in August, a judge granted credit to Velez for the 9 years he served on death row and gave him the ability to be eligible for mandatory supervision. And on Oct. 8, Velez walked out.

One of Velez's lawyers, Brian Stull from the American Civil Union's Capital Punishment Project, strongly believed that Velez never committed the crime he was imprisoned for, said The Huffington Post.

"Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed," Stull said. "He is indisputably innocent."

Stull also went on to say that he believed the child's mother played the upper hand in his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Moreno had a history of being abusive to her children, and Stull said he believed she should have been regarded as the main suspect to the tragedy.

"This is the story of an innocent man who went to death row because the entire system failed," Stull said to the Huffington Post.

The death penalty isn't black and white; it's difficult to say death penalty should be legalized all over the country.

According to the Texas Death Penalty Law, capital punishment is legal in the state of Texas should the suspect have caused the death of another individual. However, the entire institution of capital punishment goes a lot deeper. Rather than generalizing every murderer as simply being deserving of the penalty, it should be required to take each case as it comes.

"I always find myself torn on whether the death penalty should be allowed," said journalism senior Nikki Nduukwe.

"I think it's hard for me to wrap my mind around taking someone's life as a punishment for a crime, but then I think of the people who have done horrible, disgusting things. So when it comes to the death penalty I think the issue is so complex that it is hard to say yes or no."

In Texas, the death penalty is reserved for those who have caused another's death. If the system and the victim's family want the perpetrator to suffer the consequences for the act he committed, the death penalty would not fulfill this.

"I think the death penalty is too easy of a way out for a criminal crime," said accounting junior Christina Nguyen. "A life sentence in jail allows criminals to think upon their actions."

Once the criminal is dead, he's gone. It would be more beneficial to have him serve out a life sentence and, therefore, be properly punished for his crime.

However, there are a number of individuals who are beyond help and the death penalty may be the only course of action for them. This can be said for individuals who have repeatedly committed the same crime or who are becoming an increasing danger to society.

Each case must be taken on its own, but with some individuals it's easy to see that they have no chance in redeeming themselves and it would be better to put them out of their misery. Psychology junior Emma Coronado said she believes the system can remove the blood from its hands by keeping criminals locked up.

"There are people who are too evil to live," Coronado said. "They're dangerous and have insatiable lusts that are impossible for them or anyone else to control. That being said, I do believe in a higher power and that fate will take its course; whether it be during their lifetime or after it. I think they belong in high security places where there is no danger of escape."

Velez was extremely lucky to walk away from capital punishment, which cannot be said for a number of individuals.

The death penalty is the most inhumane form of punishment, and the system does not have the right to decide whether or not a person should live. Despite being a highly controversial topic, the death penalty is not spoken about as much as other topics - which needs to change.

(source: Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior; The (Univ. Houston) Daily Cougar)

DELAWARE----new execution date//NOT serious

Bonistall killer's execution date set

In a brief proceeding on Monday, James Cooke was informed that he is to be put to death on Dec. 4 for the 2005 rape and murder of Lindsey Bonistall.

However, all sides expect this new execution date to be stayed as Cooke pursues appellate options.

Cooke, 43, who was notorious for his outbursts during his 1st trial and re-trial, remained quiet through the 6-minute proceeding before Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr., who took over the case after Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver IV retired earlier this year.

Carpenter read a brief statement informing Cooke that since the Delaware Supreme Court had upheld Cooke's conviction and death sentence, the court was required to re-impose the sentence and set an execution date.

Cooke, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was then taken out of the courtroom once Carpenter finished re-reading the sentence that was imposed by Toliver in September 2012.

Outside court, Cooke attorney Anthony Figliola said he expects that Cooke will file a motion claiming his trial counsel was ineffective, and at that point, he, along with co-counsel Peter Veith, will file a motion to stay the execution and withdraw from the case. Figliola said he expects Cooke to file his motion in the next couple of weeks, and at that point, the Federal Public Defender's Office will take over representation of Cooke through the appeals process.

Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood said while he does not expect Cooke to be executed in December, due to appeals, he nonetheless said Carpenter's ruling on Monday is "an important step down a long road" to Cooke's eventual execution.

Appeals in a death penalty case can take as long as 15 years before an execution is carried out.


Eden Park slaying trial opens

In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Ipek Medford told a jury that Jeffrey Phillips and Otis Phillips walked up to Herman "Ninja" Curry as he stood on the sidelines of an afternoon soccer tournament on July 8, 2012 and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Ninja, you will die," a witness heard Otis Phillips say and he pulled out a gun and fired repeatedly. Curry, 47, tried to get away but soon fell to the ground after being hit three times at point blank range, she said.

According to witnesses, Medford said Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips then turned to the massive crowd of people including women and children and families enjoying the tournament and a day at the park, and sprayed the crowd with gunfire. And a witness saw 16-year-old Alexander Kamara Jr., who was waiting for his turn to play in the tournament, drop to the ground.

This trial, Medford told the jury, is about revenge, retaliation and elimination.

Medford said Otis and Jeffrey Phillips, who are not related, were seeking revenge and looking to retaliate for a slaying of one of their friends, Kirt Williams, hours earlier at a party on King Street.

Jeffrey Phillips had been at that party with Williams and others and told to leave just before the shooting started.

But Medford said Otis Phillips was also seeking to eliminate Curry, who was witness to a slaying at a different party in January 2008 where Otis Phillips was the main suspect based on Curry's description to police.

Medford also said that both Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips were members of violent, drug-dealing street gang, the Sure Shots, and the gang wanted to "go to war" after the slaying of Williams.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, stressed the poverty-stricken upbringing of their clients and reminded the jury that both men were innocent until proven guilty.

Attorney Kevin O'Connell, representing Jeffrey Phillips, said his client was not a gang member but hung out with some because they had a studio and he liked to make music with them. Attorney Michael Heyden also denied that his client, Otis Phillips, was a member of the Sure Shots.

Jeffrey Phillips is facing 12 charges, including first-degree murder for the death of Kamara and Curry. Otis Phillips is facing 15 charges, including murder the 2008 slaying of Christopher Palmer, the murder Curry witnessed.

Both men face a possible death sentence if convicted.

The trial, overseen by Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott, is expected to last more than a month.

(source for both:


Trial to start soon for man accused of stabbing wife to death in parking lot

A 44-year-old Central Florida man faces the death penalty if he is convicted of killing his wife outside of a local sub shop.

Dwayne White is standing trial on 1st-degree murder charges. He is accused of slashing his estranged wife to death in a Seminole County parking lot. Prosecutors allege that it was White who killed 42-year-old Sarah Rucker in August 2011.

The state is seeking the death penalty. On Monday, potential jurors were asked in detail what they think of the that possible punishment.

The potential jurors were told White has not been convicted of anything at this point. His trial has yet to start.

"Pushed me down and hit my head, but I'm fine," Rucker said on a 911 call hours before her death, which will be played during the trial.

Rucker said an argument at her home in Deltona got physical. She said she was going to get the phone she claimed White took from her.

"I'm on call tonight and I just need my phone," she told the 911 operator.

3 hours later, the local hospital worker was found stabbed and slashed. Her body was found in a sub shop parking lot at State Road 434 and Interstate 4 in Longwood.

The state said scientific evidence at that scene points to White.

12 jurors are needed in this case, and usually 2 alternates are also part of the panel. The case could start as early as Tuesday morning and is expected to last a week.

(source: WESH news)


Murder charges filed----Long Beach Man Could Face Death Penalty After Being Charged With Murder of CSUN Student

A Long Beach man is eligible to receive the death penalty after he was charged today in the death of a Cal State Northridge student last month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office (LADA) announced.

Agustin Rosendo Fernandez, 28, of Long Beach, was charged with 1 count of murder, with the special circumstances of murder during a robbery and murder during a carjacking. The complaint also alleges personal use of a knife as a deadly weapon.

The LADA said Fernandez met victim Abdullah Alkadi through a social media website after Alkadi posted his car for sale, said Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes, who is prosecuting the case.

The body of Alkadi, an engineering student, was discovered last week near Palm Springs off the 10 Freeway. Prior to that, he was last seen near his Northridge home on September 17.

Because of the special circumstance allegations, Fernandez is eligible for the death penalty, the LADA said. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty or life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Fernandez is scheduled to be arraigned today at the Los Angeles Superior Court in San Fernando, Department S. Prosecutors are expected to ask that he be held without bail.

(source: Long Beach Post)


China Executed 2,400 People in 2013, Dui Hua

The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that China executed approximately 2,400 people in 2013 and will execute roughly the same number of people in 2014. Annual declines in executions recorded in recent years are likely to be offset in 2014 by the use of capital punishment in anti-terrorism campaigns in Xinjiang and the anti-corruption campaign nationwide.

Dui Hua bases its 2013 estimate on data points published in Southern Weekly that are consistent with information provided to Dui Hua by a judicial official earlier this year.

The mainland magazine reported that a former senior judge of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) stated at a seminar in July that the number of executions had reached 1/10 of the highest number recorded since 1979. In 1983 - the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign during which the power to approve capital punishment was given to provincial high courts - 24,000 people were sentenced to death, according to a report by citing The Communist Party of China: 40 Years in Power (Zhongguo gongchandang zhizheng sishi nian). The book called the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign the largest centralized attack since the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries in 1950.

A judicial official with access to the number of executions carried out each year, which is a state secret, told Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm in early 2014 that the number of executions dropped by around 20 % in 2013 compared to the previous year. Dui Hua previously estimated that China executed 3,000 people in 2012.

China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the SPC in 2007. Since then, the number of executions nationwide may have dropped by more than 1/3 with declines of nearly 50 % in some locales, Southern Weekly reported citing an expert familiar with the court system. Other experts have said that the national figure dropped by 50 % 4 years after 2007.

In 2013, 39 percent of all death penalty cases reviewed by the SPC were sent back to provincial high courts for additional evidence, Southern Weekly reported citing an SPC official speaking at a legal seminar. Domestic violence survivor Li Yan was among the defendants whose cases lacked sufficient evidence; the verdict against her was ultimately overturned.

The SPC currently overturns fewer than 10 % of death penalty verdicts, a former SPC senior judge told Southern Weekly. In the years immediately after 2007, the rate was about 15 %. (This percentage varies considerably by province.)

Between July 2, 2013, and September 30, 2014, the SPC published 152 death penalty review decisions online, Southern Weekly reported in a separate article. The 152 decisions involved 129 murder cases and 17 drug cases. Only 5 verdicts were fully or partially overturned, and defense lawyers participated in just 13 % of death penalty reviews. Amendments to Article 240 of the Criminal Procedure Law, effective January 1, 2013, state that if the defense attorney requests, the SPC shall listen to the opinion of the defense attorney during its review.

Provinces with the most review decisions were Yunnan (14), Xinjiang (13), Zhejiang (11), Guangdong (8), and Henan (8). The average time for reviewing a death penalty verdict was 6 months, with 2 years as the longest period.



Rais, we need you here -- We need people like Rais Bhuiyan right here in Bangladesh in order to spread the message of love, forgiveness, friendliness, kindness, and empathy

Rais Bhuiyan was an ordinary dreamer when he left Bangladesh for America at the age of 27. He went there when the US government was offering immigrant visas to foreign citizens. He was trained both in a cadet college and in the air force. However, he wanted to be an IT professional in the land of possibilities. First, he went to Manhattan, and then he ended up in Texas. Rais started working at a gas station as well as in a mini-mart. Things were pretty much okay on the way to his dreams.

But things didn't exactly go as he wished. 9/11 attacks changed America and some of its people for good. After the attacks, a day labourer named Mark Anthony Stroman went on a killing spree against people who he viewed as Arab. His intention was to seek revenge for the attacks. On September 15, 2001, he killed Pakistani immigrant Waqar Hasan inside a Dallas grocery store.

On September 21, he walked into the mini-mart where Rais was working. Rais thought he was a simple robber, and was ready to hand over all the money that was in his counter. But Stroman asked: "Where are you from?" Before Rais could answer, Stroman shot him in the face. Stroman left thinking that he was dead. Rais, bleeding from his head, ran to the barbershop next door, and a man in the shop called 911.

During the police investigation, Stroman shot another man named Vasudev Patel on October 4. Stroman was arrested soon, but he called American TV stations from his jail cell and talked about how proud he was for killing those men. He thought he was the most patriotic American and started calling himself "the Arab Slayer."

Rais had to go through several surgeries, and finally the doctor could save his eye, but the vision was gone. He was carrying more than 35 pellets on the right side of his face. It took several years to go through all these painful surgeries, one after the other.

This is when Rais showed the most amazing gesture that any human can ever show. He forgave his shooter and took up the cause of preventing Stroman's execution. Rais organised the Muslim community behind his cause. And that changed the psychology of Stroman. He said in an interview with the New York Times: "I have the Islamic community joining in [my legal defence] ... spearheaded by one very remarkable man named Rais Bhuiyan, who is a survivor of my hate. His deep Islamic beliefs have given him the strength to forgive the unforgiveable ... that is truly inspiring to me, and should be an example for us all. The hate has to stop, we are all in this world together."

Rais reconciled with Stroman before his death. A few hours before Stroman's execution, Rais spoke to Stroman over the phone, saying: "I forgive you, and I do not hate you." Stroman responded: "Thank you from my heart! I love you, bro ... You touched my heart. I would have never expected this." Rais replied: "You touched mine too." Stroman was executed on July 20, 2011. On that day, Rais's lawyers had lost a final appeal in federal court to stop Stroman's execution.

Now, what else could be the best example of forgiveness in the present-day tumultuous world? Isn't it amazing that a person forgave another person who wanted to kill him? Indeed, this is remarkable.

Later on, Rais formed an organisation named World Without Hate and is presently running a USA-wide campaign against hatred. Anand Giridharadas wrote Rais's story in his work The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, which is now to become a Hollywood movie.

The reason I focus on Rais Bhuiyan is because he became an extraordinary dreamer from an ordinary one. We, as a Bengali nation, have much to learn from our own countryman who, after suffering the severest blow, could turn around and forgive his aggressor. The extent of hatred that is currently being practised in our socio-political life is phenomenal.

Our hatred towards one another, to my mind, seems to be the only stumbling block on the way to our true future. We need people like Rais Bhuiyan right here in Bangladesh in order to spread the message of love, forgiveness, friendliness, kindness, and empathy.

Come home and do something, Rais Bhuiyan.

(source: Ekram Kabir, Dhaka Tribune)


End futility of death penalty system

If there's one thing for which Pennsylvanians can thank confessed double murderer William Parrish, it's pointing out the mirage of the state's capital punishment law.

"Mirage" is no mere opinion. It reflects reality. Pennsylvania has imposed the death penalty 412 times since 1978, when capital punishment was reinstated, but only 3 people have been executed - and they essentially committed legal suicide, by declining to appeal. The last prisoner executed against his will was put to death in 1962, more than 50 years ago.

Parrish is not one of the few going quietly. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to shooting to death his wife and and baby son, but withdrew the pleas and stood trial, then was convicted. In August, the Governor's Office signed an execution warrant, but Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti Worthington signed a stay in September.

Parrish's case resembles that of hundreds of other convicted individuals, all entitled to pursue appeals. It's a costly, lengthy but necessary process that has given rise to a boutique industry of lawyers who argue both sides. This life-and-death tug of war involves prosecutors, plaintiff's lawyers and judges, including federal judges from the Supreme Court on down. All these people recognize the gravity of their work. No one wants to see an innocent person killed by government. Besides costing tens of millions of dollars, the appeals process renders the "deterrence" argument toothless.

So, what's the point of Pennsylvania's death penalty, if nobody gets killed?

A 2011 Morning Call article reported that the death penalty costs an additional $2.27 million every year, even though, as Parrish's recent stay shows, executions do not occur.

Death penalty advocates and death penalty opponents alike should agree that the system is broken. For all intents and purposes, it's mere smoke and mirrors. All the death penalty is doing is bleeding Pennsylvania taxpayers.

(source: Editorial, Pocono Record)


2 charged in shooting death to have pre-trial hearing

Carl Leonard Varner and Jason C. Shauf are scheduled to have a pre-trial conference as co-defendants on Wednesday, for the 1st-degree murder and robbery charges they are facing in the death of Victor Hugo Campos-Olguin.

According to court documents, Varner, 56, and Shauf, 40, allegedly burglarized and robbed 310 E. King St., on Oct. 22, 2012 at 10:06 p.m., and killed Campos-Olguin during the incident.

At the time of the home invasion, there were 6 people at the scene. Varner and Shauf allegedly went into the home, demanding money and personal property, according to court documents. One of the men allegedly discharged a long barreled firearm into the ceiling of a bedroom during the incident. The 2nd allegedly used a black revolver to shoot Campos-Olguin, who fell into a nearby bathroom.

The 2 men then allegedly fled the area. In an investigation by Chambersburg Police, Shauf was identified as a suspect, according to court documents. On Oct. 23, 2012, Shauf was identified by a witness as being the man who shot into the bedroom ceiling during the incident.

In an interview with police, Varner denied involvement in the incident. He claimed that Shauf was "setting him up," according to court documents. During the interview, Police recovered a small single-shot .410 shotgun and a .22 caliber Mag revolver from his residence, 238 E. McKinley St., Chambersburg. Both weapons were found to be consistent with evidence documented at the murder scene.

Varner was facing the death penalty in the incident until this March, when the District Attorney's Office withdrew the Notice of Aggravating Circumstances, preventing them from pursuing the death penalty. The District Attorney's office discovered evidence concerning Varner's "mental health history, which would certainly allow a jury to find evidence of a 'mitigating factor,'" according to court documents. After finding that, the death penalty was "no longer tenable."

Varner is facing 23 charges, including of 1st-degree murder, robbery, burglary, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and burglary, kidnaping and unlawful restraint charges. Shauf is facing nearly all the same charges, with 28 counts of robbery, burlgary and conspiracy to commit charges, however the 1st-degree murder charge against him has been dropped, according to court documents.

The trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 8 through Dec. 12, and Dec. 15 through Dec. 19. On Wednesday, attorneys are expecting to resolve any pre-trial motions left prior to the trial.

Both men are in Franklin County Jail, after bail was denied.



Adam Matos pleads not guilty; prosecutors to seek death penalty

Adam Matos, charged with murdering four people in Hudson last month, entered a not guilty plea in court Monday morning, while prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty.

Standing in a red prison jumpsuit before Circuit Court Judge William Webb, Matos confirmed he will waive his right to a speedy trial. Via his public defender, Dean Livermore, Matos pleaded not guilty to 4 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of aggravated assault, and 1 count of being a fugitive from justice.

Matos will next appear in court Dec. 9 for a pretrial hearing.

Early last month, investigators discovered four bodies stacked on a hill in Hudson. They were identified as Matos' ex-girlfriend Megan Brown, 27, the mother of his 4-year-old son; her parents Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52; and Nicholas Leonard, 37, whom Megan Brown had recently begun dating.

Deputies had visited the Browns' home, which Matos shared, in early September after receiving a tip that no one could be reached at the home. When a Pasco County sheriff's deputy entered, he found large amounts of blood and a strong odor.

From there, deputies tracked down the bodies, decomposing in the heat less than a mile away.

Arrest reports detail the way the victims died: Megan Brown was shot in the head. Margaret Brown was found with a plastic bag over her head, which had been bashed in. Her husband had been shot in the torso. Leonard died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Deputies found Matos a day later at a Tampa hotel, where he had checked in under his own name with the 4-year-old son he fathered with Megan Brown. The child, severely autistic, was unharmed and taken into protective custody.

Authorities have found weapons inside and surrounding the Browns' Hudson home, including crossbows, rifles and knives. They have also found blood-soaked rugs and sheets, as well as blood and maggots on the floor of a Dodge Caravan in the home's garage, court documents show.

Matos is being held without bail in the Pasco County jail.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Attorney for man charged in Pelham triple-homicide claims self-defense; prosecutors say victims were 'executed'

Prosecutors say Jon Ingram Staggs Jr. "executed" 3 people inside a Pelham home, 1-by-1, because he was angry over a drug debt. His attorney says the shootings were in self-defense, a "fight-or-flight" response to a struggle with one of the men.

On Sept. 9, 2012, Casey Lee Cumberland, 22; Joshua Adam Smith, 22; and Simeon Gilmore, 19, were found dead inside a home in the Chandalar subdivision in Pelham. All three men were shot with a .45 caliber Glock.

Staggs was taken into custody that afternoon after telling his mother and stepfather that he shot three people who tried to rob him.

The 22-year-old faces 5 counts of capital murder. His trial began 2 weeks ago before Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves.

Herbie Brewer and Lisa M. Ivey are representing Staggs. Shelby County District Attorney Jill Hall Lee and Assistant District Attorneys Roger Hepburn, Alan Miller and Jeff Bradley are prosecuting the case. They are seeking the death penalty.

Reeves will give an explanation of charges to the jury Monday morning, and jurors will begin deliberations. Attorneys delivered closing statements Friday afternoon.

Throughout the trial, they have offered different descriptions of the events leading up the shootings.

The night started at Club NV in downtown Birmingham. The 3 victims, Staggs and a man named Jeremiah Mullins planned to meet at the Chandalar house after leaving the club.

Staggs gave Gilmore some marijuana in exchange for a promise he would pay $40 for it later.

Mullins testified on Oct. 15 that Staggs showed him the Glock and a shotgun while they were in his truck.

They arrived first and grew impatient waiting for the others. Staggs walked around the home and broke a window. He took a television and a video game system and brought the items to a friend's house, Mullins said.

He testified that Staggs planned to return to the house alone later that morning.

Brewer said the shootings happened after an argument and a struggle between Gilmore and Staggs, who then acted "in the heat of passion, without time to think or cool off."

"We might take 2 weeks in court but this young man made a decision in the blink of an eye," he said in his closing statement.

Miller said Staggs was more calculating that night, particularly when he decided to bring his gun inside to ask for his money.

Prosecutors say that no struggle took place in the house that night. Several facts support their contention, Bradley said: Only a single, small drop of blood was found on Staggs' shorts. A couch cushion was found on top of Gilmore's body. Drawers removed haphazardly from a dresser were piled on top of Cumberland's shoes.

A Pelham police sergeant who collected evidence at the home testified that the scene "looked more like a ransacking" than a struggle.

Gilmore was shot 1st. He was found face down in a pool of blood in the living room, where furniture was overturned and cushions strewn around the room.

Staggs has repeatedly told friends, his family and investigators that he was defending himself.

In a Sept. 9, 2012, interview with investigators, Staggs' statements are sometimes indiscernible.

In that statement, Bradley says, Staggs is "evasive, mumbles and looks down" but still "confesses to each and every element" of the charges against him.

Staggs told investigators that he returned to get his money and a conversation with Gilmore turned quickly into a confrontation. He said Gilmore "jumped up and started running" at him, and he fired 3 times.

Staggs said he heard Cumberland yelling from the other room. He said they struggled in the hallway before he fired several shots.

Cumberland was found on the floor in the hallway outside a bedroom, where the drawers had been pulled out of a dresser and thrown on the floor.

Prosecutors contend that Cumberland was in bed when he was shot the 1st time.

"The only way out was past the guy with the gun who had just executed his friend," Bradley said.

Then Staggs went downstairs to leave through the basement door, through a room where Smith was asleep on a couch.

Smith "threatened to get a gun" and, in a kneejerk reaction, Staggs shot him, Brewer said.

Bradley said that claim is "preposterous," and prosecutors believe no such conversation happened. Smith, who was drunk earlier in the night, was passed out with his face on his arms.

"The only thing that explains that position is defendant went down there and in cold blood he executed Josh Smith," Bradley said.

Brewer said Staggs never denied shooting the men, but that the deaths of Gilmore and Cumberland were not intentional.



Austin Myers moved to death row

The teen sentenced to death for the murder of 18-year-old Justin Back in Warren County has been transferred to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

That's where male inmates on Ohio's death row are housed.

According to the website for the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Austin Myers, 19, was admitted on Friday, one day after a judge handed down a death sentence.

Myers and Timothy Mosley, 20, were convicted of robbing and killing Back in his Wayne Township Home. Back was choked, stabbed and shot. The pair dumped Back's body in Preble County.

Mosley testified against Myers in accordance with a plea deal he made with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty. Mosley faces life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing in a few weeks.

Myers is now the youngest inmate on death row in Ohio. An execution date has not been set.

Executions in Ohio are on hold until February 2015 while the state reviews its lethal injection method.


Prosecutors seek death penalty in I-75 slaying

The man who sparked a 2 state manhunt faces the death penalty in Ohio and Kentucky.

Terry Froman, 41, now faces 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of kidnapping. He is accused of killing a teenager in Kentucky, then killing the teen's mother, Kim Thomas, 34, along Interstate 75 in Warren County.

Police found Thomas in Froman's car on I-75 near Monroe on September 12. The prosecutor says forensics show that Thomas was alive when they entered Ohio that day. She was shot multiple times and killed in Warren County. They say Froman also shot himself, but was not seriously hurt.

Thomas's family was there when the announcement was made. They say they are appreciative of the speed to prosecute the case.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell says he will face charges first in Kentucky, then in Ohio.

Froman is being held in jail on a $1-million bond.

(source for both: WDTN news)


Suspect Held In 7 Murders In Northwest Indiana

A man was in custody in northwest Indiana, after the bodies of 7 women were found in the area this weekend.

A 43-year-old convicted sex offender was being held in Hammond, Indiana, where at least one of the victims was found Saturday night.

Police suspect the man is a serial killer who might be responsible for at least 7 murders.

A source tells CBS 2's Brad Edwards that the suspect has indicated that there may be many other victims, including those in other states. So far, he has only told investigators where to find the bodies of the 7 from Indiana.

He apparently only wanted to discuss the Indiana cases because the state has the death penalty and he wants to be executed for his crimes, the sources told Edwards.

The suspect has lived in Northwest Indiana since 2004, mostly recently in Gary, according to Gary Police Corporal Gabrielle King.

He was 1st arrested in connection with the slaying of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy, who was found dead inside a Motel 6 in Hammond.

While he was being questioned about Hardy's death, he allegedly told police about 3 other bodies. Investigators followed up on that information, and found 3 bodies in abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana.

"Once we received the information, of course we sent uniformed officers to the scene," Gary Police Cpl. Gabrielle King said.

One of those women has been identified as 35-year-old Anith Jones, who had been missing for a week before her body was found in Gary.

"We believe this may be the work of one or more persons, but again the investigation is ongoing," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

Early Monday, the Lake County Coroner's office confirmed three more women's bodies had been found, but have yet to provide any details on any of the murders.

Hardy and at least 1 other victim were strangled. Autopsies were pending for the other 5.

5 victims remained Jane Does as of early Monday.

"We're going through our missing persons reports at this time, to see if anything is connected," Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley said. Police in Hammond and Gary were conducting a joint investigation.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. took to Facebook to defend his police department, in the wake of the apparent serial killings, as well as unrelated allegations of police brutality and racial profiling.

"Charges of racism, brutality, etc. against the Hammond PD are being encouraged and solicited around many parts of our city at this very moment. All in an attempt to destroy the Hammond PD’s credibility as a fine policedepartment, as I KNOW it to be," he wrote.

"As you hear the details of this grisly murder in Hammond motel room, and discover how this murder was solved by our police, it will make you proud of the Hammond PD. They captured a murderer, from Gary, that is a suspect in many murders, spanning many years, in NWI. Hammond, and NWI, are safer today because this murder case was solved. Our condolences and prayers go out to the victims, and to the families of the victims."

(source: CBS News)

TENNESSEE----death row inmate dies

Tennessee death row inmate dies of natural causes

Tennessee officials say a death row inmate convicted of a 1988 murder in Campbell County has died of natural causes.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa E. Taylor says Olen E. Hutchison, 61, was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. Sunday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Hutchison was convicted in 1991 in the drowning death of Hugh L. Huddleston, 46, of Knoxville.

Huddleston was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing.

Hutchison's case became the focus of demonstrations and forums on disparities in the state's death sentences.

Hutchinson was 1 of 7 men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison was the only person sentenced to death.

The man convicted of pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

(source: Associated Press)


Fleisher, Norma Jean Bodenhamer CPA

Norma Jean Bodenhamer Fleisher CPA, quietly slipped into the arms of her Savior on Thursday, October 16, 2014, in Lincoln. Norma was born October 21, 1926, in Grand Island, Neb. to Duward Arthur Bodenhamer and Myrtle May Bouchard. Norma was 1 of 4 children. She was united in marriage to Emmett Cleo Fleisher on October 19, 1957. While working full time and raising a family, Norma taught herself accounting via correspondence course and at age 40 became a CPA, her proudest accomplishment. She later served on The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants Minority Small Business Development Committee and traveled to New York and other cities giving seminars assisting minorities develop small businesses. She also volunteered with VITA assisting low-income individuals complete their tax returns. After her retirement from Lincoln Telephone, she was commissioned as a United Methodist missionary and assigned to Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. for nearly eight years prior to returning to Lincoln. While at Scarritt-Bennett, she volunteered with "Nashville Cares" supporting people living with AIDS by serving on a hot line for 5 years. While in Nashville and also after returning to Lincoln, she visited prisoners on death row, some of whom she continued to correspond with until the time of her passing. She traveled to Guatemala to volunteer with Habitat For Humanity where she helped to prepare a building site. She was a member of TCASK (Tennessee Coalition Against State Killing) and was involved in peaceful public demonstrations in Nashville, which she continued when returning to Lincoln, each Monday noon outside the Governor's mansion across from the Capitol. In 2011 at the age of 84, she drove her 19-year-old car to all 93 county seats in the State of Nebraska spreading the word against the death penalty. She was a member of Nebraskans For Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Norma fostered many children in her later years and each held a special place in her heart. She was formerly a member of Grace United Methodist Church in Lincoln, until the time of its dissolution where she served on the board of directors of "Released and Restored," a program for ex-convicts. At the time of her passing, she was a member of New Hope United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Her final gift was to donate her body to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for research. She will be remembered for her selfless, servant's heart and her exquisite homegrown tomatoes of which she was quite boastful.

Norma is survived by 4 children: daughters, Nancy Kail (Charles), Johnston, Iowa, Janet Powell, Lincoln, Laura Offermann (Fred), Council Bluffs, Iowa; son, Bill Fleisher (Kristin), Lincoln; step-daughter, Norma Jean White (Mickey), Vinton, Va.; 9 grandchildren, Mick Shepard (Brenda), Milford, Angela Shepard and Lewis Fleisher, Lincoln, Amanda Cox and Jessica Turner, Council Bluffs, Brendan Fleisher (Toni), Bellevue, Ethan Fleisher, Bellevue, Michael White, Roanoke, Va., Cindy Hodges (Clay), Roanoke; two grand-dogs, Laska and Rocky Kail; 14 great-grandchildren, Tyler and Austin Shepard, Jayden and Julyan Zamora, Aidan and Asher Cox, Elizabeth Perez (Cristian), Megan Lopez (Geronimo), Trevor Case, Declan, Kassady and Gunner Fleisher, Austin and Michael White, Jr.; 9 great-great grandchildren, Leynah, Tatiana, Gabryella and DJ Perez; Angelica, Anastasia, Alexis and Emilio Lopez, Lilly Case; one brother, Robert Long (Donna), Clay Center, Kan.; and a plethora of nieces, nephews, foster children, and dear friends. Preceded in death by her parents, Myrtle & Duward Bodenhamer; husband, Emmett Fleisher; sisters, Dorothy Knox and Margaret McGinnis; Brothers-in-law, Ronald Knox and Stephen McGinnis; Nephews, Tom McGinnis, Neil Knox and Rob Long; great-granddaughter, Anna Reese Cox; and a great-great grandson, Cristian Josue Perez.

A celebration of her life will be held Sunday, October 26, at 3 p.m. at New Hope United Methodist Church, 1205 N. 45th St, Lincoln, NE 68503, with The Reverend Dr. Anne Kiome officiating. Memorials may be made to New Hope United Methodist Church.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


He Wanted 'the Best Life Has to Offer' and Killed His Family to Get It

Alan Hruby is a young man who was, in his own words, "striving for the best life has to offer" and decided, at some point, that killing his family was the quickest way to get it. He was a student of political science who liked to travel and liked to spend money; mostly, his parents' money and when they finally turned off the tap, he killed them, along with his younger sister.

Hruby, 19, was the eldest child of John and Tinker Hruby, who lived in Duncan, Oklahoma and were respected members of the community. John, 50, was the owner and publisher of a local newspaper, the Marlow Review. Alan Hruby had a sister, Katherine, who was 2 years his junior.

Alan did not outwardly appear troubled in any way, but he seemed driven by material things; to the point of having a shopping addiction and owing money to a loan shark. On his Facebook page, he described himself as "an up and comer from Oklahoma. Striving for the best life has to offer." He also posted statements that might have betrayed narcissistic tendencies, but could be chalked up to the exuberance and indomitable spirit of youth: "If you are tired of your dreams you simply are not dreaming big enough," he posted on April 25 and, on Jun 4, he wrote "Life is all about taking chances. Live a life full of positive chances, don't be the person to look back 10 years later regretting a decision."

In July, 2013, Alan Hruby took a vacation to Europe, visiting London, Paris and Rome. He reportedly obtained an American Express credit card, in his grandmother's name. After returning to the United States, he was charged with fraud after his father brought the matter of the credit card to the attention of police. Whilst in Europe, he had run up charges on the card, totaling more than $4,800. Hruby's spending continued to be a cause of some concern to his parents.

Last week, Hruby planned to travel to Dallas, Texas to watch Oklahoma University's football team play Texas. His parents refused to give him any more money for the trip. The teenager also owed $3,000 to a Oklahoma loan-shark. He had already decided, at some point, that the answer to his money problems was to kill his family and inherit his parents' estate. On Thursday, October 9, Hruby walked out to his dad's truck and retrieved a 9mm pistol. He went back into the house and waited for his family. When Tinker Hruby, 48, came into the house, her son shot her twice, killing her with the 2nd shot. A short time later, his sister, Katherine, walked inside and was killed with 1 shot. Alan Hruby then waited for his father to return. After about an hour, John Hruby came back to the house and Alan shot him twice.

Within hours, Alan Hruby had checked into the Ritz Carlton hotel in Dallas and was hanging out with a friend from OU. Andrew Bormann, who had driven down to Dallas with Alan's ticket for the game, said later "There was nothing I could detect that was wrong with him," in reference to their meeting in Hruby's hotel room. "...I was with him alone in his room, less than 24 hours after he shot his family and that I could tell nothing was wrong, that he was completely normal, is also terrifying." Bormann added.

On the morning of Monday 13, the Hrubys' housekeeper arrived at the house and discovered the three bodies. The following day, Alan Hruby was detained by police on a parole violation. He initially appeared distraught at the news of his family's slaying but, when his account of his own activities did not appear to add up, police decided to hold him for further questioning and, by that evening, he had confessed to the killings.

Speaking with a local news channel, Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks described Hruby's demeanor as unrepentant. "The only remorse we've seen is because he got caught," Hicks said.

The communities of Marlow and Duncan are still in shock over the killings. The Hruby's were, seemingly, well-liked and appeared almost to fit that 'perfect family' image. Alan Hruby, however, was a young man who appears to have felt that he was entitled to the "best life has to offer" and, in order to get it, he killed his parents and sister in cold blood. Hicks could seek the death penalty for Alan Hruby but has not revealed his intention to do so. With regard to the killer's disposition - and his fate - Hicks said the only remorse shown by Hruby was "crocodile tears." "It wasn't remorse because 'I've lost my mom, my dad and my sister,' it's remorse because he knows that his life is basically over."



Faces Death Penalty Because Travis Alexander Murder Was 'Especially Heinous'

Jodi Arias faces the death penalty in her trial because the original jury decided that she killed her former boyfriend Travis Alexander in an especially cruel manner.

Despite the conviction last year of the 2008 murder, the jury couldn't come to a unanimous decision, leading to the current situation of a new jury being chosen.

The new jury "will decide only if there are mitigators that outweigh the cruelty," explained AZ Central.

"The aggravator is called F(6) in the statutes, 'especially heinous, cruel or depraved.' In Arias' case, the trial judge would only allow for cruelty. All murder could be deemed cruel, but 'excessive cruelty' is supposed to refer to great physical suffering and mental anguish before death."

But the report notes that it's almost impossible to draw a line between murders that should get punished by death and those that don't.

The prosecutors choose which ones should. Juan Martinez in this case.

"The only narrowing function is prosecutorial discretion," defense attorney Eric Crocker said. "You're at the whim of the prosecutor's office to determine which cases are capital and which are not."

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery feels that prosecutor discretion is necessary because each murder case is different. "You can't have a formula if you look at each one on its merit," he said.

Now that the new jury has been chosen, the actual retrial will start on Tuesday. Live video will not be allowed - in fact, no video will be allowed until the trial is completely over.

The jury will be sworn in as prosecutors seek the death sentence.

While Arias' murder conviction stands, prosecutors have one more shot at securing a death sentence with the new jury. Otherwise, Arias faces life in prison. Judge Sherry Stephens would then decide whether Arias could eventually get paroled or not.

A judge announced Thursday that the new jury will be seated on Tuesday. However, additional arguments are planned for Monday.

Arias acknowledged killing Alexander, but she said it was self-defense. Prosecutors argued the killing was carried out in a jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end their affair.

The retrial is expected to last into December.

(source: The Epoch Times)


High Court to Review California Death Penalty Case

The Supreme Court will consider reinstating the conviction and death sentence for a California man in a 29-year-old triple murder in San Diego.

The justices said Monday they will hear California's appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that overturned the conviction and sentence for Hector Ayala.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all seven black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.

The jury convicted Ayala of killing 3 people during a drug robbery at a San Diego garage in 1985.

The case will be argued in the winter.

The case is Chappell v. Ayala, 13-1428.

(source: Associated Press)


Benghazi suspect pleads not guilty to new murder charges

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a suspect in the September 2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, pleaded not guilty to new murder charges and the government declined to say Monday whether anyone else will be charged in this case.

CBS News' Paula Reid reports that Khattalah, the suspected leader of the attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound, appeared Monday morning in federal court. He entered the courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit, no handcuffs or restraints, and he was escorted by 3 U.S. Marshals.

Khatallah appeared before Judge Christopher R. Cooper in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to be arraigned on 17 additional charges which carry a possible death sentence if convicted. Through his lawyer, he entered a plea of not guilty and requested a speedy trial. Khatallah did not utter a single word during the hearing. He listened to the proceedings on a headset with help of a translator.

The next hearing is scheduled for December 9.

Khattalah, 43, the first militant to be prosecuted for the Benghazi violence, had initially been charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, resulting in death. U.S. officials had described that initial, 1-count indictment as a placeholder to allow for him to be brought into court and for a grand jury to hear more evidence.

The new indictment does not add to the public account of how the attacks unfolded but it does include multiple counts that make Khattalah eligible for the death penalty if convicted, including murder of an internationally protected person and killing a person during an armed attack on a federal facility. It also accuses him, among other charges, of providing material support to terrorists, malicious destruction of property and attempted murder of an officer and employee of the U.S.

Reid reports that after the arraignment, the parties had a status hearing where both sides, once again, fought about the amount of discovery that the defense has received.

Khatallah's federal public defender argued that she has only received a "small amount" of discovery. She said that the new death penalty eligible charges broaden the scope of what information the government should provide to her.

The government said that it has passed along about 60 to 80 p% of its evidence and is moving as fast as they can. The judge asked whether this will remain a one defendant case and the government would only say "the investigation is ongoing."

After his capture during a nighttime raid, Khattalah was brought to the U.S. aboard a Navy boat where he was interrogated by federal agents. He remains in custody at a detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia. Khattalah earlier pleaded not guilty to the terrorism conspiracy charge.

One of his public defenders, Michelle Peterson, said last summer that prosecutors had not presented evidence tying him to the attacks.

"It is important to remember that an indictment is merely a set of allegations or charges, it is not evidence," she said Tuesday evening. "We will vigorously defend Mr. Abu Khatallah in court where the government will be forced to prove his guilt, based upon actual evidence."

Federal prosecutors have long accused Khattalah of being a ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder said the new indictment reflects Abu Khattala's "integral role" in the attacks.

The superseding indictment alleges that Abu Khattala was involved in two different attacks, hours apart, on the diplomatic compound. The violence, which quickly emerged as a flashpoint in American political discourse, was aimed at killing American personnel at the compound and looting the buildings of documents, maps and computers, the Justice Department says.

In the 1st burst of violence on the night of Sept. 11, prosecutors allege, Abu Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons. That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.

Prosecutors say Khattala supervised the plunder of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a second building known as the annex. The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty, authorities say.

(source: CBS news)


The Death Penalty: Justice in Peril

On a Friday evening in 1944, in a small South Carolina town, George Junius Stinney Jr. was on his way to the execution chamber with a bible tucked under his arm. Even after using the book as a booster seat, the boy - who stood just over 5 feet tall and weighed 95 pounds - did not fit in the electric chair. The adult-sized facemask dangled loosely on his face. At 14 years of age, this black child became the youngest person to be legally executed by an American state since the 1800s.

Recently unearthed evidence suggests that Stinney was innocent. This evidence has come 70 years too late.

The tragic, legal lynching of George Stinney, Jr., illustrates how government-sanctioned death is morally incompatible with our less-than-perfect justice system.

The advent of DNA evidence gave way to a series of exonerations for wrongful convictions, beginning in 1989. Since that time, there have been 1,408 total exonerations for wrongly convicted persons, including 106 exonerations of individuals sentenced to death. Kirk Bloodsworth was the 1st death-row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States. He had been accused and convicted of a rape-murder he did not commit. Glenn Ford spent 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit before DNA evidence made him the most recent death-row inmate to be exonerated in the United States.

If there is anything to learn from these heartbreaking stories of wrongful convictions, it is that an imperfect justice system makes capital punishment impossible to justify. Those 106 exonerated death row inmates were fortunate to have had science on their side and diligent defense attorneys and judges willing to reopen their cases to find the truth. For every Bloodsworth and Ford who now walks the streets, there are untold numbers of innocent others who remain on death row - or worse, who are dead because the death penalty is still constitutional in the United States.

The death penalty is a vestige of an ugly past that says the harshest penalty is ultimately what deters crime, even though current evidence about its effectiveness as a deterrent is inconclusive at best.

Yes, the death penalty is reserved for the most serious of crimes. And yes, it takes many years for a death sentence to be carried out, after the entire appeals process has been exhausted. But that doesn't resolve the most serious concern that government-approved death raises. Unlike a life sentence, where the opportunity for that individual to prove his or her own innocence still exists even after the last appeal, death is final. To sentence someone to death is to say that this individual no longer has the right to prove his or her innocence. For such a practice to have democratic legitimacy, the legal system must be able to determine guilt with absolute precision.

Our legal system does not fit the bill. It is too often inaccurate and unfair. Too many individuals have already been exonerated from sentences that carried capital punishment and too many people of color have been treated unequally at every step of the legal process for us as a country to rest easy as states around the country continue to carry out executions.

The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that still permits capital punishment. The 43 executions that were carried out in the U.S. in 2012 puts us in a company that is only surpassed by China, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. These are facts that should frighten us all. If we wish to consider our country the leader of the free world, then it is imperative that we reexamine our practices at home. As long as the death penalty remains constitutional in the United States, justice will remain in peril.

(source: Opinion; Dennis O. Ojogho '16, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government concentrator in Winthrop House----The Harvard Crimson)


Saudi Arabia steps up beheadings; some see political message

Immediately after his sword falls, the Saudi Arabian executioner steps backwards to avoid soiling his clothes with the blood of the condemned man, whose headless body can be seen slumping over backwards in the shaky online film.

After perfunctorily checking the white folds of his robe for flecks of red, the executioner wipes his blade with a tissue, which he drops onto the corpse and walks away.

A sudden surge in public executions in Saudi Arabia in the last 2 months has coincided with a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State. This has led to inevitable comparisons in Western media between Islamic State's beheadings and those practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Defenders of the Saudi death penalty say beheadings, usually with a single sword stroke, are at least as humane as lethal injections in the United States. They deplore any comparison between the kingdom's execution of convicted criminals and Islamic State's extra-judicial killing of innocent hostages.

But rights activists say they are more concerned by the justice system behind the death penalty in the kingdom than by its particular method of execution. And critics of the Al Saud ruling family say the latest wave of executions may have a political message, with Riyadh determined to demonstrate its toughness at a moment of regional turmoil.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people in August, more than in the first 7 months of the year combined. The total for the year now stands at 59, compared to 69 for all of last year, according to Human Rights Watch.

"It's possible the executions were used as intimidation and flexing of muscles. It's a very volatile time and executions do serve a purpose when they're done en masse," said Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor at the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics.

"There's uncertainty around Saudi Arabia from the north and from the south and inside they are taking aggressive action alongside the U.S. against Islamic State, and all that is creating some kind of upheaval, which the death penalty tries to keep a lid on."

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry was not immediately available to explain the upsurge in executions in August, or to answer other questions about the kingdom's use of the death penalty.


Whatever the reason for the timing, the wave of executions at the same time as jihadis in Iraq and Syria were beheading captives has brought new scrutiny to the practices of a country whose values are so different from those of its Western allies.

While Saudi Arabia has joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and has deployed its senior clergy to denounce militant ideology, its public beheading of convicts, particularly for non-violent or victimless crimes like adultery, apostasy and witchcraft, is anathema to Western allies.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

Some diplomats have said the increase may be only a quirk of timing, as the appointment of more judges has allowed courts to clear a backlog of appeal cases, and as the rise began after the end of Ramadan, when fewer executions traditionally occur.

But the interpretation of it as a show of strength appeared to be reinforced last week by the sentencing to death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a member of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shi'ite minority who had backed protests in 2011.

2 other men, 1 of whom was younger than 18 at the time of the protests, have also been sentenced for their part in the demonstrations and were convicted of having thrown petrol bombs.

"If you look at the definition of what Nimr was sentenced for, instigating sedition, it shows they want to make sure they stop any form of activism," said Mai Yamani, a Saudi-born political analyst in London.

More than a dozen people convicted of terrorism or Sunni Islamist militancy have also been sentenced to death this year.


Under the Saudi Sharia legal system it can actually be harder to avert execution for crimes without a specific victim, like drug smuggling, than for murder.

Of the 59 people executed by Oct. 16, 22 had been convicted for smuggling drugs, according to figures compiled by Human Rights Watch from Saudi media reports.

One Saudi man, Mohammed Bakr al-Alaawi, was put to death for sorcery so far this year, the third such case since 2011. Although such cases are even rarer, judges can also demand execution for adulterers or Muslims who abandon their faith.

In Saudi Islamic law, charges of violent crimes like murder are usually brought under the system of "qisas": retaliation on the principle of an eye for an eye.

While a murderer would normally be sentenced to death, the victim's family is permitted to accept "diyya", or blood money, instead of execution. The lives of women are worth half those of men, and non-Muslims a fraction of the value of Muslims.

Convicts from less wealthy backgrounds, or without tribal connections who might intercede with the family or tribe of the victim, are more likely to die because it is harder for them to arrange a blood money payment.

For other crimes, the punishment is usually up to the judge, employing his own interpretation of ancient Muslim texts. When there is no victim, there is no victim's family to offer mercy at a price. Saudi Arabia has no civil penal code that sets out sentencing rules, and no system of judicial precedent that would make the outcome of cases predictable based on past practice.

Bassim Alim, who defended 17 men who were sentenced to up to 30 years jail in 2011 for sedition and other crimes in a high profile political case, said judges saw no need for many protections seen as fundamental in the west, like ensuring defendants had legal representation.

"The judge actually told one of the accused to my face: 'Why do you need a lawyer? You don't need a lawyer'," he said.

Alim said capital convictions were often based on no evidence other than a confession, with judges under no obligation to consider mitigating circumstances, psychological factors or the possibility that a confession was coerced.


King Abdullah announced plans for legal reform in 2007, but judges, drawn from the traditionally conservative clergy, have so far succeeded is putting off meaningful change.

In 2009 Abdullah replaced the long-serving, conservative justice minister with a younger scholar, Mohammed al-Issa. His attempts to introduce more modern training for judges and a system of precedent to make sentencing more predictable have so far been blocked by strenuous opposition from conservatives.

Even Saudis who want reform generally do not oppose the use of the death penalty by public beheading. Khalid al-Dakheel, a political sociology professor in Riyadh, said the turbulence in the region meant people wanted the justice system to be tough.

"You don't want to have a dictatorship similar to that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria or (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein. But at the same time you don't want to have a government which is weak, especially in such a region and at such a time," he said.

In the most extreme version of the Saudi death penalty, known by the Arabic word for "crucifixion" and reserved for crimes that outrage Saudi society, the corpse is publicly hanged in a harness from a metal gibbet as a warning to others.

An online film dated April 2012 on the LiveLeaks website shows a man being executed and then "crucified" in this manner, reportedly for robbing a house and killing its occupants. A group of 5 men suffered this fate in May last year in the southern province of Jizan for a series of robberies.

The reformist Jeddah lawyer, Alim, said he supported capital punishment in Saudi Arabia but that the legal system needed to be strengthened to ensure verdicts were just.

"I'm not someone who shies away from it. It's part of Sharia. But it has to be handled with extreme sensitivity and care. At the moment it can be done on the basis of no other evidence if the accused confesses," he said.

(source: Reuters)


UK Islamic Organizations Issued a Joint Statement Regarding the Death Sentence Against Ayatullah al-Nimr

The World Federation of Khoja Shias along with other Muslim bodies, groups and organisations have issued a joint statement denouncing the death sentence passed on Wednesday 15th October by the Saudi Arabian government against Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The World Federation of Khoja Shias along with other Muslim bodies, groups and organisations have issued a joint statement denouncing the death sentence passed on Wednesday 15th October by the Saudi Arabian government against Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The statement reads as follows:

We are extremely alarmed about the recent death sentence which has been passed against Ayatollah Nimr Baqir Al-nimr as reported by the media for "sowing discord" and "undermining national unity". Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia. He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has long campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority population of the country. This sentence follows a lengthy 2 year detention in a Saudi prison, which has sparked outrage, not only from the Muslim community but also from the international human rights organisations. We strongly believe that the sentencing of Ayatollah Nimr as a leader of the minority Shia community will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as ISIS to continue their persecution of religious minorities.

Therefore, we strongly expect the government of Saudi Arabia to act with responsibility and refrain from implementing the death sentence of Ayatollah al-Nimr. We ask the government of Saudi Arabia to consider the negative and detrimental impact that any sentence of Ayatollah al-Nimr will have to their national image and demand that Ayatollah al-Nimr is released. We implore the government of Saudi Arabia to behave as a responsible role model to both Muslims and Muslim governments around the world.

Signed by:

Al-Khoei Foundation

AlulBayt Foundation

British Muslim Forum

Council of European Jamaats


Islamic Centre of England

London Fatwa Council

Majlis-e-ulama Shia

Mecca Mosque Leeds

Radical Middle Way

World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities

Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry and accusations of promoting sectarian hatred after a Shia Muslim religious leader from the country's volatile eastern province was sentenced to death.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led protests in Qatif at the height of the Arab spring in 2011, was convicted on Wednesday of sedition and other charges in a case that has been followed closely by Shias in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

Shia Muslims make up 10%-15% of the population of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which bills itself as playing a lead role in the fight against the jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh has supported Sunni groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad but denies backing Isis.

In Iran, Saudi Arabia's chief regional rival and the political centre of the Shia world, the foreign ministry warned on Thursday that execution would have "dire consequences".

In London the Foreign Office stated that it was aware of the sentencing, adding: "The UK opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle."

The Saudi authorities have portrayed the cleric as an "instigator of discord and rioting". But Nimr's supporters and family have denied that he incited violence.

In a BBC interview, Nimr said he backed "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons". The arrest of his brother and other relatives after sentencing has fuelled anger that is being ventilated on Twitter and other social media.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to existing sectarian discord and unrest," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the eastern province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences."

Amnesty International described Nimr's sentencing as part of a wider Saudi government crackdown on dissent.

Shia and Sunni groups said they were extremely alarmed by the sentence. "Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia," 10 organisations said in statement. "He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority. The sentencing will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as Isis to continue their persecution of religious minorities."

Toby Matthiesen, a Cambridge expert on Saudi Arabia, said: "In the last 2 years Nimr has become known by Shia across the world. For many Salafis and Sunnis with anti-Shia leanings he has become a real hate figure. In the context of Isis, the Saudi royal family is trying to legitimise itself in the eyes of Sunnis by being tough. Nimr was a revolutionary who called for non-violent protests and the downfall of the Al Saud, but also for Assad to go. He wasn't sectarian."

Yusif al-Khoei, of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, said he was "appalled" by the news and with others was considering boycotting a Saudi-organised conference on inter-religious dialogue in Vienna.

(source: AhlulBayt News Agency)


Petition for abolition of death penalty admissible: SC

Chairman of Watan Party barrister Zafarrullah has filed a petition in Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday, which stated that the law of execution should be abolished in Pakistan.

The registrar of Supreme Court had objected to the petition earlier. However, today Justice Jawad S. Khawaja, during the hearing of petition in his Chamber rejected the objections by registrar office and ordered for the further hearing of petition.

The process of law requires that any person tried for a crime should have the right to full legal defense. The death penalty continues to be recognized as a form of punishment in Pakistan's judicial system. The hearing of removal of execution law can only be treated through constitutional petition.

During 2007, the UN General Assembly suggested governments who didn't abolish death penalty should suspend their execution process.

(source: Dunya News)


EU Disappointed By Pakistan Court's Decision To Uphold Blasphemy Death Sentence

The European Union has expressed sadness and concerns over the recent decision of a Pakistani court to uphold the death sentence handed down to a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges.

On Thursday, The Lahore High Court had rejected the appeal against the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010 for making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

Soon after the court made its ruling, Asia Bibi's lawyer indicated that he will soon file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"The EU considers the death penalty a cruel and inhumane punishment. We hope that the verdict will be appealed to the Supreme Court and struck down swiftly," the 28-member bloc said in a statement.

"We call on Pakistan to ensure for all its citizens full respect of human rights as guaranteed by international conventions to which it is party," the statement added.

(source: RTT news)


Presidential Clemency ---- Law minister for changes to constitution

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday underscored the need for an amendment to the Constitution so that convicted war criminals cannot get presidential clemency.

"It is no possible for us to accept in future that a president of Bangladesh pardons a convict of the 1971 crimes against humanity exercising article 49 of the Constitution," he said while talking to reporters after inaugurating a training course of the joint district judges at BIAM auditorium in the capital.

The article 49 of the Constitution says: "The President shall have power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority."

The law minister told The Daily Star that it could not be ensured that the convicted war criminals would not get presidential mercy in future.

"I will raise the issue before the policymakers of the government and discuss with them how a provision can be incorporated in the Constitution prohibiting president's mercy for convicted war criminals," he said.

The minister apprehends that someone like former president Abdur Rahman Biswas might pardon war crimes convicts such as Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.

He said the draft amendment to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Act might be placed for approval before the cabinet at its November 3 meeting with a new provision to try and punish war criminal organisations.

The move comes in light of making Jamaat, an organisation the International Crimes Tribunal has termed guilty of crimes committed during the Liberation War, face trial for its role in 1971.

In response to a query, the minister said the government would take a decision to file a review plea on the life imprisonment of Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee after obtaining the full verdict of the review of the death penalty of Abdul Quader Molla.

The government would also move to ensure that the war criminals did not get presidential mercy in future, he added.

He has hinted at amending the Constitution to that end, if need be.

A faction of Ganajagaran Mancha submitted a memorandum to the minister on Sunday demanding scrapping the provision for presidential clemency for war criminals.

It also demanded filing a review petition of war crimes convict Delawar Hossain Sayedee's life-in-jail term and trying Jamaat-e-Islami as a party for its role in the war.

The secular platform seeks maximum penalty for convicted war criminals.

The minister said the very thought of Bangladesh's president letting off people convicted of crimes against humanity gave him a shiver.

"But we've seen that [war criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad] Mojaheed and [war crimes accused Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman] Nizami had become ministers.

"The entire process of war crimes trial will be destroyed if any president shows the courage to forgive any war criminal in future.

"There can be no compromise over this process [war crimes trial]. We must ensure punishment for the 1971 atrocities. We have to ensure that the war criminals do not get off the hook by any means," the minister added.

(source: The Daily Star)


Executions Could Be Iraq's Real Challenge to Unity

On Saturday, Iraq formed a new unity government: Parliament approved Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shiite, for the role of interior minister, and Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni, as defense minister. But one day later, the United Nations published a report saying that the extreme use of the death penalty and "irreversible miscarriages of justice" in the country are fueling sectarian conflict.

The report, which came from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the sharp increase has translated into 177 executions in 2013, with as many as 34 in a single day. This year, 80 executions - mostly hangings - have been carried out; another 1,724 prisoners were on death row as of August.

"The large numbers of people who are sentenced to death in Iraq is alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice," said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN's envoy to Iraq.

The report said that most defendants appear in court unrepresented or with court-appointed lawyers who are ill-prepared; in half the trials the UN monitored, judges ignored claims that defendants had been tortured until they provided a confession. According to Amnesty International, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the only countries that have executed more of their citizens than Iraq since 2007.

"Given the weaknesses of the criminal justice system in Iraq, executing individuals whose guilt may be questionable merely compounds the sense of injustice and alienation among certain sectors of the population," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. He added that this dynamic "serves as one of the contributing factors that is exploited by extremists to fuel the violence," referring to the belief of some officials and strategists that the influence of ISIS can by curbed by building a more inclusive government.

The death penalty, which was used as a way of governing under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, was suspended in 2003 while Iraq was governed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. It was reinstated in 2005.

(source: Yahoo News)


Death penalty fuels violence in Iraq, says U.N. report -- 60 people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.

60 people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq tends to carry out the sentence in batches because President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty so a vice president orders executions when he is out of the country, said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office.

Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defence attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

"Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime by potentially claiming the life of another innocent person and by undermining any real justice that the victims and families might have received," the report said.

Some convicts' relatives said they had been offered a chance to avoid the death penalty by hiring a particular lawyer for $100,000, while many women detainees said they had been detained in place of a male relative, the report said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said Iraq should impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

The report said the Iraqi government's view that the death penalty deterred violence "appears not to be valid given the deteriorating security situation over the past years" and said the executions appeared to be merely a reaction to the violence.

It added that the death penalty would not deter extremists who were prepared to die to achieve their objectives.

The report also rejected the government's claim that its use of the death penalty enjoyed popular support in Iraq.

"Once informed of the facts, including that it has no deterrent effect whatsoever on levels of violence and the risks of serious and irreversible miscarriages of justice, it is unlikely that the death penalty would continue to enjoy the public support that it now allegedly receives," it said.

It also called on the autonomous Kurdistan Region, which has a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, to abolish it permanently.

(source: World Bulletin News)


Vietnam cops bust largest-ever ecstasy, meth racket in central city

Police in Da Nang on Sunday seized thousands of ecstasy pills and more than two kilograms of meth in what they called the biggest drug haul ever in the central hub.

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Phuoc Huong, spokesman of the Da Nang police force, said they caught Pham Thi Nga, 43, at a bus station in the morning with more than 2,340 ecstasy pills.

The police then raided Honey hotel that the migrant from the northern mountainous province of Lang Son, which borders China, was running in the city. They found 140 grams of methamphetamine there.

Another more than 2 kilograms of meth showed up at the Sao Sang kindergarten managed by Nga's daughter. The meth was hidden in formula cans and estimated to value VND4-5 billion (US$188,480-235,600), according to the police.

The police also found records documenting drug and weapon transactions at the family's establishment in the city.

Any one convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of meth faces the death penalty in Vietnam, which is said to have some of the world's toughest drug laws.

Firearm trade is also illegal in the country where the military is the only unit entitled to own and maintain arsenals.

The manufacture and transportation of military-grade weapons is punishable by between one year and life in prison.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


A Juvenile executed at Tabriz Central Prison

"Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder at the age of 14 was executed yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), "Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder was executed by hanging yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison’s enclosure.

A close relative who preferred to remain anonymous told HRANA's reporter: "This teenager murdered his friend at the age of 14 with no intention and due to carelessness."

This source continued: "At the early hours of yesterday morning and at the age of 18, he was executed at Tabriz Central Prison's enclosure after the family of the victim refused to forgive him."

It is important to say that on 05 September, 1991, Iranian government have singed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This international convention was also approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 20 February, 1994, and was legislated a domestic law in Iran. According to the article 37 of this treaty, death penalty, long term or life imprisonment sentences without the right to parole for under 18s are banned.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Human Rights: Juvenile offender executed in Tabriz

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged a juvenile offender who allegedly had committed a crime 4 years ago when he was 14.

The victim, Fardin Jaffarian was hanged early morning on Saturday, October 18, in the city's main prison.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed including many juvenile offenders.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

While noting "an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years" Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said in his latest report: "The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of concern." "Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law."

Rights groups and regional analysts say Iran's record may be worsening in the backdrop of potential detente with the West," an article published Wednesday in The Washington Times reported.

An advance copy of a book-length report on the violation human rights in Iran titled "Behind Rouhani's Smile" provided to The Washington Times by the National Council of Resistance of Iran notes more than a dozen cases of juvenile offenders have been hanged during past year.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Syrian Extremists Facing Death Penalty in UAE: Reports

15 alleged members of the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist organizations are facing the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), local media reported Monday.

