and Updates (as of 12/22/96) This webpage will next be updated on December 31

DECEMBER 17, 2014:

TEXAS----new death sentence

Texas ex-justice of the peace sentenced to death for revenge murder

A Texas jury on Wednesday sentenced to death a former justice of the peace convicted of murdering a suburban Dallas prosecutor's wife in a revenge plot, with the judge saying he acted like some of the most notorious killers in recent U.S. history.

The same jury that convicted Eric Williams, 47, on Dec. 4 of murdering Cynthia McLelland sentenced him to death after deliberating for less than 4 hours.

Williams has also been charged with murdering District Attorney Mike McLelland, who was Cynthia McClelland's husband, and Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse.

Prosecutors said Williams wanted to get back at them for obtaining a theft conviction that cost him his job and law license.

After the verdict, Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes told Williams that he was never fooled by his lawyer-like demeanor in the courtroom, likening him to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

"The people of Kaufman County have been scared for a year. They do not have to be scared any more," Snipes said.

Hasse was gunned down outside the Kaufman County Courthouse on Jan. 31, 2013, and the McClellands were fatally shot inside their home on March 30, 2013.

Williams' estranged wife, Kim, who is also charged with capital murder and will be tried separately, told jurors on Tuesday that Eric Williams began forming a mental hit list of people involved in his prosecution.

She added that Cynthia McLelland was not on that list but her husband later told her he considered McLelland "collateral damage."

Williams never looked up from the table as the victim's family members told him how these murders impacted their lives.

Nathan Foreman, Cynthia's son, said that the loss of his mother is a hole that can never be filled.

"I believe it's important not to hate, I work on that daily. But I cannot forgive and I cannot forget," he said.

(source: Reuters)


The Price of Death----Why capital punishment cases are in steep decline, even in Texas.

Just before sunrise on a spring morning last year, Larry Maples shot and killed his wife, Heather. He had tracked her to the home of a former boyfriend, a ranch hand named Moses Clemente. Maples shot and wounded Clemente. He then called 911, handed his Colt .45 revolver over to the sheriff's deputies and confessed.

It was a shocking event for Van Zandt County, a largely agricultural swath of East Texas with roughly 50,000 residents. The local authorities had never sent someone to death row, but Maples - by shooting Clemente along with Heather Maples and thereby aggravating the murder - qualified for the death penalty under state law. It was up to the young district attorney, Chris Martin, to decide whether to seek that punishment.

Martin had been telling reporters he might seek the death penalty, but behind closed doors with the victim's family and Clemente, the D.A. said he wasn't sure the case was strong enough to convince a jury that Maples should be executed.

County officials around the country have had to raise taxes and cut spending to pay for death penalty trials.

"He said, 'If we go with the death penalty, Maples will get more attorneys,'" Lori Simpson, Heather's sister, recalled. "There will be more witnesses, expert testimony, and then he will get an automatic appeal. That could cost millions of dollars, and your family doesn't want to go through those appeals, and we don't want to spend the money on that if we're not able to get capital punishment.'"

Martin's concerns about the public expense of a death-penalty prosecution, which Clemente confirmed, were remarkable only for the bluntness with which Martin expressed them. While many prosecutors are still reluctant to admit that finances play a role in their decisions about the death penalty, some of them - especially in small, rural counties - have been increasingly frank in wondering whether capital punishment is worth the price to their communities. "You have to be very responsible in selecting where you want to spend your money," said Stephen Taylor, a prosecutor in Liberty County, Texas. "You never know how long a case is going to take."

Some prosecutors are far more blunt, and even hyperbolic, as they lament the state of affairs. "I know now that if I file a capital murder case and don't seek the death penalty, the expense is much less," said James Farren, the district attorney of Randall County in the Texas panhandle. "While I know that justice is not for sale, if I bankrupt the county, and we simply don't have any money, and the next day someone goes into a day care and guns down five kids, what do I say? Sorry?"

Since capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, the cost of carrying out a death penalty trial has risen steadily. Increasing legal protections for defendants has translated into more and more hours of preparatory work by both sides. Fees for court-appointed attorneys and expert witnesses have climbed. Where once psychiatrists considered an IQ test and a quick interview sufficient to establish the mental state of a defendant, now it is routine to obtain an entire mental-health history. Lab tests have become more numerous and elaborate. Defense teams now routinely employ mitigation experts, who comb through a defendant's life history for evidence that might sway a jury toward leniency at the sentencing phase. Capital defendants are automatically entitled to appeals, which often last for years. Throughout those years, the defendant lives on death row, which tends to cost more due to heightened security.

In states such as Texas, Arizona, and Washington, where county governments pay for both the prosecution and defense of capital defendants (nearly all of whom are indigent) when they go to trial, the pressure on local budgets is especially strong. To ease the fiscal burden, some states have formed agencies to handle the defense or prosecution of capital cases. Other states reimburse counties for the expenses of a trial.

But even with that help, county officials around the country have sometimes had to raise taxes and cut spending to pay for death penalty trials. District attorneys have taken note. Many remain reluctant to acknowledge how fiscal concerns affect their decisions - they don't want to appear to be cheapening the lives of murder victims. But a few are surprisingly candid. Their statements suggest that money is more than ever part of the explanation for the steep decline in death-penalty cases over the past decade. That is particularly the case in Texas, where there are few political obstacles to carrying out executions.

In the 6 states that have abolished capital punishment over the past decade, Republican and Democratic officials have also emphasized the cost of the death penalty as a major rationale. Even in states that retain the punishment, cost has played a central role in the conversion narratives of conservative lawmakers, public officials, and others who question the death penalty as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

* * *

The rising cost of capital trials disproportionately affects counties with small populations. While the number of death sentences in the United States has been dropping steadily since a peak in the mid-1990s, an overwhelming number of the cases still being filed come from urban counties. There, the tax bases are larger, and the impact of an expensive trial may be more easily absorbed. (Harris County, where Houston is located, has been responsible for more executions than Georgia and Alabama combined.) Texas counties with fewer than 300,000 residents sought the death penalty on average 15 times per year from 1992 to 1996. Between 2002 and 2005, the average was 4.

Prosecutors don't cite statistics when discussing the costs of the death penalty; they tell stories. In Texas, they point to Jasper County, near the Louisiana border, where, in June 1998, three white supremacists killed a black man, James Byrd Jr., by chaining his ankles to the back of their pickup truck and dragging his body for more than three miles. The murder made international headlines and led to new state and federal hate crime legislation.

But among Texas prosecutors, the case took on another meaning as well. They noticed how Jasper County struggled to pay for the trials, in which 2 of the men were sentenced to death. Administrators doled out a total of $730,640.55 for the prosecution, defense, and various court costs. The local tax rate had been increasing by less than 5 % per year, but in 1999 and 2000, the 2 years the county prepared for the trials, the tax rate increase was bumped to 8 %. The county auditor at the time told the Wall Street Journal that the last comparable budget shock was a flood in the 1970s, which had "wiped out roads and bridges."

The officials who manage local budgets mostly stay out of the district attorneys' decisions, but on occasion they have urged district attorneys to avoid seeking the death penalty. "It's safe to say they hope they don't ever get" a death penalty case, said Lonnie Hunt, an official with the Texas Association of Counties and a former judge. "It's like anything else - the people in charge of managing the money of the county hope there isn't a wildfire or a tornado."

After the Jasper case, county officials from around Texas went to the capitol to beg for help, and Texas lawmakers approved a grant program for death penalty cases, a mechanism that is also used in Indiana, Ohio, and Washington. States have tried to ease the burden on local counties for death penalty cases in other ways as well, including trial assistance from attorneys general and the creation of statewide public defender offices.

That outside help has only had a limited effect. Since 2002, the Texas governor's office has awarded a little more than $2 million to counties throughout Texas for capital trials, but stretched out over 12 years and spread across 22 counties, the grants have made a small dent. In 2008, Gray County, in the Texas panhandle, received $131,009.95 from the state as it sought the death penalty against Levi King for the murder of a father, a pregnant mother, and their teenage son. Still, the county paid $885,382.33 for the trial, and was forced to raise taxes and suspend annual raises for county employees.

In 2005, partly to stem the tide of expensive death penalty cases, Texas became the last state in the country to establish a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Now, juries could return a life sentence and know, as one prosecutor put it, that defendants "are never, never, never going to come out except in a box."

Levi King benefited from this shift. After a day of deliberation, a single juror refused to give him a death sentence. He was already serving a life sentence for 2 other murders he had committed in Missouri. So, after a million-dollar trial, his fate was unchanged.

The King case was another cautionary tale for prosecutors. District attorneys "used to be confident about spending the money," explained defense attorney David Dow, who runs a death penalty clinic at the University of Houston Law Center. "Now, because so often juries bring back a life sentence, it makes the downside of spending all that money all the clearer, because if you don't get a death sentence you've wasted the money."

* * *

Greg McPhillips, the prosecutor for Mohave County, Arizona, had no doubt that James Vandergriff deserved to be sentenced to death. In 2010, Vandergriff was charged, along with his girlfriend, with murdering their 5-week-old son, Matthew. The autopsy showed broken bones, bruises, and signs the victim had been shaken.

"Spend money. That will get everybody's attention."

Murders are rare in Mohave County, a corner of northwestern Arizona where 200,000 residents are spread over 13,000 square miles of desert. McPhillips, who has been county attorney for nearly 2 decades, seldom has more than 1 pending death penalty case at a time, and each takes roughly 3 years to bring to trial. He allowed Vandergriff's girlfriend to plead to a 15-year sentence for failing to protect the baby. But for Vandergriff, he felt the case was a clear-cut example of the kind of heinous crime that his constituents would agree should lead to an execution.

But then McPhillips realized how expensive the trial would become. Shaken baby cases are forensically complex. The prosecution and defense end up paying doctors with differing opinions to debate the true nature of the baby's death in front of a jury. "If you talk to 2 medically respected doctors, they disagree on this stuff," McPhillips explained.

McPhillips also knew his county had another death penalty trial already in the works, that of a man who had stabbed an 18-year-old girl to death during a burglary. In that case, there had been eyewitnesses. Nobody had directly seen the death of Vandergriff's baby.

The case also came at a bad financial moment. In the wake of the nationwide economic downturn, Mohave County had seen $1.3 million in tax revenue unexpectedly diverted to the state.

After a series of hearings, McPhillips filed a motion stating he would not seek the death penalty, framing his decision as a matter of public service to taxpayers. "The County Attorney's Office wants to do their part in helping the County meet its fiscal responsibilities in this time of economic crisis not only in our County but across the nation," he wrote.

"I don't want to waste the county's money, as much as it galls me that justice is defined by how much money we have," McPhillips said in an interview. He allowed Vandergriff to plead guilty for a sentence of 20 years. While the sentence may not have been harsh enough for some constituents, McPhillips did not face backlash from voters. 4 years later, he does not regret his decision, but he is still bitter that money played any role at all. "I have to admit this is sort of a sore spot," he said. "I think every prosecutor believes there shouldn't be a price on justice, but we've made it have a price, and I think that's been a tactic of the defense bar."

Many prosecutors are quick to blame defense lawyers for driving up the cost of death penalty cases. Defense attorneys argue back that a robust, expensive defense is necessary to ensure that defendants get a fair trial.

But that doesn't mean it isn't also a tactic, designed, in the words of 1 prosecutor, "to soften us up." Houston lawyer Katherine Scardino is considered by her colleagues to be one of the best defense attorneys in the state. (One calls her "the Clarence Darrow of death penalty lawyers in Texas.") She is a mainstay of training seminars, where she gives other defenders simple instructions for what to do when appointed in a death penalty case. "Spend money," she says with a bright east Texas twang. "That will get everybody's attention."

* * *

In some states, including Washington and California, the district attorneys' decision is even more fraught because they have no assurance an execution will ever be carried out.

In Canon City, Colorado, this September Jaacob Van Winkle pled guilty and accepted a life sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her 2 children, ages 5 and 9, and raping her teenage daughter. District Attorney Thom LeDoux talked with district attorneys around the state and determined not only that the case would cost roughly $2 million over 3 to 5 years, but also that he could not be sure the case would actually result in an execution. Earlier this year, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a "temporary reprieve" to Nathan Dunlap, who was facing execution for the 1993 murder of four people. The governor called the overall death penalty system in his state "imperfect and inherently inequitable." Unsure whether Hickenlooper would allow any execution to take place under his tenure, LeDoux found it difficult to justify spending so much money.

At a plea hearing in June, some of the victim's family members disagreed over whether the life sentence was a just result. "I feel like if he was 300 miles south in Texas, we would be on an escalator to death row, and I think that's appropriate," the victim's brother Danny Stotler told reporters outside the courtroom after the hearing. "Mr. LeDoux properly thought he should be put to death. Unfortunately the system that a liberal government has established has made it so hard for the state of Colorado to pursue [a death sentence] that they've eliminated the death penalty without eliminating the death penalty."

LeDoux said cost was one of "many factors" he analyzed as he confronted his state's political ambivalence. It was the 2nd time his office had considered and then declined to seek the death penalty for an aggravated murder. When asked - politics aside - whether a murder might come along that is heinous to enough to overcome the budget issue, he said, "The 2 we looked at were really aggravated, so I guess the answer is no, I don't know what it'd look like."

* * *

Texas does not suffer from political ambivalence, and certain cases are considered non-negotiable when it comes to the death penalty, including murders of law enforcement officers. The advent of life without parole allowed district attorneys in rural counties to save money by giving them a harsh alternative, but the remaining death penalty cases were still straining their county budgets. In 2007, Nacogdoches County District Attorney Stephanie Stephens wrote to her colleagues in the online forum of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, asking for information on how much a death penalty trial might cost. "I cannot put my head in the sand and pretend like this isn't going to be a significant expense to my county," she wrote.

In counties working with the death-penalty defense office, prosecutors were less likely to seek the death penalty.

That year, a group of judges and attorneys from small counties in northwest Texas hatched a plan to ease the burden. Counties, they decided, would pay into a pool to create a single public defender office for death penalty cases. The idea appealed to prosecutors because better defense work would mean that death sentences would not be as likely to get reversed on appeal.

7 years later, the Regional Public Defender Office, based in Lubbock, is funded with state grants and fees from participating counties, which cover about 2/3 of the state. Other states have capital defense offices, and Utah has experimented with creating an insurance system among counties, but the Texas model - in which counties pool their money to run a defender office exclusively for death penalty cases - is unique. Some tiny counties that have never had a death penalty case pay only $1,000 a year to participate. "Most counties, statistically, will not get a capital case," said Jack Stoffregen, the office's director and a longtime defense attorney. "It's kind of like a risk pool."

As the office began taking cases, some defense attorneys worried that better representation would provide an incentive for prosecutors to seek the death penalty more often, since cost would no longer be as much of an impediment.

Those worries proved unfounded. Last year, the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University released a report, which found that in counties working with the death-penalty defense office, prosecutors were actually less likely to seek the death penalty.

This was because attorneys from the defense office pour most of their funds into mitigation investigations, in which specialists find out everything they can about a defendant's past so they can present a better explanation for the crime to a jury, hoping to sway jurors toward a life sentence. With a history of abuse or a traumatic brain injury, defense lawyers are better prepared to bargain with prosecutors for a plea deal. "Mitigation specialists are specifically responsible for uncovering information and developing a narrative about the client capable of convincing a jury that death is not an appropriate penalty," the report states. "The same evidence can often persuade a prosecutor that a plea agreement is in the best interest of the state."

Part of that "best interest" is the money that will be saved by avoiding the death penalty. To date, the Regional Public Defender Office has handled more than 70 cases. Only 5 have gone to trial.

There is every reason to believe that even as Texas retains its reputation as the state most willing to impose the death penalty, the number of actual death sentences will continue to drift downward year by year, remaining only an option for urban counties who can pay for it. Many prosecutors begrudgingly see this as a victory by the death penalty's opponents over public opinion, which still favors the punishment. "We're never going to get the majority of the public to give up the death penalty," said Farren, the D.A. in Randall County, so defense attorneys will "make it so expensive and such a waste that we'll get through the back door what we couldn't get through the front door." On the other hand, if capital punishment does eventually disappear, it may be cold comfort to those opponents to know that Americans surrendered it not because of moral opprobrium, but instead as a matter of simple thrift.

(source: Maurice Chammah is a staff writer for the Marshall


County looks to state for funding in pricey capital murder trial

Willacy County is looking for funds in a capital murder case involving an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent who was killed.

Mexican nationals 30-year-old Gustavo Tijerina and 40-year-old Ismael Hernandez have plead not guilty to the shooting death of off-duty U.S. Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr.

Now, Willacy County must not only prosecute them, but they must also pay for their defense.

"When this happened the last time (there was a capital murder case), the county, just on the defense side, we had to pay almost $500,000 to (the defense) attorneys," County Judge John Gonzales said.

Gonzales foresees this case to also exceed the half a million dollar mark for the defense.

District Attorney Bernanrd Ammerman is applying for a $200,000 grant from the Governor's Office for the trial help alleviate some of that burden on tax-payers.

"He's going to have to hire expert witnesses, additional investigators, so there's going to be an additional cost to the county for this," Gonzales said

Ammerman could not comment on the issue since State District Judge Migdalia Lopez granted a gag order in this case.

Each year Willacy County collects about $4.5 million tax revenue, much of it coming from the immigration detention facility and energy windmills.

Right now the general fund sits comfortably at $5.5 million. So why then does the county need to request money from the state?

"Well because that's money we need to use for the local community," Gonzales said. "You now, it upsets me that we would have to use any of that money to put these guys in prison or what have you. That money is for the local community."

Agent Vega and his family were fishing in a remote area, when the 2 suspects came-up behind them armed, looking to rob them.

Fire was exchanged killing Vega, Jr., and injuring his father.

Both Tijerina and Hernandez are charged with capital murder and are facing the death penalty.



Convicted killer Terrance Williams sent back to Pa. death row

Convicted killer Terrance Williams is returning to death row.

Williams was a Cheyney University freshman when he and a fellow student lured Amos Norwood, 56, to a cemetery. Once there, Williams and a friend tied Norwood up with his own clothes, beat him to death with a tire iron and robbed him. They spent the money gambling in Atlantic City. The next day Williams returned to the scene and set fire to Norwood's corpse.

That was 30 years ago.

Williams, a former star quarterback at Germantown High School, was set to be executed on Oct. 3, 2012. But just days before he was to die by lethal injection, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge vacated the sentence and excoriated the assistant District Attorney in charge of the case for suppressing evidence and gross prosecutorial misconduct.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina accused A.D.A. Andrea Foulkes of withholding evidence of the victim's homosexuality and the extent of the deal she had struck with Williams' cooperating accomplice, Marc Draper.

In an opinion issued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Monday, Justice J. Michael Eakin absolved Foulkes and wrote that Sarmina had attempted to circumvent a valid death sentence.

Foulkes, now a federal prosecutor, had been a young prosecutor in 1984 during Williams' 1st trial and has remained involved with the case for nearly 3 decades. After Sarmina's searing condemnation of Foulkes' alleged misdeeds, city District Attorney Seth Williams and federal prosecutors vigorously defended her.

Reached Tuesday at the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia, Foulkes was appreciative and issued a short statement.

"I feel both professionally and personally vindicated by the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court."

In halting Williams' execution, Sarmina had claimed that Foulkes withheld mitigating evidence, or information that might lead the jury to forego the death penalty.

Williams - who killed another man 6 months before his 1st conviction - had claimed he did not know about Norwood's homosexuality. But as Justice Eakin noted in the opinion, Williams admittedly engaged in homosexual acts with Norwood. Williams said Norwood had molested him since he was 15 and had suggested the murder was an "enraged killing" in response to the alleged abuse.

In addition, though Williams claimed no involvement with Norwood's murder at the trial, "evidence included his plan to extort Norwood by threatening to expose him for being a homosexual, and statements in which Draper and [Williams] taunted Norwood for 'liking boys' while they were beating him."

Justice Eakins said that Williams had tried to suggest that had he known more about Norwood's sexual proclivities, his defense would have learned the actual motive for the murder. Eakins didn't buy the argument.

In closing, the Justice slammed Williams for committing perjury at trial, testifying he didn't know the victim, had never seen him before, took no part in the murder and had no reason to be angry with him.

Pennsylvania has executed 3 people since it revived the death penalty in 1978. Gary Heidnick, executed in July 1999, was the last man to be put to death by lethal injection in Pennsylvania.


Delco D.A.: Ex-officer killed former girlfriend

Hours after resigning from the Colwyn police force, a man fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and wounded her 15-year-old daughter at their home in Glenolden on Monday night, officials said.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said his office could seek the death penalty against Stephen Rozniakowski.

The 9 p.m. shooting occurred just hours after Rozniakowski was served with a protection-from-abuse order for Valerie Morrow.

Whelan said Rozniakowski had been "obsessively" stalking Morrow since she ended a relationship with him and returned to her husband in the summer.

Rozniakowski had a plan, the prosecutor said.

"It was his intent that day to arm himself with a gun, to arm himself with a bulletproof vest, and to execute all 3 family members and take down whoever got in his way," Whelan said at a news conference in Media.

Rozniakowski parked a block from the family's house on Glenfield Avenue, then sneaked to the front door, according to the prosecutor. He then allegedly kicked down the door to the house where Morrow, 40, lived with her husband, Tom, and her daughter, then went upstairs and shot mother and daughter.

Valerie Morrow was killed on the spot. Her daughter was wounded in the left arm and fled to her bedroom.

Tom Morrow, a part-time police officer in Morton, got his revolver and shot and wounded Rozniakowski before jumping out a 2nd-story window to get help, believing his wife and stepdaughter were dead, officials said.

The girl then came out of her room, saw Rozniakowski bent over with his gun near his head, kicked the gun out of his hand, and ran from the house, Whelan said.

The teen and Rozniakowski were treated at Crozer Chester Medical Center. Rozniakowski was in critical but stable condition Tuesday afternoon. Tom Morrow was treated for a fractured ankle and released Monday night.

During the incident, Rozniakowski used the police radio to call 911 and tell the dispatcher what had happened, including that he was the shooter.

He faces charges including murder and attempted murder.

"This is horrifying for law enforcement here in Delaware County," Whelan said.

(source for both:


South Carolina judge tosses conviction of black teen executed in 1944

A South Carolina judge on Wednesday vacated the conviction of a black teenager executed in 1944 for the murder of 2 white girls, saying he had not received a fair trial.

George Stinney Jr. was, at age 14, the youngest person to be executed in the United States in the past century. He was convicted of killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, and was executed 3 months after their deaths.

In her ruling, Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen wrote that she was not overturning the case on its merits but on the failure of the court to grant Stinney a fair trial.

"From time to time we are called to look back to examine our still-recent history and correct injustice where possible," she wrote. "I can think of no greater injustice than a violation of one's constitutional rights, which has been proven to me in this case by a preponderance of the evidence standard."

The girls disappeared on March 23, 1944, after leaving home in the small mill town of Alcolu on their bicycles to look for wildflowers. They were found the next morning in a shallow ditch behind a church, their skulls crushed.

Stinney was taken into custody and confessed to the killings within hours of the bodies being found, according to Mullen's ruling. His trial, before an all-white jury, lasted one day.

(source: Reuters)


Triple-slaying suspect indicted on murder counts

A Florida man accused of killing his wife, a neighbor and a pastor who worked with his wife has been indicted on 1st-degree murder charges.

A Manatee County grand jury handed down the three counts against 33-year-old Andres Avalos Jr. on Tuesday. A grand jury indictment is required for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in Florida, but prosecutors haven't said whether they'll pursue it in this case.

Authorities say Avalos fatally shot his wife, 33-year-old Amber Avalos, and their neighbor, 46-year-old Denise Potter, at the couple's Bradenton home on Dec. 4. He then made his way across town to Bayshore Baptist Church, where officials say Avalos shot and killed the Rev. James "Tripp" Battle.

Avalos was arrested 2 days later at an area mobile home park. Prosecutors say Avalos gave a full confession to investigators after his arrest.

(source: Associated Press)


Ohio House to Consider Lethal Injection Drug Bill

The names of companies that provide Ohio with lethal injection drugs would be shielded under a proposal the state House is poised to vote on Wednesday.

Some lawmakers have said the bill is needed to restart executions in the state. But prosecutors who want a condemned child killer executed in February say the legislation will undoubtedly lead to court challenges, and they're confident the procedure won't happen as scheduled.

The bill is among several the House planned to vote on as lawmakers finish work for the 2-year legislative session.

The Senate passed the lethal injection drug bill last week. If the House approves it, the measure would go to Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Shielding the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs is necessary to obtain supplies of the drugs by protecting drugmakers from harassment, according to bill supporters.

Problems finding supplies of lethal drugs have created a de facto moratorium on executions in Ohio, which a decade ago was one of the country's busiest death penalty states.

Ohio executed just 1 inmate this year: Dennis McGuire, who snorted and gasped during much of the 26-minute procedure using a 2-drug combo never tried before. Concerns about that execution led to delays of other executions.

Opponents of the lethal injection bill say concerns about harassment are overblown and it's naive to think the bill can truly protect companies' names from being revealed.

The anonymity for companies - which would last 20 years - was requested by lawmakers after prosecutors said executions wouldn't happen in Ohio without such protection. It's aimed at compounding pharmacies that mix doses of specialty drugs.

Ohio's 1st choice of an execution drug is compounded pentobarbital - used frequently in Texas and Missouri - but the state has been unable to obtain it. Its 2nd choice - simultaneous doses of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller - led to McGuire's prolonged execution and a nearly 2-hour-long execution in Arizona in July.

In addition, the bill creates a committee to study "the manner and means" of how executions are carried out. At issue is whether other methods already ruled constitutional - such as the electric chair - should be considered. The state abolished electrocution as an option more than a decade ago.

The bill also shields the names of participants in Ohio executions.

(source: Associated Press)


Killing transparency ---- By shielding records related to executions, a proposed state law undermines open and accountable government

Shielding the manufacturers of execution drugs from public scrutiny - at a time of enormous nationwide controversy over how states are conducting executions - undermines democracy and makes future problems with Ohio's death-penalty law more likely. It's not the sort of measure to rush though a lame-duck session of the General Assembly in the final days of a 2-year session.

But that's exactly what's happening. Last week, the state Senate returned the death-penalty bill to the House, where it began and which is scheduled to take up the measure today. After a concurrence vote, the House would send the bill to Gov. John Kasich.

The governor and House members should reject this attempt to solve though secrecy the problem of obtaining effective, and comparatively humane, drugs for executions.

By excluding from public record - and thus mandatory disclosure - information and records about compounding pharmacies that make the state's lethal injection drug, the plan violates Ohio's open-records laws. It would keep citizens from holding their government accountable as the state seeks to carry out executions in a proper and constitutional manner. The law also would make it more difficult for courts to monitor executions.

The Senate made the bill slightly less egregious by limiting the 20-year secrecy shield to companies that do business with the state in the next 2 years. The bill would create a study committee that would force lawmakers to revisit the issue after that 2-year period. A 6-member legislative committee would study the "means and manner" of Ohio's executions, without debating the broader question of whether the state should continue to use the death penalty.

Ohio can no longer obtain its lethal-injection drug of choice, the powerful sedative pentobarbital, because the drug's European manufacturer refused, on moral grounds, to make it available for executions. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction tried an alternative that combined midazolam, a barbiturate, and hydromorphone, a potent painkiller. That resulted in the botched execution last January of Dennis McGuire, who took as long as 26 minutes to die, while he convulsed, choked, gasped, and snorted.

Given the problems that face Ohio and other death-penalty states, voters need to know what their governments are doing to find suitable drugs and effective protocols. Shielding the identity of drug vendors would prevent taxpayers from knowing whether products from the same manufacturer caused problems with executions in other states.

Lawmakers hope that providing some anonymity will help persuade skittish pharmacies to manufacture the state's lethal-injection drug of choice. That's a flawed and fundamentally undemocratic strategy.

There's no evidence that compounding pharmacies face any danger. Protest is the stuff of democracy, but current laws adequately protect companies from unreasonable harassment.

A federal court has paused executions in Ohio until next February, when Ronald Phillips of Summit County is scheduled to die. Ohioans need to know - especially in the next 2 years - how the Kasich administration is securing lethal-injection drugs. Making the House bill law would leave them in the dark on a matter of life and death.

(source: Editorial, Toledo Blade)


Court upholds death penalty for man accused of killing ex and 2 children

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a local man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and 2 children.

A judge sentenced Mark Pickens to die in 2010 after he was found guilty in the shootings of 19-year-old Noelle Washington, her baby boy, and a 3-year-old girl Washington was babysitting. The 3 were shot to death in an apartment in Over-The-Rhine.

The prosecutor said the killings came after Washington filed a rape charge against Pickens and he didn't want her to testify.

(source: WKRC news)


Prosecutor to seek death penalty against man accused of killing woman

A judge ruled to make Joseph Oberhansley eligible for the death penalty Tuesday night.

"I'm relieved in a way, in other ways I'm not sure of the death penalty," Connie Sneed, the victim's friend, said. "I think it's too good and too easy for him."

The Clark County prosecutor sought the death penalty against Oberhansley after he confessed to killing his ex-girlfriend in Jeffersonville.

Steve Stewart felt it was an obvious decision to make it a capital case, saying, "The death sentence is based on 2 aggravating factors. First, that he committed intentional murder during the course of the burglary. And the second is that he dismembered the victim, Tammy Blanton."

Oberhansley, 33, told police he stabbed Blanton before mutilating her body and removing some of her organs.

"It's horrible. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about her," Sneed said. "Not a day that goes by that I don't want to text her and say hello."

The capital case means new defense attorneys have been brought on to defend Oberhansley. One of those attorneys, Mike McDaniel, admits that Oberhansley is a challenge.

"He's a toughie right now. He doesn't have any reason to trust his lawyers. You've got to earn that, so we'll do that," McDaniel said.

McDaniel said that Oberhansley may be insane and may believe he didn't kill Blanton.

As he walked into the courtroom Tuesday, Oberhansley told reporters all charges against him are false.

As the judge read the allegations against him, Oberhansley interrupted, saying, "Yeah, right, and pigs fly too."

Oberhansley asked the judge for permission to speak and said all the allegations against him are wrong.

"If anyone has been robbed, it's me. I'm sitting in here," he said.

Oberhansley was previously convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of his then-girlfriend in suburban Salt Lake City. During that incident Oberhansley also shot his mother and then shot himself in the head.

"He's got a bullet floating around in his brain. It may be screwing up some of his thought patterns," said McDaniel.

Oberhansley's mother was at court Tuesday in support of her son.

She held a cross and repeatedly pointed it at prosecutors and anyone who said anything negative about her son.

Blanton's mother was also in court. She did not want to go on camera, but said she is in favor of prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

Blanton's neighbor Edna Hall was also in favor of the judge's decision.

"I was hoping it's what would happen," Hall said. "He should be killed, the same as he did to her."

Sneed said the death penalty won't bring back the life Oberhansley took.

He's due back in court in February.

(source: WLKY news)


Judge sets pretrial hearing dates for pair accused in quadruple murder

A Cumberland County judge has set motions hearing dates in the quadruple homicide on Renegade Mountain.

Jacob Allen Bennett, 27, of Crab Orchard, Tenn., is charged with 4 counts of premeditated murder, 4 counts of felony murder and 2 counts of attempted aggravated robbery. His alleged accomplice and girlfriend, Brittany Moser, 26, of Dayton, Tenn., is charged with 4 counts of felony murder and 2 counts of attempted aggravated robbery.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Bennett, who is being held at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility. Moser is being held in lieu of $1 million bond at the Cumberland County Jail.

According to the Cumberland County Circuit Court Clerk's Office, while Bennett and Moser are being tried separately, Judge David Patterson set pretrial hearings on March 6 and on May 21 for both of them. The judge previously set a trial date for July 7.

Bennett is accused of shooting 3 teenagers and a young mother to death on a secluded gravel road on Renegade Mountain, a resort community near Crab Orchard in September of 2013. Prosecutors said the shooting occurred during a drug deal involving 1/4-pound of marijuana, which was found inside the small car with the 4 victims.

Authorities said the shooting occurred either late on Sept. 11 or early on Sept. 12.

Killed were Danielle Rikki Jacobsen, 22, her nephew Domonic Davis, 17, John Lajeunesse, 16, and Steven Presley, 17, all of Cumberland County, officials said.

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)

MISSOURI----new execution date

Execution date set for man who fatally stabbed former Post-Dispatch reporter

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday set an execution date for Marcellus Williams, the man who fatally stabbed former Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle at her home in University City in 1998.

Marcellus Williams, 45, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre on Jan. 28.

Williams' execution would be the 1st in 2015, following a record year in which Missouri carried out 10 executions.

Williams killed Gayle, 42, at her home in the gated Ames Place neighborhood of University City on Aug. 11, 1998. Williams was burglarizing the home when Gayle, who had been taking a shower, surprised him. He stabbed her repeatedly while she fought for her life.

After a jury convicted Williams at a trial in 2001, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien sentenced Williams to death. The judge also ordered Williams to serve consecutive terms of life in prison for robbery, 30 years for burglary and 30 years each for 2 weapons violations.

Before sentencing, Williams told the judge he lacked jurisdiction - that only God had that authority.

Gayle was a Post-Dispatch reporter from 1981-92. She left the paper to do volunteer social work with children and the poor.

(source: St. Louis Today)


No death penalty in Topeka child's murder

A man convicted of raping and killing an 8-year-old Topeka girl before stuffing her body in a clothes dryer will not face the death penalty, after a jury could not decide unanimously to impose such a sentence.

Under Kansas law, the decision announced Tuesday by a Shawnee County jury means Billy Frank Davis Jr., 31, will be sentenced to life with no chance of parole for the death of Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin. Davis was convicted last week of 10 counts, including capital murder, and will be formally sentenced Feb. 13.

Prosecutors said Ahliyah was taken from an apartment on March 13, 2012, and raped and killed before her body was found hours later in a blood-stained basement of a nearby apartment.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported ( ) that the girl's aunt said her family was content that Davis would spend the rest of his life in prison rather than be executed.

"That's our justice," said Sherry Mason. "I'm OK with that."

District Attorney Chad Taylor said he was "a little bit disappointed" with the jury's decision.

"What's important is the bravery exhibited by Ahliyah Irvin's family," Taylor said. They will have, "to some degree, closure."

Kim Shannon, Davis' mother, and defense attorney Mark Manna declined to comment, the Capital-Journal reported.

Davis' attorney argued Monday during closing arguments that Davis had mental health issues and was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he kidnapped the girl and, therefore, could not have formed the intent to kill her.

Prosecutors responded that the child's death was vicious. They showed jurors 30 photographs of her battered body and blood throughout the crime scene.

"Look at that, and you'll know what to do," chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling said.

(source: Associated Press)


Appeals court : Jodi Arias' testimony in death penalty hearing should be open

Jodi Arias wanted to testify secretly at her death penalty hearing because she had been getting hate mail and death threats, her lawyers said.

Jodi Arias's testimony at her death penalty hearing should be available to the public and news media, an Arizona appeals court said Tuesday.

A 3-judge panel found that threatening mail the convicted killer has received, including death threats, did not justify allowing her to take the stand in secret. When Arias testified in late October, Judge Sherry Stephens did not even identify her as the witness on the stand.

"While we do not discount the volume or nature of Arias' mail or the fact that some people may wish he ill, her concern does not, as a matter of law, amount to an extremely serious substantive evil warranting closing the trial to the public and press," Judge Maurice Portley of the Court of Appeals said.

Arias was convicted last year of killing her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in his apartment in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa in 2008. Jurors were unable to agree on whether she should receive the death penalty, so the judge declared a mistrial for the penalty phase and scheduled a new trial on the issue.

The appellate opinion revealed that Arias did not feel she would be "able to fully communicate what she wants to say, communicate her remorse and go through all the mitigating factors and get them out there in front of the jury with the public here."

The trial resumed Monday after a week's hiatus. The judge suspended the trial after defense lawyers said some of their witnesses were afraid to testify openly.

(source: United Press International)


Is Jodi Arias the new Debra Milke? Yes. And no.


And no.

Here is where they differ: We know for sure that Arias killed her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Milke is different. Many people believe she had nothing to do with the murder of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, back in the 1980s. I am not one of those people. I'm not convinced that the 2 thugs who actually carried out the murder would have done such a thing on their own.

Still, there were problems with Milke's prosecution, and there appear to be problems with Arias' prosecution.

In Milke's case, the lead detective testified that Milke told him, in a closed-door interview that was not taped or witnessed by anyone, that she had a part in the murder. She denies this.

And Milke's defense team did not know that the detective had a reputation for less-than-professional behavior.

Milke, now 49, spent 23 years on death row based on that tainted conviction. Her conviction was finally tossed on appeal and she can't be retried for the crime.

The courts said, essentially, that playing by the rules matters.

Now, Arias' attorneys are trying to make the case that prosecutors in her trial also did not play by the rules. They've said that the state did not provide them with evidence that would have favored Arias and they are asking the judge hearing the sentencing trial in her case to take the death penalty off the table.

As reported in an Arizona Republicarticle by Megan Cassidy and Michael Kiefer, the defense attorneys wrote in a motion, "The correlation between the misconduct in the Milke case and the misconduct that has infested (Arias') own case should be highly instructive to this court as the patterns of State conduct are eerily similar..."

Up until this point the thing that Arias and Milke shared was the sensational nature of their trials. Each of them became a national and even international obsession, although Milke's trial took place at a time before the Internet or 24-hour cable networks.

The real problem with the Arias prosecution is that it never should have been a death penalty case. It was murder, yes, but not a death penalty case. By now she should have been quietly sitting in a prison cell, serving a life sentence, without a lot of media hoopla.

That would have served justice and saved taxpayers millions of dollars.

And the only person in the world with any reason to complain would have been Nancy Grace.

(source: EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic)


Jodi Arias Sentencing Retrial Resumes After Weeklong Break

Testimony has resumed in the sentencing retrial of convicted murderer Jodi Arias after a weeklong break.

The defense put a domestic violence expert, psychologist Robert Geffner, on the stand Monday in a Phoenix courtroom.

Testimony was put on hold Dec. 8 after Arias' defense told the judge that several witnesses refused to testify in public.

Arias was convicted of killing former boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home in 2008.

She was convicted of 1st-degree murder in May 2013, but jurors deadlocked on her punishment. Prosecutors are asking a new jury to impose the death sentence.

A pending defense motion asks the judge to take the death penalty off the table on grounds that police detectives deleted pornography files from Alexander's computer. The prosecution denies police did that.

(source: Associated Press)


Court makes law instead of interpreting Constitution

The 5 most powerful men in America are sitting on the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy.

They have more power than presidents and Congress because the justices make law. Chief Justice Roberts says: "We're not Republicans or Democrats. We simply call constitutional balls and strikes." Both views are untrue.

The Retrograde Five are highly political and highly partisan despite their judicial robes. Their "fine minds" are pro-corporation and pro-business, anti-people and anti-humane values.

As Roxie Bacon pointed out in the Arizona Attorney magazine review of a book by professor Erwin Chemerinsky:

"With the exception of the Warren Court, the Supreme Court has consistently protected the interests of the wealthy and the powerful even when pitted against such core values as freedom of speech, racial equality, due process and voting rights.

"For most of its history the court failed to perform its one major duty: protecting those who cannot wield sufficient voting power to curtail government abuses against them. Chemerinsky makes his case brilliantly."

The book is "The Case Against the Supreme Court." (Chemerinsky teaches First Amendment law at U.C. Irvine in California.)

Recently the Supreme Court announced it would hear a right-wing challenge to the Affordable Care Act. If the court strikes it down, as is likely, millions of people will lose health coverage under Obamacare.

Thom Hartmann in a Truthout op-ed rightly declares that the Roberts Court is turning "America into a constitutional monarchy." 2 cases are illustrative, Citizens United and Shelby County v. Holder.

In Citizens United the court ruled that corporations are people and can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. The Reactionary Quintet ruled that under the First Amendment corporations have free speech protection.

In Holder, the Roberts Court ignored decades of legal precedent to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act. All this suggests that Roberts should be impeached. As William Greider points out in an article in The Nation:

"The GOP majority in control of the court has been legislating on its own, following an agenda aligned with its conservative party. They empowered 'dark money' in politics. They assigned spiritual values to soulless corporations. They blatantly usurp the decision-making that belongs to Congress and the president."

Yes, he should be impeached but won't be. The soon-to-be controlling GOP Senate precludes it.

Death penalty obsolete

The death penalty is clearly a violation of the Eighth Amendment bar to "cruel and unusual punishment." But the Constitution means nothing in the state of Texas, the murder capital of the world.

Texas planned to execute Scott Panetti on Dec. 3 although he is criminally insane. However, the 5th circuit appeals court in New Orleans issued a stay. Panetti, convicted of murdering his in-laws with a hunting rifle in 1995, has a 30-year record of severe mental illness.

Representing himself, Panetti turned his trial into a tragicomedy. He wore a cowboy suit. He wanted to subpoena Jesus Christ. He was suffering such delusions that he said Satan was directing his trial and execution.

Panetti was discharged from the Navy at 18. 18 months later he was diagnosed with "early schizophrenia." After that he was hospitalized several times for psychotic episodes.

The Supreme Court in 1986 declared that executing the insane serve no purpose and is "savage and inhumane." It certainly is. But the savagery and inhumanity will continue until the distant day when a wiser Supreme Court rules the death penalty unconstitutional.

(source: Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno----Daily Sparks Tribune)


United Nations vote on death penalty moratorium puts US in awkward spot----The General Assembly has passed 4 resolutions on an execution moratorium, with the US increasingly isolated for use

The United Nations General Assembly is expected on Thursday to vote once again on a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, with the United States likely to become even more isolated in its support for capital punishment.

The resolution was first adopted by the General Assembly in 2007; this is the 5th time member states will vote. On Nov. 21, 114 of the 193 U.N. member states voted "yes" on the draft resolution at a session of the Third Committee, which is responsible for social, humanitarian and cultural issues. 36 countries opposed the resolution.

The U.S. has repeatedly lodged "no" votes alongside countries with troubling human rights records - including China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the top 4 executing countries in 2013. The United States ranked 5th.

The draft resolution calls on states to suspend executions, with a view to abolition, and asks that countries restrict their use of capital punishment, share information about the sentencing and executions they carry out and respect international standards to protect people facing execution.

The resolution, which is nonbinding, "is a very powerful symbolic gesture for the United Nations General Assembly," said Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty expert at New York-based NGO Amnesty International.

The United States insists that the decision to use the death penalty must lie with each nation and that the use of the death penalty is not prohibited under international law. The U.S. voted in support of an amendment put forward by Saudi Arabia during the meeting of the Third Committee on Nov. 21 to add a clause to the resolution recognizing the sovereign rights of individual countries; the amendment was rejected, 55 to 85.

The Chinese delegation raised similar concerns, saying, "Every country has the right to abolish or maintain the death penalty according to its domestic situation and the will of its own peoples." The exact number of people executed in China in 2013 is unknown but is estimated to be in the thousands.

The United States is unique among Western countries for its retention of the death penalty. The last execution in Western Europe took place in France in 1977. Abolition of the death penalty is a prerequisite for membership in the European Union, comprising 28 member states. The United Kingdom abolished the death penalty in 1969, Denmark in 1978, and France in 1981.

Yet abolition movements in the United States have been underway for more than a century. Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846 for all crimes except treason, Wisconsin in 1853, and Maine in 1887, followed by 15 more states. Maryland is the most recent addition to the list, abolishing the death penalty in May 2013, although 4 people remain on death row. While 32 states still permit the death penalty, only 7 states are responsible for the 35 executions that have taken place in 2014, including 2 last week; Texas and Missouri accounted for more than 1/2 of all executions. There are 3,035 people on death row in the United States.

Nationwide, the number of executions carried out annually is falling, and support for the death penalty has declined, from a high of 80 % in 1994 to 63 % in Gallup's most recent poll. A 2011 survey found that support for the death penalty is largely rooted in the idea of an eye for an eye, that the punishment should fit the crime. Only 6 % of supporters said that they believe the death penalty had a deterrent effect on crime.

"The constitutionality of the death penalty is sustained by the idea that there's a national consensus in favor of capital punishment as a sentence," says Christina Swarns, litigation director at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "In reality, while there are multiple states with the death penalty, only a handful use it, in terms of capital charging and sentencing, and an even smaller number actually execute."

Recent botched executions and a growing number of DNA exonerations - 321 people have been exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence since 1989, with 20 of them serving time on death row - may have prompted a shift in public opinion. Swarns said she has noticed changing attitudes in the courts. "Poll numbers aside, if you look at jury behavior, they are far more likely to reject the death sentence than in years past, [and] prosecutors are far more reluctant to seek capital prosecutions, partly because of cost but partly because people are far more cautious and concerned about condemning an innocent person."

The U.S. said in explaining the Nov. 21 vote, that while the country withholds support for the resolution, it is committed to the country's international obligations and "strongly urge[s] other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with international law."

But United Nations officials have repeatedly voiced concerns this year about the way the death penalty is applied in the United States.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the April 9 execution of Mexican national Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas "once again places the U.S. in breach of international law, as Mr. Hernandez was not granted consular access pursuant to Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations."

On Jan. 22 this year, Texas executed Mexican national Edgar Tamayo, against a ruling of the International Court of Justice.

"The attitude of the United States is rather retrograde, in a way," said Sangiorgio. "They refuse to acknowledge that the way they have been carrying out the death penalty is against international law and standards."

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not respond to requests for comment.

In May the U.N. called for an immediate moratorium on the United States' use of the death penalty after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma.

And in December the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, urged the U.S. not to go ahead with the execution of Scott Panetti, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, saying "it is a violation of death penalty safeguards to impose capital punishment on individuals suffering from psychosocial disabilities. Implementing the death penalty under these conditions may amount to an arbitrary execution."

A federal appeals court granted Panetti a stay of execution. Robert Holsey and Paul Goodwin, executed last week, did not get reprieves.

Andrew Prince, the lead lawyer for Holsey, admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka every night during the trial. During the trial, Prince was involved in a lawsuit. He was later disbarred for stealing $100,000 of client funds.

Stephen Bright, the president of and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights and a lecturer at Yale Law School, said a case like Holsey's calls into question whether defendants have access to a fair trial "before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal," as the United States says in its explanation of vote.

"It's just wishful thinking. It's not the reality," Bright said. "It's an absolute disgrace to think that somebody represented by that lawyer was sentenced to death. And then instead of correcting that, the state would go ahead and carry out the execution."

(source: Al Jazeera)


Man facing death penalty due in court for 1st time in decade

A man who was sentenced to death for carjacking and killing 2 Massachusetts men is expected to appear in court for the 1st time in more than a decade.

Gary Lee Sampson pleaded guilty to killing 19-year-old Jonathan Rizzo and 69-year-old Philip McCloskey during a crime spree in 2001. A jury recommended the death penalty, but that sentence was later overturned by a judge.

Sampson faces a sentencing re-trial in February. A new jury will be asked to decide if he should receive the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Sampson will be brought to federal court Wednesday so the judge can question him about his decision to waive his right to be in court for pre-trial hearings.

Sampson has been held at a federal prison in Indiana.

(source: Associated Press)


Pakistan Reinstates Death Penalty After Attack ---- The PM describes the school massacre as a "national tragedy unleashed by savages", as he lifts the ban on the death penalty.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reinstated the death penalty in terrorism cases after Taliban gunmen killed 132 children and 9 teachers at a school in Peshawar.

3 days of mourning have begun after the country's deadliest terror attack which saw 7 gunmen storm the army-run school on Tuesday.

Government spokesman Mohiuddin Wan said Mr Sharif had approved the lifting of the ban on death penalties.

He said: "It was decided that this moratorium should be lifted. The prime minister approved. Black warrants [execution orders] will be issued within a day or 2."

The moratorium on civilian executions had been in place since 2008. 1 execution has taken place since then.

Despite the ban, hanging has remained a possible sentence in Pakistan and judges continued to pass death sentences.

Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, around 10% of whom have been convicted of offences labelled "terrorism", according to legal aid group Justice Project Pakistan.

Meanwhile, funerals for many of the victims of the massacre have been taking place.

Mr Sharif described the attack as a "national tragedy unleashed by savages".

"These were my children. This is my loss. This is the nation's loss," he said.

Tehreek-e-Taliban insurgents moved from room to room during the 8-hour attack.

Pupils were gunned down and some of the female teachers were reportedly burned alive.

Teenage survivor Shahrukh Khan, who ducked below his desk with classmates when 4 gunmen burst into the room, described how he played dead after being shot in both legs.

He said he stuffed his tie into his mouth to stifle his screams.

"I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches," the 15-year-old said.

"The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.

"My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me - I felt as though it was death that was approaching me."

People in Peshawar have been posting memorials to friends and loved ones killed in the attack.

One written to Mubeen Shah on Facebook reads: "I don't know how to sleep today, I don't even know how to stop my tears."

Chief military spokesman General Asim Bajwa that 125 people had been wounded in the assault.

The militants said the attack was revenge for a major military offensive in the northwest, along the border with Afghanistan.

But even the Taliban militants in Afghanistan condemned the attack as "un-Islamic".

Meanwhile, a district government official confirmed a US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed 11 militants, including four Pakistan Taliban, on Tuesday.

(source: Sky News)


Pakistan to end death penalty moratorium in terror cases: PM's office

Pakistan is to end its moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases, the prime minister's office announced Dec. 17, a day after Taliban militants killed 141 people in an attack on a school.

The assault on the army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the deadliest terror attack in Pakistan's history, has triggered widespread revulsion.

Political and military leaders have vowed to wipe out the homegrown Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of ordinary Pakistanis in recent years.

"The prime minister has approved abolishment of moratorium on the execution of death penalty in terrorism-related cases," an official from Sharif's office said.

Hanging remains on the Pakistani statute book and judges continue to pass the death sentence, but a de facto moratorium on civilian executions has been in place since 2008.

Only 1 person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


JUI-F criticises death penalty moratorium

JUI-F General Secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri has said that a moratorium on death penalty is encouraging terrorists and has limited counter-terrorism actions in the country.

Speaking at a press conference here on Tuesday, Maulana Haidri, who is Minister of State for Postal Services, condemned the terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar and said the state had no right to suspend the death penalty.

"Only a victim's kin has the right to pardon the killer with or without taking compensation. This is an Islamic way of justice and being an ideological state Pakistan should have Islamic laws," he said.

The JUI-F leader said terrorists did not fear the writ of law only because the punishment for heinous crimes like murder and terrorism was practically negligible.

"What we need is to hang the culprits involved in terrorist activities," he said, adding: "What is the duty of security and intelligence agencies? Reaction to the Zarb-i-Azb military operation was expected. We are in a state of war and the preparation should also be up to that level."

He also lashed out at the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and said: "What else can we expect from (Chief Minister) Pervez Khattak and his cabinet members who are always found in Islamabad. The KP government is busy in sit-ins."

(source: Dawn)


Black warrants of convicted terrorists to be issued within 48 hours

Black warrants for terrorists awaiting implementation to their death sentence are expected to be issued within the next 48 hours.

The prime minister has approved abolishment of moratorium on the execution of death penalty in terrorism-related cases.

Thousands of terrorists have been detained at various jails across country. Death penalty would be executed after the black warrants would be issued.

It has been years since capital punishment was implemented in Pakistan.

As many as 141 people including 132 school children and 9 staff-members of the school were martyred in a terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar on Tuesday.

The nation will observe 3-day mourning and Pakistani flag on all official buildings will be lowered.


Death penalty issued to 458 prisoners in Sindh jails

Supreme Court of Pakistan, Sindh High Court and President Mamnoon Hussain have the appeals for death penalty of more than 458 prisoners currently housed in the jails of Sindh.

458 prisoners have been issued death sentence. 378 appeals are filed in the Supreme Court. 26 appeals are still pending with President Mamnoon Hussain. 47 appeals filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan are unsettled whereas 6 prisoners have been issued black warrants.

However, the criminal proceedings couldn't take place for last several years because of the ban on sentence to death.

Following the orders of PM to lift temporary ban on death penalties action would be taken against convicted terrorists.

(source for both: Dunya News)


150 women executed after refusing to marry ISIL militants

At least 150 women who refused to marry militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, were executed in the western Iraqi province of Al-Anbar, Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights said.

According to a ministry statement released Tuesday, ISIL militants carried out a number of attacks in Fallujah and buried the victims in mass graves in one of the city's neighborhoods.

"At least 150 females, including pregnant women, were executed in Fallujah by a militant named Abu Anas Al-Libi after they refused to accept jihad marriage," the statement said. "Many families were also forced to migrate from the province's northern town of Al-Wafa after hundreds of residents received death threats."

The ministry said many children died when their families were stranded in the desert after leaving their homes.

ISIL controls many areas in Al-Anbar and is attempting to take over Ramadi, the province's capital city.

The U.S. is leading an international coalition that has carried out a number of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since the militant group captured the northern province of Mosul back in June.

(source: Anadolu News Agency)


Nobel Peace Laureates stand for the UN Moratorium

On December 14 it was held in Rome a meeting with Nobel Peace Laureates, promoted by Hands Off Cain and the Radical Party, in support of the 5th UN Resolution for the universal moratorium on executions, on which the General Assembly is called to vote on the 18th of December.

The event, sponsored by the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, was attended by Emma Bonino, Marco Pannella and Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

Iranian Shirin Ebadi offered a merciless description of the Mullah regime: "It is impossible to reconcile with such regime, until remains the absolute power of the Supreme Leader, who lays down the law on political, institutional and social matters [...] his power is beyond the President in turn, whether him a reformer or a conservative."

"Under the presidency of the 'moderate' Hassan Rohani, executions have soared and have been at least 870 this year" Ebadi said, who has denounced that "among those executed are also women, children under 18 years, and political opponents." "Justice cannot degrade justice in revenge" Mairead Corrigan Maguire said, who added that "compassion and tolerance should be translated into political action and legal norms [...] The death penalty is not only in Iran, it is also in the United States, where they practice it not only in the 'legal' form, but also with other lethal means, such as drones."

In conclusion, the Northern Irish Nobel appealed to "non-violence as a form of struggle for radical changes. We must not be afraid or suffer those regimes that deny our values: respect for life and human dignity, the right to truth and knowledge."



Pope Francis visit makes revival of death penalty unlikely - Santiago

With the imminent visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, the proposal to revive the death penalty, at least for big-time drug traffickers, is unlikely to get off the ground, according to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Santiago said European countries are expected to also oppose the move.

The proposal for the return of capital punishment came from Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who said the longest jail sentence under the country's laws do not serve as a deterrent to most criminals, and this was underscored by the recent discovery of the luxurious lifestyles of moneyed convicts behind bars.

But Santiago said this proposal was sure to meet with resistance, especially since the head of the Catholic Church is coming to visit next month.

"It will not sit well with the coming visit of the Pope of the Catholic Church, which has always been anti-capital punishment," she told reporters.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, along with human rights groups, had opposed Sotto's proposal to revive the death penalty, even if it would be limited to high-level drug traffickers.

"The CBCP and the church for that matter is very consistent that we're not going to choose the kind of people we're going to kill," Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP's permanent committee on public affairs, said in a Senate hearing the other day.

Santiago said European countries have been against the death penalty, and had strongly supported earlier moves to repeal the law.

"They tried to persuade us as much as they could," she said.

(source: Philippine Inquirer)


Church opposes proposal to impose death penalty on drug lords

The Church won't budge.

"Amid mounting calls to reimpose the death penalty against drug lords, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is standing firm on its position to uphold the sanctity of life," reports ANC.

Fr. Francis Lucas, executive director of the CBCP Catholic Media Network, summed up the Church's stance on the matter. He said in Filipino, "Life is just borrowed. Nobody has the right to take it away, not even the State."

The CBCP doesn't believe that the death penalty deters people from committing crimes.

Lucas added, "There must be the hope of returning to the fold. If a person is killed, there is no chance for reform. It's the wrong solution to the wrong problem. When you sin, there is a social impact. If you kill someone, you cannot say that you only affect yourself. You also affect those around you, those who love you."

Meanwhile, the report noted that "Senator Vicente Sotto on Tuesday, December 16, revived his calls for the reimposition of the death penalty after seeing the luxurious lifestyle of drug lords jailed at the national penitentiary."

Sotto said in Filipino: "How can you rehabilitate them? They're already in prison and yet they continue to operate."

(source: Coconuts Manila)


Bacolod celebrates Cities for Life

Bacolod City, being included as one of the Cities for Life all over the world, celebrated the 13th International Day of Cities.

Cities for Life is a worldwide coalition of cities against death penalty, which to date, already have 1,850 cities listed since it started in 2002 with 80 city-participants.

Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella with other city officials led the unveiling of the marker and candle lighting ceremony December 16 at the Bacolod People's House lobby to mark the 2nd year inclusion of Bacolod in the Cities for Life - Cities Against Death Penalty, a release from the City Information Office said.

Different government agencies, civic organizations, life advocates, religious sectors and students from private and public schools in the city attended the celebration.

Parole and Probation Administration Regional Director Charito Zamora read the short background of Cities for Life while Councilor El Cid Familiaran read the resolution authored by Councilor Sonya Verdeflor.

Puentevella and other city officials with civic group leaders signed a pledge of commitment against the imposition of death penalty.

Cities for Life are group of cities and municipalities in the country who have signified against the imposition of death penalty led by Community of Santí Egidio, an international organization based in Rome, Italy.



UN: Freeze Funding of Iran Counter-Narcotics Efforts ---- Surge in Executions for Drug Trafficking

The United Nations agency charged with combating illicit drug trafficking should withdraw its support for counter-narcotics police operations in Iran until the death penalty for drug offenses is abolished, 6 rights groups said in a letter published today. The groups made the plea after Iran's judiciary hanged 18 alleged drug traffickers within 24 hours on December 3, 2014, bringing the number of drug offenders executed in the country during 2014 to at least 318.

Reprieve, Human Rights Watch, Iran Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Harm Reduction International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should follow its own human rights guidance and impose "a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support" if "following requests for guarantees and high-level political intervention, executions for drug related offenses continue." The 6 organizations warned the UNODC of "the widening gulf between Iran's rhetoric and the realities of its justice system," and described the agency's decision to continue funding supply-side counter-narcotics efforts in the country as "ineffective if not counterproductive."

"As Iran executes alleged drug offenders in ever-greater numbers, it beggars belief that the UN sees fit to continue funding Iranian anti-drug operations," said Reprieve director Maya Foa. "How many more hangings will it take for the UN to open its eyes to the lethal consequences of its current approach, and make its counter-narcotics support conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offenses?"

The UN agency's records show it has given more than $15 million to "supply control" operations by Iran's Anti-Narcotics Police, funding specialist training, intelligence, trucks, body scanners, night vision goggles, drug detection dogs, bases, and border patrol offices, the groups said. UNODC projects in Iran have come with performance indicators including "an increase in drug seizures and an improved capability of intercepting smugglers," and an "increase of drug-related sentences."

The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark have all chosen to withdraw their support from Iranian counter-narcotics operations administered by the UNODC because of concerns that this funding was enabling the execution of alleged drug traffickers. When announcing its decision to do so, Denmark publically acknowledged that the donations are leading to executions.

The groups had previously written a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in May 2014 on the issue of UNODC counter-narcotics funding in Iran and Vietnam. In their letter, the groups expressed concern that UNODC continuing support of Iran's counter-narcotics operations was "lending legitimacy" to executions of drug offenders. In an August 2014 response, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov responded that his agency sought progress through "engagement and dialogue," and that he was "gratified" by "potentially favourable developments regarding the application of the death penalty in relation to drug offenders in Iran."

Iran's anti-narcotics law imposes a mandatory death sentence for manufacturing, trafficking, possession, or trade of five or more kilograms of opium and other specified drugs, and 30 or more grams of heroin, morphine, or specified synthetic and non-medical psychotropic drugs, such as methamphetamines. International law requires countries like Iran that retain the death penalty to impose it for only the "most serious crimes," which does not include drug crimes.

Although international law says that all death sentences should be subject to appeal, Iran has apparently limited appeals in drug-related cases. Figures suggest Iran is executing those charged with drug offenses in increasing numbers, despite recent calls for reform by the chair of the country's Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who said there were legislative efforts under way to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

The rights groups are not aware of any pending legislation in parliament that would end, or even reduce, the number of executions related to drug offenses. On December 16, the Iranian Students' News Agency reported that a high ranking official with the country's counter-narcotics agency opposed the elimination of the death penalty for drug traffickers, noting that any changes in the law would have to be made by the Expediency Council, an advisory body to the supreme leader, and not Iran's parliament.

Harm Reduction International and Human Rights Watch previously urged UNODC to freeze funding of drug enforcement programs to Iran, and said Iranian authorities should move quickly to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses. The 2 groups first met UNODC officials in Vienna in 2007 to discuss concerns regarding the execution of drug offenders in Iran.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Iran's Execution Surge; silence should not be an option

Note: This column is an English translation of an article published in Le Temps on December 16, 2014.

On 18 November, the United Nations General Assembly passed its annual resolution raising concern for human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the country's surge in executions. Today Iran is the world's leading executioner per capita. Its death penalty practice particularly callous and lawless often marked by execution of juvenile offenders, public hangings, and gross due process violations.

Not surprisingly, the UN resolution received strong support in amongst Francophone nations, where 62 about of 77 states have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice. The Central African Republic, Haiti, Cameroon, France and others voted in favor the resolution.

Yet, several countries failed to join the international consensus, including the Senegal, Rawanda, Lao, Tunisia and Gabon, who actually abstained from voting. This silence is disappointing. And, sadly, Comoros voted against the resolution despite voting for it last year.

Behind closed doors some diplomats explain that the election of Hassan Rouhani to President of the Islamic Republic and improved political relations with Iran makes them less inclined to vote on such resolutions. Yet all reports indicate that the human rights situation, especially with regards to the use of the death penalty, has deteriorated.

Last month's execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari should have alerted everyone to this deterioration. Despite repeated and clear international calls for a stay of execution, authorities executed Jabbari, a young woman who was convicted of murdering a man attempting to sexually assault her. The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights quickly condemned this execution, raising due process deficiencies. Her conviction was allegedly based on confessions made under duress. The court also apparently failed to consider any evidence of the attempted sexual assault.

Unfortunately, Jabbari's case is not unique. Since June 2013, when Mr. Rouhani assumed office, on average 2 people have been executed every day in Iran. That is more than 870 executions in Mr. Rouhani's 1st year in office, the highest annual figure in 20 years in Iran. Moreover, these death sentences commonly steam from on tortured confessions and trials conducted without the presences of a lawyer for the accused.

Though Iran has pledged to respect at least the minimum standards regarding the death penalty, the majority of executions are for offenses that fall outside the category of "most serious" crimes, needed to justify the sentence. According to the UN about 63% of the executions in Iran documented since 2011, were for drug-related crimes, which do not meet this international criterion. Over the last year, in a few cases it even appears individuals have even been executed for peaceful political activism.

Iran has also not yet eliminated the death penalty for juvenile offenders, and has so far executed at least 13 juveniles in 2014. In April, Iran executed 4 juvenile offenders in four days, one of which was Ebrahim Hajati, hanged for a murder he committed when he was 16 years old.

It is a paradox that relations between Iran and the international community are improving while the rate of executions in Iran is spiraling out of control. If this is the case, should Iranian authorities not be expected to be more accountable towards international concerns, not less? Instead, when the UN Secretary-General recently expressed dismay at the country's execution policies the head of Iran's Judiciary Sadegh Larijani, responded, "Who is Mr. Secretary-General to tell us we should stop executions?"

Today, it is more important than ever to focus on human rights and put the death penalty at top of the agenda in any dialogue with Iran. The UN must be the driving voice for reforms that lead to a decrease and finally an abolition of the death penalty.

International human rights demands enjoy strong support among the Iranian people. Mr. Rouhani was elected on a platform of human rights pledges. Public sentiment in Iran is increasingly turning against the use of the death penalty, especially executions in public, drug-related sentences, and juvenile executions. This shift isn't limited to the human rights defenders and the civil society either. Several religious clerics have raised voice against certain aspects of the death penalty. It is time, which have ceased executing their own citizens should ask, 'do Iranians deserve less rights?'

In late December the UNGA will reconvene for another vote that formally adopts the resolution on human rights in Iran. Francophone nations will have another chance to remind ordinary Iranians and their government that the right to life is an international concern by voting "yes."

(source: Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Executive Director of Iran Human Right (IHR) and member of the Steering Committee of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty

Raphael Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director of Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM) and Vice-President of the World Coalition of the Death Penalty

Iran Human Right (IHR) and Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM) are members of the international network Impact Iran ( Human Rights)


Iran Criticized for Executing Drug Offenders

6 international human rights groups have petitioned the United Nations to freeze its counternarcotics aid to Iran until that country abolishes the death penalty for drug offenses.

In a jointly signed Dec. 12 letter released Wednesday by the groups, they argue that the freeze is justified because of "the widening gulf between Iran's rhetoric and the realities of the justice system."

Iran executes more prisoners than any other country except China, with 500 to 625 executed last year, according to United Nations estimates. At least 1/2 of the condemned were convicted of drug trafficking.

Yury Fedotov, chief executive of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, a Vienna-based agency that has provided millions of dollars to Iran's counternarcotics efforts, has been in discussions with Iranian officials about the executions, which are at odds with the agency's human rights guidelines.

Under international law, Iran and other countries with the death penalty are required to impose it only for the "most serious crimes," which do not include drug offenses.

Even though some senior Iranian officials have spoken out against capital punishment for drug crimes, there have been signs that the pace of executions has accelerated this year.

Iran, a conduit for opium trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan, has one of the world's harshest drug laws. It imposes mandatory death sentences for making, trafficking and possessing specified quantities of opium, opiates and other drugs, like methamphetamines.

On Dec. 4, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council, said in an interview with the France 24 news channel that "nobody is happy" about the number of executions and that he would like to see Iran's drug punishment softened. "We are crusading to change this law," he said.

Rights groups say in their letter, which is addressed to Mr. Fedotov, that a few days before Mr. Larijani's interview, 18 convicted offenders had been hanged in Iran, and that this year at least 318 had been put to death, a pace that would surpass the 331 drug convicts executed in 2013.

"This increase in the execution rate belies Mr. Larijani's reassuring rhetoric and U.N.O.D.C.'s lauding of 'potentially favorable developments' on this issue," reads the letter by the groups.

The letter was signed by Human Rights Watch, Reprieve, Iran Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Harm Reduction International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, named after an Iranian lawyer who was assassinated in Paris in 1991.

There was no immediate comment from Mr. Fedotov's office about the letter. Phone and email messages left with the agency's spokeswoman, Preeta Bannerjee, were not immediately returned.

Iran has given mixed messages on capital punishment. When the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, criticized Iran in March for what he called its failure to improve human rights - including the use of capital punishment - Mr. Larijani's brother, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the chief of the Iranian judiciary, chastised him for the remarks.

(source: New York Times)

INDONESIA----impending executions

AGO Says Executions Are Set for This Week----Capital Controversy: The attorney general and president's tough stance on the death penalty has been heavily criticized

The execution of 5 death-row inmates is likely to be conducted this week, an official revealed on Monday, as activists and academics continue to condemn the plan.

The Attorney General's Office, which is tasked with carrying out the execution, has yet to reveal the identity of the inmates, saying only that they are now incarcerated in different prisons across Indonesia.

But AGO spokesman Tony Spontana said "it is almost certain" that there will only be 1 venue for the execution of the 5, Nusa Kambangan, an island prison located less than a kilometer off the port town of Cilacap on the southern coast of Java.

The execution will be carried out by a 10-member firing squad from the Central Java Policeís Mobile Brigade Unit (Brimob) and the inmates could be executed within this week, Tony said.

On Monday, "the Attorney General [HM Prasetyo] is scheduled to receive reports from provincial prosecutors' office chiefs ... whose offices host inmates on death row," the spokesman said.

"The reports will include one from the Central Java Prosecutors' Office chief. This prosecutors' office actually don't have any inmates scheduled for execution [this week] but [will submit a report] because the executions will be conducted in Cilacap," Tony added.

He said the attorney general is planning to conduct a visit to Nusa Kambangan to inspect preparations for the execution over the next few days.

It is unclear when the 5 inmates are scheduled to arrive at the maximum security island prison.

The law says inmates must be informed of their execution 72 hours before it is carried out.

Plans for the execution was revealed earlier this month after President Joko Widodo denied their petitions for clemency.

Joko, according to the AGO, has pledged to refuse clemencies to drug offenders on death row, saying that the government will act tough on drug-related offenses.

According to the AGO, there are 136 inmates currently on death row, with 64 of them sentenced for drug trafficking, 2 for terrorism and the rest for murder and robberies with aggravated assault.

Starting next year, the AGO said it will execute at least 10 death-row prisoners in a bid to reduce the backlog.

Capital punishment is a sentencing option for Indonesian judges on several convictions, including drug trafficking, murder, sedition and terrorism.

Indonesia resumed executing prisoners last year, under the administration of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Joko's decision to continue the legacy has sparked wide condemnations from local and international nongovernmental organizations, which have long pushed the country to end capital punishment.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said on Sunday that it will report the Indonesian government to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights over the plan.

He added that the executions violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2005.

The agreement limits the sentence of death for "only for the most serious crimes, in accordance with the law in effect at the time of the commission of the crime."

Senior lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis noted that by resuming the execution of prisoners, Indonesia will undermine its own attempts to save the hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers on death row abroad, saying that it was likely to "create a contradiction."

3 of the 5 inmates that will be executed this month were involved in drug cases, while the remaining 2 will be killed because they committed 1st-degree murder.

All 5 are male.

"We agree that [illicit] drugs must be eradicated and that traffickers are severely punished. But it doesn't have to be with the death penalty. Life in prison or life without parole are also severe punishments," Todung said on Monday.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


Saint Lucia Rejects UK Request to Scrap Death Penalty

The Island's Prime Minister has dismissed the request as 'improper,' with the National Security Minister saying the government is not ready to consider abolishing capital punishment

Government officials in Saint Lucia have rejected a request by the United Kingdom to waive its death penalty, in exchange for assistance in solving crime.