All 15 have been charged with belonging to foreign terrorist organizations and collecting funds for them. Some of them also have been accused of illegally manufacturing explosives, possessing firearms and launching an extremist website.

The trial began in Abu Dhabi last month, though 4 of the suspects are wanted and undergoing trail in absentia. Nine suspects are citizens of the UAE, the rest of them are immigrants from Syria and the Comoros.

According to the prosecution, some of the suspects have been trained in al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham camps to fight government forces in Syria, while others provided extremists with logistical support, recruited new members in the UAE and raised funds for the Islamist groups. Members of the cell were crossing into Syria from Turkey and delivering goods, including 14,000 automobile engines, via the same route, the media outlets reported.

(source: RIA Novosti)

OCTOBER 19, 2014:


Man on death row because in Texas, being black means you're dangerous?

Justice should be blind. It should be blind to race, income, class and other factors. However, in the case of Duane Buck, race played a major factor in his death sentence for capital murder.

In 1997, Buck was convicted for the capital murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. Buck was also convicted of shooting his step-sister, Phyllis Taylor, in the same incident.

During the capital murder sentencing, through testimony of Texas state licensed psychologist Dr. Walter Quijano, Buck's race became the centerpiece to the implementation of the death penalty. Shockingly, the Supreme Court cited that the race factor was the fault of Buck's lawyers because they called Quijano as their witness. However, the Supreme Court would not order his case to be resentenced, like several other similarly situated defendants.

From the Texas Defender Service:

Defense Attorney: You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that's just the way it is, and that the race factor, black increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?

Quijano: Yes.

In June 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn named 6 capital murder defendants due for resentencing, which Duane Buck was one of them. Cornyn knew that injustices occurred with the sentencing phases of these trials due to the psychologist's testimony that race was a factor in reoffending probabilities. Dr. Walter Quijano testified improperly in all 6 cases that being black was a reason the defendants would likely reoffend. Therefore, his testimony improperly sealed the death penalty sentences for each one. 5 of the cases were required to reopen for the sentencing phase, but Buck's was not one of them.

For Buck's sentencing, the defense called Dr. Walter Quijano. Dr. Quijano testified under defense questioning that Buck's likelihood of re-committing a crime was low. Conversely, under cross examination questioning by the state prosecutor, Dr. Quijano agreed with the prosecution's line of questioning that being black is a factor to consider for the future dangerousness of a person. This was similar testimony to the other 5 cases That Quijano testified in and the sentences were overturned.

However, when the United States Supreme Court reviewed Buck's case, the Court stated that the testimony about race was improper but the defense opened the door to this testimony since Quijano was their witness. Therefore, the Supreme Court would not overturn the sentence that was given. Basically, it was the defense's fault.

Buck may die because his lawyer called the wrong witness.

In capital murder convictions, there are several factors that can be considered in sentencing a person to life in prison or the death penalty. Sentencing is based upon 2 things: mitigating factors and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors are facts presented by the defense to ask for leniency, in this case, life without parole and not the death penalty. Mitigation includes the defense calling psychologists and witnesses to testify to a person's upbringing and how it influenced their behavior, IQ level and intelligence, lack of understanding what may have occurred, lack of criminal history and family ties. Family members and friends are often called to testify for leniency often begging for mercy on behalf of their loved one.

On the other hand, aggravating factors are those reasons why a person should be sentenced to a harsher sentence. The prosecution has the right to present testimony and evidence as to why a sentence should be stiffer. Examples of aggravating factors are: If the defendant is a future danger to commit crimes again, whether the defendant committed more than 1 murder at a time, the victim's age or if the murder was for monetary gain of some sort. Victims and victim's family members are often called to testify about the impact the defendant's actions had on them. However, race should never be a factor for aggravating circumstances, which was used in Buck's case. He testified that with Buck being black he was more likely to re-offend.

In the case of Buck, despite Quijano being called as a defense witness, he testified that with Buck being black he was more likely to re-offend. The inclusions of race as a factor is an unconstitutional argument and helped seal his death sentence. The prosecution took the defense's mitigation witness under cross-examination and made him testify as an aggravating witness by stating that being black is a factor in a person reoffending. This was a costly and potentially deadly mistake to Mr. Buck.

The wave of support to grant Buck a new sentencing hearing has been joined by many including one of the prosecutors on the case, Linda Geffen, who wrote on behalf of Buck to get a new sentencing hearing. Buck's step-sister Phyllis Taylor has joined the fight to get Buck resentenced as well.

5 of the 6 cases mentioned by former Texas Attorney General Cornyn were reheard for sentencing, all of which ended with resentencing to death.

(source: Opinion; Eric Guster is a civil rights and criminal defense trial


County, defendant face long trial after death of deputy----Capital murder case could cost millions

When Ian Cantacuzene heard on television the name Dan Higgins in connection with the shooting of a Midland County deputy, he said that he was "shocked" because in his experience with Higgins he found him to be a "very pleasant, very nice guy."

Cantacuzene, who was representing Higgins on a previous drug charge, then went to the Midland County jail to advise his client.

"What I did was go down to make sure he was OK, to tell him that I believe they are going to charge him with capital murder, potentially they were going to seek the death penalty, that he would need to remain silent, and that he would need to ask for a court-appointed lawyer," Cantacuzene said.

More than a week after Higgins is alleged to have shot and killed Sgt. Mike Naylor while he was serving an arrest warrant on Higgins, investigators and the District Attorney's Office have remained silent concerning the capital murder case.

But attorneys and experts reached for comment paint a picture of a long, stressful and complex process that could last as long as a decade and cost the county millions of dollars.

For Cantacuzene, who represented Clinton Lee Young, the last man Midland County sentenced to death row, the burden of a death penalty trial is both "scary and terrifying."

"You've got a person's life in your hands. That's the ultimate responsibility as a lawyer," he said.

"That is an awesome burden that keeps you awake at night. If you're not scared by it to some extent, you probably shouldn't be representing the person."

Al Schorre, a former Midland County district attorney who worked on 6 death penalty trials in his career, said that Midland County District Attorney Teresa Clingman and her legal team will be combing through the facts in the case and Higgins' history to determine whether they should pursue the death penalty.

"Even though it's technically a capital case, you try to make the assessment - is this a case that you think a jury would probably, a local jury, a Midland County jury, would be likely to return a sentence of death?" Schorre said in a phone interview with the Reporter-Telegram from his home in Colorado.

Both men agreed that the process will be long and costly, both in terms of man-hours worked on the case and money the county will have to put forth.

Keith Price, associate professor of criminology at West Texas A&M University, said that part of the calculation for the district attorney is the monetary cost of such a case, which can run upwards of $3 million.

"Is (the district attorney) willing to spend a couple of million dollars of [her] budget to give this guy the death penalty?" Price said. "You spend that money on one case, then that money ís not available for other bad things that happen. So [she'll] have to be very careful about making that decision, and [she] won't make that decision for a long time."

While the death penalty is one of the options in the capital murder case pending against Higgins, Price said there is another option that carries a similar penalty but is not as costly: a capital life conviction without the chance for parole.

"Capital life you can get a plea bargain on, you can get the guy to plead guilty, he accepts life without parole, he's going to prison for the rest of his life, and you've accomplished the exact same thing from a retribution standpoint," Price said. "The guy's going to die in prison. Now, he's not going to die in the death chamber, but he's going to die in prison, so he is basically spent his life for the crime that he committed against this police officer."

Price, who formerly was a prison warden at the Clements unit near Amarillo, said that inmates in Higgins' position face a grim future.

"There's a really good chance that the state will, one day, put a needle in his arm, and extinguish his life," Price said. "Even if they don't do that, there's an even higher possibility that they will send him to the Texas prison system and let him stay there, however long that is, until he dies. Now, neither one of those are very nice options for one's life, so I suspect he [has] probably - if he's got any sense - some stress about him," Price said.

But there is no way to predict how the trial will turn out, Price said.

"It is a roll of the dice," Price said. "Nobody knows how a capital murder trial is going to play itself out."

(source: Midland Reporter-Teleglram)


Death penalty isn't an effective deterrent

Last Tuesday evening in a Montgomery County courtroom, a jury sentenced to death 28-year-old Raghanundan Yandamuri, a man convicted a week earlier of murdering a baby and the baby's grandmother.

A short while later, commenting on the sentence in a local TV interview, one of the prosecutors, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, calmly told a reporter: "It won't give them back what they lost, but it is a sense of closure for them."

She was referring, of course, to the effect the execution (if carried out) would have on the victims' family.

Apparently, Cauffman is oblivious to the fact that the sentence she fought to bring about, and was now so cavalierly referring to, involves the cold-blooded killing of another human being - even if it is being carried out by the state on someone who has been convicted of murder.

At best, executing Yandamuri may satisfy a desire for vengeance or retribution among family and friends of the victims, and that's certainly understandable. But closure, which literally means "an ending" or a conclusion to the nightmares suffered by the family, is something a lot less certain. And killing - even by the state - is still killing.

In recent years, the word "closure" has been loosely bandied about in various types of tragedies by individuals who have no idea what it actually means.

Rather than true closure, there will probably be a great deal more anguish for the victims' family when Yandamuri goes through his lengthy appeals process.

Based on experience, that strategy is almost a certainty.

While Pennsylvania has the 4th-largest death row in the country, the only people who have been executed in the state since the reinstatement of the death penalty by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 were 3 inmates, all convicted of murder and put to death between 1995 and 1999.

And that was only after they had waived their appeals and asked that the executions be carried out.

Following just about every death penalty conviction, and often lengthy trials, the Commonwealth routinely goes through the expensive and additional time-consuming process of fighting appeals. Yet, almost all of these cases end with a life sentence.

According to a recent Associated Press study, 124 death sentences in Pennsylvania have been overturned and the individuals resentenced. When the original errors were corrected, 95 % (118) resulted in life sentences or less. Only 6 inmates were resentenced to death.

For a great many reasons, it's well past the time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to join the 18 other states and the District of Columbia that have abandoned capital punishment.

Among the 18 are 4 of Pennsylvania's 6 neighboring states - New Jersey, New York, Maryland and West Virginia. Delaware and Ohio still have the death penalty.

In New England, with the exception of Vermont, capital punishment has been banned. And even in Vermont, it's only applied in the case of treason.

Before a Supreme Court decision in 1972 effectively banning such practices, death sentences could be imposed for crimes like cattle rustling (Texas), grave desecration (Georgia) and forcing a woman to marry (Arkansas).

Between 1977 (a year after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty) and 2009, 1,188 people were executed in the U.S. - most of them by lethal injection.

82 % of those executions took place in the South, with 37 % of them in just 1 state: Texas.

Texas has the 2nd-largest population of any state, trailing only California. However, since 1977, Texas has executed 517 inmates, while California has executed only 13 and none since 2006.

Proponents of the death penalty insist that it is an important tool for preserving law and order, that it deters crime and that it costs less than life imprisonment. They argue that retribution, or "an eye for an eye," honors the victim, helps console grieving families and ensures that the perpetrators of heinous crimes never have an opportunity to cause future tragedy.

Realistically, the proponents' claims are as convoluted as a skit on "Saturday Night Live." In effect, they maintain that to teach people that killing is wrong, the state often has to kill people.

Opponents of the death penalty argue that capital punishment has no deterrent effect on crime, that it wrongly gives governments the power to take human life and that it perpetuates social injustices by disproportionately targeting people of color and people who cannot afford good attorneys.

They further insist that lifetime jail sentences are a more-severe and less-expensive punishment than death.

FBI data supports the opponents' arguments that the threat of a death penalty rarely deters criminals. A report for 2011 reveals the states without capital punishment have homicide rates 18 percent below the states that retain it.

It additionally reveals the Northeast region of the U.S., which uses the death penalty the least, had the lowest murder rate of the four geographic regions throughout the country.

By contrast, the South, which carries out more executions than any other region, had the highest murder rate.

According to Amnesty International, 2/3 of the world's nations (141) have abandoned the death penalty, with the overwhelming majority of executions occurring in only 5 countries - China, North Korea, Iran, Yemen and, sadly, the United States.

These are certainly not the countries most citizens of the United States want to be grouped with.

(source: Commentary, Jerry Jonas; The Intelligencer)


Va. medical examiner reverses ruling to no known cause of death in Prince Rams case

Virginia's chief medical examiner has reversed a ruling that a 15-month-old boy died by drowning in Manassas in 2012, finding that the cause of Prince McLeod Rams's death "should be changed to undetermined" and that "the possibility of a natural death cannot be totally eliminated."

The reversal was 1 of 2 key setbacks Friday for Prince William County prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty against the boy's father, Joaquin S. Rams, whom they suspect of killing his son and 2 others as part of an attempt to collect 6-figure insurance payouts. Prosecutors moved to use the other 2 uncharged slayings as evidence against Rams, but Prince William Circuit Court Judge Craig D. Johnston denied their request. The judge ruled that "a propensity" to commit crimes is not admissible to prove guilt in one specific case.

"The case against Mr. Rams is incredibly weak" after the medical examiner's reversal, defense attorney Tracey Lenox said, arguing that prosecutors were trying to save the case by introducing 2 uncharged slayings. And the judge prohibited it, saying it would lead to "3 murder trials in 1."

Rams, 42, has been in jail without bond since his arrest in January 2013. Police in Manassas, where Prince Rams was allegedly slain in October 2012, long suspected Joaquin Rams in the March 2003 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Shawn Mason, and the November 2008 asphyxiation of his mother, Alma Collins, which was ruled a suicide.

In June 2013, prosecutors convened a special grand jury to hear evidence about the 3 cases. That grand jury then increased the murder charge in the Prince Rams case to capital murder and handed up a murder indictment for the slaying of Mason.

But last August, prosecutors quietly dismissed the murder charge in the Mason case. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney James A. Willett was not available to comment after Friday afternoon's hearing. No trial date has been set in the death-penalty case.

In addition to the sudden deaths of 3 people close to Joaquin Rams, all 3 had significant life insurance policies, including three policies totaling more than $500,000 on his young son, raising investigators' suspicions. Prosecutors said that Rams inherited more than $162,000 from his mother's estate but has not received any money from the policies for his son and ex-girlfriend.

"It is really the money that binds these cases together," Willett told the judge, "and establishes a single criminal enterprise."

But the prosecutor said he also needed the evidence of the other two deaths because "we don't have any direct evidence of the manner of death, as a result of" the new report by William T. Gormley, the state's chief medical examiner. Instead, Willett said, the other cases would provide circumstantial evidence that Rams killed his son.

The new medical examiner's report was sent to prosecutors last week. It overrules the original autopsy done by Constance R. DiAngelo, an assistant chief medical examiner for Northern Virginia, who concluded that because Prince was found naked, wet and cold and had fluid in his sinuses, lungs and intestines, he must have drowned.

Rams's attorneys argued last year that the boy was wet because his father had found him having a seizure, took him to a bathtub and splashed cold water on him until paramedics arrived. They also noted that Prince was on life support for more than a day, receiving intravenous fluids, before he died at Inova Fairfax Hospital on Oct. 21, 2012. The boy also had previously suffered a series of febrile seizures, or convulsions, including four in 24 hours the month before he died.

So Gormley reviewed DiAngelo's autopsy and in a letter to Prince William prosecutors wrote, "I have determined that the cause of death should be changed to undetermined." He said the fluid in Prince's body could have been caused by the fluids received in the hospital and that "some form of generalized epilepsy associated with febrile seizures cannot be ruled out and is supported by the history. .?.?. A homicidal manner of death cannot be proven to a reasonable degree of medical certainty with the available data."

Gormley was not available Friday to explain why he revisited the case, his assistant said.

But court records show that prosecutors were already searching for second opinions on the cause of death and did so shortly after a series of articles in The Washington Post last year in which medical experts and Rams's attorneys questioned the drowning finding. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Teresa A. Polinske contacted a forensic pathologist in Kentucky, a pediatric neurologist and epilepsy expert in New York, and a pediatric emergency doctor in Richmond. The prosecutor sent medical and police records, photos and surveillance videos and the articles in The Post.

Court records show that the emergency doctor agreed with the determination of a drowning. The neurologist concluded that Prince had been asphyxiated or drowned. The forensic pathologist strongly disagreed with the drowning finding, saying the death was possibly seizure-related and consistent with "Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood."

(source: Washington Post)


DA seeking death penalty against men charged in couple's deaths, says other slayings likely

Authorities in Atlanta say 2 men accused of killing a pregnant woman and her fiance may have killed others.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 40-year-old Andre Cleveland Gay and 41-year-old Richard Augusta Wilson in the slayings of Briana Brooks and Jeronta Brown.

The 2 DeKalb residents were kidnapped on Aug. 30 and killed when a ransom wasn't paid.

Authorities say they believe Gay and Wilson are responsible for other deaths.

Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday the 2 men killed at least 7 people there. And Atlanta police expect to tie more unsolved murders to the men.

Gay was paroled after serving time for a double murder, and Wilson is out on parole after pleading guilty to manslaughter and robbery.

Defense attorneys for the men haven't commented.

(source: Associated Press)


Faith & Values: Little is easy about capital punishment

Little is easy about capital punishment cases, save for the raw anger such cases universally evoke.

Capital punishment typically involves heinous crimes by perpetrators who appear brazenly bereft of empathy for their victims. These cases deeply violate our sense of decency. And they violate our sense of moral contract. The city of Richmond has had its fair share of such cases, as has Virginia.

Such crimes not only affect innocent victims, they also have a devastating impact on the lives of those victims' families, their friends and other loved ones - to say nothing of surrounding communities. And this is often equally true for the families of the perpetrators. Victims all.

As University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor, says, "It is all tragedy."

This month, the University of Richmond School of Law will offer 2 programs addressing capital punishment. The 1st is a daylong symposium on Friday titled "Lethal Injection, Politics and the Future of the Death Penalty."

The 2nd is an evening program on Oct. 28 titled "Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and the American Capital Punishment System."

Both programs will afford an opportunity to consider our use of the death penalty in the commonwealth of Virginia, the third-leading state in the country in the use of capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1976 (Virginia: 110; Oklahoma: 111; Texas: 517).

Both programs should prove to be engaging and thought-provoking.

"Jesus on Death Row," however, may prove to be the more challenging of the 2 programs.

The challenges surrounding lethal injection, the politics of capital punishment and other issues affecting the death penalty's future are important aspects of the conversation. Yet, comparatively, these are easier to consider - as safer, more intellectual aspects of the conversation.

Considering capital punishment from the perspective of faith renders the issue infinitely more complex and confounding.

Our initial impassioned response to such heinous crimes is a visceral sense of rage, with accompanying cries for retribution and justice Yet, in the Christian faith, Scripture tells that Jesus asked for forgiveness on the cross, not revenge or retribution. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

And we respond in chorus, "No way, kill the murderers! We want justice!"

It strikes me that the faith journey begins at the point when we are most consumed by anger - with fists clenched in righteous rage. This is where Jesus, as he often does, confronts and confounds us. When and where we are most broken. And it is through the open wounds of our brokenness that God's grace engages us.

The Old Testament argues for retribution: an eye for an eye, murder for murder. Not Jesus. Jesus preaches forgiveness and mercy.

By extension, most major faith traditions have opposed capital punishment for decades - as has my Episcopal tradition since 1958.

In his new book "Dear Friends," the Rev. Christopher Webber writes in a "Saint Paul inspired" letter to Texas, asking, "And how, if you value life, can you as followers of Jesus Christ use the law to bring death to those who have taken the lives of others? Did not Jesus, dying under the law, forgive his murderers and open heaven to his fellow sufferer? Can you truly imagine that Jesus would condemn anyone to death? How can we as Christians, condemned by the law ourselves and forgiven in Jesus Christ, condemn others no matter how evil their deeds?"

We as Virginians, along with Texans, need to consider these difficult questions.

Webber goes on to say, "Let them be removed from society and allowed opportunity to understand the evil they have done and repent and find forgiveness but let us not stain our own hands with the blood of others." I heartily concur.

Life is for God to take, and God alone.

Chicago public defender Jeanne Bishop chronicles this very faith journey in her forthcoming book, "Change of Heart; Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister's Killer."

At the trial of Jesus at UR, Bishop will defend Jesus and argue for life. Osler will represent the commonwealth, applying Virginia law, and argue for death. As in Scripture and as in our "modern" legal system, a jury of citizens will decide.

In the end, faith challenges us to struggle with the difficult truth that we are all children of God, even those who appear to be the worst among us.

(source: Craig Anderson is a psychologist and the director of counseling services at Randolph-Macon College. He is an active member of the Church of the Holy Comforter and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia----Richmond Times-Dispatch)


Scott, Crist both tough on crime, but different

As the state's chief executive, the governor of Florida wields significant power over the court system and has great influence on how the state keeps the public safe.

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have different views of how that power should be employed. Though both men say they endorse the death penalty, by and large, Scott advocates a harder line on crime. Crist says he, too, is tough but that he favors a more balanced approach. These differences in tenor are evident in the 2 candidates' positions on guns, prison sentences, civil rights and judicial appointments. A former Republican now running as a Democrat, Crist used to embrace the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie," earned as a state senator when he sponsored legislation to revive chain gangs.

Now, he says, times are different. In addition to long prison sentences, the state should consider what works and how to reintegrate felons into society to make them less likely to commit more crimes, he says.

Asked if he still should be called "Chain Gang Charlie," Crist balked.

"It's important to remember the context of the original 'chain gang' legislation: Florida was seeing record high crime and folks didn’t feel safe in their homes," he said in an email response. "I believe in justice - but I also believe in mercy."

Crist has also tempered his support of former tough-on-crime laws, including one he sponsored, the Stop Turning Out Prisoners act, which requires prisoners to serve 85 % of their sentences, as well as 10-20-Life, which stiffened minimum mandatory sentences for gun crime.

"I fully support the concepts of the STOP Act and 10-20-Life, and I'm not necessarily in favor of changing them, but after 15 and 20 years it is appropriate to review them and see if they can be improved," Crist said.

Republican Scott's campaign says Crist's stance is just another example of the former governor reversing positions. The incumbent says this is no time back down.

"Law enforcement officials agree that Charlie Crist's flip-flop on important policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and 10-20-Life threaten the progress we've made in achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate," said Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair.

Those laws have contributed to the growth in the prison population and increased costs for the Department of Corrections.

When Scott ran for governor in 2010, he promised to cut $1 billion from the state's $2.4 billion budget for prisons. He made cuts but was unable to keep that pledge; the prison budget now is $2.1 billion.

With more than 100,000 inmates and 55 prisons, Florida, the third most populous state, has the third largest prison system in the country. But federal statistics also show Florida also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with 524 people behind bars for every 100,000 people in 2012.

7 of the prisons, with about 10,000 inmates, are privately run, and Scott has fought unsuccessfully to expand the privatization of prisons.

As governor and a state legislator, Crist also targeted prison budgets. In 2007, under Crist, Corrections Secretary James McDonough proposed saving money by erecting tents for some inmates and putting some to work in road crews.

When the economy slid in 2009, Crist wanted to use money set aside for building prisons to plug holes in the budget. A year earlier, his budget proposal called for a budget increase of $186 million for construction of facilities for 4,149 new prison beds.

Crist says he opposes further privatization. "Private prisons focus on filling beds rather than rehabilitating those who find themselves behind bars," he said.

The prison system has also been the focus of scandals, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigating 82 cases in which inmates died of nonnatural causes. The department has fired dozens of employees, several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

The controversies, Crist said, underscore that the department "needs a comprehensive review of both its prison operations and its budget. We need to improve correctional officers' training, basic services to inmates, and the rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism."

Asked if Scott still hopes to cut $1 billion from the prison budget and if he still plans to expand prison privatization, his campaign spokesman did not respond directly, saying Scott "is proud that his administration has saved money in the corrections system while achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate."

Crist and Scott differ sharply on how to treat felons after they have served their sentences.

Shortly after he became governor, Crist pushed through changes to grant nonviolent former felons an automatic restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Crist said at the time that people convicted of crimes should be able to move forward after paying the price levied by judges and juries.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated 154,000 former felons had their civil rights restored under Crist after the reforms he initiated in April 2007, a rate that was previously about 8,000 annually. The change was supported by civil rights groups but opposed by some law enforcement organizations.

After Scott took office in 2011, he and Attorney General Pam Bondi rolled back Crist's changes, saying nonviolent former felons should have to wait up to 5 years and violent felons 10 years before applying to have their civil rights restored.

A 2012 study by a national group that advocates for post-release rights found Florida had the nation's highest percentage of people prohibited from voting because of a felony record - 10.4 % of the total adult population and 23 % of adult African-Americans.

Asked several questions about criticism of his rollback, the Scott campaign responded with a single sentence: "Governor Scott respects the process that is in place for restoring rights for convicted felons."

This hard-line vs. moderate approach carries over into the 2 candidates' positions relating to guns.

Earlier in his career, Crist and the National Rifle Association were the best of friends. The gun rights group endorsed Crist when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio and gave him a grade of A on its report card designed to guide voters.

As governor, Crist was known for signing pro-gun rights measures into law, including one that allows people to bring their weapons to work and leave them in the trunks of their cars. This time around, the NRA has a different view of Crist. The organization's latest grade for him is a D, compared to A+ given for Scott.

NRA official Chris W. Cox said, "Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history."

Scott has signed 12 NRA-backed bills into law, nine more than Crist.

Asked if Scott supports restricting access to assault weapons or increasing background checks for gun purchases, his campaign said Scott "is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In 2013, he signed legislation, with the support of Second Amendment advocates as well as mental health professionals, that helps keeps firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves."

Among the laws signed by Scott was one recently upheld by a federal appeals court that bars doctors from asking patients about their guns or recording that information in records unless it was medically necessary.

Crist now favors expanded background checks for gun purchases.

"I'm a believer in the Second Amendment, and I grew up hunting," Crist said. "I don't think you need an assault rifle to hunt a deer. But what's most important is making sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

The 2 men have different styles when it comes to picking judges, but both have been accused of trying to appeal to political constituencies in their judicial selections.

Crist picked 4 Supreme Court justices, with his 1st 2 very conservative and his 2nd focused on making the court more diverse. In each instance, he was described by observers as trying to shore up voting blocs.

Scott has not had the opportunity to appoint any Supreme Court justices but has clashed with the Legislative Black Caucus by telling members he won't pick judges who think differently than he does to achieve diversity.

In January, the caucus canceled a meeting with Scott, saying it was disappointed in part in his failure to promote diversity in the judiciary.

In May, the Florida Bar released a report critical of Scott and calling for more diverse judicial appointments. Saying the judiciary is "woefully unrepresentative" of the state, the report noted that just 16 % of 981 state judges are nonwhite, a portion that has remained about the same since 2000.

(source: Tampa Tribune)


Judge vacates convictions in Akron quadruple homicide; new trial for Deshanon Haywood set for next year

A judge vacated the aggravated murder convictions of 22-year-old Deshanon Haywood on Friday and ordered a new trial in connection with the April 2013 quadruple homicide at a North Akron townhouse.

Jury selection for Haywood's new trial - the 3rd time that a pool of potential Summit County jurors will be summoned - is set for April 27.

Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher gave the order during a brief hearing with prosecutors, Haywood and his defense team.

Prosecutors had agreed to a new trial early Thursday evening, and once the hearing in Gallagher's court began, Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Alexander said her office had agreed to a new trial "in the interests of justice."

Haywood was awaiting the penalty phase of his previous capital trial following his Oct. 1 conviction on multiple counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications.

Last week, however, those proceedings were suspended when the defense filed court papers seeking a new trial. The motion claimed misconduct by the prosecutor's office and false testimony by 2 material witnesses for the state.

Friday's developments began to unfold without Gallagher on the bench.

Shortly before the scheduled start of the hearing, Summit Assistant Prosecutor Margaret Scott informed the defense that her office would agree to a new trial but not on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Defense attorney Brian Pierce objected, saying there were "no strings attached" to the agreement that was in place Thursday night.

Once Haywood was brought into court, both sides went into Gallagher's chambers to discuss the matter. When the lawyers emerged for the official start of the hearing, Gallagher heard from both sides and quickly issued his order.

Afterward, Pierce and co-counsel Joseph Gorman released a written statement, saying a new trial "was the right thing to do in light of the circumstances surrounding this case."

According to the statement, prosecutors withheld evidence and information, "which they are required by law to provide to the defense," during Haywood's trial last month.

"This is concerning in any criminal case," the statement said, "and even more so when the state seeks the death penalty."

Pierce and Gorman went on to say they hope the prosecutor's office makes "immediate internal changes to ensure that this type of conduct does not occur in the future."

They concluded by saying that Haywood's case "illustrates in graphic detail why Ohio needs to abolish capital punishment."

In the Oct. 9 motion for a new trial, the defense argued that there was false testimony by two important witnesses, Anthony Townsend and Deonte Woods, and that prosecutors were guilty of misconduct by not disclosing such potentially exonerating evidence in advance.

Amid previous controversies, Haywood's case restarted Sept. 3 with a 2nd round of juror notification followed by the selection of a panel that returned the guilty verdicts.

His 1st jury was dismissed before it was sworn in to hear the evidence. Prosecutors had leveled prejudice charges against Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, saying she was biased against the death penalty. She then voluntarily stepped down.

Haywood's co-defendant, Derrick Brantley, previously was convicted of aggravated murder with capital specifications in Rowlands' court. His jury, however, opted not to impose death.

(source: Beacon Journal)


Kansas attorney general appeals death penalty decisions for Carr brothers, Sidney Gleason

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has formally appealed a decision to vacate death sentences of 3 men convicted in 2 separate murder cases. Schmidt announced Thursday that he will appeal Kansas Supreme Court decisions in the case of brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr, and Sidney Gleason. The state court in July upheld capital murder convictions against the 3 men but vacated their death sentences.

The Carr brothers were convicted of killing 4 people in December 2000 in Wichita after committing several other crimes against them and a woman who survived the ordeal.

Gleason was convicted in Barton County for the February 2004 killing of Mikiala Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Great Bend. Martinez was a potential witness against Gleason in an earlier crime. Wornkey was her boyfriend.

(source: Associated Press)


Conference to focus on capital punishment

An educational conference about capital punishment is being offered on the Kansas State University Salina campus from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Salina Regional Abolition Conference will include 2 sessions. The 1st sessions will be presentations by the daughter of a murder victim and experts on capital punishment, and the final session will be a presentation by a Missouri man who spent 24 years in prison before being exonerated. The first 2 sessions are in Room 108 and 169 of the Technology Center, and the final session will be in the College Center Conference Room. The conference is sponsored by the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the social work program at K-State Salina.



Death penalty moratorium appropriate

With the news that state Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked to delay upcoming executions in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin should place an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in this state. Even though state officials said jrecently they were prepared for the executions currently scheduled for next month, the state hasn't yet secured the necessary drugs for the executions. In addition, new protocols recommended by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety haven't been implemented. The staff hasn't been fully trained on the new initiatives.

Instead of merely postponing scheduled executions, Oklahoma needs a moratorium in order to allow for the necessary time to properly train all of those involved in executions and to acquire the requisite drugs. Once implemented, a moratorium on executions should not be lifted until it becomes absolutely clear that Oklahoma is able to carry out an execution without violating the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

That guarantee was violated when the state botched the execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett earlier this year and there’s no reason to believe the same won’t happen again under the current circumstances.

Colin Selbo, Oklahoma City

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Oklahoman)


Why Jodi Arias faces death, and others have not----Jodi Arias faces the death penalty in her retrial; other heinous murders are pleaded down

Jodi Arias shot her lover, Travis Alexander, in the head, stabbed him nearly 30 times and slit his throat.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found her guilty of 1st-degree murder on May 8, 2013, and then, at the prosecutor's suggestion, found she had committed the murder in an especially cruel manner, which qualified her for the death penalty.

On the same day Arias was convicted, Crisantos Moroyoqui-Yocupicio pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison. In 2010, Moroyoqui-Yocupicio, a reputed member of a Mexican drug cartel, murdered an associate who had stolen from him, and then cut his head off.

A month later, Douglas Ray George beat and stabbed his girlfriend to death and left her naked body in the street in Tempe. He also was allowed to plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors said it was uncertain whether the crime was premeditated.

There was no plea offer for Arias; she went to trial and was convicted of first-degree murder. The jury, however, was unable to reach a unanimous decision on a life or death sentence, so a new trial begins this week with a new jury to decide that question.

The death penalty is supposed to be reserved as punishment for the worst of the worst murders, and the Arias murder was certainly horrible. But so were the murders committed by Moroyoqui-Yocupicio and George.

Who decides which murders are the worst of the worst?


But it is almost impossible to draw a bright line between murders that should be punished by death and those that should not. So the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1976, approved a "narrowing" system using statutory "aggravating factors" to distinguish the extraordinary murders from those that are merely ordinary.

Those factors include killing children or police officers, committing multiple murders or killing for pecuniary, that is, monetary, gain. But since the 1976 ruling, the number of aggravators has risen from 6 to 14, leaving defense attorneys to complain that every murder qualifies for death.

"You can't have a formula if you look at each one on its merit," he said.

Instead, prosecutors weigh their chances of getting a conviction and analyze the aggravating factors that make the defendant eligible for the death sentence.

Through that kind of analysis, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office - during the tenures of three different county attorneys - decided it had a greater chance of winning a death ­sentence against Arias than against George or Moroyoqui-Yocupicio.

That is different from saying that the Arias case is more horrific than the other two.

"The death penalty should be reserved for the most extraordinary of cases," former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said.

The definition of most extraordinary, however, is slippery at best, subjective at least. The extremes may be obvious: the sadistic act vs. the moment of poor judgment. The cases in between are harder to call.

"In the middle is where prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to do their work," Montgomery said.

Different approaches

Different prosecutors exercise their discretion in different ways.

In July 1991, Randy Brazeal and Richard Stokley took 2 13-year-old girls from a southern Arizona small-town fair to an abandoned mine, raped them repeatedly, crushed their chests, poked out their eyes and threw them, still alive, down a well.

It was a horrible crime, a worst of the worst.

Brazeal had arranged to bring the girls to the desert and raped both of them. But he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and spent 20 years in prison.

He was released before Stokley was executed for the same crimes in December 2012. Brazeal's attorneys were able to negotiate a plea agreement based on Brazeal's account of events - before DNA results came back. Stokley's did not.

At the other end of the spectrum, in July 1987, Thomas West was burglarizing a trailer near Tucson when he was interrupted by the trailer's owner.

West knocked the man down, tied him up and put him in a closet. The man died. Though it does not come near the horror of Stokley's murders, West was convicted of 1st-degree murder, and in July 2011, he, too, was executed.

West was prosecuted by Deputy Pima County Attorney Ken Peasley, a virtual death-penalty machine, who was subsequently disbarred for unethical tactics and has since died. But he practiced at a time when Pima County prosecutors led the state in death-penalty cases.

That title passed to Maricopa County in the mid-2000s under the tenure of Andrew Thomas, who filed death notices on murders, including the Arias case, more than 120 times in his first four years in office.

Recently there has been a surge in Pinal County, which filed only 3 to 5 death cases per year until Lando Voyles became Pinal County attorney in January 2013. Voyles filed 10 death penalty cases in his 1st year in office and 17 more so far this year.

Montgomery has never tried a death-penalty case but attended several while he was a victims' rights attorney. He said that since he took office in 2011, he has reviewed 383 1st-degree murder cases and asked for death in 64. None has come to trial yet.

But Montgomery has to exercise his discretion before filing those cases, measuring the evidence of guilt and the aggravating factors against the mitigating evidence. Even if the crime is horrible, if there is little likelihood of convincing a jury, there is little point in seeking death.

He makes the decision to go forward, as prosecutors have always done.

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court considered 4 different death-penalty cases, some for murder, others for rape, in an opinion known as Furman vs. ­Georgia.

The justices wanted to know what the difference was between those few cases that resulted in death penalties and the majority that did not. The decision that came out in 1972 said death could be imposed only if there were a system to narrow which cases were eligible from those that weren't.

The moratorium on the death penalty lasted until 1976 and a decision called Gregg vs. Georgia. That's when the ­Supreme Court approved a system of ­aggravators to narrow the death penalty-eligible cases.

By then, Arizona had written its own statute, which had 6 aggravators that prosecutors could allege.

Since then, the Arizona Legislature has increased the number of aggravators to 14, including whether the murder was gang-related or involved a stun gun.

The result, says defense attorney Susan Corey, is that the current aggravators cover nearly all murder scenarios.

"The statute as a whole basically makes every case a death case," she said.

And that would move Arizona back to the pre-Furman-opinion era.

Case facts

Prosecutors say there is no point in comparing cases and charging decisions because each one has a unique set of circumstances. It's hard not to compare them when death is on the table, especially when the facts of cases like these seem so similar:

-- On Nov. 15, 2011, William Null bludgeoned his aunt to death in a days-long argument over $50 worth of cigarettes. Several aggravators were alleged, including that the murder was excessively heinous, cruel or depraved, and that he caused serious physical injury.

But the Maricopa County Attorney's Office pleaded Null to second-degree murder and burglary, even though he had 6 prior felony convictions. Montgomery said that the facts of the case were hazy and that Null's mental health was questionable.

-- Jacob Torres stopped a man on a bike in south Phoenix on Nov. 21, 2011, took his cellphone and shot him to death. The prosecutors alleged pecuniary gain; that the crime was excessively heinous, cruel or depraved; and that it was cold and calculating.

The Maricopa County prosecutor filed a death notice, and Torres is awaiting capital trial. Montgomery said it appeared to be a thrill killing.

-- Robbie Brown thought his girlfriend was seeing another man, so on June 8, 2011, he hit the man in the head with a hatchet and then chopped him up with a machete. Maricopa County prosecutors alleged the crime was heinous, cruel or depraved; that Brown got pecuniary gain; and they noted his prior felonies as aggravators. Nevertheless, they let him plead to 2nd-degree murder.

Montgomery said it was unclear whether Brown or his brother actually committed the murder.

-- On Sept. 26, 2011, Ryan Foote kicked in the apartment door of a man dating his ex-girlfriend and shot him to death. Prosecutors found 4 aggravators, and they will go to trial seeking death.

Montgomery said there was no question as to the killer's identity.

The cases are similar at first glance. The results are not. Montgomery's discretion seems sound, but the fact remains that the cases are decided not on their seriousness, but on what the prosecutor can prove to a jury.

Corey and her colleague, defense attorney Garrett Simpson, subpoenaed records of every murder case in Arizona for the last 10 years, hundreds of cases, to prove a point: Under the 14-aggravator system, every single murder could qualify as a death-penalty case.

Given those findings, they and several other defense attorneys filed motions to dismiss death notices based on an argument that the statute is unconstitutional. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer said that Corey's motion had "a unique argument that ... needs to be taken on from a policy perspective," but he denied the motions.

Kreamer may reconsider later this month or in early November when Corey, Simpson, Crocker and defense attorney Gary Bevilacqua argue a new set of 1st-degree murder cases.

But in the meantime, there was a recognition of the debate from an unexpected place: the Governor's Office.

In April, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have created a new aggravating factor for "a substantial likelihood that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society."

Brewer called the aggravator "overly broad and vague."

Furthermore, she wrote, "The proposed additional language in the legislation broadens the scope of those eligible for the death penalty to the point where the constitutionality of Arizona's death penalty statute likely would be challenged and potentially declared to be unconstitutional."

Mitigating factors

In the Jodi Arias case, the jury that convicted her of murder also found that she killed Travis Alexander in an especially cruel manner. The current jury will decide only if there are mitigators that outweigh the cruelty.

The aggravator is called F(6) in the statutes, "especially heinous, cruel or depraved." In Arias' case, the trial judge would only allow for cruelty.

All murder could be deemed cruel, but "excessive cruelty" is supposed to refer to great physical suffering and mental anguish before death. But prosecutors often rely on the common meaning of the word "cruel" to get juries to believe that the murder they are judging is among the cruelest.

For example, Marissa DeVault killed her husband by caving in his head with a hammer. Maricopa County prosecutors alleged pecuniary gain and cruelty as aggravating factors.

In April 2014, a prosecutor proved that DeVault killed her husband to collect insurance money, but the jury did not find the pecuniary-gain aggravator. Instead it found cruelty, even though DeVault tried to kill her husband in his sleep. She did not get the death sentence.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court opined that Arizona's F(6) aggravator was overly vague. But it ruled that it was not a problem because trial judges who had seen a lot of cases and knew the difference made the determination.

In fact, during the penalty stage of a capital murder trial, the court would have hearings in which lawyers would argue the proportionality of the crime and circumstances, comparing the punishment meted out in several similar cases before imposing life or death.

But after 2004, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in another Arizona case that juries and not judges had to determine aggravating factors in murder trials, proportionality disappeared.

Because of its vagueness, death sentences based on the F(6) aggravator get overturned.

Aaron Gunches was sentenced to death in 2007 because he shot a man to death in the desert near Mesa. The Arizona Supreme Court sent the case back for retrial, saying Gunches was not acting heinously when he put four bullets in the man's head, he was "merely escalating his attacks until he succeeded in killing."

Gary Snelling was sentenced to death in 2008 for strangling a woman in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned his sentence in 2010, saying that the murder was carried out too efficiently for mental anguish to be considered.

Martin Soto-Fong was 1 of 3 men sentenced to death for murders at a Tucson market in 1992. All three death sentences were eventually set aside for different reasons.

The Arizona Supreme Court threw out the cruelty aggravator against Soto-Fong, saying that "where shots, stabbings, or blows are inflicted in quick succession, 1 of them leading rapidly to unconsciousness, a finding of cruelty, without any additional supporting evidence, is not appropriate."

A jury found cruelty as the sole aggravator in the Jodi Arias case. But according to the time stamps on photographs taken before and after the attack that killed Travis Alexander, he was unconscious within one minute. And the medical examiner testified in the first trial that slitting a throat results in unconsciousness within seconds.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez alleged cruelty, and the 1st jury agreed with him. Those verdicts stand.

The new jury that will be impaneled Tuesday will decide whether to sentence Arias to death or to life in prison.

Then it will be up to an appellate court to determine whether the prosecutor erred in his discretion.


Arizona's 14 aggravating factors used to determine death-penalty cases

Arizona's 14 aggravating factors

Arizona has 14 aggravating factors that can be used to determine death-penalty cases. They are:

1. The defendant was convicted of another offense that merited a life or death sentence.

2. The defendant has been or was previously convicted of a serious offense, even if it was part of the same set of criminal actions.

3. The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person or persons in addition to the person murdered. This is commonly referred to as "zone of danger."

4. The defendant committed the murder for pecuniary gain, meaning for money or some other benefit.

5. The defendant committed the murder for payment.

6. The defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

7. The defendant committed the offense while in custody or during an escape from custody, or while on probation.

8. The defendant committed multiple murders.

9. The defendant was an adult who killed a child, an unborn child, or an elderly person.

10. The murdered person was an on-duty law-enforcement officer.

11. The defendant committed the murder in connection with a street gang.

12. The defendant committed the offense to prevent cooperation with a law-enforcement investigation or killed a witness.

13. The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner.

14. The defendant used a remote stun gun or an authorized remote stun gun in the commission of the offense.

(source for both: Arizona Republic)


Sparring Over Legitimacy of Sex Letters Bogs Down Death Penalty Re-Trial

Jodi Arias has claimed that ex-lover Travis Alexander wrote letters to her apologizing for an alleged incident in which she said she caught him masturbating while looking at pictures of young boys.

Attorneys on both sides are sparring over whether the letters are legitimate and should be included as evidence in the penalty phase of the re-trial, which is slated to begin this week.

On Thursday, prosecutor Juan Martinez said the letters were phony. Arias' head lawyer Kirk Nurmi countered, saying the prosecution's "own [forensic] expert did not say those letters were forged" and said they were impossible to authenticate since they were copies, reported.

The dispute, among others tied to possible evidence in the case, has caused the penalty phase retrial to be delayed until Tuesday. On Monday, Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens will hear arguments on the issues at a hearing.

Stephens said the new jury that will decide whether the convicted murderer is sentenced to death, or spends the rest of her life in prison, will be seated in at Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 34-year-old, who murdered her former boyfriend Alexander in June 2008 via stabbing and shooting, after an initial attempt ended with a deadlocked jury.

Before the new jury can start hearing the case, the judge will hear from the defense, which believes the death penalty should be taken off the table.

"The defense has challenged the death penalty," said's Mike Watkiss. "They want it thrown out. I think bear in mind the defense is now playing to appellate courts. They're no longer playing to Judge Sherry Stephens. They want to set a record that they can later appeal on."

The judge has also ruled that there will be no live streaming video like there was for Arias' 1st trial and no broadcast video until after the verdict.

"I think it's sort of a suspect judgment on the part of Judge Sherry Stephens [to ban video until the verdict], but here we go," Watkiss said. "These are the rules."

The waitress-photographer was convicted of 1st-degree murder in May 2013.



Jodi Arias trial attorneys get snarky in court, defense credibility in question

The countdown is on as attorneys for both the State and the defense tie up the last loose ends of their preparation for the retrial of the penalty phase of the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. In just a matter of days, a jury will be sworn in for the retrial, and attorneys will begin their opening arguments. The most recent end the defense is trying to "tie up" before trial is a motion asking that the motion seeking the death penalty be dismissed, oral arguments for this motion were heard Thursday.

According to Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic on October 16, Thursday's day in court to argue this motion was a sense of "deja vu" as Jodi Arias trial attorneys got "snarky" with each other over key details contained in the motion. We have also learned that some key individuals that have formed relationships to inject themselves into the Jodi Arias camp are engaging in actions that are calling the credibility of the defense team into question.

A ruling on the motion will occur this week on Monday Oct. 20, opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday Oct. 21 according to CBS on Oct 16. For the State of Arizona, prosecutor Juan Martinez will argue to the jury that the crime Jodi Arias is guilty of was "exceptionally cruel" as he continues to vigorously pursue the death penalty for the 1st degree murder of Travis Alexander.

For the defense we still have first chair Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott arguing that Jodi Arias has a series of alleged mitigating factors that resulted in this crime, which they are hoping should mitigate any notion of the death penalty. Attorneys for Jodi Arias however are hoping the ruling on the recent 59-page motion will be in their favor.

Nurmi is hoping that the motion is granted, the death penalty is eliminated, as is the need for a retrial. Prosecutor Juan Martinez is doing everything he can to make sure this doesn't happen, and reportedly even got a little "snarky" in court on Thursday when arguments were presented.

Jodi Arias has been in the Maricopa County Estrella Jail since her indictment on charges of 1st degree murder for the 2008 killing of her lover Travis Alexander in Mesa, Arizona. In May 2013, a jury found her guilty of 1st degree murder, and found her guilty in the aggravating factors stage making her eligible for the death penalty. The jury was deadlocked when it came to sentencing, and a retrial of the penalty phase was scheduled.

Since then, Jodi Arias and her team have been doing everything they can to delay the inevitable, the sentencing. Jodi Arias has still not been sentenced for a crime committed 6 1/2 years ago. Meanwhile, as Jodi Arias pulls out every stop that she can to delay this, the family of Travis Alexander has been waiting patiently to find closure over the death of their beloved brother.

This week's hearings will be a last chance for all parties involved in this case. The ruling on the 59-page motion will be the defense's final opportunity to have the death penalty lifted. If this is denied, the retrial that will ensue will be the State's last opportunity to pursue the death penalty. The stakes, and the emotions, are running high on both sides of the aisle.

This was evident in this week's hearing this past Thursday, where both the prosecutor and the defense argued vigorously over a motion to lift the death penalty. As Michael Kiefer for the Arizona Republic reported, the "snarky" between Juan Martinez and the defense was a reminder of the heated tempers that were seen in court during the 2013 Jodi Arias trial. In Thursday's hearing, key notes of contention included evidence that the defense is alleging Martinez has failed to turn over.

A matter of letters reportedly from Travis Alexander to Jodi Arias was also brought up, with attorneys on both sides of the table arguing about whether or not they should be precluded. As Michael Kiefer reports, a large portion of the hearing was closed to the public, making it very difficult for reporters in the courtroom to follow when they were allowed back in, after so many issues that had been argued were sealed.

One note of interest in Thursday's hearing was that Jodi Arias appeared in stripes, indicating to court reporters that a jury would not be brought in as had been origianlly planned. This suggested to many that this might mean the motion to dismiss the death penalty was going to be granted, although this turned out to not be the case. Jeff Gold of Fox and the Gold Patrol tweeted on this flurry of events and the sentiments of court watchers everywhere, "Blih blah, this is all drivel. Jodi Arias is in stripes. That's the news. There can be no jury being brought in."

Computer evidence was also a key note of contention during the public portions of the hearing. Attorney for the defense, Kirk Nurmi argued repeatedly that Juan Martinez must be compelled to release computer evidence on technology owned by Travis Alexander. This is an issue that has been an issue of contention for the defense, who claims that they have been privy to "thousands of photos" that could help Jodi Arias present mitigating factors according to the Arizona Republic.

Kirk Nurmi is alleging that even by October 2014, they are not ready to move forward to trial without this evidence. According to court reporters in the courtroom, Judge Sherry Stephens was allegedly not impressed at the defense's plea for more time to prepare. The defense is also hoping that a series of letters between Travis and Jodi will be admitted to the retrial, while Martinez is arguing the series of letters are forged and thus should be precluded.

This is where things got "snarky" between the attorneys in question in Thursday's hearing. Prosecutor for the State is alleging that the letters in question are fake, and the jury should not be permitted to see them. Nurmi disagreed.

"His own expert did not say those letters were forged."

Martinez then called Nurmi "snarky", and the attorneys quibbled a bit. A key argument being made on the letters is that originals of the letters are no longer available. This makes it impossible for any expert, for the defense or for the prosecution, to acknowledge whether or not they are fake.

Mary Ellen Resendez of ABC 15 in Arizona tweeted on the attorney quibbling. She said, "The State's witness is a handwriting expert on letters from Travis Alexander to Jodi Arias. Prosecutor Juan Martinez says letters from Travis to Jodi Arias are forged. Defense says there's no proof of forgery."

When things got snarky between the attorneys, Mary Ellen tweeted the sentiments that many court watchers reading the live tweets were feeling.

"Jodi Arias court is bringing out my Mommy feelings. Time for a couple of kids to go to time out."

Will Judge Sherry Stephens allow for the admission of letters that can not be proven to be authentic? It would be unusual if she did, particularly considering the content of the letters. The content of the letters pertains to allegations that Jodi Arias has made of Travis Alexander being a pedophile.

In these alleged letters, Travis Alexander reportedly apologized for his incidents where Jodi claims he was caught masturbating to pictures of children. Martinez is arguing these letters of apology are "phony" and should not be admitted. The defense has argued otherwise, but has conceded that the letters are "impossible to authenticate."

Other matters discussed in the Thursday hearing included computer evidence and the matters of jail misbehavior alleged by the defense motion. The defense was seeking to have the matters of jail misbehavior on behalf of mitigation specialist Maria de la Rosa precluded from the retrial. Attorney and regular guest on HLN Monica Lindstrom tweeted on this matter, "Defense wants the motions to remove Nurmi and jail misbehavior to be precluded from trial, prejudicial good call, will be granted."

Although not much beyond oral arguments presented was accomplished at Thursday's hearing, one thing was clear. Relationships going into the retrial of the Jodi Arias penalty phase are heated. We have also learned that one individual that has tried to inject themselves into the Jodi Arias camp, and this trial, is not making things any easier for the defense.

We have previously reported on this individual, who goes by the name Sandra Webber. Evidence was submitted by Sandra Webber to the defense to support this 59-page motion. We have learned from our sources close to the defense that Sandra Webber did not submit as much evidence into this motion as she likes to believe.

One key matter of evidence in this motion is a matter where alleged tweets occurred between Corinna Flores, wife of Detective Flores lead investigator in this csae, and Sandra Webber. Another party also had a private conversation with Corinna Flores via Twitter. That private conversation was more than 10 pages of evidence in the 59-page motion.

The evidence submitted by Sandra Webber, and her "findings" on the alleged Corinna Flores account, we are told did not make up more than one or two lines in this 59-page motion. Sandra Webber is an individual with a known history of creating multiple aliases online. Because of her history, many have openly speculated that she created a fake Corinna Flores account, in an effort to make it look that the wife of the lead investigator was revealing private information from a sealed hearing during trial.

We have learned that the Corinna Flores account mentioned in this motion is likely not a fake account. But that Sandra Webber has been linked to this evidentiary matter is not good for the defense, as she has a long history of making allegations that generally don't check out.

One thing she is guilty of is making prejudicial allegations against prosecutor Juan Martinez during the process of jury selection. She's advertised those allegations of prosecutorial misconduct on her Twitter account. We approached Sandra Webber for a comment on the proof that she has upon which to base those claims.

Rather than commenting, rather than saying "No comment" Sandra Webber turned the Toronto Relationships Examiner into her next target. She began harassing the Toronto Relationships Examiner, despite repeated tweets copied to Examiner and the FBI, "Stop stalking me dangerous person."

A twitter fire in a small circle of the camp daily engaged in the Jodi Arias trial erupted. Blogs were written. Sandra Webber then publicly asked the Toronto Relationships Examiner for her personal address, and when refused, told her she was going to "get it anyway" and then threatened to publicly tweet her results.

Which she attempted to all the next following day, tweeting pictures with insults and questions, "Am I close, Christine?" Sandra Webber then tried to report the Toronto Relationships Examiner for being a bully. This all occurred during the jury selection for the retrial of the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial.

After Sandra Webber was tipped to the FBI for stalking, she retaliated by taking to her blog and attacking the Toronto Relationships Examiner. She called this Examiner an "adult bully", after stealing pictures of children from a public school website and published what she believes to be "adult bullying."

According to her blog rant, Sandra's vision of bullying is defined by one person liking something that another person doesn't like. She even claimed that she was going to be reporting this Examiner to the public school where she volunteers, using her blog as "evidence" of her bullying.

Much of this is not relevant to the Jodi Arias trial, however it does reveal some disturbing things about someone who clearly wants to be close to this case, Sandra Webber. Not only has she injected herself close to the case, but also close to mitigation specialist Maria de la Rosa. The truth about Sandra is that only a small handful of people consider her to be a viable source of accurate, credible, and even truthful information.

Why would anyone believe her when she presents any kind of evidence in the Jodi Arias trial?

We have learned that the wife of the lead law enforcement investigator in the Jodi Arias case also has taken issue with the stalking that Sandra Webber commits on a daily basis. A copy of an email sent by Corinna Flores on the matter was recently published on a supporter's website. According to this email, Corinna Flores is taking action against Sandra Webber for her false claims, stalking, and harassment. This email said, "I do have the department looking into her complaint and checking her background....But it is sad to say she has not made too many people in the Mesa Police Department very happy with her tactics. She may have picked the wrong girl to stalk and attack. I would be happy if you could disclose that while she rants and raves that her tactics are currently being looked into...for stalking and her tactics of making false claims....I hope for her sake she is well represented."

Will law enforcement pursue charges against Sandra Webber for her false accusations? That remains to be seen.

Sandra Webber is a woman with known credibility issues, and it is a known fact that anyone that annoys her becomes her next public target. Nothing and nobody is safe. Children are not safe from becoming a public target of Sandra Webber. Children from one of the neediest schools in their district that were celebrating a food drive where they filled a bus with toys and food for other children became victims of Sandra Webber.

Another of her known targets has been an elderly man in a wheelchair who got in her way on the highway not once but several times. She reported him to the Clearwater Police Department, every time he got in her way. Every time. Then she commented on it publicly on Facebook. Every time.

Sandra Webber is also known to be vigorously pursuing the Ninja theory in the murder of Travis Alexander. Even Jodi Arias herself has said, no, that was a lie. But Sandra Webber has evidence. Does it check out?

Let's just say that at the time of press Sandra Webber's credibility and the credibility of the defense hasn't improved any as a result of the Ninja evidence she has collected. It puts her in a difficult position at this stage of the Jodi Arias trial, if she has real evidence to share. How many times can someone within arm's reach drop evidence on the defense table that screams "Wolf!"

Nobody is safe from becoming her next target. If you like something that she doesn't, it could be you next. She will call you a bully because you liked something she didn't, and threaten to report you to your non-profit organization she stole children's pictures from, for being a bully. She will threaten to report you to your employer even and will publicly display that whenever possible.

Of course she won't mention in her reports to those agencies that she is reporting to, that she was just tipped to the FBI the week prior for publicly threatening someone's safety. A lot of the times, people know, Sandra Webber just isn't telling the truth. So what about when she is? Are there 2 ninjas somewhere laughing on their journeys to the bank because the least credible person in the Jodi Arias camp is telling their story?

We have learned that with Sandra Webber, anything actually is possible. This lack of credibility points to a lack of credibility that is unfortunate not just for her, but for the entire Jodi Arias camp all together. When it comes time for prosecutor Juan Martinez to show that Jodi Arias and her mitigating factors lack credibility, it will be very easy for him. In fact with this cast of characters it gets easier for him every day.

We know that the jailhouse behaviour from Maria de la Rosa will not be heard by this jury, because it is prejudicial. This stresses the importance of credibility in the upcoming retrial of the penalty phase in the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. It's not just Sandra Webber's credibility that is a concern.

In reality, no matter how close she is to key players in the defense, she doesn't have that much bearing on the case. Or Jodi's life. But there are people in her reach that do.

Sandra Webber's credibility then puts others within arms reach of her, and also within arms reach of Jodi Arias, in a difficult position. The term "Shady de la Rosa" came up in this 59 page motion. We have reported on tweets between Maria de la Rosa and Sandra Webber, that implicated Maria de la Rosa in an illegally recorded illegal third party jail house phone call that was illegally released to the public.

These are the people in the Jodi Arias camp, helping this woman fight for her life. Even if Sandra Webber is telling the truth at this point, she has put herself in a precarious position. Now she is showing the world, that people that support the Jodi Arias camp are the kind of people that will target children filling a bus with toys and food for other needy children. It has left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.

Terms like "Shady de la Rosa" are hard to get out of your head once they have been read, or said out loud. Do you really want those words lingering in people's minds on the dawn of a penalty phase that is determining the life or death of someone?

If it was you or someone you loved in Jodi's position, are those the kind of people you would want in your camp?

Judge Sherry Stephens will rule on the motion on Monday, there will also be an evidentiary hearing. This hearing will likely be related to this technology situation that has led the defense to jump for asking for more time. According to Mary Ellen Resendez of ABC 15, "Jury will be impanelled Tuesday at 10 AM. Also an evidentiary hearing Monday at 1:30 PM."

(source: The Examiner)


Motive for fatal knife attack on Pasadena couple still unknown

Jacob Bersson accepted his cousin's offer and moved to California from Florida in June.

He told a friend he needed change and it was a good opportunity. He described how nice people the Bressler's were and how good a time he was having.

The 29-year-old now stands accused of stabbing to death the Pasadena couple who opened their home to him - his 2nd cousin, Chefs Center general manager Larry Bressler, and Bressler's wife, Denise.

Wearing a county jail jumpsuit of a yellow top and blue pants, a handcuffed Bersson appeared Friday at Pasadena Superior Court to answer to 2 murder charges. But his arraignment was continued to Nov. 3 so he could be assigned an attorney.

Unlike his profile picture on Facebook, Bersson wasn't wearing glasses, had a mustache and the beginnings of a beard. He spoke clearly when asked questions by the judge.

In addition to the two counts of murder, the criminal complaint includes an allegation that Bersson personally used a knife to commit the killings. Because there is a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The District Attorney's Office will decide later if it will seek the death penalty.

Bersson stayed with the Bresslers in the 200 block of North Madison Avenue in Pasadena. For reasons still unknown, authorities allege he forced his way into the couple's bedroom and stabbed them with a kitchen knife on Oct. 13.

Larry Bressler summoned help by calling 9-1-1 around 6:20 a.m. He identified Bersson as the suspect and told police his cousin left the apartment.

Police found Bersson in bloody clothing and with a cut on his left arm about a block away. Pasadena fire officials described his injury as minor.

Laura Simpson, who is Larry Bressler's niece, described him as a good-hearted person who loved music, food and cared about others.

"Everyone is shocked," Simpson said.

"He was wonderful, funny, always laughing. He was a good person. Denise was this tiny sweet lady. She had a beautiful voice, taught piano a long time. They were a nice happy couple."

She only met Bersson once when they were children. He was a distant cousin to her.

Larry Bressler's mother Ellin Snow, 75, who lives near Seattle, Washington, knew Bersson was living with her son and her daughter-in-law. Her son often called her.

Her impression was Bersson was somewhat lost and that he needed some direction.

Snow said she didn't really know him.

"I can tell you Jacob came from one of the loving families I know," Snow said. She described Bersson's mother and grandmother as truly loving people.

Snow said she loved her daughter-in-law, Denise, very much.

"She was sweet, loving. She was a dear person to me," Snow said.

Larry Bressler was joyful, loving, gregarious, a wonderful cook, creative and artistic, according to his mother.

"I called him my Larry Boy. From the time he was my baby, he was a wonderful guy to me and what I'm finding out, to a lot of friends," she said.

Snow said she always knew her son cared about people but she didn't realize how he was a big part of people's lives until she saw the emails and comments from his friends.

It also didn't surprise her that Larry Bressler extended a helping hand to Bersson.

News that Bersson is suspected of 2 murders shocked Chris Phillips, who has known the 29-year-old since middle school. He said Bersson isn't a violent person, wasn't the type to throw temper tantrums and loves animals.