Saint Lucia is part of the Commonwealth of Nations which encompasses some 53 countries, most of which were former British colonies.

Saint Lucia's Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has described the UK Foreign Office request "improper," while the Island's Foreign Affairs Minister Victor La Corbiniere says that as a sovereign state, Saint Lucia will decide its position on capital punishment for itself. La Corbiniere added that he will not be swayed by the UK or the European Union on this matter.

The death penalty is rarely used in Saint Lucia, with the last hanging on the island taking place in 1995.

"We will determine whether or not we abolish the death penalty and my government is on record as indicating that we are not at this moment going to consider the abolition of the death penalty. So that is definitely out," he said.

The island's leading human rights advocate, Attorney-at-Law Mary Francis says the time has come to reconsider the national position on the death penalty as a human rights issue.

"In Saint Lucia we have a constitution that guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms, but that's only on paper to the extent that we have a court system which is not functional, we don't have properly funded government legal aid," he said.

When it comes to the death penalty, Saint Lucians are divided. Many young women, like Sharon Joseph say the death penalty should remain on the books.

"The reason is that if you do your crime why now ask for mercy?" she asks.

Some older Saint Lucians believe each case should be weighed separately to determine the extent of punishment.

The British High Commission in Saint Lucia has said the death penalty has no place in the modern world.

Government officials say they are aware that the issue of capital punishment is a contentious one and they are in no rush to make a decision on the removal of the death penalty from the island's constitution.



Nirbhaya case: Convicts hopeful of lesser punishment

More than a year after they were sentenced to death in the Nirbhaya case, Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay are hopeful that their sentence will be reduced to life term. Only Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus in which Nirbhaya was gang-raped and brutalized on the night of December 16, 2012, repents that he should not have agreed to the plan. "He keeps telling us about his role now and then," said a Tihar Jail official.

Mukesh not only shares a cell with Akshay Thakur in jail 5 but has also helped him prepare for his Class X examination. Akshay reads newspapers and motivational books to pass time while Mukesh prefers to watch television.

The 2 others, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma, have been lodged in jail 7, originally meant for adolescent convicts. According to a Tihar official, Pawan and Vinay, love playing volleyball and ludo. "Both are good volleyball players and enjoy the game," said the official.

All of them, put under suicide watch since their sentencing, are kept in high-security cells of jails 5 and 7 and are not allowed to engage in any regular jail work other than cleaning their wards for security reasons. Initially, there were safety issues as other inmates were angry about these convicts' conduct.

The convicts have been assured by their lawyers that their death penalty would be reduced to life imprisonment, said sources. They have been told that the death sentence was the result of the public outcry, the sources added.

All of them plan to avail of parole if their punishment is reduced to life imprisonment and lead a normal life, said another source. While Pawan, Vinay and Akshay wish to study further, Mukesh just wants to get out of jail, said an official.

(source: The Times of India)

DECEMBER 16, 2014:


Sumter County jury recommends death penalty for New Orleans man in murder-for-hire

A Sumter County jury voted last week to recommend the death penalty to a New Orleans man hired to kill 31-year-old Sumter County resident Detrick Bell in 2012.

Earlier this month, the jury convicted Sherman Collins of capital murder for pecuniary gain and criminal conspiracy to commit murder. Last week, the jury voted 10-2 to recommend that Collins be put to death. In January, Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway is scheduled to consider the jury's vote and impose sentencing.

"There was just no mitigation in this case," 17th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Griggers told "He was a contract killer."

John Stamps, a defense attorney in the case, said he and lead attorney Kyra Sparks didn't think it would be appropriate to comment on the case until after Collins was sentenced, but he said the defense "most definitely" plans to appeal the verdict.

Bell was shot and killed during a rap concert at the Morning Star Community Center, near Cuba, Ala., at about 1:30 a.m. on June 17, 2012, according to the Sumter County Record-Journal.

"In a nutshell, the evidence that we presented shows that Sherman was paid - offered payment - by another individual to kill Detrick Bell, the victim in the case, and that's what he did," Griggers said. "When he got to the Morning Star Community Center, he was armed with a pistol, and he walked up and shot him in front of a handful of witnesses pretty much at point black range."

Collins, who was 36 at the time of the murder, used an "extremely large caliber handgun," Griggers said. The .454 handgun "caused such extensive damage to the victim's head that the pathologist initially thought that it must have been a shotgun slug," Griggers said.

Sumter County resident Kelvin Wrenn is suspected of hiring Collins for the murder, and could face trial in the spring, Griggers said. The state is not seeking the death penalty for Wrenn.

"According to the shooter, Sherman Collins, he said it had something to do with a beef that the guy that paid him had with Mr. Bell, something that had happened four or five year prior to," Griggers said.

"He had access to this victim - the guy that paid him - for those 4 or 5 years, so I don't know why they would have picked this night to get even, but that's what [Collins told investigators], anyway."

The prosecution's case lasted about 3 days. The defense did not put on a case. Asked if that was unusual in a capital case, Griggers said no.

"Both sides were pretty much stuck with the witnesses who were there, and I felt like we did a good job of bringing to court anybody who had firsthand knowledge of what happened out there that night, or who had firsthand knowledge of the conspiracy I think that existed to kill our victim," Griggers said. "I don't think there would have been anybody they could have brought as a defense witness that could have added anything."

The jury deliberated for less than an hour before convicting Collins, according to Griggers.




Jurors decide against death penalty for Billy Frank Davis Jr.; will be imprisoned without parole----Victim's aunt 'very happy' Davis never to walk as a free man

Survivors of 8-year-old Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin were OK Tuesday with the fact Billy Frank Davis Jr. will spend the rest of his life in prison rather than face execution for the killing of Irvin.

Sherry Mason, an aunt of Irvin, said she was very happy Davis won't ever again walk as a free man.

"That's our justice," Mason said, referring to the child's family who attended the trial every day for more than two weeks. "I'm OK with that."

About 11:25 a.m. Tuesday, Shawnee County District Court bailiff Dianne Plemons read the verdict form saying jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict to send Davis to death.

That means Davis, who was convicted in the rape and murder of Irvin will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Davis also will face weighty sentences for other convictions, including rape of the child and aggravated kidnapping.

Davis will be sentenced on Feb. 13.

District Attorney Chad Taylor said he was "a little bit disappointed" with the jury's decision.

"What's important is the bravery exhibited by Ahliyah Irvin's family," Taylor said. They will have "to some degree, closure. I can't imagine what they have gone through as a family."

On Tuesday, Kim Shannon, Davis' mother, and defense attorney Mark Manna declined to comment on the sentencing verdict.

On Monday, Manna told jurors before they started deliberations on the death penalty that imprisoning Davis for the rest of his life, which ensures he will die there, protected everyone.

"Life is a better choice" than the death penalty, Manna said Monday.

Jurors could either have recommended the death penalty for Davis or a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

In sparing Davis, jurors could exercise mercy either for Davis or his mother, Manna added Monday.

Chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling's rebuttal during the penalty phase of the death penalty case was brief.

"In less than 10 minutes, the defendant stripped Ahliyah (Nachelle Irvin) of her life," Spradling said. Spradling then posted 30 photographs on a TV monitor depicting the battered child, her injuries and her blood smeared in the basement crime scene.

"Look at that, and you'll know what to do," Spradling said.

The jury of 6 men and 6 women deliberated 3 hours and 10 minutes Monday afternoon and 2 hours and 20 minutes on Tuesday. That totals 5 hours and 30 minutes on the sentencing verdict.

On Thursday, the jury convicted Davis, 31, of 2 counts of capital murder, 1 count of premeditated 1st-degree murder, rape, aggravated kidnapping, burglary, 2 counts of aggravated burglary and 2 counts of misdemeanor criminal damage to property.

Manna said other mitigating circumstances to consider were that Davis' capacity to think was impaired by alcohol and cocaine; he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance; and whether a juror had "residual doubt," which could include nagging questions or whether Davis intended to kill the child.

Spradling said aggravating circumstances in the case are that Davis killed the victim to block his arrest or prosecution; that he killed her to keep her from testifying against him in a criminal prosecution; and that Davis committed the killing in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner.

Spradling showed graphic crime scene photographs illustrating the victimís blood smeared throughout the basement where she was killed.

"Her 72 pounds fought for her life," Spradling said.

1 smear showed the victim had been pushed against a wall and another showed claw marks through another smear of blood.

An aunt of the victim buried her head in her hands, plugging her ears with her fingers.

"Did the defendant kill the victim in a heinous, atrocious and cruel manner?" Spradling said. "Of course."

Earlier Monday, a clinical psychologist who examined Davis testified the defendant had been sober for about 90 days before he stopped using his prescription medication and began drinking alcohol and using cocaine.

June Cooley, a psychologist from Atlanta, reviewed voluminous records, conducted tests and interviewed Davis.

Davis has bipolar disorder with psychotic features, post traumatic stress disorder and alcohol, cocaine and marijuana use disorders, Cooley said.

When he began drinking and using cocaine, just before the victim was killed, his symptoms became worse.

During interviews with Cooley, Davis denied killing the girl, said he knew who did it, but wasnít going to disclose it to the psychologist, she said.

"You know, based on your records, the defendant is dangerous, donít you?" Spradling said to Cooley.

"Yes," Cooley answered.

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)


2 Charged In Shooting Deaths Of 3 In Adams County

2 men arrested in the shooting deaths of three men in Colorado last week have been charged and could face the death penalty.

Gabriel Flores, 41, the alleged gunman, was charged Tuesday with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. He was also charged with 1 count of attempted murder involving a fourth man in the Adams County home.

Furmen Lee Leyba, 30, was charged with felony murder for allegedly joining Flores and helping rob 2 of the victims and another person of money, firearms, drugs and credit cards. They were identified for the 1st time as 17-year-old Jayson Antonio Figueroa, 18-year-old Johnny Angel Gutierrez and 37-year-old Jason Albert Quizada.

Wearing a t-shirt made in Gutierrez's memory, Segura shook with grief and emotion as the judge read the charges against his son's accused killers.

Gutierrez's father, Leo Segura, said he wants people to know his son wasn't a gang member, describing him as "my No. 1 champion."

"I just hope that they pay for what they did. They took a life from a lot of people, he was really loved," Segura told CBS4. "He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and what happened to him, he didn't deserve that. He was a good kid. He was an athlete. He was my No. 1 champion and he always will be."

The arrests and charges come after a spree that left neighbors afraid for days. Police captured Flores on Wednesday after a high-speed chase in Jefferson County. 2 days later they took Leyba into custody in northwest Denver. A deputy was shot trying to capture him.

Preliminary hearings for both men are set for Feb. 17.

(source: CBS news)


Alleged juvenile offender among 10 hunger strikers threatened with immediate execution

The Iranian authorities' threat to expedite the execution of 10 men on death row in retaliation for going on hunger strike is deplorable, said Amnesty International as it called for the death sentences to be commuted immediately.

One of the 10, Saman Naseem, was sentenced to death in 2013 for engaging in armed activities against the state after he allegedly participated in a gun battle while he was a child during which a member of the Iran's Revolutionary Guards was killed. The 10 men are among 24 prisoners from Iran's Kurdish minority who have been on hunger strike since 20 November 2014 in protest at the conditions of Ward 12 of Oroumieh Central Prison, West Azerbaijan Province, where political prisoners are held.

"It is truly deplorable that the Iranian authorities are playing games with the lives of these men in such a manner. Resorting to death threats and other punitive measures to quell prisoners' hunger strikes only serves to underscore how rotten Iran's criminal justice system is," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Saman Naseem was a child at the time of his alleged offence. He says he has been tortured in detention and forced to "confess". Now, the authorities are effectively blackmailing him with the prospect of death. Executing him would be a flagrant violation of international law. His sentence must be commuted immediately."

Amnesty International is calling for Saman Naseem's case to be re-examined fairly without recourse to the death penalty or relying on torture-tainted evidence, and taking into account provisions of Iran's revised Penal Code that exclude the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders in certain situations.

Saman Naseem was arrested on 17 July 2011 when he was just 17 years old. He was held for 2 months at a Ministry of Intelligence detention centre in Oroumieh, West Azarbaijan Province. While there, he said he was tortured by interrogators who pulled out his fingernails and toenails, and beat him leaving bruises on his back, legs and abdomen. He also said he was forced to sign a written "confession" while blindfolded.

On 14 December, Saman Naseem was transferred to a prison clinic suffering from low blood pressure and physical weakness, but he refused to break his hunger strike. He was returned to Ward 12 the same day.

Prisoners in Ward 12 at Oroumieh Central Prison went on hunger strike to protest against a decision to transfer 40 prisoners convicted of serious crimes, such as murder and armed robbery, to their ward leading to a deterioration in their security.

In addition to execution threats, the prison authorities have also reportedly subjected those on hunger strike to beatings and other punitive practices and threatened them with transfer to remote prisons in the south of the country, so as to force them to end their hunger strike.

The prisoners, who are all members of Iran's Kurdish minority, say that they will continue their hunger strike until the authorities put an end to the abuse of prisoners. The hunger strikers who are not on death row are serving prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 34 years.

"The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment under any circumstances. Instead of dealing out threats of execution against these prisoners the authorities must commute their death sentences and ensure they are treated humanely," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.


Saman Naseem was sentenced to death on charges of "enmity against God" (moharebeh) and "corruption on earth" (ifsad fil-arz) for allegedly carrying out armed activities against Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

He was first sentenced to death in January 2012 by the Revolutionary Court of Mahabad but the sentence was overturned by Branch 32 of the Supreme Court in August that year for lack of jurisdiction by the Revolutionary Court and because Saman Naseem was under 18 at the time of the alleged offence. His case was reverted to Branch 2 of the Criminal Court of West Azerbaijan Province for re-trial.

In April 2013 he was sentenced to death again by Branch 2 of the Criminal Court of West Azerbaijan Province. The judgement made no mention of the issue that Saman Naseem was under 18 at the time of the alleged the crime. Branch 32 of the Supreme Court subsequently upheld his death sentence in December 2013. He could be executed at any time as his death sentence has been sent to the Office of the Implementation of Sentences.

Under Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, passed into law in May 2013, the execution of offenders under the age of 18 is allowed under qesas (retribution-in-kind) and hodoud crimes under Islamic law, unless the juvenile offender is found to have not understood the nature of the crime or its consequences, or if there are doubts about their mental capacity.

In 2014, Amnesty International received reports of the execution of at least 14 individuals for crimes allegedly committed while they were under 18 years of age. The use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders is strictly prohibited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of a Child, which Iran is a party to.

The names of the other nine prisoners on death row are, in alphabetical order: Ali Afshari, Habib Afshari, Behrouz Alkhani, Mohammad Abdollahi, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, Sirvan Nejavi, Ebrahim Rezapour, Ali Ahmad Soleiman.

(source: Amnesty International)


Defense rests in ex-official's capital murder trial

Defense attorneys have rested their case in the punishment phase of the trial of a former North Texas public official convicted of capital murder in a revenge plot against prosecutors.

Attorneys for Eric Williams wrapped up their effort to save the former Kaufman County justice of the peace from death row at the end of Monday's proceedings.

Prosecutors may call rebuttal witnesses Tuesday morning in state district court in Rockwall, followed by closing arguments to the Rockwall County jury.

Prosecutors want the death penalty for Williams for the fatal shooting of Cynthia McLelland. The bodies of her and her husband, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, were found last year at their home near Dallas. Williams also is accused of killing Mike McLelland and an assistant prosecutor 2 months earlier.

(source: Associated Press)


Is death penalty necessary?

Eric Williams' defense attorney made a highly sensible yet slightly flawed plea in defense of Williams. He urged the jury to remember the biblical teachings of Jesus to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek." He urged them to not commit Williams to death even though he had caused such mayhem.

It is my firm belief that everyone deserves a 2nd chance, but one must also consider the other teachings of the Bible such as "thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13) and "whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). Williams has done irreversible wrong, but should he be punished with the death penalty? I, however, still must agree with his attorney, Maxwell Peck. For what gain is there from more bloodshed? 3 people have already been killed. Would killing a 4th solve the problem?

Nathan Young, Watauga

(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)


Family of woman abducted, slain frustrated by murder trial delays

Chanda Roscoe walked out of the courtroom in Camden Monday, no longer able to hold back tears. 3 years after the horrific murder of her sister, Hope Roscoe, she's had to once again sit in court across from the man accused of killing her.

"He's a monster. No remorse. Cold-hearted," Roscoe said.

Nickolas Miller, 23, faces the death penalty in the rape and beating death of Melton. On Monday in Camden, the judge set a trial date of Feb. 9, 2016.

Melton's family was clearly upset following the hearing, wanting to know why justice is so long delayed.

"We keep showing up for all these little hearings, and it's just rescheduling, rescheduling, move the date, no closure," Roscoe said.

Roscoe wore a large button pinned to her sweater in memory of Hope.

"She smiled all the time. I don't think there was anybody who didn't like my sister," she said.

That smile was last seen on the 30-year-old's face on surveillance video the day after Christmas 2011.

She had stopped at a Jefferson convenience store, where Miller also stopped.

The surveillance video shows him partly opening the door for her as she walks into the store.

Deputies said he tried to speak with her at the gas pumps, then followed her in his car as she left for her grandmother's house. Melton called her grandmother and told her someone was following her. She thought it was the man from the gas station and said he seemed drunk. That was the last anyone heard from her.

Deputies believe Miller cut Melton off with his car, ran her off the road, then abducted and raped her. They said he drove her to a wooded area in Kershaw County, then beat her to death with a baseball bat.

Deputies said that hours later, he led them to her body. Her car was discovered in a ditch, still running.

It's possible Melton wasn't the first target for Miller, deputies said. They believe he may have targeted another woman earlier in the day but changed his mind because she headed north, into a busier area. So he went back to the small convenience store in Jefferson, they said.

In 2012, prosecutors filed paperwork to seek the death penalty against Miller.

His appearance in court in Camden was for another hearing about scheduling the trial. Seeing him is gut-wrenching for Melton's family. Frankie Melton is the victim's brother-in-law.

"Every Christmas, this time of year is hard to calculate, and just really devastating. There's a strong need for this to end," Melton said.

The court has placed a gag order on lawyers involved in the case, so they cannot discuss any details about the investigation or explain reasons for the delays.

Deputies believe the abduction and rape happened in Chesterfield County and the murder happened in Kershaw County. The case was jointly investigated by 2 sheriff's departments, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and 2 solicitor's offices. It's possible that the large number of people involved could partly explain why it will take more than 4 years to come to court.

Until that day, the family of a brutally murdered newlywed will have to keep their anguish inside.

"It's hard, and we have to be quiet and not speak out on her behalf," Roscoe said Monday.

Miller had no criminal record before his arrest in this case on suspicion of murder, criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping. Neither he nor his family spoke in court.

(source: WSOC TV news)


Accused mass-murder Mesac Damas files change of plea motion

A North Naples man accused of slaughtering his family in 2009 has filed a motion to change his plea, according to court records.

Attorneys for Mesac Damas filed a motion for a change of plea hearing late last week. The 1-page document states only that Damas wishes to change his plea from "not guilty" in open court.

Damas, 38, is charged with killing his wife Guerline Damas, 32, and 5 children - Michzach, 9; Marven, 6; Maven, 5; Megan, 3; and Morgan Damas, 11 months. All were found with their throats cut inside the family's town house Sept. 19, 2009.

If convicted he faces the death penalty.

The motion comes more than 2 months after Judge Ramiro Manalich found Damas competent for trial for the 3rd time. He's in custody at the Naples Jail Center. No date has been set for the hearing. It's unclear from records what Damas will change his plea to. The motion doesn't indicate whether Damas has reached a plea agreement, what charges he could plead to or any possible punishments. It also doesn't state whether he will plead to the judge without an agreement. This would place his punishment in the hands of a judge and would still open him to the death penalty.

"A defendant has the right to enter a plea to the charges at any time. To read any more into it might be a mistake," said Samantha Syoen, communications director for the state attorney's office.

Syoen said she couldn't comment more on the filing. Damas' attorney, public defender Kathleen Fitzgeorge, did not return a request for comment.

The motion is the latest development for Damas. He has undergone 6 mental health evaluations since 2009, including the latest question of his mental state, which began last December when Damas assaulted another inmate.

In March, Damas was found not competent for trial and ordered into a mental health facility in Melbourne. In October, Manalich found Damas competent for trial after reviewing reports from court-appointed doctors.

The reports are sealed, but, in his ruling, Manalich wrote: "The reports indicate Defendant (sic) can be aggressive, manipulative and deceitful and would engage in cooperative when necessary to get something he wanted."

(source: News-Press)


Prosecutors to seek death penalty in fatal shooting of Akron police officer Justin Winebrenner

Summit County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 35-year-old Akron man in connection with last month's shooting death of off-duty Akron police officer Justin Winebrenner.

The agency released an 18-count indictment Monday afternoon against Kenan Dason Ivery of Grand Avenue.

Ivery is charged with aggravated murder and 3 accompanying specifications - 2 involving firearms offenses, the other a death-penalty specification.

"I am very satisfied with that," the slain officer's father, Rob Winebrenner, said in a Beacon Journal telephone interview after being informed of the indictment.

Now that the case is going forward in Common Pleas Court with the harshest penalty a possibility, Winebrenner said his hope is to "just let the justice system do its job."

Ivery is accused of shooting Justin Winebrenner, 32, and 4 others inside Papa Don's Pub on East Market Street early Nov. 16.

Winebrenner was unarmed and off-duty. At some point, police said, Ivery became unruly and was asked to leave the pub. He did, but he returned later with a gun, according to witnesses.

As Winebrenner attempted to defuse the tense situation, shots were fired. The officer was struck twice in the torso and died about 30 minutes later at Summa's Akron City Hospital.

He funeral, Nov. 22 at Rhodes Arena on the University of Akron campus, drew about 2,000, including hundreds of police officers from across the state.

Ivery also is charged in the indictment with 2 counts of felony murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 6 counts of felonious assault and other felonies. The 11-page indictment contains numerous gun specifications.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Common Pleas Court. According to court records, Kerry M. O'Brien is his attorney.



Death penalty sought for Ivery in death of Justin Winebrenner

The Summit County Prosecutor's Office will seek the death penalty against Kenan Ivery in the shooting death of off-duty Akron Police Officer Justin Winebrenner.

Winebrenner died Nov. 16 from gunshot injuries he sustained at Papa Don's bar when he attempted to defuse a situation with Ivery, who was armed. 5 others were either shot or shot at that evening.

Ivery, 35, of Grand Avenue in Akron, was indicted by the Summit County Grand Jury today on the following charges:

Aggravated murder, a special felony which carries 2 gun specifications and one death specification; 2 counts of murder, a special felony with each count carrying 2 gun specifications; 5 counts of attempted murder, a felony of 1st degree with 4 counts including 1 gun specification and one count including 2 gun specifications; 6 counts of felonious assault, felonies of the 1st and 2nd degree with 4 counts including 1 gun specification and 2 counts including 2 gun specifications; having weapons under disability, a felony of the 3rd degree; carrying a concealed weapon, a felony of the 4th degree; illegal possession of a firearm in a liquor permit premise, a felony of the 3rd degree and tampering with evidence, a felony of the 3rd degree.

If convicted of aggravated murder with the death specification, Ivery can be sentenced to death.

Kenan Ivery will be arraigned in the Court of Common Pleas, Wednesday, Dec. 17.

(source: The Barberton Herald)


Family of executed Ohio inmate sues expert witness

The state's former expert witness on lethal injection should have known that a condemned inmate would suffer because of a never used 2-drug combo, the family of the inmate says in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, expanded from an earlier filing, alleges that Dr. Mark Dershwitz knew inmate Dennis McGuire would suffer during the January execution but helped create the state's new lethal injection policy anyway. The new complaint filed in federal court earlier this month says Dershwitz also provided medical and scientific advice to the state prisons agency.

Even though he knew the risks of the two-drug method, "Dershwitz continued to bill for services and earn compensation from the State of Ohio to provide advice, expertise, assistance, counsel, and expert witness services to assist in the creation of Ohio's Execution Protocol," the lawsuit said.

Dershwitz, a University of Massachusetts anesthesiologist and pharmacologist, announced in June he would no longer act as an expert witness for states defending their lethal injection methods.

Dershwitz said Ohio had jeopardized his standing with the American Board of Anesthesiology in a news release it issued about the Jan. 16 execution of McGuire because it implied he consulted on the execution method, which is prohibited by the national board.

Dershwitz said in an email he was aware of the filing but couldn't immediately comment.

The family also added drug distributor McKesson Corp. to the lawsuit, saying the company distributed the midazolam and hydropmorphone used to put McGuire to death. The family previously sued Hospira Inc., which makes the drugs.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based Hospira and San Francisco-based McKesson "knew or should have known that when used in executions, Hydromorphone and Midazolam would cause unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process," the lawsuit said.

Both companies declined comment, as did the Ohio prisons agency.

The federal civil rights lawsuit originally filed in January by McGuire's adult children alleges McGuire "suffered needless pain and suffering" during his execution. McGuire snorted and gasped several times during the 26 minutes - the longest of any Ohio execution - it took him to die.

McGuire was executed for the 1989 rape and stabbing death of Joy Stewart, 22, a recently married pregnant woman in western Ohio.

On April 28, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction concluded there was no evidence that McGuire "experienced any pain, distress or anxiety."

Ohio has not been able to obtain supplies of its 1st choice, compounded pentobarbital, a drug used successfully by Missouri and Texas in several recent executions.

House lawmakers are considering a bill this week that would shield the names of companies providing lethal drugs to Ohio, a move aimed at obtaining compounded pentobarbital.

(source: Associated Press)


Senate votes to shield names from public

The Ohio Senate moved amended legislation Thursday to shield from public view the names of compounding pharmacies that provide lethal injection drugs to the state.

HB 663 passed on a vote of 20-10 and heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of changes made by senators.

Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon), who serves as chairman that considered the legislation, said the bill is aimed a protecting "the confidentiality and the identities of these individuals [involved in the administration of the death penalty], many of whom are employed by the state of Ohio, doing a job -- a very difficult job -- to feed their families. The idea is to protect their identity. That's what we're trying to do."

Under execution protocols adopted last year, state prison officials could purchase lethal injection mixtures from compounding pharmacies -- a change that was made after the overseas manufacturers of such drugs refused to sell them for use in executions.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has had difficulties finding pharmacies willing to provide the lethal injection drugs because they don't want to be identified publicly.

"Compounding pharmacies who are in a position to compound the substances that can be used to administer the death sentence in a humane and painless fashion have become... subjected to not just criticism but downright attacks and boycotts and picketing at their homes," Eklund said. "They and their families have become subjected to the kinds of things that none of us would want to be subjected to...."

HB 663 seeks to address the issue by blocking the public disclosure of pharmacy names and others involved in the execution process.

Covered records would be kept confidential and not subject to the state's open records laws, with limited access by judges reviewing death penalty cases.

Individuals involved would be covered by the confidentiality law automatically; businesses would have to request anonymity, via an application to state prison officials, and their names would be released after 20 years.

Senators made a number of changes to the bill, including adding language to require the state ethics commission to review contracts for lethal injection drugs to ensure compounding pharmacies have all applicable licenses and meet ethics and other law requirements.

The Senate version also calls for the creation of a committee to study ways to ensure families of murder victims have access to social services and other assistance and potentially to consider other means of administering the death penalty.

"We are making progress in this bill toward untethering ourselves from this European drug cartel, and to me that's a good thing," said Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said of the latter, "because there are plenty of alternate means (of administering death penalties) that have been approved by the United States Supreme Court as being not cruel and inhuman punishment within the meaning of the applicable Eighth Amendment provision of the U.S. Constitution. And it seems to me we want to deliberate over having other tools in the toolbox, so to say."

Eklund sought to distance debate on the legislation Thursday from larger discussions about the use of the death penalty in the state. Capital punishment is allowed under state law, and HB 663 seeks to ensure lethal injections can continue to be administered, he said.

"I recognize that there are people who, for very good reasons, are opposed to the death penalty," Seitz added. "But that is not what this bill is about. ... If you are concerned, as I am, about how the death penalty is currently administered in Ohio, you should vote for the bill."

The final vote on the bill included Republicans in opposition.

"I have no sympathy for those who commit violent crimes, especially when those crimes involve the taking of a life," said Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering). "However, my personal belief is the taking of a life must be reserved for only those times when we have no other available means to protect society from a grave threat. Because other ways of punishing convicted criminals are available to us, I cannot and will not participate in carrying out Ohio's death penalty."

The Ohio Newspaper Association was among the groups that remain opposed to the bill.

"We remain concerned about excessive secrecy in this legislation and have yet to see any documentation beyond vague claims that new exemptions to our open records law are needed to protect the identities of drug suppliers," Executive Director Dennis Hetzel said in a released statement.

(source: The Crescent-News)


Tennessee high court considers identifying executioners

Death penalty in Tennessee

A group of inmates is fighting the death penalty protocol used in Tennessee, claiming it is unconstitutional and violates protections from cruel and unusual punishment. Execution protocol has changed several times in the past decade.

The Tennessee Supreme Court will consider Thursday whether to identify the names of the execution team and pharmacists working with the deadly drugs in a challenge to a 2013 state law that keeps almost all details of the procedure a secret.

A group of 11 condemned inmates and their lawyers say that law does not apply to court cases, which other rules guide.

"The state has a compelling interest in protecting the identities of the members of the execution team because the confidentiality of this information is vital to the proper performance of defendants' duties and to the enforcement of the law," according to the Tennessee attorney general's filing in the case.

The state says the names are not relevant to the execution protocol, which is what the inmates claim is unconstitutional.

Lawyers for the inmates challenging Tennessee's execution protocol, changed in 2013 because supply of the existing death-penalty drugs was tightening, said the state cannot ensure that its death penalty is constitutional if inmates don't have access to where the state obtains its lethal injection drugs, the makeup of the chemical cocktail used to execute inmates and the names of the people on the execution team.

The state Supreme Court should uphold an appeals court opinion that the secrecy law withholds information from public disclosure but not from use in discovery - or evidence - proceedings in trial, the inmates' lawyers said. They contend that limited release would prevent any retaliation that the state argues could occur if the names were made public.

1 woman and 69 men are on Tennessee's death row.

"Generally speaking, a trend we see is states attempting to enhance the secrecy surrounding their execution procedures," saidMegan McCracken, a lawyer at the University of California Berkeley School of Law's Death Penalty Clinic. "That is a real problem for condemned prisoners but also for the public because without disclosure of the information there's no way to analyze the procedures and ensure they comport with the Constitution."

Tennessee's lethal injection protocol now calls for the use of pentobarbital, a barbiturate and veterinary anesthetic. At least 19 other states use or plan to use pentobarbital, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a private group that opposes the death penalty.

Some states attempting to keep their old chemical cocktail have struggled to find drug suppliers, tested new drug cocktails and at times turned to unconventional methods of procuring the deadly doses since the only federally approved manufacturer took steps to keep its drug out of execution chambers.

4 bungled executions in other states this year left inmates gasping on gurneys in front of witnesses, at times for hours, fueling further scrutiny of the death penalty. Pentobarbital was used in a combination of drugs in an Oklahoma execution where the inmate reportedly said he felt his body burning before he died.

Earlier this year, supreme courts in Georgia and Oklahoma upheld secrecy statutes similar to Tennessee's law while ruling the death penalty was constitutional.

(source: USA Today)


"Her 72 Pounds Fought For Her Life" / Prosecution Argues Death For Davis

Jurors are weighing life in prison or the death penalty for convicted child killer Billy Davis.

Jurors will deliberate the death penalty or life in prison for convicted child killer Billy Davis for a 2nd day, after no agreement was reached Monday.

Davis's defense asked the jury to give him life, saying a controlled, medicated environment free from drugs and alcohol will protect the community from their defendant.

A clinical psychologist testified for the defense that he is "psychotic."

Dr. June Cooley, a doctor from Atlanta, said she met with Davis twice in November 2014 and said he has several mental disorders, including chronic adjustment disorder, PTSD, mood disorder (severe depression), bipolar 1 disorder with psychotic features, paranoia, and substance abuse disorder. He had been having "homicidal ideations" for years, meaning he had been thinking about killing people even before he abducted, assaulted, raped and murdered 8-year-old Ah'liyah Irvin. After he choked her, he stuffed her body in a clothes dryer.

Cooley said at first Davis insisted he did not commit the crime, but knew who did, but did not want to say who it was. That example, and several others, is what helped Cooley come to the conclusion that Davis is delusional. Cooley had already seen the transcripts between Davis and officers in which he confessed to the crimes.

Cooley also said Davis's history of alcohol and drug abuse heighten his psychotic symptoms. In December 2011, Davis went into a psychotic break. He had been off his medications and using drugs and alcohol when he ordered people outside at gunpoint in his underwear. He was hospitalized and taken to jail. Just 3 months later, after he was released, he was off his meds and again abusing drugs and alcohol when he murdered the little girl.

Defense attorney Mark Manna asked the jury to think about Davis's mental and emotional disturbance and how much the drugs and alcohol impaired him. Manna also asked for mercy, if not for Davis, then for his mother Kim.

Deputy Chief District Attorney Jacqie Spradling argued Davis committed the crime in a heinous, atrocious, and cruel manner, which is one of the aggravating circumstances in deciding the death penalty.

Spradling told the jury they can find Davis has mental illness and can even feel sorry for him, and still sentence him to death.

"Her 72 pounds fought for her life," Spradling said, as she displayed about 30 pictures of the child's bruised and beaten body on a TV screen, along with pictures of the bloody crime scene. Closer pictures showed drag marks and claw marks in blood down in the basement where Davis murdered her. Family of the victim were brought to tears once again as they saw the images.

"In less than 10 minutes he stripped Ah'liyah of her life. Look at that and you'll know what to do," Spradling said.

Jurors will return to the Shawnee County Courthouse Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. to start the second day of deliberations.

Ah'liyah's grandmother told 13 News that no matter which sentence Davis receives, he'll never be able to hurt someone else again.

Kansas has not executed anyone since 1965.

(source: WIBW)


Attorneys for US state's death row inmates seek halt to executions, release witness accounts

Attorneys for 21 death row inmates in the state of Oklahoma head to federal court this week hoping that behind-the-scenes details of an execution gone awry will prevent a "bloody mess" from ever happening again.

Oklahoma state attorneys say new lethal injection protocols will address the problems encountered during the April 29 execution of 38-year-old Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, clenched his teeth and mumbled before a doctor noticed a problem with an intravenous line. That helped sparked a national debate on the death penalty in general and lethal injections in particular, as European drugmakers restrict sales of lethal drugs for executions.

Oklahoma inmates argue the state is experimenting on them with new drug combinations that amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

A legal filing in the case includes accounts of Lockett's execution, including Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell's description of the scene inside the death chamber after the blinds were lowered on witnesses as "a bloody mess."

Oklahoma's 1st execution since Lockett's is set for Jan. 15, with 3 more scheduled in the following weeks. A federal judge will hold hearings starting Wednesday on the inmates' claims that the state isn't ready.

According to accounts from others in the death chamber, including execution team members, once the blinds were lowered, a doctor tried to set a 2nd intravenous line, resulting in Lockett's blood spraying the doctor's jacket. One unidentified executioner told investigators Lockett "tried to get up" and continued straining and mumbling while prison officials scrambled to figure out what to do.

Lockett's execution ultimately was halted after prison officials consulted with the governor's office, but he died anyway 43 minutes after the 1st drug was administered. Witness accounts show there were no lifesaving measures given to Lockett even after the execution was halted.

The inmates' case centres on the state's use of the sedative midazolam as the 1st in a 3-drug lethal injection procedure. Oklahoma used the drug for the 1st time with Lockett's execution.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety investigated Lockett's execution and released some - but not all - details to the public. Items kept secret include the transcripts of witness interviews, which have been obtained by defence attorneys as part of discovery.

The agency has denied requests from various media outlets, including The Associated Press, to release the additional information.

The secrecy has led to criticism from civil libertarians who accuse the state of whitewashing its report.

Last week's legal filing also includes details from an interview with former Department of Corrections general counsel Michael Oakley, who said the state selected midazolam based on conversations he had with prison officials in other states and his own online research.

Oklahoma and Florida are the only states that have used midazolam as part of a 3-drug protocol, but Florida uses 500 milligrams, 5 times the amount Oklahoma used on Lockett. Oklahoma has since revised its protocol to match the amount Florida uses.

(source: News-Optimist)


When an execution is 'like a horror movie'

For the most part, American support for capital punishment is conditioned on humane conditions - there's an expectation that when U.S. officials execute an American, it will be done in a sanitary way that falls short of constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual treatment.

And yet the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma earlier this year continues to stand out for its gut-wrenching details. In April, we learned that the state intended to kill Lockett by using a new, lethal drug combination with contents state officials did not want to disclose, from a drug manufacturer the state did not want to identify. It quickly became apparent that the method was a failure - Lockett reportedly began to writhe and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious.

A prison official at the execution reportedly stated the obvious at the time: "Something's wrong." Lockett eventually died that night, but of a heart attack.

Over the weekend, however, the Tulsa World reported on the extent to which the execution was even worse than the public previously realized.

When Oklahoma investigators issued a report on what went wrong with the April execution of Clayton Lockett, they downplayed and omitted disturbing details from witnesses and officials, records filed in federal court show.

During interviews with state investigators, the warden at Oklahoma State Penitentiary recalled the scene inside the execution chamber on April 29 as "a bloody mess," according to a motion filed Friday by attorneys for death-row inmates.

Another witness said the scene "was like a horror movie" as Lockett was bucking and attempting to raise himself off the gurney when he was supposed to be unconscious and dying.

The article, to be sure, is not easy reading, but it's an important account of an instance in which a state tried to kill one of its citizens and struggled in ways that are genuinely shocking.

Although the prison lacked the right needles and had no backup drugs, the doctor attempted another femoral IV. No one was sure why. Blood backed up into the IV line, and the paramedic told the doctor he'd hit the artery, noting the doctor seemed anxious.

"We've got blood everywhere," the paramedic recalled to investigators.

It just gets worse from there.

(source: MSNBC news)


Jodi Arias Death Penalty Could Be Scrapped Over Claims Of Prosecution's 'Misconduct,' 'False Evidence'

The Jodi Arias hearing regarding porn files on Travis Alexander's computer came to a close Thursday afternoon, according to a new report on The Arizona Republic.

Next, Judge Sherry Stephens must decide whether prosecutors' intent to seek the death penalty against Arias is void due to prosecutorial misconduct.

More than 6 years after Alexander's murder, his convicted ex-girlfriend found a lucky break that could potentially triumph her freedom once again - or at least allow her to avoid the death penalty.

The hearing, stretched three days stretched over 3 separate weeks, brought new claims to light. Arias' attorneys and their forensic expert Bryan Neumeister led the court through a description of the porn sites that had been visited and the computer viruses that had infected Alexanderís computer because of his usage.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Juan Martinez adamantly blamed the previous defense team for the deletions, Perry Smith, the Mesa police expert, eventually admitted to porn found on Alexander's laptop.

During the closing arguments, Arias' defense lawyers stressed that the state should no longer allow prosecution to continue to seek the death penalty.

"Let's put an end to this circus," defense attorney Kirk Nurmi said Thursday. "Any further proceedings will be based on false evidence," he added.

Judge Stephens informed the lawyers that the trial will resume on Monday.



Death penalty - 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolishing the death penalty, France reaffirms its resolute and constant commitment to the universal abolition of the death penalty.

81 states from all regions of the world, including France, are now party to this protocol.

Within the framework of thecampaign for the abolition of the death penalty launched by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, France renews its appeal for the universal ratification of this instrument in order to make progress toward the abolition of the death penalty everywhere.

On this occasion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has published a web documentary entitled "Young people and abolition".



Aussie woman with drugs in luggage may be charged on Friday

The Australian woman caught with 1.5kg of syabu at the KL International Airport early this month is likely to be charged on Friday.

That is when her extended 5-day remand ends, said KLIA Customs director Datuk Chik Omar Chik Lim yesterday.

It was reported that the 51-year-old mother of 4 was caught with the drugs at around 5pm on Dec 7.

The drugs were reportedly in a plastic bag and found in a hidden compartment in her bag while she was on transit at the airport.

"The woman flew in from China and was heading for Melbourne," said Chik Omar. She is likely to be charged once her remand ends.

The Australian media had quoted her as telling her lawyers, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Tania Scivetti, that she had been asked to carry the bag for an American soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

The Australian newspaper quoted Muhammad Shafee as saying she had allegedly been led to believe the bag contained documents for the soldier's retirement.

She purportedly collected the bag in Shanghai and was told someone would collect it from her in Melbourne, reported The Australian.

Muhammad Shafee said she would likely be charged under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act which provides the death penalty upon conviction.

Muhammad Shafee was the lawyer who represented Dominic Bird, 34, who escaped the death penalty after the High Court acquitted him of drug trafficking in September last year.

Bird was caught with 167gm of syabu and was said to have tried to supply the drugs to an undercover police officer in 2012.

(source: The Star)


December 16, 1969: MPs vote to abolish the death penalty for murder ---- 5 years after the last hangings took place in the UK, MPs voted to abolish capital punishment for murder - but not for 4 other crimes.

December 16, 1969 was a momentous day for the British judicial system as the permanent abolition of the death penalty for murder was passed in Parliament.

After a 7 1/2-hour debate in the House of Commons, MPs voted 343 to 185 in favour of abolition. Hanging would remain a potential sentence for a number of other crimes until 1998, but in practice the vote meant the end of state executions in the United Kingdom.

Capital punishment had been suspended for five years by the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act in 1965, and there was some criticism that the motion was brought before the House prior to the end of that period.

Conservative MP Duncan Sandys had earlier presented a petition calling for the restoration of execution for murder, which he claimed was signed by over a million members of the public.

But Home Secretary James Callaghan said the country's murder rate had shown little variation between the years of 1957 and 1968, proving that the death penalty was not an effective deterrent.

2 days later, the House of Lords voted to ratify the decision by a majority of 46. Britain has since signed up to the 6th and 13th protocols of the European Convention of Human Rights - meaning that the death penalty cannot be restored in this country while the UK is party to the Convention.

The death penalty - Did you know?

Capital punishment had been in use in the UK since the creation of the state in 1707. By the early 19th century, there were over 220 crimes punishable by death - including impersonating a Chelsea Pensioner, poaching and stealing from a shipwreck.

In spite of this, many death sentences handed down by the courts were not carried out. Between 1770 and 1830, an estimated 35,000 people were condemned to death in England and Wales, but only 7,000 executions were carried out.

The amount of capital offences was cut by 2/3 in 1832, and then in 1861 a number of Acts reduced capital crimes to 5 - murder, treason, espionage, arson in royal dockyards, and piracy with violence - as well as some offences under military law.

Suspension of the death penalty was first recommended by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1930. The motion was finally voted on just after the war, and surprisingly passed the Commons, but was defeated in the House of Lords.

By 1965, there was sufficient disquiet over a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice, such as the executions of Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley, for MP Sydney Silverman's private member's bill to be accepted by both Houses.

The last hangings in the UK took place on August 13, 1964. Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, were executed for the murder of John West in April that year.

Even after the 1969 motion passed, the death penalty was still technically possible for the remaining 4 capital crimes. For this reason, a working gallows was kept at Wandsworth Prison until 1994.

Capital punishment for treason, piracy with violence and mutiny were abolished in 1998. Until 1973, treason could technically still be punished by beheading.


SAUDI ARABIA----executions

2 beheaded Saudis bring 2014 execution tally to 82

2 Saudis were beheaded on Tuesday for drug trafficking and murder, official media reported, bringing to 82 the number of executions this year.

The sentence against Abdulrahman bin Bakheit al-Lugmani was carried out in the western city of Mecca, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

He had been convicted of smuggling a large quantity of amphetamines, it said.

The 2nd execution was in Eastern Province. Mehdi al-Mahmoud had been convicted of shooting dead another man following a dispute, the ministry said.

According to an AFP tally, 82 Saudis and foreigners have been beheaded in the kingdom this year, with more than 2/3 of the executions carried out over the past 4 months.

There were 78 executions last year.

Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of recorded executions in 2013, behind Iran and Iraq, said Amnesty International.

The rights watchdog did not have reliable data from China which implemented the most death penalty sentences.

Along with drug trafficking and murder, rape, apostasy and armed robbery are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic Sharia law.

(source: Deccan Chronicle)


Death penalty for smuggling Bibles?----Report says new law on the books in Saudi Arabia

Unconfirmed reports of a new decree imposing the death penalty on anyone caught smuggling Bibles into Saudi Arabia has many Christian ministries and support groups on edge.

Practicing any religion other than Islam has long been illegal in the desert kingdom, and that includes rules against foreigners bringing in any type of religious material that does not conform to the royal family's strict Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam. Foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia are often detained for purely religious reasons, sometimes resulting in deportation.

But applying capital punishment, which in Saudi Arabia often means death by beheading, to Bible smugglers would signal a new level of persecution even for the Saudis.

Several Christian missionaries said they were seeking to confirm a recent report by the Virginia-based Heart Cry Missionary Society that a new death penalty law has been adopted citing an "official statement" in Arabic on a Coptic Christian website called CoptsToday.

The law reportedly extends to the importing of all illegal drugs and "all publications that have a prejudice to any other religious beliefs other than Islam."

No response from Saudi embassy

WND made 3 requests via phone and email to Saudi Arabia's U.S. Embassy press officer in Washington asking for confirmation or denial of the report. A woman at the Saudi Embassy who identified herself only by her 1st name, Cecelia, said she made sure all three emails were received by press officer Nail al-Jubeir. He has not responded.

"Sometimes they don't want to say anything (to the media)," Cecelia told WND.

Saudi sources at the United Nations also refused to confirm or deny the report.

According to the 2005 International Religious Freedom Report, cited on the U.S. State Department's website, Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records in the world on religious liberty.

The Saudi regime, considered an important ally of the United States, which annually showers the Islamic country with billions of dollars worth of military aid, allows no churches to function as independent Christian entities on its soil. The kingdom also persecutes foreign workers living in the country who are not of the Islamic faith. Up to 1 million Christians, many of them from the Philippines, Ethiopia and Egypt, live in Saudi Arabia as guest workers.

The 2005 report cited the following facts with regard to possession of Bibles or other "illegal contraband" in the Saudi kingdom:

"Customs officials routinely open mail and shipments to search for contraband, including Sunni printed material deemed incompatible with the Salafi tradition of Islam, Shi'a religious materials, and non-Muslim materials, such as Bibles and religious videotapes. Such materials are subject to confiscation, although rules appear to be applied arbitrarily.

"Sunni Islamic religious education is mandatory in public schools at all levels. Regardless of which Islamic tradition their families adhere to, all public school children receive religious instruction that conforms to the Salafi tradition of Islam. Non-Muslim students in private schools are not required to study Islam. Private religious schools are not permitted for non-Muslims or for Muslims adhering to non-Salafi traditions of Islam."

Raids on churches

Raids on underground churches are a continuous threat in Saudi Arabia, and only some of the raids get leaked to the Western religious press.

As recently as September, Saudi officials detained 30 Christians for worshiping in an underground house church, reported BosNewsLife.

The same news agency reported that 53 Ethiopian Christians, mostly women, were detained in 2013 after attending a worship service in a private home.

And in August 2012, the Saudi kingdom deported 35 Ethiopian Christians after they had been jailed for nearly nine months for holding a private prayer vigil, BosNewsLife reported.

WND reported last year that Saudi Arabian Airlines refused to sell tickets to Jewish passengers because Jews are not allowed in the country.

World Watch List, published by Open Doors Ministry, ranks Saudi Arabia as the world's 6th most repressive country for Christians in its 2014 report. The only countries listed as more hostile to Christianity are Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and North Korea. Syria and Iraq surpassed Saudi Arabia on the list this year because of the rise of the Islamic State, also called ISIS. Of the world's 14 most repressive nations, 13 of them are Islamic regimes or have major territories controlled by Muslim rebels. North Korea is the lone exception with its communist dictatorship.

"The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden here, and conversion to another faith is punishable by death," says the Open Doors in its description of Saudi Arabia. "Most Christians are ex-pats from Asia or Africa. Muslim-background believers run the risk of honor killing if their faith is discovered. Yet a small but growing number of Muslims are coming to Christ and sharing their faith on the internet and satellite TV."

In 2012, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, the nation's highest official of religious law, declared that all churches across the Middle East should be destroyed. The Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage asked Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah to clarify his controversial statement and he reportedly replied that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

He cited the prophet Muhammad, who said the Arabian Peninsula is to exist under only 1 religion.

President Obama met with Saudi King Abdullah on March 28 at the king's desert camp 35 miles northeast of Riyadh. Following that meeting, Obama took heat from human rights activists for not bringing up the persecution of Christians and other minorities during his talks with the Saudi leader, despite a letter from members of Congress urging him to do so.

Todd Nettleton, director of public relations for Voice of the Martyrs, said that ministry, which ministers to persecuted Christians worldwide, had heard that a death penalty law had been proposed for Bible smuggling, but he was still trying to confirm whether it had been approved by the king.

"We did have some information come to us about 10 days ago that this was in the process," Nettleton said. "We just have not been able to confirm if the proposed law has become the law of the land."

Joel Richardson, author of "The Islamic Antichrist" and a documentary filmmaker who has recently spent a lot of time in the Middle East filming "End Times Eyewitness," said it would not be surprising if such a decree were enacted in the Saudi Kingdom, which has a history of brutal treatment of religious dissidents.

"This is evidence of the fact that the Saudi government is afraid of the impact of Christianity," Richardson said. "If Muslims were truly confident that their religion was true, they wouldn't be afraid of people reading the Bible."

Muhammad instructed Muslims to read Bible

Muhammad, to the surprise of many Christians, instructed his followers that, if they have doubts about the validity of his teachings, they should compare them to the teachings found in the Bible (see Surah 10:94-95; 16:43).

And many Muslims may be taking him up on that challenge, Richardson said.

His new documentary film, "End Times Eyewitness," explores recent reports of revival in several Middle Eastern Muslim nations.

"For the past 10 years, we've seen one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world going on in the country of Iran, and in Egyptend_times_eyewitness we're getting profound testimonies about revivals as we are in the north of Iraq," he said.

The prophecy of Isaiah 19 speaks of revival breaking out in large parts of the Muslim world including Egypt and the larger Middle East. The fact that it is now occurring is significant, Richardson believes. "You've got Chaldean Catholics, Orthodox Assyrians, and obviously those are the largest numbers of Christians. And, of course, in Egypt they have the Coptic Christians," he said. "What we're seeing in Egypt, however, is the Catholics and Orthodox and Evangelicals coming together to pray together. Under persecution, a lot of the Christians are coming together. The Coptic priests are coming together and praying for the greater body of believers."

Besides being staunch enemies of Christianity in all its forms, Richardson said members of the Saudi royal family are among the most hypocritical Muslim leaders in the Middle East.

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a wealthy jet-setter who owns a significant stake in Fox News among many other Western companies, came to the United States about 5 years ago with a message that more tolerance of Islam was needed in the U.S.

"He lectured us that we need to be more tolerant of Islam," Richardson said. "We always get these lectures by Muslim leaders, yet here we are in the heart of Islam, in Mecca and Medina, and they're making it illegal simply to bring a Bible into the country. Again, the hypocrisy of the Muslim world is on full display, and people need to know this."

No quid pro quo on interfaith prayer

WND reported last month that the Washington National Cathedral hosted its 1st-ever Muslim-led prayer service, a gesture that many American Christians are still waiting to see reciprocated.

"They always welcome our overtures, but they never reciprocate," Richardson said.

WND contacted the imam, Ebrahim Rasool, who led the Nov. 14 jummah service at the National Cathedral and asked him if he would work to reciprocate with a Christian-led prayer service in a mosque. Rasool did not respond to WND's repeated phone calls and emails.

Richardson's film also explores the historical and prophetic significance of Christian martyrdom. He sees the blood of the martyrs as the seed of the Christian church.

"And even if the Saudis make it illegal to bring in a Bible, the new technologies make it impossible to be stopped, and people will continue to smuggle Bibles," he said. "And with addition by subtraction, i.e. martyrdom, it becomes multiplication. Through martyrdom, the church grows, and that's how it's always been, and we're not afraid of losing our lives. The word of God is sharper than any 2-edged sword."

Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people than ISIS over the last two years, most of them for criminal offenses, in what's known as "chop-chop square," a public space in Riyadh. A minor theft charge can result in the amputation of one's hand, according to Saudi Arabia's strict adherence to Shariah law. A 2013 article in London's Daily Express reported that a man was scheduled to have his spinal cord severed for paralyzing a friend when he was 14 years old.

"If they're going to execute people now for smuggling Bibles, then there you have the fulfillment of Revelation 6:9," Richardson said.



Death penalty in MP terrorism bill

MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan presented a draft law criminalizing the act of terrorism and stipulating harsh punishments like imprisonment and death penalty. In the explanatory note of the bill, the lawmaker said the regional circumstances surrounding the State of Kuwait and terrorism threats which might affect the country necessitates the issuance of a law criminalizing terrorism. He pointed out the bill is aimed at protecting the cornerstones on which the Kuwaiti society stands through its Constitution and democratic institutions. He stressed the need for this law, considering the terrorist groups have been exploiting religious and nationalist sentiments to expand their bases and sympathizers which may facilitate their criminal activities at home and abroad. He added the first 3 articles of the bill include definitions on anything related to terrorism while the 4th article focuses on terrorist acts abroad.

Article 5 stipulates punishments which should be applied unless another law states more severe penalties.

Articles 6 to 19 specify penalties for each type of terrorist crime and the harshest is death penalty for anybody who attacks HH the Amir or HH the Crown Prince as stated in the 1st paragraph of Article 14 or terrorist acts that resulted in death as per the stipulation of Article 9, 3rd paragraph of Article 14 and Article 15. This is in addition to imprisonment and freezing of accounts if the money is proven to be from acts of terrorism or used to carry out such acts.

Article 20 stipulates exemption from punishment such as those who reported or provided information about culprits.

Article 21 allows the Attorney General to check the financial accounts of bank customers and other related institutions during the investigation of any terrorist crime.

Meanwhile, the Health, Social Affairs and Labor Affairs Committee postponed discussions on two bills concerning domestic workers until the Ministry of Interior and Public Authority for Manpower present their views on these proposals; which were presented by MPs Saleh Ashour, Kamel Al-Awadh, Saadoun Hammad, Mohammed Al-Jabri and Faisal Al-Kandari.

Committee Rapporteur MP Saadoun Hammad Al-Otaibi disclosed representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and Public Authority for Manpower attended the meeting. He explained the panel decided to postpone deliberations on both bills until next week, indicating there are certain loopholes in the current law. He cited as a case in point the fact that the cost of hiring housemaids reached KD 1,000; thereby, causing enormous losses to the sponsor who is also required to shoulder the air fare of the worker.

Furthermore, the Human Rights Committee on Monday met the High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss the proposed establishment of the National Bureau for Human Rights.

Head of the committee MP Abdul Hameed Dashti revealed they listened to the commissioner's comments on the ongoing consultations about drafting a law that reflects Kuwait's commitment to international recommendations on human rights which are guaranteed by its Constitution.

He said the committee will call for a round table discussion among jurists and specialists prior to the final round of consultations to pave the way for approval of the National Bureau for Human Rights.

On another issue, MP Khalil Al-Saleh has forwarded questions to Minister of Justice, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Yaqoub Al-Sanei on decree Law Number 24/2012 regarding the establishment of Public Authority for Combating Corruption and provisions for financial disclosure. He demanded for updates regarding the implementation of the law, copy of the executive regulations if any, confirmation of the approval of the organizational structure for jobs and internal bylaws on financial and administrative affairs and decisions, and reasons for delay in case these are not approved yet.

In the meantime, Head of the Human Resources Committee MP Khaleel Abdullah said they discussed 3 proposals - tenure of government officials, strategic alternative to the salary scale which the government has not submitted until now, amendments to the Indemnity Law that will be implemented by the beginning of next year.

He disclosed the committee endorsed the proposal on the 1-time renewal of the tenure of officials in the government. He said the entire government sector is covered by the proposal, except the military; indicating the management positions should be given only to those who hold higher education degrees.

On the strategic alternative to the salary scale, the MP pointed out that the government had earlier promised to submit it by the beginning of the current legislative term, but nothing has been done till date. He said the minister of finance has been talking about the strategic alternative, but the committee members think it is better if he attends their meetings for his inputs to be documented.

About the Indemnity Law, the MP said the law is applicable to all employees who reached 65 years old and have completed 30 years in service but were forced to resign even before the implementation of this law.

(source: Arab Times)


Nirbhaya case: Victim's family urges judiciary to expedite case

Urging the judiciary to expedite the court proceedings to grant justice in the December 16 gang rape case, the family of the victim on Monday stated that they were still waiting for the courts to grant them justice. "Whenever I look at her photo, I am not able to look into her eyes because we haven't been able get her justice. I request the court to speed-up the process and grant justice. After the incident I feel that the society has awakened, every day we see something or the other being done about women safety. It is our system which needs to wake up," the victim's father told ANI.

The victim's mother, on the other hand, alleged that despite receiving numerous promises, justice had yet to be served. "2 years have passed, we still haven't got justice. Many promises were made, but the situation is still the same," she said. Meanwhile, a candle light vigil was held in various cities across the country on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of the brutal incident. The people gathered at the venues held placard and banners, protesting crime against women.

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang raped and by 6 men, including a juvenile, in a bus. The woman later succumbed to grave intestinal injuries at a Singapore hospital, where she had been airlifted for specialised treatment. The 4 adults accused in the case were awarded them death penalty on September 13, 2013, with the Delhi High Court upholding the death penalty in March 2014. The case is currently with the Supreme Court after the convicts appealed against the judgement.



'No strong-enough deterrent for rapists, yet'

2 years have passed, still there is no strong-enough deterrent for rapists in the city, said the mother of the December 16 gang-rape victim, regretting that the Supreme Court stayed the hanging of her daughter's killers.

"The rapists are alive despite outrage and public protests across the country. It is a matter of concern. The execution of the death penalty in my daughter's case would have set a good deterrent but we are still awaiting justice," she told Deccan Herald on the eve of the second anniversary of her daughter's brutal gang-rape in a moving bus in December 2012. The 4 convicts are still in Tihar Jail, while their appeal against the conviction is being heard in Supreme Court. The death penalty was put on hold following 2 petitions filed in March and June.

The victim's mother agreed that the incident spurred widespread public discussion of crimes against women, but said the legal system remains slow to hear and prosecute cases. "There is absolutely no change in the rape culture and brutality. It is the reason why a Uber cab driver accused of rape mentioned my daughter's case to subdue the victim. He was not afraid of punishment by the legal system. The problem still prevails in our society and the incidents of rape and harassment of women will continue to increase," she added.

The victim's father said the family was proud of the courage shown by their daughter, which they believe spurred more women to speak out instead of hiding the crimes committed against them. "Statistics show that there has been an improvement in the number of women willing to file a crime report," he said. He noted that the outpouring of anger and grief had given rise to hopes for change, but the legal system has not responded despite the passage of several new laws. "We still hear incidents of minor girls being raped. Such scenario would not change unless those accused are punished. If my daughter's case can't change the system, nothing will. The men attacking women would not step back unless they fear death and those guilty get death," he said.

On March 13, the Delhi High Court had found Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur guilty of rape, murder, unnatural offences and destruction of evidence. With the verdict, the court had confirmed the death sentence pronounced by Saket court in September 2013. However, on March 15, the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Mukesh and Pawan, while Vinay and Akshay's execution was stayed on July 14.

To pay homage to the victim, her family has organised a prayer meeting at Rajendra Bhawan in central Delhi's Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg on Tuesday. It will be attended by Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Meira Kumar. Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani excused herself from the event late Monday.

A candlelight march towards India Gate by students of DU and JNU was not allowed by Delhi Police on Monday. "A humble attempt to honour and remember the brave-heart was made at Jantar Mantar," said National Students' Union of India (NSUI) spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey. The programme was attended by the victim's father and Congress leaders Oscar Fernandes and Jagdish Tytler.

Events in memory of the victim will be held by women's organisations on Tuesday. NSUI?will organise a candlelight march at the bus stand in south Delhi where the woman and her male friend boarded the bus in which the rape and violence took place.

(source: Deccan Herald)


Sotto pushes death penalty for high level drug trafficking; CBCP still opposed

With the discovery of the apparent luxurious lifestyles by certain illegal drug convicts inside New Bilibid Prison, acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III pushed anew for the revival of the death penalty exclusively for high-level drug trafficking cases.

Expectedly, however, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) remained opposed to the revival of the death penalty in the country, considering the imperfection of our judicial system.

Speaking to journalists after a public hearing in the Senate, Sotto said the lifestyle by drug lords and other high profile criminals inside prison further strengthens his argument on the death penalty.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, it boils down in my point that reclusion perpetua is pro-rich, especially for high level drug trafficking. That's why I am insisting that the committee tackle that particular proposal and I am willing to amend my Senate Bill that imposes death penalty, this time exclusively for high level drug trafficking," Sotto said.

Sotto explained that he wanted to impose the death penalty on high profile drug traffickers to avoid imposing stiffer punishments on poor suspects or small-time street pushers and users.

"I don't think that a poor person will get involved in high level drug trafficking," he said.

Sotto said that drug trafficking proliferates in the country because we don't have the death sentence.

"The solution is not to allow them to make the Philippines a playground for drug trafficking. This is the only place in our part of Asia where there is no death penalty. That's why they set up fabrication facilities here. The trade goes on even inside prison. so what's the use of putting them in jail?" Sotto said.

Sotto said that he will tackle the revival of death penalty in the opening of Congress in January and conduct nationwide consultation from stakeholders, including the families of the victims of heinous crimes from drugs.

For its part, the CBCP, in its position paper submitted to the Senate, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said "justice does not demand the death penalty.

"A mature sense of justice steers as far as possible from retribution in the realization that visiting on an offender the same injury he inflicted on his victim makes the matter no better at all for anyone."

Villegas stressed that, once the death penalty is executed, it is irreversible and no repentance or regret can ever make up for the horrible injustice of a person wrongfully executed.


DECEMBER 15, 2014:


Defense expected to call 17 more witnesses in punishment phase of Kaufman DA murder trial

The defense team is expected to wrap up its case today in the sentencing phase of Eric Williams' capital murder trial.

Williams was convicted Dec. 4 of killing Cynthia McLelland, the wife of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland. The couple was shot to death in their home near Forney over Easter weekend 2013.

Prosecutors say the killings, and that of McLelland's top deputy Mark Hasse, was revenge for their prosecution of Williams for stealing county computer monitors. He ultimately lost his post as a justice of the peace and was disbarred as a result.

Last week, Williams' attorneys called 29 character witnesses, many of them friends he knew decades ago. They will call 17 more witnesses today.

Among the witnesses called Monday was Mark Calabria, who runs a Kaufman law firm with his wife. He said they hired Williams to work there after he graduated from law school.

Williams stayed there a few years before he was fired. He was taking court appointments and not giving the law firm its share, Calabria said.

Calabria seemed reluctant to tell the jury about how Williams left the firm.

He testified that Williams got along well with people as an attorney and before as a court coordinator. Many people have describes Williams as withdrawn, but Callabria said Williams was more of "a nerd, a geek."

Calabria said that he wishes he had reached out to Williams after he was convicted of stealing the computer monitors in 2012.

Regina Forgarty, another witness who testified Monday, worked for Eric for the five months he was justice of the peace. She testified that Williams tried to improve technology in the courts and wanted to set up Wi-Fi and video conferencing.

She said he was diligent and a hard worker.

2 sisters, Heather and Andrea Jones, testified that they separately lived with Williams and his now-estranged wife, Kim Williams, because their mother was married to an abusive man. They said they spent time with Kim Williams, who is also charged with capital murder, and rarely saw Eric Williams.

"He kept to himself the whole time we were there," Andrea Jones testified. Eric Williams spent a lot of time in an office inside the house. "He would just sit in there and work."

Williams has spent most of the morning's testimony looking down at the defense table. He doesn't appear to watch the witnesses as they testify.

He faces either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Jurors must be unanimous to deliver a death sentence.

The defense again asked for a continuance today, but that request was denied by Judge Mike Snipes.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Punishment phase resumes for convicted ex-official

The punishment phase is set to continue in the trial of a former North Texas public official convicted of capital murder in a revenge plot against prosecutors.

Proceedings are set to resume Monday. Eric Williams was convicted of fatally shooting Cynthia McLelland, found dead last year with her husband, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, in their home near Dallas. Williams, accused of killing Mike McLelland, is also accused in the slaying 2 months prior to the couple's deaths of an assistant prosecutor.

Defense attorneys Friday portrayed 47-year-old Williams in a sympathetic light in an effort to spare him the death penalty, calling on childhood friends who described the former justice of the peace as considerate.

Prosecutors say Williams plotted revenge after being convicted of stealing county equipment.

(source: Associated Press)


A Legal Victory for Anti-Death Penalty Activists

Last week a Texas judge ruled the state has to reveal the names of the compound pharmacies that manufacture the drugs used in lethal injections. Death Penalty opponents say it's only about transparency, but legal experts say it's about harassing those companies with a social media campaign.

Attorney Maurie Levin, one of 3 lawyers who the judge agreed with, says it just about transparency.

"It is whether or not the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is entitled to hold secret information about how they carry out executions."

Levin says she's also concerned about the safety of the drugs because she says those pharmacies are not properly regulated.

But KTRH legal expert Chris Tritico says there's more to it.

"The anti-Death Penalty activists want to write letters and have a social media campaign against these drug manufacturers for selling drugs to states."

Tritico says it's easy for a social media campaign to go international.

The state is expected to appeal.

(source: KTRH news)


Producer Developing '7 Days to Live' Death Row Exoneration Saga

The story of a Pennsylvania man who spent 22 years on death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence is in the works as a feature from producer Lucy Rice.

"7 Days to Live" is based on the autobiography of Nick Yarris. Rice, of Amala Films, Yarris and executive producer Corky Kessler have started work on casting in Los Angeles.

Yarris was sentenced to death in 1982 in Pennsylvania for a rape and murder he did not commit. He sat in solitary confinement on death row for nearly 22 years until DNA testing proved his innocence in 2003. He was released from prison in January 2004.

In 1985 Yarris became one of the FBIs 10 Most Wanted for escape from death row after being shot at by prison guards in transit to an appeal in Pennsylvania. Yarris turned himself in in Florida after 25 days on the run.

Yarris taught himself to read in prison, where he discovered DNA testing and read over 10,000 books. In 1988, Yarris became the 1st inmate to seek DNA testing of evidence - which eventually proved that genetic material found under the victim's fingernails, on her undergarments and in a pair of gloves possibly worn by the killer was not his.

Yarris now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jessica and is a spokesman for Death Penalty Focus Group. "7 Days to Live" was published in 2008; he also commissioned Calix Lewis Reneau to adapt the book as a screenplay.

"I don't have time to be bitter," he told Variety. "I learned to love myself in prison."

Yarris was featured in the 2005 American documentary film "After Innocence" about men who were exonerated from death row by DNA evidence. Directed by Jessica Sanders, the film took the Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance film Festival.

Rice, an Australian native based in L.A., is also producing "The Divine Mistake" which chronicles the life of Sydney-born artist Theresa Byrnes. Rice is the great-granddaughter of Australian painter Roland Wakelin.

Rice and Kessler have hired John Corser as line producer and production manager and Ronnie Yeskel and Nancy Green-Keyes as casting directors for "7 Days to Live."

Kessler is a partner at the Chicago law firm Deutsch, Levy and Engel.



Man accused in police informant death set for arraignment

A Charleston man accused in the death of a police informant made his 1st appearance in federal court Monday. Marlon Dewayne Dixon, 38, of Park Avenue, appeared Monday with his court-appointed attorney David Schles before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley, who remanded Dixon to the custody of the U.S. Marshal and set his arraignment hearing for 10 a.m. Dec. 18.

Dixon was indicted in October on 7 charges, including heroin distribution,witness tampering, witness retaliation by killing, murder with a firearm during a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison and also could be eligible for the death penalty.

However, the Department of Justice's Capital Case Review Team would make a decision whether to seek the death penalty in this case.

Police arrested Dixon in July in connection to the murder of Branda "Mimi" Basham, who was found shot twice in the torso and once in the head. Police found her body along the railroad tracks near Breece Street on Charleston's West Side.

Basham, 21, was a known prostitute but she also worked with police as an informant. Police said Dixon shot and killed Basham in retaliation for her giving information to police. Dixon was prohibited from having a firearm and had multiple felony convictions when he was arrested, including federal cocaine charges and a malicious wounding charge in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

(source: Charleston Daily Mail)


North Naples man accused of murdering family may change plea

Lawyers for Mesac Damas, who has admitted to killing his wife and 5 children in 2009, have filed a request to change his plea, a possible early step t resolving one of Collier County's most horrific criminal cases.

In a motion filed Friday, Damas' lawyers only say the 38-year-old North Naples man wants to change his plea from not guilty on 6 1st-degree charges. The motion doesn't state how Damas would plead, what punishment Damas would receive, or whether it's a negotiated plea with prosecutors.

The motion is consistent with emails Damas sent to the Daily News in recent months, in which he says he wants to plead guilty. Damas' competency has been an issue since his arrest - he's been disruptive in court, uncooperative with his lawyers and a troublemaker in jail - but he recently said "I'm in my right state of mind," in emails to the Daily News.

"I do accept responsibility from the actions taken on my behalf," Damas wrote in one email.

Damas has admitted to killing his wife, Guerline, and 5 children between the ages of 1 and 9 in their North Naples home. Damas has stated he was possessed by demons at the time of the killings.