"My heart goes out to his cousin and his cousin's family. I'm just in shock," Phillips said. "Such a tragedy. I'm so sorry. I can't believe this has happened."

He said no one could believe it when he told them.

Phillips wondered if drugs were involved.

"But he was someone who would experiment with psychedelic drugs," Phillips said. "I know he experimented. Drugs that mess with your mind, He was into mind-bending stuff."

The stabbings happened in the morning. He pointed out that waking up at 6 a.m. wasn't normal for Bersson.

"The kid would stay up late and go to bed at 2 or 3 am.," Phillips said.

A couple of weeks ago, he said Bersson started posting "really weird stuff" on Facebook.

He said Bersson wrote about getting up in the middle of the night, seeing a praying mantis and taking a picture of it. Phillips said there was a description of how Bersson felt like he was the praying mantis.

Phillips mentioned an Oct. 5 posting by Bersson.

"He says, 'Now I fully understand why as a kid my favorite video games were ones where the protagonist descends into dark labyrinth and confronts demonic formations,'" Phillips read. "Now that is kind of odd to me. He doesn't speak like that."

Bersson has gone through a lot, according to Phillips.

He said Bersson has been battling depression since high school and was obese.

Bersson was happy when he lost a lot of weight, Phillips said. He later gained the weight back.

3 to 4 years ago, he said Bersson pretty much spent time in his room playing video games. Bersson was into role playing games but Phillips didn't know the names of the games.

"He wouldn't go out. Edgy and mean. He was depressed."

Bersson's father died several years ago and his stepfather died of a brain aneurysm a year ago, according to Phillips.

He said Bersson's mother lost her business and sold her home.

"I think her accountant messed up. She ended up losing her business over it. She had to sell the house," Phillips said.

Bersson got a job at a paper shredding company but didn't last long there. Phillips didn't know the reason why.

"That's when his cousin reached out to him, trying to help him," Phillips said.

His cousin told Bersson he could move out to California and stay with him.

"He was really, really excited," Phillips said. "He just wanted to get out of his funk. Said, 'I need a change.' He said it was a good opportunity for him."

Bressler is due to return to court next month.

(source: Contra Costa Times)


Jurors hear video of suspect bragging about killings of 2 Chinese students in California

Jurors in the case of a man charged with the murders of 2 Chinese students at the University of Southern California were played a videotape Thursday where he bragged about the shootings.

Prosecutors played the video of Javier Bolden boasting to a cellmate after his arrest in the killings of Ming Qu and Ying Wu.

The 23-year-old engineering students were shot on April 11, 2012, while sitting in a parked car in a neighbourhood near the campus.

The deaths fueled concerns in China about the safety of students abroad and it spurred USC to provide more protection around campus.

Bolden's cellmate was a police informant who secretly recorded him discussing how he and a friend had planned to steal the couple's BMW.

The 22-year-old Bolden is charged with 2 counts of murder and attempted murder and assault with a firearm in a separate shooting that occurred months earlier.

Bolden's attorney Andrew Goldman said his client lied to the informant to appear tough and said he would have admitted to the Boston Marathon bombing to impress the informant. The informant had told Bolden he was arrested on murder charges.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon showed jurors a 90-minute-long police interview that he said was Bolden's confession. In it Bolden admitted that he and a friend targeted USC to find well-off victims.

Goldman said his client made the confession under duress and that Bolden denied involvement in the shootings until a detective mentioned he could face the death penalty.

In February, Bolden's friend, Bryan Barnes, pleaded guilty to two counts of 1st-degree murder in the USC shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge rejects Tsarnaev request for dismissal of charges

A federal judge refused Friday to suppress evidence in the case of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was uncovered when the FBI searched his computer, Dartmouth dorm room, and his family's Cambridge apartment in the days and months after the bombings.

US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. also rejected a defense request to dismiss the case, after Tsarnaev's lawyers said the secret grand jury that indicted Tsarnaev was improperly empaneled.

O'Toole refused to hold a hearing on the requests, finding that Tsarnaev's defense "has failed to prove a violation of the fair cross section requirements" of federal law.

The judge's rulings come as lawyers are scheduled to meet Monday for a status hearing in federal court in Boston, to go over evidence in the case.

Tsarnaev, now 21, is slated to stand trial in January on charges that he and his brother set off the bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. The brothers also are accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police.

In his rulings Friday, O'Toole found that Tsarnaev failed to show that his rights were violated by a flawed jury selection process. Tsarnaev's lawyers had argued that the selection system was flawed because not enough African-Americans were represented, because the court allowed people over 70 to excuse themselves, and because the court did not follow its own rules to replace jurors whose summons were returned as "undeliverable."

O'Toole also refused to suppress evidence gathered by federal investigators. Defense lawyers had argued items that were confiscated went beyond what was authorized by search warrants.

The judge ruled that investigators properly obtained the warrants for the searches, but O'Toole said defense lawyers could contest specific pieces of evidence that prosecutors want to introduce to jurors during the trial.

"The defendant has failed to present any specific facts to support a showing that general rummaging occurred," the judge said.

(source: Boston Globe)


Book review: An honest, compelling look at 'The Mother Court'

"THE MOTHER COURT: Tales of Cases That Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court," by James D. Zirin. American Bar Association. 308 pages. $29.95.

James D. Zirin was a young lawyer when he began his career in the prestigious U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, known as The Mother Court. Through his eyes, we meet the practitioners he most admires, and a few he doesn't. This rare and valuable book is an honest assessment of what he learned about the law and the people who shape it.

Zirin writes like a novelist glancing back at conflicts that found resolution here. Although settled in court, ambivalence can remain when those same issues reappear. The Rosenberg espionage case is an illustration.

Fundamental to all prosecution is the breaking of a law. Doing something bad is not enough for an arrest. The bad act must defy a law as written. Charging the Rosenbergs with treason wouldn't stick because of the Constitution's precise wording. Treason requires a person to aid the enemy during war. But in 1944, Russia was our ally.

The Espionage Act of 1917 was a better fit, because it prohibited the passing of secret information to a foreign government. Then Congress passed The Atomic Energy Act of 1946. It criminalized "atomic" spying, and, more significantly, gave the death penalty decision to the jury, not the judge. Ultimately, the Rosenbergs were "indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced under the Espionage Act for a 'conspiracy' lasting from 1944 to 1950."

Legal scholars believe the Atomic Energy Act voided the Espionage Act. Thus, they argue, the Rosenbergs were sentenced illegally since Judge Irving Kaufman, not the jury, imposed the death sentence.

Since the lifting of the Iron Curtain, we now know for certain that Julius Rosenberg was guilty of passing secrets to the Russians. And we also know that he did not get a fair trial. Nor did Ethel.

What bedevils this case is not guilt or innocence, but the sentencing. By aiming the media spotlight on himself, Kaufman overlooked the intricate issues involved. And the swift execution prevented an appeal to correct errors made by the prosecution, the defense and the judge.

Now here we are again. What should be done with Edward Snowden if he is returned to the United States? There is tension between the government’s need to suppress information, and the public's right to know. We want both "security" and "transparency."

The Mother Court also grappled with the government's charge of obscenity (Joyce's "Ulysses"), the longest criminal trial in American history (The Pizza Connection), the Red Scare (the Alger Hiss trial) among many other familiar cases.

Why call it "The Mother Court?" Its story goes back to the dawn of the Republic. It is the oldest court in the nation, even predating the U.S. Supreme Court. Why call this book rare and valuable? It bolsters confidence in our court system. Not withstanding the Rosenberg case, Zirin asserts: "It is generally acknowledged to be the best in the justice business."

(source: Mandy Twaddell lives in Providence; Providence Journal)


Death penalty revival opposed

2 members of the House Independent Bloc on Saturday maintained their opposition against the revival of the death penalty as a solution to the current peace and order problem in the country.

Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, member of the Bloc headed by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said death penalty will not stop heinous crimes, stressing that "preventive measures" should be done instead by the government.

"There is no need to re-impose the penalty of death as crime deterrent," de la Cruz said. "We have enough penalties to impose on those committing heinous crimes," he added.

De la Cruz stressed that the government should instead adopt "steady preventive measures, swift and proper judicial action to mete out penalties."

"The certainty of lawful action and penalty can make the difference," de la Cruz pointed out.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza dismissed death penalty a "poison" as he maintained his position on "respect for human life."

"Reimposing the death penalty is not the solution to the breakdown in the country's peace and order situation. It is not and never will be an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes and will not address this serious problem," Atienza said.

Atienza stressed that the return of death penalty will never be an effective solution to criminal activities.

"The problem is the lack of effective and efficient law enforcement but the solution is not the death penalty - this will not stop the heinous crimes in the country; and the defective criminal justice system. Certainty of arrest is the best deterrent to crime," Atienza said.

Atienza pointed out that the present police system is in dire need of concrete reforms - from the investigation to the prosecution and judicial action.

(source: Manila Standard Today)


4 prisoners hanged in northern city

The Iranian regime henchmen hanged 4 men on Sunday in the main prison in city of Rasht in northern Iran.

The head of judiciary in Gilan province did not identify the prisoners but said they were all men that had been arrested on drug related charges.

The reports by state run news outlets said the prisoners were 32, 46, 44 and 32 years old.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed whilst the news on the execution of many prisoners never gets out.

At least 27 women and 12 prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those executed with 57 of these executions carried out in public. During this period, a number of prisoners were killed under torture.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

The head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International said recently "Iran is a serial human rights offender" adding "President Rouhani has attempted to cast himself as a mild-mannered reformist figure, but the brutal reality is that Iran is hanging an average of 2 prisoners a day, the vast majority after unfair trials."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Suspect in UUM graduate's murder told to enter defence

Shahril Jaafar, 33, faces the death penalty if convicted over the murder of Universiti Utara Malaysia graduate Chee Gaik Yap in 2006. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, October 19, 2014.More than 8 years after Universiti Utara Malaysia graduate Chee Gaik Yap was killed, the man accused of her murder has been ordered to enter his defence.

Alor Star High Court judicial commissioner Datuk Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab set December 28 to 31 for the trial of Shahril Jaafar, a 33-year-old businessman, who faces the death penalty upon conviction.

Shahril was charged with killing Gaik Yap between 5.30pm on January 14, 2006, and 3.05am the next day, near the Cinta Sayang Club in Taman Ria Jaya, Sungai Petani.

Chee, who was 25, was reportedly kidnapped and killed before the body was dumped at the Taman Ria Jaya housing estate where it was found semi-nude on January 15, 2006. It was believed that she was also raped.

It was believed that the marketing executive was followed by her assailant while jogging in the housing estate.

Deputy public prosecutor Kee Wei Lon said it was now up to the defence to prove its case.

"The prosecution will not call any witnesses. We have proven a prima facie case. It is now up to the defence to rebut," he said outside the courtroom.

Shahril's lawyer, Shamsul Sulaiman, asked the court to defer the trial dates to January as Shahril's wife would be in confinement then. He told the court she was expected to deliver in mid-December.

Zaki rejected the request. He also said that Shahril, who is held at the Alor Star prison, would remain in detention during his wife's delivery.

Shamsul then asked the court to transfer the case to the Sungai Buloh prison so that Shahril's wife could visit him, but the court rejected the request.

Shamsul later said the defence would call about 10 witnesses, including the Shahril's father, police and Road Transport Department officers, a reporter, a car dealer and an officer from the Australian High Commission.

The public gallery was packed this morning with reporters, family members of the accused, Gaik Yap's father Chee Ah Sau (pic, right), 58, and the public.

Shahril, who sat in the gallery under police supervision, was seen chatting with a woman believed to be his wife.

He told reporters that they were married in January this year.

Chee's father, a construction worker, said through Sidam assemblyman Dr Robert Ling that the family hoped that justice would finally be served.

Ling said the family had been hurting for a long time.

"It has been unfair... not just for the family. Even outsiders feel for the family.

"They only want justice and they will go on fighting for it," he said.

Chee was the 3rd of 6 children in the family.

Her murder case attracted public attention when Shahril, who was arrested as a suspect, fled to Perth, Australia, after he was released on police bail pending a DNA test in 2006.

The son of a Datuk who owned a meteorite and opal company, Shahril reportedly evaded arrest for 6 years and police had watched all airports and entry points for him.

He was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on January 17, 2012 on his return from Perth, and was charged with Gaik Yap's murder 2 weeks later.

On June 25, 2013, Shahril was acquitted and discharged by the Alor Star High Court without his defence called.

Zaki, in his decision, said the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case as there was no clear evidence to implicate Shahril in the murder.

He said the prosecution failed to prove that Shahril had stabbed the Chee, and the possibility of a 3rd person being involved in the crime, based on evidence by witnesses, could not be ruled out.

There was also evidence that Shahril's DNA had similarities to the traces of semen found on the Chee but it was not a complete match.

Last week, the Court of Appeals set aside Shahril's acquittal and discharge, and ordered him to enter his defence.

The panel of judges led by justice Linton Albert also ordered Shahril to be remanded.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)


New UN report reveals alarming rise in use of death penalty in Iraq

Top United Nations officials are today calling on Government of Iraq to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty after a new UN report found an alarming rise in executions carried out by the country since capital punishment was restored in 2005.

Equally troubling, warn the officials, is that the report details how executions in Iraq are often carried out in batches on one occasion last year, up to 34 individuals were executed in a single day and that overall, many convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice.

Published jointly today by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report document that the number of executions carried out in Iraq rose substantially between 2005 and 2009.

Alarmed by the scale and extent of the imposition of death sentences in Iraq, and deeply troubled by the weaknesses in the criminal justice system, UNAMI chief Nickolay Mladenov Mladenov, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein, jointly called on the Iraqi Government to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a 1st step towards its abolition, in line with UN General Assembly resolutions.

In 2009, 124 people were executed. Despite a drop in the implementation rate in 2010, the number of executions significantly increased between 2011 and 2013, culminating in the hanging of 177 individuals in 2013. Between 1 January and 30 September 2014 at least 60 people have been executed.

A press release on the report notes that, as of August 2014, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, some 1,724 prisoners are awaiting execution. This number includes those sentenced to death at first instance, those on appeal, and those awaiting implementation of their sentences.

UNAMI and OHCHR have repeatedly voiced concerns about observed weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, the report states. Criminal investigations and judicial proceedings in death penalty cases frequently fail to adhere to international and constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial standards.

The report goes on to note that in over 1/2 of the trials involving the death penalty monitored by UNAMI, judges systematically ignored claims by defendants that they were subjected to torture to induce confessions, and in the remainder of cases they took little or no action.

Moreover, the UN found that in nearly all cases, judges proceeded to convict defendants and sentence them to death based solely, or substantially, on the weight of disputed confession evidence or the testimony of secret informants. Most defendants appeared in court unrepresented, and where the court appointed an attorney, no time was granted to the defendant to prepare adequately a defence.

The use of the death penalty in such circumstances carries the risk of grievous and irreversible miscarriages of justice since innocent people may face execution for crimes they did not commit. Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime the report states.

The large numbers of people who are sentenced to death in Iraq is alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice, said Mr. Mladenov, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq.

For his part, High Commissioner Zeid urged the new Iraqi Government to make a commitment to address the serious shortcomings in the criminal justice system in the country.

The new Government in Iraq is facing many serious security challenges, and it is more urgent than ever that the rule of law is reinforced and firmly entrenched in the country, Mr. Zeid said.

Given the weaknesses of the criminal justice system in Iraq, executing individuals whose guilt may be questionable merely compounds the sense of injustice and alienation among certain sectors of the population, which in turn serves as one of the contributing factors that is exploited by extremists to fuel the violence. he added.

Among its conclusions, the report stressed that the Government of Iraq urgently needs to develop and implement policies that address the conditions conducive to armed violence and terrorism, but which reinforce the rule of law and that promote the respect and protection of human rights.

These should include re-engaging affected communities in policies and decision-making related to their protection, ensuring actual protection by impartial State security forces from insurgent and terrorist activities, committing more resources to enhancing the forensic and investigatory capacities of police and security force members to investigate crimes, and reform of the criminal justice system.

(source: UN News Centre)


The Lahore court's decision to uphold Asia Bibi's death penalty is far from just----Unless influential people oppose Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, there's no hope for her or many others facing execution

In November 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was sentenced to death in Pakistan. Her crime was allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with some Muslim neighbours. The case caused an international outcry; politicians and international human rights organisations took it up; lawyers appealed. Today, the Lahore high court upheld the death sentence.

Bibi's case shone a spotlight on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws. The existence of blasphemy laws is not itself unusual. All over the world, different countries restrict what citizens can say about religion; Britain had a blasphemy law until 2008. What is exceptional in Pakistan is the extremity of the penalties, and the light burden of proof. Blasphemy carries a maximum penalty of death, yet the law sets out no standards for evidence, no requirement to prove intent, no punishment for false allegations and, indeed, no guidance on what actually constitutes blasphemy.

The accuser can refuse to repeat the offending statement in court, and judges can choose not to hear evidence in case it perpetuates the blasphemy and offends religious sensibilities. This means that in some cases, the accused can go through a whole trial without knowing what they are supposed to have done or said.

The law is open to massive abuse. As such, it is frequently used to settle personal vendettas and to persecute minorities. Bibi’s alleged blasphemous comments were supposedly made after co-workers refused to share water that she had carried; they said it was unclean because she was a Christian (this is a hangover from the caste system, as most of those who converted to Christianity in pre-partition India were members of the lower castes). She has always maintained her innocence, claiming that these neighbours simply wanted to punish her. The British citizen Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, also faces the death sentence for blasphemy. Allegations were made against him in 2010 by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute. No concessions have been made for his mental health condition.

Despite these obvious flaws in the legislation and the way it is applied, reform is not coming. When Bibi's case came to prominence in 2010, 3 politicians - Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and Sherry Rehman - all from the Pakistan People's Party, which was then in power, took up the case and called for reform. The consequences speak for themselves. Taseer was shot dead by his bodyguard in January 2011. In March the same year, Bhatti was killed by Taliban assassins. Rehman was forced into semi-hiding. The then prime minister shelved all reform, cowed into retreat by the potent mix of extremist threats and mob violence.

Blasphemy excites strong emotions among parts of Pakistan's public like no other issue. Many people accused of blasphemy are killed by mobs before they even make it to trial. (According to the Islamabad-based Centre for Security Studies, at least 52 people have been killed over blasphemy offences since 1990). Taseer's assassin was showered with rose petals when he arrived at the courthouse for his murder trial. Many took this as evidence of the way that extremist groups have infiltrated elements of Pakistani society, exploiting the public's strong religious sensibility and pushing it further towards intolerance.

The power of extremist groups, and the acquiescence of politicians, has had a big impact on the direction of public discussion in Pakistan. The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly. Several years ago, while living in Karachi, I wrote on the subject for 1 of Pakistan's leading liberal English-language newspapers. The editors decided not to publish it because the subject was deemed too risky.

While this self-censorship is entirely understandable in a country where the authorities provide little protection, it gives extremist ideas the space to flourish and grow. Without people in the halls of power willing to stand up and call for change, there is little hope for Bibi, Asghar and the hundreds of other disenfranchised people sentenced to death under these excessive and nonsensical laws.

(source: The Guardian)


Seychelles founding president plea to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

The death penalty is a controversial subject in many countries, including the Republic of the Seychelles. The Seychelles, like many nations don't believe in having a death penalty, and life in prison is the ultimate punishment for a crime. Yesterday in a personal letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Seychelles founding President James R. Mancham calls on the Egyptian leader to show mercy towards 3 Seychelles citizens about to face the gallows.

President Sir James R. Mancham asked eTN to publish this letter:

18th October, 2014

THE President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

President of the Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency

This morning, the popular Seychelles newspaper 'TODAY' has carried on its first page an article entitled "Sentenced to death - Time is running out", concerning the information the paper has received that 3 young Seychellois - Ronny Jean, Yvon Vinda and Dean Loze will be executed on November 5th 2014 following the rejection of their appeal against the death sentence imposed on them by the Egyptian courts on the 7th of April 2013.

The 3 Seychellois were arrested on the 22nd of April 2011 in the Red Sea after Egyptian Police Officers found 3 tons of drugs inside their South African flagged boat.

Whilst the Seychelles Government has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy against drug trafficking and cannot interfere with the Egyptian system of justice, it has nonetheless involved the Egyptian authorities with a view to spare the 3 persons the penalty of capital punishment which does not exist in Seychelles legal system at this time.

Seychelles is a small nation with only 90,000 people, living more or less next to each other and whilst the Seychellois people feel that the 3 young men deserve maximum penalty of imprisonment - they should in the circumstances prevailing, be spared the gallows.

As the founding President of the Republic and as the recipient of Gusi Peace Prize Award for Statesmanship in 2011; as the recipient of the International Jurists Award in 2010 and as the elected member of the Committee of Elders of COMESA who represented the African Union at the last Egyptian Presidential Elections before Your Excellency was elected to office in his own right, I consider it my duty to support the Seychelles Government's plea for clemency for these 3 Seychellois, with a view to commute their death sentence to one of imprisonment.

Your Excellency, I have personally, during my lifetime, held Egypt and the Egyptian people in high esteem and affection, ever conscious of the Nation's important civilizing role in the history of our planet.

- As a young man growing up in Seychelles, one of my family's preferred songs was "See the pyramids along the Nile: watch the sun rise over tropic isles." Through this song, I became endeared to Egyptian history and geography - and e.g. learnt that Saad Zaghloul Pasha ibn Ibrahim was an intelligent Egyptian national hero, was exiled together with five other political personalities by the British in Seychelles in 1922 when he arrived onboard a British warship. In 1923, he was allowed to return to Egypt where he became Prime Minister in February 1924. Pasha died in Cairo on the 23rd of August 1927.

- As a young philatelist, I became the owner of a colourful collection of stamps depicting King Farouk.

- During the Second World War, the British created an army contingent styled "Seychelles Pioneer Corps" within which my uncle became an officer. Stationed in Benghazi, Libya, the Seychellois soldiers brought home great stories about their visit to Cairo which was the place they were sent for rest and recreations.

- In 1957, I passed through Suez Canal, visited Port Said and Port Alexandria on the last ship that was allowed to go through the Canal following the Anglo-France and Israel attacks on Egypt.

- In June 1976, as the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, I participated at the Afro-Arab Summit in Cairo that was hosted by the late President Anwar Sadat.

- In 2004, I transited through the Port of Safaga in order to board The World ResidenSea as a lecturer on a cruise from Egypt to the Indian Ocean Islands.

- In 2011, I was a member of a COMESA Pre-Election Assessment Mission in Cairo and a few months later was designated by the then Secretary-General of the African Union to be the African Union witness at the Presidential Elections which brought to office your predecessor.

All these opportunities have enabled me to appreciate the complexity of the Egyptian society and its political problems, but also to appreciate the beauty of the country, the richness of its history and specially to appreciate the cultural dimension of its peace-loving people.

Of course, none of these situations provide me with any justifiable premise to interfere with the system of justice which prevails within the Egyptian nation today. However, I was extremely impressed and encouraged with the address Your Excellency delivered to the United Nations General Assembly recently when you ended your speech by chanting "Long Live Egypt."

Considering what I read about your strong character and personality and the popularity of your leadership in Egypt at this time, it is my view that you are the only person who could intercede so that the 3 Seychellois prisoners would be spared the gallows.

Your Excellency, in the above context and spirit, I am reminded of what William Shakespeare said concerning 'The Quality of Mercy': "The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes..."

Mr President, I pray and continue to pray for a wise and merciful conclusion of this sad and unfortunate case. May Allah bless you forevermore.

With highest considerations

Sir James R. Mancham, KBE

Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles



Demos held in KSA against Shia Muslim cleric's death verdict

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to protest against the death sentence of a dissident Shia Muslim cleric, Press TV reports.

For the 3rd consecutive day, people launched rallies in several towns of the kingdom's Eastern Province, including Qatif and neighboring Tarout Island, on Friday to show their solidarity with Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has been handed down the death penalty.

The recent spate of demonstrations comes after Nimr was sentenced to death at the Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday.

"This regime [Saudi regime] has been torturing and killing people...and now they have taken it up to a new level which is to go after someone like Sheikh Nimr.... All of these are made-up charges to silence the voices that are growing in Saudi Arabia against this oppression," human rights activist, Naseer al-Omari, told Press TV on Friday.

The prominent Shia cleric was attacked and detained in the Saudi city of Qatif in July 2012. His arrest sparked widespread protests in the kingdom, claiming the lives of several anti-government demonstrators.

Sheikh Nimr is accused of disturbing the country's security, giving anti-regime speeches, and defending political prisoners.

Amnesty International has called the death sentence for Sheikh Nimr "appalling," saying the verdict should be quashed since it is politically motivated.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the human rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

(source: Press TV)


Riyadh Could Face Muslim World Boycott over Execution of Nimr: MP

A senior Iranian lawmaker warned Saudi Arabia that it could face boycott by the Muslim world unless it thinks twice about executing top Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

"If Saudi Arabia wants to make the mistake of executing prominent cleric, Sheikh Nimr, it should expect boycott by the Islamic world against its interests," Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mansour Haqiqatpour told the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday.

The lawmaker also cautioned that Riyadh's decision to impose death penalty on the Shiite cleric will ignite the "flames of wrath" which would burn the Saudi leaders, whom he blamed for the mercenary attitudes.

Warning about the consequences of death sentence against Nimr, the MP noted that the move will result in decline in relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

"The execution, if carried out, will negatively affect the political and regional ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia," Haqiqatpour cautioned.

Sheikh Nimr was detained in July 2012 following demonstrations that erupted in February 2011 in Qatif region. He is accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.

His arrest has sparked widespread protests in Saudi Arabia, leaving several people dead.

Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

(source: Tasnim News)


Wrongly Repatriated Man Will Not Be Spared Execution

Botswana's defence minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, has insisted that his government will not give South Africa an undertaking that a Botswana citizen wrongly repatriated to face murder charges will be spared the hangman's noose.

Seretse said that, when Botswana applied for his extradition, the South Africans had asked for an assurance that Botswana would not apply the death penalty if he was found guilty, but this had not been given.

This follows the deportation of the suspect, Edwin Samotse, to Botswana in August, contrary to South African government policy and a ministerial court order. South Africa's home affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, told amaBhungane that there was no possibility that Samotse would be returned to South Africa because Botswana had its own sovereign judiciary.

He said the South African authorities were, however, preparing to make representations to the Botswana government asking for an assurance that Samotse will not be hanged.

Tshwete confirmed that three home affairs officials are being investigated in connection with the illegal deportation of Samotse.


OCTOBER 18, 2014:


Death penalty sought in DeKalb couple's murder

Federal officials want help finding Richard "Fathead" Augusta Wilson, who they say has a history of violent crime and should be considered armed and dangerous.U.S. Marshals Service

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday he will seek the death penalty for 2 men suspected of kidnapping and killing a young DeKalb County couple.

That announcement came during an afternoon press conference in which Howard also revealed Richard Augusta 'Fathead" Wilson, 41, and Andre Cleveland Gay, 40, were responsible for nine deaths in Fulton County since 1990.

Wilson and Gay are accused of kidnapping for ransom Jeronta Brown, 23, and his pregnant girlfriend, Briana Brooks, 21, just steps from the door to their Colleen Court home in DeKalb County on Aug. 30.

Brown and Brooks were found shot on Ridge Avenue in northwest Atlanta, 17 miles from where they had been taken. Brown was already dead. Brooks died several days later when she was taken off life support after delivering prematurely their 2nd child.

Gay was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 26, charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with intent to commit murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, jail records show.

According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, Gay was released from Phillips State Prison on parole in late January after serving nearly 22 years of a life sentence.

He was convicted in 1992 for the November 1990 shooting deaths of Cathy Dozier, 39, and Michael Broughton, 18 months. Dozier and Broughton were killed by shots fired through the door of an apartment in the McDaniel-Glenn housing project in southwest Atlanta.

Gay was 15 at the time of those murders.

The U.S. Marshal's Service and the Birmingham police arrested Wilson at a Quick Pawn shop trying to pawn a rifle and two other guns, Keith Booker of the U.S. Marshal's Service said in an Oct. 2 news release.

Wilson was indicted earlier this year on charges he murdered Fikree Muhsin Jordan on Jan. 9. The 37-year-old Jordan was found shot dead in the middle of Farrington Place in southeast Atlanta.


Death penalty sought in DeKalb couple's murder

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday he will seek the death penalty for 2 men suspected of kidnapping and killing a young DeKalb County couple.

That announcement came during an afternoon press conference in which Howard also revealed Richard Augusta "Fathead" Wilson, 41, and Andre Cleveland Gay, 40, were responsible for seven deathsin Fulton County since 1990.

Wilson and Gay are accused of kidnapping for ransom Jeronta Brown, 23, and his pregnant girlfriend, Briana Brooks, 21, just steps from the door to their Colleen Court home in DeKalb County on Aug. 30.

Brown and Brooks were found shot on Ridge Avenue in northwest Atlanta, 17 miles from where they had been taken. Brown was already dead. Brooks died several days later when she was taken off life support after delivering prematurely their 2nd child.

Gay was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 26, charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with intent to commit murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, jail records show.

According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, Gay was released from Phillips State Prison on parole in late January after serving nearly 22 years of a life sentence.

He was convicted in 1992 for the November 1990 shooting deaths of Cathy Dozier, 39, and Michael Broughton, 18 months. Dozier and Broughton were killed by shots fired through the door of an apartment in the McDaniel-Glenn housing project in southwest Atlanta.

Gay was 15 at the time of those murders.

The U.S. Marshal's Service and the Birmingham police arrested Wilson at a Quick Pawn shop trying to pawn a rifle and 2 other guns, Keith Booker of the U.S. Marshal's Service said in an Oct. 2 news release.

Wilson was indicted earlier this year on charges he murdered Fikree Muhsin Jordan on Jan. 9. The 37-year-old Jordan was found shot dead in the middle of Farrington Place in southeast Atlanta.

(source for both: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Trial rescheduled in Modesto death penalty case

A judge has rescheduled a trial to start Sept. 8 for a defendant accused of murder in a series of Modesto-area store robberies 8 years ago.

Edward Deandre Mitchell, 27, is accused of shooting to death Balbir Boyal, who owned BK Liquors at 150 Riverside Drive in east Modesto. The crime occurred June 7, 2006.

Mitchell also faces 5 felony counts of robbery and 1 felony count of attempted robbery in connection with a string of convenience store robberies in the spring and summer of 2006.

If convicted as charged, Mitchell would face the death penalty.

The defendant, who remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, is scheduled to return to court Dec. 12 for a pretrial hearing.

(source: The Modesto Bee)

USA----book review

'Just Mercy,' by Bryan Stevenson

Unfairness in the Justice system is a major theme of our age. DNA analysis exposes false convictions, it seems, on a weekly basis. The predominance of racial minorities in jails and prisons suggests systemic bias. Sentencing guidelines born of the war on drugs look increasingly draconian. Studies cast doubt on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Even the states that still kill people appear to have forgotten how; lately executions have been botched to horrific effect.

This news reaches citizens in articles and television spots about mistreated individuals. But "Just Mercy," a memoir, aggregates and personalizes the struggle against injustice in the story of 1 activist lawyer.

Bryan Stevenson grew up poor in Delaware. His great-grandparents had been slaves in Virginia. His grandfather was murdered in a Philadelphia housing project when Stevenson was a teenager. Stevenson attended Eastern College (now Eastern University), a Christian institution outside Philadelphia, and then Harvard Law School. Afterward he began representing poor clients in the South, 1st in Georgia and then in Alabama, where he was a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

"Just Mercy" focuses mainly on that work, and those clients. Its narrative backbone is the story of Walter McMillian, whom Stevenson began representing in the late 1980s when he was on death row for killing a young white woman in Monroeville, Ala., the hometown of Harper Lee. Monroeville has long promoted its connection to "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is about a black man falsely accused of the rape of a white woman. As Stevenson writes, "Sentimentality about Lee's story grew even as the harder truths of the book took no root." Walter McMillian had never heard of the book, and had scarcely been in trouble with the law. He had, however, been having an affair with a white woman, and Stevenson makes a persuasive case that it made McMillian, who cut timber for a living, vulnerable to prosecution.

McMillian's ordeal is a good subject for Stevenson, first of all because it was so outrageous. The reader quickly comes to root for McMillian as authorities gin up a case against him, ignore the many eyewitnesses who were with him at a church fundraiser at his home when the murder took place, and send him - before trial - to death row in the state pen. When the almost entirely white jury returns a sentence of life in prison, the judge, named Robert E. Lee Key, takes it upon himself to convert it to the death penalty.

Stevenson's is not the 1st telling of this miscarriage of justice: "60 Minutes" did a segment on it, and the journalist Pete Earley wrote a book about the case, "Circumstantial Evidence" (1995). McMillian's release in 1993 made the front page of The New York Times. But this book brings new life to the story by placing it in 2 affecting contexts: Stevenson's life's work and the deep strain of racial injustice in American life. McMillian's was a foundational case for the author, both professionally and personally; the exoneration burnished his reputation. A strength of this account is that instead of the Hollywood moment of people cheering and champagne popping when the court finally frees McMillian, Stevenson admits he was "confused by my suddenly simmering anger." He found himself thinking of how much pain had been visited on McMillian and his family and community, and about others wrongly convicted who hadn't received the death penalty and thus were less likely to attract the attention of activist lawyers.

Stevenson uses McMillian's case to illustrate his commitment both to individual defendants - he remained closely in touch until McMillian's death last year - and to endemic problems in American jurisprudence. The more success Stevenson has fighting his hopeless causes, the more support he attracts. Soon he has won a MacArthur "genius" grant, Sweden's Olof Palme prize and other awards and distinctions, and is attracting enough federal and foundation support to field a whole staff. By the 2nd half of the book, they are taking on mandatory life sentences for children (now abolished) and broader measures to encourage Americans to recognize the legacy of slavery in today's criminal justice system.

As I read this book I kept thinking of Paul Farmer, the physician who has devoted his life to improving health care for the world's poor, notably Haitians. The men are roughly contemporaries, both have won MacArthur grants, both have a Christian bent and Harvard connections, Stevenson even quotes Farmer - who, it turns out, sits on the board of the Equal Justice Initiative. Farmer's commitment to the poor was captured in Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains" (and Kidder's advance praise adorns the back cover of "Just Mercy").

A difference, and one that worried me at first, is that Farmer was fortunate enough to have Kidder as his Boswell, relieving him of the awkward task of extolling his own good deeds. Stevenson, writing his own book, walks a tricky line when it comes to showing how good can triumph in the world, without making himself look solely responsible.

Luckily, you don't have to read too long to start cheering for this man. Against tremendous odds, Stevenson has worked to free scores of people from wrongful or excessive punishment, arguing 5 times before the Supreme Court. And, as it happens, the book extols not his nobility but that of the cause, and reads like a call to action for all that remains to be done.

"Just Mercy" has its quirks, though. Many stories it recounts are more than 30 years old but are retold as though they happened yesterday. Dialogue is reconstituted; scenes are conjured from memory; characters' thoughts are channeled a la true crime writers: McMillian, being driven back to death row, "was feeling something that could only be described as rage . . . 'Loose these chains. Loose these chains.' He couldn't remember when he'd last lost control, but he felt himself falling apart." Stevenson leaves out identifying years, perhaps to avoid the impression that some of this happened long ago. He also has the defense lawyer's reflex of refusing to acknowledge his clients' darker motives. A teenager convicted of a double murder by arson is relieved of agency; a man who placed a bomb on his estranged girlfriend's porch, inadvertently killing her niece, "had a big heart."

For a memoir, "Just Mercy" also contains little that is intimate. Who has this man cared deeply about, apart from his mother and his clients among the dispossessed? It's hard to say. Almost everything we learn about his personal life seems to illustrate the larger struggle for social justice. (An exception: a scene where he is sitting in his car, spending a few minutes alone listening to Sly and the Family Stone on the radio. "In just over 3 years of law practice I had become one of those people for whom such small events could make a big difference in my joy quotient.")

But there's plenty about his worldview. As Stevenson says in a TED talk, "We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won't be judged by our design, we won't be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated." This way of thinking is in line with other pronouncements he makes throughout: "The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice." They are like phrases from sermons, exhortations to righteous action. "The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?"

The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man's refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. "Just Mercy" will make you upset and it will make you hopeful. The day I finished it, I happened to read in a newspaper that one in 10 people exonerated of crimes in recent years had pleaded guilty at trial. The justice system had them over a log, and copping a plea had been their only hope. Bryan Stevenson has been angry about this for years, and we are all the better for it.

JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption

By Bryan Stevenson

336 pp. Spiegel & Grau. $28.

(source: Ted Conover is the author of "Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing," "Rolling Nowhere" and other books. He teaches at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute----New York Times)


One Artist's Correspondence With Prisoners Sheds Light On The Dark Realities Of Death Row

In 2009, Los Angeles-based photographer Amy Elkins embarked upon a photography project titled "Black is the Day, Black is the Night." She did so by reaching out to 7 men online, all of whom she'd met through a prison pen pal website. She set up a P.O. Box and began writing to each of them, sending letters from her then home in New York to California, Nevada, Georgia, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi.

All of her recipients had one thing in common -- they were all serving a life or death row sentence in maximum security facilities across the country, having been confined to the inside of a prison for anywhere between 13-26 years.

An Accumulation of Prison Correspondence

What began as merely correspondence soon transformed into a multi-media art project; a collaboration between Elkins and her pen pals. She started using their letters and the prisoners' personal information - their age, location, sentencing and crime - to construct disturbing, yet profound homages to men she'd never met, but with whom she'd formed a genuine connection. Mining their memories and experiences, she created composite photographs, sketches and readymades that reflect the change in identity and muddling of time that has eroded her subjects' lives. The project as a whole paints a dark and puzzling portrait of life on death row.

"On average these men spend 22 1/2 hours a day in solitary cells roughly 6 feet by 9 feet; not only facing their own mortality, but doing so in total isolation," Elkins writes on her artist page. "I often wondered how that would impact one's notion of reality, of self-identity or even of their own memories outside of such an environment. Did they embrace the mind of a dreamer, the mind of a thinker or succumb to their bleak environment and allow mental, physical and emotional collapse? Did their violent impulses land them in an infinite state of vulnerability?"

Throughout her nearly 5-year long connection with the prisoners, Elkins sent copies of the artworks she produced to the men - everything from deliberately corrupted image files (in which image quality decreases according the ratio of years spent in prison to years alive) to recreated objects like a bed sheet jump rope and a food tray bought on eBay. They would critique her results, occasionally sending art in return.

For example: "The landscapes in this project were created out of an exchange of questions throughout letters and then constructed out of many, many appropriated images," she explained to HuffPost. "The layering of images to create each final landscape depended on the time served by each individual I wrote with and was created surrounding places they described. The result is a fictional landscape that morphs and mutates as the years of their sentence pass."

As of 2014, she remains in touch with only 1 man, who has been in solitary confinement since 1995 for a crime he committed when he was 16. As for the others, 1 was released in 2010 at the age of 30, 3 eventually stopped writing, and 2 were executed (in Texas and Mississippi) "despite maintaining their innocence," Elkins said.

According to Amnesty International, annual death sentences in the U.S. have decreased significantly since 2000, due in part to states' decisions to choose alternatives to capital punishment for the crime of murder. 18 states have abolished the practice altogether, with 6 of the states choosing to do so in the last 7 years. However, the United States is 5th in terms of countries with the most executions since 2007, and as of 2013, 55% of the American population supported the death penalty (with 37% expressing opposition).

The story for prisoners serving life sentences is a bit bleaker. According to The Sentencing Project, the number of prisoners serving life sentences in American prisons reached a record 160,000 in 2012. Furthermore, 49,000 of those individuals were serving life without possibility of parole, an increase of 22.2% since 2008. "The great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated," the authors of a 2014 paper on wrongly-sentenced death row inmates proclaimed. "They are sentenced, or resentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten."

[see: of artwork included]

(source: Katherine Brooks, Huffington Post)


Abuja Prostitutes Given 48 hours to Vacate the City, Death Penalty for Patrons

Prostitutes in the city of Abuja have been given a 48-hour ultimatum to vacate the city or face the full wrath of the law while men and women who patronise them will be punished with a death sentence.

These strict measures were laid out by the Secretary for Social Development, Mrs. Blessing Onuh shortly after an official visit to several locations known to witness heavy activity of prostitutes and their patrons in the Federal Capital Territory.

Mrs Onuh added that several other severe measures had been lined up after security agencies combed several red-light districts and made several arrests.

She noted that experiencing a decline in the scourge, the secretary noted that prostitution has metamorphosed from the conventional sedentary practice in local brothels to a sophisticated cartel of "runs babes" and the corporate realm.

She revealed that the 'executive' type now holds in many luxury hotels in the Abuja metropolis and the exquisite homes of the super-rich adding that notorious spots include Port Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Garki; Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent and Sheraton Junction in Wuse II; and virtually all the discotheques; even in poor neighbourhoods like Nyanyan, Mararaba and Gwagwa, little girls have joined the illicit trade.

"They parade a horde of half-unclad girls and women of various ages and sizes brazenly exposing themselves, while openly and desperately beckoning on motorists and passers-by to pick them for the night. They insult, poke rude jokes and pour vituperation on those who look at them scornfully or ignore them.Indeed, for Abuja's affluent and powerful men, it has become commonplace to place order for these women on the street or import them from other states and even from far-flung countries in the Caribbean and Asian countries. High-society social, political functions are incomplete without a harem of these shadowy women. The import of these is that the upsurge requires a holistic framework to be able to deal with this seemingly intractable scourge."

(source: Nigerian Bulletin)


2 get death penalty for killing 4

A Godavarikhani court on Friday awarded death penalty and Rs 3,000 fine to a daily labourer and a fisherman after convicting the duo for killing a woman, in-laws including a 4-year-old girl by smothering and stabbing at Pothana Colony in VIII Incline Colony of the town 4 years back.

The district is witnessing a capital punishment after a gap of 40 years. 2 naxalites were awarded death penalty by a court in 1974.

(source: Deccan Chronicle)


Bishop of Pune: The Asia Bibi death sentence is an affront to the dignity of us all----Msgr. Thomas Dabre comments on the ruling of the High Court of Islamabad, which confirmed the death penalty. The blasphemy laws are "contrary to the human spirit" and "reveal a medieval and obsolete mentality." The prelate calls for the intervention of the international community.

I was greatly shocked and deeply saddened when the judges decided to uphold the capital punishment to ..hapless Christian woman, Asia Bibi. In my view it is against all norms of both humans and international laws, dignity and all laws. Anycase everybody should be able to follow his/her religion there should be religious freedom and this in my view is a grave violation of the freedom to practice one's own religion but one may not be able to see the connection. I totally condemn this sentence because in my view it is against all human dignity against all laws not only international laws but all laws, human rights. It is a violation of human rights.

It is my deep conviction that these laws are hopelessly against the human spirit and it is betrays a medieval and obsolete mindset it is an abuse of power and authority to award such sentences and any case such laws are always open to misinterpretation and abuse on various grounds.

Pakistan being a Muslim majority nation, where Christians and those of other religions are a tiny miniscule minorities, it is all the more incumbent on them to be vary of such accusations of blasphemy. The Pakistan government there should be very careful in applying such laws and the International community should hold the government of Pakistan accountable. The Pakistan government cannot disown responsibility of this death sentence and should overturn immediately the death sentence of innocent Christian woman Asia Bibi.

I would expect international authorities and bodies to make the Pakistan government withdraw this punishment as well as these draconian Blasphemy laws, which betrays a mindset that are against present day affirmation of human rights.

Providentially the universal church will observe mission Sunday on 19th which is intended to promote Jesus and his values. Jesus mission was to impart to fullness of life in all liberties to all humanity, therefore such an sentence of capital punishment, on the dubious grounds of the application of blasphemy law is contrary to the vision and mission of Jesus Christ.

(source: Thomas Pune, Bishop of Pune (with the collaboration of Nirmala Carvalho)----Asia News)

OCTOBER 17, 2014:


Friendship between Catholic and death row inmate began with a letter

Letters may be a throwback in the digital age, but an envelope stuffed with paper is evidence someone is thinking of you. Letters are a bridge linking people, and maybe even more so if the letter is read behind the bars of a cell.

Many years ago, Diana Shertenlieb plucked a name off a list of prison inmates, drawn to the man simply because he was the youngest. Joshua Bishop was just 22.

She overcame family resistance to write to the death row prisoner. Letters turned into prison visits, again over family objections. Words of comfort were supplanted by words of deep faith.

"I thought this experience would be no more than a few words of comfort every so often from someone on the outside," said Shertenlieb, 68. "Never in a million years did I think I would become part of his life or he part of ours."

The impact of the letters sent to death row came to light when The Georgia Bulletin submitted a series of questions to Bishop about his faith life. While he was not permitted to give an interview, he was allowed to write answers, which were vetted by his attorney.

Bishop, now 39, talked about Shertenlieb and what her friendship has done for his faith.

"She was the first face of the Catholic Church of the Atlanta Archdiocese," Bishop wrote.

"It has been 17 years now and her and her husband Gary, along with their children, have made me a part of their family," he wrote.

"What drew me to the Catholic Church was (her) kindness," he wrote. "Had it not been (for) the letters from Ms. Shertenlieb and her husband, I'd have not given the Church a chance."

"I had lost my trust in people. But she brought me back into the arms of God," he wrote. "I truly cannot say enough about them."

To live her faith more deeply

In 1997, the Internet was in its infancy. Shertenlieb, the mother of three sons and two daughters and active at St. Catherine of Siena Church, in Kennesaw, shared her thoughts on a website focused on faith. A priest saw her posts and asked if she'd be interested in corresponding with an inmate on death row. She declined, but changed her mind. The lifelong Catholic thought about the lessons she'd learned about visiting the imprisoned as a corporal work of mercy, in addition to the church's call to respect all life, from conception to natural death.

"You can't be pro-life unless you're against the death penalty," she said.

Her enthusiasm was not shared by her husband and children. They were skeptical and feared an inmate having their home address.

Archbishop John F. Donoghue baptized Joshua Bishop into the Catholic faith on Oct. 6, 1999, at a Mass at the prison in Jackson.

Gary Shertenlieb served as a military policeman and had studied criminology in college, so he felt he was more aware of the situation than his wife. He said he was being protective as her husband. Add to that, he considered himself in favor of the death penalty.

But she prevailed and she penned letters to Bishop at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson.

"I started to write to him. He wrote back right away," she said.

She drove to the prison within a year, which angered her husband even more. She hasn't forgotten the 1st visit, walking through various prison checkpoints.

"I was very intimidated by the guards. They can smell a newbie," she said.

The 1st face-to-face meeting between Bishop and Shertenlieb lasted 2 hours.

"He just wasn't what I expected," she said. "He looked like a kid you'd see out fishing. He just seems to be one of my kids."

Gary said he saw a change in his wife, set aside his skepticism, and saw the person behind the slogans about the death penalty his wife did. He now has a fatherly relationship with Bishop.

"We are just 2 men talking to each other," he said.

Correspondence brings hope, Bishop said. "Communication is the greatest gift you can give to us guys and girl (1 female is on Georgia's death row.)."

"I would have to say letters are the glue that keeps us in here connected to our sanity and it gives us a (sense) of belonging to something bigger than this place or death sentence," he said.

Bishop phones their home every few days. He can talk for 15 minutes at a time. Many times, the Shertenliebs aren't home, but a blinking light on their answering machine is a clue they've missed his call. They last visited him about a month ago.

Catholics practice faith behind bars

The prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta serves inmates in nearly 2 dozen prisons and more than 70 jails. Mass is celebrated weekly for death row prisoners by priests and, on occasion, bishops.

Father Austin Fogarty, who died in January, dedicated years to the ministry. Bishop remembers him fondly.

"He always wanted me and the other fellas to know we are temporary guests on this earth and we must always be ready to leave this place," he wrote.

According to court records, Bishop was sentenced to death by a jury in Baldwin County in February 1996. He had been convicted of murder while attempting to steal a car. He was 19. A jury found Bishop and an accomplice beat Leverett Morrison to death to get the car keys. He then told police he had killed a man he believed had assaulted his mother. His co-defendant in both crimes, who was nearly 20 years older than Bishop, received a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Testimony left jurors and others in tears concerning Bishop's tragic childhood, according to a recent ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He and his brother were moved in and out of foster homes and group homes when their mother, dependent on alcohol and drugs and in violent relationships, frequently couldn't care for them. At times they were homeless. According to the court document, Bishop had become alcohol and drug dependent for at least 4 years before the 1994 murder.

His mother, older brother, staff from the Department of Family and Children's Services and foster parents spoke on his behalf, but the death sentence was imposed.

Shertenlieb sent her first letter to Bishop spurred by her faith. But she said evangelization wasn't her goal, although she sent Catholic books, a rosary, and other religious items.

"I just wanted him to have something to hold on to," she said. "I wanted him to know that someone on the outside was thinking of him and praying for him."

Bishop said he was drawn to the church because of that kindness.

At 22, he started to attend Mass. At 23, he was baptized and confirmed by Archbishop John F. Donoghue. A recent photo shows Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory with a middle-aged Bishop wearing white prison clothes.

"The family of the church has saved me," Bishop wrote. "Every day is not a picnic, but I try every day to live my Christian faith by doing something positive with my life left. Society with the death penalty say(s) we are unredeemable. But the change in me is to say no matter what they say I must still offer my life up to give back anything I can that will be positive to those I hurt and those that live around me."

"The family of the church has saved me. If it's not a 'family' it's not true or real. But the Catholic church that I am a member of is so, so real because I have the love of family - God's love, God's family, and on death row, seeing friends executed, you need that love of family that God provides," he wrote.

On Bishop's baptismal certificate, Shertenlieb and her husband are listed as his godparents, although they were not able to attend the ceremony. St. Francis of Assisi is his patron saint. "I loved nature and during my years out in the world as a young man I stayed in the woods or on the banks of the river or just sitting on a rock by a stream watching nature move around me," he wrote.

Bishop reflects on the daily readings in his cell and participates in Mass or a Communion service as often as possible, he said. Bishop said he always remembers his victims in his prayers. "My daily prayer and thoughts always goes to why I am here on death row. I pray that the people I hurt, hurt less every day. I ask God not to let me forget but to forgive me for my sins and for all the hurt my actions caused."

"I strive to live my faith because I know without it I'd be lost. I learn more and more each day while trying to live a spiritual life in prison. I try to keep an open heart so that when Jesus wants to tell me something I will hear it."

His faith is a "great gift and blessing" which runs counter to a prison atmosphere that demands a hard heart and toughness from inmates. "I try every day to get closer to God by living with an open heart and not worry if the people here think I am weak."

Faith is shared

The final chapter of his legal efforts is being written.

The case tears at Shertenlieb.

"I'd do anything for him. I just see the unfairness in it all," she said.

Executing him seems pointless and cruel, she said.

Both Shertenlieb and Bishop turn to God in faith.

"It's in God's hands our lives," wrote Bishop. "And Amen I say."

(source: Georgia Bulletin)


State to seek death penalty against triple homicide suspect

The State Attorney's office will seek the death penalty in the case against triple-homicide suspect Derrick Thompson, they announced Thursday.

Thompson is accused of killing Steven and Debra Zackowski in their home in Milton on July 19.

He then allegedly traveled to Bay County, where he is accused of killing 66-year-old Allen Johnson, a businessman and former Bay County sheriff's deputy, on July 21, according to previous stories.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said that a committee reviews every 1st degree murder case, weighing the facts and aggravating and mitigating factors before making a decision on seeking the death penalty.

"While I can't comment about this specific case, in general terms, any time there are multiple victims, that is one of the factors that can be considered an aggravating circumstance," Eddins said.

Prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty in the Bay County case on Sept. 9.

Because the cases are in different jurisdictions, there was some question about whether or not they would be able to continue with both cases headed to trial at around the same time.

Eddins said they determined that because of the close proximity, both cases could continue and Thompson would be moved as needed. No decisions have been made yet about which case will go to trial first.

"We intend to aggressively move forward with the case in Santa Rosa County through the discovery process," Eddins said.

Thompson was arrested at a hunting lodge in Troy, Ala., on July 22.

He has since entered not guilty pleas in all 3 deaths.

(source: Northwest Florida Daily News)


Murdered teen's parents asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in Dunn trial----To be sentenced Friday, Dunn wants a new trial, claims jury got it wrong

Michael Dunn won't face death in his Friday sentencing. Jordan Davis' parents never wanted the state to execute Dunn.

A jury convicted Dunn, 47, of 1st-degree murder in September and of 3 counts of attempted murder in February. Dunn shot and killed 17-year-old Davis during Thanksgiving weekend in 2012.

Jordan Davis' father, Ron Davis, said Thursday that he and Davis' mother had asked the State Attorney's Office from the beginning not to seek the death penalty.

Ron Davis said he's religious, and he believes the scripture passage that says vengeance belongs to the Lord.

"Whether someone is bad or a monster or whatever it may be, I don't have the right to take their life," Davis said. "Only God has that right. I firmly believe that."

On the eve of his sentencing, where Dunn is expected to be sentenced Friday to life in prison, his lawyers told the court he wants his guilty verdict thrown out, and he wants a new trial.

"The verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence," the motion for a new trial says. "The verdict is contrary to the law."

Dunn and Davis argued at a Gate gas station where Davis and friends were playing loud rap music in an SUV. Dunn asked them to turn the music down. Davis cursed at Dunn.

Dunn shot Davis 3 times and continued firing 7 more times as the SUV drove away.

In the motion for a new trial, Dunn's attorney, Waffa Hanania, said the court was wrong when it removed a juror after a man claimed that the juror had spoken disparagingly of State Attorney Angela Corey.

Hanania also said the court should've moved the trial to a different county.

She said the court was wrong when it allowed former associate medical examiner Stacey Simons to testify about bullet trajectory.

The court was wrong, she said, when it didn't allow a defense expert witness to show a simulation of the shooting.

The defense said the court didn't allow it to bring a witness who would say Dunn's ex-fiancee Rhonda Rouer's testimony was inconsistent.

(source: The Floirda Times-Union)


Trial delayed for man accused of deadly arson

The capital-murder trial of an Oregon man charged with setting a Jan. 26 fire that killed 2 Toledo firefighters will not begin this month.

During a hearing Thursday, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald vacated the Oct. 27 trial date for Ray Abou-Arab, 61.

The judge said some 20 motions still are pending before the court, including motions by defense attorneys for Mr. Abou-Arab seeking to suppress statements he made to police the day of the fire and in days that followed, contending his constitutional rights were violated. They also are seeking to suppress surveillance video because police obtained the video without a search warrant.

Mr. Abou-Arab is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder, each with death penalty specifications; 2 counts of murder, 8 counts of aggravated arson, and 1 count of tampering with evidence stemming from the fire that killed Toledo firefighters Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Kentucky Supreme Court delves into DNA evidence, attorney performance in death penalty case

A group of skeptical justices from the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday questioned whether previously untested biological evidence would have changed the conviction of a man on death row for a kidnapping, rape and murder 27 years ago.

The justices repeatedly asked an attorney for 57-year-old Gregory L. Wilson how tests results showing that semen and hair didn't match his client could undercut witness testimony and other evidence against him.

Justice Mary Noble wondered if a jury could still find Wilson guilty of raping 36-year-old Deborah "Debbie" Pooley in 1987 based on testimony from a co-defendant and witnesses even if DNA tests show the biological evidence didn't match Wilson. The evidence was considered lost for several years. It has since been located, but never tested.

"This doesn't exclude him from having raped her," Noble said.

Wilson, who served multiple prison sentences for rape in Ohio, was sent to death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville in 1988. Prosecutors say Wilson raped and later strangled Pooley while an accomplice, 60-year-old Brenda Humphrey, drove after she was kidnapped from Kenton County on May 29, 1987. Her body was found in Indiana two weeks later. Wilson and Humphrey were later arrested wearing 2 gold chains belonging to Pooley.

The oral arguments are at least the 4th time the justices have taken up Wilson's case. At stake is a possible new trial for Wilson.

Wilson's attorney, Bruce Hackett, told the justices DNA tests could back his client's repeated assertion that he didn't rape Pooley in the back of her car.

"The point of DNA is that it can exclude somebody," Hackett said. "It can absolutely exclude somebody."

Noble said in this case, DNA tests wouldn't clear Wilson because there's no way to know when the evidence was put there or how it got there after the car sat abandoned for several weeks and multiple people went through it.

"It's not an exoneration of him," Noble said.

"Even if that undermines the rape conviction, what about the fact that there are 2 other aggravators?" Justice Lisbeth Hughes Abramson said, referring to the kidnapping and robbery convictions.

Hackett also asked the judges to consider that Wilson's trial attorneys, John Foote, who had no experience in felony cases, and William Hagedorn, a semi-retired lawyer who gave his office number as the phone number for a local bar, failed to adequately represent Wilson. The 2 men didn't contact Wilson's family in Cleveland, Ohio, and didn't introduce mitigation showing his client's rough upbringing without a father and little schooling, Hackett said.

"I think there's overwhelming evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel," Hackett said.

Justice Bill Cunningham said there's "overwhelming evidence" of Wilson's guilt and that alone is enough to warrant a conviction and death sentence.

"As horrible as that may be, that's not as horrendous as the details of this crime," Cunningham said.

Assistant Attorney General Heather Fryman said Pooley's family has waited 27 years for the case to end and that the evidence warrants a conviction and death sentence.

"They're watching you now, waiting," Fryman said.

Wilson's claim of a possible mental disability in 2010 was the catalyst for Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd to stop all lethal injections in Kentucky the eve of Wilson's scheduled execution. Wilson's attorneys have since dropped the disability issue.

The state has changed its execution method to a 1 or 2-drug method. Shepherd has expressed concerns about the drugs after executions in Ohio and Oklahoma, which use similar drugs, went awry.

Humphrey is serving a life sentence. She lost a parole bid in 2012, but is eligible again in June 2017.

Kentucky has executed 3 inmates since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, with the last execution in 2008.

(source: Associated Press)


AG Schmidt appeals Carr, Gleason death penalty decisions

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today formally appealed the Kansas Supreme Court's decisions that vacated the death sentences of Reginald Carr, Jonathan Carr and Sidney Gleason.

On July 18, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the capital murder conviction of Sidney Gleason but vacated Gleason's death sentence. 1 week later, on July 25, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a single capital murder conviction each for Reginald and Jonathan Carr but similarly vacated both of their death sentences. Gleason's conviction arose out of Barton County and both Carr convictions arose out of Sedgwick County.

Schmidt announced in August his intention to appeal the Kansas Supreme Court's decisions, and today he formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the cases. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court whether to hear the state's appeal in any or all of these 3 cases is expected before the end of the Court's current term in June 2015.



Attorneys Expected to Finalize Jurors, Opening Statements Set to Begin for Death Penalty Trial

Jury selection in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias retrial is expected to wrap up this week as prosecutors continue to single out prospective jurors who will be impartial in deciding whether the convicted boyfriend killer should be executed or sentenced to life in prison.

Arias, 34, was convicted of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in May 2013. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart in his Phoenix home in 2008. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower.

Although the aspiring photographer was found guilty in the case, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, she began a retrial last month to determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

According to KPHO, the attorneys in the case are close to selecting a jury in the sentencing retrial, while opening statements are scheduled for next week.

The jury selection process began earlier this month with over 400 prospective jurors who were questioned at the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. The number then dwindled down to 176 after the 1st cut, reports Reuters.

Altogether, attorneys need to select 12 jurors and 6 alternatives to serve in the high-profile murder case.

After the jury selection is completed, the actual trial is expected to last from 6 to 8 weeks, reports USA Today.

In early October, Arias donated nearly $1,000 to an Arizona charity after auctioning off the eyeglasses she wore during her first trial in 2013.

The former waitress put her glasses up for sale on on Sept. 14 for a starting bid of $500. Interested bidders were also required to pay a $250 deposit fee in order to participate in the auction for the "one-of-a-kind piece of history," which ended on Sept. 24, according to the website.

The infamous killer then donated $980 raised from the auction to the St. Mary's Food Bank of Phoenix.

(source: LatinPost)


Has the death penalty become too costly to administer in America?

There may be many reasons to support the death penalty, but economics is not one of them.

Fiscal conservatives are hard pressed to explain how a punishment that is empirically 3 to 5 times more expensive than life in prison, without any opportunity for parole, provides an economically viable solution to crime.

If money is the question, the death penalty is not the answer. Simply put, the death penalty no longer makes good cents.

We live in a constitutional democracy that provides due process in criminal prosecutions. These constitutional protections are afforded all criminal defendants, regardless of the heinous nature of the alleged crime or even admission of guilt.

Any suggestion that we could lessen the expense of the death penalty by forgoing investigations or legal processes, such as limiting appeals or habeas corpus, is simply not a constitutionally supportable option. We cannot abandon our constitutional principles to save money.

The Idaho Legislature undertook an extensive review of death penalty costs in 2014. The operational costs, the actual costs needed to execute the inmate - not the costs of litigation and housing - averaged over $50,000 per inmate for the 2 inmates Idaho executed.

A 2008 study of Maryland's death penalty concluded that a death-eligible prosecution costs $1.8 million per individual and a successful death-penalty prosecution, where the death penalty is secured, costs in excess of $3 million per individual. Beyond the direct financial costs, a true economic model would demand that states consider the opportunity costs of placing massive financial resources behind the death penalty.