If he changes his plea, Damas could go one of two routes: he could plead guilty as charged, or he could have a negotiated plea with prosecutors. Even if he pleads guilty without a negotiated plea, a judge will likely impanel a jury to consider whether Damas should receive the death penalty.

The most likely scenario, based on court filings, is that Damas insists on pleading guilty as charged. Negotiated pleas are typically set for plea hearings, rather than through motions to change a plea. The plea motion also asks for Damas "to be heard in open court," a request that he's made in emails to the Daily News.

Prosecutors also have given no indication that they want to reach a plea agreement, and a State Attorney's Office spokeswoman said "it might be a mistake" to read anything into Damas' motion. Prosecutors certainly would accept nothing less than life in prison, and possibly nothing less than the death penalty.

There are a few upsides for prosecutors reaching a life-in-prison plea agreement with Damas, namely that it would pre-empt a weekslong trial and an appellate and execution process that could last decades and cost millions of dollars.

But David Brener, a Fort Myers defense lawyer qualified to handle death penalty cases, said Damasí alleged crimes are so heinous that prosecutors might not want to pursue any plea agreement.

"The state has 6 dead bodies on their hands, and they may not want to look like they're negotiating with somebody who - while he might be mentally ill - killed more people than anyone in Collier County history," Brener said.

Since his arrest, Damas' mental state has been in question, resulting in a stay at a Florida mental health hospital this year. Damas has acted out in court, spent time in the Naples Jail Center's medical unit and proved uncooperative with his lawyers.

He was, however, deemed competent to proceed to trial in October. In an order following Damas' October competency finding, a Collier judge wrote that doctors' evaluations of Damas show he can be "aggressive, manipulative and deceitful, and would engage in cooperative behavior when necessary to get something he wanted."

No date has been set for Damas' motion. His lawyers have asked for Collier Circuit Judge Ramiro Manalich, who has presided over the case since January 2013, to remain on the case even after his move to the bench in Lee County at year's end.

(source: Naples News)


Florida withholds millions in compensation payments to boy who was tortured by his adoptive parents and found dying alongside his twins sister's decomposing body because it would violate the father's rights

Officials in Florida are withholding millions worth of compensation it was ordered to pay a young boy who was tortured by his adopted parents and found close to death next to the decomposing body of his twin sister.

The state settled a lawsuit following the gruesome deaths of Victor and Nubia Barahona in Palm Beach County in 2011, admitting they were at fault.

But the Florida Department of Children and Families and lawyers for the state Legislature want to put the deal on hold and delay final payments indefinitely, according to the Miami Herald.

The state senate has stopped the payments, claiming that if a decision is passed it may imply that the father was liable in the abuse, even though he is on trial for his daughter's murder and is facing the death penalty.

The youngsters were sexually abused, starved and forced to sleep in a bathtub for years by Jorge and Carmen Barahona.

It was also revealed that they were forced to eat cockroaches consume food that contained feces.

In a report published in 2011, the state said that there had been a 'systematic failure' in their safety net, after Nubia and Victor entered the welfare system as youngsters.

The document stated that the tragic case showed a 'failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through and timely and accurate information sharing.'

Nubia's naked body was found in the back of Jorge's trunk in February 2011, with a badly injured Victor in the front seat. The boy was also covered in pesticides.

The young boy was put into the care of another foster family after spending several weeks in the hospital.

His new foster mother told investigators that the sight of her putting on false eyelashes makes Victor remember how he lost his own lashes when his adoptive father glued his eyes shut.

He has a similar reaction when his new foster father filled up a pitcher of ice water: it brought Victor back to the days when his adoptive father Jorge Barahona would bind him and his twin sister Nubia up, put them in the tub, and douse them with ice.

The state initially approved a check for $1.25 million and sent it to help Victor and his new adoptive parents deal with the psychological trauma.

According to the Herald they did not accept liability in the claim, but did agree not to oppose having the remaining $3.75 million in settlement funds come from the Legislature, in the form of a claim bill.

However the DCF has stopped the payments to the family following a change of heart.

State senate spokesman Katie Betta: 'At this point in time, as a matter of law, the father's rights have not been terminated. That is a valid concern the Senate has to consider.'

Under state sovereign immunity laws, the state is shielded from having to pay more than $200,000 when it injures someone, unless the Legislature agrees to lift the cap.

General counsel of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, George Levesque, was appointed to conduct a 'mini-trial' to assess the state's liability.

He decided that legislators would not vote on the claim bill this year as it may damage other cases related to child abuse at the hands of the Barahonas.

'The adverse finding of fact or conclusion contained in a claim bill could be used against [DCF] in the pending litigation,' Levesque said in an email to the lawyers for the family which was seen by the Herald.

He added that Jorge and Carmen Barahona were Nubia's legal parents at the time of her death. While Carmen's rights have been taken away, Jorge could inherit any money in the child's estate.

Neal Roth, the lawyer who negotiated the settlement claimed the decision was utter nonsense and said: 'The claim bill will be referred to at least 1 committee and that can easily be addressed by amending the bill to specifically exclude Mr. Barahona from ever receiving any money from the settlement of this case.'

'This is, in my experience, one of the saddest commentaries on the human condition that I've ever seen,' James Loftus, director of the Miami-Dade police, said previously about the family.

'It's depressing, it's sickening to think about the circumstances that led two people, working in concert, to perpetrate this kind of horror on their own children, adopted or not.'

He described the case as 'depressing [and] sickening.'

After Victor was hospitalized for several weeks after the incident, he was moved into the care of foster mother Katia Garcia.

Mrs Garcia met with police in June to discuss what she had learned from Victor about the extent of his abuse, and the horror of his experiences appears never-ending.

'He really didn't want to remember, perhaps, but he did,' she told investigators in a taped interview.

Victor is the most upset when talking about his sister Nubia, who was found wrapped in a garbage bag in the back of Jorge Barahona's pick-up truck after being doused with chemicals.

'He stutters when he talks. He can't finish his sentences,' Mrs Garcia said.

'He has nervous twitches with his eyes. He had one with his mouth. He doesn't want to talk about what his sister went through.'

Both of the twins were both starved while living in the Barahona house. They were only given a piece of bread and a glass of milk once a week while their parents and their 2 other adopted children dined on shredded beef and rice.

(source: Daily Mail)


Ohio to protect identity of those that provide lethal injection drugs

The Ohio Senate moved amended legislation Thursday to shield from public view the names of compounding pharmacies that provide lethal injection drugs to the state.

HB 663 passed on a vote of 20-10 and heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of changes made by senators.

Sen. John Eklund, R-Chardon, who serves as chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee that considered the legislation, said the bill is aimed a protecting "the confidentiality and the identities of these individuals (involved in the administration of the death penalty), many of whom are employed by the state of Ohio, doing a job -- a very difficult job -- to feed their families. The idea is to protect their identity. That's what we're trying to do."

Under execution protocols adopted last year, state prison officials could purchase lethal injection mixtures from compounding pharmacies -- a change that was made after the overseas manufacturers of such drugs refused to sell them for use in executions.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has had difficulties finding pharmacies willing to provide the lethal injection drugs because they don't want to be identified publicly.

"Compounding pharmacies who are in a position to compound the substances that can be used to administer the death sentence in a humane and painless fashion have become ... subjected to not just criticism but downright attacks and boycotts and picketing at their homes," Eklund said. "They and their families have become subjected to the kinds of things that none of us would want to be subjected to."

HB 663 seeks to address the issue by blocking the public disclosure of pharmacy names and others involved in the execution process.

Covered records would be kept confidential and not subject to the state's open records laws, with limited access by judges reviewing death penalty cases.

Individuals involved would be covered by the confidentiality law automatically; businesses would have to request anonymity, via an application to state prison officials, and their names would be released after 20 years.

Senators made a number of changes to the bill, including adding language to require the state ethics commission to review contracts for lethal injection drugs to ensure compounding pharmacies have all applicable licenses and meet ethics and other law requirements.

The Senate version also calls for the creation of a committee to study ways to ensure families of murder victims have access to social services and other assistance and potentially to consider other means of administering the death penalty.

The final vote on the bill included Republicans in opposition.

"I have no sympathy for those who commit violent crimes, especially when those crimes involve the taking of a life," said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering. "However, my personal belief is the taking of a life must be reserved for only those times when we have no other available means to protect society from a grave threat. Because other ways of punishing convicted criminals are available to us, I cannot and will not participate in carrying out Ohio's death penalty."

The Ohio Newspaper Association was among the groups that remain opposed to the bill.

"We remain concerned about excessive secrecy in this legislation and have yet to see any documentation beyond vague claims that new exemptions to our open records law are needed to protect the identities of drug suppliers," Executive Director Dennis Hetzel said in a released statement.

(source: Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief--The Review)


Prosecutor to seek death penalty against suspect in off-duty officer's death

Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh announced Monday that her office will seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing an off-duty police officer and shooting 4 others last month.

Kenan Ivery, 35, is accused of killing Justin Winebrenner, 32, and injuring 4 others at Papa Don's Pub on November 16.

Ivery was told to leave, but returned with a gun.

Police Chief James Nice told FOX 8 that Winebrenner and 2 other men, David Wokaty and Michael Capes, tried to get Ivery out of the bar and that's when he opened fire.

Ivery was indicted by the Summit County Grand Jury Monday on a number of charges, including Aggravated Murder, 2 counts of Murder, 5 counts of Attempted Murder and 6 counts of Felonious Assault.

Ivery will be arraigned on Wednesday.

(source: Fox News)


Prosecutor seeking death penalty in Kentucky murder of Sunset veterinarian

A western Kentucky man accused in the slayings of his parents, sister and an acquaintance has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, complicity to murder and complicity to kidnapping.

Prosecutors say they believe 36-year-old Ryan Champion enlisted help from 22-year-old Vito Riservato in killing his family, and then killed Riservato. All 4 died of gunshot wounds at the Champion family's home in Cadiz.

Champion' sister, Emily Champion, his sister, practiced as a veterinarian for five years in Sunset.

Trigg prosecutor G.L. Ovey has said it started out as a murder-for-hire scheme, but "it didn't end up that way."

Along with the arraignment on Wednesday, Ovey filed notice that he intends to seek the death penalty in the case if Ryan Champion is convicted.

Media report Champion's new attorney, Tom Osborne, maintained his client's innocence and asked that a trial date be set as soon as possible.

(source: Associated Press)


Man accused of slashing woman's throat due in court

Police arrest man in death of Louisville mother

A Louisville man police say admitted to the murder of a young woman is set to appear in court Monday morning.

There is new information in the brutal stabbing death of a young mother.

Michael Vernon Hayes is accused of slashing the throat of 23-year-old Jovon Dawson in her apartment on Lindell Avenue last November.

Investigators say her 6-year-old child discovered her body.

Hayes told investigators he and the victim had argued over drugs and money.

Prosecutors say the commonwealth has filed evidence of aggravating circumstances in a possible bid to seek the death penalty if Hayes is found guilty.

(source: WLKY news)


Kentucky lawmakers plan to try heroin bill again

No Kentucky lawmaker opposes better methods to combat a rising tide of heroin addiction but the specifics of how to do it - and politics - get complicated.

Nevertheless, key lawmakers - including new Senate budget chairman and candidate for lieutenant governor Chris McDaniel and House Judiciary Chair John Tilley - think a bill can pass the 2015 General Assembly.

McDaniel has pre-filed a bill to strengthen penalties for heroin offenses; offer a "good Samaritan" provision allowing people to report overdoses or warn law enforcement about the presence of needles without penalty; and fund treatment.

He's optimistic it will pass because it deletes provisions which previously proved "poison pills" for 1 or other chamber, including a provision in an earlier bill to create a presumption of responsibility for an overdose death by the seller of the drug. That might have allowed the seller to be sentenced to death.

That was part of the problem for a bill sponsored in 2014 by then Senate Pro Tem Katie Kratz Stine, R-Southgate. Republicans charged House Democrats didn't want to pass the bill simply because it was authored by Stine - and authorship does sometimes entangle a bill in political rivalries.

But some House Democrats had genuine constitutional concerns about the death presumption, said Tilley, who also wants to pass a heroin bill in 2015.

Some Democrats last year also wanted a clean needle exchange provision, something the Senate Republicans found equally as objectionable as House Democrats did the death penalty presumption. There were probably other political factors at play in the demise of Stine's bill which Tilley and McDaniel hope to avoid this time.

Leaders in one chamber frequently hold up votes on bills dear to the majority in the other, hoping to trade a vote on it in their chamber for one on a bill they want which is stalled in the other. House Democrats wanted the Senate last year pass a bill by retiring Democratic legislator Jesse Crenshaw which would automatically restore voting rights for felons convicted of non-violent and non-sexual crimes.

Neither bill passed the opposing chamber although there were negotiations on both down to the final minutes of the session. Tilley wants an early vote on a heroin measure in 2015 to avoid repeating that scenario. He and McDaniel are hopeful this time will be different.

(source: The Independent)


Death penalty in Tennessee

A group of inmates is fighting the death penalty protocol used in Tennessee, claiming it is unconstitutional and violates protections from cruel and unusual punishment. Execution protocol has changed several times in the past decade.

The Tennessee Supreme Court will considering Thursday whether to identify the names of the execution team and pharmacists working with the deadly drugs in a challenge to a 2013 state law that keeps almost all details of the procedure a secret.

A group of 11 condemned inmates and their lawyers say that law does not apply to court cases, which other rules guide.

"The state has a compelling interest in protecting the identities of the members of the execution team because the confidentiality of this information is vital to the proper performance of defendants' duties and to the enforcement of the law," according to the Tennessee attorney general's filing in the case.

The state says the names are not relevant to the execution protocol, which is what the inmates claim is unconstitutional.

Lawyers for the inmates challenging Tennessee's execution protocol, changed in 2013 because supply of the existing death-penalty drugs was tightening, said the state cannot ensure that its death penalty is constitutional if inmates don't have access to where the state obtains its lethal injection drugs, the makeup of the chemical cocktail used to execute inmates and the names of the people on the execution team.

The state Supreme Court should uphold an appeals court opinion that the secrecy law withholds information from public disclosure but not from use in discovery - or evidence - proceedings in trial, the inmates' lawyers said. They contend that limited release would prevent any retaliation that the state argues could occur if the names were made public.

1 woman and 69 men are on Tennessee's death row.

"Generally speaking, a trend we see is states attempting to enhance the secrecy surrounding their execution procedures," saidMegan McCracken, a lawyer at the University of California Berkeley School of Law's Death Penalty Clinic. "That is a real problem for condemned prisoners but also for the public because without disclosure of the information there's no way to analyze the procedures and ensure they comport with the Constitution."

Tennessee's lethal injection protocol now calls for the use of pentobarbital, a barbiturate and veterinary anesthetic. At least 19 other states use or plan to use pentobarbital, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a private group that opposes the death penalty.

Some states attempting to keep their old chemical cocktail have struggled to find drug suppliers, tested new drug cocktails and at times turned to unconventional methods of procuring the deadly doses since the only federally approved manufacturer took steps to keep its drug out of execution chambers.

4 bungled executions in other states this year left inmates gasping on gurneys in front of witnesses, at times for hours, fueling further scrutiny of the death penalty. Pentobarbital was used in a combination of drugs in an Oklahoma execution where the inmate reportedly said he felt his body burning before he died.

Earlier this year, supreme courts in Georgia and Oklahoma upheld secrecy statutes similar to Tennessee's law while ruling the death penalty was constitutional.

(source: USA Today)


Botched Oklahoma lethal injection execution of Clayton Lockett described as 'a bloody mess'

A grisly execution of a US criminal in Oklahoma that did not go according to plan has been detailed for the 1st time since the ineffective lethal injection was administered 8 months ago.

A medic had repeatedly attempted to insert an intravenous line in the groin of prisoner Clayton Lockett but pierced an artery by accident and was sprayed with blood, according to a document filed in Federal District Court on Friday, as reported by The New York Times.

Lockett, a murderer and rapist who was 38-years-old when he was killed by the state, was also said to have been writhing around, clenching his teeth, groaning in agony and had even tried to lift his head off the pillow just minutes after he was pronounced unconscious by doctors, before he died of a heart attack 43 minutes later.

"It was a bloody mess," said Anita Trammell, the warden of the Oklahoma state prison where the execution took place on 29 April at 6.23 pm, as recorded in an interview with state investigators.

After the doctor had realised that there was no drugs left for the execution and that the needle was too short to reach the veins, Lockett's heart had stopped and no efforts were made to resuscitate him, The New York Times said.

Lockett had a long history of crime since he pleaded guilty of burglary at 19 for which he received 7 years. In 1999, he kidnapped, beat and shot 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman before watching his accomplices bury her while she was still alive.

In 2000, he was convicted of murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, assault and battery for which he was sentenced to death by lethal injection, which has the highest failure rate of all methods of execution at 7.1 %.

Robert Patton, Department of Corrections director, called for an external review of what went wrong in the execution of Clayton Lockett Robert Patton, Department of Corrections director, called for an external review of what went wrong in the execution of Lockett Several officials acknowledged, according to the court brief, that they had no contingency plans in case Lockett failed to die.

His execution was supposed to be followed two hours later by that of Charles F. Warner, who was convicted of raping and murdering an infant in 1997, but the state immediately suspended his execution and those of others to investigate what had went wrong.

Officials say they have improved training and procedures, and Warner is now scheduled to die on 15 January next year, followed by three other convicts on 29 January, 19 February and 5 March. Officials have said they plan to use a 3-drug combination similar to that used for Lockett with midazolam sedative, but at ten times the dose used, followed by a paralysing agent and 1 that stops the heart beating.

The lawyers seeking to delay the planned executions have claimed that the use of midazolam amounts to unconstitutional experimentation on humans and they plan to call upon medical experts in the hope to prove that multiplying the sedative dosage would not necessarily work.

Midazolam was also used during the execution of murderer Joseph Wood in Arizona, in July, that lasted nearly two hours while the prisoner gasped for breath as the executioners repeatedly injected more of the drugs.

(source: The Independent)


Cut your losses, Bill Montgomery

Our View: Justice isn't always perfect. Sometimes, prosecutors need to accept good enough.

Bill Montgomery is tenacious. The Maricopa County attorney does not give up a fight easily.

This is a good quality in a prosecutor. But a zealous prosecutor also needs to recognize when continuing the fight serves neither justice nor the public. 2 current cases demonstrate.

Debra Milke spent 23 years on death row for arranging the death of her 4-year-old son. Last year, a federal appeals court tossed out her conviction on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Montgomery vowed to take Milke back to trial but has lost every fight since then. Last week, a state appeals court tossed out the charges, saying the prosecution's failure in 1990 to provide potentially exculpatory information was a "severe stain on the Arizona justice system."

Montgomery says he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court. Justice must be done.

But if he wins, he'll go to trial without the confession that was key to conviction in 1990. This doesn't seem like the best use of taxpayer money or the limited resources of Montgomery's office.. Milke spent 1/2 her life in prison. Perhaps that is imperfect justice, but it is punishment for whatever part she played in her son's death.

Jodi Arias should serve as a a cautionary tale for Montgomery. She was convicted of killing her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, but the jury deadlocked on sentencing her to death. Rather than accepting that Arias would spend the rest of her life in prison, Montgomery chose to take another shot at the death penalty.

The new trial been almost as much of a spectacle as the first. The defense funcovered fresh evidence that raises questions about the original verdict. And taxpayers just keep forking over more money.

Justice would be better served with Arias spending her many remaining decades in prison, forgotten.

(source: Opinion, Editorial Board----Arizona Republic)


Legally Speaking: The Jodi Arias evidentiary hearing is over and very little should change

Is Jodi Arias going to be another Debra Milke?

Will she soon see the world as a free woman?

If you would have asked me that question 2 months ago I would have said no. Ask me a month ago and I would have said maybe. Ask me now and I say not a chance.

2 months ago the retrial of Arias was slowly trudging along when out of the blue the defense filed a motion alleging that thousands of porn files were deleted off of the victim's, Travis Alexander's, computer.

The defense alleged that not only were the files deleted but they were deleted by the State, deliberately.

This was a bombshell because if it was true, then it would be within Judge Sherry Stephens' power to take the death penalty off the table -- or even dismiss the entire case.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez came back swinging and responded that it was Arias' own defense team that deleted the files. This resulted in a long evidentiary hearing that lasted 4 days spread over several weeks outside the hearing of the jury.

Several witnesses testified about the condition and contents of Alexander's computer after his death. The defense's expert witness, Bryan Neumeister, claimed there was so much porn on the computer the State's experts had to be inept to not have discovered the files. In fact, Neumeister testified this issue wasn't the elephant in the room it was the aircraft carrier in the room.

For some background, in the 1st trial, the State's own computer expert testified there were no porn files on the computer. This went a long way to support Martinez's argument that Arias was a liar, and since her experts relied on her words they were essentially liars too.

Well, if there was porn on the computer then she wasn't lying. About that anyway.

After the last witness testified in the evidentiary hearing, it seemed clear to me there was, in fact, pornographic files on Alexander's computer. I didn't reach this conclusion because I am a genius, no, it was clear to me because the State's computer expert said there was.

Yes, this was a different computer expert than the one that said those files did not exist.

The defense was successful in proving Detective Esteban Flores may not have followed proper protocol when he "woke up" the computer at the crime scene and when he turned on that same computer during an evidence viewing with Arias' previous defense attorneys.

Successful in proving negligence -- yes, successful in proving intentional misconduct -- no.

Now what?

Judge Stephens took the motion "under advisement." This means she will issue her ruling at a later date.

In my opinion, in order to rule on the motion she needs to address and answer the following questions:

1) Were there pornographic files on the computer?

2) Were those files deleted?

3) If so, who deleted them?

4) Was it intentional or not?

5) And lastly, what sanction is appropriate?

To be clear, this hearing and motion was not about Arias' guilt or innocence.

She admitted, and the evidence clearly showed, that she brutally killed Alexander. This motion was about the most recent allegation of prosecutorial misconduct and the plethora of similar allegations made by the defense.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Kirk Nurmi reviewed all the previous allegations of prosecutorial misconduct to persuade the Judge Stephens to, at a minimum, take death off the table and at the most, dismiss the entire case.

Prosecutorial misconduct is at the forefront of the minds of trial watchers and the parties in this case in light of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision dismissing the case against Milke.

Although Nurmi made a valiant and good faith effort, and succeeded in some respects, I don't believe and I don't think Judge Stephens will find any action of Martinez or law enforcement that has risen to the level the appellate courts found existed in the Milke case.

As such, the retrial will continue.

(source: KTAR news)


Rethink public safety priorities

It is a commonly held belief that the death penalty is less expensive than life without the possibility of parole, but that's just not true.

A new study by the Nevada auditor finds that death penalty cases cost far more than sentencing someone to life in prison with no chance of parole - that, in fact, the death penalty provides no additional benefit to society. It doesn't deter crime and doesn't make us safer.

The money wasted on death penalty cases could be used to solve more rapes and murders, put more police on the streets and improve our crime labs. Why waste additional tax dollars trying to execute prisoners who are already safely behind bars?

We need to rethink our public safety priorities and get much smarter on crime.

Richard Cornstuble, Las Vegas

(source: Letter to the Editor, Las vegas Sun)


Locked away for 17 months, accused Boston Marathon bomber set to emerge in court this week; Court records offer glimpse into Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's life in near-solitary confinement

He spends most of his days in "nearly total isolation," according to his attorneys, locked behind a heavy steel door in a tiny cell in the most restricted wing at Fort Devens medical prison 40 miles outside Boston.

His only visitors have been members of his legal team and his two older sisters - though the sisters have come to see him only a handful of times and always under the observation of an FBI agent. He has not been allowed to mingle with or talk to any other inmates - either verbally or through notes. His only other regular contact has been with prison personnel, who slide meals through a slot within a thick glass observation window in a corner of his cell door.

The closest Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has come to experiencing the world beyond his cell in more than 500 days has been through "very limited access to a small outdoor enclosure," according to court records. And that's only "on weekdays, weather permitting." But that will soon change.

Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, is scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in Boston this week. His attorneys have informed prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Boston that he'll attend a Dec. 18 status hearing in the bombing case - the last before his highly anticipated trial, which is set to begin Jan. 5.

The hearing will mark the first time Tsarnaev has been seen in public since July 2013, when he was formally charged with helping to plot and carry out 2 bombings near the marathon's finish line. 3 people were killed and several hundred more injured in the attack, which Tsarnaev is accused of having committed with his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a confrontation with police four days after the bombings. The brothers are also accused of shooting and killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer while on the run from police. Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty in the case, faces the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev's appearance will undoubtedly renew public interest in the bombings, which are still shrouded in mystery. Nearly two years after the attacks, the public has gained little insight into how and why the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly came to commit such a terrible crime - or whether others knew or were involved. An FBI agent involved in the investigation testified under oath during an October trial of a Tsarnaev associate that investigators still did not know where the two bombs had been built.

Another major unknown is exactly how Tsarnaev's attorneys plan to defend their client in the face of what appears to be overwhelming evidence linking him to the attacks. Prosecutors are expected to present previously unseen surveillance video of Tsarnaev and his brother near the marathon's finish line. Footage reportedly shows Tsarnaev dropping a backpack on the ground near Martin Richard, an 8-year-old Boston boy who was killed by the 2nd blast, moments before the bomb went off.

Tsarnaev's attorneys have resisted revealing too much of their strategy - even fighting to delay their list of witnesses until the last possible moment. (The latest deadline is Dec. 29 - a week before jury selection is scheduled to begin.) But court records have suggested that Dzhokhar's legal team plans to paint Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the mastermind of the attacks and cast their own client as someone from an intensely troubled family who was unduly influenced by his older brother.

Yet it's unclear if Tsarnaev is participating in or approves of that line of argument - or how much help his attorneys are receiving from him or his family for his defense. In August, Ailina Tsarnaeva, one of the suspect's older sisters, who is facing legal problems of her own, told a Boston reporter, "My brothers were framed. Everybody knows that."

The public may get a glimpse of how the 21-year-old suspect views his defense at his court appearance Thursday. While Tsarnaev is not required to attend the Dec. 18 hearing, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Boston, who are handling the case, specifically requested that he attend. They argued it would be his last opportunity to state whether he has any problems with his case or attorneys before the trial formally begins - and they say his concerns should be raised now, as opposed to on appeal.

One of the enduring mysteries in the case is Tsarnaev himself. Many of his friends and former teachers have struggled to reconcile the popular teenager they knew with someone who allegedly committed such a terrible crime. And little has been revealed about Tsarnaev in the 20 months since he was captured, hiding and wounded by gunfire, in the back of a boat in the Boston suburbs 4 days after the bombings.

Shortly after his arrest, a federal judge imposed a gag order, restricting what could be released about the evidence in the case and about the suspect. But some details about Tsarnaev's life behind bars have emerged, mostly in the hundreds of pages of court filings exchanged between federal prosecutors and his attorneys in advance of the January trial.

In court 17 months ago, Tsarnaev, then just 19, appeared fidgety and spoke with a distinct foreign accent that some of his closest friends from high school, who attended the hearing, said he had never used before. His left arm was bandaged, and the left side of his face appeared swollen and slightly frozen - evidence of the injuries he'd apparently sustained when being taken into custody by police roughly three months earlier. Even from the back of the room, reporters could see a large scar on his throat. Subsequent court filings have detailed how badly injured Tsarnaev was. In a filing from last May, his attorneys wrote that he arrived at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in "critical condition ... with gunshot wounds to his head, face, throat, jaw, left hand and both legs." Within minutes of arrival, Tsarnaev's "mental status suddenly declined," and doctors had to perform an emergency tracheotomy to keep him alive, according to the filing. One of the shots had fractured the base of Tsarnaev's skull, and his attorneys, citing hospital records, said another gunshot "likely caused traumatic brain injury ... Damage to the cranial nerves required his left eye be sutured shut; his jaw was wired closed and injures to his left ear left him unable to hear on that side."

Tsarnaev's defense team cited the injuries in an effort to suppress written statements, including an apparent confession, that he made to FBI agents before he was read his Miranda rights. (He was unable to physically speak because of the intubation.) But federal prosecutors had previously said in court records they don't plan to use the statements he made at the hospital during the trial - raising the question of whether his defense team is laying the groundwork to use his health or mental state as a way of potentially saving him from the death penalty.

It is unclear how much Tsarnaev has recovered from his injuries or whether he continues to be under medical care. Miriam Conrad, a federal public defender in Boston who is one of the attorneys representing him, declined to comment on the case when contacted by Yahoo News. Mary Long, a public information officer at Fort Devens, also declined to comment on Tsarnaev.

Long and other Bureau of Prisons officials say they are limited in what they can say about Tsarnaev because he is being held under "Special Administrative Measures," known as SAMs. These measures allow the attorney general to enact special restrictions on prisoners whom the government considers to be a significant risk, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they've mainly been applied to terrorism suspects.

Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the restrictions placed on Tsarnaev in late August 2013 - more than 4 months after his arrest - describing him as a danger to society. The memo, personally initialed by Holder, said Tsarnaev had "reaffirmed his commitment to jihad" during his initial interrogation by the FBI and "expressed hope that his actions would inspire others to engage in violent jihad." It also cited his "widespread notoriety," pointing to the fact he'd received nearly 1,000 pieces of unsolicited mail.

Tsarnaev's attorneys, in an October 2013 filing pushing to lift the restrictions, pointed out that most of the letters were from individuals who had written him urging him to convert to Christianity and that the bombing suspect had not replied to any of the correspondence. And they questioned why the government had waited months to implement the restrictions, even though Tsarnaev had been a model prisoner.

Under the rules, Tsarnaev is allowed to write 1 letter - 3 pages, double sided - and to make one phone call per calendar week to his immediate family. His letters are read, and the calls are recorded by federal officials. Under the rules, his family is not allowed to speak about what he tells them. The calls also cannot be recorded by his family.

Tsarnaev is barred from speaking to the media, "in person; by telephone; by furnishing a recorded message; through the mail; his attorney, or a 3rd party; or otherwise," according to Holder's memo. He is allowed to watch television and listen to the radio - but his cell at Fort Devens does not offer either. If he reads newspapers or magazines, they are first stripped of letters to the editor, ads or any other elements that could be used to pass coded messages. He has access to books - but the prison is not allowed to say what he reads.

Court records show that Justice Department officials have seemed particularly concerned with Tsarnaev's communications with his family. In ordering the restrictions, Holder pointed to a May 2013 phone call Tsarnaev made to his mother in Dagestan, Russia, which she recorded and played for reporters. In the call, Tsarnaev, who was speaking in Russian, told his mother that he was "not in pain" and that supporters had deposited $1,000 into his prison commissary account. The call, Holder wrote, was "an apparent effort to engender sympathy" for the bombing suspect.

The government has refused to allow Tsarnaev to see his sisters without an FBI agent in the room - even when one of the suspect's attorneys is present and it is for his legal defense. In recent months, Tsarnaev's attorneys have pushed for the restrictions to be loosened, arguing it is hampering their ability to mount a defense with the help of his family. But the prosecutors have refused to let up.

In February, prosecutors said an FBI agent overheard Tsarnaev make a "statement to his detriment" during one visit with his sister - though they did not specify exactly what was said. The government mentioned the incident in a court filing arguing against relaxing restrictions on Tsarnaev's ability to meet with his family privately, suggesting it was a security risk. His defense team pushed back on the allegation, saying the government had distorted the remark and that the SAMs prevented them from specifically refuting what their client had said.

Later in the spring, the government again refused to loosen the restrictions, according to Tsarnaev's attorneys, because prosecutors said his mother, during a phone call with her son that was monitored by the FBI, made reference to "unspecified friends of his brother Tamerlan" being present during the call. His attorneys called the complaints "unfounded, generic speculation" and "paper-thin concerns about security" intended to frighten the public about their client.

But the restrictions have remained in place, leaving little more than snippets of court records to indicate how Tsarnaev has spent the last 17 months behind prison walls. This week in a Boston courtroom, the public will be able to judge for itself.

(source: (Yahoo News)


Kontras to Report Govt to UNHCR Over Scheduled Executions

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says it will report the Indonesian government to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights over its plan to execute 5 prisoners this month.

The Attorney General's Office revealed last week that five inmates would be executed after President Joko Widodo denied their petitions for clemency.

The decision has come under fierce criticism from local and international human rights groups, who have made repeated appeals to Indonesia to eliminate the death penalty.

Kontras deputy coordinator Chrisbiantoro said on Sunday the executions violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2005.

That agreement limits the sentence of death for "only for the most serious crimes, in accordance with the law in effect at the time of the commission of the crime."

"We will make a report to the UN [United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights over this matter immediately," Chrisbiantoro was quoted as saying by news portal

Kontras hopes the UN High Commissioner will urge the government to remove the death penalty, Chrisbiantoro said.

Capital punishment is a sentencing option for Indonesian judges on several convictions, including drug trafficking, murder, sedition and terrorism.

As of 2013, campaigners against the death penalty recorded that there were 113 prisoners awaiting execution, but since then, more than 16 have been sentenced to death by Indonesian judges.

Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said last week that Joko was not planning to abolish capital punishment anytime soon, particularly in cases of drug trafficking. He said there would be "no mercy" for drug traffickers.

3 of the 5 inmates that will be executed this month were involved in drug cases, while the remaining two will be killed because they committed 1st degree murder. All 5 are male.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


Tricky China request needs one proviso----No death penalty must be a condition of fugitive return.

In his 1st speech as the leader of China, President Xi Jinping identified corruption as a major priority. There would, he said, be no leniency over a problem that was not just a threat to the country's economic development but the very existence of Communist Party rule. Mr Xi was not talking lightly, and his ardour has now created a ticklish problem for the Key Government. This arises from his appeal for New Zealand's help to return a number of fugitives who have fled China with the proceeds of corruption.

During his recent visit here, Mr Xi told the Prime Minister that he thought there were "a few people" in New Zealand whom China wanted returned to face legal action. Most of these were people who had come here with the proceeds of corrupt activities, although a case involving allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour was also discussed. Returning such people to Beijing is no simple matter, however. The 2 countries do not have an extradition treaty. This is a result, in part, of China's traditional reluctance to send its nationals to other countries to be tried and, in part, its ongoing use of the death penalty.

A treaty is now being discussed between officials from the two countries. Importantly, it would, as John Key suggested, have to be framed in a way that gave this country "a high degree of confidence" that certain conditions could be met. Clearly, New Zealand would recoil from the prospect of men or women who had been granted residency here being sentenced to death in China, conceivably without having had a fair trial. These people would have been admitted to this country as investor migrants in the belief that their funds were legitimate. On that basis, they have a right to expect some form of protection.

There are a couple of ways for New Zealand to work its way through this. The first is to look more closely at the sources of the wealth of those who apply to be investor migrants. It could be that the desire to encourage the investment dollars associated with this type of immigration has reduced the intensity of the scrutiny. Certainly, the Government left no doubt of its hankering when it lowered the English language requirements for such immigrants and reduced the minimum investment to what it described as "more realistic levels". Mr Xi's appeal makes it apparent that immigration officials should pay more attention to the possibility of ill-gotten gains.

Secondly, New Zealand should insist that anyone deemed worthy of extradition to China does not face the death penalty. There is a precedent in this. 5 years ago, Zhen Xiao, a Chinese citizen, left this country soon after killing Hiren Mohini, a tax driver, in Mt Eden. Chinese authorities arrested him 6 months later and insisted that he was tried in Shanghai. While criminal proceedings usually take place in the country where the crime is committed, New Zealand agreed because of the absence of an extradition treaty. Its one proviso was that Zhen would not suffer the death penalty. Eventually, he was imprisoned for 15 years.

Other countries have rejected Chinese demands for extradition on the same grounds. The United States, for example, refused to return the Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi. New Zealand has no reason, therefore, to be backward in demanding that an extradition treaty rules out the death penalty. Human rights demand as much.

All this is not to say that Mr Xi's crusade against corruption is not welcome. New Zealand companies operating in China will be among the beneficiaries. But this country should not be condemning any of its residents to the prospect of a lethal injection.

(source: Editorial, New Zealand Herald)


3 Nigerians sentenced to death for drug trafficking

The High Court today sent three Nigerian nationals to the gallows after finding them guilty of drug trafficking.

High Court Judge Datuk Zamani Abdul Rahim sentenced Ezeamama Chidiebele, 27, Emeka Alan Vallen, 26, and Opara Godfrey Chukwuemeka, 33, to death by hanging.

He said the defence failed to cast reasonable doubt on the case of the prosecution.

Zamani added that the prosecution successfully proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The version of the defence did not have a ring of truth, they were lying through their teeth," he said when pronouncing judgement.

All 3 appeared calm when the sentenced was passed.

They were charged with trafficking in 982.4gm of syabu at about 2.40pm on Sept 26, 2012, at Pangsapuri Baiduri in Butterworth.

The charge comes under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and carries the mandatory death penalty on conviction.

Alan Vallen and Chukwuemeka were represented by Dr Pritam Singh Doal while Deputy Public Prosecutor Emma Syafawati Abdul Wahab prosecuted.

(source: The Sun Daily)


Human Rights Watch Calls on Iraq to Reform Justice System

Iraq's prime minister should order stays of execution for one rival of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and an associate of another. The death sentences were handed down after trials in which both defendants alleged they had been subjected to torture and denied access to lawyers during interrogation, highlighting Iraq's urgent need for judicial reform.

On October 22, 2014, Baghdad's Central Criminal Court sentenced Rasha al-Husseini, a secretary to former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, to death on terrorism charges. The court's judgment appears to be based entirely on al-Husseini's confession. Her lawyers allege that security forces psychologically and physically tortured her. On November 23, the same court sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani, a former parliament member, to death on murder charges. Family members told Human Rights Watch they saw torture marks on him before his trial.

"Iraq's judiciary is still handing down convictions in politicized trials, fraught with legal irregularities," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. "Despite promises of reform, the government is sitting idly by while Iraq's terribly flawed justice system sentences people to death on little or no evidence."

Security forces arrested al-Husseini and about a dozen other Hashimi staff members in late December 2011. In March 2012, Human Rights Watch reported evidence that several of them had been tortured. One, a bodyguard named Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died about three months after his arrest. His body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. The government denied the torture allegations and did not investigate.

Al-Husseini's family told Human Rights Watch that they had complained to the office of Iraq's president and prime minister about irregularities in her case, including allegations that to force her confession, security forces at the Intelligence Directorate in the Baladiyat neighborhood of Baghdad tortured her with electric shocks, beat her, suspended her from the ceiling, and threatened to rape her, her sisters, and her mother. Rather than investigate the allegations, both offices told the family that the legal system would take care of the case, the family members said. Al-Husseini is in the Kadhimiyya detention facility, awaiting transfer to death row.

Family members said they were only able to visit al-Husseini in detention after paying US$500 to security officers at each visit. Lawyers representing al-Husseini told Human Rights Watch that she told them security officers promised her that if she fabricated information about the former vice president's alleged terrorist activities, they would release her.

The Iraqi government should investigate the allegations that security forces tortured al-Husseini to coerce her confession, hold accountable security forces suspected of torture, and order a retrial for al-Husseini if such abuses are found, Human Rights Watch said.

On November 25, 2014, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the international organization of parliaments, released a report calling on Iraqi authorities to provide information on the al-Alwani case and on al-Alwani's current whereabouts, which the government has not revealed. The report expressed doubt about whether his trial complied with basic due process requirements and fair trial guarantees given the lack of available information on the proceedings. A lawyer for al-Alwani told Human Rights Watch that he was not permitted to see al-Alwani until after security forces had already interrogated him, but would not provide any other details on his detention, interrogation, or trial.

Al-Alwani was charged with murder after security forces stormed his Ramadi compound on December 28, 2013, and fired on him and his family. Security forces alleged that al-Alwani forfeited his parliamentary immunity by firing back at them, killing 2 soldiers. Al-Alwani denied the charges.

Relatives told Human Rights Watch that security forces required bribes to allow them to visit al-Alwani at the Muthanna Airport Prison by the Counter-Terrorism Service, where he was held. During their visit they saw torture marks on his body, they said. Security forces killed al-Alwani's brother and 5 of his bodyguards during the raid. There has been no investigation into the killings or into allegations that security forces tortured al-Alwani, relatives said.

Iraq's new prime minister, Hayder al-Abadi, has announced reforms aimed at curbing security force abuses and promised to incorporate the Sunni minority into the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Sunnis have long complained that security forces and the judiciary unfairly target them for abuse.

In a December 9, 2014 interview, Human Rights Minister Mohamed al-Bayati defended Iraq's use of the death penalty in alleged terrorism cases despite the serious fair trial deficiencies Human Rights Watch documented. They include death penalty cases in which the conviction was based on confessions obtained through torture and secret informant testimony.

International human rights law requires that where the death penalty has not been abolished, it should be imposed only for the most serious crimes and after scrupulous adherence to international fair trial standards. Trials in Iraq often violate these minimum guarantees, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruelty and finality, and the fact that trials resulting in death sentences are plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

The Iraqi government should order a stay on the executions of al-Husseini and al-Alwani until their allegations of abuse during interrogations have been fully investigated.

"Prime Minister Abadi has promised reform, a positive move," Stork said. "But he needs to address the widespread abuses and irregularities in a judicial system that routinely fails to address allegations of torture and fair trial violations."

(source: Assyrian International News Agency)


A 71-year-old Australian woman arrested for heroin trafficking in Vietnam after mother-of-4 caught with ice in Malaysia

A 2nd Australian woman faces the death penalty after the arrest of a 71-year-old in Vietnam on suspicion of heroin trafficking.

The woman, born in Vietnam, was detained in Ho Chi Minh City with 2.8 kilograms of heroin allegedly hidden in 36 soap cases in her check-in luggage at the city's Tan Son Nhut Airport on Sunday before she was about to board a flight to Sydney.

It comes as a Sydney grandmother caught with methamphetamine in Malaysia has had her bag containing the drugs paraded by customs officials.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, was found with 1.5kg of methamphetamine - more commonly known as ice - last week while travelling through Kuala Lumpur's international airport.

Customs officials on Monday said it remained unclear whether the drugs - worth about $90,000 - were destined for either Kuala Lumpur or Melbourne, where Pinto Exposto's main flight was bound.

The backpack, which her lawyers claim she volunteered for checking at the airport, was found to include men's clothing and the drugs which were located in a specially stitched compartment.

The airport's customs chief Omar Chik Lim said Pinto Exposto, a mother of four and grandmother, remained in police custody at a female detention centre and was in a "good condition."

Her lawyer Muhammed Shafee Abdullah on Sunday told reporters his client had been duped.

"There is a very strong chance that she is one of those naive and innocent mules that has been used by some unscrupulous people," he said.

Customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport have arrested 22 people for drugs offences already this year and of them, 7 people, arrived on flights from China.

Pinto Exposto, who lives in Liverpool in Sydney's southwest, is not permitted to have any visitors, until she is charged. That could come as quickly as Friday, when she is next due to face court.

(source: The News)


1975 L.N. Mishra murder case sentencing slated for Dec 18

A Delhi court Monday reserved for Dec 18 its order on sentencing of the 4 convicts in the 1975 murder of then railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) left it to its discretion whether the convicts deserved death penalty.

District Judge Vinod Goel last week held four followers of Hindu sect Anand Marg guilty of killing Mishra 39 years ago. The court order on sentencing came after defence counsel and prosecution concluded arguments on the quantum of punishment for the convicts.

Advancing arguments on quantum of punishment, CBI special public prosecutor N.K. Sharma termed the attack on then railway minister Mishra as a terrorist act done to spread panic.

Advocate Sharma left it to the court to decide whether the case falls under the category of "rarest of rare" warranting the extreme sentence and said that the 4 men are convicted under sections dealing with murder that entail a minimum punishment of life imprisonment and maximum of death penalty.

Gopalji (73), Ranjan Dwivedi (66), Santoshanand Avadhuta (75) and Sudevananda Avadhuta (78) were convicted on charges of murder, criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon.

Santoshanand Avadhuta and Sudevananda Avadhuta were also convicted under various provisions of the Explosive Substances Act.

Seeking lenient view for three convicts, Santoshanand, Sudevanand and Gopalji, their counsel told court that they are sanyasis and not a threat to society. Defence counsel also cited old age and medical grounds of their clients.

Defence counsel of Sudevanand, Feroze Ahmad told court that his client is innocent and the case does not fall under the rarest of rare case.

Ranjan Dwivedi, a convict and lawyer by profession, claiming innocence told the court that his conviction was his "destiny" and there was no provision in the law of recalling the order by a trial court judge.

He said: "I will not go against my conscience and will not seek mercy, otherwise I would die hundred times before my death."

The court heard the arguments on quantum of sentence despite the lawyers being on strike for the past 1 week.

Mishra went to Samastipur in Bihar Jan 2, 1975, to declare open the Samastipur-Muzaffarpur broad-gauge railway line.

A bomb explosion on the dais seriously injured him.

He was rushed to the railway hospital at Danapur, near Patna, where he died the following day.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that Anand Margis had carried out the attack on Mishra to put pressure on the government for releasing one of the group's leaders.

The Supreme Court transferred the case to Delhi in 1979. The charges against the accused were framed in 1981.

On the direction of the apex court, the lower court here began hearing the final arguments in the 39-year-old case on a daily basis since September 2012.

The apex court in August 2012 dismissed the accused's plea to terminate the proceedings, ruling that this could not be done merely because the proceedings had not been concluded in the past 37 years.

The apex court directed the trial court not to entertain any plea for unwarranted adjournment.

Over 160 prosecution witnesses, 5 court witnesses and around 40 defence witnesses were examined in this case.

(source: Daiji World)


Family's anguish as Chinese teenager given death sentence for murder 18 years ago is declared INNOCENT in rare U-turn by country's courts

The family of a Chinese teenager executed after being convicted of murder and rape 18 years ago, howled in anguish as he was declared innocent by a court today in a rare U-turn by the country's courts.

Hugjiltu was just 18 when he was found guilty of raping and murdering a woman in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, in 1996 and was put to death just 61 days after the woman was murdered.

But doubt was cast on the verdict when another man confessed to the crime in 2005, leading to the case being reopened by the Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court in Bobatu last month.

After the court in the autonomous region of northern China issued a statement today finding Hugjiltu not guilty, the dead man's mother, father and brother burned a copy of the decision on his grave in a highly charged protest.

In papers issued to the family at their home, the court ruled the original guilty verdict to be 'not consistent with the facts' and having 'insufficient evidence'.

As he delievered the papers Zhao Jianping, the deputy president of the court, made a profound apology for its mistake in sentencing the teenager, also known as Qoysiletu, to death

After Hugjiltu's mother Shang Aiyun had to be dragged from the teenager's grave as she wailed in pain, his brother Zhaoligetu told 'My mother wished him 'rest in peace' and hoped he could reincarnate.'

Mr Jianping gave Hugjiltu's parents compensation of 30,000 yuan (3,093 pounds), the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The money was a personal donation by the head of the court, it added, rather than an official payment by the institution.

'This is an amazing thing the court did, to admit that they were wrong,' said Wang Gongyi, deputy director of the research institute of the Ministry of Justice.

'It also sends a clear message to the police and prosecutors around the country Ė if there's not enough evidence, don't impose wrongful convictions,' he told AFP.

'In the future this case will be singled out as what not to do and will influence the entire legal system.'

In Hugjiltu's case, authorities interrogated the teenager for 48 hours, after which he confessed to having raped and choked the woman in the toilet of a textile factory, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported last month.

After he was executed in June 1996, Hugjiltu's family tried for nearly 2 decades to prove his innocence.

Finally it was found Hugjiltu's confession did not match the autopsy report, was inconsistent with 'other evidence', and that DNA evidence presented at the trial did not definitively connect him to the crime.

Police in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia where the crime took place, said they had opened an investigation into the officers responsible for the original case, according to the Legal Evening News.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

In one case, police claimed a body was that of a woman who had recently disappeared and charged Teng Xingshan with her murder.

Teng was executed by firing squad in 1989, but in 1993 the supposedly murdered woman returned to the village saying she had been kidnapped.

Teng was exonerated of all crimes in 2005.

Several other high-profile wrongful convictions have sparked public outrage in recent years.

Last year, a man who served 17 years in prison for killing his wife was declared innocent by an appeals court in the eastern province of Anhui.

A few months earlier 2 men who had been sentenced to death and life in prison in 2004 for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl, were also acquitted.

Many on social media decried what they saw as insufficient compensation for such a grave miscarriage of justice, with one asking: 'Is 30,000 yuan really enough to buy the life of a family member?'

Campaign groups and experts welcomed the court decision and said it was a signal to the rest of the justice system that it must perform better.

China's courts, controlled by the ruling Communist Party, have a near-100 % conviction rate in criminal cases and confessions extracted under dubious conditions are commonplace.

Leaders of the ruling party have promised to strengthen the rule of law 'with Chinese characteristics', but experts caution the concept refers to greater central control over the courts, rather than judicial independence.

The country put an estimated 2,400 people to death last year.

'The central government wants to use this case to send a clear signal to police and courts that they need to do a better job,' said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

'But without transparency in death penalty cases, it will be hard to determine if progress is being made.'

(soure: Daily Mail)

DECEMBER 14, 2014:


Watered-down death penalty bill still not acceptable: editorial

It's unconscionable for Ohio's elected officials to disregard transparency and medical ethics in order to continue executing death-row inmates.

That's what the Ohio General Assembly is on the verge of doing. The Senate Thursday passed Substitute House Bill 663, legislation that would allow companies that provide lethal-injection drugs to the state to remain anonymous for 20 years and that would prevent medical licensing boards from disciplining physicians who assist with executions or testify in court in death-penalty proceedings.

While the Senate-passed bill is an improvement over the House version - in part because it includes a two-year sunset provision - it still violates the public's right to know about government contracts and interferes with the medical profession's longstanding code of ethics.

Ohio's death penalty protocol is in flux because manufacturers of pentobarbital, the state's execution drug of choice, stopped allowing the drug to be used to carry out executions. And when the state turned instead to a cocktail of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative, questions of cruel and unusual punishment arose.

Senate lawmakers removed language from the bill that would have voided business contracts that prevent the sale of drugs to the state for execution purposes -- to prevent any unintentional shortage of critical drugs used for other purposes.

The bill's secrecy language would allow so-called compounding pharmacies to produce pentobarbital and sell it to the state secretly, preventing public review of the contracts. What's more, regular providers could be grandfathered for 20 years under the bill's secrecy provisions, even if the bill is allowed to expire, said Gary Daniels of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

The Ohio Ethics Commission would vet the suppliers, according to the bill, but their identities would remain sealed by the court. Attorneys for condemned prisoners trying to assess the means by which their clients are to be put to death would be not be able to subpoena the names, Daniels said.

This is unacceptable, just as it is unacceptable that the state is pitting doctors against their own licensing boards, which in Ohio do not allow their members to take part in execution protocols.

The Senate-passed legislation is scheduled to go back to the House for concurrence this week. If lawmakers do not reconsider, Gov. John Kasich should veto this bill.

(source: Editorial Board, Cleveland Plain Dealer)


Billy Frank Davis Jr. Faces Death Penalty For Raping And Killing 8-Year-Old Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin

In March 2012, 8-year-old Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin was kidnapped while she slept. Billy Frank Davis Jr., 31, who was both drunk and high on cocaine, raped, beat and strangled her to death before hiding her body in a dryer.

In a Topeka, Kansas, courtroom yesterday afternoon, Davis was convicted of homicide, rape of the child, aggravated kidnapping of the child, burglary, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, and 2 misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property.

Sharon Miller, Ahliyah's grandmother, wrote handwritten note provided to the Topeka Capital-Journal. It read, in part, "justice has been served...even though Ahliyah will never go to the prom or fall in love, or grow up to have a family...We all still miss the loss of our beautiful Ahliyah, her touch, her smile, her loving hugs but we as a family know she is in Heaven smiling down on us and is happy now and looks down on us letting us know everything is going to be OK now." The note was signed "Grandma Sharon."

Now jurors must decide whether or not Davis should face the death penalty or life in prison. They must vote unanimously to impose the death penalty.

Davis' defense attorney Julia Spainhour argued that her client was so incapacitated, he did not have the mental capacity to intend to kill Ahliyah - which may be a mitigating factor during the sentencing process. Spainhour told the jurors that Davis told Topeka police detectives "'I didn't intend to kill her; I didn't intend to hurt her.'"

The judge reminded the jury that "voluntary intoxication" was a valid defense, and Spainhour said it applied to Davis.

Miller's note added that she felt justice had been done by reaching a guilty verdict. "Justice has been done to the point that this man will never be able to take another baby's life, be able to traumatize a family of another victim," she wrote.

"He has had his control during all of this...but now we have the control back."



Retrial Hearing Returns Monday After Juror Gets Sacked; Convicted Murderer Has Better Chance To Go Free?

The Jodi Arias murder case has hit a snag when a juror was sacked after it was found that she had a prior arrest. Does this mean that the convicted murderer has a better chance of escaping the death penalty?

Juror No. 3, identified as Melissa Lenette Garcia, reportedly was charged for issuing bad checks which caused her to be booted out of the pretrial jury to determine if Jody Arias should die for the murder of boyfriend Travis Alexander, reported Radar Online.

"Maricopa County jail records show Garcia, 36, was arrested on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving," it said. "Her mugshot is online on inmate search websites, but no other details about her case were published."

This wasn't the 1st time a juror involved in the death penalty hearing in connection to the Jodie Arias murder case was kicked out. Back in October, another member of the panel was dropped after talking to a reporter.

In another report, the convicted murder might escape jail time altogether on a technicality.

This, after a judge is considering to hear the defense's case that she should escape the death penalty at the very least "because a key investigator mishandled the victim's laptop."

"A similar argument of police misconduct led the Arizona appeals court to rule Thursday that the Debra Jean Milke case must be dismissed," it said. "Milke served 2 decades on Arizona's death row after she was convicted in her young son's 1989 murder."

Even death penalty jurors would reconsider the Jodi Arias murder case if they do decide that she should get the ultimate sentence. "If Arias gets the death penalty, this case could come back with a new trial ordered. If she just gets life, it might not because of the lower scrutiny to the case," said Lawyer Beth Karas who followed the case since day 1.



Murder suspect appears in court

William Leo Altes III, the man accused of killing Greenville resident Lauren Lindskog Allen, didn't enter a plea during his Friday, Dec. 5, court appearance.

On the advice of his public defender, Robert Zernich, Altes agreed to wait until Dec. 19 in order for Zernich to review the evidence in the case.

Wearing striped jail clothing, the shackled and expressionless Altes quietly conferred with his appointed attorney before Plumas County Superior Court Judge Ira Kaufman read the charges against the 44-year-old Butterfly Valley man.

"Yes sir," Altes replied when the judge asked if he agreed to wait until Dec. 19 to enter a plea.

Altes is accused of using a hammer and knife to kill Allen, 51, in the garage of her residence adjacent to the Coppercreek youth camp, which she co-owned, near Greenville.

He faces a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted. The District Attorney's Office has not ruled out seeking the death penalty once all the evidence has been gathered.

Allen's body was discovered by her boyfriend, Jared Tappero, about 6:40 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, just minutes after he called 911 to report her missing.

Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said investigators are still working to piece together evidence surrounding Allenís death. He said autopsy results will help determine when Allen was killed but they "won't give a specific hour."

"We start with what is indisputably known and work from there," Hagwood said. "We are looking at information provided by members of the community. We are also evaluating cellphone and credit card records to help us narrow down an exact time."

The morning of her death, from 9 to 11, Allen met with Plumas Charter School Director Taletha Washburn in Quincy. Allen was scheduled to begin work as an instructional aide Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the school's Greenville Learning Center.

Washburn, like many community members, said she was having a hard time coming to grips with Allen's death. "It just doesn't seem real," she said.

Altes was last seen about 12:30 p.m. that day, when he stopped by the home of Greenville High School Athletic Director Mike Chelotti on Pioneer Road near Crescent Mills. Chelotti said he knew Altes, but didn't know his last name.

"Billy came to my house asking if I had gas, as he had run out on the grade above my house," Chelotti said. "I gave him a 5-gallon can (of gas)."

Chelotti said Altes appeared to be slightly upset and nervous. He said his dog repeatedly barked and focused on Altes. Chelotti said the dog had never done that to Altes before.

Chelotti said he also spoke to Allen over the phone that same morning. Allen was the Greenville High volleyball coach from 2009 to 2011.

When Chelotti heard about Allen's death, he said he immediately called the sheriff's office to "tell them the timeline."

When Allen's boyfriend called to report her missing, he told dispatchers that a 1999 GMC Suburban was missing, as was Altes. He said Altes had been doing some part-time work at the camp.

After Allen's body was discovered, further investigation revealed that a Remington 870 shotgun, ammunition and Allen's credit cards were also missing.

Monday night, investigators learned that Allen's missing credit card was used at 4:30 p.m. Monday at a Corning gas station.

The sheriff's office then issued an alert to law enforcement agencies throughout the western states. According to dispatch logs, the alert was issued at 9:50 p.m.

The stolen vehicle was located by the California Highway Patrol along Interstate 5 near Willows.

A Glenn County CHP officer reportedly encountered Altes before the alert was issued. The officer said he spoke to Altes when he pulled over to check on a GMC Suburban that was stopped along southbound Interstate 5 near the County Road 33 overpass by Artois.

The officer said the driver told him he had engine trouble and he had called a friend for help.

The driver was no longer with the vehicle when the CHP returned after getting the alert.

Altes was arrested about 2 a.m. at a nearby rest stop after a Glenn County sheriff's deputy saw him leaving a restroom. The deputy reportedly recognized Altes from a photo that was included as part of the alert.

According to reports, the deputy ordered Altes to halt and remove his hands from his pockets.

Altes reportedly refused and started swearing. A short foot chase ensued before Altes surrendered.

Deputies said Altes was in possession of 3 knives. A Remington shotgun and shells were found under the Road 33 overpass near the abandoned Suburban.

Altes was transported to the Plumas County jail early Tuesday morning, Dec. 2, where he was booked and held on $1 million bail.

He faces 5 charges, including 1st-degree murder and 2 other felonies for being a felon in possession of a firearm and unlawfully taking a vehicle. He is also charged with misdemeanor grand theft of a firearm and petty theft for stealing credit cards.

"This is a horrific crime and a tragic loss for the community," District Attorney David Hollister said. "The district attorney's office offers our heartfelt condolences to Laurenís family and many friends.

"We look forward to the opportunity of proving this case in court and assuring justice is served."

Altes has a documented criminal history, including a 2002 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in Yolo County.

He was on probation for a 2012 home invasion near Cromberg. He also pleaded no contest to being under the influence of methamphetamine during that crime.

During the middle-of-the-night home invasion, Altes was held at gunpoint by the homeowner until sheriff's deputies arrived.

His friends and family said Altes has struggled with drug addiction, particularly to methamphetamine, for much of his life.

Hollister said the investigation into Allen's death is ongoing. He encouraged anyone with relevant information about the case to contact Plumas County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Peay at 283-6363, or the DA's Investigations Supervisor Jeff Wilkinson at 283-6303.

(source: Plumas News)


Death Sentences for Political Rivals----High-Profile Cases Highlight Need for Judicial Reform

Iraq's prime minister should order stays of execution for one rival of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and an associate of another. The death sentences were handed down after trials in which both defendants alleged they had been subjected to torture and denied access to lawyers during interrogation, highlighting Iraq's urgent need for judicial reform.

On October 22, 2014, Baghdadís Central Criminal Court sentenced Rasha al-Husseini, a secretary to former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, to death on terrorism charges. The courtís judgment appears to be based entirely on al-Husseiniís confession. Her lawyers allege that security forces psychologically and physically tortured her. On November 23, the same court sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani, a former parliament member, to death on murder charges. Family members told Human Rights Watch they saw torture marks on him before his trial.

"Iraq's judiciary is still handing down convictions in politicized trials, fraught with legal irregularities," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. "Despite promises of reform, the government is sitting idly by while Iraq's terribly flawed justice system sentences people to death on little or no evidence."

Security forces arrested al-Husseini and about a dozen other Hashimi staff members in late December 2011. In March 2012, Human Rights Watch reported evidence that several of them had been tortured. One, a bodyguard named Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died about three months after his arrest. His body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. The government denied the torture allegations and did not investigate.

Al-Husseini's family told Human Rights Watch that they had complained to the office of Iraq's president and prime minister about irregularities in her case, including allegations that to force her confession, security forces at the Intelligence Directorate in the Baladiyat neighborhood of Baghdad tortured her with electric shocks, beat her, suspended her from the ceiling, and threatened to rape her, her sisters, and her mother. Rather than investigate the allegations, both offices told the family that the legal system would take care of the case, the family members said. Al-Husseini is in the Kadhimiyya detention facility, awaiting transfer to death row.

Family members said they were only able to visit al-Husseini in detention after paying US$500 to security officers at each visit. Lawyers representing al-Husseini told Human Rights Watch that she told them security officers promised her that if she fabricated information about the former vice president's alleged terrorist activities, they would release her.

The Iraqi government should investigate the allegations that security forces tortured al-Husseini to coerce her confession, hold accountable security forces suspected of torture, and order a retrial for al-Husseini if such abuses are found, Human Rights Watch said.

On November 25, 2014, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the international organization of parliaments, released a report calling on Iraqi authorities to provide information on the al-Alwani case and on al-Alwani's current whereabouts, which the government has not revealed. The report expressed doubt about whether his trial complied with basic due process requirements and fair trial guarantees given the lack of available information on the proceedings. A lawyer for al-Alwani told Human Rights Watch that he was not permitted to see al-Alwani until after security forces had already interrogated him, but would not provide any other details on his detention, interrogation, or trial.

Al-Alwani was charged with murder after security forces stormed his Ramadi compound on December 28, 2013, and fired on him and his family. Security forces alleged that al-Alwani forfeited his parliamentary immunity by firing back at them, killing 2 soldiers. Al-Alwani denied the charges.

Relatives told Human Rights Watch that security forces required bribes to allow them to visit al-Alwani at the Muthanna Airport Prison by the Counter-Terrorism Service, where he was held. During their visit they saw torture marks on his body, they said. Security forces killed al-Alwani's brother and 5 of his bodyguards during the raid. There has been no investigation into the killings or into allegations that security forces tortured al-Alwani, relatives said.

Iraq's new prime minister, Hayder al-Abadi, has announced reforms aimed at curbing security force abuses and promised to incorporate the Sunni minority into the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Sunnis have long complained that security forces and the judiciary unfairly target them for abuse.

In a December 9, 2014 interview, Human Rights Minister Mohamed al-Bayati defended Iraq's use of the death penalty in alleged terrorism cases despite the serious fair trial deficiencies Human Rights Watch documented. They include death penalty cases in which the conviction was based on confessions obtained through torture and secret informant testimony.

International human rights law requires that where the death penalty has not been abolished, it should be imposed only for the most serious crimes and after scrupulous adherence to international fair trial standards. Trials in Iraq often violate these minimum guarantees, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruelty and finality, and the fact that trials resulting in death sentences are plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

The Iraqi government should order a stay on the executions of al-Husseini and al-Alwani until their allegations of abuse during interrogations have been fully investigated.

"Prime Minister Abadi has promised reform, a positive move," Stork said. "But he needs to address the widespread abuses and irregularities in a judicial system that routinely fails to address allegations of torture and fair trial violations."

(source: Human Rights Watch)


'Mandatory death sentence takes away more than life'

The mandatory death sentence takes away more than just a life, it robs every shred of hope for those convicted.

Criminal lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said the mandatory death penalty which is served in Malaysia are for offences such as murder, drug trafficking and kidnapping which, unfortunately, are plenty.

"At the investigation stage, the families of the suspect are so desperate to save a life that they become victims of unscrupulous individuals who exploit and exhort them by promising to get the charges reduced for a huge sum of money," he said at the recently concluded death penalty forum 2014.

He added that this scenario is why 80% of such cases did not make it to court.

"Besides that, there are also issues such as corrupted police witnesses who lie in court, individuals who fabricate or withhold critical evidence, use underhanded tactics to secure an involuntary admission and others who exploit legal loopholes all in the name of prosecuting a suspect."

"In the criminal court, if custody or control of drugs can be established, it is pre assumed that the suspect had knowledge of the crime and will be prosecuted accordingly. There is no room for circumstances."

Amer commended Singapore's positive step towards drug trafficking by making the death sentence discretionary instead of mandatory.

"If a mistake has been made and the death penalty has been carried out, how does one raise the dead?" he asked.

He proposed imprisonment for life to replace the death penalty as it would give the suspect an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and if new evidence is unearthed, the suspect could be released and given a new lease on life.

"We should not be so quick to decide matters pertaining to lives because we have no right to play God," he stressed.

Amer also spoke about the psychological impact the sentence has on death row inmates, adding that he has seen even tempered individuals turn violent as they struggle to accept the sentence handed out to them.

"The death sentence takes away all hope as they see the end of their lives before them."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International campaigner Gwee Lee said Malaysia voted against the resolution of the Global Moratorium on Death Penalty recently at the United Nations General Assembly 2014.

She said the number of countries global wide which are against the death penalty have been increasing over the years but Malaysia is not one of them.

She added that as of last year, 22 countries still practised the death penalty and a total of 778 executions were carried out, excluding China where details of executions are a State secret.

"A huge majority of the executions are from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia for offences such as blasphemy, adultery, drug offences and others. In North Korea, the death sentence is served for offences like watching banned videos, corruption and pornography".

She emphasised that the death penalty is cruel and infringed on the basis of human rights which is the right to live.

She was speaking at the Forum on Death Penalty in Malaysia organised by Hakam in conjunction with Human Rights Week (Dec 8-12), Co organizer of the forum, Andrew Choo said Malaysia's blanket of secrecy on the number of executions in the country made it difficult to gauge the situation.

"We do not know how many people are on the death row or how many people have been executed. The government is tight lipped about the matter and we can only broach the subject in Parliament. We hope forums like this will provide a platform where people can share their opinions and experiences on the mandatory death penalty and also raise awareness," said Andrew who is also the Co chairman of Human Rights Committee.

(source: The Sun Daily)


Sydney woman Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto faces death penalty after being allegedly caught with 1.5kg of ice at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport

An Australian grandmother says she was set up and is the innocent victim of drug mules as she faces the death penalty after being allegedly caught with methamphetamine in Malaysia.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, from Liverpool in south-western Sydney, could be hanged for allegedly moving 1.5kg of methamphetamine - more commonly known as ice - through Kuala Lumpur's International Airport last week.

Mrs Pinto Exposto was travelling on Malaysia Airlines Flight 387 en route from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur where it stopped over and was scheduled to continue through to Melbourne.

Her legal team said she had in her possession a bag of documents she had collected from Shanghai.

It is claimed the documents were for her fiancee - an American soldier serving in Afghanistan - and related to his impending retirement.

When inspected by Malaysian customs staff, the backpack was allegedly found to contain men's clothing, which her lawyers say did not belong to her, and drugs in a specially stitched compartment.

The Australian High Commission has engaged high-profile Malaysian lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Sydney-born Tania Scivetti to represent Mrs Pinto Exposto.

Mr Shafee said his client volunteered her bags to customs officials at the airport before they discovered the drugs.

"There is a very strong chance that she is one of those naive and innocent mules that has been used by some unscrupulous people - she doesn't seem to know what is going on," Mr Shafee said.

The legal team has previously saved the lives of 2 Australians charged with drug offences.

Victorian mother-of-8 Emma L'Auguille spent 115 days in a Malaysian prison after police charged her with drug trafficking.

She was set free in 2012.

After a 2 year legal saga, Perth man Dominic Bird also had his charges dropped after he was accused of selling 167g of ice to an undercover policeman.

Malaysia has a hard line approach to drugs and implemented the death penalty for such offences in 1983.

Anyone caught carrying more than 50g of a drug is considered a trafficker and can be sent to the gallows.

2 Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, were executed in 1986 after they were caught with 141.9 grams of heroin on the island of Penang.

The case comes just 1 week after Australian woman Kalynda Davis, 22, and her travelling partner, New Zealand national Peter Gardner, 25, were held in China on suspicion of smuggling ice.

Ms Davis has since returned home to Sydney, but Mr Gardner has been held in detention for more than 5 weeks and his fate was expected to be determined yesterday.

There are allegations he was involved in a drug-smuggling plot which Ms Davis knew nothing about.

Ms Pinto Exposto was remanded in custody and is likely to be charged at her next court appearance scheduled in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

(source: The News)


HC upholds death penalty to acid attack accused

Madhya Pradesh high court upheld the capital punishment awarded to a man by sessions court for throwing acid on 28-year-old woman in Morena, who succumbed to acid burns in few hours.

Gwalior bench of MPHC on Friday dismissed the appeal filed by Yogendra Tomar against the verdict of additional sessions judge.

A local court in Morena had on July 24 sentenced Tomar to death. 3 others, including 2 cousins and grandmother of the woman sustained injuries in an acid attack that took place in district's Porsa village on July 21, 2013.

Sessions court ruled accused Yogendra Singh Tomar should get harshest punishment for acid attack because it fell into the "rarest of rare" category under Indian law. "To be hanged till death," upper sessions judge P C Gupta had ordered.

On July 21, 2013 deceased Rubi Gupta was at her parents' house in Porsa town when Tomar, a resident of Ambah, knocked the doors and entered the house and threw acid on the woman. Rubi was badly injured in the attack. When the victim's cousins and grandmother offered resistance, Tomar threw acid on them too before fleeing. All 4 were rushed to the district hospital where Rubi succumbed.

1 of the cousins lost sight. Investigations revealed Tomar was a jilted lover and took revenge. Officials said Tomar had an affair with the victim in the past.

Police said Rubi, who had recently separated from her husband Sanju Gupta after 10 years of married life, had allegedly entered into a relationship with Tomar, also a married man. Rubi filed a divorce case against her husband three years ago and was living at her uncle's house in Agra. However, Tomar was pressurising her to stay with him.

Tomar started harassing her after a break-up. Month before the incident, Tomar convinced Rubi to come to her parental house in Porsa village to discuss and resolve the matter. She believed him and came to her mother's house.

A case was registered against Tomar on the basis of statements given by the victim's grandmother. She informed police that Tomar was harassing her for the last one year.

(source: The Times of India)


UK foreign aid millions helped Iran hang 3,000... including women and children: Shocking report reveals how drugs war cash funded reign of terror

British aid has assisted the brutal execution of nearly 3,000 people accused of drug smuggling in Iran, according to a report to be released this week. The campaign group Reprieve says millions of pounds from British taxpayers can be linked to 'control' operations and hangings carried out by the hard-line Islamic regime.

Those killed - often in public, suspended from cranes after forced confessions, torture and secret trials - include women, children and political dissidents.

Human rights groups say the deaths are designed to spread fear rather than curb the drug trade.

Reprieve's research reveals Britain channelled more money to Iran than the rest of Europe combined, in an effort to fight the drugs trade.

Yet Iran has the world's highest per capita execution rate, despite the UK's public stance of seeking the death penalty's abolition around the globe. Britain's support was quietly stopped amid outrage that it was boosting Iran's security machine, but Reprieve believes scores more people sentenced to death still face execution thanks to British aid already received.

And it points out that millions still flow to similar operations in neighbouring Pakistan, which has the world's largest death row population. Several Britons, including 1 mother and a man with learning difficulties, face execution for alleged drug crimes.

'You look at those on death row in these 2 places and they are never the cartel kingpins but the poorest and most vulnerable, including children and people who are mentally ill or have learning difficulties,' said Maya Foa, Reprieve's lead investigator.

'It is utterly hypocritical of Britain to call for worldwide abolition of the death penalty and then support policies in breach of its own human rights rules that encourage the round-up and execution of scapegoats and mules.'

Such policies fly in the face of the Coalition's defence of its controversial 11 billion pounds of aid handouts on the grounds of a 'moral obligation' to help the world's poorest people.

Reprieve's report - European Aid For Executions - reveals Britain gave nearly 6 million pounds to 12 Iranian anti-drug projects between 1998 and 2012. During this period there were 2,917 confirmed executions of alleged offenders. They included a 15-year-old boy and a Dutch woman who joined anti-government protests.

The cash provided Iran's feared security forces with border posts, 1,000 bullet-proof vests, night-vision devices, body scanners, satellite phones, computer software, sniffer dogs and specialised surveillance vehicles. It was channelled through the United Nations Office On Drugs And Crime, whose director has praised Iran's 'good practices' and 'active role' in fighting drugs.

One flagship project co-funded by Britain was the creation of 'border liaison offices' beside Afghanistan.

Among those subsequently caught was 15-year-old Naeem Kolbali, hanged for alleged drug trafficking although executions of juveniles breach international law. 16 more children were put to death in another Iranian border project.

War orphans are often forced to carry drugs such as heroin and crystal meth between the 2 countries. Reports suggest some are sentenced to death without appearing in court.

Jannat Mir, a 15-year-old Afghan schoolboy hanged in April, was denied access to lawyers.

The number of executions has been rising in Iran, with 647 known to have taken place this year - the majority for drug offences. Human rights group Amnesty has accused the country of carrying out a 'killing spree of staggering proportions' under cover of the war on drugs.

Many hangings are carried out in public, although one notorious prison has a beam that can hold 60 nooses and once recorded 89 deaths in a single day. Those facing accusations have complained of beatings, torture and mock executions to force confessions.

Iran has a massive drugs problem, with more than 1 million addicts amid soaring opium production in neighbouring Afghanistan.

But Reprieve says donors setting targets for aid encourage an increase in often-dubious convictions and subsequent death sentences. Cases such as that of Zahra Bahrami, a British resident with dual Dutch-Iranian nationality, also fuel fears the regime uses the drugs war to clamp down on political dissent.

Bahrami returned to Iran for her daughter's cancer treatment and was then arrested after joining anti-government protests. She was tortured, held in solitary confinement, charged with smuggling and forced to make a televised confession before execution in January 2011. 'If they execute people for drugs there is no international outcry,' said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, a professor of medicine and leading Iranian human rights activist.

'They are victims of an execution machine that is meant to spread fear. The number of executions goes up when the authorities face protests or civil society becomes too bold, then goes down during elections and when the international community has its eyes on Iran.'

Britain finally cut off its aid 3 years ago following concerns in some other European countries over Iran's increasing use of death sentences. 'The donations are leading to executions,' said one Danish minister after his country evaluated the projects.

But Reprieve accuses the Coalition of pouring money into similar programmes in Pakistan, which has more than 8,000 people on death row. Britain is one of the biggest aid donors to Pakistan despite concerns over corruption. Almost 13 million pounds has been handed to 22 counter-narcotic projects - again, far more than given by other European nations.

A Pakistan minister disclosed earlier this year that 100 prisoners had been given death sentences for drug offences since 1997, including 5 British men and 1 woman. Another 444 cases punishable by death were outstanding.

Those on death row include Arshad Ahmed, 52, a father of 5 from Birmingham who has learning difficulties. He was arrested in 2003 for possession of heroin worth 4 million pounds after he carried locked luggage on to a flight to Britain.

Lawyers say his disability was ignored while there was no investigation into the men who gave him the bags. The same gang is thought to be behind the smuggling of 140lb of heroin by Birmingham mother-of-three Khadija Shah. She was given a life sentence in March.

Although there have been no hangings in Pakistan for 6 years, they are expected to resume next year. 'The government has in principle decided to lift the moratorium,' said one official in Islamabad.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK worked closely with partners to tackle drug trafficking and production: 'We have a robust mechanism for identifying and managing the potential risks of our actions in relation to supply.'

He added that Britain was implacably opposed to the death penalty 'in all circumstances' and was concerned by suggestions that executions might resume in Pakistan.

(source: Daily Mail)


Kiwi to find out China death row fate

Kiwi builder Peter Gardner's chances of avoiding the death penalty in China have rapidly deteriorated with local customs officials revealing that they believe he was the owner of 2 pieces of luggage stuffed with 30 kilograms of methamphetamine.

Today marks D-Day for the 25-year-old as it is his 37th day in detention, the longest Chinese authorities can keep a person without releasing them or charging them.

However, shocking details provided to The Sun-Herald newspaper indicate that customs officials believe Gardner was involved in a drug-smuggling plot and his Australian travelling partner, 22-year-old Kalynda Davis, had no knowledge or involvement.

Guangzhou Customs said that Gardner, a NZ-Australian dual national from Sydney's north-west, was the owner of 2 drug-filled bags checked in to Flight CZ325 from Guangzhou to Sydney.

The zippers were sealed with super glue and, when they were prised open in an interrogation room at Baiyun Airport, officials said they found 60 vacuum-sealed bags of suspicious particles, later proven to be 30kg of the drug - the largest single haul of meth headed overseas ever seized by Guangzhou customs.

Guangzhou Customs also revealed it had caught another Australian national attempting to smuggle drugs out of China just this month - the 11th Australian caught in similar circumstances this year Ė underlining the thriving drug trade between southern China and Australia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is understood to be providing ongoing consular assistance to as many as nine Australians on serious drug charges in China, some of whom are potentially facing the death penalty.

Gardner and Davis, who booked tickets to travel to Guangzhou for just 3 days, were pulled aside at 9.55pm on November 8 after officials detected irregularities with two pieces of luggage they checked in.

In a move that has raised many unanswered questions, Davis was abruptly released 30 days later and returned home to Sydney this week with her elated parents Larry and Jenny.

"After investigation, it was discovered that this drug trafficking was operated by (Gardiner)," Guangzhou Customs said.

"There was no evidence that shows (Davis) had any subjective intention to take part in this drug trafficking crime and she has been released back to Australia now."

Under Chinese law, police can detain those suspected of serious crimes for 30 days without charge, after which prosecutors can decide within seven days whether to indict.

Gardner's family have not flown to China and he remains in a Guangzhou detention centre awaiting his fate. They declined to comment on the case.

Former school friends described Gardner as a gentle, friendly guy. He has an unblemished criminal record in New South Wales apart from a drink driving charge.

"He is a really great guy, really caring, nice and softly spoken, I guess he just got tangled in a bad way of life," said one friend from Richmond High School.

"Every time I talked to him he was always genuine and never seemed like he would get involved in that."

A qualified builder, Gardner was born in New Zealand but grew up in Sydney. The New Zealand government has taken charge of his case, indicating that he entered China on his New Zealand passport.

A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they had visited Gardner in the detention centre to provide consular advice and check on his wellbeing.

"He remains in custody and has legal representation," the spokeswoman said.

"The Ministry cannot comment on the ongoing investigation or interfere in the judicial proceedings of another country."

(source: Fairfax News)


Never Could Say Good-Bye ---- Joko Widodo Warns Death Row Narcotic Offender to Expect No Mercy from the Office of the President

Further clarifying his no-nonsense stand on narcotics and lack of mercy for those in prison and awaiting execution for drug offenses, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has declared that the Nation is "in a state of emergency over drug" and is of no mind to pardon drug convicts sitting on death row.

Quoted by the State News Agency Antara, President Widodo, speaking at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta said, "Nearly 40-50 Indonesians die every day due to drug consumption." The President said an estimated 4.5 million people in Indonesia are addicted to drugs with at least 1.2 million beyond treatment due to their state of health.

In the same speech, President Widodo confirmed that he has 64 applications for clemency on his desk from convicts on death row who have exhausted the legal appeal process.

Included in this total, are a number of foreign national, including at least 3 in Bali - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from the "Bali 9," and British Grandmother Lindsay Sandforth.

Removing any hope that foreigners might be treated differently in the macabre parading of people before the firing squad, the President said, "I do not pardon any of them," adding that his refusal to compromise his hard stance against drugs can serve as a shock therapy to the international community of narcotics suppliers.

In addition to the 64 sentenced to death for their involvement with narcotics, another 72 people have been sentenced to death for crimes ranging from homicide to terrorism.

5 convicts - 2 of them Nigerians - are expected to be executed before the end of 2014.

(source: Bali Discovery)


Islamic State beheads four men for blasphemy in Syria: monitor

Islamic State's self-declared police force in western Syria decapitated 4 men after accusing them of blasphemy, a rights group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on Saturday.

The men were beheaded in the countryside east of the city of Homs by the militant group's "Islamic Police", the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory, which monitors the conflict using sources on the ground, reported a similar killing on Tuesday, when Islamic State beheaded a man in a town square in the north of the country.

Residents and activists say Islamic State has beheaded and stoned to death many people in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq for actions they see as violating their reading of Islamic law, such as adultery, homosexuality, stealing and blasphemy.

They have also killed rival fighters by similar methods off the battlefield and have set up patrols to police public behavior in their bid to establish a caliphate.

The Observatory also reported on Saturday that Islamic State had stoned a man and a woman to death for adultery in Manbij town in northern Syria after Friday prayers.

The group, which is the target of U.S.-led air strikes in both countries, has also killed a smaller number of foreign captives.

The Observatory said last month that Islamic State had killed 1,432 Syrians off the battlefield since the end of June when it declared a caliphate in the territory under its control.

(source: Reuters)

DECEMBER 13, 2014:


Attorney Disputes Collection of Evidence after Store Owner's Killing

A suspect in the convenience store robbery that ended with the owner's death was back in court Friday morning.

Daniel Garcia is 1 of 3 people charged with capital murder in the death of 59-year-old Ben Mustafa.

His attorney told the judge that some of the evidence in this case was obtained illegally. The attorney claims that when police found the rifle used in the deadly robbery no consent form was signed.

Officers testified this morning they received verbal consent.

Prosecutors have already announced they'll seek the death penalty against Garcia.

The other 2 defendants, Victoria Del Cavazos and Arturo Navarro, are facing anywhere from 5 years to life in prison.

(source: KRIS TV news)


Judge: Texas Must Reveal Execution Drug Maker

A judge has ordered Texas to release the name of the compounding pharmacy that provides the state its execution drug, but attorneys pushing for the disclosure said Friday that they don't expect to get the information anytime soon.

District Judge Darlene Byrne ruled Thursday that the company's name is a matter of public record, despite arguments from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that disclosing it would be a safety risk. Texas had released the name of its drug suppliers for years, but in May, Attorney General Greg Abbott changed course and cited undisclosed threats made to a new company supplying the drug.

Similar fights are ongoing in other death penalty states like Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio. But courts - including the U.S. Supreme Court - have yet to halt an execution based on a state's refusal to reveal its drug supplier.

In Texas, Byrne sided with attorneys who filed a lawsuit earlier this year pushing for disclosure of the names of the company that supplies the execution drug and of the compounding pharmacy that prepares the drug when it's used for executions. 2 of the suing attorneys, all of whom regularly work with death-row inmates, said the ruling is a victory even though they don't expect the state to release the names pending its appeal.

"This is about the drugs, but it's also about open government," attorney Maurie Levin said. Fellow lawyer Phil Durst said the drugs "are coming from somewhere, and who is the compounder is a vital piece of information."

The Department of Criminal Justice plans to appeal, according to spokesman Jason Clark. He said the state maintains that "disclosing the identity of the pharmacy would result in the harassment of the business and would raise serious safety concerns for the business and its employees."

Clark also noted that state and federal courts have often sided with states on the issue.

The lawsuit originally included 2 Texas death row inmates, but both have since been executed. Texas has 12 execution scheduled for the first 5 months of next year, but it was unclear what effect, if any, Thursday's decision would have on them. Durst said the case now moves to an appeals court in Austin but may eventually be heard by the Texas Supreme Court.

Texas uses one drug during its lethal injections, pentobarbital. Abbott - who was elected governor in November - had long said that the benefits of government transparency outweighed the Department of Criminal Justice's desire to keep information secret about its execution-drug supplier.

But during his campaign for governor 7 months ago, the Republican changed his mind and said the drug supplier's identity should remain secret.

(source: Associated Press)


Last exit: The crimes and final words of all prisoners Texas put to death in the last 3 years

The next scheduled execution in Texas won't take place until at least January, so the book is closed on 2014, with 10 executions carried out this year in the most active death penalty state in the union. 16 prisoners were executed in Texas in 2013, and 15 in 2012.

Texas is also notable for keeping a record of the final words uttered by each inmate as a lethal injection is applied. Other publications have noted this and published some selections, but you rarely see prisoner last words paired with the offenses that they committed. Looking at that combined information is oddly compelling.

Let me be clear: I loathe the death penalty. I would rather every single one of these people were still rotting away in a prison cell somewhere. Capital punishment in the form of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole not only assures punishment, but it also assures that a mistaken prosecution can be undone. Some of the crimes detailed here are horrific. But others are situational, committed in the heat of the moment, and raise a question whether they would be tried as capital crimes in other states.

In the case of low-IQ objections to an execution, we've noted it. But mostly, we've tried to summarize the offenses here as sparingly as possible. It's just the facts, and then the final words, for the 41 prisoners put to death in the last 3 years. A note about some of the final utterances - prisoners will sometimes say something about the feeling of drugs entering their system before they lose consciousness. This is noted in the record as well.

Miguel Paredes, Oct. 28, 2014. Hispanic male. With 2 others, shot and killed 3 members of the Mexican Mafia who showed up to collect drug money from Paredes' gang. The victims were then dumped at a remote location and set on fire. 18 years old at the time of offense, 32 at the time of execution.

To the victim's family, I want you to know that I hope you let go of all of the hate because of all my actions. I came in as a lion and I come as peaceful as a lamb. I'm at peace. I hope society sees who else they are hurting with this. To my loved ones, I hope both victims find in their hearts to forgive me, and I have forgave everyone and I love everyone, pray for my soul and I forgive myself. I love y'all and I'll be waiting for y'all, my brother take care of my family. Take care of my girl, my mom, my sons and all of my loved ones. Brother Wayne and Brother Joe, thank y'all. Jorge don't give up on Luis, I'll be listening. Thank you for everything. Father I commend my soul, please take care and watch everybody I leave behind. I am ready Warden. Father please accept my soul. I am sorry, I love y'all, I am always going to be with you. I love y'all, I love y'all. I love you Father, I love you Father, I love you Savior.

Lisa Coleman, Sept. 17, 2014. Black female. Restrained and starved a 9 year old boy to death. 28 at the time of offense, 38 at the time of execution.

I just want to tell my family I love them; my son, I love him. The girls on the row, I love them and keep their heads up. Tell Darlie I love her, hand in hand. God bless y'all. I'm all right. Tell them I finished strong. I love y'all. I'm done. I love you, Richie. I love you. Thank you, Brad and John, all of y'all. God is good. I love you, Auntie. I'm done.

Willie Trottie, Sept. 10, 2014. Black male. Shot to death his ex-girlfriend and her brother, who tried to defend his sister with his own firearm. 23 years old at the time of the offense, 45 at the time of execution.

Nesha, I love you. I hope this brings you some closure. Titus, if his kids are out there, I'm sorry for your dad. Shan, Charlotte, Baisey, I love you. T.T., I love you. Stay strong. Michelle, Tammy, Damen, I'm going home. Lawrence, I love you. I am going home to be with the Lord. Find it in your hearts to forgive me. I'm sorry, stay strong. Jesus, take me home.

Jose Villegas, Apr. 16, 2014. Hispanic male. In a robbery, Villegas stabbed to death 3 victims: A 24-year-old woman (stabbed 32 times), her 3-year-old son (stabbed 19 times), and her 51-year-old mother (stabbed 35 times). 27 years old at the time of offense, 39 at the time of execution.

(Written statement) I always said that if I even get to this point, I would have already said everything that needed to be said to all of those who I love and have been with me throughout this whole journey. Today, I realized that I can never say everything that needed to be said, because there is still so much that needs to be said. First of all, I love you. My children, my friends, and all my brothers who have shared this experience with me on the row and who continue to experience this without me, keep your heads up. I love all of you. Secondly, I am ok. I have peace in my heart and ready for the next journey. I'm really ok. Last but not least, to my true brother in life, Crazy J, I love you, man. You and Bella have been the best. I'm sorry I couldn't talk with you before all of this, but you know me...You are my bro. I love you. I'm ok. My babies, remember what I said. We'll be together soon. I love all of you. John 14:27. (Spoken statement) Yes, I left a written statement. I do have a verbal statement. I would like to remind my children once again, I love them. Crazy J, I forgot to write a list. Everything is ok. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace. John 14:27. I am done, Warden.

Ramiro Hernandez, Apr. 9, 2014. Hispanic male. While working as a hired hand, broke into his employer's house, beat him to death and then tied up the victim's wife and raped her repeatedly. 28 at the time of offense, 44 at the time of execution.

Yes, sir. First I would like to thank God for letting me see my family. I say this with love, I'm sorry. I say this for my family with love and with God, I love you. I'm happy, and I would like to say on behalf of my family, I love y'all. I am happy. I look into my family's eyes, and I see sadness. Don't be sad, I'm happy. I am sorry for what I have done. Be mindful that I am happy till the end. To the family of my boss, I love you. Young people, listen to your parents; always do what they tell you to do, go to school, learn from your mistakes. Be careful before you sign anything with your name. Never, despite what other people say. God is with y'all. God is the only witness that knows what happened that night. I, Ramiro Hernandez, say this with lots of love to young people, listen to your parents please. Live your life to the fullest, you only live your life once. To the prison system, I would like to thank y'all. Thanks to the officers and to the warden that are going to witness this. I say this with a lot of love and happiness. I have no pain and no guilt. All I have is love. Love will win. Thank you God, I am going with you.

Tommy Sells, Apr. 3, 2014. White male. Entered a home with intent to sexually assault a 13-year-old girl, slashed her throat, fatally, and slashed the throat of a 10-year-old girl, who survived. 35 at the time of the offense, 49 at the time of execution.

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Anthony Doyle, Mar. 27, 2014. Black male. Tried to rob 37-year-old Asian woman who delivered a food order to his home. When she said she had no money, he hit her over the head with a baseball bat, killing her, put her body in a dumpster and fled in her car. 18 years old at the time of the offense, 29 at the time of execution.

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Ray Jasper, Mar. 19, 2014. Black male. Rap artist who slashed the throat of 33-year-old man who owned a San Antonio recording studio, then stole equipment from the studio. 19 years old at the time of the offense, 33 at the time of execution.

(Written statement) I just want to make a statement to all my friends, family, and supporters. Thank you all for the love. To the Christian hip-hop community, all the positive brothers I've done time with. To all the people that took the time to write a letter. Thank you. To my family, we are one. To my beautiful daughter, the best thing that ever happened to me. I love you endlessly. I am you and you are me forever. Lastly to God himself....Thank you being a gracious friend to me. I love you with all my heart, mind, strength, in Jesus name. (Spoken statement) I want to say to my family, please take care of each other, stay strong and faithful to God. I thank everyone for supporting me. Christine, I love you. To my daughter: baby, be strong, be positive, have a great life. You know what you meant to me, and I love you. Stay faithful to the Lord. Daughter, I love you, I love you, I love you. May the Lord God almighty in heaven, Jesus Christ see my spirit. Amen.

Suzanne Basso, Feb. 5, 2014. White female. With 5 others, lured a 59-year-old retarded man from New Jersey with promises to marry him. After becoming beneficiary on his insurance, killed him by beating with belts, baseball bats, boots, hands and feet until he was unrecognizable when he was found in a ditch. 44 years old at the time of the offense, 59 at the time of execution.

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Edgar Tamayo, Jan. 22, 2014. Hispanic male. Arrested for robbing a nightclub patron, Tamayo was angry that the arresting officer had not allowed him to leave his keys with his wife. In the patrol car on the way to jail, Tamayo produced gun the officer had missed and shot the officer 3 times in the back of the head. After the car wrecked, he crawled out, still handcuffed, but was apprended soon after. 26 years old at the time of the offense, 46 at the time of execution.

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Jerry Martin, Dec. 3, 2013. White male. During a prison break while he was incarcerated for attempted murder, Martin stole a truck and while driving it ran into the horse being ridden by a female correctional officer, killing her. 37 years old at the time of the offense, 43 at the time of execution.

I would like to tell the Canfield family I'm sorry; sorry for your loss. I wish I could take it back, but I can't. I hope this gives you closure. I did not murder your loved one, it was an accident. I didn't mean for it to happen. I take full responsibility. To my family, we've talked earlier and you know I'm at peace. God is the ultimate judge, he knows what happened. We talked earlier. I love all of y'all. I'm ready Warden.

Jamie McCoskey, Nov. 12, 2013. White male. Abducted a young couple and took them to an abandoned house, then stabbed to death the 20-year-old man and raped the man's 19-year-old fiancee. 27 years old at the time of the offense, 49 at the time of execution.

The best time in my life is during this period. If I had to do again, I would not change a thing. I have been touched by an angel's wings. If I had it to do again, I would change Dwyer's parents suffering, because I know they are. I know that is not going to eliminate the pain, because I have a child. God, I want to say something so bad. I appreciate the people that helped me out. I appreciate the people that helped me out, and uh, know that I love you, Angel and your family and all the people that helped me out. And if this takes the pain away, so be it. I love you. I'm ready to go.

Michael Yowell, Oct. 9, 2013. White male. Caught stealing his father's wallet, Yowell shot his father dead, strangled his mother, then set fire to the house, which exploded, and his grandmother, caught in the house, died days later of her injuries. 28 years old at the time of the offense, 43 at the time of execution.

I love you. To Gerald: you're a zero. I love you Mandy, Tiffany. I love you, too.

Arturo Diaz, Sept. 26, 2013. Hispanic male. In a robbery for drugs and money, Diaz and another murdered one victim by stabbing him 94 times in the chest, and stabbed another victim twice in the face. 23 at the time of the offense, 37 at the time of execution.

I don't know if you remember back in 2000, you were happy the way it happened. You were looking for me yourself and would have taken care of me yourself. I am glad it happened this way. I wouldn't want to see you in my shoes. You would have probably been here, not me. I wouldn't wish this on you. I hope this can bring some relief to you and your family. I have no hate for you. Grandmother, Lilia, and Robert; have hope for me. I am with God. Thanks for being with me and all of your love. Mom, take care of my daughter. Many kisses, Mom. Robert don't forget what I told you, I hope that this serves as an example for the youngsters. Think about it before you make a bad decision. Let's go, Warden. I'm ready.

Robert Garza, Sept. 19, 2013. Hispanic male. A leader of the Tri-City Bomber gang, ordered other gang members to fire into a car, killing 4 females, one of whom the gang suspected of being a witness to their activities. 20 years old at the time of the offense, 31 at the time of execution.

I want to thank all of my family and friends for supporting me. I love you and I'm glad that ya'll are by my side through this whole thing. I know it's hard for ya'll. I love you Jennifer, mom, Jaime, Cory, David. Thank God for you being there for me. It's not easy, this is a release. Ya'll finally get to move on with your lives. Take care of my kids and stay strong, life has to go on. We've all lost grandpas, brothers, and sisters. Support and love each other. Don't fight with each other. I love you.

Douglas Feldman, July 31, 2013. White male. Angry that a truck driver had cut him off, Feldman pulled up alongside on his motorcycle, and fired with a handgun into the truck cab, killing the driver. 45 minutes later, opened fire on another truck driver putting fuel into his vehicle, killing him. Also shot up a car dealership and wounded another man in a restaurant parking lot. 40 years old at the time of the offense, 55 at the time of execution.

I hereby declare, Robert Steven Everett and Nicholas Velasquez, guilty of crimes against me, Douglas Alan Feldman. Either by fact or by proxy, I find them both guilty. I hereby sentence both of them to death, which I carried out in August 1998. As of that time, the State of Texas has been holding me illegally in confinement and by force for 15 years. I hereby protest my pending execution and demand immediate relief.

Vaughn Ross, July 18, 2013. Black male. Ross, a Texas Tech architecture graduate student, shot and killed an 18-year-old woman he had been feuding wth and the 53-year-old man who happened to be with her. 29 years old at the time of the offense, 41 at the time of execution.

Yes, I want to thank my family for supporting me through this. I love ya'll. I don't fear death. I'm fine, I'm OK. To my friends and my loved ones, Miriam, I love you, thanks for being here for me. This is what it is. I know this is hard for ya'll, but we are going to have to go through it. We know the lies they told in court. We know it's not true. I want you to be strong and keep going.

John Quintanilla, July 16, 2013. Hispanic male. With 2 accomplices, was robbing an amusement center when Quintanilla shot and killed a 60-year-old retired sheriff's deputy who attempted to seize his firearm. 25 years old at the time of the offense, 36 at the time of execution.

Yes, I would like to tell my wife that I love her and thank her for all the years of happiness. That will be all, Warden.

Kimberly McCarthy, June 26, 2013. Black female. Entered the house of a 70-year-old neighbor intending to rob her, then stabbed and killed the victim when a struggle ensued. 36 at the time of the offense, 52 at the time of execution.

I just wanted to say thanks to all who have supported me over the years: Reverend Campbell, for my spiritual guidance; Aaron, the father of Darrian, my son; and Maurie, my attorney. Thank you everybody. This is not a loss, this is a win. You know where I am going. I am going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love ya'll. Thank you, Chaplain.

Elroy Chester, June 12, 2013. Black male. Broke into a home and raped 2 girls, ages 16 and 14, then shot and killed the girls' uncle when he arrived at the house. After his capture, Chester confessed to 2 additional murders. 28 years old at the time of the offense, 43 at the time of execution.

I just want to say I don't want you to have hate in your heart for me, because I took your loved one. I know it doesn't mean anything; I told the truth because I feel like you should know who killed your loved one. God watches everything. Don't hate me, if you do, you'll have to deal with Him later. For me, live your life but don't hate me. I'm sorry for taking your loved one. Ms. Suzy, Susan, thank you for fighting for me in the courts. Thank you for supporting me for all these years. Elroy Chester wasn't a bad man, I knew me. A lot of people say I didn't commit those murders, I really did it. That's my statement. Warden, you can go ahead.

Jeffrey Williams, May 15, 2013. Black male. Stopped while driving a stolen car, Williams shot and killed the police officer who had pulled him over, then fled. 23 years old at the time of the offense, 37 at the time of execution.

You clown police. You gonna stop with all that killing all these kids. You're gonna stop killing innocent kids, murdering young kids. When I kill one or pop one, ya'll want to kill me. God has a plan for everything. You hear? I love everyone that loves me. I ain't got no love for anyone that don't love me.

Carroll Parr, May 7, 2013. Black male. With an accomplice held up 2 men outside a grocery store, then after taking their wallets shot and killed 1 of the men when he said he didn't have any more money. 25 years old at the time of the offense, 35 at the time of execution.

First of all; Shonna talk to your brother. He'll tell you the truth about what happened to your husband. I told Bubba to tell you what happened. Now, my statement to the world: I am in the midst of truth. I am good, I am straight, don't trip. To all my partners, tell them I said like Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back." These eyes will close, but they will be opened again, my understanding of God is, Jesus has got me through. To my family, I love ya'll.

Richard Cobb, Apr. 26, 2013. White male. With an accomplice, abducted a man and 2 women, shot and killed the man, sexually assualted and then shot and abandoned the women, who survived. 18 years old at the time of the offense, 29 at the time of execution.

Life is death, death is life. I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to and an end. Life is too short. I hope that anyone that has negative energy towards me will resolve that. Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That's it.

Ronnie Threadgill, Apr. 16, 2013. Black male. Shot and killed a 17-year-old black male during a carjacking. 28 years old at the time of the offense, 40 at the time of execution.

To my loved ones and dear friends, I love ya'll and appreciate ya'll for being there. I am going to a better place. To all the guys back on the row, keep your heads up, keep up the fight. I am ready. Let's go.

Ricky Lewis, Apr. 9, 2013. Black male. Entered a home and shot and killed a 45-year-old man, then raped the man's fiancee before stealing her vehicle to flee. 28 years old at the time of the offense, 50 at the time of execution.

Ms. Connie Hilton, I'm sorry for what happened to you. If I hadn't raped you, then you wouldn't have lived. If you look at the transcripts, I didn't kill Mr. Newman and I didn't rob your house. There are 2 people still alive. I was just there. When I saw you in the truck driving away, I could have killed you but I didn't. I'm not a killer. My momma was abused. I'm sorry for what you've gone through. It wasn't me that harmed and stole all of your stuff. If you look at the transcripts you will see. I ask the good Lord to forgive me. I love ya'll; Sheena, my sister, momma, and daddy. Ya'll pray for me, keep up the fight. Get the transcripts, let the truth come out so that I do not die in vain. I thank the Lord for the man I am today. I have done all I can to better myself, to learn to read and write. Take me to my King. I love ya'll and thank you for the love you gave me. I respect all of ya'll. Ms. Hilton. Ok. Let me rest. It's burning.

Carl Blue, Feb. 21, 2013. Black male. Doused an ex-girlfriend in gasoline when she opened her door and then lit her clothes on fire. Also doused a 2nd person who tried to help the 1st victim. The 1st victim died of her wounds. 29 years old at the time of the offense, 48 at the time of execution.

Hey mom and pop. I love ya'll, all of you people in there. You know, ya'll have to come together, you too Terrella. Ya'll work on that. We all have to stand before God at the end of the day. Don't ever think you're perfect, none of us are perfect. God is the only one that is perfect. Jesus is perfect. I did wrong, now I am paying the ultimate price, even though it's a crooked way. I don't hate ya'll. Don't judge, I'm not judging. God has to judge those people. I forgive. Always remember, Romans 12:19 is for real, hell is for real. If ya'll don't have your life right, get it right. We all have to die to get to heaven. Get your life right with Christ; it's coming to an end. I'm talking to each and every soul in this building, in this room. I don't hate nobody, you're doing what you think is your job. God's law is above this law. Hang on. Cowboy up, I'm fixing to ride. Jesus is my ride. Tell my babies daddy will look down on them. Put a "C" in his name for Carl. Tell my boys and tell Tracy to keep on keeping on. Love one another, go to church, change your life for Christ, live your life for Christ. All right, Warden. Terella, I feel it babe, love.

Preston Hughes, Nov. 15, 2012. Black male. Raped and stabbed to death a 15-year-old girl and stabbed to death her 3-year-old male cousin. 22 years old at the time of the offense, 46 at the time of execution.

Yes, Warden. Mom, Celeste: Please know I'm innocent and I love you both. Please continue to fight for my innocence even though I'm gone. John, Cort, Allen, Barbara, Louis, and Anna: Thank you for helping me and trying to save my life. I love you. Give everybody my love. Jason, thank you for your friendship. Thank Laura, too. I love all of you. Bye. Ok, Warden.

Ramon Hernandez, Nov. 14, 2012. Hispanic male. With 2 others, abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed a 37-year-old woman, then buried her in a wooded area in a shallow grave. 29 years old at the time of the offense, 41 at the time of execution.

Can you hear me? Did I ever tell you, you have dad's eyes? I've noticed that in the last couple of days. I'm sorry for putting you through all this. Tell everyone I love them. It was good seeing the kids. I love them all; tell mom, everybody. I am very sorry for all of the pain. Tell Brenda I love her. To everybody back on the row, I know you're going through a lot over there. Keep fighting, don't give up everybody.

Mario Swain, Nov. 8, 2012. Black male. Swain was burglarizing a home when its owner, a 44-year-old woman, came home. Swain killed her with a blow to the head with a tire iron, then hid her body in the trunk of an abandoned car as he returned to steal items from the home. 23 years old at the time of the offense, 33 at the time of execution.

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Donnie Roberts, Jr., Oct. 31, 2012. White male. When his live-in girlfriend refused to give him money, he shot her three times in the head, then fled in her son's vehicle. 32 years old at the time of the offense, 41 at the time of execution.

To all of ya'll over here: Mr. Bivins, Allen, Joey, all of ya'll back there, I am truly sorry. I never meant to cause ya'll so much pain. Not one day has passed that I wish I could take it back. After today, I hope you can go on. I hope this brings you closure. God knows I didn't want to do what I did. I loved your daughter. I hope to God, He lets me see her in Heaven so I can apologize to her. I'm sorry. I'm glad ya'll came. Joey, I am really sorry, Joe. Marjo, you have been there for me for 6 1/2 years. I appreciate that. Take good care of her. I love both of ya'll. I want to say goodbye to all of ya'll. Goodbye. Please tell my daughter I love her. I'll see ya'll. I'm sorry, Joey, I'm sorry.

Bobby Hines, Oct. 24, 2012. White male. Staying at the maintenance man's unit at an apartment complex, used a master key to get into the apartment of the victim, a 26-year-old woman, who he robbed, stabbed with an ice pick, and strangled with a cord. He took a bowl of pennies, some cigarettes, and a gold charm. 19 years old at the time of the offense, 40 at the time of execution.

To the victim's family, I am sure I know that I took somebody special from ya'll. I know it wasn't right, it was wrong. I wish I could give it back, but I know I can't. If giving my life in return makes it right, so be it. I ask that ya'll forgive me. I know God forgave me. I know He has forgiven me for what I did. I don't believe that taking my life will solve anything. I believe that if I was locked up for the rest of my life, that would be more of a punishment. To do this is setting me free. God bless ya'll. I wish there was something I could do. Bernard, thank you. Bill, thanks for being there for me and showing me to the Lord. I give glory to God, I believe I am going home. I love my family. I love everybody. I have love in my heart for ya'll and for my family, we're all victims behind what I did. I wish there was some other way to show I'm sorry. I have a prayer that me and my wife have come up with that I'd like to say. God, hear our prayer. We want to give thanks for this day. I can't do that prayer, that prayer is not right for ya'lls family or my family. Please forgive me. I love ya'll. OK Warden, I am ready. I'm going home. I love ya'll. I'm feeling it.

Jonathan Green, Oct. 10, 2012. Black male. Kidnapped a 12-year-old girl, raped and strangled her and then buried in her in his backyard. Later, when police grew suspicious of him, he dug her up and stuffed her body in a sack behind a chair in his house. 32 years old at the time of the offense, 44 at the time of execution.

I'm an innocent man. I did not kill anyone. Ya'll are killing an innocent man. My left arm is killing me. It hurts bad.

Cleve Foster, Sept. 25, 2012. White male. With a co-defendant, had sex with a woman they met in a bar, then shot and killed her. 38 years old at the time of the offense, 48 at the time of the execution.

Yes, you know I sat in my cell many days wondering what my last words would be: love for my family, grandson, friends. I love you very much. Tonight when I close my eyes, I'll be with my Father. Some time ago I got a letter, I read it, and stuck it in with a bunch of stuff; and I thought to myself, what a cold-hearted person. I was asked about the letter, I spent half the night looking for the letter. A little part of the letter touched me. Over the years I have learned to love. God is everything. God is my life. Tonight, I will be with Him. I am a parent myself. I have so much for this dear lady. I understand where they're coming from, I thought every person was cruel. I love you so, Susan. You know what it is girl, love ya. Maurie, appreciate it girl. Much love to you all. Mrs. Cox, love you. Momma, you are my hero. I wish this world was just like you. Another mother got hurt, as a parent I understand the pain. That letter she wrote wasn't wrong, she was just hurting. She showed God's love for letting me know that love will be there to welcome me home. I love you all. I don't know what you are going to feel after tonight. I love you. I pray one day we will all meet in heaven. A man told me 11 years ago the hardest thing to say is, "I forgive you." Hope one day we all be together again. I love you all: Susan, Mrs. Cox, momma, Maurie, Michael. Grandbabies make the world go around. I love you all. Warden, I am looking to leave this place on wings of a homesick angel. Ready to go home to meet my maker. What a friend we have in Jesus, oh my God, I lay in awe 'cause I love you God. I love you momma. I love you Susan.

Robert Harris, Sept. 20, 2012. Black male. 3 days after he had been fired for exposing himself to 2 women, Harris returned to the car wash that employed him and opened fire, killing 5 people. 28 years old at the time of the offense, 40 at the time of execution.

I want to tell ya'll, know that I love you. Billy, I love you, English, Hart and Eloise. Dwight, take care of Dwight. I'm going home, I'm going home. I'll be alright, don't worry. I love ya'll. God bless and the Texas Rangers, Texas Rangers.

Marvin Wilson, Aug 7, 2012. Black male. Shot and killed a 21-year-old man he believed had snitched on him, telling police he was a drug dealer. A psychological assessment pegged Wilsonís IQ at only 61, and his defense lawyers failed to win appeals that Wilson was too mentally diminished to be executed. 34 years old at the time of the offense, 54 at the time of execution.

Bohannon, Peg and Kim, I love ya'll. Son, get your life right with Christ, also your mother. Give mom a hug for me and tell her that I love her. Ya'll do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint. Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord. I ain't left yet, must be a miracle. I am a miracle. I see you, Rich. Don't cry son, don't cry baby. I love ya'll. I'm ready.

Yokamon Hearn, July 18, 2012. Black male. With 3 others, carjacked a 26-year-old white stock broker, then shot him ten times in the head, killing him. Defense attorneys argued that Hearn was brain damaged from fetal alcohol syndrome and should not be subjected to execution. 19 years old a the time of the offense, 33 at the time of execution.

Yes, I would like to tell my family that I love ya'll and I wish ya'll well. I'm ready.

Beunka Adams, Apr. 26, 2012. Black male. With an accomplice, abducted a man and 2 women, shot and killed the man, sexually assualted and then shot and abandoned the women, who survived. 19 years old at the time of the offense, 29 at the time of execution.

First, I want to let my mom know not to cry, there is no reason to cry, everybody dies. Everybody has their time, don't worry about me. I'm strong. To my family: my old man, my kids, daddy is sorry. I love each and every one of you. I'll be looking for you. To my wife, I love you. The last 2 years have been the best. All my kids, mom, nieces, and nephews, I am proud of all of ya'll. I love each and every one of ya'll. I really love ya'll. To the victims, I'm very sorry for everything that happened. I am not the malicious person that you think I am. I was real stupid back then. I made a great many mistakes. What happened was wrong. I was a kid in a grown man's world. I messed up, and I can't take it back. I wasn't old enough to understand. Please don't carry around that hurt in your heart. You have got to find a way to get rid of the hate. Trust me, killing me is not going to give you closure. I hope you find closure. Don't let that hate eat you up, find a way to get past it. Linda, I love you, I appreciate you. I hate the way things turned out. Ms. Sheri, thank you. To the victims again, I hate the way all of this happened to ya'll. I don't think any good will come of this. I am going to see ya'll again. I love ya'll, be strong for me. Keep your heads up. I came into the world strong. I'll leave the world strong. Warden, go ahead. I am sorry for the victim's family. Murder isn't right, killing of any kind isn't right. Got to find another way.

Jesse Hernandez, Mar. 28, 2012. Hispanic male. Struck with a flashlight and killed a crying 11-month-old boy Hernandez was left to care for, and also injured the boyís older sister. 36 years old at the time of the offense, 47 at the time of execution.

Tell my son I love him very much. God bless everybody. Continue to walk with God. Go Cowboys! Love ya'll man. Don't forget the T-ball. Ms. Mary, thank you for everything that you've done. You too, Brad, thank you. I can feel it, taste it, not bad.

Keith Thurmond, Mar. 7, 2012. White male. After his son was taken away in a custody dispute, Thurmond shot and killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend at their home. 41 years old at the time of the offense, 52 at the time of execution.

All I want to say is I'm innocent, I didn't kill my wife. Jack Leary shot my wife then her dope dealer Guy Fernandez. Don't hold it against me, Bill. I swear to God I didn't kill her. Go ahead and finish it off. You can taste it.

George Rivas, Feb. 29, 2012. Hispanic male. In prison serving life for kidnapping and robbery, Rivas escaped with several others, then later held up a sporting goods store and shot dead a responding police officer. 30 years old at the time of the offense, 41 at the time of execution.

Yes, I do. First of all for the Aubrey Hawkins family, I do apologize for everything that happened. Not because I am here, but for closure in your hearts. I really believe that you deserve that. To my wife, Cheri, I am so grateful you're in my life. I love you so dearly. Thank you to my sister and dear friend Katherine Cox, my son and family, friends and family. I love you so dearly. To my friends, all the guys on the row, you have my courtesy and respect. Thank you to the people involved and to the courtesy of the officers. I am grateful for everything in my life. To my wife, take care of yourself. I will be waiting for you. I love you. God Bless. I am ready to go.

Rodrigo Hernandez, Jan. 26, 2012. Hispanic male. Abducted a 38-year-old white woman from a grocery store parking lot, and sexually assaulted her with his hands around her neck, which killed her. 20 years old at the time of the offense, 38 at the time of execution.

Yes, I want to tell everybody that I love everybody. Keep your heads up. We are all family, people of God Almighty.

(source: Tony Ortega, The Raw Story)


Judge overturns death sentence of one of the 'Angola 5'----Judge overturns 1 inmate's sentence after new statement discovered

A judge this week overturned the death sentence of an Algiers man who was one of the "Angola 5," a group of Angola State Penitentiary lifers who were convicted of killing a prison guard, Capt. David Knapps, during a failed 1999 escape attempt.

Retired Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Jerome Winsberg, who is handling the case, ruled Thursday that prosecutors withheld a confession by another of the accused killers until after David Brown went on trial, according to Brown's attorneys. He ordered a new sentencing hearing, they said.

A state prison inmate had given a statement saying Barry S. Edge told him that only he and a 3rd man, Jeffrey Cameron Clark, committed Knapps' murder. The statement emerged only when prosecutors turned it over before Edge's trial last year.

Edge, the last of the 5 to stand trial, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, but a jury fell 3 votes shy of a unanimous verdict on the death penalty, leaving Edge to serve a new life sentence.

Brown's attorneys argued that the failure to turn over the statement violated Brady v. Maryland, a 50-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the state to turn over evidence favorable to a defendant.

The Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office, which was handling the case, argued that the statement was not "material," meaning it wasn't likely to have changed the verdict.

Winsberg overturned Brown's death sentence but not his conviction for killing Knapps, according to his attorneys. Brown was already serving a life sentence for 2nd-degree murder in a 1992 killing in Marrero.

Steve Wimberly, first assistant district attorney for Jefferson DA Paul Connick's office, could not be reached for comment. The office is expected to appeal Winsberg's ruling.

Knapps, 49, was killed during an escape from the Educational Building of the prison's camp. A 6th inmate was shot and killed in the escape attempt.

The inmates had taken 2 other officers hostage, but they were rescued by a security team.

Juries convicted 4 of the 5 inmates who were prosecuted for the killing, sending 2 of them, Brown and Clark, to death row. Edge and Robert Carley received life sentences after they were found guilty. David Mathis pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and received a life sentence.

Prosecutors from Jefferson and Caddo parishes tried Brown in 2011, playing a recording to the jury of Brown telling investigators he dragged Knapps into an employee restroom and held him there while a co-defendant hit him with a mallet.

State DNA tests found that Knapps' blood was on Brown's hands, shoelace and clothes, according to testimony in the trial.

Prosecutors argued later, at Edge's trial, that it was Edge who pummeled Knapps with a hammer to the head.

In June 2011, before Brown went on trial, prosecutors Hugo Holland and Tommy Block, along with investigators for the Jefferson DA's Office, interviewed a state inmate named David Domingue, according to court records.

Domingue told them that Edge explained that "we could have let (Knapps) live," but that he and Clark decided on their own to kill the guard.

"He said him and Jeffrey did, were the only ones that were thinking rationally during this highly charged situation. And they made a decision to help their self to kill (Knapps). But they could have let him live."

Domingue later repeated the statement in a hearing in September, as Brown's attorneys sought a new trial.

Brown's lawyers argued that the state's position - that Domingue's statement was not "material" to Brown's case - was "similarly myopic" to one that Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office attempted before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Juan Smith, who had been convicted in a 1995 quintuple murder.

Some of the high court justices openly chided Cannizzaro's office for even trying to defend a failure by prosecutors to turn over earlier statements from the lone eyewitness, who had said he couldn't identify the shooter. The Supreme Court overturned Smith's conviction on an 8-1 vote.

"There is nothing worse a lawyer can do than hide favorable evidence from a defendant facing the death penalty," one of Brown's attorneys, Billy Sothern, said Friday.

"We hope that the judge's ruling affirming that principle by throwing out David Brown's death sentence will allow for the resolution of this case after 15 years of litigation, expense and uncertainty."

Sothern was referring to the high cost of trying the Angola 5 and defending their convictions. All told, the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections has spent about $10 million for prosecution and defense costs, expert witnesses, paralegals, court reporters and jury costs.

The hefty price tag has been a source of handwringing by some state legislators, who brought it up earlier this year during budget talks.

Clark's appeal of his death sentence, meanwhile, remains pending.

(source: The Advocate)


Davis trial is a waiting game

A murder trial has turned into a waiting game, with 1 man's life on the line. After 3 days of jury deliberations, the jurors came back with a guilty verdict.

As the victim's family waits, the defense team is working. Working to save Billy Frank Davis Jr. from the death penalty.

On Thursday, Davis was convicted of capital murder, as well as the kidnapping and rape of 8-year-old Ah'liyah Irvin. The little girl's body was found in a dryer in an apartment basement.

On Friday afternoon the defense team attempted to prove that Davis' actions in 2012 were the result of disturbed childhood, filled with violence and drugs. A child psychologist, who met with Davis over the last 2 years, testified that due to his childhood, he was prone to mental illness. She stated that his continued exposure to violence created emotional developmental lags, similar to a child's.

Davis, a veteran, was diagnosed at a VA hospital for mental illness, and according to testimony, admitted to having homicidal thoughts in 2009. Davis' attorney stated he suffers PTSD and bipolar disorder.

Davis' background gives little closure to the victim's family, who says they're still looking for justice almost 3 years later.

On Monday, the jury will hear more testimony before deciding if Davis will face life in prison or the death penalty.

(source: Kansas News First)


Judge delays trial in Fero's case

Jury selection in the death penalty trial of Dexter Lewis, who is accused of stabbing 5 people to death at a Denver bar, has been delayed.

In an order issued on Nov. 24 but made public for the 1st time this week, Denver District Court Judge John Madden granted a request from defense attorneys to delay the start of the trial. Jury selection will now begin in May, and opening arguments are scheduled to start on July 20.

Jury selection was previously scheduled to begin on Jan. 20.

Lewis, 24, faces 16 counts - including 1st-degree murder, arson and robbery - in the attack at Fero's Bar and Grill that left 5 people dead in October 2012.

A jury pool of at least 600 people will be assembled for the case. The case marks the 1st time since 2001 that Denver prosecutors have pursued the death penalty.

In November, Lewis' attorneys told Madden they need additional time to complete witnesses interviews. Some of the witnesses will testify about the crime and others will speak about child abuse and neglect during Lewis' childhood.

Public defender Christopher Baumann said it would be impossible to complete the interviews before Jan. 20.

Lewis' co-defendants, brothers Joseph and Lynell Hill, have accepted plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against Lewis. Lynell Hill was sentenced to 70 years in prison, and Joseph received life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A 4th man connected to the crime, Demarea Harris, was never arrested or charged in the case. Harris was a confidential informant for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time of the attack.

In previous rulings, Madden has said he expects the trial, including the potential penalty phase, to take 4 to 6 weeks.

(source: Denver Post)


Death row inmate gets upset, curses judge in Fresno courtroom

A Fresno man who has been on California's death row longer than anyone became agitated Friday in Fresno County Superior Court when a judge told him that he wanted 2 doctors to examine him.

Douglas Ray Stankewitz, 56, told Judge Arlan Harrell that he dislikes doctors and would spit on them if they come to his cell to interview him.

He also accused Harrell of wasting taxpayers money for prolonging his case.

"If you want to see a crazy Indian, I will show you one," said Stankewitz, an American Indian known as "Chief."

He uttered an expletive in cussing at the judge before bailiffs removed him.

Stankewitz was given the death penalty for fatally shooting 22-year-old Theresa Graybeal in Fresno in February 1978 and then bragging, "Did I drop her or did I drop her?"

More than 3 decades later, Stankewitz is no closer to his execution. That's because the California Supreme Court tossed out Stankewitz's 1st death sentence in 1982.

A year later he was convicted again and sentenced again to death. This time, the Ninth Circuit U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled in October 2012 that the performance of his attorney "fell below the constitutional standards." Among the things his lawyer failed to tell jurors, the appellate court said, was that Stankewitz, who grew up in Auberry, was born into a filthy, poverty-stricken home that had no electricity or running water. His alcoholic parents also frequently starved and beat him and his nine siblings.

Even though Stankewitz contends he is innocent, the Ninth Circuit upheld his conviction, but ordered a new trial to determine whether he should get the death penalty or life in prison.

Stankewitz showed up to court Friday in a red jail jumpsuit and wearing handcuffs and leg irons.

He initially wanted to fire his lawyer, Richard Beshwate, of Fresno, but then withdrew his request in favor of motion to act as his own lawyer and represent himself in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to refuse counsel and represent themselves in state criminal proceedings. But the law says a defendant must be competent "to carry out the basic task of presenting a defense without counsel," Harrell told Stankewitz.

To assist Harrell in determining whether Stankewitz was competent, the judge ordered psychiartrist Dr. Luis Velosa and psychologist Harold Seymour to examine him.

Stankewitz immediately objected.

"Where does it say I have to put on a proper defense?" Stankewitz asked Harrell.

"It's my case. I'm the defendant. I have a right to defend myself," he shouted.

But Harrell said Stankewitz was arguing old case law. Since 2008 the Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant must able to carry out the basic duties of a lawyer without aid from another lawyer, Harrell said.

Stankewitz told the judge that he wouldn't cooperate with "brain dead, retarded doctors" who are going to say "this guy is crazy" and describe him as an animal.

"Don't subject me to that," Stankewitz implored the judge. "You are putting me in a situation that I don't want to be put in."

But Harrell said he must follow the law. The judge then scheduled a hearing on Feb. 27 to go over the doctors reports. Before ending court, Harrell told Stankewitz that the doctors will write a report even if he doesnít cooperate with them.

Outside court, Beshwate said Stankewitz is frustrated because he has been "caged up" on death row for nearly 37 years and wants to prove his innocence. Beshwate shrugged off the fact that it was the 5th or 6th time that Stankewitz had tried to fire him.

"He has legitimate concerns," Beshwate said. "But how to do you prove them without new evidence?"

According to court records, Stankewitz was 19 when he and 4 others from Fresno - Billy Brown, 14, Marlin Lewis, 22, Teena Topping, 19, and Christina Menchaca, 25 - got stranded in Modesto and forced Graybeal into her car and drove off.

In Fresno, they looked for heroin before driving to Vine Avenue and 10th Street. There, according to Brown's testimony in Stankewitz's September 1978 trial, Stankewitz raised a gun and shot Graybeal in the head from about 1 foot away.

Charges against Brown were dropped for testifying against Stankewitz. Lewis pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder. Menchaca and Topping pleaded guilty to being accessories.

Beshwate said Friday that Brown later gave a court declaration that said Stankewitz didn't shoot Graybeal. He said Lewis also told associates that Stankewitz wasn't the shooter.

But both men are dead, Beshwate said.

"I would love to retry this case, but I can't," Beshwate said. That's because Stankewitz's new trial will focus only on whether he should remain on death row or get sentenced to life in prison without parole, Beshwate said.

"It's a tragedy," Beshwate said. "I don't want to minimize Ms. Graybeal's death. She was an innocent victim. But Doug didn't have a great life, either."

(source: Fresno Bee)


S.C. Orders Hearing on Bid to Boot Prosecutor From Death Case

The California Supreme Court yesterday ordered an evidentiary hearing on whether a deputy district attorney in Ventura County should be disqualified from a death penalty case.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said attorneys for Joshua Graham Packer had raised sufficient doubts as to whether Michael Frawley, a top deputy in the District Attorney's Office, has become so personally embroiled in the case that he must be removed in order for the defendant to get a fair trial. Those doubts can only be resolved through an evidentiary hearing, the chief justice wrote for a unanimous court.

Packer is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the May 2009 deaths of Davina Husted, her husband Brock, and the fetus Davina Husted was carrying. The killings occurred at the Husteds' house in Faria Beach, where the couple's 9-year-old son said he saw a man wearing a motorcycle helmet rob his parents, and that he later found their bodies.

The victims were stabbed multiple times, and Davina Husted was sexually assaulted, police said. Packer was linked to the crimes following his arrest on unrelated felony charges more than 6 months later.

Multiple Charges

As a result of that arrest, Packer's DNA was obtained and his profile matched to profiles taken from the crime scene. In addition to the murders, he is charged with 2 counts of robbery, 1 count of burglary, and 1 count of forcible oral copulation, with special circumstances of robbery-murder, burglary-murder, murder in the course of forcible oral copulation, and multiple murders.

In moving to disqualify Frawley under Penal Code ß1424, the defense said it intends to call the prosecutor's now-adult children - who participated in a youth group with the defendant - as witnesses, and that when it notified Frawley of that fact, he told his daughter not to cooperate with the defense team and sought to intimidate defense counsel with a motion for contempt based on untimely discovery.

Disqualification is also required, the defense argued, because Frawley's daughter once dated a potential witness in the case, and because Frawley "appears to have known" Davina Husted through his former wife, who served on the board of a civic group when the murdered woman was its president.

Lower Courts

Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy ruled that none of the allegations amounted to a viable claim that Frawley had a personal embroilment in the case that would lead him to treat the defendant unfairly. The Court of Appeal for this district agreed.

Cantil-Sakauye said some of the points raised by the defense did not amount to grounds for disqualification. The prosecutor cannot be disqualified, she said, merely because his former wife - from whom he has been divorced since 1997 - may have known the victim, or because his daughter may have had a brief romance with a potential witness.

But other allegations by the defense, she said, raise the "more substantial" question of whether Frawley "had become so personally involved in the case" that he could not treat the defendant fairly.

Affidavits submitted on the #1424 motion, the chief justice reasoned, raise an inference that Frawley acted with particular animus toward the defense once it brought his children's relationship with an accused murderer into public view. While the prosecution's affidavits favored a contrary view, that Frawley was a zealous but fair prosecutor who was not treating Packer any differently than he would another defendant charged with similar crimes, the trial judge should not have resolved that conflict on affidavits alone, Cantil-Sakauye insisted.

"[W]e believe that on the facts of this case the trial court's choice of one inference over another was improperly made without hearing testimony, evaluating credibility, and resolving factual disputes that were key to determining the relative reasonableness of the alternative inferences raised by the partiesí affidavits," Cantil-Sakauye concluded.

Conflicts in Evidence

The hearing, the chief justice elaborated, may resolve conflicts in the evidence as to how extensively the defendant and the prosecutor's children socialized, whether the witness who previously dated Elizabeth Frawley was told by a prosecution investigator not to mention her if questioned by the defense, and whether the prosecutor had interfered with a defense attempt to subpoena his daughter, as well as conflicting statements regarding the defendant's character that might have been made at different times by the prosecutor's son.

The case was argued in the Supreme Court by Ventura Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael C. McMahon for the defendant and by Deputy Attorney General Steven D. Matthews of Los Angeles and Ventura Deputy District Attorney Michelle J. Contois for the prosecution.

The California District Attorneys Association filed an amicus brief supporting the prosecution.

The case is Packer v. Superior Court (People), 14 S.O.S. 5595.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)


Scalia on torture morality: 'I don't think it's so clear at all'

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says torture -- depending on the circumstances, like if a nuclear bomb was planted in Los Angeles -- isn't necessarily off limits. The justice who's been a mainstay of the high court's conservative wing for 28 years condemned the "self-righteousness of European liberals" who oppose torture "so easily" Friday in an interview with Swiss National Radio.

"I don't think it's so clear at all," Scalia said.

"I think it is very facile for people to say 'Oh, torture is terrible,'" he said. "You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people.

"You think it's an easy question? You think it's clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?"

Scalia also discussed the death penalty, saying he thinks it's "too bad" that a campaign in Switzerland to re-institute capital punishment has been thwarted by the the country's membership in the Council of Europe, which has made the issue a requirement for all participating countries.

"What are human rights is not written up in the sky, and if it were written up in the sky, it would not be up to judges, lawyers, just because they've gone to law school, to know what human rights ought to be and therefore are," Scalia said.

"And therefore each society's perception of what it believes human rights should be ought to be up to that society, and I think it's very foolish to yield that determinations not only to a foreign body but to a foreign body of judges," he said. "I don't know why anyone would want to do that."

And he brushed off questions about whether Supreme Court decisions opening the door for outside groups to spend unlimited sums of money on elections have hurt the country, saying that "the amount of money that is spent on all elections -- state, local and federal -- in the United States, is less than what women spend on cosmetics for a year, OK?"

He said the alternative is having Congress impose limits on "who can speak and how much who can speak."

"If you think that a fair system of election speech is going to be devised by the incumbent senators and congressmen, you are naive," he said. "They will for sure, as they have in the past, devise a system that favors the incumbent. If that's the choice of evils -- have a system that always favors the incumbent or, you know, let people speak as much as they want with as much money as they want -- I choose the latter. I don't even regard the latter as an evil."

Scalia said he doesn't agree with the notion that outspending the other side is the key to winning elections. He said if people really believe "the masses are so ignorant that they are swayed by television ads," then "let's have a king. Right? Let's have a king."

(source: CNN)


China to review murder case 19 years after execution

China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) has decided to review a rape-murder case 19 years after the convict was executed, as another man insisted that he is guilty.

The Shandong Higher People's Court will review the case of Nie Shubin and Wang Shujin, Xinhua reported Friday. Nie was executed in 1995 at the age of 21 for the 1994 rape and murder of a woman in Hebei's provincial capital, Shijiazhuang.

Wang Shujin, 47, was apprehended by police in 2005 for three unconnected rapes and murders, and confessed to the rape and murder of the same woman in Nie's case.

Wang, sentenced to death in March 2007, claimed that he raped and murdered a woman in a cornfield on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang in 1994 and Nie was innocent. The Hebei Higher People's Court, which approved the death penalty on Nie in 1995, did not believe his claim in a retrial last year and Nie's verdict still stands.

Wang's claims have raised public questions of judicial impartiality.

The review of Nie's case is aimed at "ensuring judicial fairness and responding to public concerns", according to the SPC's announcement.

(source: Business Standard)


Enforce death penalty to deal with runaway crime

It would appear that local criminals have found a new way to get what they want by threats of personal intimidation followed by murder if necessary.

We also now have a group of people going around killing citizens for fun.

These are in addition to those who kill during robberies or out of malice.

There is only one way out of this mess, and that is to reinstate the death penalty immediately and start hanging all who have so far been found guilty.

We must take matters in our own hand if we want to halt the galloping frolic of murders.

If things continue as they are, we will in the end have prisons full of murderers costing the country an arm and a leg to accommodate and look after them until they die of old age.

This system only encourages more criminals to commit murder, knowing that if found guilty, they would only be confined to prison, which these days offer many home comforts.

GA Marques

(source: Letter to the Editor, Trinidad Express)


Issue of the day: Jokowi to ban clemency for drug convicts

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is upholding his plan to enforce the death penalty for drug convicts, citing the crime's devastating impact on the country's young generations. During a public lecture at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta on Tuesday, Jokowi emphasized that the government would not be merciful in dealing with narcotics-related crime in the country.

He said that he would reject requests for clemency for 64 drug traffickers who are currently on death row. "[The clemency requests] are not on my table yet. But I guarantee that there will be no clemency for convicts who committed narcotics-related crimes," Jokowi told his audience. Jokowi explained that such a firm and harsh approach was necessary to combat the widespread use of narcotics.

Your comments:

Cigarettes cause 10,000s deaths in Indonesia every year. Will this dangerous drug be banned? Of course not, they are welcome to advertise to kids too.


National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Roichatul Aswidah should realize that a supplier is able to distribute drugs to thousands of users, most of whom are youngsters.

Drugs exist not only in prisons but also in schools, including boarding schools.

Resi Adiyasa

Concentrate on the sellers, distributors, manufacturers inside the country. Catch them and wind up their operations. That would be a good start!

Drug dealers, smugglers, street-sellers etc. all had the choice - deal drugs, or find an honest job. They've only got themselves to blame. Good decision Jokowi! Keep up the good work!

Terry McAsee

Oplosan (bootleg alcohol) is also a drug that kills many Indonesians, Mr. President. Corruption has also a very devastating impact on the country's well-being.

The Indonesian government thinks the country will be drug free in 2015-keep on dreaming! Thereís no country in the whole world that can achieve that, even if they hang all drug perpetrators.

Azwar Barena

When we convict prison bosses and police chiefs whose staff distribute drugs and give them a serious sentence, we will believe that the war on drugs has started. Till then, we are just pretending.

Deedee S.

Human rights activists, just because Jokowi didn't do what you told him, it doesn't mean that he wasn't listening!

Fussion B.

I too support tough punishment coupled with national educational efforts.

The consequences of breaking the law should be the same for both nationals and non-citizens, with one condition - there is adequate notice and information for travelers. One critical weak link in the fight against illegal drug use is the generally easy complicity and participation of law enforcement personnel for the right price.

Jamse Waworoendeng

(source: Letters to the Editor, Jakarta Post)


Prison island secure for execution, says AG

Attorney General HM Prasetyo says Nusakambangan Island in Cilacap, Central Java, is a secure facility where convicts on death row can be executed, and hinted the island would be used for the execution of 5 inmates this year.

Prasetyo gave the indications during his visit to the prison island on Friday with Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly.

"We're looking for a secure place and Nusakambangan seems to be secure," Prasetyo said on the sidelines of the visit on Friday.

The attorney general previously announced that 5 people on death row would be executed by the end of this year. Of the 5, 1 was in Tangerang, 2 were in Batam in Riau Islands and the rest were in Nusakambangan.

Prasetyo said that although the decision on the execution was already there, his office needed to coordinate with different parties, including the police, with regard to the time, place and technical matter of the execution.

Yasonna, who had arrived in Nusakambangan a day earlier and had also visited a number of penitentiaries on the island, said the executions of the 5 people on death row were just a matter of time.

"We're coordinating with the attorney general for the executions with regard to the time and place. The decision on the executions has already been made," Yasonna said on Thursday.

During a public lecture at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta on Tuesday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he planned to enforce the death penalty for the drug convicts and said the crime had a devastating impact on the country's youth.

Nusakambangan is a prison island for high profile inmates. It is located off Penyu Bay, Cilacap, some 2-kilometers from the mainland.

The island can be accessed via a number of points, including the Wijaya Pura pier used by employees of the prisons on the island to enter and exit, Teluk Penyu beach and Kampung Laut village. Only Wijaya Pura pier is guarded.

Yasonna expressed his concern for security measures on the prison island, which he considered were too lax.

"I ask the prison management teams to coordinate with different parties here to keep Nusakambangan secure as a prison island," he said.

Nusakambangan accommodates about 1,500 high profile inmates serving over 5 year sentences, including terror convict Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is serving 15 years in the prison.

Ba'asyir recently openly expressed his support for the Islamic State (IS) organization and he has been visited by 7 people from West Java who are believed to be IS supporters.

Among the inmates in the prison island, some 50 prisoners are on death row.

Convicts executed on Nusakambangan include the 3 Bali bombers of Amrozi, Ali Gufron (Mukhlas) and Imam Samudra, who faced a firing squad on Nov. 9, 2008.

(source: Jakarta Post)


103 drug offenders arrested, $85,000 worth of drugs seized in island-wide drug bust

Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers arrested a total of 103 suspected drug offenders in an island-wide operation from Dec 8 to Dec 12.

They also seized drugs worth more than $85,000, which included about 1kg of heroin, 18 grams of 'Ice', 9 Erimin-5 tablets, 25 Ecstasy tablets, 290 grams of cannabis and a small amount of ketamine.

The operation was conducted in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Balestier, Boon Lay, Bukit Batok, Changi, Choa Chu Kang, Jalan Bukit Merah, Jurong West, Punggol and Woodlands.

Officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) supported the operation.

CNB, SPF and ICA officers also conducted a joint nightspot operation in Geylang targeting illicit activities on Dec 11. Investigations into the illicit activities of those arrested are on-going.

On Dec 8, in one of the operations at Jalan Bukit Merah, CNB officers arrested six drug offenders and seized drugs including about 290 grams of cannabis, 6 Ecstasy tablets and small amounts of 'Ice' and heroin. Drug paraphernalia was also seized.

In another operation on Dec 11, a 26-year-old motorcyclist and his 37-year-old pillion rider were stopped for checks at the Woodlands Checkpoint while travelling into Singapore. CNB officers found 2 bundles of heroin weighing about 950 grams hidden in the rear seat cavity of the Malaysian-registered motorcycle and arrested both men.

Investigations are on-going.

If found guilty of trafficking more than 15g of diamorphine (or pure heroin), the suspects will face the death penalty.

CNB added that the amount of heroin seized in this operation is enough to sustain the addiction of around 480 drug abusers for a week.



A look at "the crocodile" -- Zimbabwe's next leader in the making?

He escaped death from the hangman's noose at the age of 19. Half a century later, the man who fought and was imprisoned for fighting for the nation's birth, is poised to take over from his prison time mentor to become Zimbabwe's next generation of leader.

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, 68, took his oath of office Friday as 1st vice president of Zimbabwe, a position that is designated for the 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe's heir apparent.

Since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mnangagwa has served in every term of Mugabe's cabinet as minister of state security, minister of justice, speaker of Parliament, minister of rural housing, and minister of defense.

Nicknamed "Ngwena" (local vernacular for crocodile), he has for long been touted as Mugabe's choice for successor, but his most prominent ascendency only came this week when the veteran president sacked former vice president Joice Mujuru over an assassination plot. Mujuru has denied the accusation.

But it remains not so sure if Mnangagwa, as heir apparent, will finally emerge as Zimbabwe's next generation of leader.


Mugabe purged the government of seven ministers on Tuesday. Asked by journalists on his take on the purge, Mnangagwa replied tersely and diplomatically: "The revolution has a way of strengthening itself, it goes into circles, and this is another circle where it rids itself of elements that have become inconsistent with the correct line."

Reserved, cautious, patient and ruthless when the time comes, Mnangagwa developed his trait over the years in serving 5 decades in the cabinet.

He gained "the Crocodile" nickname most likely from his involvement during the liberation struggle in a group of freedom fighters known as the Crocodile Gang which carried out acts against the white minority-rulers.

A dent in Mnangagwa's political career, however, is his alleged involvement -- as Minister of State for National Security -- in the violence in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s which Mugabe has described as "a moment of madness".

His ascendancy to the vice presidency is not without hiccup. In his bid to run for vice presidency in 2004, he successfully lobbied the majority of the ruling party's 10 provincial chairpersons to support his nomination. But the president had his own idea, following a lobby by the Women's League pushing Joice Mujuru, wife of the former army chief Solomon Mujuru, to the post.

A subsequent meeting between Mnangagwa and provincial chairpersons to push for his endorsement led to fallout with Mugabe who relegated Mnangagwa to a less influential ministerial post.

However, his star began to shine once again when he became Mugabe's election agent in 2008 and he was duly rewarded with a more distinguished portfolio as minister of defense while leading a faction opposed to Mujuru.

An analyst said it was in Mugabe's best interests to appoint Mnangagwa as one of his deputies because he knew him well.

"Mugabe is now in his old age, turning 91 in February. So he needs to appoint someone he trusts to look after his interests when he finally retires," said the analyst who declined to be named.


Some investors are afraid that Mnangagwa might take a hardline approach to pushing the country's controversial indigenization law, which requires foreign investors to cede majority share-holding to black Zimbabweans.

In amending the party constitution recently, Mnangagwa emphasized the party's adherence to the total ownership and control of Zimbabwe's natural resources, declaring "we will remain masters of our own destiny."

A businessman close to Mnangagwa said there was need for clarity on the implementation of the indigenization law to attract badly-needed foreign investment.

Earlier, the government flip-flopped on whether to amend the law as the economic growth slowed. But the in-fighting of 2 camps inside the ruling party, led by Mujuru and Mnangagwa, rendered any change on the law hard to come by.

Political analyst Nhamo Mhiripiri said the new cabinet is now likely to work in a more coordinated manner than before as ministers from Mujuru's camp like the former indigenization minister Francis Nhema have been removed from the cabinet.