In other words, what other investments could a state make with the funds currently earmarked to investigate and prosecute death penalty trials?

Would education be stronger if more funds were placed in the state's Department of Education rather than given to attorneys and investigators?

Fox News remarked in 2010 that every time "a killer is sentenced to die, a school closes."

Would a state be able to hire more first responders, particularly police officers, to help prevent crime at its source rather than prosecuting crime after the fact? Would roadways and airways be safer or our borders more secure?

Little attention is paid to the opportunity costs society incurs by placing such a high premium on the death penalty yet the opportunities sacrificed should undoubtedly be part of the conversation.

If we are to continue utilizing the death penalty - and there are many defensible reasons to do so - we must be willing to pay a rather hefty price.

Money spent on investigators for 1 death penalty convict could be used to hire a police officer for a year. Money spent on trial attorneys for that same 1 convict could be used to hire 5 teachers for a year.

And money spent on appellate attorneys could be used to hire more teachers, more police officers or - in Texas, Arizona and California - individuals to help patrol and secure our borders. These are obvious examples of lost opportunities.

Perhaps it is time to have a serious economic discussion about the death penalty so that we can openly debate our priorities.

Would we rather have 1 individual executed or more teachers and police officers?

Do we want to continue the lengthy constitutional process of condemning individuals to death as our state and federal budgets pay a significant price for doing so?

The answer may be yes. But, let us at least not fool ourselves into believing the price of execution is slight, capable of being reduced or that we are not foregoing other fiscal needs.

No matter how you run the numbers, the death penalty is expensive, in fact, downright exorbitant.

(source: Opinion; Meg Penrose is a professor of law at the Texas A&M Law School and has extensive experience representing Texas death row inmates in federal court on a pro bono basis----The News Tribune)


Sons of murder victim deny mercy to convicted woman

The last "peace and reconciliation" meeting in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, sentenced to death for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, culminated without a resolution on Wednesday October 15.

The Etemad daily reported on Thursday October 16 that Mohammad Shahriyari, the head of the Tehran Criminal Court, said: "The final Peace and Reconciliation meeting took place in the presence of Reyhaneh Jabbari, her mother and the family of the deceased, and the next of kin did not agree to forego the death sentence."

The meeting was attended by Reyhaneh Jabbari, the accused, her family, her lawyer, the son of the deceased and Judge Shariyari of the Peace and Reconciliation Unit. Jabbari was questioned by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi's son. At the request of both parties, reporters were not allowed in the session.

The son of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, the deceased, has been quoted after a session on Tuesday as saying that the only way for him to forego his right to Qesas and forgive Jabbari is for her "to tell the truth about the incident."

Another son had told Shargh news that Jabbari's mother just cried at the meeting like all other meetings. "We only had one condition to forgive her and that was for her to tell the truth. It is not just us that think Reyhaneh is not telling the truth but even the judges that have handled the case believe that she is hiding something."

Sarbandi's son says that when they asked her to tell the truth, she did not give a convincing answer. "This issue is still unclear to her and she has not felt death," he added.

He went on to say that there will be no more meetings and that his family is waiting for the sentence to be executed.

Reyhaneh Jabbari is a 26-year-old woman who was arrested 7 years ago for the murder of Morteza Abdolal Sarbandi and sentenced to death.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)


When will the barbarity of beheading end in Saudi Arabia?

Savagery and barbarity still exists in the present era of enlightenment; where the days of ignorance of Arabia and the dark ages of Europe and the Roman era still lurk in the shadows of today. It is when a state sponsored beheading rears its ugly head that we are reminded of the remnants of brutality seen during the dark ages gone by, that we seem to have adopted today.

In 2011, at least 82 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia; more than triple the figure of at least 27 executions in 2010. In 2012, a similar number of people were executed. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed their concern last month over a surge in executions, which saw 19 people being beheaded between August 4th and 20th alone. The HRW stated that 8 of those executed had been convicted for non-violent offences such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious". Rape, murder, apostasy, drug smuggling, sorcery, witchcraft, armed robbery are all punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

A prime example of the flawed Saudi criminal justice system is the case of Abdullah Fandi al-Shammari who was found guilty of manslaughter in 1988 for an alleged killing that took place in 1983. He was released after paying compensation to the family but in 1990 the case was sent to court for a retrial by the Supreme Court. He was rearrested and tried for the same crime but on murder charges. He spent 30 years on death row and was executed last year. Shammari had no access to the file or to any legal assistance, and was not able to appeal against the sentence before it was confirmed by the court of cassation.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said "This case has thrown the country's flawed justice system into especially sharp relief, highlighting the serious lack of transparency, patently unfair trials, and fatal results."

Similarly, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, Rizana Nafeek, was beheaded for allegedly killing a baby in her care. She was only 17 at the time of her execution. This is against the jus cogens principle of international law and in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Saudi Arabia is a party to. The CRC prohibits the execution of those less than 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the alleged offence for which they are convicted. Hence, it would not be an exaggeration to say that there is lack of transparency, and no legal standards of prosecution are met, even for cases involving punishments as severe as death. The convicted may be denied legal assistance and despite spending a large proportion of the sentence in prison, they may still be executed.

Christof Heyns, the UN special reporter on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said, "Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards. The trials are by all accounts grossly unfair. Defendants are often not allowed a lawyer and death sentences were imposed following confessions obtained under torture. The method of execution then aggravates a situation that is already totally unacceptable."

2 days ago, another Pakistani, named Mohammad Yunus Mohammed Shoaib was executed in the Eastern province of Qatif for hiding heroin in his gut and smuggling it into Saudi Arabia.

His decapitation takes the number of people executed by sword in the conservative Gulf nation to 57 this year, compared to 79 people in all of 2013.

Earlier this year, 2 Pakistanis, Abrar Hussein Nizar Hussein and Zahid Khan Barkat, were executed after being convicted for drug smuggling. The former was executed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and the latter in Qatif.

There are approximately 4,000 Pakistanis languishing in Saudi prisons, facing trial. It is highly ignominious that no legal or consular access is provided to the detainees and the incumbent government is taking little responsibility to ensure that its citizens are provided with legal and humanitarian assistance. Regardless of whatever crime they may have committed, each individual has a right to a fair trial and no one can be deprived of the basic, inalienable human right. There are many who would indulge in the unnecessary debate of whether death penalty should be abolished for such crimes or not, while totally ignoring the fact that no matter how guilty a person may be, he or she cannot be deprived of the right to a fair trial and due process of law.

The law, as it stands in Saudi Arabia, is the strictest interpretation of Shariah, and though some may argue that it has effectively controlled crime, one wonders about the fair trial guarantees. As William Blackstone propounds, "The law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that 1 innocent suffer."

This is a globally accepted legal maxim. And therefore, it is the duty of the Pakistani government and the consulate in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the detainees are accorded due protection of law, especially those who are waiting on death row. It must be guaranteed that women and children be detained only as a means of last resort and not in a prison like environment which can be injurious to their mental and physical wellbeing.

The reality of human rights abuses within the Saudi criminal justice system is no secret and hence no stone must be left unturned to ensure protection of fundamental human rights of the detainees and those who are innocent to be freed. The governments of India and Bangladesh have managed to get many detainees free but no serious efforts are being made by the Pakistani government in this regard. The human rights organisations and civil society are also unmoved by the beheadings of their fellow countrymen.

It is about time that this nation wakes from slumber and strives to protect fundamental human rights of the citizens of Pakistan, both within and outside the country. Who knows who may fall prey to this injustice one day, without even being given a fair trial. Hence, it is the duty of not only the government but of every citizen of the country to stand united against this gross, flagrant and mass violation of fundamental human rights.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Saudi Arabia faces outcry over death sentence for Shia faith leader----Nimr Baqir al-Nimr's conviction for sedition adding to unrest and promoting sectarian hatred, says Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry and accusations of promoting sectarian hatred after a Shia Muslim religious leader from the country's volatile eastern province was sentenced to death.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led protests in Qatif at the height of the Arab spring in 2011, was convicted on Wednesday of sedition and other charges in a case that has been followed closely by Shias in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

Shia Muslims make up 10%-15% of the population of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which bills itself as playing a lead role in the fight against the jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh has supported Sunni groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad but denies backing Isis.

State prosecutors had reportedly asked for Nimr to be crucified. The sentence is thought likely to be commuted on appeal.

Nimr was arrested in 2012 and ill-treated during his 2-year detention, much of it spent in solitary confinement. He was denied surgery for bullet wounds suffered when he was arrested. He was charged with "disobeying the ruler", "inciting sectarian strife", and encouraging and leading demonstrations.

In Iran, Saudi Arabia's chief regional rival and the political centre of the Shia world, the foreign ministry warned on Thursday that execution would have "dire consequences". It called Nimr an ayatollah, giving him the second most senior clerical title in the Shia hierarchy. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, uses capital punishment.

In London the Foreign Office stated that it was aware of the sentencing, adding: "The UK opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle."

The Saudi authorities have portrayed the cleric as an "instigator of discord and rioting". But Nimr's supporters and family have denied that he incited violence.

In a BBC interview, Nimr said he backed "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons". The arrest of his brother and other relatives after sentencing has fuelled anger that is being ventilated on Twitter and other social media.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to existing sectarian discord and unrest," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the eastern province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences."

Amnesty International described Nimr's sentencing as part of a wider Saudi government crackdown on dissent.

Shia and Sunni groups said they were extremely alarmed by the sentence. "Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia," 10 organisations said in statement. "He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority. The sentencing will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as Isis to continue their persecution of religious minorities."

Toby Matthiesen, a Cambridge expert on Saudi Arabia, said: "In the last 2 years Nimr has become known by Shia across the world. For many Salafis and Sunnis with anti-Shia leanings he has become a real hate figure. In the context of Isis, the Saudi royal family is trying to legitimise itself in the eyes of Sunnis by being tough. Nimr was a revolutionary who called for non-violent protests and the downfall of the Al Saud, but also for Assad to go. He wasn't sectarian."

Yusif al-Khoei, of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, said he was "appalled" by the news and with others was considering boycotting a Saudi-organised conference on inter-religious dialogue in Vienna.

(source: The Guardian)


Death Sentence Not Applicable

Zimbabwe cannot pass the death sentence under the current Constitution unless Parliament enacts a law providing for it, a legal expert has said.

This comes amid growing calls to scrap capital punishment from the statutes.

A prominent lawyer, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, said while the old Constitution specifically made provisions for the death penalty, the new order left that decision to the Legislature.

"This, it achieves through section 48 (2) (of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe) which provides that a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed," said Adv Mpofu.

His analysis of the law comes after the National Prosecuting Authority solicited for his views as a friend of the court in a case in which the NPA wants an order for the courts in Zimbabwe not to impose capital punishment on murder suspect, Joshua Dube, who is held in a South African prison.

South Africa has refused to extradite Dube who allegedly committed armed robbery and rape before fleeing to that country where he was arrested in 2009.

SA does not recognise the death penalty in its statutes and the difference with Zimbabwean laws has created a dilemma for the NPA, which has since approached the Constitutional Court seeking an undertaking that no death penalty would be imposed on such fugitives if extradited for trial here.

In his heads of argument filed at the Constitutional Court, Adv Mpofu made an analysis of the law on death penalty in both the old and new Constitutions as well as the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA), to arrive at his decision. The CPEA as it stands, he said, was not in conformity with the Constitution of Zimbabwe on the imposition of the death penalty.

"The CPEA is an existing law and so are its provisions... The question that arises is whether it is possible for it to be construed in conformity with the Constitution of Zimbabwe," said Adv Mpofu.

"If it is, the death penalty can be passed under it. If it is not so capable, that means there is no law contemplated by section 48. That too would be consistent with provisions of section 2 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It has already been noted that CPEA and the Code cannot be construed. Both are therefore not requisite existing law."

Adv Mpofu said in view of the differences between section 48 of the Constitution and 12 of the old Constitution and current provisions of the CPEA and what must be contained in the contemplated Act, the law contemplated under section 48 was not yet in existence.

"That being the case, the death penalty cannot at the present stage be lawful. It will remain so unless Parliament enacts a law. Parliament must be discouraged. No place exists for such barbaric retribution in a civilized society."

Adv Mpofu emphasized that section 48 of the Constitution simply gave the legislature a blank cheque on the issue. The lawyer, however, said the legislature might or might not pass a law providing for the death penalty. In the event that it chooses to pass such a law, he said, it should comply with certain requirements.

"This was probably the best compromise given the irreconcilable views that the parties had on the death penalty," said Adv Mpofu.

(source: The Herald)


Honour killing: Death penalty to 2 including father of girl

A local court has awarded death penalty to 2 accused, including father of a girl, in an honour killing case.

Additional District Session Judge S S Sahni announced the verdict on Thursday, Public Prosecutor R K Salwan said today.

On December 2012, complainant Sukhdev Singh, lover of the victim, had alleged that Rupinder Kaur was brutally killed by her father and uncle as she was adamant to marry him against her parents' wishes.

Sukhdev had told the police that Rupinder had told him that she was being tortured by her father Balwinder Singh and uncle Baldev Singh for going against their wishes.

In the autopsy report, it was established that deceased Rupinder Kaur was first given poisonous substance and later she was strangulated to death.

The accused had pleaded before the court that the deceased had committed suicide.

(source: Indian Express)


'India should end death penalty'

Death penalty in a country like India that carries the message of non-violence on the global stage is a paradox, said Robert Badinter, a globally renowned lawyer.

"India is a specific unique nation in the world carrying on a message of non-violence. But the continuance of death penalty in the country contradicts the culture of non-violence symbolised by India," said Badinter at a talk on 'Death Penalty: The French and the European experience' at India International Centre here Thursday.

"Death penalty is inhuman and poison of the society. India has such high values, why keep it (death penalty). Get rid of it," said Badinter, who has been advocating the abolition of death penalty.

Badinter, who has also served as minister of justice in France, said that death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and terrorism.

"Crime is horrible and people must be protected against. But the fact is that crime has always been horrible and death penalty is not the solution," he added.

"Terrorists have special relationship with death. A man who can blow himself in a supermarket and kill 50 people will not be dissuaded by the threat of death penalty. He would rather be a hero for others (terrorists)," she added.

Praising the European Union for its stance against death penalty, Badinter said that it is the only continent in the world where "fundamental and human rights are best guaranteed."

"So much of bloody crime has been committed from this continent, but the death penalty has been banned in Europe. It is so much guilty of the horrendous crime, that it says no to death penalty," Badinter said, referring to the 2 World Wars.

(source: Zee News)


Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence Against Christian Woman who Drank from Well Reserved for Muslims

A Christian woman who was given the death penalty last year for drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims in Pakistan has had her appeal against the sentence rejected by the Lahore high court.

Breitbart reported on the original case last year, which arose after Aasiya Noreen, a fruit picker, stopped to refresh herself during the course of her day's work. After she was caught drinking from the same cup used by Muslim women, the well was declared "Haram", and Noreen was beaten for the offence, before being arrested.

At the time of her conviction, Noreen said: "I have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I'm a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit pickers".

It was alleged during the altercation following the water incident, Noreen made negative comments about Islam. Noreen has defended her innocence in the 5 years since, insisting her comment went no further than "I think Jesus would see things differently than Mohammed", and her lawyer has argued the charge arose because of "personal enmity" towards the defendant, rather than a genuine grievance, reports the Independent newspaper.

None of the original witnesses were present in court to testify, but a Muslim "prayer leader" (Imam) who claimed Noreen, an unrepentant Christian, had confessed the crime to him, did. When the Lahore court delivered its verdict to maintain the death penalty in this case, Noreen and her defence team reacted with shock. Her lawyer promised to keep fighting: "I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days".

If the case is lodged at the Supreme court in Islamabad, the debate over Noreen's life, which has already lasted 5 years, could drag out for many more. It has already sparked significant attention, both at home in Pakistan and abroad. U.S. Kentucky Senator and Republic Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has said if Noreen wasn't released from death row, foreign aid to the country should cease. Lamenting the case, Paul said: "According to her co-workers, she insulted the Prophet. In our country, we refer to such quibbling as gossip. In Pakistan, if you are a Christian, it can land you on death row".

The matter of religious plurality is an exceptionally controversial one in Pakistan, and as this case continues Aasiya Noreen may have trouble finding backers. In 2011, 2 senior politicians who spoke out against the blasphemy law that Noreen was charged with and publicly supported her cause were assassinated. The Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was the nation's only Christian cabinet member until his death at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban.



Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan loses her appeal against death penalty ---- Asia Bibi was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with neighbours

The Lahore High Court has upheld the death penalty against a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan 4 years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with neighbours.

Ms Bibi consistently denied the allegations against her, saying they stemmed from an argument with a group of women over a pot of water.

Ms Bibi's lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said: "I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days." Gulam Mustafa, the complainant’s lawyer, said the court's decision was correct.

"Asia's lawyer tried to prove that the case was registered on a personal enmity but he failed to prove that," he said.

3 witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said. A prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Ms Bibi had confessed.

Ms Bibi's sentence in 2010 sparked condemnation.

2 prominent politicians - Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti - were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Ms Bibi's trial as flawed.

(source: Reuters)


Convicted: Man sentenced to death for murder

A court sentenced a man to death on Thursday and another to life imprisonment for murdering their rival. According to prosecution, Akbar, a resident of Chak 68-RB, had hacked his rival Sanaullah to death with an axe with help from Shafqat, Akhtar and Abdur Rehman. Balochni police had arrested the 4. Jaranwala Additional Session Judge Mehmood Harron awarded death penalty to Akbar and life imprisonment to Shafqat. Akhtar and Abdur Rehman were ordered to serve 1 year in prison each. The court ordered the 4 to pay Rs140,000 as compensation to the family of the deceased.

(source: The Tribune)


Pakistani Christian Woman's Appeal of Death Sentence Is Rejected

The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.

The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.

Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country's Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least 3 years before the appeal would be taken up.

The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan's blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.

It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi's release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer's advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.

Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.

The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the 2-judge panel's decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi's appeal. "Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!" said 1 cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost 2 1/2-hour court proceeding.

"I am very happy," said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi's and the main complainant in the case. "The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it."

He and other farmworkers accused Ms. Bibi of shouting insults against the Prophet Muhammad. But she and her family deny that, saying the workers decided to lash out at her because a manager had ordered her to bring water out to the workers, and they refused to drink from bowls she had touched.

Joseph Francis from the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, an group that works for minority rights, called the ruling a bad decision that had been forced by religious extremists.

"The court had already made its mind to dismiss the appeal, and the presence of Muslim extremist groups in the court further undermined justice," Mr. Francis said.

Ms. Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, expressed disappointment after the verdict.

"We were hoping for some relief, but alas," Mr. Masih said as he left the court.

(source: New York Times)


Upholding blasphemy death sentence against Christian woman 'a grave injustice'

A Pakistani court's decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is a grave injustice, Amnesty International said.

The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

"This is a grave injustice. Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place - still less sentenced to death - and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

"There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi's trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed."

Asia Bibi's lawyer said after today's verdict that he will file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 4 January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by one of his security guards after campaigning for Asia Bibi and criticizing Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, was killed by the Pakistani Taliban on 2 March 2011.

"The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas - both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims - while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence. Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards," said David Griffiths.

(source: Amnesty International)


Former senior railways official given death penalty for bribery

A Beijing court on Friday handed down a death penalty with 2 years' reprieve to a former senior railways official on charges of taking bribes.

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court also deprived Zhang Shuguang, former head of the Railways Ministry's transportation bureau and deputy chief engineer, of political rights for life and confiscated all his property.

(source: Xinhua)


Indonesia Asks If Death Penalty Can Curb Terrorism----12 years after the deadly Bali terror bombing, whose suspects were executed, Indonesia struggles with the implications and efficacity of capital punishment

October 12 marked the 12th anniversary of the Bali Bombings in Kuta that killed more than 200 people. It came just on the heels of the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The men found guilty of carrying out the Bali bombings were executed. Compared to China, Indonesian judges rarely hand out the death penalty, but there has been an increase in the number of executions in recent years, raising debate in the country about whether killing terrorists is the best way to stop violence.

During a political play staged to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, in the parking lot of the Jakarta art and cultural center Taman Ismail Mazuki, three men are forced by armed guards to kneel in front of the audience. "Why must we die?" they cry out, before having black hoods placed over their heads. The guards then march forward, turn and pretend to shoot the men dead.

The actors then turn to the crowd and shout, "Abolish the death penalty!"

"For us, the death penalty is a failure of justice, the death penalty is against the constitution, against the fundamental right to life," says Usman Hamid, former head of the leading rights group KONTRAS, which organized this event. "As long as the judicial system remains corrupt and open to abuse in Indonesia, it'll be very difficult for us to make sure that no mistakes or human errors are made in implementing the death penalty."

They staged the play largely to protest the controversial execution of three Catholic men in 2006 who were convicted of inciting mass violence between Christians and Muslim groups in central Sulawesi. Their executions sparked riots in east Indonesia, with demonstrators saying that the men were scapegoats and that the evidence against them was highly questionable.

More and more executions

"While I believe that those 3 men were somehow involved in the killings, I am sure that there was someone more powerful behind what took place in Central Sulawesi," says Mugiyanto, who heads a group called the Association of the Families of the Disappeared.

"They were scapegoats," he says. "There is still a very large possibility, with the Indonesian system, that the wrong verdict will be handed out."

Indonesia has had the death penalty since its independence in the 1940s, though judges have rarely used it — and when they did it was only in cases of murder with intent or drug trafficking.

But in recent years the types of crimes punishable by death have expanded to include terrorism and corruption in time of economic crisis. This has meant a dramatic increase in the number of executions.

At the Jakarta demonstration, an activist reads out a letter from Australian Brian Deegan, whose son died in the 2003 Bali attack. "The killing of those men accused of the bombing will not bring back my son or heal the pain in my heart," he wrote.

Support for the ultimate punishment

But many Indonesians disagree with Usman Hamid and the anti-death penalty movement. For example, watching the demonstration from afar is a teenage couple on a date.

"The punishment should fit the crime," one says. "I totally think that the people who did the bombs in Bali should get the death penalty. They killed loads of people."

Next to them are 2 poor Bajaj drivers for whom the activists' dramatic performance has changed nothing.

"Drug traffickers are responsible for destroying many young lives, the future generation," one says. "So there must be a strong punishment for them. The death penalty must be handed out."

Political support for the death penalty also remains strong. With no political will, the campaign to have it abolished faces an uphill battle.



Botswana tells red-faced SA it won't spare the noose----Both countries have very different laws on capital punishment.

Botswana's defence minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, has insisted that his government will not give South Africa an undertaking that a Botswana citizen wrongly repatriated to face murder charges will be spared the hangman's noose.

This follows the deportation of the suspect, Edwin Samotse, to Botswana in August this year, contrary to South African government policy and a ministerial court order.

South Africa's home affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, told amaBhungane that there was no possibility that Samotse would be returned to South Africa because Botswana had its own sovereign judiciary.

He said the South African authorities were, however, preparing to make representations to the Botswana government asking for an assurance that Samotse will not be hanged.

South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995, and Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe are the only Southern African countries that retain capital punishment for ordinary crimes.

But, according to Zimbabwe’s new Constitution, those under 21 and those older than 70 at the time of their conviction cannot be executed.


Tshwete confirmed that 3 home affairs officials are being investigated in connection with the illegal deportation of Samotse, but would not say whether corruption was suspected.

Seretse said that, when Botswana applied for his extradition, the South Africans had asked for an assurance that Botswana would not apply the death penalty if he was found guilty, but this had not been given.

He told he Botswana Gazette last month that Samotse would not be returned to South Africa. "We cannot hand him over to the South Africans. We have no obligation to do so and he allegedly committed an offence here," Seretse said.

"We don't care how he got here, because he is not an illegal immigrant in Botswana."

Samotse (26), who was deported directly from a jail in Polokwane, where he was being held on August 13 as an illegal immigrant, should first have first passed through the Lindela detention centre in Johannesburg.

He had been in South African custody for three years while his extradition was being negotiated by the two governments. He allegedly stabbed his girlfriend, Tshegofatso Kgati, to death in March 2011 in Francistown, leaving her naked body on a bed before skipping over the South African border.

Against minister's orders

The deportation took place despite an order by South Africa's then minister of justice, Jeff Radebe, that he should not be extradited to Botswana after the authorities there refused to undertake not to execute him if he was convicted.

Samotse is yet to appear in Botswana's High Court.

Meanwhile, a home affairs official told amaBhungane that the department is concerned that South Africa could become a destination for people seeking to avoid the death penalty in their own countries.

The official, who asked not to be named, said that, because the fugitives could not be repatriated, the South African taxpayer would have to pay for their indefinite detention.

The official said that the South African police had arrested other illegal immigrants from other Southern African countries who had apparently crossed into South Africa to avoid execution. But he could not say how many had allegedly done so.


Capital punishment stays despite controversy

Capital punishment in Botswana, which on average hangs 1 criminal a year, was declared unconstitutional last year, but a later judgment contradicted the finding.

In the murder trial of Rodney Masoko, High Court Judge Tshepho Motswagole ruled that section 203 of the Penal Code, which enshrines the death penalty, is unconstitutional because it does not provide for convicts to plead in mitigation where a court has found no extenuating circumstances.

Motswagole found that the section fails to afford people convicted of murder equal treatment and seriously undermines the individualisation of the inquiry by excluding well-known sentencing principles.

He sentenced Masoko, who killed his girlfriend in 2006, to life imprisonment.

Motswagole's judgment was applauded by human rights attorneys and the Botswana Centre for Human Rights but it ran into immediate flak from the directorate of public prosecutions (DPP), which issued a press statement announcing that the death penalty remained in force.

Stressing that the controversy surrounding the judgment was misleading to the public and "regrettable and irresponsible", the DPP pointed to the Court of Appeal's 1995 finding that capital punishment was constitutional.

The DPP's stance was confirmed in judgment a month later by another High Court judge, Michael Leburu, who found that section 203 "does not say that the court should not have regard to mitigating factors".

He condemned 2 men to death for murdering an old man.

Botswana, which retains capital punishment for murder and treason, has executed 47 convicted criminals since independence in 1966.

According to Amnesty International, Southern African countries that have abolished judicial executions are South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Namibia.

Zambia has made an international commitment not to use the death penalty.

At least 778 people were executed worldwide in 2013. But the number of countries carrying out executions dropped from 37 in 1994 to 22 in 2013

(source: Mail & Guardian)


Government blasted for 'dodging obligations' and not pressing for release of Brit on death row in Ethiopia ---- Political refugee Andy Tsege 'kidnapped' by Ethopia and possibly facing torture

The partner of a British father-of-3 being held on death row after he was spirited into Ethiopia has accused the Government of "dodging its obligations" by insisting it has no grounds for demanding his release.

Andargachew "Andy" Tsege, 59, was arrested at an airport in Yemen in June, and vanished for a fortnight until he reappeared in Ethiopian detention facing a death sentence imposed 5 years ago after a trial held in his absence.

The Foreign Office is now facing legal action after it classified Mr Tsege's arbitrary disappearance and removal to Ethiopia as "questionable but not a criminal matter" and said that despite the risk of torture and the ultimate sanction hanging over him it did not feel "entitled" to demand he be returned home to London.

Yemi Hailemariam, Mr Tsege's partner and the mother of their 3 children, told The Independent she was deeply concerned that Britain was soft-pedalling on his case to preserve its relationship with an increasingly important ally in east Africa.

Mr Tsege, who came to Britain as a political refugee in 1979 and is a prominent dissident campaigning against the Ethiopian regime, is feared by Ms Hailemariam and the legal charity Reprieve to be at extreme risk of torture. Electrocution, beatings and abuse, which includes tying bottles of water to men's testicles, have been reported by detainees, and Mr Tsege's whereabouts has not been revealed by the Ethiopian authorities.

Ms Hailemariam said: "For anyone reading what has happened, it must be clear that Andy is the victim of a crime. He was kidnapped to Ethiopia and faces the death sentence from a trial where he wasn't even represented. He is a political prisoner.

The 59-year-old sought asylum in Britain in 1979 after being threatened by Ethiopian authorities over his political beliefs (Reprieve) "The Foreign Office is dodging its obligations and it is hard to see any other reason than it is to preserve Britain's wider relationship with Ethiopia. It is now 117 days that he has been in detention and Britain must now say enough is enough."

Reprieve, which has taken up Mr Tsege's case, said it was starting legal action against the Government, potentially leading to a judicial review, to force it to press for the Briton's immediate release and repatriation.

Maya Foa, director of the Reprieve's death penalty team, said: "Andy Tsege is now well into his fourth month of detention and, incredibly, we are no closer to knowing where he is or even whether the Ethiopians plan to execute him. The UK Government's unwillingness to take action is simply unacceptable."

The father-of-three was en route to Eritrea when he was arrested during a 2-hour stop over in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, at the apparent request of the Ethiopian authorities, who seem to have had foreknowledge of Mr Tsege's travel arrangements.

The Yemeni authorities have claimed the arrest and subsequent transfer of the Briton to Ethiopia - without any opportunity to challenge the move - took place on the basis of a security agreement between the 2 countries.

In a letter to lawyers for Ms Hailemariam, seen by The Independent, the FCO said it accepted "due process" did not appear to have been followed in the case but said his disappearance did not amount to a "kidnapping".

It added that it required evidence that a British national was not being treated "in line with internationally accepted standards" before it could consider approaching local authorities. The letter said: "On the information presently available, the Foreign Secretary does not consider that the United Kingdom is entitled to demand Mr Tsege's release or his return."

Ms Hailemariam said: "Andy has been abducted and placed on death row on the basis of a politically motivated trial. It is difficult to think of circumstances that would fall further below ‘internationally-accepted standards'. What will it take for Britain to demand the return of one of its citizens?"

A FCO spokesman said: "The British Embassy in Ethiopia remains in contact with the Ethiopian authorities about regular consular access to Mr Tsege in the future so we're able to continue to monitor his welfare. We also continue to press for reassurances that the death penalty imposed in absentia will not be carried out."

The Independent revealed earlier this month that public money is being used to train security forces in Ethiopia under a 2 m pounds programme run by the Department for International Development (DfID) to fund masters degrees for 75 Ethiopian officials on improving the accountability of security services.

Material on the DfID website explaining the scheme has since been removed, prompting Reprieve to write to International Development Secretary Justine Greening asking whether the policy is under review or has been erased "to avoid embarrassment".

DfID admitted it had cancelled the masters courses due to "concerns about risk and value for money". A source said the decision was not linked to the case of Mr Tsege.

(source: The Independent)

OCTOBER 16, 2014:


Douglas Could Face Death Penalty If Convicted Of Killing Teen

Devontay Douglas' mother broke down after learning that her son could spend life in prison or even face the death penalty.

Douglas is accused of gunning down and killing Joseph Braxton III, a former classmate at 71st High School.

Douglas' family would not talk on camera but their emotions showed their heartbreak.

As his charges were read to him, he kept shaking his head no, proclaiming his innocence.

"I have nothing to do this, 1st degree murder, I didn't shoot that boy at all .. I don't know why I got charged with 1st degree murder... It's crazy," Douglas said.

His bond was set at $1.5 million.

District Attorney Billy West was hoping for no bond.

The arrest and hearing comes more than 2 weeks after Braxton's death.

"Fortunately, we have been able to make an arrest in this case now," West said. "And from what I understand there may be some more outstanding warrants in this case as well and we will be moving forward in the case to bring justice as the case moves forward and as the investigation moves forward."

Douglas is the 1st suspect to be arrested in connection to Braxton's murder but police say additional arrests are coming.

West urges anyone with more information to come forward.

"We need justice in this case we need to know what happened in the death of Mr. Braxton and we just hope that they will come forward and help the police in any way that the can."

Braxton was killed on Sept. 27 as he was arriving to a friend's Sweet 16 birthday party.

(source: Time Warner Cable News)


State attorney seeks death penalty for Thompson

State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Thursday that the state intends to seek the death penalty against Derrick Thompson regarding the deaths of Steven and Debra Zackowski.

On July 19, the Zackowski's were found murdered in their home in Milton. The investigation led to the arrest of Thompson.

Both the investigation and arrest were conducted by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office. Assistant State Attorney Jeff Gaddy is prosecuting the case.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Judge sentences Warren Co. killer to death----Jury recommended death for Austin Myers

A Warren County judge says a convicted killer will one day face a lethal injection.

After 6 hours of deliberations the jury in the case of Warren County killer Austin Myers, 19, recommended the death penalty Monday night.

A jury has found Austin Myers guilty on all counts in the murder of Justin Back in Warren County.

Judge Donald Oda sentenced Austin Myers to death at a hearing Thursday morning.

Jurors had recommended the death penalty for Myers earlier this month after he was convicted of killing Justin Back.

Myers, 19, asked jurors to spare his life, saying "If you choose for me to die, it's only going to cause more pain and suffering for another family."

Prosecutors said Myers and Tim Mosley intended to rob and kill Back, going so far as to write down parts of their plan in a notebook.

Mosley testified against Myers to spare his own life.

The ruling makes Myers the youngest person on death row in Ohio.

(source: WLWT news)


Lourdes to host panel on Ohio death penalty

A panel of 4 people whose lives have been directly affected by Ohio's death penalty will discuss recommendations for reforming capital punishment from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Lourdes University.

The forum, which will take place at the Franciscan Center, features Derrick Jamison, who spent nearly 20 years on death row before he was exonerated in 2005; Charles Keith, whose brother was on death row before having his sentence commuted and who lost a loved one to a homicide; Terry Collins, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John Russo, who serves on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of the Death Penalty.

Ohioans to Stop Executions is sponsoring the forum. More information is available at

(source: Toledo Blade)


Prosecutors want death penalty for man accused of stabbing neighbor ---- Michael Hayes is charged with murder, robbery and tampering with physical evidence.

Prosecutors said they plan to ask for the death penalty in the case of a Louisville man charged with killing his neighbor while her 3 children were sleeping in the home.

Michael Hayes is charged with the murder of 23-year-old Javon Dawson in November 2013.

Hayes was in court for a hearing Wednesday morning, where prosecutors filed paperwork to put the death penalty on the table.

Hayes is due back in court in November.

(source: WHAS news)


Kentucky high court hears condemned NKY inmate's case----Court weighing whether DNA testing results would impact sentence

A group of skeptical justices from the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday questioned whether previously untested biological evidence would have changed the conviction of a man on death row for a kidnapping, rape and murder 27 years ago.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has cleared the way for a death row inmate to pursue his claim of being mentally disabled and ineligible for the death penalty in a 1987 kidnapping, rape and slaying of a northern Kentucky woman.

The justices repeatedly asked an attorney for 57-year-old Gregory L. Wilson how tests results showing that semen and hair didn't match his client could undercut witness testimony and other evidence against him.

Justice Mary Noble wondered if a jury could still find Wilson guilty of raping 36-year-old Deborah "Debbie" Pooley in 1987 based on testimony from a co-defendant and witnesses even if DNA tests show the biological evidence didn't match Wilson. The evidence was considered lost for several years. It has since been located, but never tested.

"This doesn't exclude him from having raped her," Noble said.

Wilson, who served multiple prison sentences for rape in Ohio, was sent to death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville in 1988. Prosecutors say Wilson raped and later strangled Pooley while an accomplice, 60-year-old Brenda Humphrey, drove after she was kidnapped from Kenton County on May 29, 1987. Her body was found in Indiana 2 weeks later. Wilson and Humphrey were later arrested wearing 2 gold chains belonging to Pooley.

The oral arguments are at least the 4th time the justices have taken up Wilson's case. At stake is a possible new trial for Wilson.

Wilson's attorney, Bruce Hackett, told the justices DNA tests could back his client's repeated assertion that he didn't rape Pooley in the back of her car.

"The point of DNA is that it can exclude somebody," Hackett said. "It can absolutely exclude somebody."

Noble said in this case, DNA tests wouldn't clear Wilson because there's no way to know when the evidence was put there or how it got there after the car sat abandoned for several weeks and multiple people went through it.

"It's not an exoneration of him," Noble said.

"Even if that undermines the rape conviction, what about the fact that there are 2 other aggravators?" Justice Lisbeth Hughes Abramson said, referring to the kidnapping and robbery convictions.

Hackett also asked the judges to consider that Wilson's trial attorneys, John Foote, who had no experience in felony cases, and William Hagedorn, a semi-retired lawyer who gave his office number as the phone number for a local bar, failed to adequately represent Wilson. The two men didn't contact Wilson's family in Cleveland, Ohio, and didn't introduce mitigation showing his client's rough upbringing without a father and little schooling, Hackett said.

"I think there's overwhelming evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel," Hackett said.

Justice Bill Cunningham said there's "overwhelming evidence" of Wilson's guilt and that alone is enough to warrant a conviction and death sentence.

"As horrible as that may be, that's not as horrendous as the details of this crime," Cunningham said.

Assistant Attorney General Heather Fryman said Pooley's family has waited 27 years for the case to end and that the evidence warrants a conviction and death sentence.

"They're watching you now, waiting," Fryman said.

Wilson's claim of a possible mental disability in 2010 was the catalyst for Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd to stop all lethal injections in Kentucky the eve of Wilson's scheduled execution. Wilson's attorneys have since dropped the disability issue.

The state has changed its execution method to a 1 or 2-drug method. Shepherd has expressed concerns about the drugs after executions in Ohio and Oklahoma, which use similar drugs, went awry.

Humphrey is serving a life sentence. She lost a parole bid in 2012, but is eligible again in June 2017.

Kentucky has executed 3 inmates since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, with the last execution in 2008.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri Supreme Court hears appeal of death penalty case from Laclede County

Missouri Supreme Court judges are weighing an argument that a man sentenced to die for killing an elderly couple didn't receive a fair trial because of his problems with anxiety.

A lawyer for Jesse Driskill, of Lebanon, said during a Wednesday hearing that Driskill was incompetent to stand trial and didn't receive anxiety medication, which sometimes prevented him from being present in court.

Driskill is seeking a new trial and a new sentencing hearing.

A state attorney says the trial court accommodated Driskill's anxiety by giving him breaks and allowing him to text or call his attorney while he watched from another room.

Driskill was convicted of murdering 82-year-old Johnnie Wilson and 76-year-old Coleen Wilson at their home near Lebanon in July 2010. He was sentenced to death.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty against Anthony Bluml

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Anthony Bluml, 1 of 4 people charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of his adoptive parents, according to a court document filed Wednesday.

At his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Sedgwick County District Court, the 19-year-old Bluml pleaded not guilty and waived a reading of the charges against him.

The trial has been set for next month but will likely be continued.

Roger and Melissa Bluml were shot in the head as they sat in a car outside their rural Valley Center home Nov. 15 in what has been described as a scheme to get life insurance money. According to testimony at a preliminary hearing this past summer, Anthony Bluml allegedly resented being kicked out of the family's house for smoking marijuana.

District Attorney Marc Bennett filed a notice that he is seeking a separate sentencing proceeding "to determine whether defendant should be sentenced to death."

The document cites "aggravating circumstances" to be considered at sentencing, if Anthony Bluml is convicted of capital murder. Those aggravating circumstances, the notice says, include that he "knowingly or purposely killed or created a great risk of death to more than 1 person," that he committed the crime to gain money and that he got another person to carry out the crime.

Bluml, dressed in red jail garb and wearing shackles, stood at a lectern with his 2 defense attorneys during the brief court proceeding. He and his co-defendants remain in jail on bonds of $2 million each.

Most of the people in the courtroom were reporters or TV news crews. But Imalea Swank, 19, said she came to the arraignment because Anthony Bluml asked her to. Swank said she feels conflicted because she has been a friend of Anthony Bluml and his parents. They were all part of a network of Valley Center families whose bond was the sport of wrestling. Anthony Bluml was a high school wrestler.

"Everybody knew Melissa and Roger, so it was a big shock" when they were killed and their adopted son was charged in their deaths, Swank said.

"They did everything for Tony," she said.

The 3 other defendants are Braden Smith, 19, Andrew Ellington, 19, and Kisha Schaberg, 36. Schaberg is Anthony Bluml's biological mother.

Smith has testified that he provided guns for Schaberg and Ellington the night the couple were shot.

At Smith's Oct. 6 arraignment, he pleaded not guilty. Ellington's arraignment has been set for Nov. 20. Schaberg's arraignment has not been set.

This summer, Smith entered into a plea deal with prosecutors that would reduce his capital-murder charge to 2 counts of 2nd-degree intentional murder.

In exchange, Smith agreed to testify against the other defendants.

All 4 defendants have been charged with capital murder or in the alternative, 2 counts of 1st-degree murder. They also face 2 counts of aggravated robbery, a burglary charge and a theft charge.

(source: Wichita Eagle)


Murder victims' survivors question death penalty----Panel held as part of Fort Lewis' Common Reading Experience

Is taking a murderer's life justified?

Advocates personally touched by murder argued no Wednesday night at Fort Lewis College.

Panelist Jeanne Bishop's sister and her sister's family were murdered in 1990 execution style in their home. But rather than defend capital punishment as just retribution, she has become a defense attorney and a strong advocate against it.

"Whether or not a person deserves to die, we don't deserve to kill them," she told the crowd.

A majority of people across America consider the death penalty morally acceptable, according to a Gallup poll.

But Bishop and 2 other advocates presented compelling arguments against it as part of the Common Reading Experience at the college. This year, all the freshmen on campus are reading Dead Man Walking, the account of a spiritual adviser to a man on death row.

Panelist Bill Pelke spoke about how his grandmother was stabbed to death by teenage girls and the spiritual transformation that followed.

Before he forgave the ring leader of the group, he could think only about his grandmother dying on the floor of her home. Forgiving the perpetrator gave him peace.

"I no longer envision how she died, I envision how she lived," he said.

Both Bishop and Pelke contacted the perpetrators of the crimes that changed their lives and found both people had been transformed after spending years in prison.

Bishop said that the death of her sister's killer would not have paid for her sister's life, only his redemption could do that.

There will be several more events with this theme. Sister Helen Prejean the author of Dead Man Walking will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Whalen Gym. A book reading by the Theatre Department will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Roshong Recital Hall.

(source: Durango Herald)


2nd sanity evaluation of theater shooter complete

The 2nd sanity evaluation of the Aurora theater shooter is complete and has been submitted to the court, according to new filings in the case.

The 2nd sanity evaluation report is 53-pages long and will include video interviews of defendant James Holmes according to mews court records.

The 2nd sanity evaluation was ordered by the court after prosecutors requested another evaluation at the state's mental health hospital in Pueblo.

While the details and results of that first evaluation haven't been publicly disclosed, 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson is under the firm belief the initial report found Holmes legally insane at the time of the shooting.

It is unknown what the 2nd sanity evaluation concludes, but the results will likely implicate the course of the case. Jury selection is still schedule to begin in early December.

Holmes has pleaded not-guilty by reason of insanity as prosecutors seek the death penalty.

(source: KUSA news)


Sex, Lies And Murder: Key Dates In The Jodi Arias Case

The story of Jodi Arias, the bespectacled murderess awaiting sentencing in the brutal slaying of her ex-boyfriend, has routinely captured headlines around the world.

For 5 months in 2013, the Arias jury - and trial watchers from around the world - were captivated and sickened by the brutality of Arias' crimes and the perverse sexcapades, the most lurid details of which came directly from the defendant's mouth during 18 days on the witness stand.

Arias sought to portray herself as a physically and emotionally battered woman, forced to succumb to her boyfriend Travis Alexander's perverted desires. The prosecution argued that she was an eager partner, who turned into an obsessive stalker once rejected.

Arias' over-the-top jealousy came to a boil on June 4, 2008. Alexander was found dead in his bathroom shower, with more than 2 dozen stab wounds over his naked body. His throat had been cut from ear to ear and he was shot once in the head.

At first, Arias told police she simply wasn't there. She even reached out to her ex-boyfriend's family to mourn with them. Then, when damning photographs tied her to the crime scene, she maintained that masked intruders stormed Alexander's home, and that she kept silent in fear of reprisals.

She would later tell jurors that she'd been so abused by Alexander, she couldn't recall specific details of the incident. An expert called to the witness stand by her lawyers attributed this to post traumatic stress disorder.

Arias' changing story no doubt played a part in the jury finding her guilty of 1st-degree murder. Her bizarre accounts of her personal life - and her obsessive behavior - only made it harder for the jury to sympathize with her.

"It is like a field of lies has sprouted around her as she sat on that witness stand ... every time she spat something out, another lie, another weed would grow," Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors.

But when the trial reached the penalty phase, the same panel of jurors were deadlocked over whether to spare her life or give her the death penalty.

Next week, the penalty phase retrial is set to play out in a Phoenix courtroom as Martinez once again attempts to convince a new jury to send Arias to death row.

The retrial, which The Huffington Post will be live blogging, will take a new panel of jurors through the same salacious evidence. The defendant's guilt is no longer in question, but her sentence remains in limbo.

(source: David Lohr, Huffington Post)


Former Justice Robert Utter dies at 84; he took a principled stand against death penalty

Former state Supreme Court justice Robert Utter, who had resigned in protest of the court's handling of death penalty cases in 1995, died late Wednesday at the age of 84.

The Administrative Office of the Courts announced the death, and a public service is planned. Utter served on the court for 23 years and in retirement had worked with his wife Betty in Rwanda on a University of Washington project that dealt with how courts approached justice in the aftermath of genocide that took 800,000 lives in a 100-day fury of ethnic murders by Hutus and Tutsis in that African state in 1994.

"One of the things about my dad is he was a humanitarian through and through - including with his family," son John Utter said Thursday. "He certainly never gave up on us. I think he showed that in his life - he never gave up on people. He created a lot of deep friendships that way and inspired a lot of people."

In an interview published by The Olympian and News Tribune in February, Utter talked about his feelings of profound relief that Gov. Jay Inslee this year had issued a moratorium on executions through the remainder of his term, which runs to January 2017. Utter had resigned in a protest of what he thought was a consistent failure of the court in that era to adequately consider proportionality in weighing capital sentences.

At the time of the interview, Utter was on hospice, living in the Budd Inlet home he shared with his wife. His cancer had metastasized and he also had Parkinson's disease. He was asked what he hoped history would remember him for, and in remarks not published at the time, he said:

"I think it is the consistent effort to provide the opportunity for every individual to utilize their capacity as a human being. And the effort that society places into the life of every person - the ability to utilize those gifts that we all have and to share them with others."

Utter indicated his remarks were in part a reference to work he’d done to launch a Big Brothers and Sisters organization, but which also extended to his Rwanda work where he saw people learning to live side by side with people who had killed their relatives.

"The thing I think of - I'm looking for a thread - is my belief that the actions of ordinary people to show love and forgiveness and charity can truly affect people's lives," Utter said.

Utter had co-founded the Seattle chapter of Big Brothers in 1958, the state's 1st, according to an in-depth piece about Utter by former newspaper editor John Hughes for the state's Legacy Project. The project collects oral histories of leading state political and historical figures. Hughes wrote that Utter was "a tireless mentor" and also "helped launched a Thurston-Mason chapter in 1982 and played a key role in the YMCA's Youth & Government program, which in 1997 named its top award in his honor."

Utter also had written an opinion in 1978 that established a battered woman's right to self-defense. And he led a King County task force in 1997 that led to therapeutic courts that focused on mental health.

In his profile, Hughes quotes former justice Richard Sanders summing up Utter's legacy:

"Utter always seemed to be the judge's judge," Sanders says. "Ultimately, he resigned because of his abhorrence of the death penalty. That's the kind of justice we need - someone who really cares about this stuff. Now, in retirement, he's been all over the world promoting a vigorous independent judiciary. It's a privilege to sit in the same chair where he once sat."

Utter is survived by his wife, Betty; 3 adult children including John, Kirk and Kimberly; and 4 grandchildren.

(source: The News Tribune)


Airman to Face Death Penalty in Killing of Woman, Unborn Child

A senior airman at Robins Air Force Base accused of killing his fiancee and their unborn child for $1 million in insurance money is now facing the death penalty.

Charges against Charles "Charlie" Amos Wilson III were sent to a general court-martial as a capital referral, according to a base news release Tuesday.

"That means that, if the accused is convicted of premeditated murder, a death sentence would be a potential punishment that the members would consider," the release stated.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, the general court martial convening authority, made the referral Thursday.

Wilson was arrested Aug. 31, 2013, on charges of murder and feticide after an investigation by the GBI and Terrell County Sheriff's Office into the shooting death of 30-year-old Tameda Ferguson. The body of Ferguson, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was found in her Dawson home on the early morning of Aug. 29, 2013.

The case was turned over to the U.S. Air Force at its request.

At the time of a May 6 military Article 32 hearing, Wilson was facing a multitude of military charges, including premeditated murder, death of an unborn child and obstruction of justice.

Wilson's attorney at the Article 32 hearing said Wilson is expected to plead not guilty. A new military attorney is expected to be appointed now that it is a capital case.

Arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. A trial date has not been set, but Col. Vance H. Spath, the chief trial judge of the Air Force, has been assigned to the case as the military judge.

Wilson is a senior airman in the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.



Studies confirm: death penalties deter many murders at far less cost

On Sept. 17, Texas executed Lisa Coleman for murdering a 9-year-old child. Death penalty opponents argue that, even in the most heinous cases, executions are just too costly, and that society would do better to substitute life-without-parole sentences for lethal injections.

Before examining the death penalty's costs and benefits, though, let's consider why Coleman landed on death row.

Devontae Williams was the son of Coleman's girlfriend. When found by paramedics, his emaciated corpse weighed only 36 pounds - approximately half the normal weight of a child his age. His body had stopped growing long before he starved to death.

Further examination revealed that Devontae had suffered more than 250 distinct injuries, including cigarette burns and scars from the ligatures that had bound him.

Prosecutor Dixie Bersano noted, "There was not an inch of his body that had not been bruised or scarred or injured." The medical examiner ruled his death was due to malnutrition, with pneumonia as a contributing factor.

Some crimes are so inherently evil they demand strict penalties - up to and including death. Most Americans recognize this principle as just.

Gallup polls show continuing broad public support for the death penalty. While foes of capital punishment have failed to change public opinion, they have succeeded in increasing the time it takes to carry out a death sentence.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that the average length of time from sentencing to actual execution increased from 74 months in 1984 to 190 months - nearly 16 years - in 2012.

Such excessive delays fuel increased costs, which death penalty opponents then publicly lament without any apparent sense of irony.

It's hard to estimate death penalty costs. They vary according to state requirements and procedures.

That said, an Urban Institute study of Maryland cases resulting in a death sentence estimated that each cost taxpayers an average of $3 million in lifetime costs - $1.9 million more than no-death-notice cases.

That's a big cost differential. But does the punishment have any benefits?

In 2008, Drexel University economist Bijou Yang and psychologist David Lester of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey conducted a comprehensive review of capital punishment research.

They concluded that, since 1975, the majority of studies tracking effects over many years and across states or counties found a deterrent effect.

One particularly good study, based on data from all 50 states from 1978 to 1997 by Federal Communications Commission economist Paul Zimmerman, demonstrated that each state execution deters an average of 14 murders annually.

Placing a monetary value on a life is a sensitive matter, but consider this. Syracuse University Professor Thomas J. Kniesner and his colleagues estimate that, to reduce workplace fatalities, the public is willing to pay from $4 million to $10 million in regulatory costs for each life spared.

Based solely on monetary terms and using Professor Kniesner's lower-bound estimate of $4 million, the lifetime cost of a capital-eligible case that results in a death sentence would need to exceed $56 million for it to outweigh the public's willingness to avoid being murdered.

Yes, the death penalty costs money, just like any other criminal justice sanction. But these are expenses that protect innocents, hold society's most vicious criminals accountable, and are legitimate functions of federal and state governments.

Throughout the long, torturous murder of Devontae Williams, Lisa Coleman had multiple opportunities to show mercy on her victim. She had none.

Moral indignation is an appropriate response to inherently wrongful conduct, such as that carried out by Coleman. But in determining the proportionality of punishment, it is right for lawmakers to place special emphasis on the moral gravity of offenses.

The cost of death penalty cases is certainly not trivial. But the deterrent effect yields a most valuable benefit. The death penalty saves lives.

(source: David B. Muhlhausen is a research fellow in empirical policy analysis at The Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank on Capitol Hill----GazetteXtra)


"Pulling Back the Curtain" on Lethal Injection

PLOS Medicine Associate Editor, Thomas McBride, reflects on the 2007 research article that investigated whether lethal injection consistently induces a painless death.

The December 7, 1982 execution of Charles Brooks Jr. in Texas marked the 1st use of lethal injection, conceived as a painless and more "humane" alternative to the electric chair. With the patient laying on a gurney, heart monitored by an ECG and an IV drip in arm, the new procedure certainly looked like a controlled death delivered by medical science. Over the next 3 decades lethal injection would become the most common form of execution in the United States and worldwide. But when reports of complications arose, the public and lawmakers began to question whether inmates were being forced to needlessly suffer. By 2006, 11 states had suspended executions while they considered changing the protocol. In a 2007 PLOS Medicine research article, Leonidas Koniaris and colleagues asked whether lethal injection truly delivers a consistently painless execution.

The article was an interesting choice for a medical journal. Despite appearances, lethal injection is anything but a controlled medical environment. Ending the life of a physically healthy person against his or her will is antithetical to medicine, which is why the technician who attaches the IV is not a doctor or nurse. The protocol was designed not based on experimental evidence, but the personal experience of Oklahoma state medical examiner Jay Chapman. Academic editor Clifford Woolf recalls the decision to publish was a "tough call, since it could be argued the paper better belonged in journal specializing in ethical or legal issues." In an Editorial that ran in the same issue, the PLOS Medicine Editors expressed hopes that the data presented in the research article would convince US lawmakers that execution is inhumane.

The topic was also a departure from the norm for Koniaris and his colleagues, primarily cancer researchers. Lead author Teresa Zimmers recalls it was difficult to fit this research around their "day jobs" but that despite the sacrifices, they were "excited to add knowledge about the process and to help shape the debate."

Adding to the authors' difficulty, while lethal injection has been practiced in 37 different states, and a number of states collect data on their executions, only a few states release this information. The authors worked with what they could get their hands on. The states who did allow the researchers access to data all used versions of the three drug protocol originally devised by Chapman: 1) The fast acting anesthetic sodium thiopental, expected to render the inmate unconscious and induce death "within 1-2 minutes" by depressing respiration. 2) The paralytic pancuronium bromide, which should also stop respiration. 3) Potassium chloride, which should produce cardiac arrest. It was thought that any of the three drugs would be lethal on their own; the only reason to use them in combination was redundancy.

Data from executions told a different story. Koniaris and colleagues found executions that questioned the effectiveness of each of the drugs. Using data on body weight from the North Carolina Department of Corrections and the known pharmacokinetics of sodium thiopental, close to the range used for surgical anesthesia, and not enough to induce death on their own. [PS1] Data on the time course of executions from California supported this interpretation, as some inmates continued to breathe up to 9 minutes after thiopental was injected. In other cases, breathing continued after pancuronium bromide administration, and the heart continued to beat after potassium chloride was given.

If neither the thiopental nor the potassium chloride doses can reliably produce death, respiratory cessation from pancuronium bromide was likely the cause of death in some inmates. This was almost certainly true in cases where the IV line was misplaced, pancuronium bromide being the only drug of the 3 that is effective when delivered intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Koniaris and his colleagues presented the possibility that some inmates were awake but paralyzed through some of the execution procedure, conscious as they suffocated to death. The authors' call for more states to release the execution data they had collected echoes PLOS' dedication to open access[PS2].

Though it was not a typical article for PLOS Medicine, its timeliness and the political nature of the topic likely drove the attention (over 21,000 views in its 1st year and 50,000 views through October 2014). Not everyone agreed with Koniaris and colleagues. There are some people who are not sympathetic to the suffering of those convicted of murders, and comments made on the article make it clear that their support of the death penalty is unwavering. In 2008 the US Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's method of lethal injection against a challenge that it violated the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. However, in Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion, she pointed out the potential the inmate would not be unconscious during the injection of the 2nd and 3rd drugs "poses an untoward, readily avoidable risk of inflicting severe and unnecessary pain." An unintended consequence of the article was a call for research into better methodology; in a 2008 PLOS Medicine Essay, Koniaris and Zimmers argued such research crosses a line into unethical human experimentation.

And while lethal injections were approved to continue, the companies that formulate the sodium thiopental refused to supply it for use in lethal injection based on moral opposition. The supply shortage has delayed executions and some states are now adopting different drug protocols. Reflecting on this work and its impact, Dr. Zimmers expresses pride: "I feel we helped pull back the curtain on the shoddy medical charade that masqueraded as a humane death." PLOS Medicine agrees and is proud to have played our part to provide this information to the public.

(source: PLOS blog)


Benghazi Suspects Issued New Indictments Including Death Penalty

New indictments including a possible death penalty against Ahmed Abu Khatalla, a Libyan militant accused of involvement in the September 2012 attacks on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, have been issued by a federal grand jury, according to The Associated Press.

The indictment comes after earlier accusations brought against Khatalla in July, and adds 17 charges, including allegations he led an extremist militia group and conspired with others to attack the facilities and kill U.S. citizens, the AP reported.

The new U.S. indictment also says Khatalla had been the commander of an militant Islamist militia called Ubaydah bin Jarrah, according to the AP.

Khatalla, who has been already imprisoned, was captured in Libya in June by a U.S. military and FBI team and transported to the United States aboard a U.S. Navy ship to face charges in Washington federal court, CBS reported.

Khatalla's attorney, public defender Michelle Peterson, cautioned against a "rush to judgment," adding that "It's certainly not the first time the government has been wrong about Benghazi," CBS reported.

"It is important to remember that an indictment is merely a set of allegations or charges, it is not evidence," Peterson said, the AP reported. "We will vigorously defend Mr. Abu (Khattala)? in court where the government will be forced to prove his guilt, based upon actual evidence."

4 Americans were killed in the attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, according to the AP. Evidence later emerged that U.S. agencies had been warning for months about weak security and possible attacks against U.S. facilities in Libya.

In media interviews before his capture by U.S. forces, Khatalla denied involvement in the attacks against a compound used by the State Department as a consular office and a nearby compound used by the CIA as its Benghazi base, CBS reported.

(source: Headlines & Global News)


Sunni prisoners beaten by prison guards

2 Sunni prisoners of conscience awaiting execution in Iran, brothers Jamshed and Jahangir Dehghani, along with their family who were visiting them, were beaten by prison guards today in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, Iran.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the attack took place today in the meeting room of the prison, where the family of the 2 prisoners had been allowed to meet them for the 1st time in months.

The family had originally been permitted to meet the men for 40 minutes, but after just 10 minutes prison officers told the family that the meeting was over and that they had to leave.

According to eyewitnesses, after Sunni prisoner Jamshed Dehghani had complained about the order, prison officials as well as soldiers on duty in the prison began beating the men.

The family members of the prisoners, including the men’s two elderly parents, 2 sisters, as well as a young child, were also reportedly assaulted by the prison guards.

The men's Sunni beliefs were also insulted. Witnesses reported that during the attack, one of the prison guards said, "these filthy Sunni guys should be hanged [executed] from the top of this meeting room".

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Change of president means unsettling time for Indonesia's death row prisoners

On October 20, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will step down as President of Indonesia after two five-year terms, and Joko Widodo will be inaugurated. What will be the potential impact of the change of Presidency on those prisoners on death row in Indonesia, which include Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

Mr Yudhoyono has a mixed record on the death penalty. Under his 10-year presidency, 14 prisoners were executed for premeditated murder, three for terrorist offences, and 4 for drug trafficking. However, executions by the state declined notably in his 2nd term with no prisoner executed between 2009 and 2012, in part because of domestic concern over the fate of Indonesian domestic workers sentenced to death abroad.

Around 140 people remain on death row in Indonesia. 30 to 40 of these prisoners have exhausted all options of appeal. Their fate rests solely with the Attorney-General's Office, which bears the responsibility for carrying out executions, though possibly with the president's tacit consent.

For another 40 or so prisoners who have had no luck overturning their death sentences in the courts, the final option to avoid the firing squad is presidential clemency: the power of the president under the Indonesian Constitution and the 2010 Clemency Law to reduce a death sentence to life imprisonment.

Over the last weeks of his presidency, Yudhoyono has faced up to 40 clemency petitions from prisoners on death row, and hundreds or even thousands of petitions from non-death row prisoners seeking to reduce the length of their prison sentences.

Unless they have already been decided on, Chan's and Sukumaran's mercy petitions will be among those sitting on the president's desk. What will happen to these petitions as Mr Yudhoyono leaves office and the Widodo administration steps in?

4 possibilities exist.

1st, Mr Yudhoyono could grant all of the clemency petitions put before him. Death row prisoners and their relatives will hope Mr Yudhoyono authorises a mass grant of clemency, as has frequently occurred in the United States, where State Governors have pardoned numerous prisoners upon leaving office, reasoning there is no political cost in doing so.

With the speculation that Mr Yudhoyono plans to pursue a career at the United Nations, a mass commutation of death sentences would be well received, given a majority of UN member states have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. This option could see Chan and Sukumaran spared from the firing squad, though they would still face a life sentence.

The 2nd option is that Mr Yudhoyono grants some petitions and rejects others. There is a precedent since, in October 2012, the president granted 19 of 128 clemency petitions (including four death sentence reductions) for drug trafficking cases between 2004 and 2011.