"The new cabinet is bound to work as a team and come up with better results as compared to the past when it appeared to be uncoordinated," he said, adding that investors crave more for certainty on major policies like indigenization.


While it remains unknown Mnangagwa's stance on the way forward for implementing the indigenization law, his dislike for death penalty is obvious.

When commemorating the International Day against the Death Penalty last year, he gave an account of how he escaped death while his elder colleagues in the Crocodile Gang were executed.

He recalled how he had been due to be hanged on a Tuesday in June 1965 and had already endured the trauma of sewing the garments in which he was to meet his fate, the mental torture he endured, the dejection, hopelessness and realization that "it was all over."

However, luck was to be on his side and the death sentence was commuted to a prison sentence.

Mnangagwa said he would forever speak against the death penalty. "It doesn't matter where I am, I will always speak against the death penalty," he said.

Zimbabwe has not yet abolished the death penalty, but for a decade the country did not carry out an execution. The number of inmates on death row now stands at a few scores.

But analyst Takura Zhangazha said it was difficult to argue that Mnangagwa and his co-Vice President Mphoko would improve government policy.

"I think the major challenge the new deputy presidents face is that they will operate at the pleasure of the President and cannot differ or bring in policy propositions that he (Mugabe) may not like. So it's difficult to argue that they will improve government policy," he said.

Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, appears to remain fit. A unanimous vote in the ruling party last week endorsed him as the party's sole candidate for the 2018 presidential election.

In announcing the two's appointments, Mugabe also said the two vice presidents did not really have a big function to play.

"The 2 VPs have no real big function except that they are my deputies. I can give them work to do," he said.

But analysts say in appointing Mnangagwa vice president, Mugabe is most likely to keep him as visible as possible while working on his national image -- a way of grooming his successor once he decides to retire.

(source: Global Post)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia beheads Filipino for murder

Saudi Arabia on Friday beheaded a Filipino convicted of killing one of its nationals, the interior ministry said.

Carletto Lana shot dead Saudi national Nasser al-Gahtani before running him over with a car, the SPA news agency said.

His execution was carried out in Riyadh.

According to an AFP tally, 80 foreigners and Saudis have now been executed in the country this year, despite international concerns over the number and judicial process.

More than 2/3 of this year's executions have been carried out over the past four months.

(source: Agence France-Presse


Madagascar's Parliament Votes to End Death Penalty

Lawmakers in Madagascar have voted to abolish the death penalty, a move hailed as "historic" by the European Union.

The law, which must still officially be announced by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, received unanimous backing from the 82 deputies on Wednesday in the island nation's capital Antananarivo.

While the EU hailed the "historic step" taken by lawmakers, prisoners in Madagascar given capital punishment have since 1958 in practice served life sentences.

Under the new law, which states "no one can be executed," the death penalty will be replaced by forced labour for life.

The vote was the culmination of efforts begun in 2012 when the then-transition president Andry Rajoelina signed a UN agreement that aimed to end capital punishment.

Madagascar's abolition of the death penalty is "the result of an intense plea from Madagascan and international civil society," the EU's representative in Madagascar said in a statement.


DECEMBER 12, 2014:


Louisiana prosecutors bend the rules again seeking a death sentence

There's something's rotten in Caddo Parish. Prosecutors there have been at it again, "it" meaning withholding evidence in a death penalty case.

On Thursday, Judge Jerome M. Winsberg, the retired New Orleans judge handling the Angola 5 trials in West Feliciana, issued a ruling that provided the latest twist to that never-ending saga.

After more than $10 million and nearly 15 years, one would think the entire Angola 5 matter would be resolved. The case involves the killing of an Angola guard, Capt. David Knapps, in a 1999 escape attempt. It lingers not because of real questions about the 5 defendants' guilt or innocence but because the state so desperately wants to kill them.

In the case of David Brown, Winsberg held that prosecutors withheld a confession from another member of the Angola 5, Barry Edge, that put the onus of Knapps' killing on Edge. Brown's sentencing might have gone differently, Winsberg concluded, if the confession had been provided to the defense.

In other words, if the prosecutors had followed the law.

Brown did not get a new trial, as Winsberg found the evidence of Brown's involvement in the escape attempt sufficient. But Brown will now have a new sentencing hearing.

Why this lust to get a death sentence? Why is it not enough to send a man to Angola forever?

Even those who favor capital punishment must acknowledge it is one thing to seek it and quite another to do so with illegal tactics. Surely even death penalty proponents see that too often Louisiana has seen capital cases unravel because of prosecutorial misconduct.

In New Orleans, no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on the matter. The justices rebuked former District Attorney Harry Connick's office for trying to kill a man while burying evidence that man may not have done the crime.

That doesn't seem to have fixed the problem, though. It's past time Louisiana got serious here. Prosecutors who engage in such unethical practices should, at a minimum, be stripped of their license to practice law. In egregious cases of misconduct - which is to say, those cases when prosecutors should have known or suspected the defendant was not guilty - I see no reason why a prosecutor should stand above the law. Arrest them.

Brown's case does not appear to reach that level, although two of the prosecutors involved in his Angola 5 trial were fired in July for unrelated reasons. Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorneys Hugo Holland and Lea Hall falsified paperwork the DA's office used to buy automatic weapons, a bizarre matter that wound up costing taxpayers nearly $450,000 in settlement costs.

That incident does color one's perception of the Brown case, however. Holland and Hall were a part of a district attorney's office that sounds almost unhinged, according to an account published in The Shreveport Times. A whistleblower in the office described prosecutors equipping their rides with sirens and wearing SWAT gear and acting generally like they fancied themselves vigilantes rather than professionals.

Nor is this the 1st time we've seen something sinister from Caddo Parish prosecutors. In March, Glenn Ford was freed after 30 years on death row. It was Caddo Parish prosecutors who sent Ford there even though they had a pretty good idea at the beginning Ford didn't commit murder.

In what moral universe is it proper for the people to be represented by such unthinking cowboys when the issue involves seeking another person's death? This is justice run amok; this is purely vengeance.

The hurt imposed by these miscarriages isn't limited to the man staring at execution. We like to think we live under a rule of law, and that those laws are administered by men and women who take seriously oaths to protect us. But once again we have prosecutors operating like outlaws. No one is safe in that environment. It need not be a capital crime. Why should any person feel the system is fair when we have so many instances of prosecutorial misconduct?

There's something diabolical about state-sanctioned killing in bad faith. Death penalty proponents have to be uncomfortable with that. Decent and honorable prosecutors doing good things for us have to be embarrassed and upset that these violations of defendants' rights occur with such regularity and in different parishes.

There's a way out of this intolerable situation, though. Abolish the death penalty. Whether one favors or opposes it, there is no question it is not being properly and fairly adjudicated in Louisiana.

(source: James Varney, New Orleans Times-Picayune)


Reflections from America's Death Penalty Capital


Around 6:35 p.m. on September 10, 2014, the loud group of 30 or so protesters fell silent. They represented the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and they had gathered near the northwest corner of the Huntsville Unit - home to Texas' execution facility. One protester rang a hand bell 20 times, in time with what felt like collective exhales of the group. Each note symbolized a year that Willie Tyrone Trottie had spent on death row. In those 20 long breaths my picture of the death penalty in the United States crystallized. The slipshod implementation of the death penalty - as evidenced especially this year by botched executions and death row exonerations via DNA testing - has begun to make clear the dire disconnect between its supposed and actual intent.

Trottie was convicted in May 1993 for the murder of his former common-law wife, Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus Canada. Trottie had threatened to kill Canada if she did not come back to him. He arrived at the Canadas' house that day and, after being shot by Titus upon entering the house, shot Barbara and Titus multiple times and wounded other members of the Canada family. His and Barbara's son was also present. After the bloodbath, Trottie drove himself to the hospital to seek treatment for his wounds and was promptly arrested upon release.

The crime was brutal, and Trottie's role in it was never in question. In other words, the guilt-innocence portion of the trial was fairly straightforward. But far less straightforward was the punishment phase. In this phase, the Texas courts - as in most states-considered possible mitigating circumstances and decided whether Trottie posed a future threat to society. Resolving that he did, the courts accordingly decided he must be put to death by the state of Texas. Yet the statute underlying this punishment is far less straightforward than it might appear. When the Texas death penalty statute was written, there was no sentence to life without parole. Today, with this alternative available, the only consequentialist justification for the death penalty is that the condemned poses a threat to other prisoners. Therefore, in sentencing Trottie to death, the courts found that he was likely to engage in another act of violence within the walls of the prison.

In the final week before Trottie's execution - 20 years after the sentence was handed down - his attorneys filed 2 separate last-minute appeals for a stay of execution. One appeal argued that Trottie had not received adequate legal counsel at his 1993 trial. Trottie maintained that the lawyers assigned to him did not investigate the possible mitigating circumstances surrounding his abusive and painful childhood. In the second appeal, Trottie's attorneys filed a motion with the Supreme Court claiming that the pentobarbital that Texas had secured for his lethal injection was past its expiration date and might cause Trottie excruciating pain, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This appeal was no doubt influenced by the 3 botched executions that occurred earlier this year. The strongest arguments against the death penalty can be extracted from these desperate last minute appeals, which point to today's haphazard implementation of the death penalty and the confused principles upon which it is built.

Officially, Trottie was not executed in the name of retribution, so often invoked by deontologist death penalty supporters. Furthermore, the consequentialist reasons for his execution were muddled at best. And while Huntsville locals talked about just deserts, retribution, and justice, few talked about his threat to society at large. Not one alluded to the threat Trottie posed within the Harris County Prison, where the courts might have sent him for a life sentence without parole.


Executions in Texas take place at 6:00 p.m. at the Huntsville Unit, which lies 70 miles north of Houston in an otherwise quiet town. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1982, Huntsville has seen nearly 5 times more executions than any other American city.

The afternoon that I arrived, I visited the Texas Prison Museum, a highly fascinating and tonally confused museum run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The museum holds the electric chair formerly used for executions, commonly referred to as "Old Sparky," as well as one of Bonnie and Clyde's handguns. Near the end of the exhibit, you can pay $3 to put on official TDCJ prison garb and have your photo taken in a mock prison cell. On the wall near Old Sparky was a quotation that neatly summarized the clash of tones. Warden R.F. Coleman, on the day of the first execution by electric chair in 1924, stated, "A warden can't be a warden and a killer too. The penitentiary is a place to reform a man, not to kill him."

Before leaving the museum, I asked the desk attendant what he thought about the upcoming execution. He said, without missing a beat, "That man deserves to die."


About a mile south of the prison museum sits the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, where bodies unclaimed from the Texas prison system are laid to rest. The cemetery was very quiet and unwatched. The 3,000 tombstones-some concrete crosses and others plain rectangular headstones-are neatly kept and organized into clean lines. Each headstone bears the inmate's name, the date of his death, and his TDCJ identification number. If the deceased was executed, an "X" is placed in front of the TCDJ number.

After the cemetery, I stopped in a cafeĀ on 11th street for a coffee. A chime on the door signaled the entry of a round middle - aged man wearing suspenders, round glasses, and a bowler hat. After he had ordered, I asked to join him at his table. All I had to say was, "Do you know that there's an execution happening a few blocks from here, in just a few hours?" He unleashed, in a Texan drawl, his inner conflict about the death penalty. He felt that some people deserved to die, but he then admitted that he didn't see how a life sentence without possibility of parole was any different from a legal standpoint. As we were the only 2 patrons that late afternoon, the waitress joined our conversation and echoed the gentleman's view. She remarked, "The crimes are in the past; does that mean the criminal doesn't deserve any future at all?" She handed me a bag of potato chips on my way out. The man and the waitress asked not to be identified by name.

I walked about a half-block to the First United Methodist Church on 11th street to meet with the senior pastor, Reverend Scott Dornbush. The reverend welcomed me into his spacious office. The walls were the same color as the carpet, very beige, and were punctuated by framed accolades and icons. Sitting down across from the reverend - a hardy, smiling, bald man in glasses and a suit - I asked him what we are to make of the death penalty as it is practiced today. He smiled sympathetically and asked, "Can I show you something?" Walking around his desk to the wall behind me, he wrestled a big frame off the wall and handed it to me. It was a letter the reverend had written to George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, and the governor's semi-automated response to it, both in a frame three times their collective size. In the letter, the reverend implored the governor to abolish the death penalty. His argument was this: Perhaps some people deserve to die, but the state of Texas lacks the power to discern and the uniform metric of justice to approximate who those people are.

Leaving Dornbush and the church around 4:00, I made my way to the nearby Huntsville Unit. There, I was to meet Michael Graczyk, a reporter for the Associated Press who has witnessed over 300 executions. Graczyk was a big man with a gentle demeanor. I asked him for all the detail he could afford me of the execution chamber. It all sounded very medical: a gurney, straps, aquamarine walls. The executioner administering the drugs stands behind a 2-way mirror, unseen by the witnesses or the condemned inmate. The medicalization of executions is arguably part of a broader trend of confusing punishment and treatment. The incarceration rate in the United States is five to ten times that of other democracies-our nation's harsh sentences are dealt largely without first considering more rehabilitative modes of punishment. In fact, a report by Human Rights Watch noted that, where prison was once seen as the final recourse, it has come to be "treated as the medicine that cures all ills."

After Graczyk retreated into the administration building, I joined the media section, a growing group gathering in a shady area with a ten-meter radius between the TDCJ administrative building and the 30-or-so protesters rallying further down 12th street. I noted such a difference in attitudes that it was difficult to imagine that everyone there was gathered around the same event. While protesters shouted over a loudspeaker (You say death row, we say hell no!), members of the media seemed to speak without moving their jaws, as if to avoid any facial movement that might resemble expression. The result was an uncertain hush, which served as a neutral barrier between the shouts of the protesters to my right and the pin-drop silence of the TDCJ officials to my left. I spoke softly with a group of reporters from the BBC and with the cameraman for a Norwegian documentary film on the death penalty.


At around 5:15, 1 man's voice-expressive and unmuffled - emerged from the media's silence. The voice belonged to New York University Law Professor Robert Blecker, a notorious retributivist defender of the death penalty, who was answering interview questions on camera for the Norwegian documentary. Blecker's defense of the death penalty rests on his belief that retribution is the only way to restore a moral balance in the aftermath of a crime. For the "worst of the worst" criminals, the death penalty is the only form of retribution commensurate with the crime. When asked about Trottie's imminent execution, however, Blecker admitted that he was "slightly conflicted." His uncertainty about the case at hand arose from 2 distinct concerns: one more philosophical and the other primarily legal. Philosophically, Blecker was unsure whether Trottie could be classified as "the worst of the worst." Legally, Blecker asked, "What is the evidence that Trottie would kill again within the walls of the prison?"

Shocked by the fact that Blecker, one of the most famous legal supporters of the death penalty, does not support the death penalty statute in Texas, I walked down 12th street to join the protesters. Trottie's aunt Cynthia, standing with the TCADP, read into the loudspeaker a poem written by Eugene Broxton, one of Trottie's fellow death row inmates. The poem was called "Judge Ye Not" and began, "Have you walked in the shoes / Of the person you judge / Have you shared their most / Intimate thoughts." Another protester took over after Cynthia, who rang the bell 20 times. As the demonstration concluded, Cynthia read another poem, written by death row inmate Ker'Sean Ramey and entitled, "Stand Up to Injustice."

Willie Tyrone Trottie was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m. On my drive back to Houston, I listened to KPFT's radio show Execution Watch, which airs every time an inmate is executed in Texas. This was the eighth time the show had aired in 2014. One of the hosts noted that Trottie's trial was never about guilt or innocence-it was clear that he had committed the crime of which he was convicted-but rather about punishment. He added that Trottie's lawyers were tasked with "build[ing] up a predicate for punishment that might have saved his life." This particular phrasing resonated with me. The idea that a definition of punishment is rebuilt at every capital trial perfectly captures the grave extent to which governments' chaotic implementation of the death penalty reflects its obfuscated intent. Without a clear conception of punishment understood by the people and the courts, defense lawyers are forced to build their own each time. If it doesn't match up with the jury's, a life is on the line.

What became clear to me from my time in Huntsville is that America is far from a coherent understanding of justice, without which it is impossible to have a coherent notion of punishment. I hope that we can see recent events as visceral illustrations that capital punishment, as it is currently practiced, is incoherent under any ethical orientation. The government is supposedly executing in the name of its people, but its people do not know the real reason for the executions. The obfuscation of both intent and implementation makes the death penalty a systemic failure: a flouting of the government's most basic duty to represent the will of its people.

(source: Zoe Hitzig,


Prosecution Admits Mistake As Williams' Punishment Phase Continues

The lead prosecutor in the capital murder trial for Eric Williams admitted today that "we messed up" by claiming 13 guns belonged to Williams, when they do not.

One of the guns actually belonged to a man Williams is accused of killing, Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse, while another 4 belonged to Williams' in-laws.

"That's our mistake," prosecutor Bill Wirskye acknowledged, triggering a request for a mistrial by the lead defense attorney, Matthew Seymour.

Judge Mike Snipes denied the request, but removed from evidence the 13 guns, leaving 52 high-powered weapons that the state says were recovered from Williams' home and storage shed.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty after Williams was convicted last week in the shooting deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia on the eve of Easter 2013.

Those killings, and the execution-style attack on Hasse on Jan. 31, 2013, were acts of revenge by Williams for McLelland and Hasse prosecuting him a year earlier for theft and burglary, according to prosecutors.

Those convictions cost Williams his job as a justice of the peace Kaufman and his state license as a lawyer.

Williams' estranged wife, Kim, is charged with capital murder as an accomplice in all 3 killings.

After dealing with the misplaced guns, the defense continued to call Williams' friends and high school classmates, who portrayed Williams as a nice person and capable lawyer.

One of those friends, Tammy Moss, said she had visited Williams in jail several times, including recently, and does not believe he is guilty.

"He said he didn't do it, and I trust him," Moss told the jury.

Kaufman County resident Ronnie Fudge said he won custody of his infant son in a contentious divorce because of Williams, who was his lawyer in the case.

And when his legal bills began to mount, and he couldn't pay anymore, "Eric quit charging me," Fudge said.

When the prosecutor, Wirskye, asked why Fudge would remain friends with a "triple murderer," the witness didn't hesitate, saying: "He still needs somebody to talk to."

(source: CBS news)


Victoria County declines to hire public defender group

Victoria County officials declined to hire a group of attorneys to defend the indigent facing the death penalty.

The Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases, a Lubbock-based organization, made a pitch to commissioners in May after the remaining 2 Crossroads attorneys certified to handle those cases - Jim Beeler and Elliot Costas - ended that part of their practice.

"The bottom line is we felt it wasn't worth the investment based on historical prospective," County Judge Don Pozzi said.

Kevin Janak, Precinct 2 Commissioner, agreed, adding officials could revisit the issue and ask for more quotes from similar groups if necessary.

"We're always open to saving taxpayer funds," he said.

This means the county must hire 1 of 20 out-of-town attorneys on a first chair list compiled by the Fourth Administrative Judicial Region to handle indigent capital murder cases.

The attorneys are from Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio, among other cities. The county would pay them 56 cents per mile driven for business and their accommodations and meals would be approved by a judge later.

Non-indigent defendants charged with capital murder may hire attorneys that are not certified by the state.

30 capital murder cases have been filed since 2003, but only 3 were death penalty cases, according to the Victoria County District Clerk's Office.

There is 1 pending capital murder case, but the state is not seeking the death penalty. The defendant is Shawn Chapel.

The county would have paid the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases $123,059 to join what they call a "risk pool" in October and $118,872 the following year, according to an earlier report.

Pozzi said the commissioners solicited opinions from the district judges and the Criminal District Attorney, Stephen Tyler, before reaching their decision.

Some had reservations about how the group conducted business, said Tyler, who agreed with the commissioners' decision.

"I was a special prosecutor in a case where they (the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases) had perjured themselves in court documents in Jackson County," Tyler said. "The gist of it is if an attorney will perjure themselves before the court in a written document when is it that you can trust them?"

Perjury means telling a lie in court after promising to tell the truth.

Tyler was talking about the case of Anna Jimenez, who was appointed to represent Christian Blair Robinson, an Edna man charged with capital murder in the 2010 death of an infant son.

Jimenez was indicted in April 2013 for aggravated perjury. The case against her was dismissed a month later.

Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell declined to comment.

Jimenez is still a "valued employee" of the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases, said the group's chief public defender Jack Stoffregen.

He said the statute of limitations has expired, so Bell cannot re-file the case.

"If nothing else, there is a presumption of innocence in this country, and she is absolutely innocent of this charge. The fact that the indictment was dismissed speaks for itself," Stoffregen said.

Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases was started with a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission in 2008.

It has the business of 163 counties, including DeWitt and Refugio, he said.

In June 2013, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission studied 60 capital death cases represented by either a Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases attorney or a private attorney. It found that 93 % of the cases ended in a plea deal, which the organization says is one of its top priorities.

Stoffregen knows that sometimes what his group is offering can be a hard sell, especially when the need doesn't seem immediate.

"My job is just to make sure the counties know the program is available. It's not for me to say, 'Do it or don't do it,'" he said. "Obviously, if the decision was made on an unfounded claim ... then I'm sad."

Experts, investigation fees, transcripts and other expenses for the most recently resolved capital murder case of Tyrel Richards cost $75,883.25.

Attorney fees cost $58,043.75, according to court records.

Tyler suggested the local defense bar and judges meet to discuss a more reasonable payment for capital defense.

The current fee schedule, created in January 2012, shows attorneys appointed to capital cases can earn between $40 and $95 per hour in and out of court.

Both Costas and Beeler say money is not why they stopped defending capital cases, although that can be a struggle. One often has to forgo other clients to concentrate on a capital case.

Beeler, who is 69, said he's learned his limits and is enjoying slowing down.

"The ideal situation is that they would be able to get some younger people to do it," Beeler said. "I'm willing to assist and help get some other people trained. Anything I can do to help the system because that's the foremost importance - to make sure the system works."

(source: Victoria Advocate)


Exonerated inmate documents life on death row

It wasn't bad luck, crummy karma or fickle fate that landed Anthony Graves on death row.

It was God's will.

"It's the only thing that makes sense to my life," Anthony Graves said. "Otherwise nothing else makes sense. Why did I have to lose 18 years of my life to a senseless murder I knew nothing about."

We've all heard the story about how prosecutorial misconduct left an innocent Graves holding the bag for the horrific murders of 6 people, 4 of them children.

The story Graves says God wants him to tell now is about a place no one is expected to leave.

"Give the viewers an inside look to death row what a person really goes through," says Graves.

Graves is currently working on a documentary called Graves Injustice.

In his 6, 640 days in prison Graves shared final moments on Earth with many men he befriended.

"It was surreal," Graves said. "you're sitting there and you're witnessing a perfectly healthy man within a matter of hours they're going to be executed by our state."

While Graves hopes the documentary will prove uplifting he says he won't shy away from the horrors of death row like watching an inmate hang himself after losing an appeal.

"This has a ripple effect on not just the person you execute but the family on both sides," Graves said.

Graves says not everyone on death row claims to be innocent but he says he knows he's far from being the only one.

Graves is the 138th death row inmate to be exonerated in the United States.

That tells Graves and others it's virtually impossible to have the death penalty and not end up executing the innocent.

"If we released those that are innocent probably 1/4 to 1/2 of death row inmates are going to come home," Graves said. "It's that bad."



Court Tells TDCJ to Name Death Drug Suppliers

The name of the compounding pharmacy supplying lethal injection drugs for Texas executions must be released because it is public information, a judge ruled late Thursday.

State District Judge Darlene Byrne granted summary judgment in favor of three lawyers who often work for death row inmates in Texas - Maurie Levin, Naomi Terr and Hilary Sheard - in a little-watched lawsuit filed in Austin earlier this year.

"It's a big deal," plaintiffs attorney Philip Durst said of Byrne's decision. "It goes to the topic of how we provide [public] information."

Since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is expected to appeal the ruling, however, it may be a while before the name is revealed.

"If they appeal, then we don't get the names until it's over," Durst conceded.

Jason Clark, a spokesman for TDCJ, confirmed to The Texas Tribune late Thursday that the agency would appeal, and declined further comment until staff lawyers review Byrne's ruling.

The 3 lawyer-plaintiffs sued TDCJ after the prison agency refused to release the name of the compounding pharmacy used to supply the prison system with the lethal injection drugs. The lawyers had filed a request for the information under the Texas Public Information Act and the agency refused to release it.

The lawyers' suit originally included 2 more plaintiffs, both Texas death row inmates. Both, Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, were executed last April.

In September 2013, TDCJ turned to compounding pharmacies, which are allowed to mix or "compound" drugs on site, for its lethal injection drugs after manufacturers stopped providing pentobarbital to U.S. prison systems. But since the identity of one of the compounding pharmacies was released to the public in 2013, the Texas prison system has worked to keep the names of the current provider or providers secret.

The names of the pharmaceutical companies providing lethal injection drugs were long made public in Texas, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has issued rulings confirming that drug supplier names are public information. That changed, however, when TDCJ was forced to turn to compounding pharmacies.

Last May, Abbott, in the midst of his own campaign for governor, sided with TDCJ after the agency secured a "threat assessment" from the Texas Department of Public Safety stating that the pharmacies "by design are easily accessible to the public and present a soft target to violent attacks." If the agency names the pharmacy-supplier, DPS reasoned, it would present a "substantial" threat of physical harm to the pharmacy.

Levin and other attorneys for death row inmates have argued that compounded drugs subject condemned inmates to cruel and unusual punishment which is barred by the Eighth Amendment.

The drugs that compounding pharmacies mix are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Compounding pharmacies themselves are licensed not by the FDA, but by individual state boards of pharmacies.

In the past 2 years, executions have taken longer, raising questions about the purity of these "compounded" drugs. Last April in Oklahoma, death row inmate Clayton Lockett had a heart attack 43 minutes after the sedative midazolam was used for the first time in that state's execution protocol. Compounding pharmacies provided the drugs. An official autopsy ruled he died from the lethal drugs, not the heart attack.

In the past two years, executions have taken longer, as states begin using never before used "execution" drugs like midazolam to replace older lethal cocktails now unavailable to them. Some are using compounded drugs and questions are being raised about the purity and efficacy of these drugs.

In the past 2 years, executions have taken longer, as states begin using never before used "execution" drugs like midazolam to replace older lethal cocktails now unavailable to them. Some are using compounded drug and questions are being raised about the purity and efficacy of these drugs.

Last April in Oklahoma, death row inmate Clayton Lockett had a heart attack 43 minutes after the sedative midazolam was used for the 1st time in that state's execution protocol. Before the execution, Oklahoma had said it was moving to compounded drugs, however, the drugs used in Lockett execution were manufactured. An official autopsy ruled he died from the lethal drugs, not the heart attack.

In an earlier version of this story it was reported that Oklahoma used compounded drugs to execute Clayton Lockett. While Oklahoma officials had said they were going to purchase compounded lethal execution drugs, they used manufactured drugs in Lockett's execution.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Kountze woman charged in toddler's death freed on bond

A Kountze woman accused of killing her 4-year-old child in 2011 was released from the Hardin County jail Tuesday after her attorney filed a motion to set bond, according to District Attorney David Sheffield.

Amanda Nicole Guidry, 33, and her boyfriend, 37-year-old Jason Wade Delacerda, were arrested Aug. 17, 2011, after Guidry's daughter, Breonna Nichole Loftin, was hospitalized and later died from blunt force trauma to her head.

The pair was indicted by a Hardin County grand jury later that month on an elevated charge of capital murder of a child younger than 6. A judge ordered the couple held on no bond.

Guidry's attorney, Jimmy Hamm, recently filed a motion to set bond. Judge Earl Stover', of the 88th District Court, ruled in favor of the motion last Friday and set Guidry's bond at $250,000.

Sheffield said his office is seeking the death penalty for Delacerda, who remains in jail on no bond.

The district attorney will ask a jury to sentence Guidry to life in prison without parole.

A Christus St. Elizabeth emergency room physician told the responding officer Loftin had numerous injuries, including a bruise on her forehead and an abrasion to her temple, and it appeared she had been seriously abused, according to a probable cause affidavit.

(source: Beaumont Enterprise)


Court turns down Wardrip appeal

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has dismissed the latest effort by convicted serial killer Faryion Edward Wardrip to avoid the death penalty for murdering a Wichita Falls woman as part of a killing spree from late 1984 to early 1986. In all, Wardrip has been convicted of killing 5 young women.

(source: Times Record News)


Suspect in 2 Carolina Beach fire deaths linked to Winston-Salem man's death

A Kure Beach man out on bond on charges stemming from a hit-and-run that killed a Winston-Salem man now faces 1st-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of 2 women in fires in Carolina Beach condominiums.

Media outlets report Marshall Hudson Doran, 22, was charged Thursday in the deaths of Mary Angeline Cochran, 72, and Darlene Ann Maslar, 43, in fires set Saturday morning.

Doran was out on bond on charges stemming from the February hit-and-run deaths of 2 men on Interstate 40 in Garner: Larry Kepley, 39, of Winston-Salem, and Nathaniel Williams, 34, of Hope Mills.

A judge Thursday refused bond for Doran, who could face the death penalty. Doran's attorney, Roger Smith, said the Doran family is heartbroken and is praying for everyone affected by the tragedy.

Doran was previously charged in the Feb. 13 hit-and-run deaths of Kepley and Williams on I-40 in Garner.

A bobtail tractor cab had spun out on I-40 west near Garner, according to the Highway Patrol. The driver was trying to move his cab out of the highway when Kepley, who was driving a tractor-trailer, stopped to help him.

After swerving to avoid the wreck, Williams also tried to help the truck driver, the Highway Patrol said.

Williams and Kepley were standing behind the tractor cab when they were struck and killed by a man driving a Volvo, who fled.

The driver, whom authorities said was Doran, was found hiding in a wooded area but gave himself up and was arrested. At the time, he was charged with 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder, 2 counts of driving while intoxicated, felony hit-and-run, careless and reckless driving and drug possession.

(source: Associated Press)


Man Charged with Double Murder In Fatal Carolina Beach Fires

The man considered a person of interest in the fatal Carolina Beach fires over the weekend is now charged with murder.

Marshall Doran, 22, is charged with 1st degree murder in the deaths of Mary Angeline Chochran and Darlene Ann Masler.

Doran went before a judge for the 2nd time this week on Thursday.

This time he was charged with 2 counts of 1st degree murder.

These charges stem from the double fatal fires in Carolina Beach over the weekend.

He was already being held at the New Hanover County Detention Center on charges of attempted burglary on a $2.5 million bond.

The judge issued no bond at the request of the DA.

The charges do come with the punishment of the death penalty.

Doran was issued a capital defender.

All this brought tears to the eyes of his mother who was in the courtroom with his sister.

His current attorney made a statement to the media on behalf of the family.

"They've lived in this community for more than 20 years and it's been their home for more than 20 years. They're absolutely heart broken and grief stricken over what happened this past weekend, the tragedy that happened that came upon this community. Their hearts, their thoughts and their prayers go out to the families that were involved here and everybody else that is affected that is affected by this tragedy," says Defense Attorney Roger Smith Jr.

During the time of the fires Doran was out on bond with charges stemming from a deadly hit and run in Wake County.

So he has those charges pending and the DA says more charges could come down from the grand jury related to the Carolina Beach fires.



Prosecutors don't want jurors to know Rayne Perrywinkle said she foresaw daughter's death



A look at the events surrounding the abduction and death of Cherish Perrywinkle (Times are approximate).

Friday morning: Police make contact with Donald James Smith at the San Jose neighborhood home where he is a registered sexual offender.

7 p.m. Friday (Dollar General): Jacksonville police say Cherish Perriwinkle's mother met Donald James Smith, 56, at Dollar General.

11 p.m. Friday (Walmart Supercenter): Cherish's mother reports the 8-year-old girl missing to police. Authorities say the mother and Donald James Smith went to Walmart after Smith offered to buy the family some clothes.

9 a.m. Saturday (I-95/I-10): Police pull over and surround Donald James Smith's white 1998 Dodge van on I-95 South near the I-10 split.

10 a.m. Saturday (Highlands Baptist Church): The body of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle is found near the church.

[source: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office]


Jacksonville prosecutors are asking a judge to prohibit personal information about the mother of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle from being heard by a jury, including that Rayne Perrywinkle has said she's clairvoyant and foresaw her daughters death.

Donald James Smith, 58, is charged with the rape and murder of Cherish and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Rayne Perrywinkle is expected to be a key prosecution witness because she allowed her daughter to be around Smith when he offered to get them some McDonald's and never saw her child again.

Defense lawyers want to introduce her history into the trial, including her time with Cherish's father, being committed to mental institutions, legally changing her name and a sexual assault she said happened 11 years ago.

Perrywinkle, 46, lost custody of her other children soon after Cherish was killed.

At a Thursday hearing Assistant Public Defender Fred Gazaleh argued he wanted jurors to know that Perrywinkle has said she's clairvoyant and always thought her daughter would be dead by the time she was 8. Perrywinkle volunteered that information during a deposition taken in the case.

A jury has a right to decide whether Perrywinkle may have taken steps to make that prophecy come true, Gazaleh said.

Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel said none of this is relevant to Smith's criminal trial and shouldn't be allowed.

"It doesn't mitigate what this defendant did," Caliel said.

Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper did not make any rulings Thursday and said she might have Perrywinkle called to the stand during trial without the jury present to determine what she'll allow in and what she will exclude. Then she could testify again in front of the jury.

Perrywinkle has vowed to get her children back, but other's have argued they should be adopted.

She had a contentious relationship with Cherish's father, Billy Jarreau, and has acknowledged she didn't want her daughter to spend the summer with him in California, as Cherish was scheduled to do the day after she was killed.

Perrywinkle was not in court Thursday. Lysa Telzer, a victims advocate with the Justice Coalition, said Perrywinkle would have no comment.

Defense attorneys did not object to a 2nd motion from prosecutors prohibiting any discussion of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office internal affairs investigation that occurred after Smith was arrested.

The leader of the Sheriff's Office homicide unit was suspended and moved out of the unit after an internal investigation found officers at the scene didn't notify the public quickly enough that Cherish had been kidnapped.

Police at the scene originally doubted Perrywinkle's story and questioned whether it was a genuine abduction.

Defense attorneys also are asking to be kicked off the case, arguing that they have a conflict with another unnamed client.

Cooper has refused to release them from the case, but that ruling has been sent to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

If the appellate court overrules Cooper, the trial would be delayed indefinitely while new lawyers get up to speed on the case.



Hurley man charged with capital murder in death of Fairley

A Jackson County man has been charged in the stabbing death of a Hurley woman who went missing Tuesday afternoon.

Scotty Lakeith Street, 36, was charged with capital murder in the death of Frankie Taylor Fairley, 55, late Wednesday night, said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell.

Fairley was found about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in a field near her home on Polktown Road and Davis Sawmill Road northwest of Hurley.

She was last seen by her husband when she asked him to watch a pot of food on the stove until she returned, Ezell said.

Fairley, driving a gold 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan, was headed to East Central High School.

The van was used in a strong-arm robbery Tuesday night at a D'Iberville convenience store after Fairley was reported missing. Street also has been charged with robbery.

A 2nd suspect taken into custody Wednesday in connection with the case has not been charged as of Wednesday morning.

Street could face the death penalty in this case.

(source: Biloxi Sun Herald)


Senate approves execution-secrecy bill

A bill shrouding parts of Ohio's execution process in secrecy cleared the Ohio Senate yesterday, with an added provision requiring a review of how killers are put to death amid ongoing legal questions over lethal injection.

The measure, which prison officials say is needed to ensure that Ohio can obtain the execution drugs from compounding pharmacies, now returns to the House, where approval is expected next week as the legislature wraps up its work for its 2-year session.

The Senate approved the measure 20-10 as minority Democrats voiced concerns over the lack of transparency to accompany the state's use of capital punishment. Three Republicans also voted against it.

The bill would forever keep confidential the identities of execution-team members and physicians and shield the identities of compounding pharmacies that prepare lethal-injection drugs for 20 years after their state contracts expire.

Prison officials contend they cannot obtain the drugs needed to conduct executions unless compounding pharmacies are assured they will not be identified and will be protected from potential retaliation.

The pharmacies "have become subjected to not just criticism but downright attack, boycotts and picketing at their homes," said Sen. John Eklund, R-Chardon. "Consequently many of these pharmacies have become unwilling ... to subject themselves to that aggravation."

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee added a 2-year sunset provision under which the law would expire unless the measure is renewed. Lawmakers want to see how the secrecy changes work before potentially extending them.

Execution-team members and pharmacies granted confidentiality during the 1st 2 years would retain those protections even if the law expires.

The bill also calls for appointment of a joint Senate-House committee to review the "means and manner" by which Ohio executes the condemned amid controversy over the fatal drug combinations concocted to replace drugs no longer made available by their manufacturers.

Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, a death-penalty opponent, voted against the bill. "Is there any irony to take the life of a convicted killer but then worry endlessly that we don't cause him any suffering?"

Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who served 2 years on the Ohio Supreme Court's Death Penalty Task Force, said he recognizes that people are opposed to the death penalty, "but that is not what this bill is about."

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction officials said yesterday that they did not request the review of the means of death of the condemned or the sunset provision and declined to comment on their inclusion.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Monroe murder suspect worked at victim's retirement community

Daniel French, the man accused of killing an 87-year-old Monroe woman, was an employee of the Mount Pleasant Retirement Community were she lived.

French, 56, of 1473 Flat Gap Road in Berea, Ky., began working at Mount Pleasant in 2003 and worked there until he resigned his position on Dec. 14, 2011, according to a statement from the retirement community released Thursday. Neither police nor officials with Mount Pleasant would elaborate on they type of work French did there.

A Butler County grand jury indicted French for allegedly killing Barbara Howe, who was slain in October 2012. He is facing charges of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, aggravated burglary and robbery, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Howe's daughter, Donna Wesselman, wiped away tears as she hugged Monroe Detective Gregg Myers before he stepped to the podium with Monroe Police Chief Bob Buchanan during a news conference Thursday.

Myers has investigated the case from the beginning.

In September 2013, Myers told this newspaper that there was a person of interest in the case. On Thursday, he confirmed that person was French, but said little else about the case or the investigation.

Wesselman said she never lost hope her mother's killer would be found because Myers kept her and her family informed every step of the way.

"If it weren't for Gregg Myers ... he kept me sane through all of this," Wesselman said.

The Blue Ash woman said Myers once described the case and investigation as "like working on an all-white puzzle, and you only have the corner pieces."

She said she was aware the case was presented to the grand jury, but did not get word from Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser about the indictment until minutes after French was arrested Wednesday.

"Yesterday was the day I have waited for, for over 2 years," Wesselman said. "I just feel like a weight has been lifted off my back."

While there will be months of waiting for criminal proceedings for French, Wesselman said for her the arrest was closure. "Our mother was wonderful. She was just a beautiful, wonderful person ... so full of life," Wesselman said. "If there is a silver lining, I am left with wonderful memories of my mother."

Buchanan said the arrest is the result of a collaborative effort of many different agencies and citizens of the city.

Myers was specifically recognized by the chief for his work.

"Gregg has worked on this case since the very beginning and has worked tirelessly to bring the case to this point. He will tell you that he has been assisted by so many professionals throughout this investigation, and this is true; but without his efforts, it is my opinion that this case would have remained unsolved," Buchanan said.

Gmoser called the crime one of the most heinous he has seen in his career.

"The shear brutality and diabolical nature of this case really is unparalleled in the history of this county," Gmoser said. "In my 40-some years of being an attorney here, I've never seen anything as horrific as this in the planning and the diabolical nature. It really is an unusual case."

Howe was last seen alive Oct. 27, 2012, when she left her cottage at Mount Pleasant Retirement Village in Monroe. She was found dead 4 days later in the trunk of her red Cadillac that was abandoned in the parking lot of Woodridge Apartments in Middletown.

Gmoser remained tight-lipped about information surrounding the case on Thursday and did not attend the news conference.

Howe's cause of death was never released, and Gmoser said that information will not be revealed until it is presented at trial.

French's arrest was made public Wednesday afternoon when he was taken into custody about 1:55 p.m. Middletown police Detectives Rich Bush and Jon Hoover, along with Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress traveled to Kentucky to make the arrest. French was booked into the Rockcastle County Kentucky Detention Center shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

French will appear in a Kentucky courtroom for an extradition hearing and could be arraigned on the charges by the middle of next week. The case is assigned to Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh. Gmoser said he will try the case with Burress.

A background check of French indicates he has ties to Middletown, living at several addresses there as well as Franklin dating back to 1990. The most recent was on Bonita Drive in May 2012. He has no criminal background in Butler County, according to police and a public records search by this newspaper. The only court cases involving him are for civil matters and 2 divorces.

In a written statement, Stan Kappers, the executive director at Mount Pleasant, said French met employment requirements and passed a background check and screening that included finger printing and a felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions and driver's licence record check though an independent 3rd party provider.

"I am personally sickened by the thought that anyone previously associated with this community could have been involved in this tragic crime," Kappers said in the statement.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


Ryan Champion Could Face the Death Penalty if Convicted

A Trigg County man accused in the killing of his parents, sister and an acquaintance could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors say they believe Champion enlisted help from 22-year-old Vito Riservato in murdering his family. He then shot and killed Riservato.

In the arraignment Wednesday, Trigg County prosecutor G.L. Ovey said if Champion is convicted, he'll seek the death penalty.

Champion has pled not guilty to all charges.

He will next appear in court Feb. 13.

(source: WKMS news)


Not Guilty Plea, Possible Death Penalty In Family Killings

A western Kentucky man accused in the slayings of his parents, sister and an acquaintance has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, complicity to murder and complicity to kidnapping.

Prosecutors say they believe 36-year-old Ryan Champion enlisted help from 22-year-old Vito Riservato in killing his family, and then killed Riservato. All 4 died of gunshot wounds at the Champion family's home in Cadiz.

Trigg prosecutor G.L. Ovey has said it started out as a murder-for-hire scheme, but "it didn't end up that way."

Along with the arraignment on Wednesday, Ovey filed notice that he intends to seek the death penalty in the case if Ryan Champion is convicted.

Media report Champion's new attorney, Tom Osborne, maintained his client's innocence and asked that a trial date be set as soon as possible.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury convicts Billy Frank Davis Jr. of 2 counts of capital murder, 8 other charges

A Shawnee County District Court jury convicted Billy Frank Davis Jr. on Thursday afternoon of 2 counts of capital murder, one court of premeditated 1st-degree murder and 7 other counts linked to the slaying of an 8-year-old girl in 2012.

When the guilty verdicts were read at 4:15 p.m. for the 2 counts of capital murder, Randy Irvin and Angela Ortega, parents of the victim, Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin, wept silently in their seats.

By the time guilty verdicts were read for all 10 charges, several relatives and friends of the child were nodding their heads, yes. When verdicts are about to be read in emotional high-profile cases, spectators often are warned not to make any noisy displays of celebration. By the time the jurors said they had decided the verdicts, they had deliberated 17 hours over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It had appeared jurors might be unable to decide verdicts in the case and would be deadlocked, perhaps forcing a second trial of Davis before a new jury.

Tension was high in the courtroom in the moments after jurors filed in and the verdicts were read.

When the victim's relatives and friends first stepped outside the courthouse, several let off steam with high-pitched yips.

In addition to the homicide counts, the jury convicted Davis of rape of the child, aggravated kidnapping of the child, burglary, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, and 2 misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property.

Soon after Irvin was reported missing on March 13, 2012, a police officer found her body stuffed in a clothes dryer in the basement of a Topeka apartment building at 2413 S.E. Bellview. She had been beaten, raped and choked.

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Friday, when jurors will begin the process of deciding whether to recommend the death penalty for Davis or a life sentence.

During more than 13 hours of deliberations before the Thursday lunch break, jurors hadn't asked any questions other than to request to view the videotaped Topeka police questioning of Davis.

Immediately after returning from lunch Thursday, jurors submitted a question to the judge in the capital murder trial.

Contents of the question weren't made public, but a family member of the victim said the question was whether there is a time frame for "intent." Prosecutors and defense attorneys talked with Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham about the written question, and the judge returned a written answer.

The question of intent was crucial. To convict Davis of the homicide counts and other charges, jurors had to find the crimes were committed intentionally.

On Friday, prosecutors will offer aggravating circumstances to support imposing the death penalty.

Those factors can include that the defendant committed the crime in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner, and the defendant has an earlier felony conviction in which great harm, disfigurement or death occurred to a victim.

Jurors must vote unanimously to impose the death penalty.

Defense attorneys will offer mitigating circumstances on why jurors shouldn't recommend the death penalty.

There isn't a limit to the mitigating factors, which can include mercy, a lack of significant criminal history by the defendant, the defendant's family background, and the defendant's emotional and mental health history.

The vote of only one juror can block imposition of the death penalty. Jurors also can come up with their own mitigating circumstances.

Witnesses can be called during the sentencing phase of the trial. During the guilt phase of the trial, the defense didn't offer any testimony on Davis' background.

During closing arguments, chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling told jurors Davis intentionally killed the child to hide he had sexually assaulted her.

But defense attorney Julia Spainhour told jurors that Davis was so full of cocaine and alcohol, he didn't have the mental wherewithal to form the intent to kill the girl.

"'I didn't intend to kill her; I didn't intend to hurt her,'" Spainhour said Davis told Topeka police detectives.

During instructions to the jury, the judge told them "voluntary intoxication" may be a defense when the defendant is unable to form the necessary intent to kill, to kidnap and to commit several other offenses. Spainhour told jurors that "voluntary intoxication" applied to Davis.

After Davis was convicted, Sharon Miller, a grandmother of Ahliyah Irvin, said in a note that justice had been done in the case.

"Even though Ahliyah will never go to the prom or fall in love or grow up to have a family, justice has been done to the point that this man will never be able to take another baby's life (or) be able to traumatize a family of another victim," Miller wrote.

"We all still miss the loss of our beautiful Ahliyah, her touch, her smile, her loving hugs, but we as a family know she is in heaven smiling down on us and is happy now."

In a handwritten note provided to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Sharon Miller, the grandmother of Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin, had the following message:

Justice has been served...even though Ahliyah will never go to the prom or fall in love, or grow up to have a family...justice has been done to the point that this man will never be able to take another baby's life, be able to traumatize a family of another victim. He has had his control during all of this...but now we have the control back. We all still miss the loss of our beautiful Ahliyah, her touch, her smile, her loving hugs but we as a family know she is in Heaven smiling down on us and is happy now and looks down on us letting us know everything is going to be OK now. - Grandma Sharon

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)


Judge denies request to delay Holmes trial; Jury selection will begin on January 20, 2015

Arapahoe County District Court will move forward with plans to send summonses to 9,000 potential jurors on Thursday for the movie theater shooting trial. The jury selection process would start next month.

Arguing that they need more time to prepare for the trial, attorneys defending James Holmes asked for a delay of "2 to 3 months." They said that they needed the time to review new evidence, witnesses and the latest sanity evaluation report.

District Court Judge Carlos Samour flatly denied them the extra time.

"Because the Court has absolutely no doubt that defense counsel can be ready to proceed to trial on January 20, the motion fails," he wrote in his order.

Holmes faces 166 charges for allegedly opening fire in a crowded Aurora movie theater on July 20, 2012. 12 people were killed in the shooting and 70 others were injured.

He was arrested that day and a preliminary hearing was held in January of 2013 where a judge determined he should be put on trial. Since then, however, the scheduled trial date has been repeatedly delayed for a variety of reasons -- including a 2nd sanity evaluation.

"The perception of justice is as important as justice itself. If the citizenry loses trust in the administration of justice, it matters little whether justice is done in a particular case," Samour wrote. "To delay this trial unnecessarily or improperly solely on the basis that it is a death penalty case would only promote the cynical view -- sadly held by many -- that the justice system is broken."

In his 19 page order, Samour examined each of the defense's reasons for requesting a delay and found none were sufficient reason to grant that request.

"A postponement would deprive the prosecution of its right to a speedy trial, violate the Victims' Rights Act, interfere with the public's interest in the speedy and final disposition of this case, run counter to the interest of justice, and further erode the public's confidence in the justice system," he wrote.

Summonses for the 9,000 potential jurors will be sent on Dec. 11, according to a footnote in the order. The process of narrowing the field to 12 jurors and 12 alternates will begin on Jan. 20.

Samour also recently refused to bar the death penalty as a possible punishment in the case, if Holmes is convicted.

(source: The Denver Channel)


Arias trial: Police expert admits porn on computer

In the end, even a Mesa Police computer technician admitted that there was pornography on a computer that belonged to Jodi Arias' victim, Travis Alexander.

The hearing stretched out over 3 days in 3 separate weeks in Maricopa County Superior Court. It ended Thursday afternoon, and now it is up to Judge Sherry Stephens to decide whether to drop the prosecution's intent to seek the death penalty because of prosecutorial misconduct.

She has questions to answer.

How did it come to pass that there was so much porn when a Mesa Police detective and a police computer expert had testified in Arias' 1st trial that there was none?

And who deleted tens of thousands of files? Was it a deliberate act of misconduct by police or prosecutors? A stupid mistake when the computer was turned on without following basic crime scene and evidence rules? Or a wanton lie by the defense computer experts?

Arias' attorneys, Jennifer Willmott and Kirk Nurmi, and their forensic expert, Bryan Neumeister, led the court through a description of the porn sites that had been visited and the computer viruses that had infected Alexander's computer because of porn viewing.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez tried over the course of the 3 days to blame a prior defense team for the deletions and then accused Neumeister.

Neumeister said Martinez lied and told the prosecutor repeatedly that he didn't understand computers.

On Thursday, Martinez presented another Mesa Police expert and focused on "clones" that had been altered by Neumeister. Willmott objected repeatedly that the clones were irrelevant because the alterations were the natural by product of analysis; the original copy was unchanged, she said, and they still were full of porn.

Perry Smith, the Mesa Police expert, admitted that there was porn.

Arias, 34, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in May 2013. Alexander, 30, her sometime lover, was found dead in the shower of his Mesa home in June 2008. He had been shot in the head and stabbed nearly 30 times, and his throat had been slit.

During her 1st trial, Mesa police officers testified that there were no viruses or pornography on Alexander's computer. Martinez called Arias a liar for saying there was. And he took Arias to task for alleging that Alexander was sexually attracted to children and that she had walked in on him while he was masturbating to photos of young boys. Martinez roundly drubbed Arias for the allegation.

In closing arguments Thursday, Nurmi said the state should not be allowed to continue going forward with the death penalty because the case is based on testimony that's not true.

"Let's put an end to this circus," he said Thursday. "Any further proceedings will be based on false evidence," he added.

"This case is more about prosecutorial misconduct than it is about evidence," he said.

Martinez countered by saying "This is a fact-driven inquiry." Those facts, he said, show "no misconduct at all."

Martinez said that the defense attorneys were pointing the finger at the prosecution and "perhaps they should point it at themselves, he said.

Judge Sherry Stephens took the matter under advisement and informed the lawyers that the jury will return and the trial will resume on Monday.

(source: Arizona Republic)


Case tossed vs. woman held 22 years in son's death

In a scathing critique of Arizona's criminal justice system, a state appeals court on Thursday ordered the dismissal of murder charges against a woman who spent 22 years on death row in her son's killing.

The Arizona Court of Appeals said the charges against Debra Jean Milke in the 1989 death of her son Christopher can't be refiled. A three-judge panel said it agrees with Milke's argument that a retrial would amount to double jeopardy.

The court held that prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence that could have helped Milke's defense was egregious, calling the actions "a severe stain on the Arizona justice system."

"Nondisclosure of this magnitude calls into question the integrity of the system and was highly prejudicial to Milke," the court wrote. "In these circumstances - which will hopefully remain unique in the history of Arizona law - the most potent constitutional remedy is required."

Authorities say Milke dressed her son in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989. He was then taken into the desert outside Phoenix by two men and shot in the back of the head.

The court said it wasn't expressing an opinion on Milke's guilt or innocence, though it heavily criticized authorities for staking much of their case on a detective with credibility problems.

A federal appeals court threw out Milke's 1st-degree murder conviction in March 2013, saying prosecutors knew about a history of misconduct by the detective but failed to disclose it. Maricopa County prosecutors were preparing for a retrial.

Milke's appellate attorney, Lori Voepel, was ecstatic at the victory, which prosecutors could appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"We're all thrilled," Voepel said. "We still have the gag order so we can't say much more than we're all thrilled with the opinion."

Milke has been free on bail since September 2013 as she awaited retrial.

A spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery had no immediate comment.

"This is really a sock in the gut - it's a cheap shot," said Arizona Milke, Christopher's father and ex-husband of Debra Milke. "She shouldn't walk free, because she's guilty."

Milke was convicted in 1990. The original case rested largely on her purported confession, which Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate did not record. He has since retired, and The Associated Press has made repeated efforts to reach him for comment.

That left jurors with Saldate's word alone that she told him about her involvement. Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever confessed.

In its ruling overturning Milke's conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited numerous instances in which Saldate committed misconduct in previous cases, including lying under oath and violating suspects' rights. The federal appeals court also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Saldate had committed civil rights violations.

Prosecutors insist Milke is guilty, but Saldate has claimed he fears potential federal charges if he testifies at a retrial, based on the appeals court accusations of misconduct.

In December, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz granted Saldate's request to assert his Fifth Amendment right, allowing him to refuse to take the stand.

The state Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in April and said Saldate would be forced to testify at the retrial. Both county and federal authorities said they don't intend to seek charges against the detective based on any of the accusations leveled by the federal appeals court.

Saldate's attorney countered that authorities had offered no guarantees that he wouldn't face charges in the future based on his testimony, and an appeal to the state Supreme Court was expected.

Judge Mroz had previously said that if Saldate didn't testify again, the purported confession likely couldn't be used at her retrial.

Milke's defense sought dismissal of the entire case against her, noting in a previous motion that "the only direct evidence linking defendant to the crimes is the defendant's alleged confession to Saldate."

The 2 men convicted in Christopher's death did not testify against Milke and remain on death row.

Milke, whose mother was a German who married a U.S. Air Force military policeman in Berlin in the 1960s, has drawn strong support from citizens of that nation and Switzerland, neither of which has the death penalty.

Milke's mother died in Germany in August after a battle with cancer. A week earlier, a judge had denied Milke's request for permission to travel to Germany to visit her sick mother.

(source: Associated Press)


Deputies in Dekraai case told to testify again----Judge wonders if they misled the court about informants.

A judge on Thursday ordered at least 2 Orange County sheriff's deputies accused of lying in prior testimony about the use of jailhouse informants to return to court for more questioning.

In ordering a new round of testimony, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals reopened a hearing on whether to block the death penalty for Scott Dekraai, who admitted gunning down eight people in Seal Beach in 2011.

Dekraai's attorney Scott Sanders recently alleged in court motions that at least two deputies falsely testified when they said they could not remember where and when certain inmates were moved, even though the information easily could be retrieved through an electronic database kept by the sheriff's department.

The court is trying to determine whether Dekraai was placed in jail near a prolific informant by chance, or if their proximity was part of a scheme orchestrated by prosecutors and police to gather more evidence.

The battle over the surreptitious use of jailhouse informants, and the withholding of evidence retrieved from those informants, has exploded beyond the Dekraai case. At least 3 other felony cases have unraveled because evidence was withheld or informants were misused by prosecutors and police, and more cases are being scrutinized based on Sanders' investigation.

In August, Goethals ruled there was prosecutorial misconduct in the Dekraai case. But the judge said it not enough to warrant blocking a death sentence for Dekraai in the killing of his estranged wife, Michelle Fournier, and 7 other people - Randy Fannin, Michele Fast, Christy Wilson, David Caouette, Victoria Buzzo, Laura Webb Elody, and Lucia Kondas - who were at the salon where Fournier worked. Goethals is reconsidering that ruling because of new allegations that deputies might have been deceptive on the witness stand.

Goethals indicated Thursday he still might not ban the death penalty in the Dekraai case. Instead, the judge said he might severely limit the evidence that can be used against the defendant when the case returns to court Jan. 16.

In a previous interview with the Register, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said her department studied transcripts of the deputies' court testimony and found nothing amiss.

But Hutchens did say the deputies were unprepared to testify - and for that, she takes the blame.

"I have not seen anything that would lead me to believe any of the deputies were deliberately trying to mislead anyone," Hutchens said. "I think the department failed them by not providing appropriate training."

Hutchens explained that until recently the department did not have a formal policy on handling jailhouse informants, some of whom made up to $1,500 a day to coax confessions out of defendants in wired cells.

The Dekraai death penalty case has lingered for 3 years, mostly because of the informant battle. This has frustrated many people connected to the case, including Paul Wilson, the husband of victim Christy Wilson.

"I'm tired of hearing the excuses," Wilson said Thursday. Then, mentioning the county district attorney, who was not at the hearing, he added: "Tony Rackauckas has failed."

Wilson then turned to Dekraai, sitting shackled in an orange jumpsuit, and said, "You will always be the coward who killed my wife ... Look at Mr. Sanders and tell him to stop. Be a man, the man you wish you could be."

(source: Orange County Register)


Faria Beach Murder Trial Impacted By California Supreme Court Ruling----Gag order prevents district attorney from commenting

A unanimous California Supreme Court ruling, announced on Thursday morning, impacts a possible death penalty case in Ventura County.

Joshua Packer is accused of killing Brock and Davina Husted and their unborn child in May 2009 at their Faria Beach home.

Public defenders want Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley taken off the case because his children were in the same Youth Life Ministry years before the murders.

The court ruled that an evidentiary hearing should be held to decide the matter.

Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael McMahon hopes his client can avoid the death penalty by offering to plead guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole.

McMahon issued the following statement; "I have no doubt that Mike Frawley truly believes he can be fair and impartial, but research proves that we are often blind to our own biases and personal embroilment. Endless litigation of this issue would serve no one's interest. We are heartened that the Chief Justice and the unanimous Supreme Court looked hard at the known facts and agreed that the evidence already presented supports the inference that Mike Frawley's personal entanglement in the case has interfered with and will continue to interfere with the defense's ability to investigate and present potentially significant mitigating evidence on the issue of Life or Death. The additional evidence which we would submit at an evidentiary hearing will clearly establish that someone unrelated to the witnesses should prosecute the case or, better yet, settle the case for Life without Possibility of Parole, an offer that has been on the table the entire time."

Prosecutors said a gag order prevents them from commenting on the ruling or case.

To read the opionion go to,

(source: KEYT news)


Indonesia's mixed messages on fate of drug traffickers on death row

Some time soon, 5 men will be taken before dawn from their isolation cells to secret locations. White aprons will be hung carefully around their necks, with red targets positioned over their chests. They will be offered blindfolds, and asked if they would like to stand, sit or lie down.

Then their hearts will be riddled with judicially sanctioned bullets until they are dead.

Indonesia's method of execution has not changed since a decree signed by its first president in 1964. The enthusiasm with which it is applied has waxed and waned over the 50 years since, but from his early talk, the seventh President, Joko Widodo, seems likely to be one of the more bloodthirsty.

First in the crosshairs will be drug traffickers.

"I will reject the clemency applications submitted by 64 convicts who are sentenced to death in drugs cases," the President told a university audience on Wednesday on the eve of International Human Rights Day.

These 64 official killings were necessary, he said, because Indonesia was in "a state of emergency on drugs" with people dying daily.

His ministers have occupied contradictory positions on this point, but the latest, and apparently most firmly held, is that 5 men will be executed by the end of the month. After that, according to the Attorney-General's spokesman, will come 20 more who have applied to the President directly for clemency but whose applications would be rejected "in the near future".

Although no names have yet been mentioned, and no timetable issued, 2 young Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, of the Bali 9, have applied for clemency and appear to be among the 20. (Contrary to erroneous reports in Australia, they are not among the first 5.)

The President's approach suggests a blunt-force, mass rejection of clemency without the individual attention he is required to give under his constitution, and without taking note of Sukumaran's and Chan's rehabilitation. It has surprised, stressed and horrified their legal team.

"This is really a setback for Indonesian human rights," their Indonesian lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis, told Fairfax Media.

It has also shocked people around the world who believed the fresh-faced, non-military President would behave more like a western liberal than an old-style Indonesian strongman. After all, in the decade in office of his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, only 24 people were executed - 10 of them in one year, 2008, to bookend the Bali bombers.

Dr Lubis, who was a legal and human rights adviser on Mr Joko's "team success" during the election campaign, believes the new President's tough stance comes not just from the hardline advisers now surrounding him, but from Mr Joko personally.

"Jokowi would like to be seen by the world as firm, strong ... in going after drug dealers."

As for human rights: "It's not on his agenda, though he keeps saying it's on his agenda. His concern is to get as much investment as he can."

In Mr Joko's cabinet, and in the Indonesian political system generally, killing drug dealers has no electoral downside. Quite the reverse.

Although the main human rights bodies, Komnas Ham and KontraS, have opposed the executions, no single politician has spoken up to object.

The anti-drugs police agency, BNN, is an enthusiastic propagandist for the death penalty, saying it could not do its job without it. And the Indonesian law regards drug trafficking as an "extraordinary crime", along with terrorism, corruption, and, strangely enough, illegal logging.

The last public polls on the subject showed in 2006 that 76 % of people supported executing drug traffickers - significantly higher than those calling for murderers to be shot - and that figure may since have risen alongside the rise in drug use.

Talk to Indonesians about drugs and they use words such as "rampant" and "scourge" and "killing our youth".

The head of outreach at polling company Indikator, Kennedy Muslim, says an irrationally strong anti-drug rhetoric is related to "Islamic religiosity".

But he said a powerful political aversion to granting clemency to drug dealers - particularly foreign ones - could also be traced partly to Schapelle Corby's release earlier this year.

As Corby was released on parole, followed by her family's reckless paid-interview debacle, the public outcry grew intense against the "marijuana queen" and also against Dr Yudhoyono. It was as though Corby exercising her legal right to parole was a question of Indonesian national pride, and proved the President had kowtowed to Australia.

Popular morning TV presenter Najwa Shihab editorialised that returning Corby to Kerobokan prison was "the only way to shake the impression that Indonesia is under ... the armpit of Australia and unable to uphold the sovereignty of our own laws".

9 months later, there is no bright note for Corby's 1-time prison-mates, Sukumaran and Chan. As drug traffickers and foreigners they Ė as well as their families, their legal team and their supporters - are guaranteed a sombre Christmas and an anxious New Year.


2013----October 14

Joko Widodo: Corruption is the "biggest enemy". "It is up to the people - shot, hanged, it's up to law enforcers. I think we should be firm".

2014----October 31

Jakarta metropolitan police narcotics investigation unit director Eko Daniyanto: "Recently, 2 inmates had their appeals rejected, so around December 27 they will be executed on Karya Island."

Police announce a review of death-row drug inmates. The head of the national anti-narcotics agency (BNN), Commissioner-General Anang Iskandar, says about 66 cases are finalised but the convicts have not yet been shot.

"I have urged them to promptly carry out the executions," he says.

November 13

Attorney-General's office: 2 death-row inmates will be executed "soon".

November 19

Indonesia's delegate to the United Nations abstains from a vote calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. This is considered hopeful: in many previous years, Indonesia has voted against such a moratorium. The delegate is quoted saying "public debate is ongoing" on the issue, "including concerning a possible moratorium".

November 20

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meets 2 Indonesian brothers released from death row in Malaysia.

November 25

The Attorney-General says Indonesia will not carry out executions in a hurry, and will ensure all appeals are exhausted. "But once the appeals are exhausted, we will execute."

November 28

The Attorney-General's office says 5 people will be executed by the end of the year, 2 of them Nigerians.

"Their rights have all been exhausted, so it now comes to the technical aspect [of when and where]," Deputy Attorney-General Basuni Masyarif says.

Attorney-General H. M. Prasetyo says President Joko Widodo does not plan to abolish capital punishment and would provide no clemency drug traffickers.

December 2

The Attorney-General's office confirms that, under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 3 death-row inmates were given clemency.

December 9

In a speech at a university, Mr Joko says: "I will reject the clemency applications submitted by 64 convicts who are sentenced to death in drugs cases."

(source: WA Today)


Australian woman could face death penalty after being accused of drug trafficking in Malaysia

A 51-year-old Australian woman could face the death penalty in Malaysia after she was detained for drug trafficking.

The Australian woman has been remanded in custody in the Malaysian capital after she was allegedly found to be carrying 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, or ice, while in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport.

She was travelling from Shanghai to Australia.

The woman will appear in court on Sunday.

(source: ABC news)


5 Supreme Court justices to undergo review by voters Sunday

The Yomiuri Shimbun Held along with Sunday's House of Representatives election is a constitutionally prescribed review of five Supreme Court justices, a system by which voters pass judgment on the suitability of each justice.

Voters are supposed to cross out the name of any justice printed on a paper ballot if they believe he or she is not suitable as a justice of the nation's top court, based on the justice's opinions issued in decisions on cases handled by the court.

Starting last Sunday, voters were permitted to cast their ballots on the 5 justices under an early voting system.

The Supreme Court has 15 justices, 5 of whom are subject to review at the time of the lower house election. The remaining 10 had been reviewed in the 2012 or previous lower house elections. The 5 justices were appointed to sit on the highest court after the last general election.

They are Kaoru Onimaru, Michiyoshi Kiuchi, Masayuki Ikegami, Tsuneyuki Yamamoto and Toshimitsu Yamasaki.

All 5 justices were involved in reaching a decision on a lawsuit regarding the geographical disparity in the relative weight of 1 vote cast in last year's House of Councillors election. The vote value disparity stood at 4.77-to-1 in the upper house election.

The ruling was handed down at the court's Grand Bench in November.

During the trial of the case, 11 of the 15 justices, including Ikegami and Yamasaki, concluded the gap was in "a state of unconstitutionality," meaning that the period in which corrective measures must be taken had not yet passed.

Meanwhile, Onimaru, Kiuchi and Yamamoto argued that the disparity was "unconstitutional." Onimaru insisted that the relative weight of a single vote must be as equal as possible among constituencies under the Constitution. Yamamoto went so far as to argue that the results of some races in the 2013 upper house election should be nullified. He was the 1st top court justice to argue in favor of invalidating the outcome of an upper house race.

Prior to the upcoming national review, various news organizations conducted questionnaires on the opinions of the 5 justices regarding some fundamental issues, including the pros and cons of abolishing or maintaining the death penalty. In many cases, death sentences are finalized at the Supreme Court.

In reply to a question about the capital punishment system, Kiuchi said, "I try to think about the issue with solemnity and caution, given my position as a person responsible for making a decision about the death penalty." He urged the public to promote a national debate on the issue.

"I would like every member of the public to consider the issue to be a matter subject to his or her own decision," Kiuchi said.

Meanwhile, Yamamoto said, "Questions should always be raised about whether it is right or wrong for the state to take someone's life, and abolishing the death penalty is a global trend." However, he added that many family members of crime victims want severe punishments for those responsible for the suffering of the victims. The prevailing opinion tends to support the death penalty, Yamamoto said.

He concluded there is no other way but to apply rules set in the Penal Code, precisely as prescribed. "But I tell myself to exercise restraint in handing down death sentences," Yamamoto said.

The other 3 justices declined to answer the question.

(source: The Japan News)


Yakub Memon Death Sentence - Why the delay ?----Supreme Court to decide on 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon's review plea on January 28, 2015.

In a temporary relief to 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon, the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of his death penalty. This decision comes on the review plea filed by the death row convict in the Apex Court. Memon is sibling of the absconding mastermind of the blasts Tiger Memon and has been in custody for almost 2 decades.

While staying his hanging, a 3 judges bench headed by Justice AR Dave and comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph posted the matter for next hearing on January 28, 2015. "It is directed that death penalty shall not be executed till the pendency of the review petition," the judges said.

Whatever be the decision of the court on January 28, but 1993 blast and all subsequent incidents of this kind were an attack on the pride of the nation and those evolved in perpetrating such a heinous crime must get severest punishment according to the law of the land.

Yakub's brother Ibrahim Mushtaq Abdul Razak Nadim Memon, better known as Tiger Memon was a close associate of world's one of the dreadest terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, both of them are living in Pakistan with changed identity and have been involved not only in anti-India activities but also in illegal trafficking of drugs, contract killings and terror activities.

Tiger's men including Yakub connived with Dawood Ibrahim to execute 1993 Mumbai blast, the biggest terror strike on Indian soil that time. Reports suggest that 257 people lost their life in the blast.

Yakub, a chartered accountant, may claim his innocence and his ignorance about his brother Tiger's activities but the fact could not be overlooked that after hearing the case for more than a decade and going through many evidences, a TADA court in 2007 convicted him to death after finding him guilty of being involved in criminal conspiracy and managing financial transactions meant for the blasts.

Later in March 2013, according to an Indian Express report, the SC had confirmed the death sentence awarded to Memon, holding him guilty of being the "driving spirit" behind the blasts that killed 257 people. The court had said that Memon's "commanding position and the crime of utmost gravity" warranted capital punishment. Memon then moved a clemency petition before the President but the plea was turned down, given the seriousness of his crime.

Yakub's crime is of very serious kind. Despite being the most educated member of his family, he agreed to assist Tiger to wage war against his mother land. Dawood and Tiger used his acumen in accounting to get funds for the blasts to kill innocent residents of Mumbai.

The larger issue though here has to do with inordinate delays in carrying out death sentences in India and the message it sends. Especially in terror cases, for the death penalty to be an effective instrument at the disposal of the State to deter potential terrorists, it needs to be executed swiftly and purporsefully with integrity and credibility to the process.

The inordinate delay in carrying out Yakub Memon's sentence sends the wrong message.


SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Pakistani national beheaded in Saudi Arabia for heroin smuggling

Saudi Arabian authorities on Thursday beheaded Pakistani national Mohammad Fayad Mohammad Azam on charge of smuggling heroin into the country.

A statement issued by the interior ministry of Saudi Arabia said, the kingdom was battling narcotics because "drugs cause great harm to individuals and society".

This year, 79 foreign nationals and Saudis have been executed in the kingdom, with more than 2/3 of the executions taking place in the last 4 months.

According to Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia executes, on an average, about 100 people a year, mostly through beheading. Death sentence is given to people for drug crimes, adultery and practising of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest execution rates, says Death Penalty Worldwide, an organisation that collection data on executions across the world.

On October 15, this year, another Pakistani national Mohammad Yunus Mohammed Shoaib was executed in the eastern province community of Qatif, after he was caught with a large amount of heroin inside his gut.

A day before, a Saudi national Hamad bin Awadh bin Hawi Al-Anzi was executed in northern Jawf region on charge of smuggling a large number of amphetamine pills into the kingdom.

(source: india TV news)


Russian Official Calls for Harsh Punishment of Currency Speculators

Russia's top legal enforcer on Thursday called for harsh punishment of "currency speculators", whom the authorities are blaming for the sharp weakening of the ruble, as the flagging currency falls to all-time lows.

Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, became the latest top official to blame "speculators" for the ruble's decline.

"The main issue for the stabilization of the economic situation in the country is to stop currency speculation on the market," he said, calling for more criminal cases to be brought against speculators.

The Russian ruble is freely convertible, and unlike in the Soviet Union where unauthorized purchases of dollars could incur the death penalty, foreign currency is traded without restrictions.

But the ruble, whose exchange rate is traditionally seen as a bellwether of financial stability in Russia's highly dollarized economy, is under downward pressure. The combination of Westerns sanctions, which have deprived Russian companies of foreign capital, and the falling price of oil, Russia's main export commodity, resulted in a more than 40% drop in the ruble's value against the dollar. The falling currency fuels inflation and puts a lot of businesses and households under stress.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was the 1st high-ranking official to blame the "speculators". In his address to the parliament a week ago, Mr. Putin called on the central bank "to take measures to make sure that speculators can no longer take advantage."

"We know who those people are, and we have the means to rein them in. It's time to use these instruments," the president said.

But Mr. Putin and the head of the Investigative Committee are being challenged by central bank officials.

Asked about the Investigative Committee's proposal, central bank Chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina played down the possibility of legal cases against "speculators".

"I proceed on the basis that criminal responsibility derives from a break of the law," Ms. Nabiullina said, adding that the current legislation is sufficient to deal with possible market manipulation or collusion.

Ms. Nabiullina said the central bank has initiated one such investigation, without elaborating.

Earlier this week, Sergei Shvetsov, the Bank of Russia's first deputy chairman, also moved to calm market concerns, saying that "speculators are good for currency markets" as they help to smooth out market liquidity.



2 Kenyans charged for violently stripping woman

2 Kenyans accused of stripping a woman have been charged with sexual assault, reports said on Thursday, a case that sparked angry protests after a video of the attack was made public.

The 2 men, a minibus driver and his conductor, are accused of stripping a woman and then sexually assaulting her at a petrol station in the capital Nairobi on 19 September, because they believed her clothing was too revealing.

The case, as well as other attacks, prompted hundreds to march through the capital last month calling for an end to violence against women.

The men, Nicholas Chege and Meshack Mburu, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 2 counts of robbery with violence and sexual assault, the Daily Nation newspaper reported.

Great public apprehension

They face a possible death penalty if found guilty.

They are also accused of stealing the woman's belongings including a telephone and cash.

A film, shot on a mobile telephone on September 19 showed a violent mob stripping a woman in the Githurai district on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Since then there have been at least 3 other similar recorded attacks on women in Nairobi.

In one case, a police officer has been charged with trying to tear the clothes off a woman onboard a bus.

Prosecuting lawyer Duncan Ondimu said that "there has been an increase in cases of assault and stripping of women, which has caused great public apprehension," the Nation reported.

Lawmakers are currently debating in parliament boosting security laws, including an amendment to make such stripping attacks punishable by up to 20 years in prison.



3 Prisoners, Among Them An Afghan Citizen Hanged in Iran

3 prisoners were hanged in the Rajaishahr Prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) yesterday, reported the Iranian media.

According to the Iranian daily newspaper Shargh, 2 of the prisoners, identified as "Morteza" and "Mansour", were convicted of sexual abuse and rape of 2 young boys. They were scheduled to be hanged publicly yesterday but for some reasons the executions were carried out inside the prison.

Several Iranian news sites such as Tabnak reported about the execution of an Afghan citizen in the Rajaishahr Prison yesterday. The man who was not identified by name was convicted of murdering another man. The victim's wife was sentenced to imprisonment for complicity. (source: Iran Human Rights)


International Campaign to Prevent the Execution of Mr. Soheil Arabi

His Excellency Ban-Ki Moon

Secretary General of United Nations

The United Nations

New York, NY 10017

Re: International Campaign to Prevent the Execution of Mr. Soheil Arabi and Other Prisoners of Conscience with Demands for their Immediate Release from Iranian Prisons

Your Excellency,

It is with a great sense of urgency that I appeal to the international community to prevent the execution of Mr. Soheil Arabi and other prisoners of conscience in Iran, and to facilitate their immediate release. My compatriots and I are extremely concerned about the continuous wave of executions and the declining health conditions of several prisoners of conscience. We are worried that these innocent men and women will not escape execution without an outcry from the Free World.

Mr. Soheil Arabi, a prominent Iranian blogger, was initially arrested by the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in November 2013, and subsequently placed in solitary confinement for posting messages on social media. Mr. Arabi has already been sentenced to death under the pretense of 'insults to the prophet', and has most recently been charged with 'corruption on earth' by the Supreme Court in Iran. According to some media reports, he has also been wrongfully accused of rape. These new charges, which under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran are severe enough to prevent a pardon, follow efforts by his family and human rights activists to seek a stay of execution, his retrial, and eventual release from prison.

Iranians at large hold the theocratic regime responsible for the disregard and contempt of human rights, as the Islamic Republic of Iran is ranked first in the world for the number of executions per capita. We are highly concerned about the disregard of freedom of speech, expression and belief that are often accompanied by excessive punishments. Whereas Iranians recognize the dignity and inalienable rights of individuals, the Iran National Council seeks, with the ultimate goal of restoring self-determination and a secular parliamentary democracy, the freedom of all prisoners of conscience, and the abolishment of capital punishment and torture.

We ask the international community for its support towards the realization of our noble objectives along with our ultimate vision of free, fair and transparent elections in Iran. We particularly expect the United Nations to weigh in on these crucial matters, and we urge Your Excellency to remind all concerned about their duty in upholding the most cherished values of the Free World as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yours sincerely,

Reza Pahlavi

President of the Iran National Council for Free Elections



Iran's jailed Sunnis condemn hangings and rights abuses

Sunni Muslims jailed in Iran have issued an International Human Rights Day message condemning the death sentences on 30 fellow prisoners and widespread violations of their rights.

The 81 Sunnis in Gohardasht prison in city of Karaj said they had been tried without lawyers in the Tehran's Revolutionary Court and that the public had been banned from the hearing.

They wrote: "With great sacrifice we are sending a message from prison where we have been subjected to repeated pressure and harassment by the prison authorities.

"We want our voice heard by international human rights bodies, but unfortunately this has not happened, and even in the report by Dr Ahmed Shaheed (the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Iran) there is very little reference to our case."

The message said Iran's Sunni religious minority comprises 20 per cent of the population, but less attention had been paid to plight than to other religious minorities.

The message added: ""In the southern provinces where Sunnis live, their lives have no value. Not only are political and religious activists being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to death, but those poor people who labour for a living are being shot and killed by border guards.

"Protests and hunger strikes by Sunni political prisoners have gained little attention by international news outlets and international human rights bodies."

(source: NCR-Iran)

DECEMBER 11, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution list

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

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

280------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------519



Executions under Greg Abbott, 2015-present

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

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

1------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------520

2------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------521

3------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------522

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

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

6------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------525

7------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------526

8------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------527

9------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------528

10------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------529

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

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Why Is Texas So Gung Ho to Execute This Delusional, Mentally Ill Man?----State prosecutors - and judges - seem dead set on giving Scott Panetti the needle.

Almost no one wants to see Scott Panetti put to death. Conservatives such as Ron Paul and Ken Cuccinelli and evangelical leaders have spoken up on his behalf. The European Union has protested his pending execution, which is temporarily on hold thanks to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Even some of Panetti's victims don't believe he should be killed by the state.

The Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot execute a mentally ill person who lacks a rational understanding of the nature of his punishment. Panetti fits that standard: He insists that Texas wants to kill him to prevent him from preaching the Gospel. And yet the state has gone to great lengths to ensure that Panetti gets the needle. Right up until December 3, when the 5th Circuit temporarily halted Panetti's execution with hours to spare, the state has deployed legal gamesmanship that seems more appropriate for patent litigation than a death penalty case.

"He looked like a clown. I had a feeling that Scott had no perception how he was coming across."

Panetti's schizophrenia has been apparent since 1978, when he was 20 years old. By 1986, the Social Security Administration had declared him disabled by his brain disorder and therefore eligible for federal benefits. 6 years later, after a series of hospitalizations and bizarre incidents - in one case he buried demon-possessed furniture in his yard - Panetti shot and killed his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado.

His criminal case was a theater of the absurd from the outset, thanks to a series of puzzling legal decisions by Texas and federal judges. It began when Kerr County District Judge Stephen Ables, still on the bench today, permitted Panetti to represent himself at trial over the objections of the state. He showed up wearing what a friend of the family later described as a 1920s-era cowboy outfit: "It looked idiotic. He wore a large hat and a huge bandana. He wore weird boots with stirrups, the pants were tucked in at the calf," she testified in an affidavit. "He looked like a clown. I had a feeling that Scott had no perception how he was coming across." Thus clad, standing before the jury, Panetti called himself "Sarge" and rambled incoherently for hours with little interruption from the judge - who did, however, argue with the defendant over the relevance of belt buckles and whether he could discuss the TV show Quincy. As part of his defense, Panetti issued a stream-of-consciousness description of his crime, from Sarge's perspective:

Fall. Sonja, Joe, Amanda, kitchen. Joe bayonet, not attacking. Sarge not afraid, not threatened. Sarge not angry, not mad. Sarge, boom, boom. Sarge, boom, boom, boom, boom. Sarge, boom, boom.

Sarge is gone. No more Sarge. Sonja and Birdie. Birdie and Sonja. Joe, Amanda lying kitchen, here, there, blood. No, leave. Scott, remember exactly what Sarge did. Shot the lock. Walked in the kitchen. Sonja, where's Birdie? Sonja here. Joe, bayonet, door, Amanda. Boom, boom, blood, blood.

Demons. Ha, ha, ha, ha, oh, Lord, oh, you.

The jury, not surprisingly, found him guilty of capital murder. They subsequently sentenced him to die.

Thus began the long, slow appeals process - Panetti at one point tried to fire his lawyers and abandon his appeals, but a judge finally declared that he was mentally incompetent to make such a choice. He was nearing execution in 2004, when his lawyers asked for a hearing to determine his mental competency, leading to more appeals and, ultimately, a hearing by the US Supreme Court.

For a moment it looked like Panetti's legal saga might be over. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that he was clearly mentally ill, and that the lower courts had used too stringent a standard to assess his competency. Justice Kennedy wrote: "He suffers from a severe, documented mental illness that is the source of gross delusions preventing him from comprehending the meaning and purpose of the punishment to which he has been sentenced." The case went back to US District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who, four years earlier, had found Panetti sane enough to execute. Sparks held a new hearing to assess Panetti's competency under the new standard, but came to the same conclusion, despite considerable testimony about Panetti's mental-health history and current delusions. The 5th Circuit upheld Sparks' ruling, as did the Supreme Court.

The state didn't bother to tell Panetti's lawyers about his execution date. They learned about it 2 weeks later in the Houston Chronicle.

Judges had another chance to end the charade in 2008, after the Supreme Court made it harder for mentally ill people to represent themselves at trial. Filings in that case actually cite Panetti as a cautionary tale. The opinion helped ensure there wouldn't be any more cowboy clowns representing themselves in capital cases, but when Panetti's lawyers tried to benefit from the ruling, Texas and federal judges threw out his case on a technicality.

One of them was none other than Sparks, who spent more than 100 pages explaining why the court "does not believe that Panetti's mental illness rendered him incompetent to represent himself." Although Panetti chose his jurors by flipping a coin, Sparks argued that he "made meaningful decisions" during jury selection. The fact that he took notes and dismissed one woman because she was seven months pregnant demonstrates his understanding of the legal system, Sparks wrote.

Bolstered by these decisions, the state continued its all-out quest to kill Panetti in the face of deep public opposition. Many of the prosecutors' recent actions are detailed in legal filings with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Perhaps the most audacious came this past October, after the Supreme Court refused to hear Panetti's latest appeal. The state court set an execution date, and while the prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were aware that the death warrant had been signed, no one bothered to tell Panetti's lawyers. They learned about it two weeks later in the Houston Chronicle.

This delay left the lawyers scrambling, with just one week to file what's known as a Ford claim, a request for a hearing to determine whether an inmate is too insane to execute. Ford claims, based on the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clause, which prohibits the execution of mentally ill people, may not be filed until the death warrant is signed.

The Texas attorney general's office insisted in legal filings that state law doesn't require it to notify the defense of an impending execution. Which is true. But the Texas Lawyer's Creed arguably requires notification. This voluntary professional code of ethics instructs lawyers, among other things, not to take action that "unfairly limits another party's opportunity to respond."

It's unclear whether state officials told Panetti himself that he was set to die. Ellen Stewart-Klein, the Texas assistant attorney general handling the case, did not respond to a request for comment. Regardless, notes Kathryn Kase, one of Panetti's lawyers, "I think in a case where you have a man with 36 years of mental illness, notice to that man is not sufficient."

The courts have denied Panetti funding to hire the experts he needs to prove he's not sane enough to be executed.

Panetti's recent filings show that Texas courts have refused multiple requests to appoint him a lawyer for his most recent appeals. (The Constitution only guarantees capital defendants a lawyer up through their 1st appeal.) In practice, this means Panetti's current lawyers won't be paid for handling the appeals filed since his death warrant was issued. The courts also have denied Panetti funding to hire the experts he needs to prove he's not sane enough to be executed. Just to get a Ford hearing, his lawyers must present up-to-date evidence of his incompetence, which requires a psychiatric assessment. And most forensic psychiatrists don't work for free.

Yet the state has brought in its own experts to press the case against him. In early December, prosecutors filed an affidavit from Dr. Joseph V. Penn, director of mental-health services in the correctional managed care division of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Penn swore that Panetti's condition hadn't changed since his competency hearing in 2007. The prisoner, he said, hadn't asked for any medication for his symptoms - which was no surprise, he added, since Panetti's prison medical records show no diagnosis of mental illness. And while Panetti might be "hyper-religious," his condition isn't severe enough to warrant treatment with drugs. The affidavit supports the state's long-standing assertion that Panetti is simply an alcoholic or drug addict faking his 36-year history of mental illness.

Panetti's medical history contradicts that assessment. For most of the 17 years he's been incarcerated, he has refused anti-psychotic drugs. Shortly before he went to trial, he had a revelation that he was a "born-again April fool" who "depended on the Lord to do for me what medicine wasn't doing." In 2012, according to records turned over to his lawyers, Panetti began growing more paranoid, suspicious that the prison was tampering with his food and conspiring with gangs to persecute him. After nearly 12 years without a write-up, he started acting aggressively toward staff, even throwing urine on a guard.

Over the past two years, records show, Panetti asked for mental-health care on three occasions. On the most recent, in November 2013, he requested an appointment with a psychiatrist, telling a mental-health staffer that he thought he might need to go back on his meds because preaching the Bible wasn't keeping the voices in his head at bay anymore. It's unclear whether he got treatment, because the state hasn't turned over any medical records since Panetti made that request.

Either the state is hiding Panetti's records, his lawyers say, or it refused to treat him for mental illness because to do so might help his case.

The state claims no such records exist because Panetti hasn't needed mental-health care. His lawyers counter that the state is either hiding the records or officials refused to treat him because to do so might help his case.

At least twice in the past month, without informing his lawyers, the state has tried to evaluate Panetti for mental illness, according to Penn's affidavit. (Panetti refused both attempts.) Panetti's lawyers view this as a violation of due process. The state, they argue, only sought to evaluate him after the execution date was set, "leading to the inescapable conclusion that the efforts were made for the purpose of creating evidence to contest Mr. Panetti's competency in the Ford proceedings, not for the purpose of treating him."

Texas has resorted to other brass-knuckle tactics, also detailed in the 5th Circuit filings. On Election Day, corrections officials recorded a visit between Panetti and his parents, who are nearly 80, and quoted from it in court filings to argue that he is "lucid and intelligent" because he was able to talk about politics.

They conveniently left out the portion, 2 minutes in, where Panetti starts rambling about the time in Wisconsin when he was grooming steer with former CIA agent Valerie Plame. "I don't know if I was just hearing voices about Valerie Plame, Mom," he says. "But it was her. But I sure got a pretty good indication that indeed it was."

Panetti would be dead now but for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals - its stay of execution a rare moment of sanity in a legal process that has made the Texas courts, if such a thing were possible, even more of an international pariah than before. Now it looks like Panetti may get a full hearing on his competency in federal court. There's no guarantee he'll prevail. He was pretty sick the last time the federal courts evaluated his mental state, and they ruled against him anyway.

Even a finding of incompetency would be a temporary salvation. Given appropriate medical treatment, Panetti could potentially become competent enough to be again eligible for execution, forcing him (and his lawyers) to choose between insanity and death. But for the moment, the 5th Circuit's decision has bought him time, and a competency hearing represents his best shot to convince a judge that he never belonged so close to death in the first place. As Kase puts it, "The 5th Circuit saved Texas from itself."

(source: Mother Jones)


The case of Scott Panetti -- and the true meaning of 'cruel and unusual'

So what does "cruel and unusual" mean?.

I once asked that of a law professor. The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment, but I figured there had to be some technical definition I, as a layperson, was missing. I mean, from where I sit, it's pretty "cruel and unusual" to execute someone, but to judge from the 1,392 executions of the last 38 years, that isn't the case.

Scott Panetti almost became number 1,393 last week, but within hours of his scheduled lethal injection, he was reprieved by a federal judge. The court said it needs more time to consider the issues his case raises.

In a rational place, it would not be news that Mr. Panetti was not killed. In a rational place, they would understand that state-sanctioned execution is a relic of frontier barbarism that leaves us all wet with the blood of the damned. In a rational place, they would say there's something especially repugnant about applying that grisly sanction to the mentally ill, like Mr. Panetti.

But Mr. Panetti doesn't live in a rational place. He lives in America. Worse, he lives in Texas.

The personal belief that somebody deserves cruelty doesn't make it not cruel.

They love their executions in Rick Perry's kingdom. Since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an advocacy group, that state has killed almost 520 people. That's nearly five times more than the next bloodiest state, Oklahoma, with 111.

There is no question Mr. Panetti deserves punishment. In 1992, he shot his estranged wife's parents to death as she and the couple's daughter looked on. He held them both hostage before releasing them unharmed.

But there is also no question that Mr. Panetti, 56, suffers from severe mental illness. At his trial, in which he was somehow, bizarrely, allowed to represent himself, he wore a purple cowboy suit with a 10-gallon hat and summoned a personality he called "Sarge" to explain what happened on the fateful day. His witness list included 200 people. Among them: John F. Kennedy, the pope, Anne Bancroft and Jesus Christ.

The state contends that Mr. Panetti, who was off his meds at the time of the killing, is faking it. During a 2004 hearing, the county sheriff called him "the best actor there is." In its most recent filings, Texas accuses him of "grossly exaggerating" his symptoms.

If it's an act, it's been going on a long time. His attorneys say Mr. Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia 14 years before the shootings and was hospitalized 13 times between 1978 and 1991. Now a court decides on his life or death.

It's a pregnant decision in a country where, apparently, it isn't "cruel and unusual" to preside, as Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton did, over the execution of a man so profoundly impaired that he saved the pie from his last meal to eat later. Or to let a man gasp and snort for almost two hours as a lethal injection very slowly killed him, as happened in Arizona. Or to set a man on fire, as has happened at least twice in Florida's electric chair. Or to execute people for crimes committed when they were children. Or to send innocent people to death row. Or to choose whom to execute based on color of killer, color of victim, gender, geography and class.

So what, exactly, might be too cruel and unusual for us to allow? The professor could not answer. Which, of course, is an answer.

As flawed and broken as our system of death is, we continue to embrace the puritanical morality of eye for eye and blood for blood. Most of the western world has left this savagery behind, but we insist on it, leaving us isolated from our national peers, those nations whose values are most like ours, but looming large among the outlaw likes of Somalia and Iran.

Now we are debating whether to kill a man so addled he tried to subpoena Jesus. And that leads to a conclusion as painful as it is unavoidable:

What's "cruel and unusual," is us.

(source: Column; Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald----The Baltimore Sun)


Sounding Off: Northwest Dallas County readers tell us whether state should execute a man with mental illness

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Share your own opinion online at Sign up for Sounding Off or submit a guest column (and include your full name and contact information) by visiting

On Dec. 3, a federal appeals court halted the execution of Scott Panetti, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia who was convicted of killing his wife's parents. Is it right for the state to execute Scott Panetti, who was sentenced to death in 1995, despite his mental illness?

Charlie Blank, Irving: I donít know how Mr. Panetti was turned loose on society considering his inability to control himself because of his schizophrenia. I assume it was not known if he was a danger to society. Now that it is established that he is a bona fide danger to society, and to prevent his being turned loose again, I think the death penalty is appropriate - not as a penalty, but as a safeguard for our society.

Mary Scarborough, Irving: If Texas had the option of life without the possibility of parole, I might consider that as an alternative to the death penalty. I've always thought the death penalty should be carried out as the condemned leaves the courtroom by a lethal injection given without warning.

It's the years on death row that make this cruel and unusual punishment. That being said, I've never believed insanity or retardation should be an excuse. If those conditions lead to a person committing a horrible crime, that person cannot live safely in society and should be subject to the same laws as a supposedly sane person.

Gary McCoy, Carrollton: This is a tough case, even for a death penalty advocate such as myself.

This man was diagnosed with schizophrenia many years prior to the murders. As I understand it, he was off his medications when he committed the crimes. My question is, what did the original jury see during the trial to convince them that, beyond a reasonable doubt, he was not only guilty of 1st-degree murder, but deserved the death penalty? I suspect there was something very important that swayed that jury.

Being a cynic, I would suspect he is now playing up his mental problems to avoid the death penalty. If it is proven through taped recordings with his parents that he is in fact acting, then he should not be granted a reprieve. However, if it can be proven he is delusional now and most likely was at the time of the murders, then the death penalty should be changed to life in prison.

People that are truly not in control of themselves and do not understand what they are doing and/or the consequences of their actions should not be subject to the death penalty. The bar to prove this should be very severe.

Richard Broberg, Dallas: He should be kept in a mental institution until cured, and then he should carry out the rest of his sentence as any normal person would have to.

James J Horn, Carrollton: No, I do not think it is correct to put to death a person who is mentally challenged. Texas already leads the nation in the number of innocent people put behind bars. With that in mind, can we be 100 percent sure a person warrants such a punishment? Todd Willingham comes to my memory. Even found guilty, experts said the evidence gathering was faulty and inaccurate. You cannot sentence a man to death just because he was a bad man.

Matt Wenthold, Farmers Branch: As a Christian, I oppose the death penalty; as a realist, I know our legal system does not work for people who have no money. We are the only Western, Judeo-Christian based nation that still has a death penalty.

Norman Pickett, Celina and Carrollton: Yes, although I am against death penalties due to the higher cost. As a liberal, I prefer lower taxes and lower government expense. To me, less government is better.

David Borland, Carrollton: I tend to oppose executions. I would support it only if he would be judged a danger to his guards, his fellow prisioners, himself or the general public if he ecaped after sentenced to a life in prision without parole. The only ones in recent history I remember are the group that escaped from Huntsville and killed an Irving policeman. Not being qualified to make such a judgment for Scott Panetti, I would prefer a life sentence.

Lanni Fish, Irving: I debated whether to even try to respond to this question. To do so requires one to walk dangerously close to being judge, jury and executioner. His case has already been adjudicated by those qualified to fill the roles of judge and jury, and I would not presume to retrace their steps. He received a death sentence, after being found guilty by a jury of his peers. From what I read in the newspaper article accompanying this question, he mostly acted as his own counsel, and while doing so, displayed very bizarre behavior, dressed in an outrageous manner, and to all appearances, gave every impression of being insane. Still, the jury convicted him. I can only conclude they weren't fooled by his behavior.

There is nothing new about a criminal trying to convince the world they're insane, or retarded, or for whatever reason, unable to make rational decisions, and therefore are not responsible for their behavior. He may very well be unable to understand what he has done, the sentence he faces, and how the 2 are connected. As I understand it, that's the heart of the question. I'm not qualified to make that judgment, and I'm not at all sure that anyone else is, either - even the most eminent psychiatrists.

I think it comes down to this: I have to believe he's not completely sane if he could walk in and murder 2 people in cold blood. The line between insanity and just plain meanness can be very thin. Now, whether he is so far gone that he can't understand why he has received a death sentence, I can't say, and again, I'm not sure anyone else can either. I'm glad I don't have to make that call. I pray for those who have that responsibility.

Maxine Luster, Carrollton: It is my opinion that if Mr. Panetti had been diagnosed and treated numerous times for a mental illness, he should never have been placed on death row.

Carolyn Rutkowski, Carrollton: The state of Texas is obliged to carry out the sentence the jury passed down in Mr. Panetti's capital murder trial. Having arrived at that decision, I feel it is right for the state of Texas to execute Scott Panetti, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995, despite his mental illness, if he was mentally ill at the time he committed the crime.

Incarceration, itself, generally causes inmates to suffer a change in their mental state. However, in Panetti's case, it appears he somehow found the ability to relate on a normal basis with his parents during their monitored prison visits. This was captured on videotape provided by the corrections department.

Is he gaming the system? It's hard to tell. Perhaps once he has undergone the court's ordered mental re-evaluation, the answer to this question might be better answered.

Martha Joe Thrasher, Carrollton: I have mixed emotions about executing someone said to be mentally ill. If there is doubt of the person's guilt, the person probably should be kept incarcerated for life.

Paul Kramer, Carrollton: This is truly a heartbreaking situation, whether Mr. Panetti is acting or not. As this article indicated though, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that proven emotional and mental dysfunction prohibits execution, and it seems this will be the case here. Sadly, many (not all) mental illnesses are really misdiagnosed spiritual problems. The Bible, for instance, talks about demon possession, and the examples of that type of behavior from the New Testament are fairly frightening. One has to wonder how many are locked away in mental institutions who really just need spiritual help.

Wes Pyfer, Irving: I would not presume to know whether execution or life in prison would be justice for Scott Panetti. It is best to leave that decision in the hands of the professionals that are familiar with the facts of the case. However, I will not march, protest or destroy property after the decision is rendered.

Leslie Jackson, Carrollton: I do not believe in taking anyone's life, let alone one who does not have the mental capacity to make mature life decisions. Isn't the idea that those who have, whether it be money, power, privilege, intelligence, etc., take care of those who don't? As the Dalai Lama once said, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

Darrel VanDyke, Coppell: It would be easy to have this discussion draw sides into debating death penalties in general, but this specific case is not about that. It's about a bigger question on what our society is, or wants to be known as. An international rights organization has condemned our country for wanting to execute a man with serious mental health issues. While it would be easy to thumb our nose at that group and blithely go about our execution business, what purpose would it serve to execute a seriously mentally ill man in this case? Is this how we want to be known?

(source: Dallas Morning News)


State rests its case in punishment, defense attempts to save Williams from death penalty

The state rested its case mid-day Wednesday in the punishment phase of a former Kaufman County justice of the peace Eric Williams who jurors found was guilty in the capital murder of Cynthia McLelland, the wife of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland who was also killed.

During the punishment phase, the state also introduced evidence of a 3rd killing, the shooting death of Mark Hasse who was a prosecutor in the district attorney's office. Prosecutors allege the 3 killings were revenge for the prosecution of Williams which resulted in theft charges, the loss of his law license, and the loss of his post as justice of the peace.

The state is seeking the death penalty - arguing Williams is, was, and has been a continued threat to society. To help paint that picture, the state introduced a woman formally involved in a relationship with Williams and a Kaufman area attorney - who were both threatened by Williams.

Janice Gray, who met Williams at a court coordinator conference in Huntsville in the early 1990s, was in a brief relationship with Williams. After she called off the relationship, the 2 saw each other at another conference where Gray says Williams threatened her with a gun if she refused to talk with him.

"I have a gun and, if you walk away, I'll use it. I have nothing to lose," Williams told Gray, according to her testimony.

Years later, while serving as a mediator in a Kaufman County real estate case, Williams allegedly threatened to kill John Burt, a Kaufman area attorney, his wife, kids, and burn his house down.

The state rested its case mid-day without the suspected testimony of Williams' estranged wife, Kim, who is also co-indicted in the 3 murders.

The defense began their arguments with a handful of motions - a motion for continuance, mistrial, and another change of venue. Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes denied those motions.

Defense attorney Maxwell Peck addressed the jury and asked they show mercy for Williams and not sentence him to the death penalty. "If Eric's motive was revenge, revenge has been delivered," said Peck. "Eric is no longer a risk."

Kaufman area attorney Jenny Parks testified she believed Williams was wrongfully convicted of theft in 2012 and he fell victim to small town politics.

Also called to the witness stand by the defense were 2 jail-house bible study pastors and jail officials. The defense argued Williams could be a teacher and mentor in prison.

The defense will continue with testimony Thursday morning.



Defense team in Kaufman DA murder trial asks jurors to "turn your cheek," spare Eric Williams' life

Testimony from those in charge of the jails in Kaufman and Rockwall where Williams has been held since his arrest shows that Williams has had no serious disciplinary issues since his arrest in April 2013. The defense is trying to show that Williams would not be a risk if he received a sentence of life without parole instead of death.

Court and jail security said they had concerns that Williams was testing them and too observant of procedures. But there had not been a security incident. There was concern that Williams once intentionally spiked his blood sugar by eating junk food to go to the hospital. He has been taken to a hospital a handful of times without a problem.

In Rockwall, where he is now held, he is watched 24 hours a day.

One report was generated at the Rockwall County Jail when Williams filled out a jail work application Nov. 26 giving his name as Jesus Christ. He was applying for the position of "Lord & Savior" and said that his previous employer was "God the Father."

Eric Williams' jail job application.

Under skills and training, Williams lists "carpenter, can turn water into wine, can multiply fish & bread, heal the sick & raise the dead."

Bob Guzik, the Rockwall County Jail administrator, said he believed the form was the result of inmates having 24 hours a day to think of things to do.

"I just thought he was trying to be bizarre and mess with us," Guzik told jurors.

There was no testimony that Williams believed he was Jesus Christ.

The defense made its case before a jury that will decide whether Eric Williams gets a death sentence or life in prison without parole.

Defense attorney Maxwell Peck stood before jurors and acknowledged that "the satisfaction of getting even feels good." But he urged them to think of Jesus' teachings to turn the other cheek, especially since we are so close to Christmas.

"Love your enemies," Peck said. "Turn your cheek. Pray for those who misuse you."

He noted that even with the lesser sentence, Williams will be severely punished. He told jurors that he and defense attorneys Matthew Seymour, Doug Parks and John Wright would provide witnesses to "help you grapple with your emotions and consider what constitutes justice."

Peck said the defense would offer no excuses for the murder of Cynthia McLelland "because there is none." But about the prosecution of Williams by Mike McLelland and Hasse for stealing 3 county computer monitors, Peck asked: "Is it right to destroy a man's life over 3 computers?"

If revenge was the motive for the slayings, as prosecutors suggest, Peck said, "Eric is no longer a risk."

It would take just 1 juror to keep Williams from going to death row, Peck said. The death verdict must he unanimous. Hung juries result in a life sentence.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

PENNSYLVANIA----stay of impending execution

Fayette judge to delay Edwards' execution for 2002 murders

For the 2nd time, a man sentenced to die by lethal injection for killing a Fayette County couple and their pregnant teenage daughter more than a decade ago has received a reprieve from the courts.

During a brief hearing Wednesday, a judge told attorneys he will issue a temporary stay of execution for Mark Duane Edwards Jr., 32, who was scheduled to die Jan. 13 for his conviction in the triple homicide.

Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. said he'll grant the delay so Edwards' attorney can continue to pursue an appeal of his client's conviction in the shooting and stabbing of Larry A. Bobish, 50; his wife, Joanna, 42; and their pregnant daughter, Krystal, 17, during a break-in and arson at the family's North Union mobile home April 14, 2002. The couple's then-12-year-old son, Larry Bobish, played dead and survived the attack, fleeing from the home when Edwards set it on fire.

Bobish, 25, recently told the Tribune-Review he has forgiven Edwards and does not want him to be executed. When reached by phone Wednesday, Bobish was aware of the stay and said he will seek to help the defense.

"He knows what he did," Bobish said, "but my goal is to see if I can help him in any way, to potentially get him life in prison as opposed to the death penalty."

During a 2004 trial, Edwards' defense attorneys contended he was mentally disabled and under the influence of drugs at the time of the killing, which prosecutors said occurred after Edwards stole several bottles of a drug called "wet" - PCP mixed with formaldehyde - from the elder Bobish several days earlier. When Bobish demanded payment for the drugs, Edwards decided to kill him, according to court records.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed Edwards' death warrant last month.

1 legal expert said the stay is indicative of an underfunded legal system in need of reform.

"Pennsylvania's death penalty is dysfunctional in 1 very profound way," said Marc Bookman, director of the Philadelphia-based Atlantic Center for Capital Representation.

"The state has consistently failed or refused to properly fund the defense at trial," Bookman said. "Consequently, capital trials take place with undertrained and under-resourced lawyers and mitigation specialists and experts, and those trials end up with many constitutional errors."

He said those errors lead to lengthy and costly appeal processes in which convicted criminals are sometimes successful in having their cases overturned.

Wagner set a Jan. 30 deadline for Assistant District Attorney Mark Mehalov to respond to the appeal, which has been pending since 2010.

A hearing on the appeal is not expected until spring. Mehalov told Wagner he needs at least 60 days to prepare a written legal brief, and Public Defender James Moreno said he has numerous witnesses to contact before the hearing. He told Wagner the hearing could take as long as 2 weeks.

A previous death warrant, signed in 2007, was stayed so Edwards could pursue federal appeals, which he lost.

Pennsylvania last carried out an execution in 1999.

Bookman said Pennsylvania allocates few resources to fund the defense in capital trials. "You can't decide to seek the death penalty but not fund it," Bookman said. "Either you decide not to seek it and be satisfied with life without the possibility of parole, or you decide to seek it and fund it. Ultimately, being penny wise and pound foolish just costs far more for the taxpayer, retraumatizes the victim's family and extends the process for many years."



Georgia inmate refused sedatives before lethal injection, officials say

Robert Wayne Holsey was executed in Georgia on Tuesday night for the 1997 murder of a sheriff's deputy.

Holsey died at 10:51 p.m. after a lethal injection, Gwendolyn Hogan, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections, said.

Holsey refused sedatives offered before the execution, which is an option, Hogan said.

"They are to help relax," she said.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the execution of Holsey, making its ruling Tuesday afternoon.

Only Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor voted in favor of staying the execution.

Holsey's current lawyer argued his client had a mental disability and that his trial lawyer admitted to being an alcoholic who was drunk on vodka during proceedings.

Georgia requires that a mental disability be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The state disputed that Holsey's IQ of 70 constituted a disability under the law.

Holsey apologized for his crime before his sentence was carried out, Hogan said.

Holsey's was the 2nd execution the court chose not to block Tuesday.

Paul Goodwin was executed in Missouri on Wednesday at 1:17 a.m. local time, according to Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Goodwin's attorney also argued that his client has a mental disability that should preclude him from the death penalty.

Goodwin was convicted of beating a woman to death with a hammer inside her home in 1998.

"Paul Goodwin invaded the home of Joan Crotts, a widow, and brutally killed her," Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statment following the execution. "While her family's feelings of loss will never end, at least they know her killer has paid the price for his actions."



Judge declines to remove Matt Shirk's office from 2nd death penalty case

For the 2nd time this month a Jacksonville judge has refused to allow the office of Public Defender Matt Shirk to withdraw from a death penalty case scheduled to go to trial in January.

Shirk's office asked Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper to allow them to withdraw from the death penalty case of Randall Deviney, saying they had a conflict between Deviney and another unnamed client they represent. On Wednesday Cooper denied that request and said Deviney's trial would begin Jan. 5.

Cooper previously declined to remove the Public Defender from the death penalty case of Donald James Smith. The office cited a similar conflict in that case but Cooper rejected that and his trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 20.

It's possible the conflict is between Deviney, 23, and Smith, 58, with one of the men claiming to have information on the other. In both cases the Public Defender has said there is a conflict between the named defendant and an unnamed second defendant, and that Cooper is the judge in both cases.

In both cases the Public Defenderís Office has said they cannot adequately represent one client without hurting another client. Public Defender spokesman Matt Bisbee has declined to comment on whether the cases are related.

Prosecutors have said they have no interest in talking to Deviney or Smith about any information they have on another case. Prosecutors have also said they have no interest in talking to anyone who has information about Deviney or Smith that the Public Defender represents.

In both rulings Cooper has said that no conflict exists because the state isn't interested in the information. The Public Defender is appealing Cooper's ruling in the Smith case to the 1st District Court of Appeal, and is likely to appeal her ruling in the Deviney case to the same court.

Bisbee declined to say whether Deviney's case would be appealed on Wednesday.

If the appellate court orders the Public Defender removed, both cases will be delayed for months, and possibly years, while new lawyers are appointed and familiarize themselves with the cases. Deviney and Smith have both been declared indigent, so the cases would either go to the Office of Regional Conflict Counsel or to a private lawyer who is paid for by the taxpayers.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who is prosecuting Deviney, expressed frustration at that possibility during a hearing last week.

De la Rionda said Deviney's case has already been delayed 5 times. He also said he believes Deviney is trying to commit fraud on the court by delaying his trial.

Deviney is facing the death penalty for slitting the throat of 65-year-old Dolores Futrell in August 2008. Deviney was convicted of the crime in 2010, when Cooper sentenced him to death after a jury recommended he be executed by a 10-2 vote.

That conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court in February 2013. Justices ruled that police should have stopped questioning Deviney after he repeatedly told them he was done speaking.

Police ignored those comments and kept questioning him, and Deviney eventually confessed to killing Futrell.

Smith is charged with rape and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. He is a registered sex offender released from prison 3 weeks before Cherish was killed.

(soure: Florida Times-Union)


Hearing to decide if John DeBlase will be sentenced to death rescheduled

The sentencing hearing for John DeBlase, who is facing death after being convicted in November in the deaths of his children, has been reset for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 8.

The hearing was scheduled to be held Thursday in Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout's courtroom. It was rescheduled because DeBlase's presentence investigation report is not complete, District Attorney Ashley Rich said.

"Because... the judge has to take that report under consideration when he makes his sentence, we couldn't move forward with the sentence until that report is complete," Rich said. "It's not an uncommon thing that they have not had an opportunity (to finish the report), especially in a case of this magnitude."

A Mobile County jury convicted DeBlase, 31, of 3 counts of capital murder in the 2010 deaths of 4-year-old Natalie DeBlase and 3-year-old Chase DeBlase.

The jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty. The vote is a recommendation to Stout, who will decide if DeBlase will be sentenced to death.

DeBlase's common law wife, Heather Leavell-Keaton, 26, also is charged in the children's death. Her trial is scheduled for next year.

The District Attorney's Office said the children were stuffed into a suitcase, put in a closet and choked to death. Natalie was dumped in a wooded area near Citronelle. Chase's body was hidden in rural Mississippi.



Lawmakers kill execution-drug provision that threatened sales of leading anesthetic

State lawmakers on Wednesday removed a controversial provision of a death-penalty reform bill after being told it could threaten all sales of a vital anesthetic drug to the entire United States.

The provision, proposed in House Bill 663, would have voided any contract that prohibits the sale of drugs to Ohio for use in executions. The measure was proposed in reaction to the European Union restricting the sale of drugs made in Europe that could be used for lethal injections.

But if the provision became law, that could lead the European Union to ban the export of anesthetic drugs that could be used in executions, said John Ducker, president and CEO of Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi USA.

In particular, Ducker warned, the EU could prohibit the export of propofol, the most commonly used general anesthetic in the United States. About 90 % of propofol is manufactured in Europe, he said.

Dr. Robert Small, representing the Ohio Society of Anesthesiologists, testified before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the bill could create "harmful shortages" of propofol.

"A shortage of this medicine could set us back 20 years," Small said.

The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission suggested last month that voiding agreements to ban drug sales may also violate the U.S. and Ohio constitutions' prohibition on impairing contracts.

Committee members voted without objection to delete the provision from the bill. They also added a number of uncontroversial reforms to Ohio's capital punishment system recommended by the Ohio Supreme Court's death penalty task force earlier this year.

House Bill 663 was introduced as a way to overcome problems that Ohio - like a number of other states - has had obtaining lethal-injection drugs. Other parts of the bill would grant 20 years of anonymity to small-scale drug manufacturers that prepare Ohio's lethal-injection drugs. Physicians who testify about the state's execution method also couldn't have their state medical licenses revoked.

Sen. John Eklund, a Geauga County Republican who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he expects the committee to vote Thursday on whether to send the bill to the Senate floor.



Man indicted in death of 2012 of Barbara Howe

A man has been charged in the 2012 death of an 87-year-old woman whose body was found in the trunk of her Cadillac.

Daniel French, 56 was arrested Wednesday in Berea, Kentucky for the death of Monroe, Ohio resident Barbara Howe.

Police have charged French with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. The murder charge comes with death penalty specifications.

"The shear brutality and diabolical nature of this case is unparalleled in the history of Butler County and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law," Butler County prosecutor Michael Gmoser wrote in a release.

The indictment and subsequent arrest were part of a 2-year investigation into the death of Howe, who was found dead in November 2012. The car she was found inside was parked next to a children's playground by the Woodridge Park East Apartments in Middletown.

Investigators haven't released the cause of death.

A Butler County grand jury had looked at evidence and heard testimony over a three-month period before they returned an indictment against French, according to the release from the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor decided to seal the indictment until Wednesday so police could apprehend French without raising his suspicions.

In September 2013, the Monroe Police Department told WCPO they had a new person of interest in the case but it's not clear if French is that person.

For most of the past 2 years, police have said Howe's missing 3.31 carat oval cut diamond ring could be a vital clue in the investigation. While investigators wouldn't say whether they thought robbery was a motive in Howe's death, they said in February 2013 that discovering the whereabouts of the diamond could reveal solid clues in the case.

It's unclear if police believe French played a role in the disappearance of the ring.

French was being held in Berea until he can be extradited back to Ohio. It's not clear when that will happen. Gmoser wrote that he expects the suspect to be held without bond pending his trial.

Below is the press release from the Butler County Prosecutor's Office:

An Indictment has been returned by the Butler County Grand Jury against Daniel French, age 56, of Berea, Kentucky for Aggravated Murder with death penalty specifications, Aggravated Burglary, Aggravated Robbery, Tampering with Evidence and Abuse of A Corpse in connection with the death of Barbara Howe on or about October 28, 2102 in Monroe, Ohio. This indictment is the culmination of hundreds of dedicated man-hours by police detectives of Monroe, Ohio, and Middletown, Ohio, criminalists of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation under the authority of the Ohio Attorney General, the Butler County Coroner, the Butler County Prosecutor's Office and the dedicated service of the Butler County Grand Jury which tirelessly received evidence and testimony over a 3 month period. The shear brutality and diabolical nature of this case is unparalleled in the history of Butler County and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law. The indictment was filed under seal on December 10, 2014 to provide an opportunity to arrest Daniel French which has now been accomplished. He is presently being held by police authorities in Berea, Kentucky and is expected to be extradited to Ohio shortly where he is expected to be held without bond pending his trial. As in all cases with an indictment, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

(source: WCPO news)


Rockcastle Co. man arrested in 2012 death of elderly Ohio woman

A Rockcastle County man has been arrested in the death of an elderly Ohio woman from 2012.

Kentucky State Police arrested Daniel French, 56, in Rockcastle County on Wednesday.

"Troopers arrived at the residence located on Flat Gap Road in Rockcastle County, located the suspect inside the home, and he was arrested without incident," said Trooper Lloyd Cochran, Kentucky State Police.

According to the Butler County prosecutor's office in Ohio, the indictment was issued Wednesday by the Butler County Grand Jury against French.

Police have charged French with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse in connection with the 2012 death of Barbara Howe in Monroe Ohio. The murder charge comes with death penalty specifications.

"The shear brutality and diabolical nature of this case is unparalleled in the history of Butler County and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law," Butler County prosecutor Michael Gmoser wrote in the release.

French is currently being held in the Rockcastle County Detention Center while he awaits extradition to Ohio. That hearing is set for Monday.

(source; WKYT news)


Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty In Cannibal Case

A prosecutor intends to seek the death penalty for a southern Indiana man who has confessed to fatally stabbing his girlfriend and mutilating her body, including cooking and eating some of her organs.

Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart filed his intent to seek the death penalty for Joseph Oberhansley in Clark Circuit Court on Friday, The (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal and the News and Tribune reported Tuesday.

33-year-old Oberhansley of Jeffersonville is charged with murder and abuse of a corpse in the stabbing death of 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton on Sept. 11.

During his initial hearing in days after his arrest, Oberhansley interrupted the proceeding by announcing his name was "Zeus Brown" and told the judge, "You have the wrong guy."

Attorney Mike McDaniel told the News and Tribune that he expects he will take over as Oberhansley's counsel if the death-penalty enhancement is permitted. McDaniel said Tuesday that he had a 90-minute meeting with Oberhansley earlier in the day and that they had a "calm discussion." He said it was too early to discuss any defense strategies he might pursue.

Oberhansley is being held in the Clark County Jail.

Authorities say Oberhansley was convicted of manslaughter in the 1998 shooting death of his then-girlfriend, 17-year-old Sabrina Elder, in suburban Salt Lake City just days after the birth of their son.

Utah discharged him from parole on July 23, and on July 31, Blanton posted $500 bond for him on charges of criminal recklessness and resisting law enforcement stemming from a car chase.

(source: WBIW news)


Refining our approach to murder charges

Effective and appropriate punishment is an evolving standard.

Murder is the most serious crime the authorities have to deal with, so it is always appropriate for the state to be open to evolving standards and new approaches. Indiana is being forced into that kind of introspection by 2 tough cases in the court system.

In the case of Michael Dean Overstreet, convicted of raping and murdering Franklin College student Kelly Eckart in 1997, Indiana Attorney Greg Zoeller has announced he will not appeal a judge's decision that the man is too incompetent to be executed.

In the case of Blake Layman, Lei Sparks and Anthony Sharp, the Indiana Supreme Court has decided to hear their appeal of felony murder convictions. The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld their convictions but ordered their sentences reduced to 45 years.

Both cases test the limits of how harsh the state's punishment should be.

The judge in Overstreet's case accepted the contention of his attorneys that, because of the nature of his paranoid schizophrenia, he was unable to understand what was happening to him. He believes he is already dead or in a coma, and id the state executes him he will be reunited with his loved ones.

Zoeller's decision not to appeal is based on a pragmatic assessment that the judge's decision "is likely to be considered reasonable" and "not overturned."

So Overstreet will remain on death row but won't be executed unless his mental condition improves, in essence serving a life sentence without parole. That is the kind of accommodation ordered by courts for children and the mentally retarded on the grounds they don't understand their crimes, so it is at least consistent to treat the severely mentally ill the same way.

Layman, Sparks and Sharp didn't actually kill anybody. But their accomplice, Danzelle Johnson, was shot and killed by a homeowner when they burglarized a house they thought was empty. That brings into play the state's felony murder provision defining deaths that occur during the commission of certain crimes as homicides.

At one time, such a provision did not seem harsh, since so many of the underlying crimes carried the death penalty anyway. But these days, many people do think it too harsh, especially when it is a co-conspirator who is killed rather than an intended victim of the crime. Most states with felony murder laws make that distinction.

Effective and appropriate punishment is, we should never forget, an evolving standard.

(source: Editorial, News-Sentinel)


How Kentucky Handle Dealth Penalty Cases For Mentally Ill Inmates

A nationwide debate on the execution of mentally ill death row prisoners erupted across the country after a federal appeals court last week granted a last-minute stay of execution to convicted murderer and diagnosed schizophrenic Scott Panetti in Texas.

Could a similar situation happen in Kentucky? The answer is: It almost did - and still could, said Kentucky lawmakers and death penalty experts.

Kentucky law forbids the execution of prisoners with mental retardation, but in 2010 it took another last-minute stay of execution - this one from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd - to spare the life of Gregory L. Wilson, a death row inmate with a measured IQ of 62.

"In Kentucky right now, if a client has an IQ of roughly 70 or below and the defense says, 'My client is mentally disabled and suffers from retardation,' they have a hearing," explained Father Pat Delahanty, a longtime advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in Kentucky.

The question is then left to the judge to determine if that's the case - if it is, the death penalty is removed as a sentencing option, Delahanty said.

If Wilson's IQ is well below the maximum, why is he still on death row? Because he waited too long to sue.

IQ scores are among several factors used to diagnose intellectual disability, though and a majority of clinicians agree that IQ scores for the intellectually disabled may range up to 75. For any convict in the low to mid 70s, the death penalty is still an option in Kentucky and Virginia - the only states still using the score as a legal barometer.

When Shepherd halted Wilson's execution in 2010, he raised concerns about how the state handles intellectually disabled and mentally ill inmates, saying "It seems to me that this regulation could be followed to the letter and someone who is mentally retarded could still be executed."

How the Decision is Made

Delahanty said convicts who aren't intellectually disabled but have a severe mental illnesses - such as hallucinatory schizophrenia, dementia, or traumatic brain injury, for exampleóare not protected from execution in Kentucky, and they make up roughly 10 % of all inmates.

Lawmakers have been cautioned in recent years that Kentucky execution laws may prove a liability to the state, including a 2011 study by the American Bar Association which urged the state to suspend all executions until its process is clarified.

In more than 500 pages, the study illuminates a variety of blind spots in the state's execution process. It finds that judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers widely lack training on dealing with mentally ill defendants. The study also calls on the courts to ensure mental health professionals who testify on behalf of defendants are qualified, pointing out instances of incompetency.

In 1 instance, a federal court "reversed an inmate's death sentence... based on the defense's repeated use of a mental health expert whose testimony was 'bizarre and eccentric,'" the report said. "It was subsequently determined that the testifying expert ... had actually only finished 2 years of college as an English major."

Kentucky is also one of the few states that permit judges to rule a defendant "Guilty But Mentally Ill." While there haven't been any executions of those convicts, there's nothing on the books preventing it.

Mark Coppenger of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been outspoken in his support of the death penalty in Kentucky. He regularly testifies before panels of Kentucky lawmakers.

"I would even say that if someone is so amoral that they can't even frame a sense of evil of the thing, I would not let them off on that," said Coppenger. "I would say: so much the more. If someone is just pathologically indifferent to morals, that ... is not so much insanity as it's just sheer evil."

Coppenger said mentally ill inmates on death row should bear the burden of proof, and that the standards amounting to proof of mental disability should be more rigorous.

Burden of Proof

Proving intellectual disability became a problem for Wilson when a Kenton Circuit judge denied his request for mental evaluation. It could also be a problem for other inmates in the future who attempt to prove their mental condition, as the Kentucky Department of Corrections currently does not have a protocol requiring them to determine whether an inmate is intellectually disabled or mentally ill prior to execution.

The KDC is required to administer a pregnancy test before execution, but not an IQ test.

When inmates are able to prove their disability,prosecutors often accuse inmates of intentionally fudging the results, the American Bar Association said, citing six separate instances in Kentucky.

"Mentally retarded offenders may be sentenced to death when courts deny the existence of mental retardation without an IQ test score of 70 or below," reads the report. "And then discount or reject such IQ scores when they are provided."

State Rep. Denver Butler, a Louisville Democrat, is a former Louisville Metro Police sergeant who used to work homicide cases His work on cold-case files led to the exoneration of 2 inmates, but he said he still sees a place for the death penalty in Kentucky.

"But what I think we should do and what I try to get across is that we should put a stay on it until we can have a better process," he said.

"I think the process really needs to be looked at. Who are we we trying to apply the death penalty to? What are the standards? And make sure all of those are being vetted appropriately."

Several bills to protect mentally ill inmates from execution have been offered in the Kentucky General Assembly in recent years, although no legislation has yet passed.


Wilson's case led to more than his own delayed death: Judge Shepherd suspended all executions in Kentucky after realizing the inability of the state to determine an inmate's intellectual disability. He then ordered the state to use a single-drug method for lethal injection, a follow-up on the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling which deemed the state's 3-drug lethal injection cocktail cruel and unusual.

Since the drug's manufacturer stopped producing the single-drug alternative and Kentucky handed over its final 3 doses to the DEA, the state has been without the legal means to execute inmates.

But attempts to resume executions have already begun. In 2013, Attorney General Jack Conway filed notice with the Franklin Circuit Court that Kentucky was ready to get back to executing prisoners. He proposed the use of a single-drug solution of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital (whichever is on hand).

Since both of those are in short supply nationwide, Conway offered that executions could be conducted via a 2-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone - the same combination administered in January to an Ohio inmate who gasped and snorted for 26 minutes before finally dying.

In July, Judge Shepherd put the brakes on Conway's request to resume executions with the 2-drug mix, then eliminated the method altogether in mid-November, obligating the state to rework its execution methods entirely.

It's not clear what options Kentucky will explore next, though Gov. Bill Haslan in May made Tennessee the 1st state to bring back the electric chair, authorizing its use in the event the state couldn't get the lethal injection drugs.

'It's Kind of a Catch-22'

State Sen. Gerald Neal said these hair-splitting questions on the specifics of state executions only serve to illustrate a broader point: Because the justice system is imperfect, the state should abolish the death penalty.

"Once you start defending or setting up a system for handling mentally ill defendants, you actually begin to undermine the larger argument of whether we should have a death penalty," said Neal. "But if you don't deal with that argument, are you not violating or withholding on your moral obligation to address whatever current problems you can? It's kind of a catch 22."

Neal noted that the American Law Institute, the organization responsible for clarifying what a constitutionally sound execution process would look like over the last 50 years, pronounced their work a failure in 2010.

"The fundamental question is: Why do we have a death penalty in a civilized society?" said Neal. "Is it compatible?"

Neal, a Louisville Democrat, has filed a bill for consideration in 2015 which would create a task force to study the costs of the death penalty. It'd be the 1st study of its kind for Kentucky.

The bill will start its trek through the state legislature when the new session begins on Jan. 6.

(source: WKMS news)


Kentucky man accused of killing family could face death penalty

Ryan Champion, the Kentucky man accused of killing his family and another man in Trigg County, could face the death penalty.

On Wednesday, Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey filed a notice of aggravating circumstances outlining the intentional killings of Lindsey, Joy and Emily Champion as well as kidnapping while committing murder.

Ovey says the Commonwealth plans to use the notice to seek the death penalty.

Also in court, Champion entered a not guilty plea and introduced his new attorney.

His next court appearance is scheduled for February 13th.

(source: WPSD news)


Death penalty in play in Champion case

Public defenders were in the middle of setting up another court date for a man charged with complicity to murder in the Oct. 26 shooting deaths of 2 of his family members and murder in the death their alleged killer when a new attorney came into play.

"I'm untimely in terms of arrival but timely in terms of consideration," Ryan Champion's new attorney, Tom Osborne, told Trigg Circuit Judge C. A. "Woody" Woodall shortly after the beginning of Wednesday's proceeding.



Judge in Colorado movie theater massacre case refuses to delay trial again

A judge overseeing the Colorado movie theater massacre case said on Wednesday he will not delay the trial of gunman James Holmes again, rejecting a request by the defense for more time to study the results of a 2nd court-ordered sanity exam.

Jury selection in the trial of Holmes, 26, is due to start next month, and Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour has previously told lawyers for both sides to be ready to present their opening statements in late May or early June.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a Denver-area theater in July 2012 at a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 and wounding dozens.

His lawyers concede he was the sole gunman, but argue that the former neuroscience graduate student was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

Defense lawyers asked last week for the trial to be delayed to give them more time to study the results of Holmes' second sanity exam, which they said run to nearly 5,000 pages of documents and more than 20 hours of video.

On Monday, they told the judge their team had also been hit by 2 medical emergencies.

The prosecution had opposed any further delay to the trial.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Samour said the defense will have had ample time to study the results of the 2nd exam by the time trial begins, and he said they had failed to identify specific materials their experts were unable to view.

"If such vague allegations were sufficient, every criminal defendant could be entitled to a postponement of his trial," the judge wrote.

Holmes' trial has already been delayed several times, mostly because of the 2 mental examinations the California native was ordered to undergo after invoking the insanity defense.

While Samour said he sympathized with the defense and the "tragic events" of their medical emergencies, he said that likewise they were not grounds to delay a case that has been pending for 2 1/2 years.

The judge also said a majority of victims polled oppose any further holdups.

"Simply put, it is time for this case to proceed to trial," Samour wrote.

(source: Reuters)


Third Juror Dismissed From Death Penalty Trial After Getting Arrested

More details have emerged about the latest juror to be dismissed from the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial.

Last Tuesday, Judge Sherry Stephens announced at the end of a long afternoon break that Juror No. 3 was dismissed from the retrial without giving an explanation. It turns out that the juror, who has been identified as Melissa Lenette Garcia, was kicked off the case due to a recent arrest.

According to, the 36-year-old woman was arrested on Black Friday and charged with issuing a bad check, making her the 3rd juror to get the boot from the high profile murder trial.

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

The incident took place on Oct. 22 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. After her interview was over, Juror No. 9 asked Karas if she was Nancy Grace, a nationally renowned television personality and a vocal opponent to Arias, reports AZ Central. In response, Karas told her that she used to work with Grace and then reported the incident to the court.

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

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.

Jodi 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 she 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)


2016 trial date set in girl's slaying

A judge on Wednesday set a trial date for a Bullhead City man accused of strangling an 8-year-old girl to death in September.

The day after holding a status hearing, Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen set a trial date of Oct. 17, 2016, for Justin James Rector. The judge also set a pre-trial hearing for Aug. 23, 2016, and Rector's next hearing for Jan. 28. At that January hearing, a 2nd defense attorney will provide Jantzen with their qualifications to act as co-counsel. A 2nd attorney is required in a death penalty case.

State statutes require a trial date be set 24 months after a prosecutor files a notice to seek the death penalty. Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips recently filed a notice to seek the death penalty against Rector, the only capital case in Mohave County.

Jantzen set the trial date early so McPhillips and Rector's attorney, Harry Moore, have time to schedule witness interviews, disclose evidence and exhibitions, file motions and agree on jury instructions.

The judge also ordered Rector to undergo an IQ competency evaluation to determine his sanity at the time of the alleged crime, which is required in a death penalty case. A pre-screening mental health exam has determined that Rector is competent to stand trial.

Rector, 26, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body for the murder of Isabella Grogan-Cannella. Rector allegedly murdered Grogan-Cannella shortly after midnight on Sept. 2 and left her partially naked body buried in a shallow grave near her Lakeside Drive home.

At Tuesday's hearing Jantzen allowed the autopsy report to be made public but refused to allow graphic autopsy photos to be released. The medical examiner ruled her death was from asphyxia due to strangulation.

(source; Mohave Daily News)


Death penalty to be sought against illegal alien accused of killing deputies

After talking with the families of 2 deputies slain in October, Sacramento and Placer county prosecutors announced Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty against Luis Enrique Monroy Bracamontes, the 34-year-old Mexican national suspected of killing the lawmen during a daylong rampage on Oct. 24 that spread from Sacramento to Auburn.

The announcement came in Sacramento Superior Court, where Bracamontes and his wife, 38-year-old Janelle Marquez Monroy, made brief court appearances and had their next hearing set for Feb. 4.

Prosecutors did not seek the extend the death penalty to Monroy, who is charged with murder in the death of Placer County Detective Michael Davis but not in the slaying of Sacramento County Deputy Daniel Oliver.

Bracamontes is charged with killing both deputies, as well as the attempted murders of motorist Anthony Holmes during a botched carjacking attempt, and the attempted murders of three other Placer County deputies.

Another attempted murder count was added in an amended criminal complaint filed Tuesday that charges Bracamontes with trying to kill Oliver's partner, Sacramento County Deputy Scott Brown, during the shootout at an Arden area Motel 6 where the crime spree began.

The criminal complaint lists 5 special circumstances against Bracamontes, which allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty, but none against Monroy.

The couple is being prosecuted jointly by the Sacramento and Placer district attorneys' offices, and prosecutors issued a statement saying they had decided to seek the death penalty for Bracamontes after reviewing the evidence separately.

"Input from the victims' families was solicited, received, and considered during the decision making process," said the statement, which Placer County Assistant District Attorney Dave Tellman repeated in court. "Both offices independently concluded that the death penalty is the appropriate penalty in this instance."

Tellman added that before making the decision prosecutors "sought input from the defense team" and had agreed to allow Bracamontes' lawyers to "submit a package of materials to us for reconsideration of that decision."

"Collectively, we agreed to that procedure," the prosecutors said in their statement.

Bracamontes, who listened to the proceedings through a Spanish interpreter while standing inside a cell in the courtroom, did not appear to react visibly to the decision, and Public Defender Jeff Barbour said after court that it was too early to comment on prosecutors' decision.

"We're still in the process of getting volumes of information," Barbour said. "We haven't had a chance to review it thoroughly. That's why we continued this to February. Because of that, we're not putting out any comment at this time."

Bracamontes' wife, who was brought into the courtroom cell after Bracamontes, also did not speak, although at the end she turned to the back of the courtroom and smiled broadly and waved at her parents, who declined to speak to reporters afterward.

Judge Helena Gweon did not allow the media to photograph the faces of either suspect, despite the fact that the case has generated international attention and photos of them have been made widely available.

The crime spree has gained notoriety because of its ruthless nature and because it came during a national debate on immigration reform. Bracamontes, who lived in the Salt Lake City area, has entered the United States illegally repeatedly and has a history that includes at least four arrests in Arizona on drug and weapons charges. Federal officials say Bracamontes, who used numerous aliases, had been deported at least twice but continued to enter the country illegally.

Both are being held without bail: Bracamontes is in custody at the El Dorado County Jail, while his wife is in the Yolo County Jail.

(source: Associated Press)


Ask The Ethicist: Capital Punishment And The Mentally Ill

Texas inmate Scott Panetti was sentenced to die for shooting and killing 2 people. Last week, the state's Attorney General's office granted a stay due to Panetti's documented mental illness.

Scott Louis Panetti is a death row inmate in a Texas prison. Last week, a judge granted a stay of execution because Panetti - who once represented himself in a trial, and called Jesus Christ and the Pope as witnesses - has a history of mental illness.

Panetti was convicted of killing Joe and Amanda Alvarado. Under Texas law, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection. The court determined Panetti's schizophrenia to be no impediment in terms of mental acumen. Last Wednesday, Panetti's attorney Gregory Wiercioch successfully petitioned to reverse the decision - citing the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment - and the execution order was suspended.

Medical ethicist Art Caplan called Panetti not only mentally ill but "floridly schizophrenic." "It makes no sense to execute a person like that. I'm not even sure he can fully appreciate the fact that he's being executed," Caplan said Wednesday on Boston Public Radio.

"It doesn't make any sense to me," Caplan said, adding that there are only two reasons to seek the death penalty. "One of them is to deter crime, [and] I don't think this guy would've been deterred. (...) The other is retribution: you deserve it. You did something hard, you should lose your life for it." Caplan said that without either rationale, the death penalty shouldn't be used.

Caplan raised an equally-vexing question for prison medical staff and doctors. "There are people in prison who clearly are mentally ill and who have done awful things. And the question becomes, Should we give them drugs to restore them to at least some level of sanity, and then execute them?" Caplan said that technically, given the proper amounts of medication, those prisoners could be diagnosed "fit to be executed." The power, Caplan said, lay in the psychiatrist's hands.

Caplan noted that prisons have higher levels of mental illness than the population. Some of that population may be better served in a minimum-security facility, or in a mental health treatment center. "A lot of [prisoners] have just brain disorders, and while we certainly don't want them running around getting guns, (...) I think we're going to start moving over to the mental illness model with [hospitalization]. I think the punishment model is going to start to fade as the brain science gets better."

(source: WGBH news)


There is justice for all in America, unless ...

A federal appeals court has halted Texas' execution of convicted killer Scott Panetti. While allegedly suffering from religious delusions, he murdered his wifeís parents.

The appeals court considered Panetti's history of mental illness. The Supreme Court ruled nearly 30 years ago mentally incompetent persons could not be executed, because that would be cruel and unusual punishment prohibited under the 8th Amendment.

In addition to insanity, courts have ruled that convicted murderers can be too young or have too low an IQ to receive the death penalty.

A person can commit horrific crimes, claim innocence due to insanity, and eventually rejoin society as a free person. Last month, convicted murderer Theodore Leleaux - who murdered a co-worker, cut out his heart and put it in his jacket - was paroled by a California judge who decided Leleaux was rehabilitated. Leleaux claimed he suffered a psychotic delusion when he committed the murder. But he is alright now? Really? If Charles Manson is alright now, should he be released?

If Panetti is too crazy to execute, then maybe his murder conviction should be overturned. Then, he could be retried, found innocent by reason of insanity, and if he could convince some judge he was no longer insane, he could be a free man. So, one can be crazy enough to commit murder, but too crazy to be fully punished for it.

Panetti's defense is that he suffered from psychotic religious delusions - the devil made him do it. It can be argued all religious beliefs are delusions, therefore any religious person committing a crime could be innocent by reason of insanity. So, all those Islamic State barbarians butchering people in the name of God could be innocent.

It challenges both the notions of logic and justice that some people committing murder are evil and deserve punishment, while others are mentally ill and deserve therapy. If the latter are innocent and not evil, then there is no guilty party. Murder is just an unfortunate accident. That can be difficult for the victims' loved ones to accept.

While some murders are committed out of mercy, as when someone kills a loved one who is suffering a painful terminal illness and wants to die, most murders are either cold-blooded or acts of rage. Why are they not acts of insanity? All such murderers are crazy, so why is it OK to execute any of them?

However, who is nuts and who is not isn't the most critical issue in deciding justice for murder, the death penalty is. While the courts are deliberating over whether a murderer is sane, or who is too young or not smart enough to execute, or what method of execution is constitutional, the larger problem is the instances of failed justice that result in wrongful convictions.

Unless justice can be absolutely infallible, all cops and prosecutors honest, and all juries impartial, the death penalty is not appropriate. With police executing people on the streets with impunity, and with the federal government using drones to assassinate American citizens, we sure don't need more state-sanctioned executions by a fallible, sometimes-corrupt, judicial system.

Widespread police thuggery, an emerging police state that spies on and bullies the public, twisted justice that punishes victimless drug users while it ignores fraudulent bankers who victimize millions of people have all made American justice suspect, putting trust in the judicial system in jeopardy.

Justice in America is the best money can buy, and for that reason and others it is not always impartial, honest or fair. It is certainly not infallible. Allowing such a system to put people to death is not only barbaric. it is a lethal threat to every citizen.

(source: Opinion, Randy Alcorn----Lompoc record)


As exonerations continue, so do executions

In Buffalo, another likely exoneration:

Josue Ortiz is on the cusp of freedom.

District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, one of the few remaining obstacles to Ortiz's release from prison, is dropping his opposition, paving the way for Ortiz to be freed, possibly as early as this week.

Ortiz, a West Side man now in Attica Correctional Facility, is believed to have been wrongfully convicted in Erie County Court of the double murder that sent him to jail 10 years ago.

"Simply stated, I cannot, in good conscience, permit a man to remain in jail when I have a reasonable doubt concerning his guilt," Sedita said in a letter Monday.

The letter to Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk is expected to accelerate the process for Ortiz's release.

Sedita pointed to a number of reasons why he is dropping his opposition to Ortiz's release, most notably an alleged confession to the murders by Efrain "Cheko" Hidalgo.

And in Ohio, another one:

A judge Tuesday cleared Ronnie Bridgeman of a murder that he didn't commit. The false allegation, however, cost him 28 years in prison.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Pamela Barker tossed out the 1975 conviction against the 57-year-old man who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu. He was released from prison in 2003. Barker's decision comes just weeks after judges threw out the cases against his brother, Wiley, and Ricky Jackson.

"My battle has come to an end," he told Barker.

Then, he detailed what 28 years behind bars did to him.

"We were robbed," Ajamu said. "There will be no offspring when I die. When my brother passes away, that is it. We don't have children. There will never be another Ronnie Bridgeman. The important part is that we have been united while we are standing forward and upward and that we are not looking at each other in the graveyard."

Meanwhile, an Illinois appeals court reversed two murder convictions in 2 days this week. You might think that the ongoing stream of exonerations, findings of police and prosecutor misconduct, and overturned convictions might cause some public officials to think twice about irreversible executions. That's true in some places. But not in Georgia.

Robert Wayne Holsey died by lethal injection Tuesday night for the killing of a Baldwin County deputy in 1995.

He was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

In his last moments, Holsey addressed the father of Deputy Will Robinson, who witnessed the execution. Holsey said: "Mr. Robinson, I'm sorry for taking your son's life that night. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and my family." That account comes from our reporter Randall Savage, who was among a handful of reporters who were also witnesses.

There was no doubt about Holsey's guilt, although he was represented by an attorney who had a quart-a-day vodka habit, including during the trial, and was later disbarred for stealing from his clients.