The decisions here could be made on the basis of humanitarian considerations such as good behaviour in prison, expressed remorse, or sufficient time already spent on death row, as well as political considerations such as relations with foreign states. Notably, the Governor of Bali's Kerokoban Prison has already expressed support for Chan's and Sukumaran's appeals for clemency due to their good behaviour. However the Indonesian Supreme Court, which has a formal role in giving advice to the president on clemency, reportedly does not support Chan's petition.

The 3rd alternative is that Mr Yudhoyono rejects all pending petitions. Chan and Sukumaran, plus the many other prisoners affected, would have to consider any remaining legal options to avoid execution, including constitutional challenges. An impending execution could be challenged based on the cruelty of excessive time spent on death row, a new one-year deadline for clemency petitions impeding an effective legal defence, or even Mr Yudhoyono's own tardiness in responding to the petitions (Chan's and Sukumaran's mercy pleas should have been decided on by the president more than 18 months ago, according to time-limits set by the 2010 clemency law).

Finally, if he does not want to make a decision, Mr Yudhoyono could simply pass off the pending clemency requests to the new president. In the end, this may be the most likely outcome, as it will save Mr Yudhoyono from dealing with any political fallout.

The Widodo administration isn't likely to be as punitive as a Prabowo Subianto Presidency would have been (while campaigning, Mr Subianto stated that he was in favour of sentencing rapists and corrupt officials to death), yet the immediate abolition of the death penalty is still unlikely. Indonesia's public, government and religious institutions favour retention. Mr Widodo's treatment of clemency petitions is as yet unknown, but the longer they remain unanswered, political and legal pressure will build on the new president to dispose of the petitions by either rejecting or granting them.

(source: Daniel Pascoe is an assistant professor at the School of Law, the City University of Hong Kong; The Age)


Jobless man charged with butchering woman

An unemployed man, who allegedly cut a woman into pieces and set the body parts on fire, has been charged in court and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Abd Khalid Md Isa, 43, who is believed to be the victim's boyfriend, is accused of murdering Rohani Hashim, 30, whose remains were found in Juru, Penang, on Oct 1.

He allegedly committed the offence at a house in Jalan Pengkalan Datok Keramat in Bukit Tengah here between 4pm on Sept 29 and 6pm the next day.

It is believed Rohani had wanted to end her relationship with the accused.

No plea was recorded from the accused. The offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code is non-bailable.

It was reported that police believed the accused murdered Rohani and set her body on fire in an attempt to conceal the crime.

The gruesome find was made by a villager and the suspect was arrested in Bandar Baru, Kedah, the same day after police received a tip-off.

Sessions Court judge Musyiri Peet fixed Dec 15 for mention. DPP Lim Saw Sim prosecuted the case while Abd Khalid was unrepresented.

(source: Asia One)


OAS Lecture Series Examines Universal Abolition of the Death Penalty

The 56 Lecture of the Americas of the Organization of American States (OAS) discussed on Tuesday in Washington DC the issue of the abolition of the death penalty, as part of the commemoration of the International Day Against this punishment on October 10. The event featured a keynote address by the President of the International Institute of Human Rights and former President of the European Court of Human Rights, Jean-Paul Costa, entitled "Reflections on the Abolition of the Death Penalty."

Opening the event, the OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, said that the issue "is no stranger to the OAS, particularly to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that recently issued a new call for the abolition of the death penalty," recalling in this regard the significant contribution that the Commission has made to the topic. In this regard, the Secretary General referred to a report published in 2012 on the restrictions to the abolition of the death penalty in the Hemisphere and recalled that although the inter-American instruments on Human Rights do not explicitly prohibit its imposition, they "place on it significant restrictions and limitations, particularly in its application and scope."

The leader of the hemispheric institution also referred to the "long abolitionist tradition" that characterizes the Hemisphere, where 19 states have abolished it for ordinary crimes and where in 15 it is still legal "but with a moratorium on executions and there is only one state that continues with this practice."

Secretary General Insulza recalled that this is a controversial topic in the region. "Some mistakenly think that the application of the death penalty is a deterrent. It is important, however, to note that for some time it has been proven that when you want to deter criminals what you have to do is to ensure that justice is done; the magnitude of the penalty is less important than the certainty of punishment," he said.

Likewise, the OAS leader urged strengthening of the institutional network and of all the judicial and prosecutorial systems, "above all an adequate rehabilitation system." He insisted that the death penalty has never been shown to be a deterrent and stressed that "this is not a topic on which we can have an official position of the Organization, but it is worth noting that in 34 of the member countries it is no longer practiced."

During his presentation, Judge Jean-Paul Costa analyzed how the abolition of the death penalty has gained ground in many regions of the world, saying that in several countries it has been eliminated "either by law or in practice." He said that currently about two thirds of the United Nations member countries have abolished it for all crimes and sixty still maintain it as part of their legislation. Judge Costa added that the abolition approaches vary from region to region being Europe the continent where the fewest executions have been carried out in recent years. "In Africa, 17 of 48 states have abolished the death penalty by law and there has been a positive trend of not using its application."

"The instruments of greater influence at the international level tolerate the death penalty, including the Universal Declaration of 1948 and the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights which do not prohibit it," said the President of the International Institute of Human Rights, but recalled that "more recently international bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the African Commission on Human Rights have called for its abolition." "The world has moved forward in the abolition, though large, populous countries still have it as in the cases of China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the United States," he said.

Judge Costa referred to the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council last June 26 which for the first time "deplored the human rights violations resulting from the application of the death penalty." The Resolution urges states that have not done so to "protect the rights of those convicted to the death penalty" and called for avoiding the application of this punishment to people under 18 years old. Costa said that on October 10 and 11 the International Conference on the Universal Abolition of the Death Penalty took place in San Jose, Costa Rica which sought "to raise awareness among judges, lawyers, NGOs and civil society on the importance of working together for the abolition of the death penalty "and said the goal is to achieve universal abolition by 2025.

When talking about the future prospects of the death penalty, the former President of the European Court of Human Rights stated that "it is an uncertain future," and noted that "on one hand we have the political and security situation in many regions that affects the strength of the movement due to conflicts and large-scale terrorism, organized crime, and trafficking in persons; and on the other hand we have the evolution of the past 20 years that shows a clear trend towards abolition in practice or by law." "From my perspective, without the efforts of the entire society it will be very difficult to achieve the goal we have proposed to abolish the death penalty," he said.

Following the presentation of Judge Costa, the Assistant Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, summarized the work that the Commission has done in the field and especially its role in the establishment of international standards for the application of the death penalty. "The Commission was the first international human rights body to assess the consequences of the mandatory application of the death penalty in the enjoyment of human rights, concluding that it is inconsistent with the rights to life, humane treatment and due process," explained Abi-Mershed. She also referred to the report entitled "The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: from restrictions to abolition" in which the human rights framework applicable to the death penalty is analyzed and which presents guidelines to address its abolition. "The decisions of the IACHR and the Court have become a decisive guidance on legal reforms in the region," said Abi-Mershed and commented that the way the Commission has dealt with cases involving the issue of capital punishment and as its recent position to call for its abolition of capital punishment "shows that in the framework of the OAS there is a potential to become a motor for change."

For his part, the Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the OAS, Pablo Barahona, analyzed the various historical and political aspects of the capital punishment in the region and in the world, stating that "the best seismograph of a country is its Penal Code, it shows what are the protected legal interests and sets the sentences, and thus sets the scale of order," and described the death penalty as a "savage criminal sanction," and the "product of a very limited policy and a mirror of the most basic ignorance." Ambassador Barahona agreed with the view presented by Secretary General Insulza regarding the inapplicability of "the alleged preventive or deterrent purposes of the death penalty," stating that it "does not prevent violent offenders, as violent crimes are usually the most irrational, nor does it teach anything good to others."

Ambassador Barahona recalled how his country became one of the first to abolish the death penalty, "Costa Rica has reaffirmed through its political history its strong commitment to the universal abolition of the death penalty, and thus its defense of life," he noted and recalled that by 1945, just 7 subscribing countries to the UN Charter of had abolished it and that by 2008,"141 countries dispensed with this dishonorable punitive practice." He also recalled that according to figures from Amnesty International in 2013 there were at least 1,925 death sentences in 57 countries and that today there are more than 23,000 sentenced to death worldwide awaiting execution. "Among them there will be innocents, we know that." He concluded by noting that the death penalty "does not bring justice, not even order, but demonstrates its failure; it is not even the failure of the law, it is the failure of the whole society, and to some extent, our own failure."

At the conclusion of the event, the Permanent Observer of France to the OAS, Jean-Claude Nolla, offered appreciative words to the presenters and examined the relationship between the death penalty, human rights and democracy. "The vast majority of international texts mark a separation between the death penalty and human rights," he said, recalling that in many countries in Europe and America it is described as "cruel and inhuman." He also analyzed the three arguments that support abolition "the judicial error that kills the innocent, the ineffectiveness of the death penalty and the idea of the integrity of the human person that does not seem to be compatible with the penalty itself" and commented in this regard that "all the arguments are valid." Finally, he urged the OAS member countries to act as an institution, delivering a united message for the abolition of the death penalty.

Prior to the Lecture, Secretary General Insulza held a private meeting with the panelists participating in the same. The 56 Lecture Series was moderated by the OAS Secretary for External Relations, Alfonso Quinonez.

(source: Bahamas Weekly)


Nigerian Soldiers: Mutiny And Preachment Of Ignorance

At the risk of being pressed with unprintable names, I wish to view with complete dissonance the preachment in respect of the 12 mutinous soldiers recently sentenced to death by firing squad. The arguments and pleadings for reprieve lack merit and have exposed the discussants' total ignorance of the fundamental issues at stake. So far, all efforts at lucid presentation are at best a puerile attempt to drag a serious matter into the mud of public opinion and sentiment. Most discussants are of the opinion that the court martial which tried the soldiers in Abuja was high-handed and too severe in its verdict. The more forceful and apparently coherent the discourse has tended to be, the more the discussants lapsed into critical illogic of argument based on ignorance. Even as the ranting of the so-called intellectuals raged, 60 other soldiers are currently being tried in the military court for similar offences, some of which carry the death penalty. Some intellectuals have bumped into issues about which they are hazy.

The military is not a university system and is therefore not fertile for the cultivation of cultism. There can never be proliferation of divergent views as found in academic places. It is not a field where dissidents in the guise of trade unionism spurt and war against constituted authorities with fiendish relish. There is a very wide chasm between the military and the political scene as the former cannot therefore breed virulent opposition that toys with treason with discomfiting impunity. The military has zero tolerance for thuggery, brigandage, gerrymandering, bizarre policy somersaults and brazen chicanery that are rife on the political turf.

The military, anywhere in the world, cannot make pretentions to being a democratic institution and can ill afford the laissez-faire fashion of politics. The army does not strive in the lackadaisical attitude of so-called specialist organisations like the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, that could afford to abandon dying patients in wards across the country for 55 days just to press for improved service conditions. It is unlike the academic staff unions that felt no qualm leaving hundreds of thousands of students in the lurch for eight months and yet pocketed the salaries for such unprecedent job dereliction. Put succinctly, the military is a far cry from all civilian set-ups. Any attempt to posit what obtains in one with the other is bound to be an exercise of nullity.

The military, anywhere in the world, is hierarchically structured and safely anchored on discipline exemplified in the mind frame Major General Muhammadu Buhari strove for 18 months in the 1980s to inculcate army discipline in the general populace. Discipline is the mainstay of the super-structural bulwark that supports the army. It is the thick insulator coating the highest calibre of armoured cable that channelled its dynamic energy to the very point of use. The army is a fighting machine infused with the instinct of a mad dog. It is designed to have the ferocity of a lion. Such energy is bottled up in discipline to ward off external aggression. Occasionally, this latent dynamo is unleashed on the civil society with unmitigated consequences, recently in Odi, Bayelsa and Saki-Biam, Benue states. Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti hit the nail hard on the head with his hit - ZOMBE, though he paid dearly for such audacity. The military does not brook dissention, no recalcitrance, and no refusal of superior order, however barmy. Peace-keeping engagements are geared toward priming the army for major national assignment like the insurgency in the North-East.

This may appear trite but it is true. At a monthly sensitisation meeting (durbar) with a battalion's Commanding Officer (CO) in the 1970s, a forum for picking the mind of non-commissioned officers (NCO), a soldier was opportuned to speak. He stood up, came spritely to attention and preceded his speech with: "Sir, I think....." The CO cut him short; telling the NCO to vacate the realm of 'thinking' comfortably occupied by him (commander) and be restricted to what he had in mind. That is it! Soldiers are by training pliant. They watch their words, deed, association and are taciturn. Disobedience is a very serious offence even in peace time. The word 'we' is excluded from military dictionary for this is mutinous. 2 or more soldiers saying NO in unison connotes pre-agreement and so deserves close scrutiny. Mutiny hangs in the air in every military establishment and is a sword of Damocles over every soldier's head. Yet this does not make the Army a dreary organisation. Rather it is a structure that strives on the edifice of implicit obedience.

That mutiny in Maimalari Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State, was the apogee of military rascality; it was the most reprehensible conduct in such milieu, an irresponsible ego trip by a band of misguided soldiers. No military condones mutiny. It is worse than the ebola virus disease (EVD) that is yet to find a cure. Even if EVD should find a cure, mutiny will never find any. Not even in the most advanced econo-medics. The soldiers who bit the mutiny bait in Maiduguri must be graciously permitted to face its attendant macabre dance. There is no short cut to it except to shear the Nigerian nation of its strength; akin to asking the army to cut its nose to spite its face. Those preaching forgiveness are too far from the realities on ground. They are asking for the destruction of Nigeria’s edition of the most resilient institution in the world.

Soldiering is a career that requires those in it to either kill or be killed. Soldiers must accomplish any order that has not been vacated. The argument that they were not fully equipped is inappropriate. More so, who closely examined the insurgents to pinpoint whether they were better kitted? Even if soldiers were to fight with their bare hands, they still cannot disobey superior order. Soldiers are not, and they can never be, part of the rash of indiscipline that saturates the civil society.

The Army High Command may not be swayed by the avalanche of pleadings to rescind its recent decision to severely punish that crop of mutinous soldiers. Procrastination on such dire matter is bound to send the wrong signals that such enterprise could be pulled through without its grim consequences. There is no global precedence on such issue. Basically, soldiers are the civil society's expendable humans. Anyone afraid of death needs not stray into the army.

The academics have destroyed the tertiary institutions. The politicians have smashed the polity to smithereens. The doctors are at liberty to look the other side while their patients die en masse due to crass abandonment. The economists have argued themselves hoarse about the way forward. Top dogs, in the days of military encroachment in politics, killed the Nigerian Army. Whatever is left of this national institution should not in any way cave in. Maintained or not, equipped with 18th century weapons or not, no soldier, even if drafted, has the right to take part in a riot or mutiny or feeble protest. Military is a call for sacrifice and the sacrificial lambs are the soldiers themselves. The civil society should allow the military to do its business. All said, the Army High Command may temper justice in this matter by not shooting the culprits.

(source: Akin Owolabi, The News)


Teenage Gambian Girl Charged With Murder

A teenage Gambian girl who allegedly killed her boyfriend for not buying an Eid (Tobaski) dress for their young daughter was Monday charged with murder.

Mariama Konteh, 18, of Bakau Farokono, allegedly plunged a knife into Tijan Bah, 23, on 1 October 2014 in Bakau after a heated argument.

Police said the teenager had a fight her boyfriend around 2am and in the process stabbed him with a knife on the left side of his neck resulting to his death.

The teenager, who was since arrested, was allegedly taken in handcuff by police a day after the incident to view the boyfriend's body in Banjul mortuary before it was released to his family for burial.

Sitting alone in the dock and looking confused, the teenager was told by Magistrate, Nyima Samateh of the Banjul court that she would be remanded at the Mile Two Prisons while the case is transferred to the Banjul High Court.

If found guilty, the teenager could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

(source: Jollof News)


Pre-trial hearing underway for Koh Tao accused

Pre-trial testimony began on October 14 in the case of 2 Myanmar migrant workers accused of murdering a vacationing British couple in Koh Tao, Thailand.

The judge, defense team, and public prosecutors heard testimony from key witnesses in the case and the 2 defendants. While the public prosecutor already had access to the statements each witness gave to the police, having the testimonies read in court allows them to be officially added to the case file, under Thai law.

For the next step, the police will make "modifications" to the case file based on the requests of the public prosecutor's office, according to Mr Andy Hall, a migrant rights expert who helped organize a pro-bono team of lawyers for the accused.

Once the file is returned, the prosecutor's office will make the final decision over whether or not to take the case to trial. While October 15 is technically the last day the 2 Myanmar nationals can be held according to Thai law, the public prosecutor's office has asked for the detention to be extended another 15 days, according to Mr Hall.

Speaking to The Myanmar Times via email, Mr Hall says this process can often stretch out for years in the Thai legal system, "but surely this will be rushed through."

If convicted, both men could face the death penalty.

The small island of Koh Tao, long a popular destination for tourists, has been the center of international media attention since mid-September, when the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were discovered on the beach.

After 2 weeks of investigation, Thai authorities identified 2 Myanmar migrant workers as suspects. Both men were brought in for questioning on October 1, where they eventually confessed after several hours of interrogation, according to Thai media.

The arrests have been controversial because of reports suggesting the men may have been mistreated during their interrogation. Senior police officials in Ko Tao reportedly insisted from the start that the murder could not have been committed by a Thai person and made the Myanmar migrant worker community their focus, creating the perception that they may not have considered all options.

Additionally, the investigation's credibility has been tarnished by widespread reports the Thai police tortured Myanmar migrant workers in the area in their quest for suspects, and similarly tortured the accused.

On his Facebook account, Mr Hall raised further doubts about the fairness of the legal proceedings, as the defense team he helped assemble has had very little chance to consult with the defendants.

"Appointed defense lawyers had 30 minutes with accused yesterday and arrived late last night. Right to fair trial means adequate prep time," he wrote.

While the president’s office said on October 9 that an independent commission would be formed to investigate the allegations of abuse, no further details have been provided by state media.

The president's office could not be reached for comment.

(source: Myanmar Times)


LHC upholds blasphemy convict Asia Bibi's death penalty

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian women convicted of blasphemy 4 years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) during an argument with a Muslim woman.

"A 2-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan," her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry told AFP.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 % of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

2 high-profile politicians - then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti - were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi's trial as flawed.

The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.

She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Over a dozen religious clerics - including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi - were present at the court Thursday.

"We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today's verdict, it's a victory of Islam," Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy - and judges seen as lenient - also risk being accused of the crime themselves and regularly face intimidation.

Last month a prison guard at the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi shot and wounded a 70-year-old Scottish man with a history of mental illness who is on death row for blasphemy.

The jail also houses Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard of governor Taseer who gunned him down in an Islamabad market place. He was given a death sentence but heralded by some as a hero for killing Taseer.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty, though Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Danish aid to Pakistan threatened by shifting death penalty stance----1st execution in 6 years could doom aid program

Denmark's aid to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) programs in Pakistan hangs in the balance as the southern Asian nation continues to grapple with death penalty issues.

The unofficial moratorium on executions that has existed in Pakistan since 2008 is looking more fragile than ever because the new government wants to crack down on crime and Islamist militants, pledging to implement the death penalty as a deterrent.

Later this month, the nation could potentially execute its 1st prisoner in 6 years, which would spell an end to the moratorium and could lead to Denmark reconsidering its aid to the UNODC program in Pakistan.

Following closely

Lars Vogtmann Sorensen, a desk officer dealing with affairs pertaining to Pakistan at the Foreign Ministry, told the Copenhagen Post that the Danes are following the execution case closely.

"Denmark is a very strong supporter of the total abolition of the death penalty so we work along these lines and we've made that clear to the Pakistani government on a number of occasions," Sorensen said.

"And not only bilaterally with the Pakistani authorities, but also via the EU, which holds more weight than Denmark can manage to convey alone."

Contingent on conditions

Sorensen also stated that the Danish government was in very close contact with the UNODC, locally in Islamabad and in Vienna where they are headquartered, to ensure that Danish funding is going to activities that are consistent with Denmark's stance on capital punishment.

From 2010-2014, Denmark has given some 16 million kroner to UNODC anti-drug programmes in Pakistan, specifically supporting 3 aims in the country.

These aims are: enhanced border management; promoting more effective investigations of criminals - training and reviewing, improving the rule of law and making sure that due process is done - and supporting prison management so it adheres to international standards, which includes the expansion of Pakistan's rehabilitation program and the establishment of independent prison monitors.

Several stays of execution

At the centre of it all is Shoaib Sarwar, a death row inmate convicted of murder in 1998, who was scheduled to be executed by hanging on September 18, and then again on October 13 after a postponement of the initial moratorium lift.

On Tuesday, the Copenhagen Post learned via Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) - a non-profit human rights law firm in Lahore - that Sarwar's execution had once again been postponed until October 27 after the attorney general failed to submit a reply on the status of the moratorium on the death penalty.

Sticking to principles

It's not the 1st time that Danish counter-narcotics aid has hung in the balance, and the Danes have shown that they won't hesitate to withdraw aid should it conflict with the nation’s principles and responsibilities.

In April last year, the development minister at the time, Christian Friis Bach, decided to end support to the UNODC programme in Iran due to revelations that Iran had been using the programme to execute hundreds of criminals every year.

Opposition should be enough

But until the moratorium is lifted, Danish aid will continue to flow, much to the consternation of Reprieve - a non-profit organisation that works against the death penalty worldwide, Pakistan included - which maintains that the issue shouldn't be about whether an execution can go ahead, but rather the principle that Denmark and the EU are opposed to capital punishment.

"If we're going to stand behind our principles there, we need to not contribute in any way if we can see there's a link between the aid we give and the executions and death sentences," Maya Foa, the strategic director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said.

"As Denmark has established with Iran, it needs to apply that consistency and express its position on the death penalty rather than being concerned that an execution might take place."

Tough prison conditions

Foa said that prisons in Pakistan are incredibly overcrowded and can be death sentences in themselves as inmates can languish behind bars for decades - a practice that European human rights courts have deemed a cruel and unusual punishment.

Foa argues that it is irrational for Denmark to fund projects that push a law enforcement model in a country where the law being enforced carries a potential death sentence - there are 27 offences in Pakistan legally punishable by death, including blasphemy and sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

Transfer the aid

But the Danes shouldn't withdraw their aid, argues Foa, but instead transfer aid from the strict law enforcement perspective, which embraces increased arrests as an indicator of success, to preventative measures, such as tackling drug dependency.

"The people they are convicting, thanks to European and Danish funding, are the most vulnerable people in society. These are people with severe mental health issues, people with intellectual disabilities and people who are old," Foa said.

"It is people who are easy to pin a drug offence charge on - people who are easily manipulated and are ending up on death row - and it is astonishing to me that we could possibly support such a regime. It's failing on all levels."

High fabrication rate

Foa's statement is backed up by the former additional attorney general in Pakistan, Tariq Khokhar, who revealed that 60 to 70 % of litigations or FIR reports - a police document registering a cognisable offence - in Pakistan are falsified or fabricated.

Foa contended that the Danish contribution to UNODC's general efforts is high compared to other countries and, as such, it is in effect contributing to some regimes that take a very aggressive stance on drugs.

"Indirectly, I would say that it is involved in the general war on drugs efforts," Foa said.

A spokesperson from the UNODC would only comment to the Copenhagen Post that the organisation followed the UN Convention and was working towards "abolishing the death penalty on a global scale" and had no specific comment concerning the Pakistan case.

(source: Copenhagen Post)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheads Pakistani heroin smuggler

Saudi Arabia has beheaded a Pakistani man, the interior ministry says, bringing to almost 60 the number of executions in the kingdom this year.

Mohammad Yunus Mohammed Shoaib, executed in the Eastern Province community of Qatif, "was caught smuggling a large quantity of heroin into the kingdom inside his gut," the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

His decapitation takes to 57 the number of people executed by sword in the ultra-conservative Gulf nation this year, compared with 78 people in all of 2013, according to an AFP count.

On Tuesday a Saudi, Hamad bin Awadh bin Hawi Al-Anzi, was executed in northern Jawf region "because he smuggled a large quantity of amphetamine pills into the kingdom", SPA said.

The Interior Ministry said the government "is keen on combating narcotics due to their great harm to individuals and the society".

A United Nations independent expert in September called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said trials "are by all accounts grossly unfair" and defendants are often not allowed a lawyer.

He said confessions were obtained under torture.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: SBS news)


Saudi Arabia Beheaded 59 People So Far This Year - But Hardly Anyone is Talking About It

The string of beheadings of American and British hostages at the hands of the Islamic State has drawn horror and intense media scrutiny the world over, redoubling international determination to defeat the extremist group.

But with IS dominating headlines, it is easy to forget that Saudi Arabia, a member of the UN's Human Rights Council and a close ally of America in the war against the Islamist fighters, is itself routinely carrying out the practice of beheading.

Since January of this year, 59 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia under the country's antiquated legal system based primarily around sharia law.

Last month saw Saudi Arabia behead at least 8 people - twice the number of Western hostages who have so far featured in IS's barbaric execution videos. In August those executed by Riyadh were sentenced to death for crimes such as apostasy, adultery and "sorcery." In one case, four members of the same family were executed for "receiving large quantities of hashish," a sentence imposed, according to Amnesty International, on the basis of "forced confessions extracted through torture."

The human rights group has reported a "disturbing surge" in executions in the kingdom. Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, said that many are executed for petty crimes, highlighting the frequent and seemingly casual imposition of such sentences.

"The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it's almost hard to believe," Boumedouha remarked.

Mohammed Saad-al Beshi, a Saudi state executioner, told Arab News in 2003 that he felt that he was carrying out "God's work" and that "when prisoners get to the execution square, their strength drains away."

The practice is not confined to adults. According to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia executed at least one person under the age of 18 this year, a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The manner by which confessions are extracted also paints a bleak picture, activists say. "The executions of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of 'confessions' extracted through torture has become shamefully common in Saudi Arabia," Boumedouha said.

The UN has sought to distance itself from Saudi Arabia on the issue, despite the membership of Saudi Arabia upon the UN Human Rights Council, a position it was elected to by the UN General Assembly.

In September, Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, remarked that "beheadings as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and prohibited under international law under all circumstances."

Independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council have also been quick to denounce the kingdom's brutal practice, commenting that "the practice of beheading, especially after unfair trials for crimes that may not carry the death penalty under international law, is shocking and grossly inappropriate."

However, as an oil rich Western ally seen as key to the US-led offensive against IS, there remains little hope, at least within the short term, of large scale international condemnation.

(source: Vice News)


Appalling death sentence against Shi'a cleric must be quashed

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia today.

A death sentence passed today against a dissident Shi'a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia for "disobeying the ruler", "inciting sectarian strife" and "encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations" after a deeply flawed trial is appalling and must be immediately quashed, said Amnesty International.

"The death sentence against Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom's Shi'a Muslim community," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Sheikh al-Nimr's brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, was reportedly arrested after the sentence was passed at the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh.

The reasons for Mohammad al-Nimr's arrest and his whereabouts remain unknown - although it is believed he was detained after tweeting about his brother’s death sentence.

"The shocking death sentence against Sheikh al-Nimr followed by the arrest of his brother in court today illustrate the lengths Saudi Arabia will go to in their quest to stop Shi'a activists from defending their rights. Sheikh al-Nimr must be released and Saudi Arabia must end its systematic discrimination and harassment of the Shi’a community," said Said Boumedouha.

Sheikh al-Nimr, a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian authorities' harassment of Shi'a Muslims, was initially charged with banditry and other offences after security agents claimed he had opened fire on them when he was arrested on 8 July 2012. The sheikh was shot and wounded during the arrest.

Evidence for all the other charges he was convicted of came from religious sermons and interviews attributed to the cleric. Amnesty International's review of these texts confirms that he was exercising his right to free expression and was not inciting violence. Some of the charges, such as disobeying the ruler, should not be offences as they criminalize the right to freedom of expression. Other charges are vague and have been used simply to punish him for his peaceful activities.

"Sheikh al-Nimr's trial has been seriously flawed. Eyewitnesses, whose testimonies were the only evidence used against him, were not brought to court to testify. This violates the country's own laws. The Sheikh was denied the most basic means to prepare for his defence and was not represented by legal counsel for some of the proceedings because the authorities did not inform his lawyer of some dates of the hearings," said Said Boumedouha.

Sheikh al-Nimr, who is the Imam of al-Awamiyya mosque in al-Qatif, eastern Saudi Arabia, also suffered from ill-treatment throughout his 2-year detention, most of which he spent in solitary confinement in military hospitals and at the al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh.

Access to his family and lawyers - including during interrogations - has been irregular. He was also denied surgery to remove a bullet in his back.

Treatment for his right leg, which remains paralyzed since he was shot during his arrest, has also been refused.

Saudi Arabians in the Kingdom's predominantly Shi'a Eastern Province have been calling for reforms since before February 2011, when the "Arab Spring" uprisings swept through the Middle East and North Africa.

Saudi authorities have responded by cracking down on those suspected of taking part in or supporting protests or expressing views critical of the state.

Members of the Shi'a community have been arrested, imprisoned and harassed for holding collective prayer meetings, celebrating Shi'a religious festivals and for breaching restrictions on building mosques and religious schools.

In May and June 2014 at least 5 Shi'a Muslims detained in connection with the 2011 and 2012 protests were sentenced to death on trumped-up charges related to their activism.

Amongst the 5 was Sheikh al-Nimr's nephew Ali al-Nimr who was 17 at the time of his arrest. He reported that he was tortured into "confessing."

(source: Amnesty International)


Prominent Shia Cleric Sentenced to Death----Legal Advocate Arrested Following Verdict

Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest.Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the Eastern Province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences.

Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court sentenced a prominent Shia cleric to death on October 15, 2014. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was convicted on a host of vague charges, based largely on his peaceful criticism of Saudi officials. Al-Nimr has a wide following in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, where most of the country's Shia minority live.

The charges included "breaking allegiance with the ruler," "inciting sectarian strife," and supporting rioting and destruction of public property during 2011-2012 protests in Shia-majority towns and cities. Al-Nimr was also charged with violently resisting arrest in July 2012. Human Right Watch was not able to determine if the conviction was based on these charges, which al-Nimr has disputed. The proceedings of Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court, which conducted the trial in 13 sessions over a year and a half, raise serious fair trial concerns, Human Rights Watch said.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Right Watch. "Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the Eastern Province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences."

Authorities arrested al-Nimr's brother and legal advocate, Mohamed al-Nimr, in the courtroom after he announced the verdict on Twitter. Human Rights Watch was not able to determine the reason for the arrest, but local activists said they believed it was to prevent him from speaking to the media about the trial.

The brother's tweet said that the court rejected prosecutors' request for a "crucifixion" sentence, the kingdom's harshest, in which the convicted person is beheaded and the decapitated body displayed in public.

Authorities arrested Nimr al-Nimr in June 2012 and held him for eight months before bringing charges, although the Interior Ministry had labeled him an "instigator of discord and rioting" after his arrest. Officials claimed that he resisted arrest and rammed a security force's vehicle, leading to a gun battle in which al-Nimr was wounded. Purported photos of the incident released by the local media show the wounded sheikh slumped in the back seat of a car wearing a bloodied white robe. A family member told Human Rights Watch that al-Nimr did not own a gun and that they dispute the claim that he resisted arrest.

Local activists and family members told Human Rights Watch that al-Nimr supported only peaceful protests and eschewed all violent opposition to the government. A 2011 BBC report quoted him as supporting "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons ... the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons." In another video available on YouTube, al-Nimr states, "It is not permitted to use weapons and spread corruption in society."

Local activists told Human Rights Watch that authorities held al-Nimr in an isolation cell in the Security Forces Prison Hospital in Riyadh for much of his time in detention. Family members who visited said that he was held in a windowless cell measuring 4-by-4 meters. Authorities did not allow al-Nimr to speak freely with visiting family members for the first 4 months, but since November 2013 immediate family members have been able to see him in his cell for an hour every 2 weeks.

Saudi Arabia systematically discriminates against its Shia citizens, who constitute 10 to 15 percent of the population. This discrimination reduces Shias' access to public education and government employment. They do not receive equal treatment under the justice system, especially with regard to religious freedom. Shia rarely receive permission to build mosques and, unlike their Sunni counterparts, do not receive government funds for religious activities.

Al-Nimr's arrest caused demonstrations in Awamiyya, a Shia village in the Qatif district that has been the site of anti-government demonstrations since 2011. Media reported that security forces shot and killed 2 demonstrators on the evening of al-Nimr's arrest.

The local activists, who asked not to be named for fear of arrest, said that al-Nimr had a strong following among Shia youth because of his outspoken criticism of government policies and advocacy of greater rights for the Shia. In late March 2009, al-Nimr suggested in a Friday sermon that the Shia might consider seceding from Saudi Arabia if the government continued to deny their rights. When security forces tried to detain him he went into hiding.

In June 2012, less than a month before his arrest, al-Nimr gave a Friday sermon following the death of Prince Nayef, the former interior minister. "Where is Nayef's army?" al-Nimr said. "Can they stop his death? Where is his secret police? Where are his officers? Can they stop his death so that worms won't eat him?"

Al-Nimr is the latest prominent Shia cleric to receive a harsh sentence from the Specialized Criminal Court. In August, the court convicted Tawfiq al-Amer for publicly demanding constitutional reforms and sentenced him to 8 years in prison and a 10-year ban on foreign travel and delivering sermons. The court had originally sentenced him to a 3-year prison term in December 2012, but an appeals court rejected that sentence as overly lenient.

Human Rights Watch has urged the Saudi authorities to abolish the Specialized Criminal Court, the body that convicted al-Nimr. The government set up the court in 2008 to try terrorism cases but has increasingly used it to prosecute peaceful dissidents on apparently politically motivated charges and in proceedings that violate the fundamental right to a fair trial.

A Human Rights Watch analysis in September of four trials of Shia protesters before the Specialized Criminal Court revealed serious due process concerns. They include broadly framed charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes, denial of access to lawyers at arrest and during pretrial detention, quick dismissal of allegations of torture without investigation, and admission as evidence confessions that defendants said were coerced without investigating their claims.

"Unfair trials of Shias amount to no more than a legal veneer for state repression of demands to end long-term discrimination," Stork said. "Saudi Arabia's judicial council should immediately review al-Nimr's verdict and quash it if they discover clear due process violations."

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Death penalty for EP riot instigator

The instigator of a riot that broke out in Awamiya, Qatif, 2 years ago has been sentenced to death by a court in Riyadh.

The defendant, who was formally charged with instigating riots, fueling sectarianism, inciting dissidence and creating unrest with the help of terrorists on a list of 23 wanted suspects, had refused to show up at court hearings at first, but was eventually forced to attend to defend himself.

The group had tried to lure others to join and protect wanted terrorists, especially after several suspects had been arrested and confessed to their crimes.

The defendant had rammed his car into the back of a security patrol car as officers attempted to arrest a wanted suspect during the riot and then fled the scene.

Authorities determined that the car belonged to the suspect after catching the vehicle's license plate number.

The suspect was eventually arrested in a shootout with police and transferred to a military hospital in the Eastern Province.

The defendant had openly criticized the arrest of 9 criminals who had been found guilty of blowing up a residential complex in Alkhobar in 1995 and had called for fighting abroad.

The defendant refused to disclose details about the websites he had used, but admitted that he had met with several suspects on the wanted list at a mosque even after their names and photos had been published by the Interior Ministry.

Other charges against him included denouncement of the government, and pledging allegiance to the 12 imams of the Shiite creed.

The defendant took full responsibility for 9 speeches, which were recorded and published on the Internet, calling for youth to join terror groups and questioning the legitimacy of Gulf governments.

The defendant's lawyers objected to the ruling. They were given 30 days to appeal.

(source: Arab News)

OCTOBER 15, 2014:


Anderson zeroes in on death penalty in first ads

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson positioned herself as a tough-as-nails prosecutor in her 1st television advertisement on Tuesday, talking up her support for the death penalty and lengthy sentences.

The new 30-second spot, accompanied by a 60-second radio advertisement also launched Tuesday, emphasizes Anderson's July push for the death penalty for a man who killed a Bellaire police officer and seemed to show no remorse. Anderson, who is locked in Harris County's closest election with Democrat Kim Ogg, argues in the advertisements that the conviction and sentence she won shows she is "one tough prosecutor."

"As a chief felony prosecutor, Devon Anderson prosecuted some of the worst criminals in Harris County," the narrator says in the television spot. "As a judge, she handed down thousands of years of prison time."

The spot will run on Houston affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox.

Anderson echoes much of the same message in her radio spot, but narrates this advertisement herself. Her campaign said the spot will air on on "5 of the market's top stations."

"The fact is, when you behave like a monster and hurt someone, you have voluntarily surrendered your life free, and perhaps even your right to live at all," she says.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


We're Going to Execute a Man Who Subpoenaed Jesus While Representing Himself Wearing a Purple Cowboy Suit----A Supreme Court decision in Scott Panetti's case should've made it harder to kill delusional prisoners - but it won't save him.

4 years before he murdered his in-laws in Texas, Scott Panetti buried some furniture in his yard. The devil, he claimed, was in it. After he was arrested and charged with the killings, Panetti, who has a history of severe mental illness, represented himself at his capital trial wearing a purple cowboy suit. He called himself "Sarge" and subpoenaed Jesus, among other notables. He lost, of course. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

The case made its way though the appeals courts, eventually reaching the United States Supreme Court, which in 2007 ruled that the state of Texas hadn't adequately evaluated whether Panetti's mental condition allowed him to fully understand the nature of his punishment - a constitutional prerequisite for the death penalty. The court stayed the execution and sent the case back for further proceedings.

Panetti was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, hallucinations, and manic depression - and hospitalized 14 times.

7 years later, Panetti's illness hasn't gone away, but the Supreme Court has given Texas the green light to kill him. The court's decision, announced on October 6 without comment, upheld a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Panetti was sane enough for execution. The appellate court's decision, in turn, was based in part on the opinion of a Florida psychiatrist who has deemed at least 3 Florida death row inmates with long and well-documented histories of mental illness to be sane enough for the needle.

The details in this story, gleaned from hundreds of pages of court documents and other official filings, indicate that Scott Panetti was no malingerer. He began showing signs of serious mental illness in 1981, back when he was still a teenager. By 1992, he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and manic depression, and had been hospitalized 14 times.

In 1990, for instance, he was involuntarily committed after swinging a cavalry sword at his wife and daughter and threatening to kill his family. He made good on the threat two years later, when he shaved his head, donned camo fatigues, broke into his in-laws' house and shot them both at close range in front of his estranged wife and infant daughter. After turning himself in, Panetti blamed the crime on Sarge, one of his recurring hallucinations. God, he said, had ensured that his victims hadn't suffered.

Panetti refused to cooperate with his lawyers, who he claimed were conspiring with the cops. In jail, he went off his meds, apparently convinced, as a Gnostic Nazarene, that he'd found a spiritual cure.

At the trial, serving as his own lawyer, Panetti rambled incoherently through his defense. Among the hundreds of people he sought to subpoena were not only the Messiah, but John F. Kennedy and the Pope as well. 2 jurors later told one of Panetti's lawyers that his behavior had so frightened them that they voted for death largely to make sure he'd never get out of prison. (Texas at that time did not offer the option of life without parole.)

2 months after his sentencing, Panetti tried to waive his right to a lawyer for the appeal - a move tantamount to suicide. But this time, a judge refused his request, ruling that he was not mentally competent to make that choice.

Panetti may have been too incompetent to ditch his lawyer, but in 2003 a Texas state court determined, without a hearing, that he was sane enough to kill. His lawyers appealed to the federal district court, and the case ultimately landed before the Supreme Court, where Texas Solicitor General (and now US Senator) Ted Cruz defended the state's right to put Panetti down.

In past rulings, the Supreme Court has banned the execution of juveniles and people with intellectual disabilities. And while the court also has ruled that the Constitution forbids executing the severely mentally ill, the justices have been wary of laying down guidelines to determine, in effect, how crazy is too crazy.

A blanket ban on executing the mentally ill would have the effect of clearing out a big chunk of America's death row: A study published in June in the Hastings Law Journal looked at the 100 most recent executions and found that 18 of the condemned were diagnosed with schizophrenia, PTSD, or bipolar disorder, while 36 more had other serious mental-health problems or chronic drug addiction that in many cases rendered them psychotic.

By failing to offer clear guidance, the court gave psychiatrists great power in deciding who lives and who dies. The legal history isn't pretty. Consider the case of Albert Fish, who was dubbed the "Brooklyn Vampire." In 1935, Fish was convicted and sentenced to death for strangling a 10-year-old girl. Not only did he confess to the killing, he admitted to having cooked the child's body with bacon and vegetables and eaten it over the course of nine days. He was suspected in at least 5 other murders.

A famous psychiatrist determined that Fish had major psychoses that manifested not just in cannibalism, but a host of other perversions and sadomasochistic behaviors - including eating his own feces and sticking pieces of alcohol-soaked cotton into his anus and setting them on fire. When he was arrested, X-rays showed 29 needles embedded in his groin area.

That psychiatrist testified at trial that Fish was legally insane, but his opinion was lost in a flood of testimony from prosecution doctors who declared Fish entirely competent. One even defended the feces consumption as "socially perfectly all right." Fish was executed in 1936.

In theory at least, the courts have since evolved to take a somewhat dimmer view of killing people whose tenuous grasp on reality makes a mockery of the supposed deterrent effect of capital punishment.

"All you need to know is you're going to be executed and why. You can be quite psychotic and still know those 2 things."

In 1986, in the case of Ford v. Wainright, the Supreme Court first ruled that a very narrowly defined set of inmates with major mental illnesses were ineligible for execution thanks to the Constitution's "cruel and unusual" clause. The 5-4 opinion was the handiwork of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had spent a good part of his career representing capital defendants.

Yet the high court was conflicted over where to set the limits. Science seems never to have been part of the equation, and the court's opinion is colored by fears that murderers would fake mental illness to escape execution. Marshall sought to exempt from execution any prisoner so profoundly impaired that, as Alvin Ford had been, he was incapable of assisting in his own defense.

Had Marshall prevailed, Panetti surely would not be on death row now. But the legal test ended up being defined more loosely by Justice Louis Powell, the swing vote in Ford's favor. Powell suggested that mentally ill inmates could win a reprieve if they could prove they are "unaware of the punishment they're about to suffer and why they are to suffer it." The court left the states to work out the messy details of what that vague standard should mean in practice. The result has been a steady stream of executions of profoundly mentally ill people, some of whom - like Ricky Ray Rector, an Arkansas man whose execution Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to oversee in 1992 - were literally missing pieces of their brains.

"Competence to be executed is an extremely low standard," explains Phillip Resnick, the director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University. "All you need to know is you're going to be executed and why. You can be quite psychotic and still know those 2 things."

The Panetti case seemed poised to change that. When the Supreme Court sent the case back to Texas in 2007, it instructed the lower court to ensure not only that Panetti was aware he was going to be executed, but that he also had a "rational understanding" of the facts of his execution. The landmark ruling was supposed to tighten up the vague standard for competency established in the Ford case. In practice, though, it wasn't much of an improvement.

At the time of the Supreme Court's decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the busy death penalty states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, had never found someone ineligible for execution on the basis of insanity. And so it remains today.

The Panetti case illustrates how such a situation could be. After the Supreme Court punted it back to Texas, state officials subjected Panetti to further evaluation. Among the doctors hired to assess his mental state was Alan Waldman, a forensic psychiatrist and neurologist living in Gainesville, Florida.

Pivotal testimony came from a psychiatrist who purports to be an expert in detecting when a prisoner is faking symptoms of mental illness.

Waldman had spent part of his early career working for the Florida Department of Corrections. In the late 1990s, he worked as a senior physician in a state facility. In 1999, according to court records, he quit that job when he faced the prospect of being terminated. According to court testimony, the state credentialing board was considering revoking his privileges and had questions about his response to a complaint by the spouse of a client.

Waldman refused to answer questions for this story, directing his secretary to tell me that he would not talk to me under any circumstances and "don't call back." But in a court appearance in an unrelated lawsuit, he was questioned about his employment history. He asserted that the credentialing board's investigation of him was based on a frivolous complaint by a "wife beater," and that he had left his job to avoid the hassle of legal proceedings and the risk of a poor outcome when he said he'd done nothing wrong. "This happens when you're a psychiatrist," he testified. "You treat disturbed people and they sometimes make complaints."

Today, Waldman works as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases, mainly in Florida. He holds himself out as an expert in the detection of malingering, or feigning symptoms of mental illness. But during a 2007 hearing in the Panetti case, he admitted that he'd never published anything on the subject in a peer-reviewed journal - the only published work listed in his public CV since 1993 is an article titled "The Misuse of Science," which appeared in the "Domestic Violence and Sex Offender Prosecutor Association Newsletter."

In 3 death penalty cases, Florida governors have appointed Waldman to commissions evaluating the mental competency of the condemned. All of the prisoners, like Panetti, had long histories of mental illness predating their crimes, and in all 3 cases, Waldman deemed them legally sane. In 2 cases, he concluded that the inmate was faking his symptoms.

An infamous case in point is that of Thomas Provenzano, who became the catalyst for a national effort to beef up courthouse security in more trusting times. Provenzano went around claiming he was Jesus long before he killed anyone. He would sign job applications "Jesus Christ" and show pictures of Jesus to his nephews and nieces, whispering, "That's me." According to his sister, Catherine Forbes, "a 5-year-old kid could tell my brother had mental problems."

In the mid-1970s, Provenzano had checked himself into a mental hospital because he was hearing voices, but he was released. In 1981, his sister pleaded with doctors at the hospital to commit him, but they said they couldn't do anything to help. By 1983, it was clear that Provenzano's mental state was deteriorating. One day, after being reported for behaving erratically in public, he led police on a car chase and was stopped and arrested for disorderly conduct.

After his arrest, Provenzano started hanging out at the courthouse, obsessing over his legal file and the police officers who'd apprehended him. He began dressing like Rambo and, in early 1984, told his nephew he was going to blow up the Orlando police department. Shortly thereafter, he smuggled three guns into the courthouse, where he shot and killed a man and critically injured 2 other people before a sheriff shot him in the back. In the ambulance en route to the hospital, he yelled, "I am the son of God! You can't kill me."

In 1999, Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, signed Provenzano's death warrant and appointed a competency commission that included Waldman. After conducting an evaluation, Waldman reported back that the prisoner was faking his illness.

Forbes, Provenzano's sister, was shocked. She told me tearfully that her brother had spent 17 years on death row sleeping under his cot with a box on his head because he was hearing voices. She doubts any sane person could fake symptoms for so long: "Would you sleep 17 years with a box on your head, or under your cot?"

In May 2000, the Florida Supreme Court sided with the commission. The state executed Provenzano the next month.

About 6 months after the execution, Gainesville police arrested Waldman for aggravated assault. According to the police report, court records, and an interview with the alleged victim, Waldman was engaged in a bit of road rage. He was driving behind a woman who was a teenager at the time. Waldman cut in front of her at a red light, and she believed he'd clipped the front of her purple Saturn. But rather than pull over, she said, he took off when the light changed.

Incensed, she followed him home to try to get his insurance information. According to the police report, Waldman then walked from his front door to the roadside armed with an AK-47 to confront the woman. He pointed the gun at her through her car window, she told me: "He was so close I could feel him spitting at me."

She drove away and called the police, only to discover that Waldman had reported her first and that the police were looking to arrest her. Waldman had told them he was "scared for his life," she said. But after corroborating the gist of her story, the police arrested Waldman instead. She decided not to press charges, but said she's still traumatized by the episode.

Since his arrest, Waldman has continued to serve on mental competency commissions for Florida death row inmates. In 2012, he evaluated John Ferguson, a prisoner with a 40-year history of paranoid schizophrenia who had once been represented pro bono by John Roberts Jr., now chief justice of the US Supreme Court. Ferguson had killed 8 people after he was released from a mental institution over the dire warnings of state doctors who said Ferguson was homicidal and "should not be released under any circumstances."

Right up through his execution day in the summer of 2013, Ferguson insisted that he was the "prince of God." Yet after a 90-minute interview, Waldman and his colleagues deemed him sane enough to execute.

Texas paid Waldman $250 an hour to assess Panetti, and $350 an hour for his expert testimony.

Texas paid Waldman $250 an hour for his assessments in the Panetti case and $350 an hour for his testimony. At first, Panetti had refused to talk to Waldman, and when he eventually agreed, he wasn't especially cooperative. For example, Waldman wrote that Panetti insisted on calling him "Dr. Grigson." The late James Grigson was the discredited Texas psychiatrist featured in the Errol Morris film The Thin Blue Line. Known as "Dr. Death," he had a long record of testifying in capital trials, where he invariably argued that the defendant was an incurable sociopath who would certainly kill again if allowed to live.

For much of the evaluation session, Panetti answered Waldman's questions with Bible quotes. He made up stories and claimed that John F. Kennedy had once cleaned his burns. He talked like a cowboy. He said the other inmates hated him because he preaches the Gospel. (Waldman, who had interviewed some of the other death row inmates, informed Panetti that they didn't like him because "he screams and yells and is constantly disturbing the unit by preaching the Gospel.") Panetti also talked about burying the possessed furniture in his yard, and claimed "Sergeant Iron Horse" was his in-laws' real killer.

The interview, Waldman wrote, demonstrated that Panetti has "organized" thoughts, and that he is very coherent most of the time—especially when asked about the Bible. Panetti had hoped to "sabotage" the interview, Waldman noted, and displayed no evidence of mental illness. Waldman also dismissed Panetti's descriptions of his hallucinations and his claims about the furniture, writing, "One also must wonder, what furniture did Mr. Panetti in fact bury, a sofa?" He said the prisoner's repeated references to Dr. Grigson further proved that he was malingering.

By the time defense lawyers got a chance to question Waldman at Panetti's competency hearing, the psychiatrist had run up a $23,000 invoice for the state. (The federal courts, meanwhile, had allotted Panetti just $9,000 for all of his experts.) But the cross-examination revealed crucial gaps in Waldman's knowledge. The furniture incident, for instance, had been well documented by witnesses. Their accounts were in Panetti's medical records and had been introduced as exhibits in court.

On the stand, Waldman conceded that he hadn't given Panetti a single test or standard psychological exam.

In any case, Waldman argued, burying furniture was a "questionable" symptom of mental illness. Furthermore, he suspected that Panetti's mother had coached her son to bring up Grigson - that Panetti had "premeditated" the whole thing as a way to "handle" his examiner. Defense attorney Kathryn Kase informed him, however, that Grigson had in fact testified at Panetti's trial - and Panetti, representing himself, had cross-examined him. He had been obsessed with Grigson ever since. Waldman hadn't known any of this, he admitted.

Waldman also conceded that he hadn't given Panetti a single test or standard psychological exam, even though such things - including a test for malingering schizophrenia - not only exist, but are used regularly in his field.

Kase tried to inquire about the AK-47 incident, and whether Waldman had reported any acts of "moral turpitude" when he applied for the temporary medical license required for him to work for the state of Texas. But the judge cut off that line of inquiry and eventually ruled against Panetti, deeming him eligible for execution.

Panetti's lawyers appealed, arguing that he still hadn't received a fair hearing on his competency as the Supreme Court had ordered 6 years earlier. "Paradoxically," they wrote, "Panetti must invoke the Supreme Court's decision in his own case to vindicate his right - now a 2nd time - to rudimentary due process in an execution competency proceeding."

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Panetti anyway, quoting Waldman at length in its August 2013 ruling - even though Waldman was the only expert who testified at the competency hearing that Panetti was not, in fact, sick:

The State's chief expert - Dr. Waldman - doubted that Panetti suffered from any form of mental illness and was "emphatic in his opinion that Panetti has a rational understanding of the...connection between [his] crime and [his] execution."

Last week, the United States Supreme Court agreed.

(source: Mother Jones)


Yandamuri found guilty of 1st-degree murder; DA seeks death penalty

Raghunandan Yandamuri showed no emotion Thursday as a jury of 7 men and 5 women convicted him of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the killing of 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and the kidnapping and killing of her 10-month-old granddaughter Saanvi Venna in Upper Merion in 2012.

Yandamuri, 28, was also found guilty of kidnapping, burglary, robbery and abuse of a corpse.

The jury, newly constituted through the substitution of a principal juror by an alternate, began deliberating just after 11 a.m. Thursday and announced its verdict shortly after 5 p.m.

"We've gotten 1 step closer in the closure of this for the Venna family. It's been a long struggle for them, 2 years, since Mr. Venna's mother and 10-month-old were killed," First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said after the verdict was announced. "They've had a difficult go of this and at this point we've given them a little bit of closure with the verdicts of 1st-degree murder on the mother and the 10-month-old child."

The victims' family supports the district attorney's office in seeking the death penalty against Yandamuri, Steele said.

Venkata Venna, the father of Saanvi Venna and the son of Satyavathi Venna, did not comment on his way out of court.

Since Yandamuri was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, he will immediately undergo a penalty phase in which the trial jury will hear arguments on whether he should get the death penalty. If the jury does not sentence Yandamuri to death, he will be sentenced to life in prison.

"Mr. (Stephen) Heckman and I were certainly prepared for it," said defense attorney Henry Hilles, who will represent Yandamuri in the penalty phase. "We're hopeful we can convince the jury that the death penalty is not the right verdict."

Immediately after the verdict was read, Padmavathi Yandamuri, the defendant's mother, took the stand to testify for the beginning of the penalty phase of the trial. Normally the court would allow the jury to go home for the night before beginning the penalty phase, but Padmavathi Yandamuri, who spoke through an interpreter, is expected to travel back to her home in India tomorrow and will be unable to testify later.

"Please, save my son somehow," she said, crying.

She told the court that in 1997 her husband, who worked as a police officer in India, was killed in the line of duty during a terrorist attack.

After her husband's death, her son became suicidal and said there was no point in living without his father around, she said. When he was 11, he tried to kill himself, she said.

"I do think there were incidents in his life that had a serious impact on him," Hilles said. "He went through a lot and our position is, given everything he's been through, he is not an evil person and is not the worst of the worst and accordingly should not be put to death."

The penalty phase is expected to last several days and will resume on Friday morning with additional witnesses called by Hilles.

Yandamuri was convicted of the kidnapping and killing of Saanvi Venna and the killing of her grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, in the Marquis Apartments on Oct. 22, 2012. Investigators immediately began searching for Saanvi Venna and found a ransom note demanding $50,000 or the baby would be killed.

Police were able to narrow down the list of suspects because the kidnapper used the nicknames of Saanvi Venna's parents, which were known to only a few people. Yandamuri was on that list and was later taken in by police for questioning. During questioning, Yandamuri confessed to the killings and kidnapping. He also revealed to investigators that Saanvi Venna was killed shortly after the kidnapping.

Yandamuri has maintained throughout his incarceration and trial the confession was coerced by police and that he had been forced to lead 2 other men into the apartment. During the trial he said the 2 men, whom he identified only as Josh and Matt, were the ones who killed the grandmother and kidnapped and later killed the baby.



Death Penalty Sought In Baby Death Case

A man accused of killing a baby in Lackawanna County may now face the death penalty.

The district attorney said they plan to seek the death penalty against Eddie Widdick of Jermyn.

Widdick was charged with 1st and 3rd degree murder in August.

He's been locked up since March, after police found his girlfriend's 10-month-old son with severe injuries. The baby died 3 days later.

(source: WNEP news)


Bianca Richardson Tanner's Boyfriend May Face Death Penalty For Her Murder

Although African Americans make up just 13 % of the U.S. population, we account for 33 % of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.

NewsOne has partnered with the Black and Missing Foundation to focus on the crisis of missing African Americans. To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All of the Find Our Missing cases profiled this month will focus on domestic violence.

The man accused of killing Charlotte teacher Bianca Richardson Tanner will return to court Thursday to find out if he will face the death penalty for her murder. Police and prosecutors say that Angelo Grayson Smith Jr. killed Tanner, after a violent argument on June 8th. A grand jury indicted Smith on murder charges in July.

After he received a text message on his phone that led to an argument, Smith originally told police that Tanner was intoxicated when she stormed out of the apartment they shared.

Smith reported Tanner missing and even called her 3-year-old son's father to come pick up the boy.

But Smith's account of Tanner's absence made little sense because Tanner left her 3-year-old son, her car, and prescription medications behind.

And then Tanner's brave 3-year-old son told police that his mother had been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Smith.

"Mommy got a spanking with the belt. Angelo kicked mommy's butt and made her cry," the boy told police according to court records. "Angelo is mean to mommy and hurt mommy in the face."

Police say that a "cooperating witness," believed to be one of Smith's fraternity brothers, did the right thing and led them to Tanner's body, which was found in a wooded area in southwest Charlotte.

Tanner's death came just 10 days after she moved to Charlotte to live with Smith and start a new teaching job at a program that improved educational outcomes for kids at West Charlotte High School and the 8 middle schools that feed students there. Tanner's family says being an educator was her life-long goal.

Police suspected domestic violence was at play in Tanner's disappearance almost immediately. The night Tanner went missing, neighbors say they heard a raucous argument at the couple's apartment followed by a loud thud and then silence.

Smith, according to police records, has a long history of alleged domestic violence. The Charlotte Observer reported:

In 2011, Smith's then-wife, Devona Smith, filed a temporary restraining order against him, after she said he caused her "extreme emotional distress and bodily harm caused by overreacting." Authorities ordered Angelo to stay away from her home and job.

In 2007, Kristen Croskey-Freshwater, Smith's girlfriend at the time, told a judge that Smith became angry when he spilled juice on the carpet and she refused to clean it up. Croskey-Freshwater left the apartment, according to the order, but Smith came after her, first gesticulating, then grabbing her. "He then pulled me by my hair out of the pool and dragged me on to the cement," Croskey-Freshwater wrote in the restraining order. "Then he threw me over the gate, and when I tried to run, he threw me in to the bathroom by the pool area where I slammed in to the sink."

"On 9/21/07, Angelo slapped me twice & strangled me for over an hour." Neither woman could be reached for comment.

Another woman who once dated Smith released a statement after he was arrested for Tanner's murder, reported WCCB Charlotte.

"I was afraid Angelo would again get away with abuse and even worse, murder this time... I escaped with my life. I can't be thankful enough, but I will never forget the night I feared for my life," wrote the woman who asked to remain anonymous.

The Mecklenburg County District Attorney will disclose in court this week whether or not the death penalty will be sought against Smith.

"He is scheduled for a Rule 24 hearing where a prosecutor announces whether the state will seek the death penalty," Meghan Cooke, spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office told NewsOne. Cooke declined to comment in more detail about the case but said Smith remains in custody with no bond.

Domestic abuse of African-American women is all too common in this country. According to a 2013 report from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., in 2011, Black women were murdered by males at a rate of 2.61 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 0.99 per 100,000 for White females. That is a murder rate that is two and a half times higher for black women.

Black women are more likely to be killed in domestic violence situations than other women, according to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at the University of Minnesota. Although Black women make up just 8 % of the population, in 2005 they accounted for 22 % of intimate partner homicides and 29 % of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.

Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for Black women between the ages of 15 and 25.

Stephanie McGraw, a domestic violence survivor who now heads a New York City-based group called "We All Really Matter" (WARM), which helps women and men to heal from domestic violence, said stories like Tanner's are not unusual.

"When there is a murder or act of violence there is a strong possibility that the woman was trying to own her power or leave. That is the most dangerous time," said McGraw.

Statistics from the Violence Policy Center show that Black women are often killed in the midst of an argument by their intimate partners. Approximately 87 % of homicide cases involving Black women were unrelated to the commission of another felony crime.

"We highly suggest women never tell the abuser they are leaving. If you don't give fuel to the fire, it has no where to go," said McGraw. Instead, her group and other domestic violence advocates will help a woman develop a safe exit plan for her and her children.

It was likely that Tanner was being abused before the night she was killed given the statements by her son, said McGraw. She's also not surprised that Smith is alleged to have killed Tanner just 10 days after she moved in with him.

"It escalates over a period of time. It doesn't go from a fight to murder," said McGraw. "The abuse is all about power and control. Once the perpetrator gets the victim isolated, the abuse is intensified."

That's why women need to learn to recognize abuse for what it is.

"When I was involved in abusive relationships, I couldn't spot it. I viewed what was happening to me as normal and as love," said McGraw.

Her message to women in an abusive relationship is simple.

"If you are in abusive relationship and getting beaten or hurt ,you don't have to stay. You are a child of God who put you on this earth not to be beaten by anyone," said McGraw. "Love should never hurt. If it hurts, it's not love."

Tanner's family has also spoken out about the domestic abuse she was dealing with.

"You have a voice so please use it," said Cerise Richardson, Tanner's sister, during a rally this summer, Fox 6 reported. "No one deserves to be in any type of domestic violence situation."

Richardson also recalled how she had reservations about Smith.

"I met her [Bianca's] boyfriend. We had several encounters and I did have reservations. But I felt like, you know, it's her life. She chose to be with this person, so obviously she saw something in him, and I didn't say anything, and that's what I kick myself in the butt for every single day."

She also urged the crowd to speak up if they suspected friends or family members were in an abusive relationship.

"I ask you today that if you know anyone who is in a situation - even if you don't know, if you think - be that voice. That's the one thing to this day I regret," said Richardson.