Last year, I wrote about the state of the death penalty in Florida. That state leads the country in death row exonerations. That fact only motivated the state legislature to speed up executions. I guess that's one way to cut down on exonerations - just kill them before they can prove their innocence. Missouri has also seen a spate of exonerations, including several overturned convictions won by Kenny Hulshof, a former prosecutor (and congressman) often specifically used by the state's attorneys general because of his reputation for winning death verdicts. But Missouri isn't going to let a few close calls keep business away from the death chamber.

Early Wednesday morning, Missouri set a record for its number of executions in a year.

Paul Goodwin was the 10th man executed, more than any other year since the death penalty was reinstated in the state.

Goodwin was put to death for sexually assaulting Joan Crotts, a 63-year old widow, and then killing her with a hammer.

In denying clemency, Gov. Jay Nixon referred to the crime as "brutal" and "senseless."

You might say the same thing about executing a man who is mentally deficient.

Goodwin's attorneys had argued that their client wasn't fit to be executed due to his mental deficits, legally referred to as mental retardation or an intellectual disability.

The most recent assessment by a psychologist found Goodwin was "borderline-intellectually disabled" with an IQ of 73. Another assessment found Goodwin had the mental understanding of a 13 year old.

"The one absolute certainty for this examiner over the 12 years I have been involved with this case is that Paul Terrence Goodwin is now, and probably always has been, mentally retarded,Ē Denis Keyes wrote in concluding his examination.

"As such, if the state of Missouri proceeds with his judicial execution, then it is the devout opinion of this expert of 40 years experience in mental retardation, the state is doing so against the findings of both state and federal law, the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States of America," Keyes wrote.

The good news is that just a small percentage of counties sentence and carry out the vast majority of death penalty cases in America. The bad news is that those counties are incredibly proficient. And there seems to be a strong correlation between those counties and the types of police and prosecutor misconduct that lead to wrongful convictions.

(soruce: Radley Balko, Washington Post)


Sakshi Maharaj seeks death for Uber cabbie

"I am not from a culture that believes in conversion at sword-point"

Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Unnao Swami Sakshi Maharaj on Wednesday called for death penalty for the Uber cab driver who allegedly raped a 27-year-old woman last week.

"I have asked my government to hang the accused in this case. Only Prime Minister Narendra Modi can take such a courageous decision," he said.

Speaking at a 'nukkad sabha' in South Delhi's Deoli, Sakshi Maharaj also made references to the mass conversion that took place in Agra recently. Stating that he was "not from a culture that believes in conversion at sword point," he said, "We don't believe in the sword, we believe in love."

He said he "welcomed their ghar wapsi (homecoming)" since it must have been a 'difficulty' that forced them to covert to another religion.

Meanwhile, at Jailerwala Bagh in North-West Delhi's Keshavpuram, BJP MP from Bahraich Sadhvi Savitri Phule addressed a corner meeting.

Pro-poor schemes

Ms. Phule's address which was filled with references to the pro-poor schemes announced by the Narendra Modi government did not however make any references to the poorly-lit approach road to the venue of the meeting.

The Hindu spotted several young women walking the stretch alone or older women defecating in the open since the only community toilet available was not functional.

Ms. Phule, who charged at Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal for "resigning from government and betraying the people", urged the local residents to ensure they vote for the BJP so they can reap the benefits.

Support as debt

"We are not begging for your vote. Your support will come to us in the form of debt which the party will repay through its actions," she said. (source: The Hindu)


China sentences state-owned firm chief to death for graft

China has sentenced the head of a state-owned company to death for corruption involving nearly 400 million yuan ($64.8 million), state media reported, in a rare instance of an official being condemned to die.

Communist Party authorities have waged a much-publicised anti-graft campaign since Xi Jinping ascended to the organisation's leadership 2 years ago, with the powerful former security czar Zhou Yongkang being the highest-ranking official ensnared.

But while China executes more people than the rest of the world combined, according to rights groups, it is very rare for corrupt officials to face the ultimate penalty.

A court in the southern city of Guangzhou convicted Zhang Xinhua, former general manager of the Baiyun Industrial and Agricultural Corporation, of bribery and embezzlement on Wednesday, the Xinhua news agency said, citing the verdict.

Zhang was found to have embezzled company assets worth more than 280 million yuan since 2003, it said.

He also took bribes worth around 95 million yuan in exchange for various favours, according to the report.

Zhang's conviction came on the same day that Liu Tienan, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning agency, was sentenced to life in prison for graft.

Liu ranked far above Zhang in the country's hierarchy, but his conviction involved 35.58 million yuan -- less than 10 % of what Zhang was found to have obtained.

The last Chinese official to be executed for graft was Xu Maiyong, the former vice mayor of the wealthy eastern city of Hangzhou, who was put to death in 2011 after being convicted of taking bribes reportedly worth 198 million yuan, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The current anti-graft campaign has netted high-level "tigers" as well as low-level "flies", but critics say the ruling party has failed to introduce systemic reforms to prevent corruption, such as public disclosure of assets.

Xinhua said that Zhang appealed Wednesday after the verdict was announced.

"The corruption of people like Zhang Xinhua caused significant losses to the country... and challenged the public's basic moral principles," the report quoted Zheng Yunzhan, a judge of the court, as saying.

"We must firmly punish with severity crimes by people who take advantage of their official posts, that are vile in nature and cause great harm," Zheng said, according to the report.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Concern over trial of Burmese men charged with murder of UK tourists ---- Allegations that Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, charged over killing of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, may have been tortured

Rights groups have expressed alarm after it emerged that lawyers representing Burmese migrant workers accused of killing 2 British tourists in Thailand have been given just a week to present their defence case, and without any access to the prosecution evidence.

The new timetable for the trial of the men accused of murdering Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on Koh Tao in September comes as more details were revealed about Thai police allegedly torturing other suspects and includes testimony from Burmese migrant workers on Koh Tao who say they were beaten, and scalded with boiling water.

Police eventually arrested Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 21, a fortnight after the murders. The men were said to have initially confessed, but soon retracted this, claiming they too had been beaten and threatened with death by their interrogators.

Last week they were formally charged with beating the Britons to death with a garden hoe, and raping Witheridge, and face possible execution. According to Nakhon Chompuchat, the lawyer leading the defence case, the start of the trial has now been brought forward from 25 February to 26 December, with the court on Koh Samui, the larger island near Koh Tao, demanding the full defence case be lodged in the next week, by 18 December.

This must be done without the defence team being allowed to see the prosecution case, only a basic 6-page document outlining the charges and some details of the injuries suffered by Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk and Miller, 24, from Jersey.

The British government, which sent a Metropolitan police team to Thailand to look over the inquiry, does have details of the prosecution case. These have been shared with the victimsí families, who last week said they considered the case against the Burmese men strong. However, none of it has been passed to defence lawyers.

Maya Foa from the fair trials group Reprieve, said the group extended deep sympathies to the victims' families and "understand their desire to see that those responsible are held to account".

She added: "We also share their desire to see a fair and transparent trial process. At the moment, however, this does not seem to be happening. There have been widely reported concerns about tainting of the crime scene, confessions extracted by torture and the unreliability of forensic testing. The defence team has not seen any of the prosecution evidence - despite it having been shared with the metropolitan police - and they now have been given only seven days to submit their case.

"The British government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, yet it appears that their actions in this case could be contributing to death sentences for Burmese migrants after an extremely unfair trial. The UK should adhere to their policy on the death penalty and should urge the Thai authorities to conduct a fair and open trial that does not result in the executions of potentially innocent individuals."

Andy Hall, a British activist who works with Burmese migrants in Thailand and has been assisting the defence team, said the lack of access to the prosecution case made the task of compiling the defence "almost impossible".

He said: "Our team are confused about what evidence the prosecution have. We don't know anything but media speculation. We'll only know at the time we submit our own evidence. It's an impossible situation - how do you prepare when you don't know the case against you? That's a principle of criminal justice, that you need to know the case against you to defend yourself."

He added: "Also the UK government say they want a fair trial, but they're also not sharing any information. They've got autopsy reports and witness statements of Britons who came back to the UK. If it's such a strong case, why not share it?"

Separately, on Tuesday Hall passed to Thailand's human rights commission a dossier of evidence he helped compile of allegations from other Burmese men living on Koh Tao who say they were seriously mistreated by police during the investigation into the killings. Thai police deny the claims.

Among the photographic, audio and video evidence were statements from young Burmese men who say they were beaten by local officers during questioning, and others who claim they were scalded with boiling water.

Other allegations include that suspects were questioned with their heads covered tightly with plastic bags, hands were behind their backs or they were beaten and threatened verbally.

Groups including Amnesty International have expressed worries at the investigation and the torture allegations. Among concerns are that DNA evidence allegedly linking the men to the crime could have been tainted after a large number of people trampled over the murder scene, and previous cases where Thai police have attempted to wrongly pin high profile crimes on migrant workers.

Despite these concerns on Friday evening the Foreign Office released statements from the victims' families expressing confidence in the Thai police inquiry.

The Witheridge family said they were "confident in the work that has been carried out into these atrocious crimes", and criticised the media for widespread reports into concerns Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo might have been used as scapegoats.

In their statement, the Millers said: "From what we have seen, the suspects have a difficult case to answer. The evidence against them appears to be powerful and convincing. They must respond to these charges, and their arguments must be considered with the same scrutiny as those of the prosecution."

(source: The Guardian)


Human Rights Day : Nigeria : Focus on the work of the Legal Defence and Assistance project----The British High Commission supports action to prevent the use of the death penalty

The UK along with other European Union Member States is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.

The British High Commission has been proud to support the Legal Defence and Assistance project LEDAP for the last 2 years as they support prisoners on death-row.

The population of prisoners on death row in Nigeria has increased by almost 5% annually, from 610 persons in 2005 to 1220 persons in 2013. Nearly all death row inmates are Nigerian and many are mentally ill or in deteriorating ill-heath. Since 2011, LEDAP has assisted with the legal defence of several prisoners facing the death sentence, most often resulting in their exoneration.

The British High Commission welcomed the release of two prisoners in Benin city recently by the governor of Kaduna state and hopes this will set a precedent for other states to uphold the moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Nigeria.

(source: British High Commission Abuja)


7 prisoners hanged at Mashhad Prison

7 prisoners with drug-related charges were executed by hanging in Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), these 7 prisoners at dawn Wednesday, 3rd December, were executed by hanging in the prison courtyard in Vaki Abad prison in Mashhad.

These executions were not announced by the official media in Iran.

It is to say, Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of Human Rights Council of Iranís Judiciary, on Friday, 5th December, declared that "we are trying to change the rules about drug-related executions."

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Amid Human Rights Day, 10 more executions in Iran

On Sunday, December 7, 4 prisoners are reported to have been executed in the Central Prison in the city of Zahedan, capital of the Sistan Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran.

The news of these executions have not been published by the regime.

Reports from Iran also indicate that another 7 prisoners have been hanged in the courtyard of Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad (the 2nd largest city of Iran in the north). These 7 prisoners were hanged on Wednesday, December 3.

Like the executions in Zahedan, the executions in Mashad were not officially announced by the clerical regime. On November 5, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary of Human Rights Council in Mullah's Judiciary had deceptively announced: "We are trying to change the law pertaining to drug related death sentences." However, in the last 2 weeks 50 people have been executed in various prisons in Iran.

Iran executes more people per capita than any other country in the world.

Read more about the blatant violation of human rights in Iran here:

(source: NCR-Iran)


Woman Executed for Drug-Related Charges in Iran

At least 27 people have been executed for drug-related charges in the first 10 days of December 2014.

A female prisoner was hanged in the prison of Qazvin (Western Iran) early this morning, reported the Iranian state media.

According to the state run Iranian news agency ISCA, a woman identified as "F. Gh." was arrested for trafficking of 2 kilograms of heroin and 6 kilograms of opium. The report said that "she was smuggling the drugs on behalf of others".

Drug-related charges account for the majority of the executions in the last 5 years in Iran. Those charged with possession or trafficking of narcotic drugs are tried by the Revolution Courts, behind the closed doors, and they don't have the right to appeal.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Condemned prisoners sent to solitary in another prison

35 Iranian prisoners on death row in Qezel Hessar Prison were transferred on Sunday December 7 to solitary confinement in Rejai Shahr Prison in Karaj.

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reports that some prisoners have said the transfer could be a step toward their execution.

Ward 2 prisoners in Qezel Hessar have been on a hunger strike since last week to protest the sudden rise in the number of executions in recent weeks. The prisoners were threatened by prison authorities with a further rise in executions if they didn't end their strike.

There are 3,000 prisoners in Ward 2 of Qezel Hessar sentenced for drug charges and 1,000 of them are sentenced to death.

Last fall, a hunger strike by prisoners forced the authorities to halt executions for about 6 months.

According to Iranian penal law, the transportation or possession of a certain amount of drugs carries the death penalty.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)


Russian woman arrested in Bali for drugs, faces death penalty

A young Russian woman may face the death penalty for allegedly attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine into the resort island of Bali, an Indonesian customs official said on Thursday.

Aleksandra Magnaeva, 26, was detained on Sunday after arriving in Bali on a flight from Hong Kong with 2.1kg of the drug stashed in her 2 bags.

"The maximum penalty is death," said Budi Harjanto, the Bali airport customs chief. He did not give an estimated street value for the drugs.

Magnaeva said during questioning that her boyfriend, with whom she had been living in China, had told her to pass the drugs on to someone on Bali, the official said.

The Russian said she had brought the drugs via land from mainland China to Hong Kong, and that it was her first time smuggling drugs into Bali, Harjanto said.

However she told officials that she had trafficked drugs throughout Asia, including to Thailand, numerous times, he added.

Customs officials detected similarities in her case and that of a New Zealand man caught attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine into Bali last week, but said authorities were yet to conclude whether the 2 were linked.

Indonesia enforces some of the stiffest penalties for drug trafficking in the world, including life imprisonment and death.

Foreigners are frequently arrested for attempting to smuggle narcotics into hard-partying Bali, and some have been handed the death sentence.

New Indonesian President Joko Widodo said this week that there will be no pardons for drug traffickers on death row, dashing hopes he might take a softer stance on capital punishment.



'Abolish mandatory death penalty'

Malaysia's mandatory death penalty is arbitrary and discriminatory and ought to be abolished, stated a prominent human rights lawyer.

Speaking at the Forum on Death Penalty in Malaysia organised by Hakam in conjunction with Human Rights Week (Dec 8-12), Abdul Rashid Ismail said that since the mandatory death penalty does not consider the circumstances of its offences, it violates the basic right to life, as enshrined in international human rights laws.

Citing past cases in Malaysia, Abdul Rashid, who is also Hakam's immediate presiding president, pointed out that most nations retaining the death penalty have done away with its mandatory nature, reserving it for serious and extraordinary crimes.

Highlighting Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), he stated it contravenes the mandatory death penalty as the ICCPR is customary international law and should therefore be a part of Malaysian law.

He was also careful to stress that the ICCPR does not abolish the death penalty itself but only removes its mandatory nature.

"For offences such as drug trafficking, the mandatory sentence is automatic and indisputable. This is unjust as most individuals sentenced for drug trafficking are commonly duped low-ranking mules while the kingpins often escape the net," said Abdul Rashid.

(source: The Sun Daily)

DECEMBER 10, 2014----Human Rights Day


Hearing to decide if John DeBlase will be sentenced to death rescheduled

The sentencing hearing for John DeBlase, who is facing death after being convicted in November in the deaths of his children, has been reset for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 8.

The hearing was scheduled to be held Thursday in Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout's courtroom. It was rescheduled because DeBlase's presentence investigation report is not complete, District Attorney Ashley Rich said.

"Because... the judge has to take that report under consideration when he makes his sentence, we couldn't move forward with the sentence until that report is complete," Rich said. "It's not an uncommon thing that they have not had an opportunity (to finish the report), especially in a case of this magnitude."

A Mobile County jury convicted DeBlase, 31, of three counts of capital murder in the 2010 deaths of 4-year-old Natalie DeBlase and 3-year-old Chase DeBlase.

The jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty. The vote is a recommendation to Stout, who will decide if DeBlase will be sentenced to death.

DeBlase's common law wife, Heather Leavell-Keaton, 26, also is charged in the children's death. Her trial is scheduled for next year. The District Attorney's Office said the children were stuffed into a suitcase, put in a closet and choked to death. Natalie was dumped in a wooded area near Citronelle. Chase's body was hidden in rural Mississippi.



Ohio Lawmakers Narrow Lethal Injection Bill

Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday removed a measure from a death penalty bill that doctors and drugmakers warned could have led to shortages of a key drug and set anesthesiology back 20 years.

At issue was a requirement that would have told drugmakers they couldn't restrict distribution of drugs that could be used in executions. Opponents of the requirement expected the European Union would quickly ban the export of the anesthetic propofol to the U.S. if Ohio's bill became law.

Europe supplies almost 90 % of propofol used in the United states and no similar drug shares its safety and effectiveness, Dr. Robert Small, an anesthesiologist representing the Ohio Society of Anesthesiologists, told the Civil Justice Committee.

"A shortage of this medicine would set the medical specialty of anesthesiology back 20 years," he said, leading to complications from an increased rate of nausea and vomiting after surgery along with extended time to wake up from surgery.

The president of a company whose drugs include propofol said the restriction would have a "cascading effect" that would harm patients and their families in Ohio.

"This would almost certainly cause delays or deferrals of elective surgeries nationwide," said John Ducker, president and CEO of Lake Zurich, Illinois-based drugmaker Fresenius Kabi.

Last year the Missouri Department of Corrections dropped plans to use propofol as an execution drug because of concerns that the move could create a shortage of the popular anesthetic if the EU restricted its export.

The Ohio legislative committee, which scheduled a final vote Thursday, kept in place a requirement that companies providing Ohio with lethal injection drugs would have their names shielded for at least 20 years. The bill requires a drugmaker to specifically ask for anonymity, rather than receive it automatically, under an agreement that would allow release of the company's name 20 years after it last provides drugs to the state.

The anonymity is aimed at so-called compounding pharmacies that mix doses of specialty drugs.

Ohio hasn't executed an inmate since January, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted for 26 minutes before dying, during a procedure using a never-tried combination of a sedative and painkiller. It was Ohio's longest execution.

Further questions about those drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, arose after Arizona used them during a nearly 2-hour execution of an inmate in July.

Ohio's 1st choice for an execution drug is compounded pentobarbital, a version of pentobarbital not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Missouri and Texas, which shield the identity of their drug source, have used compounded pentobarbital successfully several times. But Ohio has been unable to obtain it.

Proponents of the Ohio bill, including Rep. Jim Buchy, a Republican from Greenville, say the secrecy is necessary for Ohio to get supplies of the drug. They say it would protect companies from harassment over supplying the drugs.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Society of Professional Journalists, say secrecy erodes confidence in the execution process. They also say threats of harassment are overblown.

(source: Associated Press)


Lethal injection secrecy bill changed after warnings of medicine shortages

An Ohio Senate committee pulled out a major provision of a lethal injection secrecy bill today after being told by a drug company executive that it would trigger "harmful shortages of critical medicines" in Ohio.

The Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved seven amendments to House Bill 663, but did not vote on the legislation. A vote is expected at a meeting Thursday morning.

The legislation would allow the state to buy lethal injection drugs from small "compounding pharmacies" which would remain anonymous from the public, the media, prosecution and defense attorneys in capital punishment cases. The bill would also shield the names of members of the execution team, including any licensed medical personnel who might participate.

John Ducker, president and chief executive officer of Fresenius Kabi USA, an international drug manufacturer with 30,000 employees based in Lake Zurich, Ill., testified that a provision in the bill, which would have allowed the state to void contract controls by drug suppliers, would have had "the unintended consequence of creating harmful drug shortages" for some medicines, such as propofol, the anesthetic mostly widely used in surgical procedures.

Ducker said if Ohio passed the contract provision, the European Union would almost certainly reduce the supply of drugs such a propofol to the U.S. "This is not a theoretical possibility," he said. More than 75 % of propofol used in the U.S. is made in Europe, he said.

Minutes later, Sen. John Eklund, R-Chardon, chairman of the committee, moved to amend the measure by taking the contract provision out of the bill. The amendment was approved unanimously.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, the leading advocate for the lethal injection bill, testified that is critical that the proposal become law or else Ohio will not be able to proceed with the execution of condemned killer Ronald Phillips on Feb. 11, or any other executions next year.

He said the bill would not make the execution process secret except for protecting the identity of the drug supplier. He described as "scare tactics" the claims by opponents who label it a "secret execution bill."

The committee also added several non-controversial recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Minnesota pharmacy board rejects policy aimed at making death penalty drugs harder to get

Minnesota regulators won't adopt a policy that would bar pharmacists from mixing lethal drugs that could be used in administering the death penalty elsewhere.

In declining to act Wednesday, state Board of Pharmacy leaders said they weren't aware of any cases where Minnesota pharmacists supplied execution drugs. They say that possibility is remote and likely would run afoul of existing law.

As execution drugs become harder to obtain, attention has turned to compounding pharmacies.

Death penalty foes wanted Minnesota to set the nation's first such policy in hopes others would follow. That would make it tougher for capital punishment states to obtain lethal supplies.

Minnesota outlawed its death penalty more than a century ago.

Advocates for the drug policy argue it is unethical for pharmacists to aid in death.

(suorce: Associated Press)


The True Legacy of Atkins and Roper: The Unreliability Principle, Mentally Ill Defendants, and the Death Penalty's Unraveling

Scott E. Sundby ---- University of Miami School of Law

December 1, 2014

William & Mary Bill of Rights, Vol. 23, (2014 Forthcoming)


In striking down the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile defendants, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons have been understandably heralded as important holdings under the Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that has found the death penalty "disproportional" for certain types of defendants and crimes. This Article argues, however, that the cases have a far more revolutionary reach than their conventional understanding. In both cases the Court went one step beyond its usual 2-step analysis of assessing whether imposing the death penalty violated "evolving standards of decency." This extra step looked at why even though intellectual disability and youth were powerful mitigators, juries were not able to reliably use them in their decision making. The Court thus articulated expressly for the first time what this Article calls the "unreliability principle:" if too great a risk exists that constitutionally protected mitigation cannot be reliably assessed, the unreliability means that the death penalty cannot be constitutionally imposed. In recognizing the unreliability principle, the Court has called into serious question the death penalty for other offenders to whom the principle applies, such as mentally ill defendants. And, unlike with the "evolving standards" analysis, the unreliability principle does not depend on whether a national consensus exists against the practice. This Article identifies the 6 Atkins-Roper factors that bring the unreliability principle into play and shows why they make application of the death penalty to mentally ill defendants unconstitutional. The principle, which finds its constitutional home in the cases of Woodson v. North Carolina and Lockett v. Ohio, has profound implications for the death penalty, and if taken to its logical endpoint calls into question the Court's core premise since Furman v. Georgia, that by providing individualized consideration of a defendant and his crime, the death penalty decision will be free of arbitrariness.

(source: Social Sciene Research Network)


Student claims he poisoned roommate as April Fool's joke

A Chinese medical student has told an appeals court his poisoning of a roommate last year was intended as an April Fool's joke rather than murder.

Lin Senhao, a former medical student at Shanghai's Fudan University, appealed on Monday against the intentional homicide charge and death penalty handed down at a local court in February.

He was convicted of using N-Nitrosodimethylamine, a deadly chemical compound from the university's lab, to contaminate a water dispenser in the dorm he shared with Huang Yang.

Huang drank from the dispenser on April 1 last year and died of organ failure 2 weeks later.

Monday's debate, which lasted more than 13 hours at Shanghai High People's Court, centered on the immediate cause of the victim's death, as noted coroner Hu Zhiqiang suggested Huang had died of Hepatitis B and subsequent organ failure.

Hu, who was present at the appeals court at the request of Lin's defense attorney, cited clinical records indicating Huang had tested positive for the Hepatitis B antibody, which "could not have been directly related to poisoning," he argued.

The prosecutor, however, disputed Hu, whose assertions were derived from past literature and clinical records, not autopsy findings.

At the appeals court, the previously taciturn Lin spoke out. He insisted he had not intended to kill Huang. "It was just a prank for April Fool's Day, and I watered down the chemical," he told the Shanghai Higher People's Court.

The court had evidence that Lin searched for information online about the chemical several times before adding it to the water dispenser on March 31, 2013, including information about its smell and taste, as well as symptoms and poisoning diagnosis.

Lin did not confess to contaminating the water dispenser until he was interrogated by police on April 12.

The poisoning was motivated by Lin's growing discontent with Huang over trivial matters after Huang moved into the same dorm in August 2011, according to the court verdict handed down in February.

"I am rather hollow, with no ethics or value," said the 28-year-old Lin when he was asked to say something to Huang's parents. "If I'm lucky enough to survive (the death penalty), I will do everything I can to compensate you. If not, I hope you will shake off the shadow and carry on."

Huang's father, Huang Guoqiang, from Sichuan province, insisted Lin deserved the death penalty. But Lin's father, Lin Zunyao from Guangdong province, feared his son might have been wronged. "I know him well. He's such a good boy. He couldn't have meant to kill."

The court said it will announce the verdict soon.

The public was also divided over whether Lin deserves death. While many demanded "a life for a life," some also said Chinese courts should use the death penalty more sparingly and cautiously.

The poisoning made headlines, prompting national outcry and soul-searching on the moral education of Chinese youth. It also brought to the spotlight again the case of Zhu Ling, a chemical major at Beijing's Tsinghua University who suffered severe brain damage after being poisoned with thallium in 1994.

Zhu's roommate was suspected to be responsible, but charges were never pressed and the case remains unsolved.

Huang's case led to discussions surrounding the tragedy of Zhu, forcing Beijing police to deny widespread speculation that her roommate's family used their influence to hinder the investigation.

(source: Want China Times)


The Communist Party's top mouthpiece has likened disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang to past party "traitors", all of whom were executed.

An article released through People's Daily's WeChat account on Wednesday night said Zhou's deeds made him "no different from a 'traitor'", a reference that prompted speculation that the former member of the innermost Politburo Standing Committee could face the death penalty.

The party announced on the weekend that a graft probe had uncovered evidence that Zhou had violated political, organisational and confidentiality rules, and was involved in corruption.

But many observers were also surprised to see Zhou accused of leaking party and state secrets.

The top penalty for leaking state secrets is 7 years but a corruption conviction can bring a death sentence.

The People's Daily article cited the examples of Gu Shunzhang, the head of the party's intelligence services in the 1920s who defected to then ruling Kuomintang in the 1930s.

He was later executed on the orders of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for secretly setting up a new party.

The article also referred to more recent "traitors", citing 3 senior People's Liberation Army personnel who sold military intelligence to Taiwan. All 3 were executed.

"The word 'traitor' is rarely used in peacetime, but ... corrupt elements who betray the party's purpose, violate discipline and tarnish the party's image ... are no different from 'traitors'," the article read.

Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the article might underscore the extent of the damage Zhou had done to the party.

"In deciding whether Zhou will get a death sentence, the party needs to assess the possible impact on other retired party leaders ... which may affect political stability," Lau said.

But Renmin University political scientist Zhang Ming said the term "traitor" was supposed to be for defectors, and the article's rhetoric could be a bit exaggerated.

"The PLA Daily described [disgraced top general] Xu Caihou as the 'nation's evil'. Zhou may not receive a death sentence," Zhang said.

(source: South China Morning Post)


Supreme Court stays Yakub Memon's execution, yet again

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the only death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

The apex court, while staying the execution, issued notices to STF Maharashtra and the CBI on Memon's plea seeking a review of the death verdict. The court had stayed the man's execution twice earlier this year, in September and June.

In November, Supreme Court judge Justice UU Lalit recused himself from hearing the plea seeking the apex court's order upholding Memon's conviction. The SC upheld Memon's death sentence on March 21, 2013. This is the 3rd time in the year that Yakub Memon's execution has been stayedThe apex court commuted the death penalty granted to 10 others by a special TADA court to life term. About Memon, the cpurt said he was the mastermind behind the blasts that killed 257 dead and left over 700 injured in March 1993.Yakub Memon is the brother of Tiger Memon, a proclaimed offender, and a chartered accountant by profession.



Madagascar Abolishes the Death Penalty

Today, on the occasion of the World Human Rights Day, the National Assembly of Madagascar adopted a bill that abolishes the death penalty in Madagascar.

In Antananarivo on the 10th of October, the World Day against the Death Penalty, during a workshop aimed at spreading awareness about the death penalty the President of the National Assembly, via his personal representative, expressed his optimism by saying that a bill to abolish the death penalty was to be adopted during the current parliamentary session.

This workshop, organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ministry of Justice with the support of ACAT Madagascar, FIACAT and the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, brought together a wide array of activists to discuss the death penalty in Madagascar. Its audience included the Representative of the President of the National Assembly, 8 MPs, numerous leaders and members of civil society, representatives of UN agencies and several representatives of European embassies. In the final statement, participants at the workshop welcomed "the steps taken by the National Assembly for the development of a bill to abolish the death penalty" and encouraged the President of the Assembly "to include it in the agenda of the October 2014 session".

In light of Madagascar's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place in Geneva on the 3rd of November 2014, FIACAT and ACAT Madagascar recommended in an alternative report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the Madagascan authorities abolish the death penalty and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

Therefore, the World Day workshop's final results and the UPR's recommendations were followed-up by the members of the National Assembly who adopted the bill as early as 10 December 2014.

Madagascar has become the 18th member state of the African Union to have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.



'Stripping' matatu crew face death penalty

The matatu driver and tout accused of taking part in the sexual assault of a woman in a matatu in Githurai in September have finally been charged and taken their pleas.

Nicholas Chege and Meshack Mburu pleaded not guilty to two counts of robbery with violence and sexual assault. The robbery charge carries a maximum death penalty.

"On the night of September 19 and 20 at Millenium Petrol Station within Githurai 44 of Kasarani sub-county in Nairobi county, jointly with others not before court unlawfully manipulated your fingers into the genital organs of H.E.W (the victim)."

Chege and Mburu took their pleas after Senior Principal Magistrate Lucy Mbugua granted a prosecution application to have the complainant identified simply by her initials on the charge sheet in order to preserve her dignity.

"But this is not a blanket order," she cautioned. "The trial court will decide for itself how it will proceed."

Defence counsel Harrison Kinyanjui objected to the use of the complainant's initials saying his client had the right to face their accuser.

"My clients' faces have been plastered all over the media and yet remain innocent until proved guilty," he submitted.

Kinyanjui also sought to have the matatu in which the alleged sexual assault took place, released to its owner David Irungu. An application that was denied by the magistrate after Senior Prosecuting Counsel Duncan Ondimu informed the court that the matatu remains a crime scene.

Mbugua is to rule on Thursday morning if Chege and Mburu will be released on bail.

Ondimu opposed their release on the grounds that they face the death penalty for their crimes. "We intend to seek the maximum penalty."

He also told the court that Mburu had already confessed to the court that his phone was used to shoot a video of the sexual assault and that one of the accused had been identified in a parade.

In turn, Kinyanjui challenged the reliability of what the complainant told the police happened to her on the night of September 19 and 20. "The complainant's character is to be impugned," he said.

Under the robbery with violence charge, Chege and Mburu are accused of stealing the complainants Samsung Galaxy Grand valued at Sh27,000, 1 bottle of perfume valued at Sh1,500, a clutch purse valued at Sh1,000, a make-up kit valued at Sh2,000 and Sh10,200 in cash.

(source: Associated Press)


Prisoners hunger strike to demand end to death penalty in Iran

Hundreds of prisoners have been on hunger strike in Iran since December 2 in protest at the execution of 11 inmates.

The 538 prisoners are also demanding a halt to group executions and the unconditional abolition of capital punishment.

Javad Larijani, the regime's notorious advocate of torture and execution, hinted in a December 4 interview with France 24 that some changes may be made to capital punishment legislation, although days later regime judiciary officials denied any changes would be made and insisted the barbaric and medieval sentences would remain in law.

The deputy of the regime's judiciary system said: "The penal code does not change. There may be some changes to criminal procedure reforms. But the latter part of the law, capital punishment, will not change."

The National Council of Resistance of Iran called on Tuesday 9th of December to save the lives of the 31 prisoners on verge of executions in Ghezel Hesar Prison.

The increase in the wave of executions in various prisons and cities of the country, including the hanging of at least 51 prisoners just in the time span of November 24 to December 3 demonstrates the fear of the religious fascism from the spread of protests by the Iranian people who are under great pressure and is aimed at heightening the atmosphere of terror in the society. Regime's officials admit that "security... is the foremost worry for the judicial, security and law enforcement systems and they have implemented and shall continue to live up to this responsibility."

International community's turning of a blind eye to the tragic situation of human rights in Iran has given a free hand to the leaders of the Velayat-e faqih regime, famous among the people as the "Godfather of ISIS", to resort to any kind of barbarism, including the splashing of acid and knife attacks against the innocent women and the wave of group hangings in prisons and various cities throughout the country.

Any rapprochement with this anti-human regime should be contingent on the respect for human rights, including the suspension of the anti-human punishment of hanging.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Australian Bali 9 convicts to face firing squad after Indonesian President rules out pardoning any drug convicts on death row; Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, from Sydney, are on death row----They have lost all appeals against their death sentences in Bali

Bali Nine inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan will be killed by firing squad after Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo ruled out issuing pardons for any drug convicts on death row.

The 2 Australians, jailed in Kerobokan Prison, applied for clemency from the country's former president 2 years ago but it was ignored.

'I will reject clemency request submitted by 64 death convicted of drugs cases,' Mr Joko said during a lecture at Gadjah Mada University on Tuesday.

If Mr Joko's comments are taken at face value it means Chan and Sukumaran now have no hope for avoiding the death penalty.

According to Indonesian news website, Mr Joko said most of the prisoners had 'destroyed the future of the nation'.

He said the rejection of clemency served as 'important shock therapy' for drug dealers, traffickers and users.

Mr Joko also revealed during an appearance at a Yogyakarta State University for Human Rights Day that the requests for clemency had remain untouched for years under his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

'I'm asking now, what should I do? For years no decisions have been taken. I say now I will issue no pardon for drugs [criminals],' he clarified.

Mr Joko's new policy will condemn Chan, Sukumaran and more than 60 other drug prisoners to the firing squad.

The comments come just a week after the president's office announced that five convicts would be executed by the end of the month.

Chan and Sukumaran, from Sydney, were arrested in 2005.

Chan was stopped at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali's capital Denpasar and Sukumaran was arrested in a room at the Melasti Hotel in Kuta with 3 others.

According to court testimonies of convicted drug mules, Chan and Sukumaran were the co-ringleaders of a heroin smuggling operation from Indonesia to Australia.

Police found 334 g (11.8 oz) of heroin in a suitcase in the room with Sukumaran which was allegedly going to be smuggled.

After a criminal trial, on 14 February 2006 Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to execution by firing squad by the Denpasar District Court.

They both pleaded for clemency from former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono before he left office.

In June, Daily Mail Australia reported how Sukumaran had entered a self-portrait for consideration for the Archibald Prize from his jail cell in Bali - but his painting wasn't considered because he was locked up abroad.

He had hoped to compete for the prestigious art prize that includes $75,000 in cash.

Sukumaran turned to art while serving his death row sentence in Bali, while Chan has turned to Christianity and hopes to become a pastor if he is released.

The men's friends and family have been running an appeal, pleading for mercy, for years.

Brigid Delaney co-founder of the Mercy Campaign, an online petition collecting signatures of people appealing for clemency for the men, said that the campaign would continue.

'Please visit the Mercy Campaign website and sign our petition if you believe that the lives of Myuran and Andrew should be spared.'

Article 14 of the Indonesian Constitution gives the President a broad power to grant clemency. It doesn't mean the prisoner walks free from jail; in a death penalty case it means the prisoner stays in jail but does not face execution.

The Mercy appeal says: 'Andrew and Myuran have now admitted and apologised for their crimes. They are doing their best to better themselves and help those around them.

'Andrew and Myuran were convicted of trafficking drugs from Indonesia to Australia. They admit they committed that crime. They admit that they were selfish and greedy and they have now completely reformed. Their crime was not a violent one.

'Andrew and Myuran agree that they deserve punishment. They do not deserve to be executed by firing squad.'

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Sukumaran's lawyer for comment.

(source: Daily Mail)


There's no justification for the death penalty

Re: Why do Canadians support death penalty? - Dec. 6

I agree completely with the writer who is anti-death penalty.

The death penalty must remain abolished in Canada for two valid reasons: it is cruel and unusual punishment, and is sometimes practised against innocent people.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3, says everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Fortunately for Canadians the death penalty was abolished in 1976. In the 1980s, the Liberals declared that the government should stand consistently against the death penalty.

About 40 countries of the world practice capital punishment, including the Bahamas, China, Indonesia, Tonga, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, public executions were committed in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia.

Helen Hansen


(source: Letter to the Editor, Guelph Mercury)

TEXAS----impending executions

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

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

280------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------519



Greg Abbott will be inaugurated as the new Governor of Texas on January 29, 2015

Executions under Greg Abbott, 2015-present

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

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

1------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------520

2------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------521

3------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------522

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

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

6------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------525

7------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------526

8------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------527

9------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------528

10------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------529

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Georgia's Merciless Push to Kill ---- Injustice in Robert Wayne Holsey's Case

Even by the abysmal standards of lawyering that defendants in capital trials regularly endure, Robert Wayne Holsey's case stands out.

In 1997, Mr. Holsey was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a Georgia sheriff's deputy named Will Robinson, who had pulled him over for robbing a convenience store. Despite evidence that Mr. Holsey was intellectually disabled - which should have barred him from execution under the United States Supreme Court's earlier rulings - his lawyer neglected to make that argument at trial. Mr. Holsey was executed on Tuesday evening after the Supreme Court declined to stay his execution.

The evidence of Mr. Holsey's mental deficits included an I.Q. test score of 70 when he was 15. In school, his intellectual functioning did not move past a 4th-grade level. But under Georgia law, a defendant is required to prove his intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt - the strictest standard in the country and one unmoored from scientific reality.

Mr. Holsey's new lawyers challenged Georgia's standard under a Supreme Court decision issued in May that reaffirmed and clarified its 2002 ban on executing intellectually disabled people. Laws that do not provide a fair chance to prove intellectual disability, the court wrote, "deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects." The justices should have stayed Mr. Holsey's death sentence on that ground alone. The egregious failures of his trial lawyer, Andy Prince, added to the injustice.

During the trial, Mr. Prince, a lifelong alcoholic, was drinking a quart of vodka a day. He was also facing his own criminal investigation for stealing more than $100,000 in client funds. Before the trial was over, he was arrested and charged with brandishing a gun, threatening to shoot his black neighbors and yelling racial slurs at them. (Mr. Prince is white, and Mr. Holsey is black.)

Mr. Prince, who was disbarred and sent to prison for theft of funds, later said, "I shouldn't have been representing anybody in any case."

Georgia, like other "death belt" states, will go to great lengths to execute the people it has sentenced to death. It is hard to understand how the Supreme Court, which spoke so clearly on the unconstitutionality of executing intellectually disabled people, could stand aside and allow Mr. Holsey to die.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Central Georgians Protest Holsey execution in Macon

A small group of protesters gathered outside the Macon-Bibb Government Complex Tuesday night protesting the scheduled execution of Robert Wayne Holsey.

He's the man convicted of killing Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson in 1995 and sentenced to die for that crime in 1997.

The group appeared mostly silent and told 13WMAZ's Karli Barnett they maintained that silence to allow for prayer. They bore signs that read 'Thou shalt not kill' and 'Execute Justice, Not People'. Some of them represented a group called Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

At different times they formed prayer circles, joining hands to pray for Holsey and others sentenced to die by lethal injection.

(source: WMAZ news)


State Seeks Death Penalty vs. Dr. Adam Frasch

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against a doctor accused of killing his wife at their Golden Eagle home.

Adam Frasch was indicted last month in the death of his estranged wife Samira Frasch.

She was found dead in the swimming pool in February 2014 and he was found later that same day with the couple's 2 children in Panama City.

Prosecutors have filed paperwork saying they intend to seek the death penalty.

Frasch's attorney, Clyde Taylor, says it's a move to put "pressure on the defense" and calls it ironic because a sitting judge would not sign off on an arrest warrant.

Prosecutors had no comment on the filing.

Frasch is slated to be in court next week.

(source: WCTV news)


Missouri executes prisoner over hammer murder ---- Paul Goodwin, 48, receives state's 10th lethal injection this year despite last-minute appeals to supreme court

A Missouri inmate has been executed for fatally beating a 63-year-old woman with a hammer in 1998, a record 10th lethal injection of 2014 for the state. It now matches Texas for the highest number of executions in the US this year.

Paul Goodwin, 48, sexually assaulted Joan Crotts in St Louis County, pushed her down a flight of stairs and beat her on the head with a hammer. Goodwin was a former neighbour who felt Crotts played a role in getting him kicked out of a boarding house.

Goodwin's execution began at 1:17am, delayed more than an hour after it was scheduled because supreme court appeals continued into the early morning. He was pronounced dead at 1:25 am He declined to make a final statement.

Efforts to spare Goodwin's life centred on his low IQ and claims that executing him would violate a supreme court ruling prohibiting the death penalty for the mentally disabled. His lawyer, Jennifer Herndon, said Goodwin had an IQ of 73, and some tests suggested it was even lower.

Goodwin's sister, Mary Mifflin, wrote in a statement that the death penalty "is not a just punishment for his crime - an act that occurred out of passion, not premeditation, by a man with the mental capabilities of a child, not an adult".

But Goodwin's fate was sealed when Missouri's governor, Jay Nixon, denied a clemency request and the supreme court turned down legal appeals - 1 on the mental competency question and one concerning Missouri's use of an execution drug purchased from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

6 people attended the execution on Goodwin's behalf, including his mother and two sisters. 10 of Crotts's relatives attended, all wearing purple, her favorite colour.

Her son Robert Becker recalled his mother as, "a pleasantly ornery Germany woman". That stubbornness was evident in her final hours, he said, when she stayed alive long enough to provide information to police that helped lead to the killer.

Another son, Kent Becker, said the execution "cannot erase the memory of having to clean up your mother's murder scene".

Missouri's 10th execution of 2014 surpasses the state's previous high of 9 in 1999. Neither Missouri nor Texas has another execution scheduled this year. Texas, Missouri and Florida combined carried out 28 of the 34 executions in the US this year.

Goodwin received special education as a child but still failed several grades, Mifflin wrote. He relied on relatives or his girlfriend to help with buying groceries or paying bills, she said. When his girlfriend died, Goodwin turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his attack on Crotts, Mifflin wrote.

Crotts's daughter, Debbie Decker, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that Goodwin deserved no mercy. "I've been sitting back waiting for this to happen," Decker said of the execution. "I'm hoping all these bad memories will go away."

Missouri has scheduled 1 execution each month since November 2013. 2 were halted by court action, but 12 were carried out over the past 14 months.

Goodwin becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death in Missouri this year and the 80th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (518), Oklahoma (111), Virginia (110), and Florida (89) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Goodwin becomes the 35th and final inmate to be executed this year in the USA and the 1394th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. It is the fewest executions in the country since 1994, when 31 inmates were put to death.

(sources: The Guardian & Rick Halperin)


End death penalty or charade of delays

Why even seek the death penalty when it hasn't been implemented in California in nearly a decade and when Democrats who rule the state allow it to linger in perpetual limbo?

Jan Scully, the outgoing district attorney for Sacramento, answered the question without a hint of cynicism on Tuesday - quite a feat considering how cynical people on both sides of this issue have become.

Some death penalty supporters have come to believe that death penalty cases just waste taxpayer money because legal obstacles have prevented anyone from being put to death in California since Clarence Ray Allen was executed by lethal injection on Jan. 17, 2006.

Yet there was Scully, and her counterpart from Placer County, announcing they would seek the death penalty for Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes, the Mexican national accused of killing 2 law enforcement officers in a terrifying late October crime spree that gripped the region.

"The death penalty is still in force in California. It's still the will of the voters, and by not following this law we disrespect the will of the voters," Scully said.

It's true. California should either abolish the death penalty or abolish the legal charade of endless delays. State prisons house about 750 people sentenced to death, but only 13 inmates have been executed since 1978.

That fight could be returning to the ballot box in 2016. But before it does, consider points that death penalty opponents are loath to admit. In California, death penalty convictions are rarely overturned, Scully said.

In Scully's 20 years as Sacramento County's DA, prosecutions by her office have sent just 10 men to death row. "If you look at the cases where the death penalty has been found, they stand out," Scully said. "They are very rare."

Bracamontes is accused of carrying out a shooting and carjacking spree that terrorized residents from Sacramento to Auburn and resulted in the deaths of 2 peace officers. The facts of the case have not been presented in court, but what is publicly known is chilling enough. What's the right thing to do?

Life without the possibility of parole is often offered as a more humane alternative, but some disagree. The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization, recently reported that solitary confinement - the alternative to death penalty employed in some states - is hardly humane.

"Some people condemned to solitary have chosen a swift and certain death over a life of daily torture. Data suggests that as many as half of all prison suicides take place in some form of isolation," according to a Marshall Project commentary piece published by the Huffington Post recently.

There is no safe moral distance from this issue, even though we try to pretend there is. Some crimes and criminals are just different. Sometimes the punishment fits the crime.

(source: Opinion, Marcus Breton; Sacramento Bee)


Accused Deputy Killer Certainly Meets Death Penalty Criteria, Attorney Says

Luis Enrique Monroy Brocamontes gripped his cell bars Tuesday as prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty against him.

Brocamontes, known previously as Marcelo Marquez, is accused of of killing 2 sheriff's deputies, injuring a 3rd and shooting and injuring another man during a multi-county rampage on Oct. 24.

Defense attorneys formally asked the prosecution to reconsider, but the chances of that are slim, according to the man who wrote the California death penalty initiative and put it on the ballot in 1978.

"(Brocamontes) meets every single criteria for a special circumstance and execution," former U.S. Attorney Don Heller said. He designed his death penalty initiative with a long list of special circumstances needed to qualify someone for death row.

1 of those qualifications is if the murder victim is a peace officer.

"It was an attempt to offer police officers maybe 1 chance out of a thousand, the opportunity to avoid someone killing them," Heller told FOX40.

The district attorney's office released a statement today, which reads:

"Input from the victim's families was solicited, received, and considered during the decision making process. Both offices independently concluded that the death penalty is the appropriate penalty in this instance."

But Heller says it's a tough situation.

California taxpayers forked over around $4 billion in the last few decades to execute just 13 people.

"It was my hope he would resist," Heller said. "They would just blow him away and save tax payers millions of dollars.

(source: Fox News)


Americans' Support for Death Penalty Drops, Remains Strong

When executions are carried out at the prison facility in Huntsville, Texas, death penalty opponents are usually on hand to protest.

Texas carries out more executions than any other state - 16 last year. And polls show most Texans support the punishment.

One is self-described death penalty advocate Dudley Sharp, who argues that executions ensure killers do not kill again and deter others from doing so.

"The evidence that the death penalty deters no one does not exist," he said. "The evidence that the death penalty deters some people is overwhelming."

Sharp said most families of murder victims want proportional justice, but they find no joy in an execution.

"All of this is in the context of losing an innocent life to an unjust murder, so none of it is good," he said.

Houston attorney Pat Monks opposes the death penalty, contending that it's carried out within a flawed judicial system.

"It assumes that the system is perfect in one instance, maybe just in one instance, and it is not," he said.

Monks cites cases in which new evidence has led to the release of prisoners on death row. He calls capital punishment an archaic practice that the United States inherited from a country that has now abandoned it.

"It is from England, the common law system in which the king owns all of us, we are all subject to the king, and so the state," he said. "It is their case [judges and prosecutors], as opposed to our case."

In early December, an appeals court issued a stay in the planned execution of convicted murderer Scott Panetti, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Houston attorney Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defenders Service, who represents Panetti, says the nationwide attention this case has received is encouraging.

"What we see in the stay is this emerging awareness in the United States that we don't want to execute people with serious mental illness," she said.

The state of Texas contends Panetti meets its standard of competence. But Kase says executing such a delusional person does not serve the purpose most people associate with the death penalty.

"We are supposed to be reserving the death penalty for the worst of the worst," she said. "The problem is that when we get into choosing who that is, we are not consistent."

Surveys show that younger respondents tend to favor life imprisonment for murderers over the death penalty and that fewer than half of all respondents favor executing the mentally ill.

(source: Voice of America News)


Tsarnaev trial: Let's not relive the Marathon bombings

On Jan. 5, we are set to relive the Boston Marathon bombing when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial begins. For months after that, a cast of thousands - lawyers, court officials, jurors, police officers, survivors, evidence technicians, and an army of photographers and reporters - will gather at the federal courthouse in South Boston to recreate those days in April 2013. Prosecutors will show photos and videos of the bleeding, dazed victims. The wounded survivors at the finish line and the brave families of the 4 who died that week - 2 young women, an 8-year-old boy, and an MIT police officer - will be asked to re-experience the trauma that they (and we) can never forget. And round-the-clock news reporting will rekindle the emotions the event engendered.

But the fact is, it is not inevitable: There need not be a trial at all.

According to press accounts, this case is likely to be mainly about the penalty phase, the hearing that would follow conviction, if any, when jurors will be asked whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the chance of parole. At that stage, attention necessarily rotates away from accusations against Tsarnaev and the suffering of his victims to Tsarnaev's life: on his background, his upbringing, the influence of his older brother, Tamerlan - whatever "mitigating factors," as the law calls them, that his lawyers will argue should spare him from the death sentence. Tsarnaev's lawyers are duty-bound to bring every kind of mitigation before the jury; the judge is bound by law to let them do so; but should the survivors and the families of those who were murdered have to suffer through it?

If Tsarnaev is convicted of the crimes charged, he will die in prison. The only real issue is where and when. He can go to federal death row, where lawyers will bring appeals and post-conviction motions for years, where only three defendants have ever been executed, and where, as a prisoner slated for execution, he will continue to occupy the attention of the public, the judicial system, and extremists. Or he can be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in isolation, never to be heard from again, in a supermax cell in a maximum security federal prison built especially for those prisoners who are deemed the most dangerous, as has been the case with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui, and Richard Reid, the shoebomber.

Usually it doesn't take a months-long trial and millions of tax dollars to make that choice. In most death penalty cases, the federal government agrees to accept a guilty plea, and the defendant, on advice of counsel, agrees to waive his right to a trial, accept responsibility for his crimes, and agrees to be sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's attorneys want extra juror challenges, a motion opposed by prosecutors.

When that happens, the government presents in public a detailed description of the evidence it has gathered against the defendant as part of a guilty plea proceeding - but that process takes place in a day, not months. The case then goes to court for a final sentencing hearing, but this hearing is not like an ordinary trial or a contested penalty phase following conviction for a death penalty-eligible crime. The only voices heard are likely to be those of every survivor and every family member of a murdered son or daughter who wants to speak. Each can speak to the judge, to the public, and - if he or she chooses - directly to the defendant, who has no choice but to sit there and listen. The final hearing belongs to the survivors, not the lawyers - and certainly not to the defendant. There are no more battles between lawyers over technicalities, no fights over what evidence should stay hidden, and no appeals afterwards. No struggles between those of us who support the death penalty and those who oppose it. Everything is simple and final.

Why can't the Boston Marathon bombing trial be like that?

It takes both sides - the government and the defense - to agree. The defendant has to agree to plead guilty, and the government has to agree to accept a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, like it did with the Unabomber, the Olympic Park bomber, and many others who committed acts of violence in which people were killed and injured.

This community's response to the Marathon attacks set an example of courage and unity for the nation and the world. Now we're reaching the last chapter. That chapter doesn't have to be one of bitterness, division, and re-traumatization. This is our city, as David Ortiz said in the 1st Red Sox game after the bombing, and what happens over the next several months will have a deep and abiding impact on all of us. Wouldn't it be better if the Justice Department and Tsarnaev's defense attorneys got past the legal technicalities and found common ground? Let's write a last chapter that guarantees just punishment for Tsarnaev while putting the victims and the community at the center of the legal system's concerns.

(source: Opinion, Nancy Gertner, Michael B. Keating and Martin F. Murphy; Boston Globe)


Christian Groups Join New Coalition to Mobilize 90 Million Americans Against the Death Penalty

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty announced on Tuesday the launch of a new coalition uniting human rights organizations, religious groups, and pro-liberty advocacy groups to pressure state governments to put an end to capital punishment.

The coalition, which has up to 15 national partnering organizations, is named the "90 Million Strong" campaign, which signifies the 33 % of Americans, according to Gallup polls, who say they oppose the death penalty.

With only 28 states and the District of Columbia not currently using the death penalty, and seven states carrying out the death penalty in 2014, the coalition aims to fully mobilize the "90 million" Americans to lobby state-by-state to get the other states that still actively use the death penalty to halt what they claim are "unfair" and immoral practices.

Included in joining the coalition as national partners are various faith-based groups such as the Christian social justice organization Sojourners, Catholic Mobilizing Network and the General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church.

Speaking at the press conference announcing the coalition's launch, Jim Wallis, the president and founder of Sojourners, said that opposition to the death penalty is not a political stance, but rather a stance of Christian morality that can easily cross political boundaries.

Although many think of the conservative right as supporters of capital punishment, Wallis believes that many conservative Christians are starting to signify their opposition to death penalty because capital punishment conflicts with the Biblical teachings.

"The status quo is unacceptable and people of faith are joining together - across theological and political boundaries - in opposing the death penalty because it violates the most sacred of our commitments to the life that God has created," Wallis asserted. "I am having conversations all the time with religious conservatives around the country, who are joining up with liberal groups like this and are saying 'this has to end. This is no longer a political issue, this is for us, a moral issue and a Biblical issue."

Wallis continued by saying that society's implementation of the death penalty is often flawed, racially biased and does nothing to protect vulnerable people accused of a crime. Wallis quoted scripture by saying that a society's righteousness is based on how it treats its most vulnerable people.

"The single most important factor to who goes on death row is race. We can't accept that anymore. People who are intellectually disabled, indigent, are the ones on death row. This is wrong in terms of the poor and the vulnerable," Wallis said. "Death penalty does not put the worse crimes on trial, its vulnerable people."

With over 149 death row inmates since 1976 having been exonerated from their crime before they were able to be executed, Wallis said he wonders how many innocent people were wrongfully executed because of the mere existence of the death penalty.

"Only God knows how many people have been killed by the state wrongfully and they tend to be the most vulnerable," Wallis said.

Also speaking at the press conference was Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who said the American criminal justice system is filled with human imperfection and no court should have the right to issue a death sentence based off of the results from courtroom.

"The practice of government sponsored execution has no place in any civilized criminal justice system. No one knows better than criminal defense lawyers that the criminal justice system is fallible," Reimer asserted. "It is rife with human error at every stage, and it perpetuates racial and ethnic disparity. We simply cannot allow such a system to engage in the taking of human life."

Although 141 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty, America is not one of them despite considering itself as a golden standard of how government should respect individuals human rights.

"It is shameful that the United States holds itself out as a leader in human rights while still carrying out the cruel, inhuman and degrading practice of sentencing prisoners to death," Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins said in a statement. "Over a third of the states have done away with the death penalty. It is time for the rest of the country to follow suit."

Other organizations that have joined the coalition include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Union for Reform Judiasm, Alliance For Justice and the Center For Constitutional Rights.

(source: Christian Post)


Human Rights Day: abolishing the death penalty

Every year, on December 10, UN Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although the Declaration itself said nothing about the death penalty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that incorporated its values in 1966 made it clear in Article 6(6) that 'nothing ... should be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the ... Covenant,' which now has been ratified by all but a handful of nations.

Today, we pause to consider the considerable changes that have taken place in the use of capital punishment around the world over the past quarter of a century, changes which have shifted our pessimism - believing that in many regions of the world there was little hope of worldwide abolition occurring soon - towards increasing optimism. Since the end of 1988, the number of actively retentionist countries (by which we mean countries that have carried out judicial executions in the past 10 years) has declined from 101 to 39, while the number that has completely abolished the death penalty has almost trebled from 35 to 99; a further seven are abolitionist for all ordinary crimes and 33 are regarded as abolitionist in practice: 139 in all. In 2013 only 22 countries were known to have carried out an execution and the number that regularly executes a substantial number of its citizens has dwindled. Only 7 nations executed an average of 20 people or more over the 5 year period from 2009 to 2013: China (by far the largest number), Iran (the highest per head of population), Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Yemen. The change has been truly remarkable. Indeed, we have witnessed and recorded a revolution in the discourse on and practice of capital punishment since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

We have witnessed and recorded a revolution in the discourse on and practice of capital punishment since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This year's Human Rights Day slogan - Human Rights 365 - encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. What better day then to reflect on the dynamo for this new wave of abolition - the development of international human rights law and norms.

Arising in the aftermath of the Second World War and linked to the emergence of countries from totalitarian imperialism and colonialism, the acceptance of international human rights principles transformed consideration of capital punishment from an issue to be decided solely or mainly as an aspect of national criminal justice policy to the status of a fundamental violation of human rights: not only the right to not to be arbitrarily deprived of life but the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. The idea that each nation has the sovereign right to retain the death penalty as a repressive tool of its domestic criminal justice system on the grounds of its purported deterrent utility or the cultural preferences and expectations of its citizens was being replaced by a growing acceptance that countries that retain the death penalty - however they administer it - inevitably violate universally accepted human rights.

The human rights dynamic has not only resulted in fewer countries retaining the death penalty on their books, but also in the declining use of the ultimate penalty in many of those countries. Since the introduction of Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of those Facing the Death Penalty, which were first promulgated by the UN Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 and adopted by the General Assembly 30 years ago, there have been attempts to progressively restrict the use of capital punishment to the most heinous offences and the most culpable offenders and various measures to try to ensure that the death penalty is only applied where and when defendants have had access to a fair and safe criminal process. Hence, in many retentionist countries juveniles, the mentally ill, and the learning disabled are exempt from capital punishment, and some countries restrict the death penalty to culpable homicide.

There has been some strong resistance to the political movement to force change ever since the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989. Attempts by the abolitionist nations at United Nations Congresses, in the General Assembly, beginning in 1994, and at the Commission on Human Rights, annually from 1997, to press for a resolution calling for a moratorium on the imposition of death sentences and executions met with hostility from many of the retentionist nations. By 2005, when an attempt had been made at the Commission on Human Rights to secure sufficient support to bring such a resolution before the United Nations, it had been opposed by 66 countries on the grounds that there was no international consensus that capital punishment should be abolished. Since then, as the resolution has been successfully brought before the General Assembly, the opposition has weakened as each subsequent vote was taken in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012, when 111 countries (60 %) voted in favour and 41 against. Just 3 weeks ago, 114 of the UN's 193 member states voted in favour of the resolution which will go before the General Assembly Plenary for final adoption this month. The notion behind Human Rights 365 - that we are a part of a global community of shared values - is reflected in this increasing support for a worldwide moratorium as a further step towards worldwide abolition. We encourage all those who believe in human rights to continue working towards this ideal.

(source: Carolyn Hoyle & Roger Hood,


Iranian Resistance calls to save lives of 31 prisoners on verge of execution

The Iranian Resistance calls for saving the lives of 31 prisoners on the death row in the Ghezel Hesar Prison who have been transferred to an undisclosed location.

It also hails over 500 prisoners who have staged a strike in Ward 2 of Ghezel Hesar Prison and urges all international human rights bodies and organs to adopt urgent measures to investigate the demands of the striking prisoners and to stop the death sentences, especially the group hangings.

Since December 2, the prisoners in Hall 3 of Ward 2 of Ghezel Hesar have staged a hunger strike to protest the group and consecutive hangings in this prison in order to stop this barbaric punishment. These prisoners have resisted the suppressive and deceptive measures by the regime to break their strike and have continued with their hunger strike for 8 days now.

Prison's head warden has threatened the striking prisoners that if they continue with their protest he would execute 200 of them.

As such, on Sunday, December 7, henchmen took 31 prisoners on the death row out of this ward and transferred them to an undisclosed location. A number of those transferred to be hanged are the prisoners that regime's officers consider them as the main elements in the protests and the hunger strike in Ghezel Hesar Prison. During this transfer, one of the prisoners resisted his transfer and in protest to this transfer for carrying out his death sentence shouted "Death to Khamenei" and "Death to Larijani". Finally, he tried to injure himself in order to stop his transfer. It is stated that due to extent of his injuries, this prisoner is about to die, but prison officials refuse to allow any information on this prisoner from getting out.

The increase in the wave of executions in various prisons and cities of the country, including the hanging of at least 51 prisoners just in the time span of November 24 to December 3 demonstrates the fear of the religious fascism from the spread of protests by the Iranian people who are under great pressure and is aimed at heightening the atmosphere of terror in the society. Regime's officials admit that "security ... is the foremost worry for the judicial, security and law enforcement systems and they have implemented and shall continue to live up to this responsibility."

International community's turning of a blind eye to the tragic situation of human rights in Iran has given a free hand to the leaders of the Velayat-e faqih regime, famous among the people as the "Godfather of ISIS", to resort to any kind of barbarism, including the splashing of acid and knife attacks against the innocent women and the wave of group hangings in prisons and various cities throughout the country.

Any rapprochement with this anti-human regime should be contingent on the respect for human rights, including the suspension of the anti-human punishment of hanging.

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

SAUDI ARABIA----execution//female

Ethiopian who stabbed sleeping child beheaded in Saudi

An Ethiopian woman who stabbed a small Saudi girl 30 times in her sleep was beheaded by the sword on Tuesday in the conservative Muslim kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Khadija bint Mohammed Isa was executed in Hafar al-Batin, northeast Saudi Arabia, it said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

She had "killed 3-year-old child Aljazi bint Mohammed bin Fahd al Harbi... By stabbing her 30 times while she slept in her parents' room," the ministry said.

The suspect fled but was later captured and convicted, it said.

Local media said Isa was a maid, although SPA did not clarify her employment status or say what led to the killing.

Working conditions of more than 2.4 million foreign maids in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have been widely criticised.

Saudi Arabia last year passed new rules that grant maids one day of rest a week and guarantee the payment of their salaries.

Isa was the latest of 78 foreigners and Saudis most of them men executed in the kingdom this year despite international concerns over the number and judicial process.

The kingdom "is keen to protect security and justice", the interior ministry said.

Authorities also executed a convicted Saudi drug dealer on Tuesday, it said.

Nasser bin Amiq Ali al-Inzi was found guilty of trying to smuggle "a large amount" of amphetamines into the country.

He was beheaded in the northern Jawf region.

The interior ministry said last week that authorities had seized more than 41 million amphetamine tablets during the Islamic calendar year that ended in October.

Rape, apostasy and armed robbery are also punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


'No Mercy' for Death Row Inmates

The Indonesian government has signaled it will provide no clemency for the 68 inmates on death row for drug-related charges as it prepares to execute 5 prisoners this month.

"The instructions came directly from the president [Joko Widodo]," Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly said on Monday.

The Justice Ministry ďalong with the ministry of health, the National Narcotics Agency [BNN] and the National Police have conducted a cabinet meeting, the outcome of which decided that we will take a hard stance against drug traffickers," Yasonna said. "A least 68 [drug] convicts are currently on death row."

The Attorney General's Office revealed last week that five inmates would be executed this month after Joko had denied their petitions for clemency.

The AGO declined to provide details on the inmates' identities.

Joko defended his decision on Monday, saying: "It has been decided by the court [that the inmates are sentenced to death]. Everyone must respect this. Every country has its own rules."

The president was responding to criticism from local and international human rights groups that have made repeated appeals to Indonesia to eliminate its death penalty.

Capital punishment is a sentencing option for Indonesian judges on several convictions, including drug trafficking, murder, sedition and terrorism.

As of 2013, campaigners against the death penalty recorded that there were 113 prisoners awaiting execution, but since then, more than 16 have been sentenced to death by Indonesian judges.

Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said Joko was not planning to abolish capital punishment anytime soon, particularly in cases of drug trafficking.

"There will be no mercy for drug traffickers," Prasetyo said.

"If the legal aspects [of the case] are finalized, we will execute them straight away - no need for stalling," he added.

Justice Minister Yasonna said that Joko had declared war against drug traffickers, pointing to the increasing number of drug abuse victims.

"Some 4.3 million [drug] users were reported [last year], which increased to 5.8 million users [in 2014]," Yasonna said.

The coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, said the number of drug traffickers executed by the government was nothing compared to the number of people dying from drug overdoses.

"Each day, 30 to 40 of our children die because of drugs. Will we do nothing?" he said, adding that incarcerating drug traffickers would not stop them from doing business behind bars.

Traffickers "are still able to control their drug deals from inside the prison. The criminals are not sorry for what they have done. We must stop this," Tedjo said.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


This Mother Supports Death Penalty of Her Own Daughter

A 70 year old mother in Jember, Fatima is supporting the application of death penalty to Siti Soleha, her 38 year old daughter.

Siti Soleha is facing accusation of murdering her own child, Iin, who was 18. Her own mother hopes that the court can give a death verdict.

"Give the child a death penalty, I do not accept her killing my own grandchild," Fatima said after the court session as reported by on Tuesday (9 Dec 2014).

According to Fatima, she was often scolded by Siti Soleha. "Soleha often scolded me," Fatima said. The same tone is shared by Soleha's sister, Sumiati, who claimed that she often received rough treatments from her own sibling.

"She [Soleha] is rough to me and mother. She does not want to go to her family," said Sumiati, who also requested the court to give a death verdict to her sister.

"Do not give a life time sentence, just [give] her the death penalty," she said.

Soleha, has undergone a court session in Jember, East Java. The murder case was revealed after an admission from Soleha's 9 year old son. The case was only uncovered 2 years after the death of Iin, who was allegedly murdered and thrown to a septic tank by the accused. She was reportedly emotional upon seeing her glassware being broken by the now deceased.

(source: Global Indonesian Voices)


Death penalty does not deter drug traffickers

The Attorney Generals Office (AGO) has announced its plan to execute 5 people by the end of 2014: mostly drug traffickers.

Indonesia is among the few countries with the harshest drug laws, executing drug traffickers to create a deterrent effect.

However, Indonesia's position to retain the death penalty, particularly for drug offenses, is problematic.

First, the Indonesian legal community often refers to drug trafficking as an "extraordinary crime", thereby justifying the extraordinary punishment of the death penalty.

However, labeling drug trafficking as an extraordinary crime is groundless from the perspective of international law.

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - which Indonesia has ratified - states that for countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, it may only be imposed for "the most serious crimes".

Various UN bodies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions killings and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, have consistently asserted that drug offenses do not meet the threshold of "the most serious crimes" to which the death penalty may lawfully be applied.

In his 2012 report to the UN General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings stated that the death penalty should only be applied for offenses of intentional killings, based on the practices of retentionist states and the jurisprudence of the UN and other bodies.

In March 2014, the International Narcotics Control Board - the independent and quasi-judicial body for monitoring government compliance with the 3 international drug control conventions, of which Indonesia is a member, encouraged states to abolish the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

The 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances does not recognize the concept of "extraordinary crimes" for drug offenses. The convention places drug offenses into 2 categories.

First, drug offenses of a "grave nature", such as the production, manufacturing and extraction of drugs.

Second, offenses that are "particularly serious", such as the involvement of organized criminal groups in the production of drugs.

The 1988 convention does not explicitly recognize the death penalty for drug offenses.

Therefore, from an international drug law and international human rights law perspective, categorizing drug trafficking as an "extraordinary crime" and applying the death penalty to drug offenses is indefensible.

Second, the death penalty is retained because it is believed to have deterrence effect. This view is simply invalid. In 2008, Indonesia executed 2 drug traffickers and in 2013, it executed one more drug trafficker.

According to the 2012 death penalty report by the Harm Reduction International group, there were approximately 100 people on death row in Indonesia, including 58 drug traffickers.

According to the 2013 annual report of Indonesia's National Narcotics Agency (BNN), there were 260 drug traffickers arrested in 2013 - an increase from 157 people in 2011 and 202 people in 2012. These numbers suggest that while the death penalty is continuously imposed and executions are carried out, the crime of drug trafficking shows no sign of abating. It seems obvious that the death penalty does not deter drug traffickers.

Further, in the past few years there have been cases where drug traffickers were able to operate from inside the prison.

This indicates that they may not be afraid of the penalty because they can bribe prison officials and other law enforcers. Hence, the argument that death penalty carries a deterrence effect is implausible.

Third, it is also often argued that drug trafficking has fatal consequences for younger generations and therefore drug traffickers deserve to be sentenced to death. But as William Schabas - an international scholar on the death penalty - rightly points out, in most cases, the drug traffickers are arrested and the drugs are confiscated. Interdicting drugs before they reach the public means that the trafficker sentenced to death could not have sold the drugs nor could anyone else and, hence, no lives have been lost.

Fourth, the higher probability that a harsh sentence is to be passed down, the higher probability that corruption is involved.

It is widely known that the Indonesian legal system is tainted with corruption and bribery. In this corrupted legal environment, if a drug trafficker is arrested and punishable by the death sentence, he or she is ready to pay high sums to enforcers to avoid prosecution or seek lenient sentences.

Rich drug traffickers will likely be able to evade the death penalty while those who are poor and cannot afford to bribe will be the ones facing execution.

The intention that the death penalty will get rid of drug traffickers is therefore not achievable and the risk that the state executes the wrong person is higher.

Fifth, organizations running illicit drug trafficking are involved in a complex network controlled by some powerful people. Those arrested are often just drug mules taking the greatest risks.

Imposing the death penalty on them will not deter the drug kingpins controlling the syndicate as they will continue to seek, groom and exploit vulnerable individuals to do the dirty jobs.

Illicit drug trafficking unquestionably has harmful effects on individuals and society. However, there is a common misconception that imposing the death penalty and executing those involved in drug trafficking is the magic formula to address this problem. As the above arguments demonstrate, the death penalty is ineffective for combating drug trafficking, and thus Indonesia must evaluate its strategy.

Indonesia should probably start by evaluating its unrealistic "2015 Indonesia Drug Free" program. While drugs have negative impacts on human beings, drugs can be positive too, for the purposes of health, science and technology.