Harsh penalty deserved


I used to be a resident of Lexington but moved some 6 years ago. I still go on The Dispatch (website) and follow what is happening around there. It breaks my heart to read of the couple that got arrested for the rape and abuse of a 4-year-old child.

These people should never see the light of day ever. To me, they both deserve the death penalty. There should not be any trial that taxpayers have to pay; they both deserve death, What about the child? She has rights and is too young to talk for herself. The poor child will probably never have a normal life because of these 2 beasts.

It's high time that America starts taking better concern about people of this nature and quit giving them a slap on the hand or a little time in prison. If they would start taking disciplinary action like a lot of other countries, we might not have the crime like we do. So please if anyone is out there listening who can do something about this, please do for the sake of that child. I will never stand down for what I said; they both deserve the death penalty. I am raising my granddaughter, and I would hate to think what I would do if someone touched my granddaughter.

Peggy Newsome

Oak Island

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Dispatch)


Florida's flawed Death System

35 years ago, John Arthur Spenkelink, a drifter from California who had been convicted of murdering a fellow transient at a flophouse in Tallahassee, was strapped into the electric chair at the Florida State Prison in Raiford.

3 years before, the U.S. Supreme Court had reinstituted the death penalty by overturning its 1972 decision that held capital punishment to be unconstitutional. Mr. Spenkelink was the 1st person in the United States to be put to death against his will as a result of the Court's resurrection of capital punishment.

"Them without the capital get the punishment," he would write.

The merits of Mr. Spenkelink's execution were debated at the time, but no one could have known that his case foreshadowed the problems and controversies that still engulf Florida's administration of the death penalty.

As the hour of Mr. Spenkelink's execution drew nigh, a disturbing fact surfaced; no one at the prison - which had not conducted an execution in 15 years - knew how to operate the electric chair. The creaky, 3-legged monstrosity, which had been built - in a cruel twist of irony - by inmates in 1923, was fashioned from oak and bore the grimly cheerful nickname "Old Sparky." Flummoxed prison officials sought the services of a consultant from Westinghouse, who was quietly dispatched to Raiford, where he conducted a tutorial on the fine art of death by electrocution.

When the execution finally came to be on May 25, 1979, witnesses were allowed to view only the final moments. By the time the blinds were pulled back in the death chamber, the 30-year-old Mr. Spenkelink already was hooded, gagged and secured in Old Sparky. This lack of transparency gave rise to wild speculation that the condemned man fought furiously with guards as he was wrestled into the chair. Rumors swirled that he had suffered a broken neck in the melee and already was dead when the electricity was administered. To quell this tempest, Mr. Spenkelink's body was exhumed and an autopsy performed. The postmortem examination revealed that he had indeed succumbed to electric shock, but the state of Florida was roundly criticized for the clumsy manner in which it had dispatched Mr. Spenkelink. In the years since, the state's reputation as a capable and judicious overseer of capital punishment protocols has eroded further.

The debate over the death penalty in Florida today centers not so much on the morality and wisdom of the practice itself, although that discussion persists. Instead, the focus most often falls on the incompetence, indifference, demagoguery, penuriousness and ineptitude that the state displays in almost every facet of putting someone to death.

Critics of the state's death procedures are vociferous, legion and disparate - ranging from the American Bar Association to Amnesty International to the Florida Supreme Court to an array of legal scholars and human rights advocates. The only people who seem satisfied with the status quo are the politicians (Democrats and Republicans) in Tallahassee who created the mess and appear to be unwavering in their determination to make things worse. Thoughtful discourse on capital punishment in the legislature is sparse, and many of the state's governors have been no better. Tasteless 1-liners and crude attempts at gallows humor predominate.

Typical of this smirking, flippant attitude toward the ultimate punishment was Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez, who promised in 1986 that "Florida's electric bill will go up" if the voters made him governor, which is precisely what they did.

"To achieve real, lasting reform on how we administer the death penalty in Florida, there must be a serious, thoughtful debate," says Duane Dobbert, professor of justice studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Dr. Dobbert, who has 45 years of experience in the public-safety and criminal-justice systems, adds, "We have not had that debate on the state level, and there is no indication that we will have it anytime soon. It is something that is swept under the carpet."

32 states employ the death penalty, but few make a hash of it as frequently and in so many ways as Florida. The state exectrocuted its 1st inmate in 1924 - 1 year after the construction of Old Sparky. Previously, executions had been the domain of individual counties, most of which favored hanging - usually carried out on the grounds of a courthouse - as the means of death, the Florida Department of Corrections informs us.

From the get-go, the state has pinched pennies. A former designer of electric chairs once observed that "when it comes to execution hardware, the state of Florida is very cheap."

In 1990, Old Sparky was 67 years old and richly deserving of the scrapheap. This became horrifyingly evident during the execution of Jesse Tafero. 6-inch flames shot from Mr. Tafero's head, and three separate jolts of electricity were required to kill him. This gruesome tableau was shrugged off by prison officials as "inadvertent human error," and Old Sparky was kept in play.

7 years later, Pedro Medina took his turn in the broken-down death throne. As warden of the Florida State Prison in 1997, Ron McAndrew presided over the execution. Earlier this year, Mr. McAndrew gave a chilling, 1st-person account of Mr. Medina's demise to

"As I told the executioner to turn on the electricity, there was a pop," Mr. McAndrew recalled. "Immediately following the pop, there was a plume of smoke that came from beneath the helmet, sort of out in front of my face, with a bad odor. Then there was a long flame. It was a flame that dipped down out of the helmet and in front of my face. It almost hit me."

Mr. McAndrew continued, "For the next 11 minutes, instead of electrocuting this man, we burned him to death. We literally burned him to death."

The Medina spectacle was so grotesque that state officials were besieged by expressions of indignation and disgust. How could this happen again? What's going on here? Does Florida condone burning people alive?

"People who wish to commit murder, they better not do it in the State of Florida, because we may have a problem with our electric chair," was the glib response given by Bob Butterworth, the state's attorney general at that time.

Even then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, long considered one of the state's most thoughtful and reflective politicians, dismissed the execution with a tasteless rejoinder.

"You know, putting someone to death is not the most friendly thing," he said.

Behind the scenes, though, Gov. Chiles realized that changes were needed.

"2 or 3 days (after the Medina execution) I got a call from Gov. Chiles," Mr. McAndrew said in his Esquire account. "He said, 'Listen, it's too bad we had that mess. That really hurt. ... We gotta get the needle out.'"

Mr. McAndrew said Gov. Chiles dispatched him to Texas to study that state's method of lethal injection.

The Medina incident attracted international attention and howls of predictable outrage from opponents of the death penalty and assorted other "dogooders." But Florida - being Florida, after all - viewed the imbroglio from its own idiosyncratic perspective.

Perhaps only in the Sunshine State could a publicly financed immolation be seen as a boon to the tourist industry. Orlando attorney John ("For the People") Morgan — the omnipresent, moon-faced television pitchman for his law firm, Morgan & Morgan - certainly saw it as such. Just months after the Medina debacle, Mr. Morgan purchased a mock electric chair that resembled Old Sparky at an amusement park trade show and placed it at the WonderWorks attraction in Orlando.

Mr. Morgan said he personally opposed the death penalty, and he said he understood why some people found the notion of a faux Old Sparky to be creepy. Still, he insisted it was all in good fun.

"I'll tell you what people really loved was watching their friends in it," he was quoted as saying.

A WonderWorks press release said the chair "shocks guests as they strap in for a jolting experience." To more closely replicate Mr. Medina's fiery denouement, the chair emitted smoke.

By 1999, Old Sparky - after 75 years on the job and 266 executions - was gone. Its replacement was christened by a 350-pound murderer named Allen Lee Davis, who was known to the denizens of death row as "Tiny." Tiny's morbid obesity hastened Old Sparky's retirement. It was feared that the ageold death device might collapse under his formidable weight, sending live wires dancing hither and yon across the floor of the death chamber. Prison officials proudly announced that the new electric chair was especially modified to accommodate the condemned man's enormous girth. If Tiny was worried about any possible glitches in his execution, it was not reflected in his appetite. He remained a steadfast trencherman to the very end, consuming an epic last meal of a lobster tail, eight ounces of fried shrimp, 6 ounces of fried clams, fried potatoes and a quart of root beer. (The state no longer countenances Michelin-style final meals. The cost of these repasts is capped at a fairly generous $40, and all provisions must be purchased locally, the Department of Corrections reports.)

To the relief of the execution team, the new, reinforced chair held up just fine. Still, that did not prevent the affair from turning into a bloody mess. For Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, it was the final straw. He said that Mr. Davis had been "brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida."

Looking back at Florida's string of bungled executions, Justice Shaw decried them as "barbaric spectacles" and said they were "acts more befitting a violent murderer than a civilized state."

To appease critics, the Florida Legislature in 2000 gave death row inmates a dismal choice: lethal injection or electrocution? Unsurprisingly, no one has opted for the latter, thus making "Tiny Davis" the answer to the trivia question, "Who was the last person to die in Florida's electric chair?"

The move to lethal injection did not solve Florida's problems. In 2006, the execution of Angel Nieves Diaz (aka the "Daddy of Death") went hopelessly awry when needles used to administer the deadly chemicals were not inserted properly. As a result, 34 minutes were required to kill Mr. Diaz - more than twice the time it should have taken.

"This is further proof of the broken death-penalty system in Florida," Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said in the wake of the Diaz fiasco. "Florida has no business in executions." As of MID-September, Florida and Texas had executed 7 inmates, trailing only Missouri - with 8 - for the most executions this year. Since Mr. Spenkelink was killed in 1979, Florida has executed 88 inmates, which, again as of mid-September, falls behind Virginia (110), Oklahoma (111) and Texas (515!). Last year, Florida's execution total was 7, which was 2nd to Texas's 16.

"Florida seems to be going in the opposite direction of other states," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. "Instead of figuring out what's gone wrong, Florida only seems interested in (speeding the pace of executions)."

Mr. Dieter posits that Florida's death policies are based on "the politics of the situation, rather than a rise in crime."

"Yeah, it's all politics," says Hilliard Moldof, a Fort Lauderdale defense attorney with extensive experience in capital cases. "Whether anyone wants to admit it, the fact is we are still a redneck state."

"The problem is that no one wants to touch (the reform issue)," says Dr. Dobbert, the FGCU professor. "Certainly, no one in the legislature wants to touch it. They have wealthy constituents who say, 'Kill 'em. We don't want (prisoners) to escape and kill my kids.' Those are the people (legislators) listen to."

The shortcomings of Florida's death procedures are so egregious that an article in The Daily Beast a few months back contained this remarkable sentence, "Florida has joined North Korea and Iran as a major concern for Amnesty International's death penalty campaigners."

There have been piddling attempts to address the inadequacies of the state's capital system. The legislature in 1997 created the Florida Commission on Capital Cases. The ostensible purpose of the commission was to "review the administration of justice" in death cases. It also served as a repository of information about the death penalty. This proved to be more than lawmakers could stomach. Legislators abolished the commission in 2011 and repealed the law that created it. Gov. Rick Scott signed that legislation, and it was triumphantly announced that the state saved $400,000 by getting rid of the commission.

The touchstone for reforming the death penalty in Florida is a withering 2006 study produced by the American Bar Association. The report was written by Florida-based experts. The 8-person ABA team included an elected state attorney, a former public defender and a former Florida Supreme Court chief justice. The study took no stance on the death penalty per se; its lone intent was to make recommendations on how the existing system could be improved.

"The team has concluded ... that the state of Florida fails to comply or is only in partial compliance with many of these recommendations and that many of the shortcomings are substantial," the study pointed out. "More specifically, the team is convinced that there is a need to improve the fairness and accuracy in the death penalty system."

Among the myriad problems outlined in the study were discrepancies in sentencing that were based on race and geography, the lack of adequate defense counsel in many cases, a lack of transparency in the clemency process, the imposition of the death penalty on people with "severe mental disability" and persistent and widespread confusion among jurors in capital cases.

The ABA team emphasized that Florida is the only state in which a jury can recommend a death sentence based on a mere majority (7-5) vote. All other capital states, except Alabama, require a unanimous vote. Alabama, however, insists on a "super majority" vote of at least 10-2 when imposing a death mandate.

In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court addressed this issue and urged policymakers to revisit unanimity in capital cases. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush said the question was "definitely worth considering" and counseled the legislature to consider the court's suggestion.

Per usual, Florida's lawgivers have refused to confront the unanimity matter or any of the other recommendations set forth in the ABA study. (The Florida Supreme Court, though, did take it upon itself to modify jury instructions in death cases, as recommended in the ABA study.)

In place of substantive reform, lawmakers last year cranked out a controversial piece of legislation known as the Timely Justice Act, which aims to speed a condemned prisoner's journey to the death chamber. The act requires the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to alert the governor when an inmate on death row has exhausted his initial state and federal appeals. The legislation compels the governor to sign a death warrant for such an inmate within 30 days. The governor is further required to order the warden at the Florida State Prison to schedule an execution within 180 days.

The average stay on Florida's death row (about 13 years) is nearly 2 years shorter than national average (roughly 15 years). Proponents of the TJA presuppose that quicker executions will enhance the death penalty's "deterrence factor" and also save the state money.

Dr. Dobbert says anyone arguing deterrence is muddling facts.

"To say (the death penalty) is a deterrent is simply false," he says. "There are enough studies out there that show it is not a deterrent. This is because most murders are crimes of passion, impulsive."

As to costs, Forbes magazine examined the economics of the death penalty and determined that trials of capital cases "are more expensive and take much more time to resolve" than those in which a sentence of life in prison without parole is sought. Moreover, the magazine noted that it "costs more to house death penalty prisoners."

This assertion was supported by a report released in February by The Kansas Judicial Council, which studied the costs of housing a death-row inmate and found that they were about double the amount spent on a prisoner in the general population. The ACLU contends that sentencing someone to death is 3 times more expensive than sentencing them to life without parole.

The TJA cleared an initial legal hurdle in June of this year when the Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the measure.

Justice R. Fred Lewis' opinion said, in part, that the TJA "does not directly restrict or regulate the procedural mechanisms of the judicial process because it does not alter the timelines of capital postconviction proceedings."

During the legislative debate on the TJA, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach), who sponsored the bill in the House, said, "Only God can judge, but we sure can set up the meeting."

Later, after Gov. Rick Scott had signed the legislation, Rep. Gaetz took to Twitter, where he wrote, "Several on death row need to start picking out their last meals."

Hyperbole aside, it is unclear how the TJA ultimately will affect the 388 men and 5 women who currently await execution in Florida.

Mark Elliott of the Tampa-based Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty says the legislation may be more symbolic than substantive. He points out that the clemency process still applies, which means that the final decision remains "in the hands of the governor."

The New York Times took a look at the TJA and concluded that "(Florida's) indisputably defective death penalty system is made more horrifying by attempts to rush inmates to execution."

"(O)ne would wonder why the governor signed the bill in the first place," Stephen Harper, a professor at Florida International University and an expert on the state's death laws, told the News Service of Florida. "It would seem to be nothing more than (Gov. Scott) kowtowing to his constituency without any substance."

Florida leads the nation in the number of condemned inmates who have been exonerated and freed from death row, which troubles those who oppose the TJA. Since 1973, there have been 146 exonerations nationwide, and Florida has accounted for 24 of them, the Death Penalty Information Center says.

Foes of the TJA fear it will dramatically increase the odds that innocent inmates will be executed.

Herman Lindsey was the 23rd of Florida's 24 exonerations. Mr. Lindsey was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of an employee at a pawn shop in Broward County. The Florida Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction in 2009, and Mr. Lindsey was set free.

In tossing out the conviction, the justices said that the prosecution could not place Mr. Lindsey at the scene of the crime and that all of the state's evidence was circumstantial.

"The evidence here is equally consistent with a reasonable hypothesis of innocence," the opinion stated.

Speaking by telephone from Pompano Beach, where he now lives, the 41-year-old Mr. Lindsey - who has a substantial history of arrests and convictions for serious criminal offenses - says his initial reaction to the guilty verdict in the murder case was disbelief.

"I was wondering how in the world this happened," he says. "I wasn't even there."

"There is no doubt in my mind that the Timely Justice Act will lead to innocent people being executed," he continues. "I learned firsthand that the justice system does not have a secure error margin." Although he was exonerated, Mr. Lindsey says the murder conviction remains on his record, making it nearly impossible to secure employment.

"I can explain all day that I was exonerated, but that murder conviction still shows," he says. "I know what people are thinking. They are wondering if I really did it. They are wondering if I just got lucky on appeal. I understand their thought process. So, getting a job, or even a place to live, is rough. I cut grass, pick up cans, do whatever I need to do to survive."

Mr. Lindsey has sought financial compensation from the state for his stay on death row, but he says his claims have been denied because of his lengthy rap sheet.

The exoneration did not convince everyone of Mr. Lindsey's innocence. In a statement given to the now-defunct Florida Commission on Capital Cases, David Frankel, the prosecuting attorney in Mr. Lindsey's case, said, "... " doubt anyone connected with this case would argue loudly for Mr. Lindsey's actual innocence and deny that he got away with murder."

Seth Penalver also was exonerated while awaiting execution. Mr. Penalver was charged with participating in a home invasion in Miramar in 1994 that resulted in 3 murders. His 1st trial ended in 1998 with jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction. Mr. Penalver was tried again in 1999, and he was convicted this time and shuttled to death row. The Florida Supreme Court reversed that conviction. Mr. Penalver was tried a third time in 2012 and found not guilty of all charges.

Hilliard Moldof, Mr. Penalver's lawyer, believes his client might have been executed had the TJA been in force. Mr. Moldof, who spent 18 years working on Mr. Penalver's case, says that "something like (the TJA) can really put (possible exonerations) in jeopardy."

Mr. Moldof says Mr. Penalver, like Mr. Lindsey, finds it difficult to land a job because of the murder conviction. But, he says, Mr. Penalver has stayed out of trouble. "He"s blended back into society."

The attorney stoutly maintains that Mr. Penalver was wrongly convicted and did not commit the murders that were laid to him.

As in Mr. Lindsey's case, some do not believe that exoneration automatically confers innocence. Following Mr. Penalver's acquittal, a sister of one of the victims told a reporter, "This guy is a murderer, and they let him out."

In the case of Frank Lee Smith, though, there is no disputing that an innocent man was condemned to death. In 1986, Mr. Smith was convicted of raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl in Fort Lauderdale. Gov. Bob Martinez signed a death warrant for Mr. Smith in 1989, but a stay kept him out of the electric chair. Mr. Smith died in prison in 2000 from pancreatic cancer. He had languished on death row for 14 years.

11 months after his death, DNA testing results conclusively proved Mr. Smith's innocence and identified the true murderer as Eddie Lee Mosey, a convicted serial killer and rapist.

Although the tide runs swiftly against those advocating reform or outright abolition of the death penalty, Mr. Elliott of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty professes to be "hopeful." One encouraging sign, he says, is that "more conservatives and libertarians" are having second thoughts about capital punishment.

Because the legislature is unwilling to discuss or consider even rudimentary reforms and because there is no public clamor demanding that it do so, The New York Times - echoing the views of many - sees little cause for optimism.

In an editorial published last year, The Times declared, "The flaws in Florida's (death) system...cannot be fixed."

General facts

Means of execution: In January 2000, the Florida Legislature passed legislation that allows lethal injection as an alternative method of execution in Florida. Florida administers executions by lethal injection or electric chair at the execution chamber located at Florida State Prison. The 3-legged electric chair was constructed from oak by Department of Corrections personnel in 1998 and was installed at Florida State Prison in Raiford in 1999. The previous chair was made by inmates from oak in 1923 after the Florida Legislature designated electrocution as the official mode of execution. (Prior to that, executions were carried out by counties, usually by hanging.)

1st executed inmate: Frank Johnson was the 1st inmate executed in Florida's electric chair on Oct. 7, 1924. In 1929 and from May 1964 to May 1979 there were no executions in Florida.

Witnesses: The department relies on the Florida Press Association and the Florida Association of Broadcasters to select 10 of the 12 pool reporters who may witness an execution (2 places are always reserved for the Associated Press and United Press International-Radio).

Death Watch cells: A death row cell is 6-by-9-by-9.5-feet high. Florida State Prison also has Death Watch cells to incarcerate inmates awaiting execution after the Governor signs a death warrant for them. A Death Watch cell is 12-by-7-by-8.5-feet high. Men on death row are housed at Florida State Prison in Raiford and Union Correctional Institution in Raiford. The women on death row are housed at Lowell Annex in Lowell.

Meals: Death row inmates are served meals three times a day: at 5 a.m., from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Food is prepared by prison staff and transported in insulated carts to the cells. Inmates are given sporks with their meals and they eat from the provided tray. Prior to execution, an inmate may request a last meal. To avoid extravagance, the food to prepare the last meal must cost no more than $40 and must be purchased locally.

Visitors: All inmate visitors must be approved before visitation is allowed. Questions regarding an inmate's visiting day(s), visiting hours, and special visits should be directed to the Classification Officer responsible for the inmate at the inmate's assigned facility. Questions may be sent by letter, email or by telephone. Members of the news media may request death row inmate interviews through the Department of Corrections Communications Office at (850) 488-0420. The inmate must agree to the interview and the interview will be non-contact.

Showers: The inmates may shower every other day.

Security: Death row inmates are counted at least once an hour. They are escorted in handcuffs and wear them everywhere except in their cells, the exercise yard and the shower. They are in their cells at all times except for medical reasons, exercise, social or legal visits or media interviews. When a death warrant is signed the inmate is put under Death Watch status and is allowed a legal and social phone call.

Mail, Magazines & Entertainment: Inmates may receive mail every day except holidays and weekends. They may have snacks, radios and 13-inch televisions in their cells. They do not have cable television or air-conditioning and they are not allowed to be with each other in a common room. They can watch church services on closed-circuit television. While on Death Watch, inmates may have radios and televisions positioned outside their cell bars.

[Source: Florida Department of Corrections]

(source: Ft. Myers Florida Weekly)


Hunger of 'bloodthirsty beast' clouds executions

We in America grieve with the families of those victims who were beheaded by ruthless jihadists of the Islamist State. Although President Obama and Congress have sparred over a plethora of issues in the past, they both agree that the war must be taken to the terrorists now to diminish the risk of facing the enemy at home on a large scale. The barbarism exhibited by militants in Syria and Iraq is receiving worldwide condemnation.

It is probably not the most opportune time to bring it up; however, the gruesome carnage of the innocent civilians in the Middle East pricks my conscience and compels me to consider atrocities that occur all too frequently in our own country.

In 1992, I was employed as a division chief with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, working at the pleasure of Gov. Guy Hunt. Although I served on the State Democratic Executive Committee and was chairman of the Dallas County Democratic Conference at the time of my initial employ during the Hunt administration, the fact that we were both preachers gave us a mutual respect that transcended politics.

It was during this time that a retarded man, Cornelius Singleton, was scheduled to be executed for the murder of a Catholic nun, Sister Ann Hogan, while she prayed in a cemetery in Mobile. After exhausting all of Singleton's judicial appeals, his lawyers sought clemency from the governor.

Even the other nuns who served with Sister Hogan sought to have Singleton's life spared. State law precluded Gov. Hunt from seeking re-election, therefore I was certain that he would spare Singleton's life. He didn't. My heart was broken.

To spare Singleton's life would have spoiled Hunt's legacy. Hunt understood the insatiable hunger for ultimate revenge when an innocent life was taken. Singleton had committed the murder and no extenuating circumstances, like diminished mental capacity, were going to get in the way of our corporate vengeance.

According to the Innocence Project data, 113 prisoners who were on death row have been exonerated of murders that they were accused of committing since 1973. Some of their convictions were the results of over-zealous prosecutors who were positioning themselves for some public office, coerced confessions, fallacious eyewitness identifications, and in a few cases a societal mentality that somebody had to pay. Some of these prisoners spent decades on death row prior to their exoneration.

It hurts to think how many innocent people have been executed in this country because angels of mercy had not pulled their files for examination.

A civilized society must be willing to punish those criminals who do harm to its members. During the enforcement of laws designed to protect the public, mistakes are sometimes made. However, when it comes to the ultimate penalty of death, a society cannot once be wrong. No pardon, apology or monetary compensation to significant others can bring back to life a person who has been wrongly executed. It doesn't matter if he/she dies by the electric chair, a combination of drugs, a firing squad, guillotine, or some other crude method, the person is dead and his family mourns the loss that can never be regained.

America must be willing to go after the bad guys over there. I dare say that we need to do a little soul-searching and battle the bloodthirsty beast within our own spirit.

(source: Opinion; Joseph Rembert is pastor of New Beginnings Christian Center in Montgomery----Montgomery Advertiser)


DeBlase capital murder trial begins

Nearly 4 years after John DeBlase was arrested for killing his 2 children, his capital murder trial has begun in Mobile County.

According to Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, DeBlase withdrew his initial plea of not guilty because of insanity and is now pleading not guilty.

DeBlase and his common law wife Heather Keaton are accused of gagging, starving and poisoning his 2 children, 5-year-old Natalie and 3-year-old Jonathan Chase in 2010. DeBlase waived his right to be in the court room Tuesday, October 14 when potential jurors went before Circuit Court Judge Rick Stout. 278 people showed up for jury selection and 1 by 1, they went before the prosecution, defense and the judge.

"The reason it takes so long is because they have to do it individually and they do that so that 1 person's opinion doesn't sway another persons," said Gordon Armstrong with Armstrong & Associates.

Each potential juror is required to fill out a 15 page questionnaire which asks about employment, education, military service and belief in the death penalty.

"The Supreme Court has said death is different so when death is the possible punishment, then the courts treat the jury selection process much differently and it's so important your jury is unbiased and fair and willing to listen," Armstrong said.

Some potential jurors were excused from serving this time around while others will continue in the jury selection process.

District Attorney Ashley Rich said she expects opening statements to begin in middle of next week. Rich and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright are prosecuting the case. Attorneys Art Powell and Glenn Davidson are serving as the defense.

(source: WALA news)


Prosecutors consider death-penalty charges against man accused of killing Michaela Diemer

Cuyahoga County prosecutors are considering whether to bring the death penalty against a convicted rapist accused of killing a woman in a vacant West Side home.

Ronald Hillman, 46, of Cleveland pleaded not guilty Wednesday to aggravated murder in the slaying of Michaela Diemer, who was killed in August. He was indicted earlier this month on charges of rape, kidnapping, robbery and abuse of a corpse.

Brent Kirvel, an assistant county prosecutor, told Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell that an internal committee of the prosecutor's office will determine whether to file death-penalty charges. The panel is expected to study the issue next month.

Kirvel told the judge that prosecutors have a great deal of evidence against Hillman, including statements he made to authorities. Hillman's attorney, Valerie Arbie-McClelland, described the case as complex. She declined to comment. Arbie-McClelland and veteran defense attorney Thomas Shaughnessy represent Hillman.

If the case goes to trial, it could take weeks to complete.

Hillman had met Diemer while working at a temporary employment agency, officials said. Diemer, 31, was reported missing by family members in August, around the time court records show she was murdered. Her body was later found in a field near West 41st Street and Train Avenue.

Hillman was released from prison in 2012 after serving 7 years for rape. He was still on parole at the time that he attacked Diemer, according to state prison records.

O'Donnell set Hillman's bond at $500,000. In addition, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority has ordered that Hillman cannot be released from jail because he violated his parole.

Court records show Hillman's criminal record dates back to 1986. Authorities said he was living in a home on Forestdale Avenue, where they suspect he killed Diemer. After she disappeared, Hillman took her car, a 2013 Volkswagon Jetta, according to interviews and documents.

Diemer's family members spotted the car at a gas station after her disappearance, and police were able to get surveillance video that linked them to Hillman, according to published reports.

(source: The Plain Dealer)


The Death Penalty, Missouri and the Continued Devaluing of Black Life

The murder of a black person is often disregarded by the media and much of the public as a normal, ignorable occurrence. But occasionally, the spectacle of a murdered black person captures the nation's attention. It's a tradition of sorts. The morbid pageantry of killing a black person, consuming black pain and stifling black cries of innocence has a long running history here in the United States. It's cemented in the lynching postcards whites used to send each other as souvenirs, and has trickled down through racist lineage to how we consume black deaths today.

This pageantry of black death is performed through many means, including "vigilante justice" and extrajudicial police murders - and also the death penalty, which is grounded in racism, past and present. A recent example: The 2 famously condemned black death row prisoners exonerated due to DNA evidence, after 31 years of imprisonment. This moment begs a reflection on all the ways in which the machinery of death operates in relation to black people (even those who are exonerated, after losing decades of their lives). Inside and outside of prisons, black people are disproportionately killed - and officially authorized to be killed - in the United States. It's crucial to devote our concern to all untimely black deaths - including those that happen behind bars.

Since late last year, leading up to the uprisings in Ferguson, the state of Missouri has quietly and controversially used midazolam to kill nine condemned death row prisoners. Missouri's director of the Department of Corrections spoke on behalf of the state to lawyers at a deposition in January saying they wouldn't use the drug. They did - and they got away with it. Death penalty states have been rushing to get their hands on anything they can use to put prisoners to death. Several pharmaceutical companies backed away from letting their products be used for lethal injections, causing the widespread usage of "chemical cocktails." Now, some death penalty states, more concerned with being on schedule than with not torturing prisoners with drawn out exploratory executions, have been using what they can find. Some of these states, like Georgia, have even passed legislation - which the Supreme Court has upheld - to keep their torturous methods secret. The prospect of "humane killing" is oxymoronic to say the least, but torture is never warranted.

The mishandled execution that grabbed the country's attention was that of Clayton Lockett last April, in Oklahoma. (A mishandling that has come to be known as the "botched execution.") Lockett was to be the first of two men scheduled for a double execution - the first in the state since 1937. A group of witnesses gathered to watch as he was tortured to death by Oklahoma's "new lethal injection method": 43 minutes of groaning, writhing and fumbling before he finally had a heart attack and died. The second execution scheduled that night didn't happen. After Lockett's execution, an independent autopsy revealed how his death was tantamount to torture, and led to a brief, unofficial de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

7 weeks later, on June 17, many around the country waited to see what would happen to Marcus Wellons in Georgia. Wellons' lawyers rushed to stop his demise and urged that the moratorium continue. They argued via a petition for postponement that the drug secrecy was a violation of his First and Eighth Amendment rights - among other trespasses against his person. In his petition, Wellons did not plead to live; he simply asked to know how he was going to be killed. His lawyers could not stop his execution, despite their pleas to the Supreme Court. His death would be one of three in a spurt of these lethal experimentations. After Wellons, John Winfield was scheduled to die in Missouri and John Ruthell would be executed by Florida the next evening. Three deaths occurred in less than 24 hours.

This succession of events has prompted a lawsuit from current death row prisoners, who feel they have the right to know how they will die. Of course, the Supreme Court has allowed the executions to go on undeterred.

Meanwhile, Ohio has taken the liberty of upping the dosage used to kill. Tennessee is reverting to the electric chair, also prompting a lawsuit. This alternative torturous method has not been used in years and lawyers argue no other country in the world uses it.

At each step in the criminal punishment system, the path is paved for black torture and fatality. During surveillance, arrest and conviction, black survival is at the mercy of the state. In the pits of solitary confinement or in the general prison population, black death is omnipresent. The death penalty represents one more step in that chain.

Research shows "unconscious" bias among physicians who treat black people; one can only imagine what might lie in store for a black person who is being intentionally killed by a medical professional.

Although "innocence" should not be a precursor for being treated like a human being, it must be noted that judgments of "innocence" and "guilt" are often based not on an individual's actions, but on race. Research has revealed that blacks are viewed as less innocent or inherently guilty based on skin color from childhood, and blacks are disproportionately sentenced and executed.

Consider the case of 50-year-old Henry McCollum, the man who, with his younger half brother, recently walked free from prison after three decades for a crime they did not commit. Emerging from prison, McCollum didn't even know how to use a seatbelt. Justice Antonin Scalia once argued that McCollum's life was an example of the necessity for the death penalty, saying that a "quiet death" by lethal injection was "enviable" compared to the crime that McCollum had supposedly committed.

Of course, a "quiet death" is far from the death that befell Clayton Lockett when a paramedic was unable to find suitable veins in his arms, legs, neck or feet, and the line was inserted into his groin. Such cruel and unusual punishment should be inflicted on no one - innocent or guilty. However, considering the prison system's groundings in anti-black racism, it's not shocking that this new trend of torturing prisoners to death hasn't caused enormous outrage. The warrantless attack on the black community post-Reconstruction was the foundation of our massive prison system, and designated blacks as a permanent criminal class. The US brand of racism has always rendered the black body quite killable, threatening and worthy of torture. The relationship of this perceived "killability" to black bodies is unique - and sometimes, white fear and paranoia take black lives before they are finished being lived.

In this age of "botched" executions, unprovoked police violence and normalized torture, the black community is facing a threat that renews our inconsolable history of being test subjects. Black existence is a river of post-traumatic stress that we swim upstream daily. It's a gut feeling of knowing that something is coming - a feeling that many of us inherit from birth. It's a fear of what's coming based on knowing what's already here. It's a fear shared by a group of people who know exactly what this country is capable of.

History should make it abundantly clear that the subsistence of black people is intertwined with the existence of capitalism. The oppression, stress and death of the black body built this nation through enslavement, and persistently keeps it moving. Black people entertain, labor and stylize the most powerful empire in the world, thereby influencing culture globally. Black people have always demanded respect of our humanity, but traditionally, the lives of black people have been valued for their labor or subservience. Even though we are all killable, certain types of black people are deemed more fit to live, as determined through the lens of respectability. "Thug" and "criminal" are readymade labels for the justification of murdered blacks like Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson.

The angry awareness of racism in the judicial system, prisons and policing is what has provided lifeblood to the protests in Ferguson. What is being protested there is not a completely separate issue from the death penalty. The black community has always been under attack by numerous forces representing the state, from police to courtrooms to prisons to execution chambers. Though they operate differently, they are interconnected in their racist groundings.

And so the cry that "black life matters" must include imprisoned black life. Innocent or guilty, no person deserves to be tortured to death. Innocent or guilty, no one should be extrajudicially killed by a police officer. Innocent or guilty, no black person should have their fate decided by a system that constantly fails to deliver black people justice.

Black people have always been present en masse to defend the lives of those unjustly taken from black communities. Every time, propaganda is released in an attempt to justify their murders, to mark them as "guilty." Think of Renisha McBride's intoxication, Trayvon Martin's hoodie, Michael Brown stealing from a store. No matter what is released, their lives are still worth defending: Their past ("guilty" or "innocent") doesn't justify their death. That recognition is one of the most beautiful things about the black community: that sense of acceptance and placing humanity first.

"Criminality" doesn't justify death - and why is a system guilty of being unjust fit to decide who dies?

Black lives matter. All black lives matter. Lives inside and outside of prisons matter. When we fight for black people, let's make sure we fight for every kind of black person that exists in our society. We cannot negate any black person based on ability, gender, sexuality or imprisonment. During these painful times, the black community has been reaching outside of traditional white definitions of justice. For many, this is a time to begin looking inward at what is already exemplary: the tradition of fighting for black lives.

(source: William C. Anderson,


The 21st century death chamber: $100,000 for a civilised execution

How much does it cost to revamp a death chamber in a prison that hosted a notorious botched execution into a state-of-the-art, 21st century, humane and civilised killing machine? $106,042.60 - or so says the state of Oklahoma.

This week Oklahoma opened the doors of its maximum-security state penitentiary in McAlester to show off its spanking-new redesigned execution suite. It was a display of conspicuous transparency put on for the benefit of the media, which was paradoxical in the circumstances, as one of the main changes made under the renovation is to slash the number of media witnesses at all future executions by more than half.

As part of the media tour, the prison authorities handed reporters an itemised balance sheet that listed all the expenses that had gone into the upgrade. The 144 entries ranged from the mundane - $516.92 spent on new carpeting, $358.42 for paint stripper, $55.24 on "nuts and bolts" - to the more resonant.

Almost $2,000 were spent on restraints - 4 brown leather straps, 1 for each of the offender's hands and 1 for each ankle. There was an order for 34 needles, as well as a set of new syringes for administering the lethal drugs.

And then there was the listing for a "surgical table", commonly known as a gurney, costing a substantial $12,500. In case Oklahoma taxpayers are tempted to complain about such lavish expense, it should be pointed out that the new gurney is likely to see plenty of use: the last one was purchased by the state in the 1950s and was the centrepiece of at least 111 judicial killings.

Scott Crow, the department of corrections administrator of field operations who conducted the tour, waxed lyrical about the capabilities of the new death bed. "This is an electric bed which has the ability to raise or lower to accommodate the needs not only of witnesses in the viewing areas but any needs as far as the offender is concerned," he said.

He pressed a set of buttons beneath the gurney so that the assembled media representatives could see it rise and fall, rise and fall, with the cheerful smoothness of a carousel horse.

The "major renovations" that Crow described on the tour were ordered by the director of Oklahoma's department of corrections, Robert Patton, in the wake of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April. It took 43 minutes for the prisoner to die from an experimental concoction of drugs, during which he was observed to heave and groan on the gurney. In a rare presidential intervention in the debate over capital punishment, the White House said the execution "fell short of humane standards".

In Oklahoma's own internal investigation into the Lockett debacle, the state noted a number of inadequacies, including poor training of execution staff and lack of supplies such as proper sized needles. Soon after the execution, Patton said that Lockett had died of a "massive heart attack" - but a more likely explanation, indicated in autopsies, was that officials had bungled the placing of the IV in Lockett's veins.

In the fallout from the affair, the state produced a new execution protocol, under which the the death chamber was renovated. One of the key changes is to cut the number of media witnesses to all future executions from 12 to 5.

Hence the paradox. During this week's media tour, reporters heard that the new witness area had its quota of seating reduced form 25 to 19, without any mention that the missing seats used to be available to reporters.

State officials refused to discuss any aspect of the new execution protocols other than bare construction issues, on grounds that the matter was "being litigated". When, for instance, the Guardian pointed to an entry among the renovation expenses listed as "electrode snap FM Wetgel 50s" and asked for a plain English translation, Crow replied: "That's part of the protocol. I'm not at liberty to discuss that."

The Guardian, together with the Oklahoma Observer and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are among the litigants to which the officials were referring. They have asked the courts to stop the department of corrections from drawing a curtain over the viewing window, preventing reporters seeing the full proceedings, as happened 16 minutes into Lockett's execution. This week the ACLU and the 2 news organizations also called for a preliminary injunction to prevent Oklahoma from reducing the number of media witnesses to 5.

Some aspects of the renovation could be deemed to be a step forward, in the sense that they will reduce the likelihood of further botches. In the new operations room that sits alongside the death chamber, there will now be equipment to monitor the offender's heart, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, as well as an ultra-sound that will assist in finding a vein in which to place the IV.

Cameras fixed to the ceiling above the gurney will allow the three executioners, sitting on the other side of the wall, to zoom in on the offender’s face. The old system of indicating difficulties with the lethal injection process that used to rely on pushing coloured sticks through the wall - red spelling danger - has been scrapped and replaced by a digital intercom that will connect the executioners to the 1 person who will be allowed inside the death chamber along with the offender.

Reporters asked who that person would be - would it be a physician or paramedic, or state official? "I am not at liberty to say that, it's under litigation," Crow replied.

Whether the $106,042.60-worth of "improvements" will be appreciated by the state's current death row population of 49 is perhaps a moot point. Dale Baich, the lawyer who represented Clayton Lockett, said he was withholding judgment until he'd seen the changes himself - a visit to the new facilities for attorneys working with condemned prisoners is said to be in the offing.

It won't be too long before Oklahoma's death chamber 2.0 is put through its paces. Child killer Charles Warner has been given the dubious privilege of being the 1st to test it out. His execution is scheduled for 13 November.


Doctor involved in botched execution 'experimented' on inmate, suit claims----Family of Clayton Lockett, who was killed in prolonged execution, names doctor and says he violated rule established at Nuremberg trials

The family of Clayton Lockett, the death row inmate in Oklahoma who suffered a long and apparently traumatic execution in April, is suing a family doctor who they allege actively participated in the botched lethal injection process that killed him.

The legal complaint, lodged with the federal court for the western district of Oklahoma on Tuesday, names Dr Johnny Zellmer as a defendant both in his individual and official capacity. The lawsuit accuses him of engaging "in human medical experimentation in torturing Clayton Lockett to death", and says that his participation in the execution was against international protocols established at the post-2nd world war Nuremberg trials of Nazi doctors.

The naming of Dr Zellmer under court privilege is a rare instance of the identity of a physician who allegedly participated in an execution coming to light. Death penalty states, including Oklahoma, go to great lengths to guard the secrecy of their execution teams.

The position of doctors is particularly sensitive as physicians take the Hippocratic Oath to show "utmost respect for human life". Where doctors have been present in the death chamber, their role has in most cases been tightly limited to assessing whether the prisoner is unconscious and then officially pronouncing death.

However, in the case of Clayton Lockett, the state has admitted that a physician was present who actively took part in killing the prisoner. The report of the internal investigation into the Lockett execution reveals that the physician stepped in to finish the job after the paramedic who had initiated the execution failed to place the IV into Lockett's veins.

"The IV access was completed by a physician licensed as a medical doctor," the report said.

The direct participation of the physician in helping guide lethal drugs into Lockett's body is an apparent violation of the Hippocratic Oath. It is also a breach of the voluntary code laid out by the American Medical Association that states that doctors should not play any role that contributes to the cause of death in a legallyauthorized execution.

David Lane, a civil rights lawyer in Denver who is acting for the Lockett family, said he called Zellmer a month ago and gave the physician the chance to deny that he took part in the Lockett killing. According to Lane, Zellmer replied: "Y'all have to talk to the prison about that," and put the phone down.

The Guardian attempted to reach Zellmer but was not immediately successful.

Lockett endured a 43-minute execution involving an experimental concoction of lethal drugs in which he was observed writhing and groaning on the gurney. The investigation report indicated that there had been a shortage of appropriate needles that day, and that the physician and paramedic had failed to place the IV into the prisoner's vein, leading to the injection of a mass of lethal drugs into his muscle.

Lane said that he had learned the identity of the doctor from an "inside source". Zellmer is listed by the Oklahoma medical board as a fully licensed and active doctor, specializing in family and emergency medicine and practicing out of McAlester, where the state penitentiary that houses the death chamber is located.

The investigation report into Lockett's death notes that the physician had been involved in one other execution about 4 or 5 years earlier. He had been contacted just 2 days before Lockett was scheduled to die as another physician had pulled out due to a scheduling conflict.

The doctor was specifically told that his duties would only involve assessing whether Lockett was unconscious and pronouncing death. It remains unclear why the doctor agreed to go further, and actively attempt to place the IV.

The report does not identify the physician, but does say that he had a license that expired on 1 July every year. Zellmer’s current license expires on 1 July 2015.

Oklahoma has introduced a law that guards the confidentiality of the execution team. Lane said that he was aware of the law, but said he had a first amendment right on a matter of supreme public concern.

"I know that it was Dr Zellmer who participated in this execution, and to deny me the right to sue the doctor who killed Clayton Lockett is to deny his family their civil rights," he said.

The lawsuit against Zellmer also names as defendants the governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, the director of the department of corrections Robert Patton and various unidentified members of the execution team. It alleges that Zellmer received payment for his services, adding that his "participation in the failed medical experiment directly caused the tortured death of Clayton Lockett".

(source for both: The Guardian)


Jury selection continues, local residents complain about slow legal process

Arizona residents are relieved to learn that the Jodi Arias trial will start again on Tuesday to finish the task of selecting the new set of jurors for the widely-sensationalized courtroom battle.

Arias had already been convicted guilty of committing 1st-degree murder for killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander back in 2008, yet a sentence had not been decided because of a hung jury, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial for the sentencing phase of the case.

Tuesday's trial seeks to find the 12 jurors and 6 alternates to sit on the controversial murder case.

Last week, the lawyers working on the case started questioning 400 possible jurors in Phoenix's Maricopa County Superior Court. After the 1st cut, the number was trimmed down to 176. Wednesday's trial resulted to further trimmings, which ended up with 26 people returning for further questioning.

The residents from the area, on the other hand, are not happy with how slow things are shaping up for the trial. A former Mesa police investigator expressed his strong opinion in an interview posted at the Arizona Central.

He said, "YES! I'm sick and tired of the Jodi Arias murder case. Murders happen almost everyday in Arizona. Sadly, murder is no big deal. While most murder cases and trials are handled quietly and with the dignity of brain surgery, the Arias trial has taken on the theatrics of a well-rehearsed circus show, thanks to Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez, defendant Arias and the media."

The prolonged trial to sentence Jodi Arias is also putting a hole in the pockets of Arizona taxpayers. At this point, the defense costs already reached $2.5 million. This is not the final numbers, however, since the tab will continue to grow while the second phase for penalty hearing is still ongoing.

The amount paid for the prosecutors were undisclosed.

Aside from the jury selection, the court will also tackle the defense's motion to dismiss death penalty as one of the options for Arias' sentence, citing reasons of prosecutorial misconduct.

(source: Christian Today)


Central California man charged with stabbing to death elderly parents, 2 sons and family dog

A central California man whom authorities say confessed to stabbing his elderly father and mother, his 2 sons and the family dog has been charged with murder and animal cruelty.

Santa Barbara County prosecutors announced Tuesday that a grand jury indicted 45-year-old Nicolas Holzer on felony charges that include special allegations. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Holzer remains jailed without bail.

Prosecutors contend that in August at his Goleta home, Holzer grabbed kitchen knives and attacked his 73-year-old father; then his sons, ages 10 and 13, as they slept; then his 74-year-old mother and the family dog.

Authorities say Holzer then called 911 to report killing his family.

Authorities say Holzer, who had no criminal history, told detectives that the killings were his destiny.

(source: Associated Press)


New Charges Brought in 2012 Benghazi Attacks

A Libyan militant already behind bars was indicted Tuesday on new charges arising from the 2012 Benghazi attacks, including crimes punishable by the death penalty, the Justice Department said.

The new 18-count grand jury indictment, which includes multiple counts of murder, had been widely expected since Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured in June by U.S. special forces and brought to the United States to face trial.

Abu Khattala, 43, the first militant to be prosecuted for the Benghazi violence, had initially been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, resulting in death. U.S. officials had described that initial, one-count indictment as a placeholder to allow for him to be brought into court and for a grand jury to hear more evidence.

The new indictment does not add to the public account of how the attacks unfolded but it does include multiple counts that make Abu Khattala eligible for the death penalty if convicted, including murder of an internationally protected person and killing a person during an armed attack on a federal facility. It also accuses him, among other charges, of providing material support to terrorists, malicious destruction of property and attempted murder of an officer and employee of the U.S.

One of his public defenders, Michelle Peterson, said last summer that prosecutors had not presented evidence tying him to the attacks. In a statement Tuesday evening, she cautioned against a rush to judgment.

"It is important to remember that an indictment is merely a set of allegations or charges, it is not evidence," she said. "We will vigorously defend Mr. Abu (Khattala)? in court where the government will be forced to prove his guilt, based upon actual evidence."

After his capture during a nighttime raid, Abu Khattala was brought to the U.S. aboard a Navy boat where he was interrogated by federal agents. He remains in custody at a detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

Abu Khattala, who earlier pleaded not guilty to the terrorism conspiracy charge, is scheduled to be arraigned next week in U.S. District Court in Washington on the new charges.

Federal prosecutors have long accused Abu Khattala of being a ringleader of the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder said the new indictment reflects Abu Khattala's "integral role" in the attacks.

The superseding indictment alleges that Abu Khattala was involved in 2 different attacks, hours apart, on the diplomatic compound.

The violence, which quickly emerged as a flashpoint in American political discourse, was aimed at killing American personnel at the compound and looting the buildings of documents, maps and computers, the Justice Department says.

In the 1st burst of violence on the night of Sept. 11, prosecutors allege, Abu Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons. That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.

Prosecutors say Khattala "supervised the plunder" of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a 2nd building known as the annex. The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty, authorities say.

(source: Associated Press)


Christianity don't mix

Dear Editor:

Recently, The Tuscaloosa News reported that Alabama has identified drugs that pass legal requirements for lethal injection executions, and consequently, the state may now resume executions.

In a state where a vast majority of citizens profess Christianity and claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, it is ironic that more notable responses from that community of Christians have not used the temporary moratorium on executions to challenge the resumption of this barbaric practice. No follower of Jesus Christ can find one scintilla of support in his teachings that justifies the obsessive, dogged determination to retain this form of "justice."

In fact, iconic passages in the Gospels admonish us to do just the opposite: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone ..." John 8:7; "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Matthew 5:7; "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1; "... In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40.

When we, as a society, in systematic deliberation faced with clear alternatives elect to take a life, we take that which is not ours. When we, as professing Christians, elect to consign such an immortal soul to eternity, we presume to be God, the ultimate blasphemy. Profess Christianity, if that is your faith. Support the death penalty, if you will. Clearly, however, you cannot have it both ways.

Marvin Johnson, Tuscaloosa

(source: Letter to the Editor, Tuscaloosa News)


From Costa Rica, an Emphatic No to Death Penalty

Costa Rica is a nation that supports, defends and promotes the defense of human rights around the world. In the matter of the death penalty, the Constitution is clear insofar as human life being inviolable, never to be broken or infringed upon. Such was the message issued by Minister of Foreign Affairs Alejandro Solano last week in commemoration of the 12th World Coalition Against the Death Penalty Day, which was observed on October 10th.

According to an official communique issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Solano welcomed the message communicated by 12 of his counterparts around the world, including the honorable nations of:




--Burkina Faso






--The United Kingdom



Costa Rica supports a global abolition of the death penalty. This support is advocated by the International Court of Human Rights. Minister Solano added:

We have ratified our dedication and support of an universal abolition of the death penalty, clearly stating that such practice has no place in criminal justice and instead is a violation of human rights. Sentencing someone to death is not justice; it is rather a failure of the judicial system.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also supports Costa Rica's stance against the death penalty and has called on a worldwide moratorium of this dubious practice. As per the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty:

A moratorium is temporary suspension of executions and, more rarely, of death sentences. It is provisional and often depends on the will of a key decision maker (president, minister of justice...). Conversely, abolition is permanent as enshrined in law.

"The use of the death penalty undermines human dignity"

In 2008, 2010 and 2012, the World Coalition led a campaign to increase support for the new resolution and to ensure its implementation. The vote on December 18, 2008 showed increasing support for the moratorium: 106 countries voted in favour, 48 against and 34 abstained. In 2010, even more countries supported the resolution with 109 votes in favor, 41 voted against and 35 abstained. More recently, in december 2012, the resolution gained even more support with 111 states voting in favor, 41 voting against and 34 abstaining.

Since 2007, the movement for abolition has grown larger and larger. More states have abolished the death penalty, more moratoria on executions have been implemented and proposals for abolition in law have multiplied throughout the world.

(source: The Costa Rica Star)


Iran executions surge amid U.S. nuclear talks

"Rights groups and regional analysts say Iran's record may be worsening in the backdrop of potential detente with the West," an article published Wednesday in The Washington Times reports.

"The situation is prompting some in Washington to criticize the Obama administration for not applying more public pressure on Tehran to adhere to international human rights standards."

During the 14 months since Hassan Rouhani took office, the authorities in Iran have carried out nearly 1000 executions.

The report said that an advance copy of a book-length report on the executions titled "Behind Rouhani's Smile" provided to The Washington Times by the National Council of Resistance of Iran notes the executions of at least 22 women since Hassan Rouhani took office and highlights more than a dozen cases of people younger than 18 accused of crimes and hanged.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Police seize 32.8kg syabu worth RM2.76 million in Ipoh

Police arrested 2 people and seized 32.8kg syabu worth RM2.76 million in a raid on a single storey bungalow here, on Sunday.

Perak deputy police chief Datuk A. Paramasivam said the bungalow in Taman Lim, used by a food catering company, was turned into a drug laboratory 6 months ago.

"The raid on the empty bungalow led to the arrest of 2 people including a foreigner in Ipoh on the same day," he reporters at Perak Police Headquarters here, today.

The local suspect,42, was a food caterer while the foreigner, 34, did not have valid travel documents.

"During the raid, the police party also seized a van, two motorcycles, some money and goods worth RM35,200."

Urine tests on the suspects who did not have criminal records proved negative. They were remanded until Sunday for further investigation.

Paramasivam said the 32.8kg syabu seized can be used by 32,000 people.

The case was investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

(source: The Borneo Post)


Cannabis and heroin traffickers arrested in Marsiling and Clementi

4 Singaporeans may face the death penalty after they were caught by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers on Tuesday, in 2 separate operations which netted 2.6kg of heroin and 1.2kg of cannabis.

The 1st operation occurred in the vicinity of a housing block at Marsiling Drive. According to a statement from CNB, a 46-year-old male suspected cannabis trafficker was spotted meeting up with a 40-year-old male suspected drug client.

CNB officers deployed for the sting moved in after the transaction concluded, and recovered about 40g of cannabis from the 40-year-old male and about 260g of cannabis from the 46-year-old male.

A further 960g of cannabis and a small amount of 'Ice' and heroin were later recovered from the 46-year-old suspected drug trafficker's residence.

In the second operation, CNB officers deployed to a housing block at Clementi West Street 1 spotted their suspect, a 40-year-old male, getting on board a van driven by a 48-year-old male.

After stopping the van at the exit of the carpark, CNB officers found 2.6kg of heroin and drug paraphernalia such as a digital weighing scale and empty plastic sachets within the van.

The 40-year-old suspected trafficker was also found to be carrying more than S$6,700 cash.

If convicted, all 4 Singaporean suspects may face the death penalty.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of diamorphine (or pure heroin) trafficked exceeds 15g. 15g of diamorphine is equivalent to 1,250 straws, which is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 180 abusers for a week.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of trafficking in more than 500g of cannabis may face the death penalty.

Director CNB Mr Ng Ser Song said: "The 2.6kg of heroin seized could have fed the addiction of almost 1250 drug abusers for a week, and the 1.2kg of cannabis seized could have been used to lure many unsuspecting new abusers into trying out drugs for the 1st time.

"This will start a vicious cycle of lifelong addiction, bringing upon families immense pain and suffering when they see their loved ones fighting to be free from drug addiction.

"CNB will not let up in our enforcement efforts and will not allow drugs to enslave our community."

(source: Asia One)


Govt appears undecided about death penalty freeze

The federal government seems double minded about death penalty moratorium, as the attorney general[s office did not present Islamabad's position on capital punishment in Lahore High Court which was hearing the petition of Shoaib Sarwar whose conviction was stayed earlier.

The Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench, in a last-minute verdict ruled to stay the sessions court decision of 1998. Shoaib had murdered Qais Nawaz on January 21, 1996. The court has given the government another fortnight to submit its position on the issue by July 27. Shoaib is among 8,500 other on death row in Pakistan, by far the world's largest number of such inmates in the world. The previous PPP government decided to adopt a moratorium on death sentence despite opposition from various state institutions. In sync with the previous policy, the government had announced a moratorium in 2013 to respect Pakistan's international commitments and requirements for the much-coveted EU GSP+ trade status. Sources in the Interior Ministry say that the PMLN government may have to lift the moratorium to execute Taliban extremists on death row. There is, however, no official word from the government on the issue of death penalty. Justice Project Pakistan, a legal non-profit organization, has been spearheading the campaign against death penalty. Maryam Haq, Legal Director of Justice Project Pakistan said: "We are relieved to have managed to avert this impending injustice through a stay order."

She said Shoaib's execution would be an unimaginable violation of his constitutional rights and her organization will continue to fight until this black warrant has not been dismissed. Maryam prayed that since Shoaib has been in prison for over 18 years, he has already spent more than the length of a life sentence in prison. "Any additional punishment, such as execution, would mean he is being punished twice for the same crime."

(source: Daily Times)


Hands Off Cain, The World Day Against The Death Penalty For Africa

The most significant facts concerning the death penalty in recent years have come from Africa, with the abolition in Rwanda, Burundi, Gabon, Togo and Benin. In particular with regard to the first 2 countries, the end of the death penalty has had an extraordinary symbolic value, as well as political and legal, these countries being the most tragic representatives of the eternal story of Cain and Abel through a perpetual chain of revenge.

Africa is the continent with the largest number of de facto abolitionist countries who may vote in favour of the next UN Resolution for a universal moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty.

Therefore, Hands off Cain devoted the World Day against the death penalty (October 10) to Africa and for this reason, in view of the missions that Hands off Cain with the Nonviolent Radical Party will carry out next month in Niger, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoros and Tanzania to ask for support to the UN Resolution, Hands Off Cain presents the international version of its 2014 Report on the death penalty in the world at the European Parliament with the Minister of Justice of Benin Valentin Djenontin-Agossou and MEPs Louis Michel, Frederique Ries and Marco Pannella.



Civil society in Zimbabwe calls for total abolition of the death penalty

A media briefing to commemorate the World Day Against The Death Penalty was held at the Media Centre in Harare with calls for the total abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe.

The media briefing, which brought together civic organizations such as Padare/Enkundleni/Men's Forum on Gender, Amnesty International, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, reiterated calls to do away with state sanctioned killings in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe marks this year's event under a new constitution adopted in 2013, which partially abolished the death penalty but still retains capital punishment against men aged between 21 and 70 years old. The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) believes that there is no rational justification for the harsher treatment that the constitution makes for men who are convicted of murder between the ages of 21 and 70. Retention of the death penalty for men is incompatible with state obligations under article 2, 3 and 26 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Zimbabwe is a party.

Zimbabwe's last execution was conducted in 2005.

Vongai Chikwanda, Amnesty International campaigns coordinator, called on the government to ensure equality through abolishing of the death penalty for all persons. Women, who are currently on death row, no longer face the death penalty under the new constitution in Zimbabwe. A total 97 inmates are currently on death row. Recently the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was reported as sharing government's commitment and vision for the abolition of capital punishment through reviewing sentences imposed on death row inmates.



Pay Families of Hanged Convicts, Activists Demand

Anti-death penalty activists have asked the government to compensate families of hanged convicts.

The activists argue that since the government is supposed to detect and prevent crime, it should compensate victims of the 'unfortunate act of hanging'.

Among the leading proponents of this view is Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights (FHRI), who spoke on the sidelines of last week's events to mark the 12th World Day against the Death Penalty, at Nsambya in Kampala. The theme of the day was: "Understanding the mental effects of the death penalty".

"We feel that time has come to introduce what is called 'a victims' compensation fund' so that their families can be taken care of... ," Sewanyana said.

The national legal officer in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Florence Nakazibwe, said children of convicts on death row needed help because they suffer medical and psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

"With regard to difficulties in school, generally no support system is put in place for these children and school often becomes a place where they fight to defend their parent's reputation and, by extension, their own," Nakazibwe said.

The activists want Parliament to repeal all legal clauses that allow the death penalty. A senior presidential advisor in charge of general duties, Chris Rwakasisi, a former death row convict, said he knew many innocent people sentenced to death because of flaws in the judicial system.

"If it is robbery, the police will change it [to] aggravated robbery, and the Judiciary will accept it," said Rwakasisi, who was pardoned by President Museveni.

Dr Sewanyana, however, issued a disclaimer: Anti-death penalty activists don't condone crime, they just want corrective punishments.

"A punishment is meant for reformation [but] when you kill, it becomes revenge. You can't punish a dead person... It [therefore] becomes unbecoming for government to abet revenge," Sewanyana said.

FHRI Chairman John Kateeba argued that the public needed education on why it is necessary to scrap execution.

"You kill 1 person but psychologically you have killed the whole clan; they will say this government killed our people," Rev Kateeba said. "We should instead encourage rehabilitation, reconciliation and then forgiveness."

Some 229 people are on death row in Luzira prison, according to FHRI. The last execution in Uganda under the military law took place in 2005 and in 1999 under the civil justice system.

(source: The Observer)


Death penalty: Is it time to abolish it?

Kenyan courts are daily sentencing people to death but the sentences have not been carried out for nearly 30 years.

Similarly what is a 'life sentence' legally remains an unanswered question.

Early this month Justices Mbogholi Msagha, Florence Muchemi and Mumbi Ngugi issued a judgement on these matters.

Having been personally involved, I will endeavour to objectively put the issues raised in perspective.

It is imperative to first note that the mandatory death penalty is provided for under Section 204 of the Penal Code. Even so, since 1987 no person has been executed in Kenya, nevertheless, the courts have continued to pass the death sentence.

In the last 5 years about 1,620 offenders have been sentenced to death.

In 2009, there was a mass commutation of sentences from death row to life imprisonment by the then President, Mwai Kibaki.

The Court summarised issues raised by the Petitioner thus:

- "The right of an accused person to know with certitude what sentence he stands to suffer at the date of taking plea.

-The legality and constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence

- The mandatory death sentence and the exercise of the courts discretion

- Obligations under general rules of international law and international treaties and conventions

- Enforcement of the death sentence

- The President's authority to exercise the power of mercy

- What constitutes life Imprisonment?"

The 7 issues raised by the Petitioner were addressed by the Court in great detail.

The Court's response to the first and second issue was that, it is without a doubt the right of an accused person to know the sentence that they will meet should they be found guilty of an offence.

Further, it was held that the death sentence is clearly provided for in law and is as such not contrary to the Constitution, since the sentence is a limitation to the right to life contemplated by the Constitution.

In addition to that the Court in citing Court of Appeal decisions on the constitutionality of the death penalty stated:

"As a High Court exercising constitutional jurisdiction, although comprising three judges, we have no jurisdiction to review decisions of the Court of Appeal.

Such uncertainty as may be deemed to exist in Kenyan law with regard to the death penalty as has not been sufficiently addressed by the Court of Appeal can only be addressed by the Supreme Court."

On the 3rd issue, the Court held that the wording of the Penal Code, which provides for the mandatory death sentence, does not leave any room for the court to exercise any discretion in matters of sentencing.

The Court then addressed the 5th and 6th issues simultaneously stating as follows:

"The power to order the execution of the death penalty, or to commute it to a term of years or a life sentence, or to pardon the person convicted, is expressly vested in the President by law...

The law is thus clear that the responsibility for determining whether the death penalty is enforced or not lies on the President; the role of the Commissioner of Prison being solely to carry out or direct the carrying out of the execution."

Pertaining to the fourth issue, the court held that the death penalty is permitted by the Constitution and Statute, and is not in contravention of Kenya's obligations under international law.

The Court however, stated its opinion as follows:

"In our view, the failure to carry out executions for years after the sentence of death has been passed, and the appellate process has come to an end amounts to an unconstitutional act and a violation of the rights of those convicted and therefore agree with the reasoning that it amounts to cruel and degrading treatment or punishment."

The court then added that:

"The answer, in our view, lies with the executive and the people of Kenya through their elected representatives in the national legislature.

The President has the power to sign death warrants in respect of convicted offenders who have been sentenced to death, or commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment, which he has done in the past under powers vested in him."

On the 7th and final issue the court concurred with the Petitioner that it is unclear what amounts to a life sentence and stated that:

"As submitted by the Petitioner, however, what amounts to life imprisonment is unclear in our circumstances.

"It is, however, for the court to determine what should amount to a life sentence; whether one's natural life or a term of years. In our view, that is also the province of the legislature."

In making its final remarks, the court stated thus:

"While we are satisfied that, on the basis of the existing constitutional and statutory provisions and judicial precedents, the death penalty is not unconstitutional, we are of the view that the failure to carry out the death sentence indefinitely is unreasonable and does not accord with respect for the constitutional rights of those who have been found guilty of capital offences and sentenced to death.

The responsibility to issue death warrants or to commute the death penalty to life imprisonment lies with the President and not the courts.

As to what amounts to life imprisonment, that is a matter for the legislative branch of government."

The uncertainties, indeed legal mockery, of sentencing policies, are resulting in contradictory interpretations and courts and the justice system hardly proving deterrent to crime.

The President, the Supreme Court, the legislature and the people of Kenya at large need to take pro-active steps to put these matters to rest once and for all!



Man sentenced to death appears in Abu Dhabi court over visa dispute

A prisoner who has been given the death penalty for murder on Tuesday asked a court what could be achieved by trying him over an immigration issue.

"I have already been issued a death sentence and now you are asking me about a labour visa issue? What more can be done? What does prosecution want from me more than a death sentence?" said A?K from Egypt.

"The court wants me to pay a fine of Dh100,000? If I had that money I would have offered to pay it as blood money for the murder. How will I be of any benefit to you? I have been sentenced to death."

He was accused of illegally recruiting 2 labourers at a bakery he co-owned with an Emirati.

"They trained for us for 2 days and then left," he said. "When police caught them they gave my name saying they worked for me."

Chief Justice Sayed Abdul Baseer asked why he had lodged an appeal if he did not want to appear in court. He answered that he only wanted to appeal against his death sentence.

The judge scheduled the verdict for October 21 but the accused asked for it to be a day earlier.

"Can you make it on the 20th because I have to come anyway in front of the other judge for the murder appeal," he said.

He was given the death sentence for killing a Palestinian man on December 30 last year after a dispute over Dh250,000 he had borrowed from the victim.

He killed the Palestinian with a brick and burnt the remains to try to disguise his identity, then hid them in an alley in Mohammed bin Zayed City. Police said he confessed to the murder.

(source: The National)


Saudi Arabia sentences outspoken Shi'ite cleric to death-brother

A Saudi judge sentenced to death a prominent cleric on Wednesday who has called for greater rights for the kingdom's Shi'ites, the cleric's brother said, 2 years after his arrest prompted deadly protests in the oil-producing east of the country.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was detained in July 2012 following demonstrations that erupted in February 2011 in Qatif district, home to many of the Sunni-ruled country's Shi'ite minority.

His brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, reported Wednesday's sentencing on his Twitter account.

The sentence could raise tensions in Qatif, which has historically been the focal point of anti-government demonstrations demanding an end to discrimination, but where the frequency of protests has died down over the past year.

Last year a prosecutor said he was seeking to convict Nimr for "aiding terrorists". Former interior minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz previously accused Nimr of being "mentally unbalanced".

His capture, during which he was shot and wounded by police, prompted several days of protests in which three people were killed. Protests continued sporadically in Qatif, where more than 20 people have died in violence, until 2013.

Nimr has become the most prominent cleric calling for more rights for the Shi'ite minority and is accused by the government of helping to instigate the unrest which broke out in Qatif during the Arab uprisings in 2011.

However, he has not called for violence against the government or Sunnis, say Shi'ites in the Eastern Province. They say he is portrayed as an extremist because he does not accept that conditions for Shi'ites will be improved by negotiations with authorities.

"(The death sentence) will shock everyone here and it will reduce very much the credibility of the state among Shi'ites. I think the government is giving a show of strength against anyone who thinks of opposition," said Tawfiq al-Seif, a community leader in Qatif.

Earlier this year two other Shi'ite men involved in the protests were sentenced to death, including Ali al-Nimr, the son of Mohammed al-Nimr, who was a minor at the time of the demonstrations.

The sentences have yet to be carried out.


Mohammed al-Nimr did not give details of the sentence against Sheikh Nimr in his Tweet, but said that the judge had rejected a verdict of hadd al-haraba, or rebellion, which carries the additional penalty of publicly displaying the body.

People in Qatif remain hopeful that the death sentences passed against Nimr and the other men will not be carried out, Seif said. "Probably they want to show people the sword but not actually use it," he said.

Saudi courts have also sentenced more than a dozen Sunni militants to death this year for their part in attacks on foreigners and officials that killed hundreds during an al Qaeda campaign between 2003 and 2006.

Last year the conservative Islamic kingdom executed more people than any other country except China and Iran, most of them by public beheading.

Shi'ites say they face discrimination in seeking education or government employment and that they are spoken of disparagingly in text books and by some Sunni officials and state-funded clerics.

They also complain of restrictions on setting up places of worship and marking Shi'ite holidays, and say that Qatif and al-Ahsa, another region with a large Shi'ite population, receive less state funding than Sunni communities of equivalent size.

The Saudi government denies charges of discrimination.

King Abdullah has appointed three Shi'ites to the 150-strong advisory Shura council and included Shi'ite leaders in "national dialogue" meetings where officials hear from representatives of different groups in society.

(source: Reuters)


Egyptian court upholds death penalty imposed on three Seychelles nationals

The highest Court of Appeal in Egypt has upheld the death penalty imposed on 3 Seychellois nationals convicted of drug trafficking, the Seychelles Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) says it has learnt today.

In a press statement issued this afternoon, MFA said the 3 men who are currently being detained in Egypt's Qena prison have lost their appeal against the death sentence imposed on them last year.

Ronny Norman Jean, Yvon John Vinda and Dean Dominic Loze were sentenced to death by execution on April 7, 2013, the sentence was confirmed on June 3, 2013.

Ever since the death sentence was imposed on the 3 Seychellois nationals, the Seychelles government had been appealing to the Egyptian government to commute their sentences to life imprisonment.

"Although it is the government's policy to respect the sovereignty and judicial process in other countries, it nevertheless upholds the rights of its citizens to a fair trial. To this end, whilst reassuring the Egyptian authorities of its "zero tolerance" policy against drug trafficking, the Government wrote in 2013 to the Egyptian to appeal for a fair trial and the avoidance of capital punishment which does not exist in our legal system," reads the MFA statement issued this afternoon.

"In the same vein, the Government took all measures practical and feasible to ensure that the Seychellois obtained the required legal and consular representation."

The decision made known today implies that execution orders will now follow. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not specify if a date had been set for the sentence to be applied.

Executions are usually carried out by hanging in Egypt.

In spite of the recent development the archipelago's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have made known the government's intention to continue negotiating with the Egyptian authorities on the matter.

".....the Government is not relenting in its efforts to pursue all possible diplomatic and legal avenues in consultation with the Egyptian authorities to avert the death penalty," concludes the MFA statement.

The 3 Seychellois men were arrested on April 22, 2011 by the Egyptian police onboard a boat near the Red Sea coastal town of Marsa Alam. They were together with a British national identified as Charles Raymond Ferndale, who is said to be the owner of the vessel and another Pakistani national.

They were accused and charged for attempting to smuggle 3 tonnes of hashish, worth almost 3 million pounds, in 118 bags into Egypt.

It is believed that the drugs found in the South African flagged vessel originated from Pakistan.

All 5 men were sentenced to death, but the Pakistani national was said to have fled the scene and was sentenced in absentia. (source: Seychelles News Agency)


Egypt court signals death penalty for 7 jihadists in Sinai case

An Egyptian court has recommended death sentences for 7 men, including a prominent Islamist militant, charged with killing 25 policemen last year in an attack near the border with Israel, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

He said the court had referred the case to the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest Muslim authority, whose opinion is typically sought on capital punishment but whose decision can be disregarded.

"The court decided by consensus to send the case to the Grand Mufti," he told Reuters.

(source: Jerusalem Post)

OCTOBER 14, 2014:


Argument preview: What can a federal habeas petitioner argue when defending a judgment in his favor?

Despite all the money and resources poured into Supreme Court amicus briefs these days, it is relatively rare that an amicus substantially influences the central merits of a case. However, an amicus brief filed by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Jennings v. Stephens, the 2nd argument this Wednesday, may be such a brief. It provides a balanced analysis of the legal question presented - although the ultimate disposition that the brief suggests may prove too much for some of the Justices.

Facts and proceedings

This is a death penalty case from the Texas state courts, coming to the Supreme Court after a federal district court granted federal habeas relief but the Fifth Circuit reversed. Jennings, with a record of prior robberies, shot and killed a Houston police officer while robbing a store. His guilt is not at issue; the case challenges only his sentence.

After the Texas appellate courts denied relief, Jennings filed federal habeas claims alleging ineffective assistance of counsel ("IAC"). He alleged 3 deficiencies: (1) a failure to investigate and present mitigating background evidence; (2) a failure to investigate and present mitigating psychological evidence; and (3) a deficient closing argument. On this last claim, it is undisputed that, whatever else was argued in closing (the state opinions are unpublished and the briefs only partially quote the arguments), Jennings's lawyer said to the jury:

"I feel like I ought to just sit down. Shoot, you twelve people know what the evidence is. You've probably already decided.... [And if the jury could not see some way to vote for life over death], I can't quarrel with that."

The federal district court ruled in Jennings's favor on the first 2 grounds, but not on the 3rd.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment and ordered that habeas relief be denied. The state had argued that the district court had failed to be sufficiently deferential to the state court judgment and findings regarding the first 2 "mitigation evidence" grounds. In response, Jennings had disputed the state's arguments, but also argued that relief should be affirmed on the third ground: that his lawyer's closing argument had been constitutionally ineffective. In reply, Texas argued that (1) Jennings had not filed a notice of cross-appeal from the rejection of his closing argument ground, and (2) Jennings had also failed to obtain a "certificate of appealability" (COA) - a special statutory requirement (28 U.S.C. 2253) that must be met for a defendant to appeal in federal habeas cases - for his closing argument issue. Texas argued that these failures barred the Fifth Circuit from considering the merits of Jennings's closing argument issue.

In an unpublished opinion, a 3-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit agreed with Texas (and rehearing was subsequently denied). First the panel ruled that Jennings's failure to file a notice of appeal concerning his closing argument "claim" was a jurisdictional flaw under Bowles v. Russell and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a) (although neither authority expressly addresses cross-appeals). Second, while noting that "circuit courts of appeal are split," the panel ruled that a federal habeas defendant, even when acting as appellee, must seek a COA from the district court if he wants to present any "grounds for relief not adopted by the district court." Finding that Jennings had not affirmatively argued that filing a notice of cross-appeal or seeking a COA was unnecessary to establish jurisdiction, the panel "dismissed" his closing argument point because "[a] party seeking to invoke a court's jurisdiction must advance arguments establishing jurisdiction."

The parties' diametrically opposed arguments

Since Congress amended the federal habeas corpus statutes in 1996, the path to federal habeas relief from a state court conviction has become a complicated one. This case is one of many that attempt to untangle one aspect of the web.

The parties' briefs are, unsurprisingly, diametrically opposed. Jennings argues that a party traditionally may present any argument (that was presented below) to defend a judgment, without filing a cross-appeal. Here, the district court's judgment simply ordered a new sentencing hearing, and Jennings says his closing argument issue is merely an alternative ground for affirmance of the district court.

As for a COA, Jennings points out that the habeas statute requires a COA only for "an appeal ... taken" by a petitioner, so it does not apply to a petitioner arguing against the state's appeal. (The state's notice of appeal undoubtedly gave the Fifth Circuit jurisdiction over the judgment - no COA is statutorily required for a state's habeas appeal.) Jennings also argues that, as at least 2 circuits have held, the absence of a district court COA is not a jurisdictional flaw. Thus the Fifth Circuit could and should either have issued a COA on its own, or remanded to the district court to see if a COA was appropriate.

Texas disputes every point. First, it says that Jennings's argument would have "expanded" the judgment, by giving him a new sentencing hearing that was not only free of mitigating evidence errors, but also free of closing argument deficiency. Frankly, that response seems to border on frivolous, because any new sentencing hearing would presumably have to be free of prejudicial errors of all kinds. But it gives you a flavor of how adamantly Texas seeks to defend its judgment.

More centrally, Texas argues that a separate "claim" always requires a separate notice of appeal. Jennings replies that he did not seek to raise a separate "claim" but merely to present "an additional argument" in support of his IAC claim.

As for the COA, Texas points out that the statute requires that it "indicate which specific issue or issues" will be argued, and that this statutory issue-identification function should require a defendant to seek a COA on any new issues he wants a circuit to consider on appeal. Texas argues that the majority of circuits have adopted this view, which Texas says represents "the better reading of the statute." One can predict that Wednesday's argument will rehearse the Justices' varying views on how to read the 1996 habeas amendments, which have been the subject of a number of 5-4 decisions since that time.

Finally, Texas argues that the Fifth Circuit's statement that Jennings's "motion for a COA is denied" implicitly shows that it had "already . . . considered [Jennings' closing argument] claim on the merits and rejected it. ....This means that the court of appeals has already ... found it so weak as to not present a debatable question." That seems like quite a lot to read into the simple word "denied." But this argument can't be entirely discounted, given the Court's decision in Harrington v. Richter 2 Terms ago (which suggests such implicit expansion when evaluating state court rulings - although this one is federal) and the Justices' heated disagreements generally about the availability of federal habeas corpus relief.

A helpful amicus analysis

It was no accident that the 1996 amendments to the federal habeas law were called the "Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act" (otherwise known as AEDPA, pronounced "ed-pah"). Discontent regarding federal courts "interfering" with state court judgments in capital cases, and consequent long delays before executions, powered AEDPA to enactment. The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation was founded well before AEDPA, but it shares a similar goal: to "remov[e] legal obstacles to the use of" the "most powerful deterrent to criminal behavior" - "the government's ability to efficiently apprehend, prosecute, and punish criminals in a swift and decisive system of justice." CJLF's national legal director, Kent Scheidegger, has tirelessly filed amicus briefs in many major capital cases, advocating speedier affirmance, and quicker (or no) federal review, of state death penalty judgments.

The CJLF brief is the only amicus brief filed in this case - a relatively rare phenomenon these days. I found it, however, to be extremely helpful in simplifying the intricacies of this case, particularly because the parties' claims are so diametrically opposite. A "claim," says CJLF, is different than an "argument," and IAC is a single "claim" for relief, even if comprised of several different arguments. As such, says CJLF, there should be no separate requirement for a notice of cross-appeal, or a COA, for a habeas petitioner to present all arguments that might support a "claim" of IAC. Coming as it does from a group that generally supports capital punishment and opposes lengthy federal habeas review, this well-supported position would seem to carry especial weight. Moreover, CJLF argues that supporting Jennings's simpler procedural position here will actually further Congress's purpose of avoiding "uncertainty ... confusion, and the resulting delays."

But rest assured, CJLF is not supporting merits relief for a capital defendant here. Although the Fifth Circuit may have erred in dismissing Jennings's closing argument claim, CJLF argues that any error was harmless, because the district court's denial of relief on that claim was "so clearly correct" that no remand is necessary. "The present case has been delayed too long already," says CJLF (since the killing 26 years ago), and the Fifth Circuit's "procedural hiccup" should not further delay the case.

On this last point, of course, a number of the Justices are likely to disagree. Whether that number will add up to 5 may be the real question in this case. A defense lawyer who tells capital jurors that if they vote for death, "I can't quarrel with that," surely raises serious questions of deficiency and prejudice. The normal course, if one believes the Fifth Circuit erred in dismissing these questions, would be to remand for consideration on the merits. Wednesday's argument may reveal whether CJLF's "harmless beyond reasonable doubt" argument has traction with a majority of Justices (although one hardly imagines that a remand would long delay the Fifth Circuit on the merits in this case). The value of the Court's decision will be in the procedural guidance that it provides not so much for Jennings as for the many federal lawyers and courts handling federal habeas cases and appeals across the country.

(source: Rory Little, SCOTUS blog)


'Hanging Judge' author speaks in Kingston Thursday

The 2nd program in the Kingston Public Library's Fall Author Talks is a visit from Michael Ponsor, author of "The Hanging Judge." Based on his own experience, a federal judge who in 2000 presided over the 1st capital case in Massachusetts in more than 50 years, this gripping thriller offers an unprecedented inside view of a federal death penalty trial.

When a drive-by shooting in Holyoke claims the life of a drug dealer and a hockey mom volunteering at an inner-city clinic, the police arrest a rival gang member. Public outrage over the senseless killing prompts the U.S. attorney to shift the double homicide to federal court so he can seek the death penalty. Federal Judge David Norcross now presides over the 1st death penalty case in Massachusetts in 50 years. He also must contend with the media crush, anti-death penalty protesters, vengeful gang members, and everything that can go wrong with a capital trial.

"There are plenty of surprises to keep readers turning pages. Ponsor gives readers a unique look into the workings of a courtroom. But more than that, he demonstrates a feel for how ordinary families are affected by the legal system. Ponsor's debut would make a great movie." Kirkus Reviews, starred review.

"The Hanging Judge" is a Massachusetts Book Awards Must-Read Book for 2014.

Ponsor graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him a life-tenured district judge. Ponsor continues to serve as a senior district judge in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Western Division.

"The Hanging Judge" is his 1st novel.

The program begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, in the Meeting Room of the Kingston Public Library, 6 Green St. in Kingston.



Witness: 'Everybody got shot, so everybody was screaming'

The 911 call was brief and confused, as was the firefight that spawned it.

"They got shot," Jose Gonzalez told an emergency dispatcher.

"My uncle," Gonzalez continued. "I don't know, somebody shot my uncle."

Gonzalez spoke as Angel Figueroa lay in the street paralyzed from a bullet fired during a 2012 gun battle in Bethlehem outside a Puerto Rican social club. But the reality was even more gruesome than Gonzalez's brief phone call suggested, with authorities later labeling the shootout one of the Lehigh Valley's worst ever.

Gonzalez's other uncle, Orialis Figueroa, had gunshot wounds to both his legs. Gonzalez's cousin, Luis Rivera, was shot in the knee. A 23-year-old family friend, Yolanda Morales, was dead.

And the 2 men who Northampton County prosecutors say were the aggressors in the melee were also wounded. Javier Rivera-Alvarado was lying unconscious from a baseball bat blow to the head, a gunshot to his leg. Rene Figueroa had fled back inside the club and was bleeding from his own bullet wounds.

"It was just everybody screaming," Gonzalez recalled Tuesday as he testified in Rivera-Alvarado and Rene Figueroa's trial. "Everybody got shot, so everybody was screaming."

On the witness stand in the fourth day of testimony, Gonzalez largely repeated the account that his family has offered a jury: that the Dec. 2, 2012, shootout was sparked when Rivera-Alvarado sneaked up behind Orialis Figueroa outside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society and placed a gun against the back of his head.

Gonzalez, 23, of Easton said he never wielded a weapon early that morning, and merely helped tend to the wounded after the shooting subsided. But tests by police showed gunshot residue on his hands - a fact that the defense raised with jurors when the trial opened last week.

With Gonzalez on the stand, First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck suggested an explanation for the residue, asking the witness whether he touched the wounds of any of his relatives who were shot. He did, Gonzalez replied.

"Did you handle a gun that night?" Houck asked him.

"No," Gonzalez insisted.

A jury must decide whether Rivera-Alvarado and Rene Figueroa, who is of no relation to the other Figueroas, were the aggressors in the gun battle. Rene Figueroa could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering Morales, of Bethlehem, who was gunned down in the firefight.

The shooting occurred after a minor incident inside the East Third Street club spilled into the street, according to testimony. It created a crime scene so complicated that investigators had to draw diagrams to make sense of what happened.

And it happened quickly, with authorities estimating it was over in 2 minutes or less.

"You're putting everything as slow motion," Gonzalez told Rene Figueroa's lawyer, Jack McMahon, as he was questioned over details of his account. "Everything happened so fast."

Attorneys for Rivera-Alvarado, 40, and Rene Figueroa, 34, both of Allentown, say they are the victims and not the perpetrators. It was the prosecution's star witness, Orialis Figueroa of Easton, who started the melee and whose reckless gunfire killed Morales, the defense maintains.

McMahon has mocked Orialis Figueroa to the jury as "our local hero," saying the story that he and his relatives told police is a "total fabrication."

The long-delayed trial comes as authorities say they foiled a plot by Rene Figueroa and his wife, Sonia Panell, to kill witnesses in his case - charges that have captured headlines as much as the initial shooting.

Judge Anthony Beltrami has ruled the prosecution can introduce those allegations as evidence, after Houck argued that the alleged plot helps show that Rene Figueroa knows he is guilty.

Rivera-Alvarado and Rene Figueroa face charges that include attempted murder, conspiracy and aggravated assault, though only Figueroa is charged with homicide.

(source: Morning Call)


Convicted killer Timothy Jacoby sidestepped responsibility for robbery, gun charge in 2012----Judge couldn't explain "disconnect" between Air Force Academy and felony behavior

During his 1st-degree murder trial last week, before he was convicted and sentenced to death, Timothy Matthew Jacoby twice turned down opportunities to address the judge and jury.

Even though he was facing the death penalty - and in some people's minds therefore had nothing to lose - Jacoby seemed to have undercut his defense attorney's work at a 2012 hearing, apparently talking himself into a stiffer prison sentence, according to a York County Court transcript.

Jacoby appeared before York County Judge Craig T. Trebilcock on July 18, 2012, for sentencing on a gun possession charge, peripherally linked to Schmeyer's murder. He was in prison on that charge when authorities arrested him for the 2010 murder of Monica Schmeyer, the victim in his death penalty case.

Armed with a search warrant on July 7, 2011, police had gone to Jacoby's West Manchester Township home looking for a .32-caliber handgun that they believed was used to kill Schmeyer 15 months earlier. Jacoby had become a suspect in Schmeyer's murder when investigators confirmed he had at one time legally owned a .32-caliber handgun

Police never found the suspected murder weapon but in a shed on Jacoby's property they did find a .40-caliber handgun.

Because of a 2006 jewelry store robbery conviction, Jacoby was on 5 years' probation at the time of the search and because of that was legally barred from possessing a firearm.

Still a suspect for Schmeyer's murder, West Manchester Township Police charged Jacoby the day the gun was found with "person not to possess a firearm," a 2nd-degree felony.

A jury convicted him on June 8, 2012, and at the sentencing hearing before Trebilcock 5 weeks later, Jacoby's attorney, Ronald J. Gross, had angled for a 2-to-4-year prison sentence. The state guidelines for a standard 2nd-degree felony sentence called for a minimum sentence of 3 years.

Gross advised Trebilcock of much of the same information that Jacoby's murder trial jury heard last week.

He said Jacoby:

-- Graduated from Spring Grove Area High School and was accepted in the U.S. Air Force Academy;

-- Was reactivated after 9/11;

-- Put himself through college and grad school, earning a master's degree;

-- Was gainfully employed, supported 1 daughters and paid his taxes.

What Trebilcock said he couldn't unscramble was the "disconnect" between "going from Air Force Academy cadet ... to some really serious felonies."

That's when Jacoby began talking.

He said, according to transcripts:

-- "(It) was an unreliable witness" who pegged him for the jewelry store robbery in 2006;

-- After pleading no contest to the robbery for a probationary sentence, he took all of his weapons to his parents' house. The .40-caliber later found in the shed, he said, "was an oversight";

-- And, he was "disappointed in the jury's verdict (at his gun possession trial) especially considering no evidence was provided proving that I knew the firearm was there."

He went on to tell Trebilcock, "I've lost a little faith in the jury system and I would greatly appreciate consideration of whether the lack of evidence is grounds for acquittal ... ."

"Here's where I'm at with in my mind with you, just to be up front with you," Trebilcock said. "You're either a person that commits all sorts of offenses and because you're really smart, you have a long parade of excuses to explain them away.

"Or, you are the unluckiest person on the face of the earth.

"I haven't found the answer I was looking for yet. It is indeed a situation where you're ... the veritable Job of the judicial system because I can't imagine how you would be found guilty of a robbery and a felony possession of a firearm if you were completely innocent unless you were that unlucky ...

"We don't consider luck in this courtroom."

Summing up Jacoby's statements, Trebilcock said, "It's always somebody else's fault. It's a bad jury. It's a bad witness. It's a bad lawyer."

Trebilcock, a colonel and a Judge Advocate General officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, also took note that Jacoby was an armorer in the military.

"An armorer is the person who's responsible for the weapons in the unit," Trebilcock said. "The armorer always knows where his weapons are. He is trained in the military to always know where each and every single weapon ... is.

"So, for a person who's a military armorer to indicate, 'Gee, I just forgot about this .40-caliber in my shed,' that does not help your situation."

Trebilcock then sentenced Jacoby to 4 to 8 years - twice what Gross had argued for - in state prison. He was in prison when he was charged for Schmeyer's murder in August 2012.

Trial coverage

Day 1: Capital murder trial begins in death of Manheim Township woman

Day 2: Murder trial testimony continues in York

Day 3: At dead end, homicide investigators looked at boyfriend of alibi witness

Day 4: Police find no evidence to support murder-for-hire theory in Manheim Township case

Day 5: Shell casings compared, ex-husband of victim to testify Monday as Manheim Township murder trial continues

Day 6: Ex-husband hoped Manheim Twp. murder was 'horrible April Fool's joke'

Day 7: York jury to get Jacoby case

Timothy Matthew Jacoby was on trial on charges of killing 55-year-old Monica Schmeyer in 2010. Schmeyer was found dead in her Manheim Township home with a single gunshot wound to the head on March 31, 2010, police said at the time. Now that Jacoby has been convicted, the York County District Attorney's Office will be seeking the death penalty.

Day 8: Jacoby convicted of 1st-degree murder, faces death penalty hearing

Day 9: Jury hands Jacoby a death sentence

(source: York Daily Record)


Psychologist says KOP killer has bipolar disorder as jury decides his fate

The King of Prussia man convicted last week in the 2012 murders of a baby and her grandmother exhibits signs of severe mental illness, including elements of bipolar disorder that impair his judgment, a forensic psychologist testified Tuesday.

Raghunandan Yandamuri has a high IQ of about 120, estimated Gerald Cooke, who spent at least nine hours with Yandamuri and administered a battery of tests and evaluations. But he has suffered from psychotic and depressive episodes, he said, displays grandiosity and tends to deny or minimize his own problems.

Bipolar disorder, Cooke said, "is not a disorder that goes away."

"It impairs his emotional control," he added.

Cooke was the last to testify on behalf of Yandamuri in his sentencing hearing. After attorneys present closing arguments, jurors will start deliberating whether to sentence Yandamuri to death or to life in prison.

Yandamuri was convicted Thursday of 1st-degree murder in the stabbing death of Satayrathi Venna, 61, and the suffocation death of her 10-month-old granddaughter, Saanvi Venna.

Prosecutors said Yandamuri, 28, a former information technology worker who immigrated from India on a work visa, plotted to kidnap the child for ransom money to feed his gambling problem and killed the grandmother when she got in his way.

Yandamuri represented himself in the trial and maintained his innocence throughout, blaming the deaths on 2 men who he said forced him to help them.

After his conviction, Yandamuri told Common Pleas Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill he wanted the death penalty. But, after speaking with his court-appointed attorney, he later agreed to abide by the decision of the jury.

(source: Philadelphia News)


When does a murderer get sentenced to death?

Pennsylvania is 1 of 32 states which allows for a death sentence. The only crime for which you can be sentenced to death under Pennsylvania state law is 1st degree murder.

There are actually only 2 possible punishments for a conviction of 1st degree murder: Life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.

The process involving a death penalty case is unique, handled unlike any other trial in the criminal justice system. In order to be chosen to be on a death penalty jury, a juror must go through a special "voir dire," or jury selection process.

This process is designed to ensure fairness, and must include jurors who are open to the possibility of the death penalty. Often, this process is done individually with each juror, rather than with the entire jury panel in 1 room, as is done in other cases.

The initial step to begin a death penalty case requires, in addition to a charge of 1st-degree murder, that the Commonwealth provide the defendant with notice of "aggravating circumstances." This notice must be given at or before the time of arraignment, and provides the statutory basis for the Commonwealth's decision to seek the death penalty.

The death penalty can be pursued if any of the following circumstances exist:

1. The victim was a law enforcement officer, firefighter, judge, or named government official, and was killed in the performance of his duties or as a result of his position.

2. The defendant paid, was paid, or had hired someone to kill the victim.

3. The victim was held by the defendant for ransom, reward, or used as a shield or hostage.

4. The victim died while the defendant was hijacking an aircraft.

5. The victim was a prosecution witness in a murder or any felony committed by the defendant, and was killed to prevent his testimony.

6. The defendant committed the killing while in perpetration of a felony.

7. While committing the killing, the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to someone besides the victim.

8. The killing was committed by torture.

9. The defendant has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to the person.

10. The defendant has another conviction for which he could have received a life sentence or death, or was serving a life sentence at the time of the offense.

11. The defendant was previously convicted of another murder.

12. The defendant was previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

13. The defendant committed the killing while committing a crime of drug trafficking.

14. At the time of the killing the victim was involved with or a competitor to the defendant in the sale of controlled substances, and the killing was a result of that relationship.

15. At the time of the killing, the victim was an informant or was assisting law enforcement, and the killing was in retaliation for the victim's cooperation.

16. The victim was under 12 years old.

17. At the time of the killing the victim was in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy, or the defendant knew the victim was pregnant.

18. At the time of the killing the defendant was subject to a PFA or other order protecting the victim from the defendant

After a conviction for 1st degree murder, a defendant has an entirely separate trial to decide his sentence. This trial will be done with the same jury, who will choose between life and death. The jury will consider any aggravating circumstances, noted above. The jury might also consider any of the following mitigating circumstances:

1. The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal convictions.

2. The defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.

3. The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and conform his conduct to the law was substantially impaired.

4. The age of the defendant at the time of the killing.

5. The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.

6. The victim was a participant in the defendant's homicidal conduct or consented to the homicidal acts.

7. The defendant's participation in the killing was relatively minor.

8. Any other evidence of mitigation concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of his offense.

To "find" an aggravating circumstance, the jury must unanimously agree that it was proven by the Commonwealth, beyond a reasonable doubt. However, to find a mitigating circumstance, the jury must unanimously agree that it was proven by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence. The standard to find a mitigating circumstances is therefore much less than to find an aggravating circumstance.

The sentence must be death if the jury unanimously finds at least one aggravating circumstance and no mitigating circumstance. The sentence must also be death if the aggravating circumstance(s) outweigh the mitigating circumstance(s).

If the jury finds at least 1 aggravating circumstance and at least 1 mitigating circumstance, it must weigh those circumstances and also consider any evidence about the victim and the impact of the murder on the victim's family.

In all other cases than those described above, the sentence must be life. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the sentence must also be life imprisonment.

A sentence of death is given automatic review by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

As always...As a Magisterial District Judge, I am strictly prohibited from giving my opinions on cases, and will not be doing so in this column.

(source: Judge Jessica Brewbaker;


Should arbitrary factors mitigate the punishment?

On October 2, the day after a Chester County jury convicted Duran Peoples of 1st-degree murder in the contract killing of Coatesville barber shop owner Jonas "Sonny" Suber, the same jury unanimously informed Judge David Bortner that the appropriate sentence would be life without parole, and not death.

The jury decided that mitigating factors cited by the defense ... Peoples' upbringing in poor socio-economic circumstances; his self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer; and the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case ... outweighed the prosecution's plea that the "murder for hire" deserved a sentence of death.

In an October 6 editorial, the Daily Local News commended Chester County jurors and prosecutors for their reluctance to impose the death penalty upon convicted murderers. That only 4 defendants convicted of murder in the county are on death row in the editors' opinion demonstrates the district attorney's "wisdom" to withdraw the death penalty when it "serves the interest of justice".

Which begs the question: does withdrawing the death penalty in light of mitigating factors serve the interests of justice, or does consideration of mitigating factors promulgate greater injustice by allowing a lucky few to avoid the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime?

In short, why should a few arbitrary factors mitigate the punishment for cold-blooded murder?

So what if Peoples was raised in poor socio-economic circumstances? Countless children are bought up in poor socio-economic circumstances but they do not become murderers. Should an accident of birth determine the severity of punishment for a heinous crime?

These factors also stigmatize the vast majority of men and women from similar backgrounds who choose to live law abiding lives rather than blaming difficult circumstances for an "addiction" to crime.

Consideration of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case hints that a murderer need only hire a triggerman to do his dirty work and absent himself from the scene to insulate him from culpability. Even so, the prosecution's so-called "circumstantial" case convinced the jury that Peoples was guilty of 1st degree murder.

The kicker is Peoples' self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer. The selfish, self-centered, and violent life to which Peoples was "addicted" should properly be an aggravating circumstance.

"Mitigating factors" also create a subtle, constitutionally suspect double standard by arbitrarily holding members of a certain class of people to a higher standard of conduct than members of a favored class.

And with fewer "mitigating factors" in their background, it follows that those subject to this stricter standard are more deserving of capital punishment for similar crimes than the Peoples of the world. Where is the justice (or logic) in that?

A 1st-degree murder verdict establishes beyond reasonable doubt a defendant's degree of culpability. Once degree is established, it is past time for excuses and justification.

Sentencing is the time when justice is done.

In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

Gerald K. McOscar -- West Chester

(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Local News)


Devil-worshipper ate parts of his victims: Satanic murders rock North Carolina as 3 - including tattooed 'cannibal' - are arrested

3 people have been arrested after the skeletal remains of 2 men were found in a backyard of a home owned by Satanists in a North Carolina village.

Pazuzu Illah Algarad, 35, was arrested and charged with murder last Sunday after the 2 bodies were discovered in shallow graves at the house in Clemmons where neighbors say he has performed animal sacrifices and satanic rituals.

A friend claims that he had 'told everyone' about the bodies, but nobody believed him, and he described how he killed them, ate part of them and then burned the rest in a fire pit.

Amber Nicole Burch, 24, who lives with Algarad and is described as his wife on Facebook, was also charged with murder, while 28-year-old Krystal Nicole Matlock has been charged as an accessory with police alleging that she helped bury the bodies.

The 1st victim has been identified as 37-year-old Joshua Fredrick Wetzler while the 2nd victim has been named as Tommy Dean Welch, 36.

Police have said they also found animal bones in the property and that more arrests as part of the investigation are possible.

On the front door of the house where the skeletal remains were found was a sign warning law-enforcement not to enter.

It reads: 'No gang members allowed: anyone that dresses the same, has the same badge and call themselves the authority of the land they did not create. Below and to the right is a picture of a skull and cross bones.

Under that picture are the words, 'Evil will triumph'.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Algarad was born in San Francisco, California, as John Lawson, but dropped out of high school, became a drug dealer.

His mother Cynthia Lawson, who is also a Satanist, changed his name to Pazuzu - after the devil that possessed the girl in the film The Exorcis - and claimed it was of Iraqi descent.

The Camel City Dispatch reported that his friends said he tried to paint a picture of himself serial killer Charles Manson, founder of the Church of Satan Anton LaVay, and British occultist Aleister Crowley.

His tongue was split down the middle like a snake and he allegedly filed down his teeth to sharpen them.

In 2010, Algarad was convicted on a charge of accessory after the fact in the shooting death of 30-year-old Joseph Chandler.

Chandler's body was found near a river by police after his mother reported him missing that morning.

According to state records, Algarad was on probation at the time the bodies were found on Sunday.

Bianca Heath claimed she lived with Algarad for a month in 2005, and that he had spoken of the bones in his back yard.

She told The Huffington Post: 'Paz told everyone. But I never believed him. I'm sure no one else believed him either. He laughed about the skeletal remains when telling the story on why he did what he did.'

Heath said Algarad told her he picked up 2 prostitutes at two separate locations before he killed and ate them, burning the remains in a fire pit before burying the rest.

In 2011, Burch was accused of slapping Algarad's mother in the face and attempting to choke her.

She is described as Algarad's wife on Facebook, but authorities have said there is no legal document to suggest they are together.

(source: Daily Mail)


Florida high court upholds death sentence in 2009 rape, murder

Months after a William Roger Davis III was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering a Longwood used-car lot receptionist, the Supreme Court of Florida has upheld the decision to sentence him to death.

Davis, who requested the death penalty, never denied his involvement in the brutal death 19-year-old Fabiana Malave. Instead he claimed insanity and said "Dr. Paul," a person he said he saw when he hallucinated, told him to kill the woman in October 2009.

According to evidence presented at trial, Davis abducted Malave at knifepoint from Super Sport Auto, the small car lot on U.S. Highway 17-92 where she worked and drove her to the Orlando house where he lived. Davis raped her then strangled her.

He then wrapped her in a carpet and a plastic bag and loaded her body into his SUV and drove around for hours before parking a few dozen feet from where he had abducted her. Seminole County deputies spotted the vehicle and arrested him.

Davis told investigators "he had never killed anyone before, but found the murder 'interesting' and 'liberating' and that he would certainly kill again," according to a Supreme Court report.

Davis was evaluated by several mental-health experts who determined that his IQ was 127, just three points short of genius level. While some doctors thought his mental health was in question because he was abused as a child, others thought he was smart enough to exaggerate his symptoms in an effort to avoid prison.

The doctors thought Davis' need to kill might have also been fueled by a recent separation from his girlfriend at the time. Davis told investigators that "Dr. Paul" said the only way his ex-girlfriend and her son would be safe was if he killed Malave, who was the only employee at the car lot the day she was abducted.

Davis also told investigators that he couldn't bring himself to kill Malave and said he thought "Dr. Paul" might have killed her when he left the room.

The Florida Supreme Court made its decision Oct. 9.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Convicted killer will have new sentencing hearing in Brevard murder case----Hearing scheduled for Oct. 27

A man who hacked to death a couple in their 60s and then went on a date was back in Brevard County court on Monday trying to escape the death penalty.

A Florida court threw out his death sentence based on an obscure, arcane point of law. Anthony Welch was 22 when he murdered Rufus and Kyoko Johnson.

"It was sickening and cruel," said Phil Williams, former Brevard County Sheriff. "It was a horrible death."

Authorities said Welch used a souvenir Samurai sword in 2000 to stab and beat the couple to death in their Suntree home. After the murders, Welch went on a date.

He was convicted and sentenced to death, but is back in the Brevard County Jail because an appeals court ordered a new sentencing . Welch could escape the death penalty and get life in prison.

Veteran prosecutor Gary Beatty said reopening a case so long after the fact has challenges.

"The most difficult part is collecting all your witnesses; the logistics of just getting everybody there that's gonna need to testify," Beatty said.

Family members are forced to relive the ordeal and testify anew, and a sentencing hearing can cost $250,000.

The appeals court said it is happening because while selecting the jury, a judge allowed a prospective female juror to be dismissed without asking whether there was a gender-neutral reason for the dismissal.

"The sheer statistics of how long people are on death row is evidence of how difficult it is to actually get the death penalty imposed," Beatty said.

A new jury will be selected for the hearing scheduled on Oct. 27.

(source: WESH news)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty for man accused of killing 1-year-old Tampa boy

Hillsborough County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Austin Hamilton, who is accused of killing his girlfriend's 1-year-old son in August, officials said Monday.

Hamilton, 24, has pleaded not guilty 1st-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges. But Tampa police detectives said that shortly after he was detained, Hamilton admitted beating Sincere Williams repeatedly with a belt and dropping him on his head. Sincere died that night at St. Joseph's Hospital.

A medical examiner's report concluded that Sincere had succumbed to blunt-force trauma to the lower abdomen.

According to a police report, Hamilton told detectives he "lost control" when, in the middle of changing the child's diaper, Sincere began to urinate all over their motel room. After hitting the boy's backside at least 10 times with the belt, Hamilton picked him up and dropped him, the report said.

Following her son's death, Tiffany Williams said she hoped Hamilton would get the death penalty.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Judge orders no live tweeting during DeBlase child murder case as 278 potential jurors report for duty

With jurors streaming in to begin the selection phase of the John DeBlase capital murder trial, the presiding judge expressed concerns about members of the media live tweeting from within the courtroom.

DeBlase is accused of poisoning his two young children to death and dumping their bodies in 2010, and Circuit Judge Rick Stout on Tuesday said he has seen problems in the past when witnesses were able to read what was going on during a trial prior to testifying. Dozens of witnesses are expected to participate in the trial, which could span more than 2 weeks.

This is the 10th time a trial date has been set in the case.

In an attempt to avoid contaminating potential witnesses in the case, Stout ordered no live tweeting from his courtroom during the court proceedings, but will allow updates during breaks.

The selection of a jury for the trial out of the 278 potential jurors who reported to Government Plaza on Tuesday could take more than a week, according to attorneys in the case.

Stout told reporters from print, digital and television media outlets that he had already ordered the potential jurors not to "check out" any reporting about the case, including tweets or other updates through social media.

The jury will be selected through what's known as individual voir dire. That is where each potential juror is questioned to determine if they will be able to not only be impartial in the case, but able to serve on the jury through any possible hardships - financial, health or otherwise.

Questions for potential jurors

As jury selection begins in the DeBlase capital murder trial, nearly 300 jurors are facing 15 pages of questions to help lawyers understand who they are and what they've experienced.

A copy of the juror questionnaire was provided to from the District Attorney's Office. And it contains 60 wide-ranging questions for the 278 potential jurors.

The questions range from average biographical inquiries about family members and employment, to those regarding the death penalty and span of social media use.

One question asks if the potential juror has ever heard or read anything concerning the case, and if so, what it was.

There is a heightened focus on this jury pool, as it concerns capital murder, with the death penalty as a possible sentence for DeBlase, if he were to be convicted.

It is alleged that he and his common-law wife, Heather Leavell-Keaton, killed 3-year-old Chase DeBlase and his 4-year-old sister Natalie - both of whom were DeBlase's children with another woman. They then dumped the childrens' bodies in wooded areas near Vancleave, Miss., and Citronelle, according to prosecutors.

Keaton is expected to go on trial in March. The DeBlase trial could take most of a month, with opening statements likely to begin next week after the jury is selected.



AG wants death row inmate's rape appeal thrown out

The attorney general's office is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to throw out a death row inmate's appeal of his 1994 rape conviction.

Charles Ray Crawford, 48, is on death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate community in Tippah County.

In his appeal, Crawford says he received ineffective counsel to defend himself against the rape charges, which were used by prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Few details of the rape conviction are discussed in earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

The attorney general argues in documents filed Monday that Crawford got a fair trial and that if there was any error, it was Crawford's for waiting 20 years to file an appeal.

"The delay in Crawford appealing this particular conviction rests solely at the feet of he and his various attorneys," Special Assistant Attorney General Stephanie B. Wood said. "There is no case law which establishes that this case should be reversed and remanded solely based on the delay. No reversible errors were committed during the trial."

Crawford argues that the 1994 rape conviction should be tossed out because he received poor legal representation at his trial. The result of the appeal could mean the difference between life and death for Crawford.

Crawford was arrested in 1992 and accused of rape and aggravated assault. While free on bond, he was arrested on murder charges in the death of a young woman. He was convicted of rape in 1993 and sentenced to 66 years in prison. He was then found guilty of murder in 1994 and sentenced to death. Prosecutors had argued for the death penalty, saying it was justified because Crawford's past as a rapist constituted an aggravated factor and called for the harshest of punishments.

Glenn Swartzfager, Crawford's lawyer, has argued there were numerous errors in Crawford's rape trial including poor performance by the defense, prosecutorial misconduct, and questionable rulings and jury instructions from the trial judge.

"A more error-ridden case may never have come before this court," Swartzfager wrote in the brief to the Supreme Court. "Mr. Crawford is not asserting the right to a perfect trial, though the trial he received was far from perfect, but he is asserting his right to a trial which had some chance of providing the reliability demanded by the United States and Mississippi constitutions."

(source: Clarion-Ledger)


Death penalty still possible in triple-murder trial

A man charged in the Nov. 4, 2012, stabbing deaths of a Lockport woman and her 2 daughters could still face the death penalty in Lafourche District Court if convicted.

Judge Jerome Barbera on Monday rejected defense attorneys' motions to rule out the death penalty for David Brown, 36, of Houma and Texas. He also denied the defense's request that the trial be moved out of Lafourche Parish.

Brown is set to stand trial April 20 in Thibodaux on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. He is accused of killing 29-year-old Jacquelin Nieves and her daughters, 7-year-old Gabriela and 1-year-old Izabela, in the family's apartment.

The New Orleans-based Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana argued that capital punishment violates modern decency, isn't applied consistently and that innocent people have been sentenced to die. Defense attorneys also cited a statute they say doesn't require prosecutors to prove death is the appropriate penalty.

"Jurors tend to make up the scheme on their own if they're not very precisely guided," defense attorney Dwight Doskey said.

The defense also asked Barbera to bar the death penalty because of factors outside of Brown's control. Brown was without a death penalty-certified attorney for four months after the killings.

Brown's team requested the trial be moved out of Lafourche on the claim that residents have prejudged Brown as guilty and worthy of death. Though Brown has the right to a fair trial, Barbera said jurors may still have some knowledge of the case.

"The defendant is not entitled to a jury completely ignorant of his case," he said, and there's "no established minimum level of exposure to negative publicity."

Kerry Cuccia, leading the defense team, requested allegations of aggravated arson and rape be excluded from the trial. Because the case is based on circumstantial evidence, Cuccia said, jurors would have to assume the same person committed each of the crimes, which led to the killings.

"The jury has to speculate ... and that is something that we know the law doesn't allow," he said.

Barbera ruled in favor of prosecutors with the Lafourche Parish District Attorney's Office, who contended that multiple pieces of evidence linking Brown to the killings would work together in the case.

"We can present that to the jury," Assistant District Attorney Joe Soignet said. "This isn't the time to do that."

Barbera denied a motion to keep the prosecution from referring to the alleged crime as "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," as the defense claimed stabbing alone does not meet that description. Soignet said evidence shows more harm than just stabbing.

The judge only granted one of the 16 motions the defense presented, saying a detective's question that led Brown to invoke his Miranda rights mid-interview cannot be presented during the trial.

After a detective pressed him about a shirt found at the crime scene, Brown demanded an attorney, court records show. Prosecutors argued that Brown had started to answer the detective's question before invoking his right. The defense countered that a jury might see Brown's termination of the interview as admission of guilt.

Barbera said Brown's statement is "insolubly ambiguous and would present extreme prejudice to the defendant" if submitted to the jury.

The defense also requested more time to review photographs to be used as evidence. Brown's attorneys want "gruesome" crime scene and autopsy images excluded from the trial. That motion was delayed until Dec. 8.

(source: The Daily Comet)


Okla. Prison Officials Unveil Death Chamber

Prison officials unveiled the renovated execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Thursday and expressed confidence that the agency would be ready for the state's next scheduled execution in November.

The $71,000 reconstruction of the death chamber and adjacent witness rooms gives executioners more space in which to operate. Department of Corrections also spent about $34,000 on new medical equipment, including $12,500 for a surgical table and $6,000 for an ultrasound machine to help locate veins.

New protocols require more training for the execution team and backup procedures in case a lethal injection goes awry.

Prison workers will begin training on the new protocols this week, and the agency will be prepared for the Nov. 13 execution of Charles Warner, who was convicted of raping and killing his roommate's 11-month-old daughter in Oklahoma City in 1997, said prisons spokeswoman Terri Watkins.

"We will be ready," Watkins said.

The renovations and protocol rewrite were ordered by DOC Director Robert Patton after the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, mumbled and tried to lift his head before his execution was eventually called off. Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999.

An investigation into Lockett's lethal injection blamed his lengthy execution on the poor placement of a single intravenous line that wasn't monitored throughout the procedure. As a result, some of the lethal drugs were injected into Lockett's tissue instead of directly into his blood stream, the report found.

Based on the recommendations in the report, prison officials renovated the space to give the execution team in an adjacent "chemical room" more space to operate. They also installed new lighting and new audio and video equipment so the condemned inmate can be more closely monitored.

(source: Associated Press)


State runs out of lethal drugs for executions with 3 inmates scheduled to die: Justice?

3 upcoming executions scheduled to take place by the end of the year. But Oklahoma, already home to one botched execution this years, lacks the necessary drugs and staff training to properly carry out these death sentences.

So in a historic move, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants to delay the 3 inmates' date with death.

Is this justice?

The Associated Press, citing a filing with the state's court of appeals, reports that Pruitt is seeking to postpone the executions of Charles Warner, Richard Eugene Glossip and John Marion Grant until early next year. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is scheduled to execute Warner by lethal injection Nov. 13, to be followed by two more executions in subsequent weeks.

The move comes as acquiring drugs such as phenobarbital, a once-common ingredient in lethal injection cocktails, has been difficult for many states as foreign pharmaceutical companies that often manufacture the drug have publicly denounced and sought to prevent its sale for use in executions, AP wrote.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union and four newspapers last month asked a federal judge to unseal court records in an effort to pinpoint where that state purchases its execution drugs, AP reported. A decision has not been announced by the court.

But no state is under more scrutiny for its execution than Oklahoma, following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

Background according to AP: An Oklahoma inquiry found an intravenous line was not properly administered in the Lockett execution, and that the state has faced widespread criticism and halted executions in the aftermath.

For example, Warner was scheduled to be put to death April 29, the same day as Lockett, but his execution was delayed after the problems arose and witnesses described Lockett as groaning in the 43 minutes it took for him to die.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections used a sedative known as midazolam for the 1st time as part of the lethal cocktail used to execute Lockett.

Critics have pointed to that drug as 1 of the causes of the botched execution, but Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said in September that the deadly cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride were successful.



Defense Outreach In Holmes Case Was 'Manipulative,' Victim Says

A victim of the Aurora theater massacre said he believes defense lawyers and anti-death penalty groups have tried to use him like a pawn.

Marcus Weaver voiced his previous opposition to the death penalty and spoke and wrote about forgiving suspect James Holmes. His stance drew the attention of groups opposed to capital punishment and eventually led to a meeting with a victim's advocate who worked for Holmes' lawyers.

That advocate, Tammy Krause, told Weaver she'd encountered difficulty reaching out to other victims.

Weaver said he felt puzzled by that.

"You're a victim's advocate," he remembers telling Krause.

"I'm a DIVO," he says she told him.

That's short for Defense-Initiative Victims Outreach, a program that defense attorneys say help victims recover.

Weaver, 43, said when he was asked to disseminate a letter to other victims and victims' family to dissuade them from supporting the death penalty in Holmes' case, "that's when it got really fuzzy," he said.

"As the conversation ... went on, she was not very clear about who she was, what her role was," Weaver said.

That meeting with Krause happened through a series of connections Weaver made with people opposed to capital punishment. He originally became involved 6 months after the shooting when he was contacted by Guideposts Magazine to write a story about his life, how he felt about Holmes and how he forgave him - an act based on abuse Weaver suffered as a child.

During the attacks, Weaver was shot in the arm. His friend Rebecca Wingo was killed. James Holmes is accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 in the July 20, 2012, attack at an Aurora cineplex. He faces the death penalty if convicted. Holmes' attorneys have all but conceded his role but claim he was insane at the time of the attack.

The prosecution polled victims and victims' family members prior to the Arapahoe County District Attorney's announcement that it would seek the death penalty. Most said they supported a capital case.

Before his meeting with Krause, Weaver spoke at a symposium about gun violence, specifically addressing the Aurora shooting and his death penalty views. Representatives from the Colorado anti-capital punishment group told Weaver they were interested in his sharing his story again.

"It was't clear at first. I assume they wanted me to tell the story about how I forgive the shooter, how I am involved in a case that has the death penalty," Weaver said.

Weaver said that victims have been contacted by groups on both sides of volatile issue - including anti-gun control organizations like the NRA and anti-capital punishment groups like Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation.

Later came the meeting with Krause.

"It made me distrust the Colorado (anti-)death penalty folks, too, because she had arranged a dinner meeting with a person I thought was a possible advocate or a person who wanted to hear my story or wanted me to speak at an event," Weaver said. "But what it turned out to be was something that was manipulative, I felt, in a way."

He then called his lawyer, who arranged a meeting with the DA's office and the defense. That was when it was explained to him that Krause worked for the defense team.

He's also been approached by prominent anti-death penalty attorney David Lane.

"I want to empower the victims in the Holmes case to take a different path than the one given to them by the DA, which is a path of death and destruction," Lane said.

The anti-death penalty foundation also introduced him to Bob Autobee, another anti-capital punishment advocate whose son, a prison guard, was murdered by an inmate. That inmate was spared largely because of Autobee's actions.

Autobee wrote a letter inviting victims to meet with him, and he wanted Weaver to help him.

"I don't feel anybody should be put to death," Autobee said. "My message is, 'Speak out if you're against it because you're going to have to live with your decision for the rest of your life.'"

But Weaver declined to distribute the letter.

Weaver said the victims seem to be caught between two opposing sides.

"There have been some unsavory things that have happened," he said. "It just feels like we have been pitted in the middle."

(source: CBS news)


Could firing squad make a comeback in Utah, elsewhere?----In the wake of botched executions and with lethal injection drugs difficult to find, states around the nation are looking at alternative means of execution. Some, like Wyoming, are looking to Utah and its firing squad.

When Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in 2010 at the Utah State Prison in Draper, more than 59 journalists from news outlets from around the globe descended upon Utah to cover the event.

Reporters from Japan and Great Britain called it "a Wild West way of dispatching people" and referenced John Wayne movies.

But as anti-death penalty pharmaceutical companies in Europe refuse to sell the drugs necessary for lethal injections to prisons in the United States and in the wake of botched lethal injection executions in recent months, the firing squad could be making its return to Utah and other places.

"I've had several states actually call (to ask about the firing squad)," Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said. "They asked me not to name them because they don't want the media circus on it. But they're in the same boat we are - they can't get the drugs, either."

Botched executions involving lethal injections in Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio earlier this year have led Ray to believe that the method could face constitutional challenges as well. For that reason, he is proposing legislation that would bring back the firing squad as the secondary execution method in Utah, should the primary method, lethal injection, be found unconstitutional or unavailable.

"It really won't do anything," Ray said. "It's just the plan B if we need it."

A law passed in 2004 eliminated death by firing squad in Utah, but those on death row who requested such a death prior to the new law still have the option. Ray said the legislation he is proposing would restore the firing squad as a possible execution method, but eliminate the inmate choice.

"It will be lethal injection, and then, if the drugs are not there, or it is unconstitutional, then it will be firing squad," Ray explained. "There is no option for the inmates."

Utah's firing squad comprises 5 riflemen, all certified law enforcement officers, using 30-30 rifles. 4 of the guns are loaded with live ammunition and 1 is loaded with a blank before the officers shoot in unison.

Ray acknowledged that part of the reason the method was eliminated was due to the extra attention that surrounded it. But he said there is always going to be interest around executions, especially among international media. The firing squad may heighten that interest, but Ray doesn't balk at it as an execution method.

"It is actually the most humane," he said. "The individual is usually dead before they can even hear the gunshot. It's 4 bullets to the heart, so it's not 'How long did it take for him to die? Could he breathe? Did he feel it?'"

Wyoming Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, decided to propose the firing squad as Wyoming's secondary execution method, because he said it is what he would choose if forced to select to among the alternatives to lethal injection.

"It became a matter of personal prejudice and if I was the one that was being executed," Burns said.

Wyoming's current backup if lethal injection is unavailable is the gas chamber, which Burns felt was impractical for a number of reasons. For one, the state doesn't have a gas chamber, and building one - and the possible litigation prompted by a decision to build one - would be expensive.

"It would cost millions of dollars to build one," Burns said. "And sometimes you have to put your own experience into it and I think the gas chamber would be a horrible way to kill somebody."

The firing squad is simply "more efficient," he said. And Wyoming has an example in Utah if it decides to make the firing squad its secondary method.

"I do like the way Utah did it," Burns said. "Utah has a very good protocol. If we pass this, I would hope the Wyoming Department of Corrections would look to the protocol that Utah uses."

Even before the botched executions, Burns noticed the difficulty getting lethal injection drugs from companies in the European Union. He proposed a bill to implement the firing squad in Wyoming's legislative session this past January.

It didn't pass, but officials from the Wyoming Department of Corrections came forward and spoke about the difficulties states around the nation are facing when it comes to obtaining drugs for lethal injections, and the Wyoming Legislature's Judiciary Committee decided to look at the issue. Lawmakers have since decided to sponsor the firing squad bill in the upcoming legislative session in January.

Ralph Dellapiana, a public defender and director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said there are a number of states taking a 2nd look at the death penalty with 6 eliminating the punishment in the past 6 years. He predicted another 6 states, including Colorado and Montana, will also put a stop to capital punishment in the next few years.

"People have different reasons," Dellapiana said. "For some people it's immoral, and in other places it's that it's extremely costly and the appeals take forever and the victims want it to be over with."

He noted the concerns some have about exonerations of those on death row and the fear of executing the innocent. Couple those with the issues regarding the manner of the executions, and Dellapiana said there's just no reason to continue with the death penalty.

"It doesn't matter what your reason is, there are just too many reasons we shouldn't do it," he said. "We should join the civilized world instead of joining the ranks of Iran, Pakistan and China."

When Gardner was executed, Dellapiana said he got calls from journalists around the world who were shocked that the death penalty even existed and found the firing squad "all the more horrific." As far as he is concerned, though, the manner in which executions are carried out is largely irrelevant.

"I think there's a lot of costs and problems involved in each of them," he said.

There are already legal challenges to the death penalty pending that allege the practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Dellapiana said there are also First Amendment issues in states where officials are trying to keep execution details, such as which drugs are being used and where they are coming from, from the public and the media.

He believes the challenges will ultimately land in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. And while he doesn't think the nation's high court will eliminate the death penalty altogether, he does think they will order states to submit their methods and policies to public scrutiny and ensure that they meet all due process standards.

With life without parole as an option, Dellapiana just doesn't see the point in pursuing the death penalty.

"The more people learn about the problems with the death penalty, they'll say: 'Even if I'm not morally opposed to killing people, I have all these other reasons to recognize that it's bad policy and we shouldn't be trying to do it,'" Dellapiana said. "The alternative is faster, cheaper and better for families of victims."

Ray acknowledged that the current death penalty process in Utah needs to be "refined."

"It takes too long, there are too many appeals in the appeals process and it's too expensive," he said. "That's something we have to take a look at: 'Here is the cost. Can we trim it down?' And if not, if it's worth having. I'm open to that discussion."

Burns said the the Wyoming Legislature's Judiciary Committee recently had an extended debate about the death penalty and whether to eliminate it altogether. A proposed bill was even drafted.

"It went down and not by a whole lot," Burns said, before adding that he likes where Wyoming stands now with just 1 man on death row. "We have 22 people in prison for life without parole, and any one of those 22 could have been a capital case. We haven't executed anyone since 1992, so we use it infrequently."

Still, he believes the death penalty is an important tool in the criminal justice system to be used as needed.

"I'm not a fan of using it more, but I would like to have it there in reserve for those crimes that are so horrible and so heinous that the person doesn't even deserve life without parole," Burns said.

(source: Deseret News)


Pictures at an execution: The condemned in art

A new exhibition aims to humanise condemned prisoners. From the sword to the electric chair, the death penalty has inspired challenging art, writes Jason Farago.

One man, before dying, said, "I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me." Another said, "I'm going to a beautiful place." A 3rd: "I am innocent, innocent, innocent."

Those were their last words before an executioner took their lives. And for Amy Elkins, a young artist based in Los Angeles, those testaments offered a means to humanise the grim statistics of the death penalty in the United States. Her photography series - which was awarded this year's Aperture Portfolio Prize and goes on view in New York next month - overlays the mugshots of the condemned with text of their final words, coursing down the image like the current of a river. Another series features letters Elkins exchanged with death row prisoners, including several in solitary confinement, interspersed with photographs the artist took in an effort to simulate their thoughts. A seascape, a forest, an expanse of concrete: these images, mundane in other circumstances, become through Elkins the inner worlds of men whom the state will destroy.

"People write of capital punishment as if they were whispering," argued Albert Camus, the most implacable of death-penalty opponents, in his 1957 Reflections on the Guillotine. To an extent, we still do. This year several US states, facing a shortage of drugs for lethal injections thanks to a European moratorium, resorted to untested and unreliable combinations that resulted in severe pain and, in one case, a failed execution. Though campaigners condemned the executions as barbaric and inhumane, and though support for capital punishment has declined in the United States, these botched lethal injections spurred little public discussion. Today, although the death penalty is illegal in all but 22 countries, we still write about it in a whisper, preferring not to see the consequences of society's ultimate sentence. Can art speak more loudly? It certainly has throughout art history; perhaps it can again.

A brutal history

Western art history bulges with depictions of martyred saints and slaughtered innocents, but capital punishment is something more precise. It refers not just to a death, but to a legal death. There is no death penalty in a state of nature; only society, and the laws that govern it, can turn murder into alleged justice. Capital punishment exists at a paradoxical junction point of civilisation and barbarism. It is "the most premeditated of murders", in Camus's phrase, in which the force of law is used to justify something otherwise unjustifiable.

2 archetypal executions hover over the Western world's artistic depictions of the death penalty. The first is that of Sophocles' Antigone. Sentenced to death for giving her condemned brother's corpse an honourable burial, Antigone is sealed in a cave but hangs herself to ensure an honourable death. (Though now held up as a great anti-death penalty play, it was nothing of the sort in 441 BC; performances of Greek drama would be preceded by parades of captured war orphans and dead soldiers' armour.) The 2nd, of course, is that of Jesus Christ. The crucifixion may mark Christ's passage from humanity to divinity, but it was also a simple application of Roman law; Jesus, after all, was crucified alongside 2 thieves. Andrea Mantegna's blunt and forceful Crucifixion of 1456-59, in the collection of the Louvre, captures the dual divine and legal nature of Christ's execution. He and the 2 thieves are splayed on the crosses, sinews bulging, and beneath them are not only Mary and John, but also ordinary soldiers gambling with dice.

In Europe during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, capital punishment was not hidden away in execution chambers. It was a public spectacle, advertised to city-dwellers and featuring carefully stage-managed processions. Gruesome capital punishment, as well as depictions of it in art, had a dual purpose. It not only enforced civic order; it also served to encourage piety and warn against eternal damnation. In a time when kings ruled by divine right, every application of the death penalty was a miniature preview of the Last Judgment.

The most honourable means of death was decapitation, as shown in the magnificent Allegory of Good Government, painted in 1339 by the Sienese artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti - wherein Justice sits with a sword in her right hand and a severed head on her knee. Hanging was a less honourable penalty, and beneath that was being broken on the wheel, a horrible punishment that numerous anatomy-curious Renaissance painters would have witnessed. Religious crimes were often punished via burning at the stake; in Francesco Rizi's 1683 painting at the Prado, Madrid's Plaza Mayor is filled with thousands of spectators waiting to see the condemned go up in flames. In fact, art itself often played a role in the death penalty. In Italy, a comforter would follow the condemned carrying a tavoletta, or a painted panel of the Passion or the crucifixion, to gaze on in his last moments.

In protest

By the 18th Century, capital punishment was still a public spectacle. William Hogarth satirised London's taste for executions, which took place on public holidays, in his sharp engraving of a lazy apprentice being carted to Tyburn, alongside drunks, hawkers, fighting children and yapping dogs. (On the frame of the image Hogarth included 2 gibbeted skeletons: a bonus punishment, in which the bodies of the executed were hung on public display.) But in France the more gruesome forms of capital punishment were being phased out, and the country soon instituted a single, putatively egalitarian mode of execution: the guillotine. Jacques-Louis David, who in The Death of Socrates depicted the Greek philosopher's jury-ordered suicide, also sketched Marie Antoinette on her way to the "national razor", her face stony, her hands bound behind her. Indeed, David is almost certainly the only artist ever to apply the death penalty. For he was not just a painter; he was a revolutionary and a member of the National Convention, allied with Robespierre. Like most Jacobins, David cast his ballot for the death of Louis XVI in 1792 - and after Thermidor he was lucky to avoid the guillotine himself, ending up in prison in the wake of Robespierre's fall.

In the modern era the death penalty has moved indoors. Executions were no longer visible, and so the instruments of execution - the noose, the injection table and especially the electric chair - have become synonymous with the condemned. Andy Warhol, too often misunderstood as an apolitical artist, in fact produced some of the most sinister art of America's hot 1960s, and alongside his race riots and car crashes he produced multiple paintings of electric chairs, impassive in deserted death chambers, silkscreened in serial, stomach-turning repetition. The repeated electric chairs testify both to the abundance of executions as well as the numbing effect of media representations of violence, including state violence. The only sign of life in Warhol's electric chair paintings is a printed sign on the wall, reading, over and over, "SILENCE".

Warhol kept mum on his individual political beliefs, preferring to let his art do the talking. But several contemporary artists have taken much more vocal stances. In her commanding photographic series The Innocents, Taryn Simon shot exonerated prisoners freed from death row, but with a harrowing twist: the photos are taken at the sites of the crimes for which they were falsely convicted. But the most powerful contemporary art to understand the true nature of the death penalty may come from Japan, where capital punishment is still legal. In Tokyo last month, an exhibition took place of drawings and paintings created by 34 Japanese on death row. One of the condemned painted a classical landscape. Another drew a nude figure alone in a cell, clawing at the brick walls. As to what the artists may have felt when they made these serene or harrowing images, we may never know. By the time the show opened, 6 had already been executed.

(source: BBC)


Washington Iranians protest executions under Hassan Rouhani

On the occasion of the World Day Against Death Penalty, a group of Iranians in Washington gathered outside White House on Saturday to protest the increasing number of executions in their country.

They carried large signs reading "Stop Executions in Iran", "No to Rouhani," the president of the clerical regime.

Similar protests were held in a number of major European cities and North America.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Cop-killer Ronell Wilson's death sentence should stand; no evidence of mental incapacity, say prosecutors

A federal judge correctly determined Ronell Wilson was not intellectually incapacitated when he slayed 2 undercover detectives 11 years ago and is therefore eligible for the death penalty, contend prosecutors.

"After a thorough and analytically sound consideration of Wilson's IQ scores, the corresponding SEMs (standard error of measurement) and several other factors, the court properly concluded that Wilson was not intellectually disabled," wrote Assistant U.S. attorneys James G. McGovern and Celia A. Cohen in a brief filed Friday in Brooklyn federal court.

Wilson, 32, was sentenced to death last year in a penalty-phase retrial after District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis previously ruled the former Stapleton gang member was not mentally incapacitated. He remains on death row in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In a last-ditch bid to save Wilson's life, his lawyers last month had asked Garaufis to reevaluate his ruling and hold additional hearings regarding Wilson's mental competency.

Wilson's attorneys maintained Garaufis relied too heavily on IQ scores and failed to consider other factors, such as adaptive functioning evidence, in his finding.

Attorneys David Stern and Michael Burt had contended Wilson was mentally impaired as evidenced by his low IQ and severe emotional and behavioral problems while growing up.

In a landmark 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Such persons typically have an IQ below 70.

In June, a federal appeals court ordered Garaufis to reconsider his decision on Wilson's intellectual capacity in light of a recent Supreme Court decision.

The country's highest court found that Florida had adopted a too-rigid cutoff for IQ test results in deciding who could be spared the death penalty due to intellectual disabilities.

The defendant was convicted of murdering Detectives Rodney J. Andrews, 34, and Detective James V. Nemorin, 36, during an undercover gun buy-and-bust operation in Tompkinsville on March 10, 2003.

In a July hearing after the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Garaufis said he would consider what steps, if any, should be taken once Wilson's lawyers and prosecutors had submitted their briefs.

In the Florida case, Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that some states draw a too-rigid line on IQ-test results. Such a standard doesn't account for the margin of error that professionals say is inherent in IQ tests, the court said.

In his ruling last year, Garaufis said the evidence belied Wilson's claims of mental incapacity.

The judge said he relied on clinical standards that define mental retardation as significantly subaverage intellectual functioning and significant deficits in adaptive behavior skills, such as communication, self-care and self-direction. Those conditions must manifest themselves before the age of 18, and Wilson also had to be found mentally deficient at the time of the crime, said Garaufis.

He said 7 of the 8 IQ tests Wilson took at various times between the ages of 6 and 30 "point(ed) away from mental retardation," as did the opinions of all his test administrators.

While Wilson's score on an IQ test in 1994 was "indicative" of mental retardation, the judge viewed that result as an "outlier."

Garaufis also noted that a defense psychologist "rule(d) out the likelihood of mental retardation" in his October 2003 evaluation of Wilson, 7 months after the murders.

Wilson's attorneys maintain Garaufis didn't consider whether evidence of the defendant's deficits in adaptive functioning indicated intellectual impairment.

Since the time of Garaufis ruling, the American Psychiatric Association has revised its definition of intellectual disability and its diagnostic criteria, contend Wilson's attorneys.

Prosecutors maintain Garaufis correctly weighed a variety of factors, including the margin of error in the tests and the possibility the results could have been inflated by Wilson' repeated taking of the tests, even across an extended period of time.

"In sum, there is no credible evidence in the record that Wilson has deficits in adaptive functioning that are specifically caused by intellectual disability, even if his IQ scores implicated potential significant subaverage intelligence, which, they do not," wrote prosecutors.

The case is being handled by the office of Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

(source: Staten Island Advance)


Robins airman to face death penalty in killing of woman, unborn child

A senior airman at Robins Air Force Base accused of killing his fiancee and their unborn child for $1 million in insurance money is now facing the death penalty.

Charges against Charles "Charlie" Amos Wilson III were sent to a general court martial as a capital referral, according to a base news release Tuesday.

"That means that, if the accused is convicted of premeditated murder, a death sentence would be a potential punishment that the members would consider," the release stated.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, the general court martial convening authority, made the referral Thursday.

Wilson was arrested Aug. 31, 2013, on charges of murder and feticide after an investigation by the GBI and Terrell County Sheriff's Office into the shooting death of 30-year-old Tameda Ferguson. The body of Ferguson, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was found in her Dawson home on the early morning of Aug. 29, 2013.

The case was turned over to the U.S. Air Force at its request.

At the time of a May 6 military Article 32 hearing, Wilson was facing a multitude of military charges, including premeditated murder, death of an unborn child and obstruction of justice.

Wilson's attorney at the Article 32 hearing said Wilson is expected to plead not guilty. A new military attorney is expected to be appointed now that it is a capital case.

Arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. A trial date has not been set, but Col. Vance H. Spath, the chief trial judge of the Air Force, has been assigned to the case as the military judge.

Wilson is a senior airman in the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

(source: Macon Telelgraph)


Ft. Hood Murderer's Attorney: "I Don't Know Where They Come Up With Workplace Violence"

Ft. Hood murderer Nidal Hasan recently sent a 6 page letter to Pope Francis about waging Jihad, further clarifying Hasan's murder of 13 people and the shooting of 30 others in 2009 was Islamic terrorism, not work place violence as the politically correct Obama administration has said and argued.

Last night on The Kelly File Hassan's current attorney, John Galligan, said he doesn't understand where the classification of "workplace violence" comes from in this case.

"I don't know where they come up with the term 'work place violence.' I've been in the Army 30 years, I've been in the practice of law for almost 35 years, work place violence was not the crime for which he was charged, it is not a punishable offense under the UCMJ and it's certainly not an aggravating factor that would warrant the death penalty. Nidal Hasan was charged with mass murder," Galligan said, adding the government had the option to charge him with terrorism and didn't. Galligan also argued it is inconsistent for the Army to pursue the death penalty while attempting to cover the incident with a work place violence label.

Although Hasan has been sentenced to death, Galligan doesn't believe his sentence will be carried out.



Lebanon charges former Arsal negotiator with belonging to Nusra

A military judge Tuesday charged a former negotiator in Lebanon's hostage crisis with belonging to the Nusra Front, seeking the death penalty against Arsal's Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri.

The charges, filed by Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan, against Hujeiri include forming a terrorist ring with the aim of undermining the authority of the state and giving speeches calling for jihad against the Lebanese Army.

Hujeiri was also accused of turning Arsal's infirmaries into places for harboring terrorists.

Sawwan referred the case to the military court to conduct a trial in absentia.

Hujeiri had been negotiating with Islamist militants holding at least 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage.

ISIS and the Nusra Front have been holding the servicemen captive since early August when the jihadists briefly took over the border town of Arsal.

Hujeiri was credited with facilitating a visit by one of the captive's families early in the kidnapping crisis.

Last month, however, Hujeiri announced he was suspending his efforts after the Committee of Muslim Scholars said it was halting similar efforts for better negotiation conditions and to open doors for foreign mediation.

One of the captors' key demands is reportedly to swap the hostages with Islamist inmates at Roumieh Prison.

(source: The Daily Star)


Afghanistan to review cases of 400 convicts sentenced to death

The Presidential Palace officials have said the government will review the cases of 400 convicts sentenced to death by the courts of the country.

The officials have further added that majority of the cases are pending signature of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, however, they insisted that the government will seek alternatives for the convicts who are waiting for death penalty.

President Ghani's legal advisor, Abdul Ali Mohammadi has told The Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the execution of over 400 convicts is a major issue for the government of Afghanistan.

Mohammadi further added that President Ghani is committed to ensure justice and his recent visit to Pul-e-Charkhi prison is an example of his commitment to maintain justice in the country.

According to reports, around 100 cases have been approved by the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and is pending the signing of the president, while over 300 others have not been approved by the Supreme Court.

This comes as at least 6 people, including a notorious Mafia leader were recently executed in Kabul after their execution was approved by former President Hamid Karzai and Kabul courts.

The review of prisoners cases was recently instructed by President Ghani and around 7,300 cases have been forwarded to the presidential palace by the Attorney General Office of Afghanistan.

(source: Khaama Press)


UN, Human Rights Groups Criticize Afghanistan for Executing Gang of Rapists

Amnesty International accused Afghanistan last week of "treating rape in a flawed way" in its trial and execution of a gang of 5 men in a case that stoked national outrage.

In late August, a group of men stopped a family convoy of 4 cars at night on Qargha-Paghman road, returning from a wedding in Paghman district. They beat the men and kidnapped 4 women, whom they repeatedly raped.

Both male and female protesters in Kabul cried out for the death penalty, hoping that handing down the ultimate sentence would discourage other criminals from committing such heinous acts. Last Wednesday, 5 men were hanged. 2 other assailants received 20 years in prison, and 3 suspects are at large; Kabul police said 1 fled the country.

The women took the stand to testify against their attackers in a televised trial that gripped the nation.

President Hamid Karzai signed the death warrants of the convicted men before leaving office, and new President Ashraf Ghani let the death warrant stand.

Human-rights groups and the United Nations jumped on Afghanistan.

David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific deputy director, said in a statement that there's "no question that this was an appalling crime and the outcry and anger this case has caused is of course understandable."

"But the death penalty is not justice - it only amounts to short-term revenge," Griffiths said. "The death penalty is an abhorrent form of punishment and should never be used under any circumstances. The many fair trial concerns in this case only make these executions more unjust. It's deeply disappointing that new President Ashraf Ghani has allowed the executions to go ahead."

The men were charged under zina - the Islamic law against unlawful sexual intercourse, often applied to adultery. They were also convicted of robbery.

"President Ghani was placed in an unenviable position by the actions of his predecessor in this case, but regrettably failed his 1st test on upholding human rights and the rule of law," Griffiths said. "These deaths cannot be undone now, but President Ghani must order an immediate moratorium on all executions as a 1st step towards total abolition or the death penalty."

At the UN, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al Hussein wrote to Ghani to ask him to cancel the executions. The UN press release said Ghani was asked "to commute the death sentences to a suitable term of imprisonment" for the "5 Afghans accused of armed robbery and gang rape."

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said the "horrendous due process violations in the Paghman trial have only worsened the injustices of this terrible crime."

Kine called the executions "a grave miscarriage of justice."

This week, Afghanistan is back to the business of building a state, with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah calling his 1st meeting of economic ministers today.

"The issue of the economy is important to the people of the nation - after security," Abdullah said, according to Tolo News.

(source: Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the


PNG-UN links not coloured by death penalty disagreement

The United Nations says differences of opinion over whether or not Papua New Guinea should implement the death penalty do not colour relations.

The world body issued a press release on Friday saying that there is no evidence that introducing the death penalty will act as a deterrent - a position it has repeated many times since the reactivation of capital punishment for serious crimes was first mooted.

PNG is currently working out what method of execution to use.

(source: Radio Australia)


3 get death on terror charges

3 terror suspects, including 2 foreigners, have been sentenced on Monday to death for their role in various terror acts. The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh awarded death penalty to a Saudi, a Chadian and an Egyptian, in addition to prison terms ranging from nine to 33 years to 19 suspects. The court slapped fines on some of the convicts and travel ban or deportation for some others. The convicts who were awarded jail terms included four Chad nationals and one each from Yemen, Nigeria and Palestine. The convicts can appeal the verdict within 30 days, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The charges against the convicts, who were part of a 88-member terror cell, included firing at security officials during a security operation at an apartment in Khalidiyah Makkah, plotting to kidnap and assassinate prominent figures, receiving training from Al-Qaeda camps on using weapons and explosives, planning to carry out terror attacks in the Kingdom, embracing a takfiri ideology, joining terror cell, and going to conflict zones to take part in fighting.

(source: Saudi Gazette)


Jamaica should do away with the death penalty

Friday, October 10, 2014 was marked as the World Day Against the Death Penalty and, as Roman Catholic archbishop of Kingston, I want to use this occasion to appeal to all the people of faith in Jamaica and, in particular, to our Government to reconsider the country's position on capital punishment and begin the steps necessary for its abolition.

I am glad the Jamaican state has effectively continued a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. I am especially pleased that this has occurred alongside a reduction in our murder rate. However, the specter of possible future use of the death penalty hangs over our heads. Therefore, I invite all Christians and persons of goodwill to consider working for the abolition of the death penalty once and for all. I think its removal should accompany a comprehensive reform of the justice system aimed at more effective prevention and greater communal healing.

Lethal violence shocks and ruptures the fabric of families and communities. I am horrified when I hear the news of brutal murders of young men and women cut down in their prime. I am deeply disturbed by the accounts of the elderly struck down in their homes. These acts rip through the heart and cry to God for action. Where is our respect for the sacredness of all human life? These acts force me to search my conscience and ask: Where have we gone wrong as a people?

I know in my heart that these brutal crimes must receive swift and decisive responses that restore order and begin to make us feel safe again. And, I also know in my conscience that our decisive response must not reproduce this disrespect for the sacredness of every human life. I hope that our Christian values, like yeast, have served as leaven for our Jamaican society so that we respond, not in kind, but in a way that helps prevent further violence and brings healing.

The death penalty was for a world with no other options for dealing with these monstrous crimes. I know that today's world has other proven options for better controlling murder. As a Christian, knowing these viable alternatives to capital punishment exist, I cannot in conscience continue supporting capital punishment. I ask: Can we as Christians, knowing that non-lethal alternatives exist, support the death penalty while remaining Christian? I think the honest answer is "No".

I know that the Church does not tell the State what to do. Yet, the State should still listen to what the Church has to say. Therefore, I ask all Christians and persons of goodwill to consider the implications of these 2 realities: the utter sacredness of all human life; and the very real existence of alternatives to capital punishment. In consideration of these 2 realities, I ask all Christians and people of goodwill to listen to their consciences and support the abolition of the death penalty. And, I ask the Jamaican Government to take our Christian values seriously, and do what is right - end capital punishment once and for all, reforming the justice system, working to reduce corruption and political polarisation, and concentrating on the provision of increased economic opportunities for the poor for better prevention of violence, and greater communal healing.

(source: Commentary; The Most Rev Charles Henry Dufour, SJ, DD, is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston----The Jamaica Observer)


'No Foul Play' Over Prisoner's Death

No foul play is suspected in the death of convicted murderer Forrester Bowe, according to police sources close to the matter.

On Friday, authorities confirmed that Bowe, who took part in a notorious escape in 2006 that resulted in the death of a prison officer, was found dead in his prison cell around 7am.

Police have declined to provide details of the circumstances surrounding Bowe's death only saying that the matter has been turned over to the coroner for investigation.

The Tribune understands the coroner has instructed the Royal Bahamas Police Force to conduct a formal investigation in the prison ahead of an inquest.

Sources close to the matter say preliminary investigations reveal that Bowe is suspected to have died from a "heart related matter."

"There were no injuries or anything on the body to suggest that something was done to him," a well-placed police source said. "At this point there is no reason to suggest foul play, it is believed that he died of a heart attack or some sort of heart related matter."

Bowe, 37, staged an escape from the maximum security wing with convicted rapist Barry Parcoi, convicted murderer Neil Brown and convicted armed robber Corey Hepburn around 4am on January 17, 2006. Brown was shot dead during attempts to recapture him.

The men were found by the coroner in May 2006 to be jointly responsible for the killing of the 13-year prison veteran Corporal Dion Bowles during their breakout.

The infamous escape prompted examinations into Her Majesty's Prison and shone a light on the inner workings of the country's correctional services unit.

Their trial is slated to begin on November 20, 2015.

In addition to killing Mr Bowles, they injured officers Kenneth Sweeting and David Armbrister. Bowe and Parcoi were injured during the incident as well, but they were quickly captured by authorities.

Hepburn, on the other hand, escaped and led police on a 2-week hunt before he was recaptured in an apartment building in Coral Harbour.

As for the incident that sent him to prison initially, Bowe was convicted of killing 20-year-old Dion Patrick Roach in Grand Bahama when the Freeport Supreme Court determined that he had shot Mr Roach at an apartment complex on October 23, 1992.

He was sentenced to death in 1998 and his attempts at appealing his conviction were dismissed by the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.

"However, he won a landmark case when he challenged the court's mandatory death penalty for convicted murderers in 2002 after the Privy Council determined that automatic capital punishment for murders was a breach of international human rights.

He was eventually re-sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Lawyer Keod Smith, who represented Bowe during proceedings into Mr Bowles' killing, expressed sadness and shock at the news of Bowe's death yesterday, saying that the convicted killer always proclaimed his innocence and looked forward to being with his family.

(source: Tribune 242)


Blasphemy Case Against 55 Pakistani Christians Discharged

Charges against 55 Pakistani Christians who were falsely accused of blasphemy have been dropped after a written compromise was agreed between the Muslim accuser and the believers involved.

The accusation of blasphemy was made against a group of Christians in a small village in Tehsil Samandri district, Faisalabad, on 3 September following a dispute with a gang of Muslims over the use of land for a graveyard. 13 Christians, including a 12-year old boy, were arrested; they have now been released.

The Christians were originally charged under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which refers to defiling the name of Muhammad and carries the death penalty. Remarkably, following the intervention of Barnabas-funded Christian lawyers, this charge was later overturned in a rare move by police.

The accused Christians were instead charged with violating a place of worship or cemetery (section 297 of the Pakistan Penal Code), which does not carry the death penalty. On 30 September, Barnabas Aid received confirmation that this charge has now also been dropped after a written compromise was reached between Muhammad Iqbal, who made the accusation, and the Christians.

The dispute took place after the Christians had acquired verbal permission from a sympathetic Muslim landowner to convert a disused Muslim graveyard into a Christian cemetery. On 3 September, Christians began preparing the land for burying their own dead. This upset local Muslims, who attacked the Christians.

Although the Christians apologised and said that they would not use the land, the blasphemy case was then registered against them. When the 13 Christians were subsequently arrested, police raided their homes, breaking down the gates and even threatening the believers with death. Many of the remaining Christian families fled their homes after Muslims threatened to set fire to their houses.

The Christians needed to acquire Muslim-owned land to bury their dead because there is a shortage of Christian burial land in the village. The area is home to more than 350 Christian families whereas Muslim families number over 1,000, are generally richer and own more land.

Pakistan's "blasphemy laws" are frequently misused to settle personal scores. Christians and other religious minorities are particularly vulnerable to these accusations; a Christian's testimony in court is worth only 1/2 that of a Muslim. Those accused of blasphemy are extremely vulnerable to being attacked.



SC stays death in kids murder case

The double death penalty of R Manoharan, who was found guilty of rape, murder, kidnap of siblings - Muskan Jain and Hrithik Jain in October 2010 - was stayed by the Supreme Court on Monday.

The 1st bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, granted interim stay of Madras high court order, and issued notices to the state government to file reply in the case.

On October 29, 2010 the state was shocked to learn that the two children had been kidnapped by 2 people Mohanakrishnan, 27, and Manoharan, 26, in Coimbatore. The bodies of the children were recovered only the next day.

Mohana Krishnan was killed in a police encounter on November 9, 2010, whereas Manoharan faced the trial in the Mahila Court in Coimbatore in November 2012. He was given double death sentence and three life terms, after the court found him guilty of the offences alleged against him.

After Madras high court confirmed the death sentence for Manoharan in March this year, his counsel A Raghunathan and P Vinaykumar approached the Supreme Court.

To convict him, Mahila court judge M P Subramanian examined 47 witnesses and verified 69 documentary evidences. He concluded that capital punishment was unavoidable and that it would send a strong warning to those who commit crimes against women and children. The culprit deserves no mercy and he must be hanged till death, he observed.

According to the police, Muskan Jain, 10 and her brother Hrithik Jain, 7, children of a textile merchant in Coimbatore, were abducted by a call taxi driver Mohan alias Raja alias Mohanakrishnan on October 29, 2010. The girl was raped and the boy tortured before they were drowned at the PAP canal near Pollachi the same day.

The murder came to light only on October 31 and police arrested both Mohanakrishnan and his accomplice, Manoharan of Angalakurichi near Pollachi from their house.

Mohanakrishnan, 27, was shot by the police on November 9, 2010 when he tried to escape from police vehicle after assaulting his escorts.

(source: The Times of India)


12 face execution for deadly July attacks in China's restive west

12 people have been sentenced to death for organizing attacks that left dozens of people dead in the restive western Chinese province of Xinjiang earlier this year.

The incident - described by authorities as an "organized and premeditated" terror attack - occurred in the region's Shache County on July 28, when a gang wielding knives and axes attacked civilians, a police station, government offices and smashed vehicles.

Police returned fire and shot dozens of the attackers, state media reported at the time.

State media has reported a wave of violent attacks in Xinjiang in recent months.

29 people were killed and 130 injured when men armed with long knives stormed a train station in Kunming in March. The next month, an attack on a train station in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, left three dead, including the attackers, and an attack on an Urumqi market in May killed at least 39 people.

Ethnic tensions

The province has seen longstanding tensions between its Uyghur Muslim population, a Turkic people, and the local Han population - China's biggest ethnic group.

Some Uyghurs have expressed resentment toward China's Han in recent years over what they say is harsh treatment from Chinese security forces and Han people taking the lion's share of economic opportunities in Xinjiang - a charge China's central government denies.

Monday's hearing at the court in Kashgar, western Xinjiang, also saw 15 others handed the death penalty, but suspended for 2 years, according to the official news portal of the government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

9 people were jailed for life, while another 20 defendants got 4 to 20 years behind bars. An additional 2 defendants were released on probation.

(source: CNN)


Puntland Military court sentences a man to death for plotting landmine

Puntland Military court has on Monday sentenced to death a man who was found of guilty for plotting a landmine. 6 defendants including 1 woman were brought to trial in the court’s branch in port town of Bosaso. They were all accused of being involved in crime.

According to the court officials, Ismael Abdulqadir was caught by the Puntland forces while he was plotting a landmine in a strategic neighbourhood located in the central town of Bosaso.

Another was sentenced to a 5-year jail term after he was captured while also plotting an improvised explosive device (IED) in an area close to the Galgala mountain ranges, where Puntland forces have been fighting against al-Shabaab militants.

3 others were released by the court to lack of enough evidence. Puntland Military court has carried out capital punishments on members linked to al-Shabaab militant group. Last week, EU envoy to Somalia condemned the use of death penalty in Somalia, urging authorities to place a moratorium on death penalty.


OCTOBER 13, 2014:

TEXAS---- Reprieve Granted For Texas Prisoner Facing Execution

The state's highest criminal appeals court has blocked the scheduled execution this week of a 40-year-old man convicted of fatally shooting a 5-year-old boy sleeping with his mother at a Corpus Christi apartment 20 years ago.

Larry Hatten had ordered no appeals be filed to stop his scheduled Wednesday evening lethal injection in Huntsville for the slaying of Isaac Jackson.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has given him a reprieve to resolve a 1997 filing with his trial court in Nueces County. The judges said Monday in a 3-page ruling that the filing never was decided by the trial court and was never properly forwarded to the appeals court.

The appeals court has given the trial court 6 months to resolve the claims in the in filing.

(source: Associated Press)


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----278

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----517

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

279------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------518

280------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------519

281------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty for man accused of killing 1-year-old Tampa boy

Hillsborough County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Austin Hamilton, who is accused of killing his girlfriend's 1-year-old son in August, officials said Monday.

Hamilton, 24, has pleaded not guilty 1st-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges. But Tampa police detectives said that shortly after he was detained, Hamilton admitted beating Sincere Williams repeatedly with a belt and dropping him on his head. Sincere died that night at St. Joseph's Hospital.

A medical examiner's report concluded that Sincere had succumbed to blunt-force trauma to the lower abdomen.

According to a police report, Hamilton told detectives he "lost control" when, in the middle of changing the child's diaper, Sincere began to urinate all over their motel room. After hitting the boy's backside at least 10 times with the belt, Hamilton picked him up and dropped him, the report said.

Following her son's death, Tiffany Williams said she hoped Hamilton would get the death penalty.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Md. court orders Burton to Del. for murder trial

The suspect in the killing of Nicole Bennett of Millsboro, last seen alive at the Sussex County church where she was a day care provider, must be moved from Maryland to Delaware to face trial, a Maryland appellate court has ruled.

Matthew Burton, 30, had fought his extradition to Delaware from a jail cell in Snow Hill, Maryland. After a county court denied his request to bar extradition, he appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which heard his case earlier this year.

Burton has already been shuttled between the 2 states since his arrest in July 2012, several days after Bennett's body was found in a ditch beside a rural road. Bennett, a married mother of three children, worked and worshipped at Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro, where Burton was a maintenance worker. She was reported missing by her husband when she didn't return home from work the night of June 14, and her body was discovered June 15 in Worcester County, Maryland, a few miles from the Delaware border and not far from the church.

Weeks later, investigators narrowed their focus to Burton who had been considered a low-risk sex offender following a 2004 conviction in Delaware - and apprehended him as he was driving with his family near Rehoboth Beach. Detectives found a ski mask, nylon rope and gloves under a seat in his pickup truck, according to court documents.

Until August 2012, Burton was detained in Sussex Correctional Institution. But Maryland authorities got Delaware prosecutors to agree to an extradition, which Burton unsuccessfully opposed. He was sent to the Snow Hill jail that August, all the while maintaining his innocence with not-guilty pleas.

Maryland prosecutors obtained an indictment of Burton on murder, rape and kidnapping charges and set about seeking the death penalty if he was convicted. Maryland, however, repealed the death penalty with a law Gov. Martin O'Malley signed on May 2, 2013, before Burton's trial began.

Later that month, according to the Oct. 8 Court of Special Appeals ruling, the Worcester County, Maryland, prosecutor, Beau Oglesby, informed Burton he would be tried in Delaware, not Maryland, and Delaware authorities had told him they'd press it as a capital case. Only if Burton pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and 1st-degree rape, accepting 2 life sentences without a chance of parole, would he avoid extradition to Delaware.

Burton declined the plea offer and opposed the move to send him back to Delaware. He lost in Worcester County Circuit Court, but appealed to the next-highest court and remained in Maryland during that appeal.

The Court of Special Appeals, in its new ruling, said the governors of Maryland and Delaware filled out the proper paperwork to make the extradition happen, with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signing a "warrant of rendition" and O'Malley complying with it. Burton had objected because some extradition papers said he was in Wicomico County, Maryland, a neighboring county to Worcester, but the court said those were merely typos that didn't invalidate the warrant.

The court also denied Burton's assertion that since he was taken to Maryland in custody in the first place, he shouldn't count as a "fugitive" subject to extradition.

It is possible, the court ruled, that Delaware's delay in starting Burton's prosecution denied him a constitutional right to a speedy trial, but the Maryland court ruled that question must be settled in Delaware courts after Burton is sent here. That claim "would not materialize until after he has gone to trial and been sentenced," the court said.

Finally, the court said, the fact that Burton's trial venue shifted only after Maryland abandoned the death penalty "is a significant backdrop to his vindictive prosecution argument." But, the court said, Burton failed to prove "actual vindictiveness" on the part of Maryland prosecutors.



AG's office wants rape conviction appeal of Mississippi death row inmate thrown out

The attorney general's office is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to throw out Charles Ray Crawford's appeal of his 1994 rape conviction.

Crawford, now 48, is currently on Mississippi's death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate community in Tippah County.

In his appeal, Crawford claims he received ineffective counsel to defend himself against the rape charges, which were used by prosecutors to seek in the death penalty in Ray's death.

The attorney general argues in documents filed Monday that Crawford got a fair trial.

If the state Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date. Crawford's lawyers argue that the death sentence would be negated if the conviction is reversed.

(source: Associated Press)


Group opposing death penalty plans Bluffton forum Tuesday

Ohioans to Stop Executions will hold a forum on death penalty reform from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

The forum will bring to the First Mennonite Church of Bluffton Terry Collins, the former state prison director; Derrick Jamison, who survived nearly 20 years on death row before being exonerated and set free in 2005; Charles Keith, whose brother was on death row before his sentence was commuted; and Jon Paul Rion, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force to review the administration of the death penalty.

The panel will discuss reform recommendations issued by the task force that is reviewing the administration of the death penalty in Ohio. The church is at 101 S. Jackson St., Bluffton.



Family of executed inmate plans to sue governor, executioners

The family of Clayton Derrell Lockett, whose bungled April execution pushed Oklahoma to the forefront of a national debate over the death penalty, plans to sue Gov. Mary Fallin and various members of the state's execution team, claiming Lockett's lethal injection violated his civil rights.

The family of a convicted murderer killed by the state in a controversial execution plans to sue Gov. Mary Fallin and members of the execution team, claiming the procedure violated the inmate’s civil rights, attorneys for the family said.

Attorneys representing the family of Clayton Derrell Lockett have prepared a complaint against Fallin, the three executioners involved in his execution, and the manufacturers of the drugs used to kill him, among others, claiming they violated Lockett's Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorneys on Monday said they planned to file a lawsuit "imminently" in federal court in Oklahoma City.

The complaint, shared Monday be attorneys, also calls his execution "a violation of innumerable standards of international law, and a violation of elementary concepts of human decency."

"In a spectacle rarely seen in the 'civilized' world, Clayton Lockett writhed in agony, convulsed, gasped for breath, moaned repeatedly and took approximately 43 minutes to die at the hands of the Defendants," attorneys for the estate of Clayton Lockett wrote.

Lockett was put to death by the state in April for the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman. Lockett and two accomplices kidnapped Neiman, who was 19 at the time of her death, and a friend after the pair showed up at a house they were in the process of robbing.

The 3 men took Neiman and her friend, as well as the man they were robbing and his infant son, to a secluded area outside Perry, where Lockett shot Neiman with a shotgun. After refusing to shoot her a 3rd time, Lockett had his 2 accomplices bury her alive.

Lockett's execution made international headlines after the procedure went awry, and state Corrections Department officials closed the blinds in the death chamber and escorted media from the room.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Why Oklahoma wants to delay 3 executions

Oklahoma's attorney general is seeking to delay 3 upcoming executions, including 2 set for next month, saying that the state needs more time to obtain drugs and train staff on new lethal injection protocols put in place after an execution went awry in April.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a notice late Friday seeking to delay the executions of Richard Eugene Glossip, John Marion Grant and Charles Warner until 2015. Warner had been originally scheduled to die on April 29 - the same night that inmate Clayton Lockett writhed and moaned on the gurney, prompting the state to put all executions on hold until a review was conducted.

Warner's new execution date is Nov. 13, but Pruitt said in the court filing that Oklahoma does not have the necessary drugs or commitments from medical personnel to carry out the execution.

"The state does not want to rush implementation of this new training program, especially so soon after revision of the execution protocol," Pruitt wrote. "The additional requested time for all 3 executions will allow (the Oklahoma Department of Corrections) sufficient time in which to obtain the necessary drugs and medical personnel and to fully and thoroughly train each member of the new execution team."

An attorney representing the death row inmates had no immediate comment Monday on the filing.

A review from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety blamed an improperly placed intravenous line for the troubles in Lockett's execution.

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett helped reignite debate over the death penalty in the US. As The Christian Science Monitor reported:

The death penalty no longer has quite the unassailable support it once had in Oklahoma, especially not in the state's courts, as a national battle over the legality of lethal injection has washed into the state's courtrooms.

In recent months, a pitched battle has arisen between opponents and supporters of capital punishment over whether states have the right to use lethal injection drugs from sources they decline to name. States have been reaching out to such pharmacies over the past few months, after the European manufacturer of the most common drug used in the procedure cut off supplies to death houses.

Death penalty opponents have leveraged the issue of states using secret suppliers' drugs - which opponents say could be of poor quality, bringing unconstitutional suffering to the condemned - to get bigger questions about the legality and ethics of capital punishment back into courtrooms.

(source: Christian Science Monitor)


Sir Mario Owens: False Evidence in Death-Penalty Case a "New Low," Defense Claims

Determined to demonstrate just how far he believed Arapahoe County prosecutors had strayed over the line in the effort to obtain the death penalty against his client, defense attorney Jim Castle resorted to a visual aid. During a hearing late Friday, he presented District Judge Gerald Rafferty with a wheeled cart piled with documents that he said prosecutors were obligated to turn over to the defense before trial but failed to do so - a transgression of due-process rights known as a Brady violation.

"There are so many violations in this case, I can't cover them all," Castle said. "How did this happen? This shouldn't happen. If it's allowed, we will accept a new low for justice in Colorado."

Castle's plea capped 2 weeks of convoluted - and, at times, disturbing - testimony and argument in an evidentiary hearing over whether government misconduct tainted the 2008 death sentence imposed on Sir Mario Owens. Along with co-defendant Robert Ray, Owens was convicted of the murders of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, in 2005; Marshall-Fields had been expected to testify against the 2 men in another homicide investigation.

Both Ray and Owens were tried in an atmosphere of intense security, with highly limited defense access to witnesses - measures that prosecutors from the Eighteenth Judicial District insisted were necessary to protect witnesses from reprisals. But defense attorneys contend that the cloak of secrecy also concealed improper "incentives" that prosecutors offered to key witnesses - everything from highly favorable plea deals on criminal charges to grocery store gift cards, lodging and even a car provided to 1 witness - and failed to disclose to the defense.

In addition to being required to turn over discovery materials to the defense, the district attorney's office also has a duty to "correct" any testimony offered that prosecutors know (or "should have known") to be false or perjury. That can be a daunting challenge given the amount of paperwork and potential leads developed in a sprawling capital case, especially one in which many witnesses are reluctant to testify and deeply involved in criminal activities themselves. But it's a challenge that the Owens prosecutors failed miserably, Castle argued, failing to turn over relevant impeachment materials that the defense didn't receive, in many instances, until years after the trials.

"These kinds of cases are what our community looks at to see if our processes are fair," Castle noted. "We have twelve jurors who imposed a death sentence. They're going to find out they didn't have all the information they should have had."

Several of the government's witnesses at trial were jailhouse informants who were trading information for freedom or reduced sentences. Among the key contentions of the Owens defense:

--Robert Ray's wife, LaToya Sailor, testified that she wasn't willing to come forward about what she knew until after Owens was arrested because she feared Owens would harm her son. Despite the fact that police documents indicate Sailor was already cooperating with authorities prior to Owens' arrest, prosecutors made her supposed need to be protected from Owens "an issue in the case" and hammered away at it to the jury. Another document withheld from the defense indicated Sailor, the beneficiary of a car from then-District Attorney Carol Chambers, had initially offered to assist in an accessory case against Ray but didn't want to tie him directly to the Marshall-Fields shooting. (Ray was sentenced to death for Marshall-Fields's murder and received a life sentence for Wolfe's death.)

--Witness Mark Johnson was facing two counts of conspiracy to commit murder if he failed to cooperate in the Ray-Owens prosecution, but defense attorneys weren't made aware of that possible motivation or how it might have shaped his testimony.

--Greg Strickland, the only witness to identify Owens as the shooter of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, testified that he'd received no assistance in any of his own cases in return for his testimony. But records indicate he received a plea deal in Adams County in exchange for his cooperation.

Deputy District Attorney Ann Tomsic denied any misconduct by her office, saying that the defense had failed to demonstrate that any of the witnesses had actually offered false testimony. That people in jail want to cut deals to get out "goes without saying," she added, and it was the jury's duty to weigh the credibility of those witnesses. Tomsic also pointed out that court rulings restricted the prosecution's ability to elicit information from witnesses about the arrangements made for them out of concern for their safety.

But Castle described the prosecution's approach to the high-stakes, high-profile case as a win-at-all-costs strategy that ignored constitutional requirements. "It's 'I'm not going to look, and I'm not going to find, so I don't have to turn information over to the defense,'" he said. While the procedural violations the defense focused on had little to do with the actual guilt or innocence of Ray and Owens, Castle cited extensive case law stressing that the "how" of due process matters as much in the American legal system as the "why."

He blasted the Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office for failing to have imposed standard protocols for turning over discovery and for prosecutors to inspect police files in a capital case; one ongoing issue in the case has to do with evidence in the possession of the Aurora Police Department that wasn't turned over to prosecutors in a timely manner. (As we've previously reported, the Owens-Ray case isn't the only death-penalty case pursued by former DA Chambers that has been dogged by claims of prosecutorial misconduct and withheld evidence.)

"The vast majority of prosecutors in this state take their disclosure obligations seriously," Castle said. "The Owens case is rare."

Although the government-misconduct phase of the hearing is now over, additional hearings are scheduled on the issue of whether Owens received effective assistance of counsel, with no rulings expected for months. Ray is also appealing his conviction.

(source: Denver Westword)


Death for all 3 of them?----Alleged murderers and torturers of Brittany Killgore face ultimate penalty

Louis Ray Perez, 48, Dorothy Gracemarie Maraglino, 39, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 27, were all in court on Friday, October 10. The defendants deny all accusations pertaining to the kidnapping, torturing, and murder of a Marine's wife in San Diego County more than 2 years ago.

A judge said he hoped to know in 2 months if the district attorney's office intends to pursue the death penalty against any of 3 defendants.

Judge K. Michael Kirkman noted on the record again that this is a "special circumstances" case in which the prosecutor has alleged crimes that make the defendants eligible for the ultimate penalty.

The body of Brittany Dawn Killgore, 22, was found dumped on the side of a road in a neighboring county 4 days after she went missing in 2012. On April 13 of that year, the young woman reportedly got into a car with defendant Perez; 13 minutes later she texted the word "HELP" to a friend, according to evidence presented at a preliminary hearing more than a year ago.

The apartment where Killgore lived was 1 mile from the home in downtown Fallbrook where horrific acts of torture allegedly occurred, according to prosecutor Patrick Espinoza.

Perez was an active-duty Marine based at Camp Pendleton when he was arrested in connection with this case.

Also during the hearing, an attorney for Lopez requested the court to release records obtained from a pregnancy clinic where Maraglino had received care. And an attorney for Perez requested copies of the psychiatric records of Lopez. The judge made a private assessment of those subpoenaed records and then released some records and delayed the release of others.

Each defendant is held in lieu of $3 million bail, pleads not guilty to all charges, and is next expected in court on December 12.

(source: San Diego Reader)


Oregon State Police detective's 'egregious misconduct' in Pedersen case triggers review of more cases

2 months after a federal judge slammed Oregon State Police and Detective Dave Steele for "egregious misconduct" in investigating white supremacist killer David "Joey" Pedersen, the law enforcement agency has yet to say how it plans to respond.

State police officials said they are "unable to communicate with the transparency necessary" about Senior U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty's censure because they need to finish their personnel investigation of Steele and wait for the FBI and a Seattle-based federal prosecutor to complete a criminal inquiry.

But they said last week they are working with state justice officials to review policies that may "directly or indirectly" relate to the problems identified by Haggerty.

The judge in a 63-page supervisory opinion lambasted both Steele's misconduct and federal prosecutors' "laissez-faire" approach to their legal obligations in the Pedersen case.

Steele has asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and has not commented about the case or the judge's findings. He has been on paid administrative leave since December and continues to collect his $5,695 monthly salary.

The lack of a public response from state police has fueled concern that the alleged misconduct in the Pedersen case could extend to other cases. District attorneys are checking past cases – including the 2008 Woodburn bank bombing - for the role that Steele played in those prosecutions. And defense attorneys are similarly leafing through cases, looking for signs of tainted investigations.

The judge's opinion is "a confirmation of what many of us have suspected for a long time," said Russell Barnett, a well-known criminal defense attorney in Portland.

Barnett said state police are perceived at times to be withholding information - one of the criticisms that the judge levied. "It's hard to imagine (Steele) was one rogue," Barnett said. "There had to be other people aware of it."

Pedersen case nearly unraveled

Haggerty issued the nonbinding opinion on the same day he sentenced Pedersen to 2 life terms for the October 2011 carjacking deaths of Cody Faye Myers, 19, of Lafayette and Reginald Alan Clark, 53, of Eureka, Calif. The men were both killed after agreeing to give Pedersen and accomplice Holly Grigsby a ride. The 2 had already killed Pedersen's father and stepmother in Washington state, as they embarked on what they called their white supremacist "revolution."

OSP statement

In response to the supervisory opinion received from U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty, the Department of Oregon State Police is developing a course of action to assertively respond to the concerns raised. On account of the pending investigations and the related findings raised by both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty, the Department is at this time unable to communicate with the transparency necessary to provide clear understanding of the questions raised. The Department will provide additional information to the public at the appropriate time upon completion of the pending investigations. We anticipate this response will be available to the public upon its completion and delivery to Judge Haggerty.

Detective Steele was removed from his police officer duties and has remained on paid administrative leave since December 16, 2013. He will remain on paid administrative leave status until the conclusion of the investigations and is receiving his current monthly salary of $5695.38.

The Department is working with the Oregon Department of Justice as we closely evaluate Judge Haggerty’s findings. The Department conducts routine review of policy and training to meet public safety standards and best practices. In this circumstance, the Department is reviewing policies and training that may directly or indirectly be related to this matter. The Department is committed to making necessary changes, in addition to providing essential training.

The Oregon State Police appreciates the assistance provided by the Department of Justice and will continue to work closely with them as this matter progresses. The Department is committed to ensuring our employees understand the legal parameters required when working with our federal, state and local prosecutors in all phases of the judiciary process.

Despite the couple's open admission of guilt, the case nearly unraveled.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon brought federal racketeering and violent offense charges against the 2 with the death penalty on the table. Steele, a trooper in the Oregon State Police major crimes division since 2006, became the lead investigator.

Then 44, Steele was recognized by his supervisors that year for his professionalism, work ethic and investigative skills. "I refer to his work ethic as akin to that of a draft horse, constantly pulling its load to the end," a supervisor wrote in his performance review.

But as Pedersen and Grigsby's cases progressed, defense attorneys were finding large gaps in evidence that the government was supposed to turn over. Over a series of months, Pedersen's attorneys pressed the prosecutors for photos from crime scenes and other evidence they knew existed but could not locate.

Reports of interviews that Steele conducted with Pedersen's family were not turned over to prosecutors for 2 years - who then belatedly turned them over to defense attorneys. Steele claimed state police policy called for keeping family interviews - which include information relevant to death-penalty proceedings - separate from investigative reports that relate to guilt or innocence. In state cases, defendants are tried 1st and then undergo a death-penalty proceeding, while in federal cases, the decision whether to seek the death penalty precedes trial.

Finally, in December 2013, a staffer with the U.S. Attorney's Office went to visit Steele at his office in Salem. She discovered dozens of boxes worth of evidence - some of which had never been logged - as well as recordings of confidential legal calls between Pedersen and his defense team members.

She also found a letter from Pedersen's sister referring to photos she had sent Steele. Although a shredded evidence receipt for the pictures was later found, the photos - which Haggerty said could have been favorable to Pedersen in a death-penalty proceeding – have never been located.

Steele was removed from duty and placed on administrative leave. Shortly after, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declined to seek the death penalty for Pedersen and Grigsby. Salem Police began investigating possible misconduct by Steele. Although the Marion County District Attorney's Office decided against bringing charges, federal authorities opted to launch their own investigation.

Haggerty noted Steele's failures in his opinion, finding that he lied to prosecutors, backdated evidence receipts, listened in to confidential legal calls and destroyed evidence. The judge also devoted a large section to failures by the federal prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jane Shoemaker, Hannah Horsley and Kelly Zusman, in fulfilling their legal obligations to check the evidence being shared and disclose the receipt of confidential communications between defendant and legal teams.

But he also targeted state police for their policy of withholding so-called death-penalty interviews, calling it "unlawful under any reasonable interpretation of Oregon law." He urged the state Justice Department to train state police on attorney-client privilege and to conduct an audit of past cases handled by Steele to ensure those cases were "based upon sound and complete evidence."

The Justice Department has said it will conduct a review, although spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson would not say if it has started.

"DOJ was not a party in the case, however, we have taken the Judge's concerns very seriously," Edmunson said. She said the department will offer training on attorney-client privilege issues and has tentatively planned 2 sessions in December.

In a recent phone interview, Haggerty said he was "hopeful certain things would be done," saying his concerns about the conduct prompted the extensive opinion. But he acknowledged the criminal investigation as a reason the agencies are not moving more quickly. He said Oregon State Police has not sent him any letter or email acknowledging his opinion.

Case reviews underway

Some in the legal community are pressing forward with their own reviews of previous cases.

Paul Frasier, the Coos County district attorney and president of the Oregon District Attorneys Association, emailed a copy of the judge's opinion to his members the morning after it came out. A few days later, he forwarded them a state police list of Steele-related cases and the counties where they occurred.

The vast majority of the cases that Steele contributed to - at least 150 since 2008 - were handled by the Marion County District Attorney's Office, according to the list.

Those cases are being pulled and assigned to the original prosecutor to review for irregularities, said Paige Clarkson, a Marion County deputy district attorney. Prosecutors will get to them as they have time, she said.

Among the cases Steele worked was the 2008 Woodburn bank bombing, considered the state's most expensive death-penalty case with defendants, 4 court-appointed attorneys, 3 prosecutors and several expert witnesses flown in from as far away as Iraq for the nearly 3-month-long trial.

Steele's role included interviewing friends and family members of the two defendants, father and son Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, according to documents obtained by The Oregonian. Those interviews were particularly key as jurors weighed whether to support the death penalty for the 2 men for the bank bombing that killed 2 police officers and critically wounded a 3rd. The Turnidges have been sentenced to death.

Katie Suver, one of the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the Turnidge case, said she has not yet reviewed the files to determine the full extent of Steele's involvement. But she said she is confident that his contributions did not affect how the case was prosecuted.

She noted that Steele was not one of the dozens of trial witnesses and was not one of the detectives collecting evidence from the bank or the defendants' property. He wasn't tied to a suspect piece of evidence or to a disputed interview for example, she said.

The Turnidges' cases are before the Oregon Supreme Court for direct review of the conviction and sentence.

Defense attorneys are similarly combing through their cases.

The state Office of Public Defense Services, which provides counsel for indigent defendants, issued a request to its lawyers to go through previous cases that Steele may have worked on, said executive director Nancy Cozine. The defense office had to file a public records request to get a version of the case list that state police had already provided to the district attorneys association weeks earlier.

Barnett, the criminal defense attorney, said he worries if Steele's bias - or anyone else's at Oregon State Police - led to selective investigation and an unfair conviction throughout the years.

"When you start building a case against someone then instead of being a neutral investigator you have an agenda," he said. "That agenda affects people's liberty, and that's appalling."

(source: The Oregonian)


How the death penalty is slowly weakening its grip on Africa

At both global and continental levels there is an observable trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. More than 2/3 of all states have now either abolished the practice or have long-standing moratoria on its use. Though Amnesty International reported a slight increase in the actual number of executions last year, the overall decline is unmistakable.

This trend of state practice can be read in conjunction with an interpretation of international human rights law as progressively abolitionist. At the time of its drafting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) made a provision for countries which had not already abolished the death penalty, but established stringent conditions under which it could continue. Article 6 was also drafted in such a way that it envisages and indeed facilitates the abolition of the death penalty over time.

In those countries where it remains, international safeguards have both a procedural component, centred on the requirements of legality and fair trial, and also a substantive component entailing imposition only for the most serious crimes, principles of equality and consistency, and minimum standards of protection for vulnerable groups (including those with mental illness, the focus of Friday's World Day against the Death Penalty).

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has acknowledged "the evolution of international law and the trend towards abolition of the death penalty" and has encouraged that trend with recommendations calling for moratoria on its use. Earlier this year, one of the Commission's Working Groups convened in Cotonou, Benin, to finalise the text of an Optional Protocol to the African Charter on the abolition of the death penalty. That process was positively received by a broad array of civil society actors, and will now be finalised by the African Union.

As of October 2014, 17 African states have abolished the death penalty by enacting national legislation. A further 25 State Parties have not carried out an execution for 10 years. That leaves only 12 states - Botswana, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe - which retain the death penalty and have recently used it.

Africa accounted for only 8% of the executions known to have taken place in 2013, (a figure which excludes executions in China). Of those 64 executions, 55 took place either in Somalia or Sudan.

On the international stage, 10 of Africa's abolitionist states have also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on the abolition of the death penalty, with Gabon the most recent, earlier this year.

Despite these promising trends, and the general optimism of the international community about the trajectory of the death penalty, it is important not to overlook the shadow that it still casts. Where it remains, it is a cause for concern that the death penalty can be imposed for offenses which do not meet the international legal threshold of "most serious crimes" - a term which is understood to mean only those involving intentional killing.

The case of Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for apostasy in Sudan, brought this issue to global headlines earlier this year. The imposition of the death penalty by military tribunals - which have been found unable to meet international standards of due process for civilian matters - remains a cause of concern, particularly in Somalia.

The lack of due process within capital cases has proved a concern elsewhere on the continent. The mass-sentencing of more than 600 people in Egypt was an extreme case, but the UN has also, for example, expressed concerns that the judicial system in South Sudan is too weak to provide sufficient protection against arbitrary death sentences.

Moreover, while moratoria on executions are to be welcomed, if they are not accompanied by a change in judicial practice, long-term moratoria result in a very large number of people languishing on "death row", a condition which may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It is estimated that there are several thousand people on death row in Kenya, and hundreds in Algeria, Tanzania and the DRC.

But these reflections should not detract from the many positive developments which continue across much of the rest of the continent. Over the past year there has been an ongoing review of the penal code in Comoros, and the constitution in Sierra Leone. A constitutional amendment has been proposed to abolish the death penalty in Ghana.

Last month a new penal code was approved by parliamentarians in Chad that made no allowance for the death penalty, and would effectively abolish it. While other elements of this penal code give human rights activists cause for concern, the step taken towards formal abolition should be welcomed.

In May a workshop was convened in Tunisia to discuss the reform of the Penal Code, and a reduction of the number of crimes for which the death penalty might be imposed. A Parliamentary Network for Abolition is also gaining strength in Morocco. The presence of openly abolitionist Ministers of Justice in Zimababwe (Emmerson Mnangagwa) and Tanzania (Mathias Chikawe) should also be regarded in a positive light.

A number of other African states have accepted recommendations made under the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) either to work toward abolition at a national level or to make binding international commitments regarding the death penalty. If these commitments in Geneva are translated into actual policy in national capitals then the continent could soon witness a significant shift in terms of the status of the death penalty. Its grip, in this sense, is weakening.

It must be said that campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty has a certain allure for those working in human rights. The very clear cut (and usually transparent) distinction between retentionist and abolitionist states permits a Manichean view of the work. The very uplifting transition of a state from one camp to another - a progression which international law mandates should only occur in one direction - presents activists with an unusually unambiguous "win". However, it is important to bear in mind that a focus on the number of abolitionist states, designed to make the problem appear one concerning an ever-diminishing proportion of the world, can partially disguise the human cost of its continued practice.

From the perspective of the right to life, a focus on the death penalty can also be reductionist. Capital punishment is by no means the most significant threat to life in Africa, claiming fewer than 250 lives over the past 7 years. In this regard, the enlargement of the mandate of the African Commission's Working Group on the Death Penalty also to include Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings, was a welcome development. It allows the Commission to address other violations of the right to life, such as the excessive use of force by law enforcement. In its response to mass public demonstrations in September last year, for example, Sudanese authorities are believed to have killed at least twice as many people as have been executed in that country since 2007.

The symbolic significance of the death penalty, however, should not be underestimated. Its abolition in an increasing number of countries in Africa and around the world reflects an evolving understanding of the relationship between the state and the citizen, and one which can only have a beneficial impact on the enjoyment of the right to life, as well as other human rights.

(source: Dr Thomas Probert is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Human Rights (University of Pretoria) and a Research Associate at the Centre of Governance and Human Rights (University of Cambridge----NOrwegian Council for Africa).


EU Calls on Belarus Authorities to Introduce Moratorium on Death Penalty

The Delegation of the European Union to Belarus on Monday called on Minsk authorities to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment as a step toward its further abolition.

"On 13 October, in the wake of the European and World Day against the Death Penalty, the European Union representatives in Minsk repeated their call to the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment... The European Union is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances," the delegation's press release said.

The delegation said that death penalty cannot deter crime as "It can neither reverse the crime it seeks to punish nor mitigate a victim's loss. Moreover, cases when a miscarriage of justice is uncovered too late, after the death sentence is executed, are not all that rare."

Belarus is the only European country practising capital punishment. According to human rights activists in the country, 2 people have been executed since the beginning of 2014, while 2 more, who were sentenced in 2013, are currently on death row.

(source: RIA Novosti)


China sentences 58 over Xinjiang violence; 12 get death penalty

A court in Xinjiang's Kashgar on Monday sentenced 12 people to death for organizing terrorist attacks that killed 37 civilians in Shache County in July.

The Intermediate People's Court of Kashgar Prefecture also sentenced 15 others to death with a 2-year reprieve, according to the official news portal of the government of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,

9 people received life in prison while another 20 defendants got four to 20 years behind bars.

In addition, 2 defendants got probation.

(source: Xinhua)


Trial of father accused of poisoning his young children and dumping their bodies set to finally begin

It has been more than 4 years since young siblings Natalie and Chase DeBlase were brutally killed and dumped alongside county roads in Mobile and Jackson County, Miss., in a case that shocked the community to its core.

And this week their father goes on trial for capital murder after lengthy delays and the appointment of a whole new defense team. Jury selection, which is expected to take about a week, starts on Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, John DeBlase and his common-law wife, Heather Leavell-Keaton, tortured the children over several months and eventually killed them with antifreeze before the defendants moved to Louisville, Ky. Her trial is scheduled to begin in March.

DeBlase's attorneys, Art Powell and Glenn Davidson, were appointed in March after previous attorneys withdrew following a series of delays surrounding mitigation experts in the case, who are necessary in cases that could result in the death penalty.

DeBlase, 30, initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity or mental illness, although in the years since that plea was entered it's no longer clear if that's to be his defense. When asked about how they plan to try the case, Powell declined to comment, other than to say that the defense is ready for trial.

Both sides are under a standing gag order not to speak about the case, by Circuit Judge Rick Stout, the presiding judge.

At times, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich has accused the previous defense attorneys of playing games and stalling, citing the costs of getting witnesses from all over the country to Mobile for trial. A change of venue motion was denied in Sept. 2013, although Stout has said that if the jury selection process fails to produce the necessary jury pool, the trial could still be moved.

A daughter full of laughter, and a tiny lady's man for a son

--According to investigators, the final weeks, and possibly months, of the children's lives were very rough. Below are several details alleged in court documents, and through statements by investigators and prosecutors.

--It's possible that family members hadn't seen Chase and Natalie DeBlase for nearly a year before they were reported missing. Their mother, Corrine Heathcock, said she hadn't seen them since Nov. 2009. John DeBlase had custody of the 2. She said her daughter was full of laughter, and her son was a tiny lady's man.

--After leaving the Mobile area in July, DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton eventually made their way to Louisville, Ky. It was there, when she tried to get a restraining order against her common-law husband, that Leavell-Keaton is said to have first told police that the children were dead. On Nov. 18, 2010, they were reported missing.

--Leavell-Keaton was arrested on Dec. 1 in Louisville; DeBlase was apprehended in Milton, Fla., that same week. They had been together since 2008, having met while Leavell-Keaton attended Spring Hill College, but were never married. The 2 defendants have at times blamed each other for the childrens' deaths.

--According to court documents, during one incident Leavell-Keaton tied duct tape around Natalie's hands and feet, shoved a sock i