This means that we cannot live in a "drug-free world", but looking at Indonesia's stubbornness to retain the death penalty despite its useless effect, one would ask whether Indonesia is open and ready to evaluate its misguided beliefs.

(source: Opinion; Ricky Gunawan--The writer is director of LBH Masyarakat (the Community Legal Aid Institute), based in Jakarta---- Jakarta Post)


SC extends stay on 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon's execution

The Supreme Court on Wednesday further stayed the execution of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, lone death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, and sought responses from Maharashtra Special Task Force and CBI on his plea seeking review of death penalty awarded to him.

In an open court hearing, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice AR Dave, said the execution of Memon shall remain stayed during the pendency of his review petition against the imposition of death penalty and fixed the matter for further hearing on January 28, 2015.

"We are issuing notice," the bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph, said.

The counsel appearing for Memon said that neither the trial court nor the apex court gave special reasons for sending him to gallows.

"My entire conviction is based on retracted confessions of several co-accused," his lawyer said, adding, "the judgement under review does not talk about the fact and evidence that I took part in any terrorist activities".

The lawyer also alleged that Memon was convicted and then sentenced to death by the special TADA court even before the entire judgement was delivered, hence, his conviction was not valid.

Earlier, the review petitions used to be decided in chambers, but later, the apex court had ruled that such pleas, if directed against the imposition of death penalty, would be heard in open court.

The apex court had, on September 26, sought response from Maharashtra government and others on a plea of Memon that his review petition against the death penalty be heard in open court. It had also stayed the execution of Memon.

A constitution bench of the apex court had on June 2 held that years spent behind bars during prolonged judicial proceedings cannot be a ground for converting death sentence to life imprisonment and review plea of condemned prisoners must be given an open court hearing.

Taking a cue from the judgement by the constitution bench, Memon had said in his plea that according to the verdict, his review plea should be heard in an open court.

Memon is the 3rd death row convict, after Nithari rapist-cum-serial killer Surinder Koli, who had approached the apex court seeking hearing of their respective review pleas in an open court.

(source: Zee News)

DECEMBER 9, 2014:


After Delay, Inmate Is Executed in Georgia

After a 3-hour delay as Georgia prison officials waited for the United States Supreme Court to rule on last-ditch appeals, Robert Wayne Holsey was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday night.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the argument by Mr. Holsey's lawyers that the state's unusually strict standard for judging mental disability violated the Constitution.

The lawyers immediately appealed to the Supreme Court in Washington for a stay. But in a terse note issued some 45 minutes later than the originally scheduled execution time of 7 p.m., the court said the petition, based on the claim about Georgia's disability standard, had been denied. Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor would have granted the request, the notice said.

The defense lawyers then filed an usual second request for a delay, which the Supreme Court turned down around 10 p.m., allowing the lethal injection procedure to commence.

Mr. Holsey, 49, who killed a deputy sheriff, William Robinson, in Baldwin County after robbing a convenience store in 1995, died at 10:51 p.m., according to state officials.

On his final day, Mr. Holsey prayed and was visited by several relatives, his lawyers said.

In a statement on Tuesday, members of the slain deputy sheriff's family said they were relieved that the legal process had ended after 19 years and expressed appreciation for public support, The Associated Press reported. "William was a leader and true hero, evidenced by the years of outpouring of support to our family by all who loved and respected him," the Robinson family said.

Mr. Holsey's case received wide attention in part because his chief lawyer at his 1997 trial later admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka a day at the time. He had also been preoccupied with pending theft charges that sent him to prison.

An appeals court found that the defense had been deeply inept during the penalty phase of Mr. Holsey's trial. His lawyers failed to present potentially mitigating details about Mr. Holsey's history of abuse as a child and did not press arguments that he was intellectually disabled.

Mr. Holsey had an I.Q. of around 70, his lawyers said, on the borderline of a disability that could have made his execution illegal.

But state officials maintained that Mr. Holsey had been properly represented and was not severely disabled, and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could stand.

At issue in the new appeal to the state court on Tuesday was Georgia's requirement that intellectual disability be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt." The rule is stiffer than that in any other state and makes it nearly impossible, legal experts said, to declare as disabled a person who is near the borderline and only partly able to manage daily life.

Mr. Holsey's lawyers argued in a motion on Monday that the Georgia standard violated United States Supreme Court rulings, especially one in May that held that states could not create "an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed." The State Supreme Court rejected that appeal, with 2 of 7 members dissenting.

"By making it virtually impossible to prove intellectual disability, the Georgia standard reduces the Eighth Amendment's ban on executing people with intellectual disabilities to a nullity," Brian Kammer of the nonprofit Georgia Resource Center, one of Mr. Holsey's lawyers, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Many legal experts predict that the United States Supreme Court will at some point accept a case resembling Mr. Holsey's and declare the state's tough standard unconstitutional.

Holsey becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 55th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Holsey becomes the 34th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1393rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: New York Times & Rick Halperin)


Robert Wayne Holsey executed by lethal injection

Robert Wayne Holsey died by lethal injection Tuesday night for the killing of a Baldwin County deputy in 1995.

He was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

In his last moments, Holsey addressed the father of Deputy Will Robinson, who witnessed the execution. Holsey said: "Mr. Robinson, I'm sorry for taking your son's life that night. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and my family." That account comes from our reporter Randall Savage, who was among a handful of reporters who were also witnesses.

"Mr. Robinson, I'm sorry for taking your son's life that night. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."

Holsey was pronounced dead at 10:51 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Holsey earlier Tuesday evening.

That decision came after the Supreme Court of Georgia refused to block the execution in a 5-to-2 ruling Tuesday even though Holsey's attorney argued that the state's strict standards for determining intellectual disability violated his constitutional rights.

Holsey, 49, was convicted in 1997 for killing Baldwin County Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson following a convenience store robbery in 1995.

His trial lawyer, who admitted drinking vodka heavily during the trial, was later disbarred and given a 10-year sentence for stealing client funds.

(source: WMAZ news)


Prosecutor seeks death penalty for Oberhansley

Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart hopes that Joseph Oberhansley pays the ultimate price for the murder of Oberhansley's ex-girlfriend earlier this year.

Stewart filed a motion Friday, Dec. 5, in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 to amend Oberhansley's charges to include the death penalty.

Judge Vicki Carmichael has not yet ruled on Stewart's motion.

Oberhansley, 33, was arrested by the Jeffersonville Police Department on Sept. 11 at the home of Tammy Jo Blanton, 46, along Locust Street in Jeffersonville. He remains in the Clark County jail.

Officers responded to the home on a welfare check and found Oberhansley, along with Blanton's mutilated remains in the residence. Police have reported Oberhansley ate some of the woman's organs before their arrival.

During his initial hearing in Carmichael's court days after his arrest, Oberhansley interrupted the proceeding by announcing that his name was "Zeus Brown" and told the judge, "You have the wrong guy."

Oberhansley was originally charged with murder and level 6 felonies abuse of a corpse and residential entry. If Carmichael accepts Stewart's motion, the charges would be modified to murder with a request for the death sentence and level 4 felony burglary.

Attorney Mike McDaniel said he expects that he will take over as Oberhansley's counsel if the death-penalty enhancement is permitted. McDaniel said Tuesday that he had a 90-minute meeting with Oberhansley earlier in the day. He said the meeting was the 1st time that he had met Oberhansley and that they had a "calm discussion."

He said it is "way too early" to discuss any defense strategies he may pursue.

Oberhansley has an extensive criminal history, including a manslaughter conviction in 2000 for killing his girlfriend in Utah when he was 17-years-old that resulted in a 12-year prison sentence.

Stewart was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

(source: News and Tribune)

KENTUCKY----2, including female, face death penalty

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Martin Co. triple murder case

Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty against Jack Smith and Amanda Bowen both of Inez.

The pair face charges in connection with the murders of Tina Goble, her boyfriend, Cannie Johnson, and Goble's granddaughter Trinity Maynard, who was only 8-years-old.

Investigators say all three were shot and stabbed to death. They were found at Goble's burned home in Inez in August

In filing the notice prosecutors say there were aggravating circumstances including that the murders were intentional and that the motive was robbery.

The pair is not scheduled to be back in court until March.

(source: WKYT news)

CALIFORNIA----death row inmate dies

Death-row inmate convicted of Orangevale murder dies

Michael Lee Elliot, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison for a 1994 Orangevale murder, died while in custody Monday.

The cause of the death is unknown, pending an autopsy, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said. Elliot, 55, lived in a cell by himself in a hospital, according to Department of Corrections news release.

He was pronounced dead at 3:46 p.m. Monday. Elliot was sentenced to death Oct. 31, 1996, for the June 1994 murder and attempted robbery of part-time bartender Sherri Gandy. The killing occurred in the early morning hours at the Black Stallion bar in Orangevale.

During the trial, Elliot admitted he killed Gandy, a single-mother, but said it was a crime of passion.

According to the Department of Corrections, since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978, 66 inmates have died of natural causes, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, 1 was executed in Missouri, 6 have died from other causes and 1 is pending cause of death. There are 749 people on the state's death row.

(source: Sacramento Bee)


Tortured 9/11 mastermind should not face death penalty----It's not legal, humane, or fair to execute a person after torturing him.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, should not have to face the death penalty, his lawyer said Tuesday, following revelations of torture in a scathing US Senate report.

"It's not legal, humane, or fair to execute a person after torturing him," David Nevin told AFP.

Mohammed is known to have been waterboarded 183 times in secret CIA prisons and in March 2003 he was subjected to 5 waterboard sessions over 25 hours.

"Holding a real execution of Mr Mohammad, after 183 mock executions, is cruel and unusual punishment," prohibited under the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, Nevin said.

"The brutality revealed in the details of the torture is quite shocking," he said, and "produced absolutely no useful information."

Tuesday's report revealed that sleep deprivation for over a week, beatings, shackling and waterboarding were among the cruel methods used by the George W. Bush-era CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda terror suspects.

The document found that the techniques employed by the Central Intelligence Agency were "far more brutal" than the spy agency had previously admitted to.

The lawyer for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who allegedly led Al-Qaeda operations in the Gulf, said it was "stunning" that the prosecutors knew of the torture "for years and hid it from the court in violation of their professional obligations."

Al-Nashiri, who was tortured in CIA prisons, is accused of masterminding a suicide bombing of the USS Cole which killed 17 American sailors in 2000 off the coast of Yemen.

"The fact that military and civilian prosecutors are protecting torturers who were acting in violation of American and international law is disappointing, although regrettably not unexpected," Richard Kammen told AFP.

Rights advocates hailed the exposure following the report's release, but criticized a Justice Department announcement that it will not prosecute any US officials implicated.

It was regrettable that "the government has excluded from the report the identities of the torturers, the locations of the torture, and many other facts," said James Connell, the civilian lawyer for Mohammad's nephew and accused co-conspirator Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali.

He called for the publication of "the remaining 6,125 pages": of the redacted report.

Lieutenant Colonel Sterling Thomas, Ali's military lawyer, said that "torture violates American military values."

"The military commission should order access to the full torture report and its underlying documents as part of that accounting for torture," he said.

According to the Senate report, Mohammed was the detainee who was tortured the most of the 39 prisoners who underwent the interrogation techniques.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

TEXAS----new execution date

Execution delayed until January

The killer of Vicki Garner, who was murdered in Tyler in 1996, has delayed his date with the execution chamber in Huntsville for at least another month as a result of a paperwork snag.

Family members were bitterly disappointed when they learned the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) cancelled Robert Charles Ladd's execution - which was to have been held this Thursday, Dec. 11 - because of a paperwork delay.

"It was a crushing blow," Teresa Wooten, the sexual assault director at the SAFE-T women's shelter, said. "We had all worked so hard to set this date by the end of the year."

Judge Christi Kennedy of the 114th District Court in Tyler held a hearing and ruled the execution should move forward on Nov. 7. The request by Ladd's attorney for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in October.

But Wooten said Judge Kennedy did not sign her court order until Nov. 13, thereby running afoul of a state law the specifies an execution cannot fall less than 31 days after the court order.

It seems to have simply been an error, Wooten said.

"When they realized their mistake, I will say they did their best to try to get around it," she said.

But the TDCJ followed the law and rejected the date. The order has now been filed, and the execution date reset for Jan. 29.

Vicki Ann Garner, a member of the Mount Pleasant High School class of 1977, was brutally murdered on Sept. 25, 1996 in Tyler.

Garner was found dead in her home. She had been raped and strangled to death. In addition, her house was robbed and then set on fire.

A police investigation quickly connected Ladd to Garner's murder. Ladd's DNA was found on Garner, his hand print was found in Garner's kitchen, and Ladd had sold a TV set that had been taken from Garner's residence in exchange for crack cocaine.

Soon after, Ladd was indicted for capital murder, because the murder occurred during the commission of burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and arson.

On Aug. 23, 1997, a Texas state jury convicted Ladd of capital murder, and, on August 27, 1997, the jury imposed the death penalty.

"It took them 20 minutes to reach a verdict," Wooten said. "They said it was the fastest verdict in a death penalty case they had ever seen."

Vicki's mother died in 2011 and her father in 2013. In addition to Wooten, she is survived by an older sister, Kathy Pirtle, who lives in Upshur County.

Wooten said that she went to work for SAFE-T as a result over the years of being driven by the need to find justice for Vicki.

(source: Daily Tribune)


Jose E. Reyes Trial Begins: Horrific 'Satanic Ritual' Details Revealed In Grisly Court Statements

The trial of Jose E. Reyes, the Houston 18-year-old accused of the horrifying "Satanic ritual" murder of 15-year-old Corriann Cervantes in February, opened in a Texas state court Monday with prosecutors spelling out in graphic detail the sickening acts committed against the girl - gruesome crimes that even Reyes own defense lawyer acknowledged had actually taken place.

But Reyes lawyer, Bob Loper, appeared to adopt the strategy of trying to pin the worst of the crimes on Reyes' younger accomplice, Victor Alas.

"This was a horrible murder of a young girl and we're not going to shy away from that," Loper admitted to the jury in his opening statement. "You've got to ferret out for yourselves exactly what happened and who is responsible for which parts."

Reyes and Alas, prosecutors say, wanted to sell their souls to the devil, which they believed meant they must carry out heinous crimes.

According to prosecutor John Jordan, Cervantes accompanied the 2 boys to a vacant apartment in Houston's Clear Lake district after an evening of partying with booze and pot. At the apartment, they engaged in consensual sex - but the party quickly took a dark and violent turn.

"Whether or not the devil was involved, what happened in that apartment was sadistic and inhumane," Jordan told the jury, going on to spare nothing in his description of the brutal torture-slaying.

After or during the initial, consensual sex act, Reyes and his friend mercilessly beat Cervantes with the porcelain lid of a toilet tank, leaving pieces of porcelain embedded in her face when her body was found 4 days later, on February 8.

The 2 teens violently raped the battered girl, stabbed her numerous times with a screwdriver in her face and body - then used a plastic window blind to gouge out her eyes. The whole time, Cervantes was still alive.

Cervantes told Alas to strangle the girl with a belt in order to seal his deal with Satan, according to the prosecutor.

Police say that Reyes confessed in detail to the grisly murder shortly after his arrest. He told police that after the 2 boys had sex with Cervantes, they attacked her. Corriann tried to run, screaming, "Why are you doing this to me?"

She continued to plead for her life as they tortured her and dug her eyes out.

"He said he had no regrets," Jordan told the jury.

The Jose E. Reyes trial in expected to last the remainder of the week. Alas will be tried separately, also as an adult, although he was only 16 at the time of the murder. If convicted, both boys could face the death penalty.



Robert Ladd has been given an execution date for January 29; it should be considered serious.


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

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

280------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------519

281------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------520

282------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------521

283------------Jan. 29-------------------Robert Ladd----------522

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

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

286------------Mar. 5--------------------Rodney Reed----------525

287------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------526

288------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------527

289------------Apr. 9--------------------Kent Sprouse---------528

290------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------529

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Murder Witnesses Testify In Penalty Phase of Eric Williams Trial

Witnesses to a shooting that rocked Kaufman County gave dramatic testimony Monday during the punishment phase of the Eric Williams capital murder trial.

Williams faces the death penalty.

Even though a jury convicted Williams last Thursday of murdering Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in March, 2013, prosecutors told jurors Williams also shot and killed McLelland's top assistant DA 2 months earlier - for the very same reason: Hasse and McLelland prosecuted Williams for stealing county computer equipment in 2012, and a jury convicted him.

As a result, Williams lost his job as a Justice of the Peace and his law license. Williams hasn't stood trial yet for Hasse's murder. But on Monday, several witnesses told jurors what they saw on that morning of January 31, 2013 one block away from the Kaufman County courthouse where Hasse was reporting for work.

Lenda Bush told jurors that from her car, she saw someone wearing a long dark coat and a hooded mask gun down Hasse. "There was a shoving match. The shooter put the gun to Mark's neck and shot down and I counted 3 shots, but I counted more shots than that."

Bush says she saw the victim fall to the ground, and the shooter walking into a waiting getaway car, a Mercury Sable. She says she followed the shooterís vehicle in her car for 2 or 2 1/2 blocks and realized it didn't have front or rear license plates. Bush says she then went to help the victim and realized it was Hasse.

Martin Cerda also testified he saw Hasse being shot.

Through an interpreter, he said just before the shooting, he heard Hasse plead for his life, telling the shooter, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Cerda said the shooter then fired at Hasse. "He points the gun to the chest and fired. He falls down. He got close to him and fired again. He emptied the gun on him, pulled out another gun, started firing again."

In all, prosecutors say Hasse had 5 gun shot wounds, including a fatal one to the head.

Patricia Luna, another woman who was across the street at the time and heard the gun shots, fought back tears as she told jurors about that morning. "I'm sorry, but, it's hard."

Luna sobbed as she recalled the moment she first saw Hasse. "I saw Mark dead. There was another girl who tried to do CPR, but he was dead already. There was a lot of blood, I've never seen so much blood in my life."

Luna, Cerda, and Bush said they couldn't identify the shooter because he was wearing a hooded mask. Prosecutors though told jurors Eric Williams was the shooter.

They showed the jury Williams' mask and guns he used during the murder that a DPS dive team discovered at the bottom of murky Lake Tawakoni.

The 1st Kaufman police officer who responded to the scene, Sgt. Jason Statsny, says he was in the area, when he heard eight gunshots.

He described them as methodical and demonstrated for jurors how they sounded by banging on the witness stand.

The officer says as soon as he arrived on scene, he relieved Bush who was giving Hasse chest compressions. "I would tell him to hang in there, it was going to be ok. And then he would breathe again. I think he took a total of 6 or 7 breaths while I was doing CPR."

Sgt. Statsny says Hasse would later take his final breath before paramedics arrived.

On Monday, prosecutors say they may wrap up their part of the punishment phase Tuesday. Williams' estranged wife Kim, who's also charged in the murders, may testify against him. Then, Williamsí defense attorneys will present their opening statement and witnesses in an effort to convince the jury to sentence Williams to life in prison and spare him from the death penalty.

Judge Mike Snipes cautioned jurors this case go continue through next week.

(source: CBS news)


MD Death Row Inmate Seeks to Overturn Law

Attorneys for a man on Maryland's death row will argue before an appeals court that his sentence is illegal because the state no longer has a death penalty.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that lawyers for Jody Lee Miles, who has been on death row since 1998, will argue before the Court of Special Appeals on Monday that the state lacks the authority to execute Miles and will ask for a new sentence that includes the possibility of parole.

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill repealing the death penalty in 2013. O'Malley has not commuted the sentences of the 4 men who remain on death row, but in recent weeks has reached out to family members of their victims to discuss the possibility.

(source: Associated Press)


Gansler tells appeals court Jody Lee Miles should not be executed

Both Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and lawyers for death-row inmate Jody Lee Miles argued to an appeals court Monday that Miles should no longer be subject to capital punishment.

Miles is seeking to have his sentence changed in the wake of the General Assembly's repeal of the death penalty last year. The legislature's action did not directly affect the sentences of the 4 remaining men on Maryland's death row, but Gansler (D) argued that the state is "no longer legally or factually able to carry out" executions.

Gansler, who leaves office next month, said the state would like to convert Miles's sentence to life without the possibility of parole, which he said is "in effect a death sentence." Miles is seeking a new sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

"He's the best of the best of inmates," one of his lawyers, Brian Saccenti, told a 3-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.

Miles was convicted in the 1997 robbery and murder of a musical-theater director in Wicomico County.

Maryland has not had regulations in place since late 2006 on how to execute prisoners through lethal injections. A court found the protocols had not been properly adopted, and the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) - a death penalty opponent - never implemented new rules.

With the death penalty no longer on the books, the state cannot develop new regulations on carrying out executions, even under a new governor, Gansler said. Keeping Miles on death row, Gansler argued, therefore violates his due-process rights.

Gansler announced the state's position at a news conference last month. Technically, the stance applies only to Miles, but Gansler said it opens the door to similar legal motions by the state's other death-row inmates.

It is also possible O'Malley could commute the sentences of all or some of the 4 death-row inmates before Jan. 21, when he leaves office and Larry Hogan (R) is sworn in.

O'Malley has started reaching out to relatives of the victims of the 4 inmates, stirring speculation that he might commute their sentences in the twilight of his tenure.

(source: Washington Post)


Police officers support repeal of death penalty----Delaware Repeal Project rallies support to end capital punishment

John Breckinridge, a retired police officer from Manchester, N.H., hasn't always been against the death penalty.

In the months and years after he witnessed his partner slain in the line of duty, Breckinridge was as staunch a supporter of the death penalty as there could be.

"I was pretty hardcore on board," he said. "I wanted this guy dead."

Breckinridge was in Delaware as part of Death Penalty Awareness Days put on by the Delaware Repeal Project, a group attempting to repeal the death penalty in Delaware.

Breckinridge, along with Chief James Abbott of the West Orange Police Department in New Jersey and former investigator with the New York State Police Terrence Dwyer, spoke at a number of town hall meetings in Kent and New Castle counties Nov. 18-20.

Abraham J. Bonowitz, project consultant, said the former police officers were brought to Delaware to show the public police officers do support the repeal of the death penalty.

Senate Bill 19, repealing capital punishment in Delaware, made it through the Senate in March 2013 by an 11 to 10 vote, but it was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee and never saw the House floor for discussion.

Bonowitz said a new bill will have to be introduced; he hoped the recent meetings would rally support before the beginning of a new legislative session.

During a visit to the Cape Gazette offices Nov. 20, Breckinridge described his partner's death and how it affected his life.

He and partner Michael Briggs were on patrol when a call came through about a domestic dispute. Breckinridge said the dispute involved 2 guys who had recently risen to the top of the Manchester police department's list of bad guys, so they knew there was a potential for trouble.

Fortunately, nothing happened. The men handled the situation, and went on their way - 15 minutes from finishing their shift at 3 a.m.

Breckinridge said he wanted to go back to the department, finish the paperwork associated with the dispute, and go home. Briggs wanted to check something else out, so Breckinridge went with him because that's what good partners do.

The officers came across the 2 men from the domestic dispute. As they approached, one pulled a gun out of the front pocket of a sweatshirt and shot Briggs in the head.

Breckinridge doesn't remember much of the immediate aftermath. He knows he fired off 4 shots, but they all missed. He knows he wishes he hadn't missed.

"I beat myself up a lot about that," he said.

Breckinridge said Briggs was the type of guy who could have dated his sister and he would have been OK with it.

The killer was found in Boston, convicted for the murder in 2008 and put on death row in New Hampshire. The man is the only person on New Hampshire's death row.

Breckinridge said there's video out there of him being asked how he felt after the conviction. It has him saying he thought it was the right thing to do.

"I was just so damn angry," he said.

Breckinridge said he began to change his opinion of the death penalty when it nearly ruined his marriage. It was close enough, he said, that when the couple went to a counselor it was to figure out what to do with the kids, not to try and work things out.

He said he was drinking heavily. He was the guy who would stay on a friend's couch until he was kicked out.

His first step in making amends with his family was retiring from his job in 2010. He had been on the force for 22 years. He said retiring helped because the anger began to die down when he was not around the other officers everyday.

Being a police officer is like being a member of a fraternity, said Breckinridge. "There's a lot of pressure to think alike."

Then he started going back to church, which made him begin to question the morality of wanting another human dead.

Breckinridge also began reading research and discovered it's more expensive to use the death penalty than to put someone in prison for life. He said estimates show that annually it costs about $30,000 to house an inmate. He said the state of New Hampshire has spent nearly $5 million on just this case because of all the appeals associated with a capital punishment case. Additionally, the state doesn't have a place to actually carry out an execution. He said it would cost about $1 million to build that facility.

Finally, Breckinridge spoke with people who had been wrongly convicted of a crime, put on death row and then exonerated because advances in science proved they were innocent. One of the guys he spoke with, Kirk Bloodsworth, was in Delaware in February with the Delaware Repeal Project pushing for SB19 to be voted on. Bloodsworth spent nine years in jail, two of them on death row, before a DNA test proved his innocence.

Nearly a decade after his partner's slaying, Breckinridge said, there are still side affects from the incident. He's got a "weird twitch" that didn't exist beforehand. He'll dream about the shooting and wake up in a bad mood, which, he said, his wife calls "waking up bad." Without warning, the shooting will pop into his head.

"There's no real trigger," he said. "It just replays in my head."

Breckinridge said the message he wanted get across during his visit was more about trying to get people to think for themselves. Most people don't think about the death penalty until they're faced with a situation that forces them to, he said.


GEORGIA----impending execution

Ga. to execute man who killed sheriff's deputy

A Georgia death row inmate who killed a sheriff's deputy is set to be executed.

Robert Wayne Holsey's execution is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at a state prison in Jackson. A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey of killing Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

Holsey robbed a Milledgeville convenience store early on Dec. 17, 1995. The clerk called police right after he left and described the robber and his car.

Robinson pulled Holsey over minutes later. Authorities say Holsey fired at Robinson as the deputy approached the vehicle.

Lawyers for Holsey have argued that he is intellectually disabled and therefore shouldn't be executed. They say his trial lawyer failed to tell the jury about that disability and other evidence that could have spared him the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Court won't toss appeal of '94 rape conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied a prosecutor's motion 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.

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's office argued in requesting the dismissal that Crawford got a fair trial and that, if there was any error, it was Crawford's for waiting 20 years to appeal.

The Supreme Court denied the motion Thursday without comment.

Crawford argues that the 1994 rape conviction should be tossed out because he received poor legal representation. The appeal could mean the difference between life and death for Crawford.

Crawford was arrested in 1992 and charged with rape and aggravated assault. While free on bond, he was arrested on murder charges. 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.

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.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor to seek death penalty for cannibal

Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart has filed his intent to seek the death penalty against confessed cannibal Joseph Oberhansley.

Oberhansley, 33, is accused of killing his 46-year-old girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton before he ate parts of her brain, heart and a lung.

A hearing is scheduled next week for Oberhansley on the amended case information that also lists burglary and dismemberment, which are among the required "aggravating circumstances" under Indiana law for seeking capital punishment.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 16.

On Sept. 11, Jeffersonville Police responded twice to Blanton's home in the 300 block of Locust Street near downtown.

Blanton initially called 911 about 3 a.m., saying her ex-boyfriend was outside and refused to leave. She told police when they arrived that she had broken up with Oberhansley and the locks had been changed, according to the probable cause affidavit from Jeffersonville Detective Todd Hollis.

Police told Oberhansley to leave and officers made sure he did after Blanton talked with him outside. Then about seven hours later, police received a call from Sabrina Hall, one of Blanton's co-workers, who was concerned that she didn't show up at work since another friend told her Blanton had been having trouble with her boyfriend.

Police found the rear door of her home had been forced open. Blanton's dismembered body was found in the bathtub covered by a tent, surrounded by pools of blood in the tub and on the floor.

"The front of the victim's skull appeared to have been crushed and brain tissue appeared scattered around the bathtub," the affidavit states.

Oberhansley admitted to police that he had broken into the house and the bathroom, where Blanton had locked herself inside. He killed her using a knife then used an electric jigsaw to cut open her skull, according to the affidavit.

Police found a bloody knife in Oberhansley's pocket. And the next day, while the crime scene was being cleaned, a worker told police he noticed a saw blade under the bathroom garbage can.

In 1998, Oberhansley was convicted of killing his former girlfriend in Utah. He served 14 years before being released in 2012.

Utah discharged him from parole on July 23, and on July 31, Oberhansley's then-girlfriend Blanton posted $500 bond for him on charges of criminal recklessness and resisting law enforcement stemming from a slow-speed car chase that crossed the Kentucky state line, The Courier-Journal previously reported.

Prosecutor-elect Jeremy Mull said in September that Oberhansley "should have still been in jail," though another deputy prosecutor agreed to have the $25,000 cash bond for the car chase reduced to $5,000 without Mull's knowledge.

Blanton posted the required 10 %, or $500, for him on July 31.

The deputy prosecutor who agreed to the reduced bond, Benjamin Read, left the office before Blanton was murdered to work in private practice, said Stewart, who doesn't believe it would have made a difference when Oberhansley was set free.

(source: The Courier-Journal)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Attorney tries to save Mo. death row inmate

Convicted murderer Paul Goodwin will be executed December 10 at 12:01 a.m. unless his legal team can convince Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to halt the execution.

"I believe that Paul is mentally retarded," said attorney Jennifer Herndon. "On top of that, even more, I believe he is incompetent to be executed. I think the reason we're optimistic is because we believe that's the just outcome."

Goodwin's attorney met Monday morning with the governor's staff, asking for a stay of execution because of Goodwin's intellectual disability, what used to be referred to as "mental retardation."

"We as a society have decided it's not okay to execute someone who is either mentally retarded or incompetent to be executed," Herndon said.

No one is disputing that 6'7", 300-pound Paul Goodwin committed the crime. Joan Crotts was beaten to death with a hammer inside her home in 1998. Goodwin confessed to the crime, Crott's blood was found on Goodwin's clothes, and his fingerprints were found at the scene. The 48-year- old Goodwin has been on death row at Potosi Correctional Institution for 17 years.

What has been disputed in multiple appeals and a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court decision is Goodwin's intellectual disability. Herndon, Goodwin's attorney since 2007, said no court fully examined it.

"The Missouri Supreme Court gives a lot of weight to what the lower court did and the lower courts just messed it up," Herndon said. "It was kind of a double whammy. The lawyer didn't do a good job of presenting it and the court didn't do a good job of considering it."

South Carolina psychologist Dr. Denis Keyes is an expert on mental retardation and capital punishment who has met with Paul Goodwin several times since 2001.

"For him to really understand what is involved in the death penalty would require him to function on a much higher level than he does. He functions verbally somewhere around 10 or 11 years old," said Keyes.

In the clemency appeals report that went to the governor, Keyes wrote that a diagnosis of mental retardation is appropriate for Goodwin.

"His mental retardation is to the extent that it serves no purpose of justice to execute him," said Keyes. "Atkins vs. Virginia was the Supreme Court case in 2002 that supposedly did away with the death penalty for people who are intellectually impaired to this extent."

Forensic social worker Caryn Tattani interviewed prison employees and inmates to determine Goodwin's intellectual impairment. One of Goodwin's former cellmates related a story to Tattani.

"When it was time to clean the cell, Paul would get the cleaning detergent and a rag, and squirt the detergent into the toilet bowl and he would swish the rag around in the toilet bowl to create suds and then he would wipe the cell down using this rag that he was dipping in and out of the toilet bowl," Tattani said

Goodwin became defensive and angry when he was criticized for using toilet bowl water to clean his cell, until his mother explained why he needed to stop.

In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Goodwin was intelligent enough to die for his crime.

"Even though the Missouri Supreme Court found against Paul and said even though he didn't meet the statutory definition of mentally retarded, they also said in their opinion he can come back and challenge competency to be executed and that's exactly what he's doing," Herndon said.

(source: KSDK news)


Family Seeks Clemency for Condemned Missouri Man

The sister of Missouri death row inmate Paul Goodwin is asking Gov. Jay Nixon to commute the sentence to life in prison, calling execution an unjust penalty for a man with the mental capabilities of a child.

Paul Goodwin, 48, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He used a hammer to kill Joan Crotts, a 63-year-old widow, in St. Louis County in 1998.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and a clemency petition both claim that Goodwin has an IQ of 73. His sister, Mary Mifflin, wrote in a statement that her brother remains child-like, even in prison. She said the death penalty "is not a just punishment for his crime ? an act that occurred out of passion, not premeditation, by a man with the mental capabilities of a child, not an adult."

The Missouri Attorney General's office respond to the Supreme Court petition by citing testimony at Goodwin's trial, where a psychologist testified that Goodwin's IQ is low, but not low enough to be considered mentally disabled.

The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Goodman received special education as a child but still failed several grades, Mifflin wrote. He relied on relatives and his girlfriend to help with such tasks as buying groceries or paying bills, she said.

When the girlfriend died, Goodwin wasn't capable of handling the grief and turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his attack on Crotts, Mifflin wrote.

Goodwin is sorry for the crime, attorney Jennifer Herndon said.

"From the beginning he's said, 'This is horrible.' But he's so impaired he doesn't really have the ability to show remorse like a normal adult would show," she said.

But Crotts' daughter, Debbie Decker, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Goodwin deserves no mercy.

"I've been sitting back waiting for this to happen," Decker said. "I'm hoping all these bad memories will go away."

In the mid-1990s, Goodwin lived in a St. Louis County boarding house that was next door to Crotts' home. The 2 had been involved in several verbal confrontations.

Goodwin was evicted in 1996 after he and friends harassed Crotts, including throwing beer cans into her yard. Court records show that Goodwin blamed Crotts for his eviction, telling her, "I'm going to get you for this," according to trial testimony.

On March 1, 1998, Goodwin entered Crotts' home and confronted her. After a sexual assault, he pushed her down the basement stairs before striking her head several times with a hammer. She died at a hospital.

Police found a handwritten note on Crotts' kitchen table that read, "You are next." Fingerprints from the note and a Pepsi can matched Goodwin's, and his hearing aid was also found inside the home. He admitted the crime after his arrest.

A separate appeal to the Supreme Court raises concerns about Missouri's use of an execution drug purchased from an undisclosed compounding pharmacy. The state's response notes that the high court has already denied similar petitions in previous executions.

The execution would be the 10th in Missouri this year - the most ever. It would also tie Texas for the most executions in any state in 2014. Texas, Missouri and Florida have combined for 27 of the 33 executions in the U.S. this year.

(source: Associated Press)


James Holmes defense team asks for trial delay

Defense lawyers in the Aurora theater shooting case requested a delay in the start of the trial.

The judge is considering their request.

The case has been delayed 5 times.

Attorneys for shooter James Holmes say they need more time to go over a doctor's report that evaluates their client's sanity.

Legal expert Craig Silverman says this request doesn't come as a surprise. "Delay is always the ally of a death penalty defendant. The longer the trial takes the more certainty your client will remain alive."

The defense team also told the judge that unspecified medical emergencies involving one of their lawyers and an investigator have slowed their preparation.

A decision on the delay request is expected in the next few days.

(source: KDVR news)


Death penalty sought in NorCal deputy killings----Sacramento, Placer independently decide on seeking punishment

Prosecutors in Placer and Sacramento counties have decided to seek the death penalty for a man suspected of killing 2 Northern California sheriff's deputies.

A man armed with a rifle who shot 3 Northern California sheriff's deputies, killing 2, was apprehended after a manhunt Friday that spanned 2 counties, authorities say.

12 days ago, Anthony Holmes was listed in critical condition at the UC Davis Medical Center after he was shot 4 times at close range during a deadly crime rampage.

The Sacramento District Attorney said the 2 counties independently came to the same conclusion after interviewing witnesses and the victims' families.

Luis Enrique Monroy Bracamontes, as he was named in a court filing on Tuesday, is accused of killing a Sacramento County deputy and Placer County deputy during an October crime spree. He was previously identified as Marcelo Marquez.

Bracamontes' wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy, is also a suspect in the October crime spree, which started when two officers attempted to conduct a routine check-up on a suspicious vehicle parked outside a Sacramento motel.

The deadly chain of event escalated from there when Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver was shot in Sacramento. He later died from his wounds.

A wild 6-hour chase ensued and led to the shooting death of Placer County Sheriff's Det. Michael David Davis Jr.

(source: KCRA news)


Can the death penalty be abolished?

Just hours before a scheduled execution in Georgia, a coalition of civil rights groups announced a new push to end the death penalty in the United States.

The groups, including NAACP and Amnesty International, said there was new momentum for the cause as support for capital punishment erodes, more states abolish the death penalty and a series of botched executions has opened Americans' eyes to what they view as the brutality of the practice. They condemned it as an outdated, immoral and racist institution and pledged to redouble their efforts to reach out to the 90 million Americans, who they said oppose the practice.

"The practice of government-sponsored execution simply has no place in a modern criminal justice system," said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 1 of the groups in the "90 Million Strong" coalition.

The announcement came as another controversial execution loomed - that of Robert Wayne Holsey, a convicted cop-killer in Georgia who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday. A parole board refused to grant clemency to Holsey on Monday, "apparently unpersuaded by evidence that he was ineptly represented at trial by a drunken lawyer, had an exceptionally harsh childhood and has a severe intellectual deficit," according to The New York Times.

The trial lawyer admitted he was drinking as much as a quart of vodka a day and at the time of Holsey's conviction was facing theft charges of his own, the Times said.

It's not exactly an unfamiliar story. By this point, many Americans are no doubt familiar with the fact that African Americans are disproportionately convicted of capital crimes, that indigent criminals often receive subpar representation and that those who commit capital crimes sometimes suffer from mental and intellectual disabilities. But would they go so far as to abolish the death penalty?

The answer is, probably not. 60 % of Americans favor the death penalty, according to a June Washington Post-ABC News poll, while 37 % are opposed.

Still, this coalition may have some hope. Support for the death penalty is down substantially from 1994, when 80 % of Americans supported the death penalty, the poll showed. And for the 1st time, the poll showed that more than half of Americans say they prefer a life sentence for convicted murderers rather than execution, with the shift primarily resulting from changing opinions among nonwhites.

(source: Washington Post)


Woman seeking change of venue in murder case retrial----Death sentence sought again for woman who aided boyfriend's murders

A former Klemme woman accused in 5 1993 drug-related North Iowa slayings wants her death penalty retrial moved out of the state.

Attorneys for Angela Johnson have filed motions asking that the case be moved to Minnesota or alternatively to hold the trial outside of the western and central parts of Iowa. The retrial is scheduled for March 2015.

Her death sentences were overturned in 2012 after a judge determined Johnson's defense was inadequate and failed to present evidence about her mental state that could have convinced jurors to spare her life.

The convictions stood. Only the penalties will be at issue in the retrial.

According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, the motion for change of venue is based on "extensive, recent and prejudicial pretrial publicity in the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa about the specific fact that she has previously been convicted and sentenced to death."

The prosecution alleges Johnson helped her boyfriend, Dustin Honken, carry out the killings to thwart a federal investigation into their drug enterprise. Honken was convicted separately and is on death row.

Johnson became the 1st woman sent to federal death row in decades after a jury gave her 4 death sentences following a 2005 trial for her role in the execution-style killings of 3 adults and 1 children in North Iowa.

Court documents have also been filed asking the court to rule the death penalty is unconstitutional as applied to Johnson.

If she is again sentenced to death, court documents estimate by the time she exhausts all her appeals she would not be executed before approximately 2025, or about 32 years after the crimes occurred.

"Society's interest in retribution will have been served by her lifelong incarceration. Any deterrent effect will have long gone by the wayside," court documents state.

Johnson has been incarcerated for more than 14 years and on death row for almost 10.

(source: WCF Courier)


Prosecutors, defense lawyers spar over jury selection in Tsarnaev trial

Federal prosecutors and lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sparred in legal filings on Monday over jury selection in the highly anticipated trial, which could bring the death penalty.

In 1 filing in federal court in Boston, prosecutors opposed a defense request to be allotted 30 peremptory challenges in the case. Peremptory challenges are objections that typically bar potential jurors from serving, without any explanation needed from the lawyers.

The jury in Tsarnaev's trial will decide whether he receives the death penalty if convicted of playing a role in the April 15, 2013, bombings, which killed 3 people and wounded more than 260.

The defense and prosecution are each entitled to 20 peremptory challenges in a typical federal capital trial, the government said Monday. Tsarnaev's request for 10 additional challenges to offset adverse pretrial publicity should be denied, prosecutors argued in the filing.

"In perfectly plain language that leaves no room for interpretation, Congress specified that a defendant in a capital case is entitled to exactly 20 peremptory challenges," the court document stated.

In a separate filing on Monday, defense lawyers asked that every potential juror in the pool of more than 1,000 who makes it past initial screening be questioned individually to check for bias.

Prosecutors instead want those candidates to be questioned in groups of 50, with additional individual interviews as needed.

Group questioning is "especially unlikely to ferret out biased jurors who are eager to serve in order to implement their own agendas - whether to convict, to impose a death sentence, or simply to be a part of a famous criminal case," defense attorneys wrote, noting that Governor-elect Charlie Baker identified Tsarnaev in a Boston Globe column in October as the living person he most despises.

"In a state that just elected as governor a candidate who publicly designated the defendant as the 'living person [he] most despise[s],' . . . such concerns [about bias] are not unfounded," defense lawyers said.

Tsarnaev's trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 5.

(source: Boston Globe)


Prosecutors say death penalty decision expected in January in case against Paul Ciancia

A federal prosecutor said Monday that he expects a decision by early January on whether the death penalty will be sought against a 24-year-old accused of the deadly shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport.

The ultimate decision on whether death is an appropriate penalty in the case against Paul Anthony Ciancia is up to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez during a brief hearing that his office had provided its recommendation to Holder as to the penalty, but did not indicate what that was.

"At this time we do not have a decision from the attorney general," Fitzgerald told the court, adding that he hoped to have an answer in time for the next status conference case on Jan. 5.

The prosecutor indicated that a meeting had taken place in September with members of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and Ciancia's lawyers, and the results of those discussions were passed on to Holder's office last month.

Ciancia, who stands a little over 5 feet, was brought to court in green and white jail clothing, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles.

3 of the 11 counts against Ciancia carry the potential for a death sentence: murder of a federal officer, use of a firearm that led to the murder and an act of violence in an international airport.

Ciancia, a Sun Valley resident, allegedly stormed into Terminal 3 on Nov. 1, 2013, with an assault rifle, killing Transportation Security Administration agent Gerardo Hernandez and wounding 3 others.

In addition to 1st-degree murder, the indictment charges Ciancia with 2 counts of attempted murder for the shootings of TSA Officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer. Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas teacher, also was wounded.

Ciancia also is charged with 1 count of using a firearm to commit murder and 3 counts of brandishing and discharging a firearm.

During the shooting spree, Ciancia allegedly was carrying a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and "instill fear in their traitorous minds," along with dozens of rounds of ammunition.

Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with Airport police and remains held without bail at the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center.

Gutierrez was adamant that the case would be tried next year, although defense attorney Hilary L. Potashner said in August that she may ask for more time if death is sought.

(source: Daily Breeze)


31 Ghezel Hesar prison inmates face execution

On Sunday, the authorities at Ghezel Hesar prison in the city of Karaj transferred a group of 31 death row prisoners to an unknown location. Their cellmates fear that they will face executions in the coming days.

Over 500 prisoners began a hunger strike on Monday and demanded that the death sentences issued against their fellow prisoners be revoked, according to information received.

The strikers are all those detained in Section 2 of Ghezel Hesar prison. They began their hunger strike when they heard that the clerical regime intends to execute 11 of the inmates.

Hosseini, the director of Ghezel Hesar prison, threatened that if the strike does not end soon, the number of people on death row could reach 200.

Striking prisoners said that until the condemnation to death verdicts issued against their fellow prisoners has been cancelled, they will continue their hunger strike.

According to another report, in other sections of Ghezel Hesar prison, inmates also began to protest against the killings.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Final decision on 188 'Kerdasa' death sentences postponed over 'security concerns'----The defendants are accused of killing police officers during an attack on a police station in Kerdasa on the day security forces dispersed pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins on 14 August 2013

The final verdict on death sentences imposed on 188 defendants in the 'Kerdasa clashes' case has been delayed until 22 February over "security concerns."

Giza criminal court sentenced the defendants to death on 2 December and sent the verdict to the Grand Mufti for review, a requirement in Egyptian law before any execution can be carried out.

The Mufti's decision is non-binding, however.

The court originally set 24 January 2015 to issue its final verdict. The verdict can still then be appealed.

The defendants were found guilty of killing police officers after storming Kerdasa police station in Giza, following the dispersal of pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August 2013 that left hundreds dead and sparked nationwide unrest.

They were also found guilty of the attempted murder of 10 other police personnel, sabotaging the police station, torching a number of police vehicles and possessing heavy firearms.

Out of the 188, 151 are detained while 37 are at large and were tried in absentia.

This is not the only mass death sentence issued by courts this year.

In March, Minya court passed the death penalty on 529 people for killing a police officer and committing acts of violence. And in April, the same judge handed the same sentence in a separate case to another 683 people over similar charges.

The Grand Mufti approved the death sentences for 37 in the 1st trial and 183 in the 2nd, both of which the court upheld.

The 2 cases are currently being appealed.

The 2 mass death sentences were widely criticised by local and international rights groups and organisations as well as foreign governments.

(source: Ahram Online)


Egypt Sentences 4 Muslim Brotherhood Members to Death

Although Mohammed Badie was not one of those to receive the death penalty in this current case, he has already been sentenced to death in a previous case.

An Egyptian court has sentenced 4 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for the killings of protesters at their headquarters last year.

At least 12 people were killed and more than 90 wounded when a mob stormed the building in Cairo during the anti-government uprising.

Egypt's top religious official must uphold Sunday's court decision in order for it to be carried out.

Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie was among the defendants Sunday but did not get the death penalty. He has already been sentenced to death in a separate case.

Badie and ousted President Mohamed Morsi are also on trial for other alleged crimes, including the deaths of other protesters.

Egypt's military arrested Morsi last year after popular street protests forced him from office.

(source: Alaska Native News)


China Releases Sydney Woman Facing Death Sentence For Drug Trafficking

Sydney woman Kalynda Davis, who had been facing a possible death sentence in China over drug trafficking, was released. Chinese authorities did not charge Davis who returned to Australia.

The 22-year-old waited for a couple of weeks in China where she could have faced life sentence. According to her friends, Davis is brash and hot-headed. They said that her life had an abrupt change in a very short period of time. David was eventually accused of trying to smuggle 36 kg of ice out of Guangzhou International Airport to Australia. She was accompanied by her co-accused New Zealander Peter Gardiner, whom she had met through the dating app Tinder only 2 weeks before the incident. Davis, who has her home in Penrith, is the daughter of a former NSW police officer. She did not inform anyone when she travelled in November. However, she told her friends that they should consider something must have gone wrong if they did not hear from her.

Things did go wrong for Davis who was intercepted by Chinese authorities at the airport. According to the authorities, Gardiner was recruited by an organised crime syndicate in Sydney. Daily Telegraph reported that the drug, which the pair had tried to smuggle had a street value of around $80 million. Gardiner, who also has an Australian passport, did not have any prior criminal records Down Under just like Davis who was also declared to be "clean skin" before this. Davis is a student of Penrith Christian School while she studied at Penrith Anglican College earlier. A talented athlete, Davis worked part-time in retail.

ABC News earlier reported that the pair was not likely to appear in China court at least for a few months. The prospects of the Davis and Gardiner getting away with what they did was "very slim," if similar cases in recent times were taken into consideration. A Chinese customs officer said that there was a possibility that some other people had also been involved in the smuggling. China has extremely strict laws against drug trafficking as there is possible death penalty or a lengthy jail term.

(source: IB Times)


Cameroon Moves to Legalize Capital Punishment for Convicted Terrorists

Human rights groups and opposition lawmakers in Cameroon are protesting a new draft law which makes terrorism punishable by death. The government says the move is necessary to deter collaboration with militant groups like Boko Haram - which has been recruiting and terrorizing communities along Cameroon's border with Nigeria.

The draft law was passed the 1st week of December.

Critics say the law could lead to abuse and threatens human rights.

Forbi Nchinda of the opposition's Social Democratic Front called the law outdated, coming at a time when many countries are abolishing capital punishment.

"The whole world is moving away from the death penalty. Now they are using the death penalty for people who are accused of terrorism. That is unacceptable the world over. Even in Cameroon, I don't think for the past 20 years anybody has been executed because the tendency has been to move away from the death penalty," said Nchinda.

Capital punishment was already legal in Cameroon for cases of treason or murder, but there has not been an execution since 1997 according to Amnesty International.

So what really concerns opponents is the wording of the new law, which they say is too broad and could be used to stifle political dissent of President Paul Biya's 3-decade rule.

The legislation defines acts of terrorism as threats which cause death, physical harm, material damage, intimidation of the population, provoking fear or disturbing public peace.

Ndi Richard Tantoh, of the non-governmental organization Ecumenical Service for Peace, is one of the worried critics.

"From every indication, the liberty of individuals to express their frustration with government action will be reprimanded with a heavy hand and accusing people of crimes against the state and capital punishment," said Tantoh.

Cameroon has a history of squelching opposition. In 2013 Transparency International cited Cameroon for using the criminal justice system to harass and silence political critics. Presently, President Biya has jailed a dozen former ministers.

Some critics see this law as perhaps a reaction to what happened in Burkina Faso in October, when a popular uprising ousted President Blaise Compaore. Compaore fled the country after 27 years in power.

Ndansi Elvis, youth president of the opposition political party National Union for Democracy and Progress, sees parallels.

"Of course it is clear. The people of Burkina Faso stood against their leader and they said we don't want Blaise Compaore because he wants to change the constitution and stay in power and they succeeded. So our own leader who has been in power for over 32 years wants to make sure that such a thing never happens in his country and this is just a psychological way to discourage people from going to the streets," said Elvis.

Media in Cameroon - already under pressure - are also expressing concern about specific provisions in the bill - which criminalize reporting on terrorism in certain cases with up to 15 years in jail. More than half a dozen journalists in recent months have been banned from reporting by the government due to allegations that they possessed sensitive information or that their work could destabilize the country. That is why some reporters, like Ben Collins Nyuyberiwo, see this new terrorism law as another tool to intimidate government critics.

"I don't believe they are handling terrorism in this aspect. For example, they are talking about Boko Haram. Boko Haram is not a Cameroonian issue. I think they should be targeting foreigners who are trying to infiltrate our system to destabilize Cameroon and not journalists I believe have nothing to do with this aspect. They have to do their job. They have to report, they have to inform the citizens," said Nyuyberiwo.

While Boko Haram may technically be a foreign issue, the Nigerian militant group has been increasingly terrorizing Cameroonian towns along the Nigerian border, which stretches for hundreds miles. Boko Haram - which is fighting to create a caliphate in northern Nigeria - has been using Cameroon as a staging ground, stealing supplies and kidnapping and murdering residents. Even more worrying to Cameroonian authorities are Boko Haram's new attempts to recruit young people to fight for them.

Enwi Francis, a lawmaker with the ruling CPDM political party, said the law is meant to be a powerful deterrent.

"If you see what Boko Haram is doing, kidnapping children. If you imagine your own daughter being kidnapped and taken to another destination and you don't know what is happening to her. Your own wife being picked up in that way. Those are threats to the nation. People coming into schools and start shooting children. They deserve something. You can't kill and go free," said Francis.

All 148 lawmakers in President Biya's ruling CPDM in the 200 member national assembly voted in favor of the bill while 86 of the 100 CPDM senators also voted to pass the legislation. It will become law when the president signs the bill, which is expected in the coming days.

(source: Voice of America News)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia carries out 77th execution of 2014

Saudi Arabia beheaded on Tuesday a convicted drug trafficker, the 77th state execution in the oil-rich kingdom this year despite international concerns.

Nasser bin Amiq Ali al-Inzi was convicted of trying to smuggle "a large amount" of amphetamines into the country, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

He was beheaded in the northern Jawf region.

Last Friday authorities carried out the death sentence on another Saudi, also found guilty of amphetamine smuggling.

The Saudi authorities often announce the seizure of drugs in a country where people convicted of smuggling narcotics are beheaded by the sword.

At the end of November, the interior ministry said that more than 41 million amphetamine pills had been seized over the previous 12 months.

The oil-rich Gulf state saw the third highest number of executions in the world last year, according to Amnesty International.

Non-lethal crimes including "adultery," armed robbery, "apostasy," drug-related offenses, rape, "witchcraft" and "sorcery" are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Political activism can also be penalized by death, as Riyadh has taken a zero tolerance approach to all attempts at protest or dissent in the kingdom, including by liberal rights activists, Islamists, and members of the Shia minority.

Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences down to 5 pro-democracy advocates, including prominent activist and cleric Nimr al-Nimr, for their part in protests.

In September, 2 independent human rights experts working on behalf of the United Nations expressed concern about the judicial process in Saudi Arabia and called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

"Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards," said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.



Bali drug accused Antony de Malmanche taken to hospital

A Kiwi facing drugs charges in Bali has been taken to a police hospital for treatment.

Antony Glen de Malmanche, 52, from Wanganui, was arrested at the international airport in Denpasar last week. He had travelled to Hong Kong to meet his internet girlfriend, "Jessie", and then went on to Bali.

It is alleged he was travelling with 1.7kg of methamphetamine in his backpack.

Methamphetamine is in the most serious drug class in Indonesia and anyone convicted of trafficking it faces the death penalty.

Today, de Malmanche was escorted by Indonesian police to a police hospital in Bali due to apparent back pain. His family have said he suffers from back pain and have expressed concerns about his health in prison.

Prisoners at both the Denpasar police station, where de Malmanche is being detained, and the notorious Kerobokan Jail, where he will inevitably be transferred to await trial, are given little in the way of food and other necessities.

De Malmanche takes painkillers for serious permanent injuries he suffered in a tree-felling accident while at work in 2002.

He was targeted by Indonesian police on his arrival in Bali as part of international drugs ring, according to Indonesian police.

When he was arrested, he was tagged as a member of an international drugs syndicate, One News reported. "He's been a target of the narcotic drug-smuggling division a long time before he was arrested," Bali Police Commissioner Henry Wiyanto told One News.

His cousin, Tina de Malmanche, said yesterday de Malmanche was not bright enough to smuggle drugs. "I wouldn't trust him with that much amount of drugs to courier. He is too dumb."

According to media sources, de Malmanche had never been out of New Zealand before.

He met a South African woman called Jessie through online dating and she sent him money for his passport and airfare to Hong Kong. He is thought to have flown there to see her.

Tina de Malmanche said she was convinced he has been led astray by a woman's promises. "As his whanau, I can tell you he has been set up. I'm a retired hooker - I know how easy it is."

De Malmanche's family has set up an online Givealittle page to raise money for a lawyer. A New Zealand consul is to visit him this week.

Other family members contacted by the Wanganui Chronicle would not talk about Mr de Malmanche.

But family and friends earlier told media he was born in Dannevirke and grew up in Palmerston North. He had a number of children and was working as an arborist in 2002 when injured in the tree felling accident.

He had ongoing neck and back pain, and decided to retrain for a less physical job.

He finished a computer, literacy and numeracy course at Whanganui Learning Centre in 2011, and may have then undertaken a certificate course in Mental Health Support Work at Whanganui UCOL.

He is also said to have joined a Christian group, and his Facebook page has a number of pictures of him fishing.

(source: New Zealand Herald)


Death penalty for drug convicts?

I do not think that the death penalty will be an adequate deterrent to minimize illicit drug-related offenses. Despite its effectiveness being widely hailed, as some countries have not ended the practice of capital punishment, thorough empirical and sociological research that discredits its deterrent effect cannot be ruled out.

If jeopardizing the lives of many is the basic rationale we employ to underpin such a move, we accordingly must indiscriminately apply the same principle to the corruption-related convicts, especially those involved in cases of astronomically high amounts of money, since their crimes have inflicted dire impacts to the lives of millions in the country.

Yet, as drug-selling businesses thrive because, in part, of people's (users, in this regard) consent, corruption, in most cases, is solely driven by self-centered motives.

Therefore, implementing the death penalty as a firm act against drug convicts, while not applying the same principle to corruption convicts, sounds inconsistent. If we consistently follow the argument of "upholding the law", we should inevitably extend the principle to graft cases. However, capital punishment given to these 2 kinds of criminals is not endorsed. Besides, revoking the death penalty for drug convicts should be advocated for various reasons.

Firstly, evil, which is at the heart of this sinfulness, will be always at work. Malice is potentially embedded in every human heart. We cannot eradicate evil by killing particular human persons, since this is only the "embodiment" of certain evil proclivities that anybody could possess. What is more important is to do certain conscious and well-orchestrated efforts to break the seemingly unbreakable demand-and-supply chain of the drug business.

Secondly, the preamble of our Constitution has made a point-blank assertion that this beloved country is unchangeably based on humanity. Interpretations may vary with regard to this principle, but I think that humanity is a noble principle that advocates the idea that human beings are always capable of renewing themselves, drug convicts included. Idealistic it might sound, but we simply do not have any more convincing argument for the outright repudiation of this innate human capability.

Bearing this in mind, we should reaffirm that any positive legal punishment is mainly for correction and rehabilitation, not for revenge. By sending drug convicts before the firing squad or giving them lethal injections, we won't resurrect the already dead victims of this drug business, will we?

Lastly, words - often associated with Mahatma Gandhi - said by Canadian parliamentary member George P. Graham during a debate on the death penalty in 1914, might be food for thought for us: "We can argue all we like, but if capital punishment is being inflicted on some man, we are inclined to say: 'It serves him right.' That is not the spirit, I believe, in which legislation is enacted. If in this present age we were to go back to the old time of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' there would be very few hon. [honorable] gentlemen in this House who would not, metaphorically speaking, be blind and toothless."

Jerry Gatum

South Jakarta

(source: Letter to the Editor, Jakarta Post)


Hopes dashed for Bali 9 inmates on death row as Indonesian president takes hard-line on drugs

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has definitively ruled out issuing pardons for any drug convicts on death row.

His comments will send shockwaves through Kerobokan Prison, where 2 Bali 9 inmates, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, applied more than 2 years ago to the president's office for clemency.

Taken at face value, Mr Joko's new policy will condemn them and at least 62 other drug prisoners in Indonesian jails to the firing squad.

Mr Joko said the dossiers of drug convicts had sat for years untouched on the president's desk under his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"I'm asking now, what should I do? For years no decisions have been taken. I say now I will issue no pardon for drugs [criminals]," said the president during an appearance at a Yogyakarta State University for Human Rights Day.

In his comments, Mr Joko used both the words grasi (clemency) and pengampunan (pardon).

The shock comments come just a week after the president announced, through his ministers, that 5 convicts would be executed by the end of the month. Though they have not been named, it's believed all 5 on the list are drug traffickers.

Drugs are considered a public menace in Indonesia, and any move to appear soft on the issue is highly unpopular, as Dr Yudhoyono discovered when he gave a 5-year sentence cut to Australian Schapelle Corby.

Mr Joko appears to have adopted the argument put by his anti-narcotics agency, BNN, that the death penalty will cure Indonesia of the problem.

"We all realise that Indonesia is now on high alert for drugs. Every day there are 40 to 50 Indonesians, especially our young generation, who died due to drugs. Every day," Mr Joko said.

But his approach has seriously disappointed Indonesia's human rights establishment, who expected him to have a less hardline approach.

The country's National Human Rights Commission, Komnas Ham, said earlier this week that the Indonesian legal system was not yet robust and uncorrupt enough to be trusted to take people's lives.

Amnesty International has urged Mr Joko to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. Under Indonesia's constitution, the president has the power and the ability to consider cases one by one, and decide on clemency.

Chan and Sukumaran have argued that, since their conviction over an attempted heroin trafficking operation in 2005, they have turned their lives around, setting up a number of rehabilitation centres within the prison which have earned the endorsement of a number of officials including the Kerobokan prison governor.

One of the lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran, Melbourne-based Julian McMahon, said Indonesia was rightfully proud of its record of obtaining the release of more than 200 of its own citizens - mostly low-paid guest workers - from death row in other countries.

"No other government or NGO in the world has rescued so many people from death row in such a short time," Mr McMahon said.

He would not comment on recent developments.

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)


Calls for capital punishment erupt after Bazzal killing

Ramez Bazzal has no conflicting emotions about who should pay for the death of his son Ali, a captive policeman whose murder the Nusra Front group announced over the weekend.

"I demand that Joumana Hmeid and Omar al-Atrash be executed as a solution to my son's case" he told The Daily Star by phone Monday.

Previously, Islamist militants had demanded the release of several accused terrorists currently in Lebanese jails, including both Hmeid and Atrash, in return for freeing servicemen they have held captive since August. The judiciary had previously recommended the death penalty for both prisoners.

While it has been nearly 11 years since Lebanon carried out a death sentence, the killing of four captured servicemen at the hands of Islamist militants over the past months has renewed calls for the state to reactivate capital punishment for prisoners who are found guilty of terror-related crimes.

ISIS and the Nusra Front are still holding at least 25 Army and Internal Security Forces personnel they captured when they briefly occupied the northeastern town of Arsal in August. After killing Bazzal, the Nusra Front, like ISIS, has threatened to kill other captives if the government does not respond to demands for a swap deal.

But many believe that despite the emotional appeals of families of the hostage soldiers, the state will not carry out death sentences.

"This is not Lebanon. This is not our way of living, nor our way of thinking about law and order," former Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said. Executing prisoners would not stop the kidnappers, he added.

Approximately 51 prisoners have been executed in Lebanon since 1947, and between 1996 and 2014 just 5 death sentences have been carried out.

Since the end of the Civil War in 1990, a number of increasingly vocal civil society organizations, officials and politicians have called for the abolition of the death penalty in Lebanon altogether.

In 2011, Parliament formally approved a bill which made legal room for those "sentenced to death without being executed."

Despite repeated violent security crises, from the Nahr al-Bared battle between the Army and Islamists in 2007 to similar clashes in Sidon last year, no death sentences have been carried out in Lebanon since 2004, when 3 murderers were put to death in Roumieh.

Lawyer and law professor Charbel Aoun, however, believes that under the current political and security circumstances, the government is likely to reactivate the death penalty.

While a de facto moratorium has been observed for years, Aoun believes that the government will strategically execute some terrorists in Lebanese prisons as leverage against the terrorists.

"The government will consider that if they execute prisoners, the terrorists will stop killing the soldiers," Aoun said.

"The terrorists are not stopping their executions, so Lebanon is losing in all senses," he said.

Shakib Qortbawi, also a former justice minister, vehemently disagreed, saying executing prisoners in reaction to the events in Arsal would be injurious to the government's image. "We are not terrorists," he added. "We cannot do like they do."

While Qortbawi said he was fundamentally against the death penalty, he added that the issue could be equally argued on legalistic grounds.

For an execution to take place, he explained, a decree must be signed by the president, prime minister and minister of justice. In the absence of a president, the entire Cabinet would have to sign the decree, a remote possibility in view of the deep political divisions in the government.

If the government can barely agree on a strategy to negotiate for the release of the captive soldiers, it's unlikely that they will agree on signing death sentences, even for terrorists, said Mohammad Fayez Abbas, the father of captive soldier Ahmad Abbas.

"The government does not have the nerve to execute one of those dogs," he told The Daily Star. When pressed, however, he refused to say whether he supported reactivating capital punishment, saving his vitriol for the government.

Father Hady Aya, who heads the Lebanese organization Association Justice et Misericorde said that while his group was wholly against the death penalty, he sympathized with the families of the captive servicemen.

"All their emotions and demands are perfectly reasonable, given the situation," he said. "They are in crisis."

But the government, he added, must not be reactive or emotional.

Georges Ghali, a program officer at the human rights NGO Alef, said that while he understood the family's reaction, applying human-centered justice was particularly important for the country as emotions were running high.

"We need to refrain from inhumane and undemocratic practices that will only be considered as similar to the barbaric treatment of the hostages," he said. "The right to life is absolute."

While he is concerned by the political and popular pressure to reactivate capital punishment, Ghali does not believe the government will do so.

"I don't feel there is the willingness or ability of the state ... to actually commit such acts."

(source: The Daily Star)

DECEMBER 8, 2014:

GEORGIA----impending execution//clemency denied

Ga. panel denies clemency for death row inmate

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied clemency for a Georgia death row inmate who killed a sheriff's deputy.

The board made its decision Monday following a clemency hearing for Robert Wayne Holsey, who is to be executed Tuesday. A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey of killing Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

Holsey robbed a Milledgeville convenience store in December 1995. The clerk called police immediately afterward and described the robber and his car.

Robinson pulled Holsey over minutes later. Authorities say Holsey fired at Robinson as the deputy approached the vehicle.

Holsey's lawyers argued he shouldn't be executed because his trial lawyer failed to present evidence that could have spared him the death penalty.

The board did not give a reason for denying clemency.

(source: Associated Press)


Robert Wayne Holsey denied clemency, scheduled to die Tuesday

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Robert Wayne Holsey on Monday.

According to a news release, the Board thoroughly reviewed the case with Holsey's representatives. The Board voted to deny clemency.

Holsey is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

Holsey was sentenced to death for the December 1995 murder of Baldwin County Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson. Holsey committed an armed robbery at a convenience store in Milledgeville. Deputy Robinson stopped Holsey's car a few minutes later and was killed.

(source: NBC news)


Robert Wayne Holsey Faces Lethal Injection in Georgia

A parole panel in Georgia refused on Monday to grant clemency to a man who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday evening, apparently unpersuaded by evidence that he was ineptly represented at trial by a drunken lawyer, had an exceptionally harsh childhood and has a severe intellectual deficit.

But in what could be a legal decision with wider effects, lawyers for the man, Robert Wayne Holsey, were still waiting for the Georgia Supreme Court to respond to a last-minute appeal. They argued that the state's standard for determining intellectual disability in capital cases -- the country's most stringent -- runs afoul of a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Holsey was convicted of armed robbery and murder in 1997 and sentenced to death. He had robbed a convenience store and shot and killed a pursuing officer.

His trial lawyer later admitted that at the time he was drinking up to a quart of vodka daily and facing theft charges that would land him in prison. He said he should not have been representing a client.

On appeal, a Superior Court judge ruled that during the penalty phase of Mr. Holsey's trial, his lawyer had failed to effectively present evidence that might have forestalled a death penalty, including facts about Mr. Holsey's history and his intellectual deficit. That judge called for a new sentencing trial.

But the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the decision, ruling that the jury had heard enough evidence about mitigating factors during the initial trial.

At Monday's hearing before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole, Mr. Holsey's sister described the severe beatings he received as a child. Also testifying on his behalf were a prison pastor and a former prison guard who said Mr. Holsey was a reliable inmate who kept things calm, according to one of his lawyers, Brian Kammer of the Georgia Resource Center, a nonprofit legal defense group.

That Mr. Holsey had received ineffective counsel seemed clear, said John H. Blume, a professor and director of the death penalty project at the Cornell Law School.

"But the quality of representation in capital cases is often so low," he said, "that it's difficult to shock the courts."

He and other legal experts said a more promising tack -- if not for Mr. Holsey, then for defendants in the future -- is the challenge to Georgia's standard of proof for intellectual disability.

The state requires defendants to prove that they are intellectually disabled "beyond a reasonable doubt."

For those near the borderline, often described as an I.Q. around 70, that standard is nearly impossible to meet. Many legal experts think it violates a Supreme Court ruling last May that said states cannot create "an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed."

In other states, either a "preponderance of evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence" is necessary to establish disability, said Eric M. Freedman, a death penalty expert at Hofstra University. Both are less stringent standards than the one used in Georgia.

In a landmark decision in 2002, the United States Supreme Court barred the execution of mentally disabled people, but largely left it to the states to set the criteria.

In its decision in May, the court added new conditions, ruling in Hall v. Florida that the state could not rely on a simple I.Q. cutoff but rather must take a broad look at a person's ability to function.

Mr. Holsey's I.Q. has been measured at around 70, said Mr. Kammer, the lawyer. The state, he said, had argued that because he could drive a car and had a girlfriend, Mr. Holsey could not be disabled.

But Mr. Holsey functions at a third- or fourth-grade level and has never been able to live on his own or master many basic skills, Mr. Kammer said.

Another challenge to the state's standard for intellectual deficiency is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court, in a case involving Warren Lee Hill, a man convicted of murder.

Constitutional scholars say it is most likely that at some point either the Georgia Supreme Court or the federal Supreme Court will strike down the standard as an unreasonable outlier.

"You've got a national constitutional rule that people with intellectual disability shouldn't be executed, but it's being applied differently in different states," Mr. Blume of Cornell said.

(source: New York Times)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Gov. Jay Nixon should call off Missouri execution

Is Paul Goodwin mentally retarded or of borderline intelligence?

The question is of utmost importance as the clock ticks toward Goodwin's scheduled execution on Wednesday. He was sentenced to death in 1999 for the sexual assault and murder of his neighbor, 63-year-old Joan Crotts, in north St. Louis County.

2 years later, then-Gov. Bob Holden signed legislation prohibiting the execution of inmates who are diagnosed as mentally retarded, or intellectually disabled, to use the preferred term. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional a year later when deciding the Atkins v. Virginia case.

Denis Keyes, an expert in intellectual disabilities whose work was cited in the Atkins decision, evaluated Goodwin in 2001 and again last month. "The one absolute certainty ... over the 12 years I have been involved with this case is that Paul Terrence Goodwin is now, and probably always has been, mentally retarded," he wrote in a report for Goodwin's clemency lawyers.

Goodwin spent much of his schooling in special education classes. As an adult, he was unable to handle his finances, work out transportation arrangements or take care of personal hygiene.

But the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 sided with other experts who had testified that Goodwin was of borderline intelligence but not mentally retarded.

There is a fine line between those diagnoses and a wide margin for error. The risk of being wrong is one more reason for states to get out of the business of executing prisoners.

The nation has reached a consensus that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional and inhumane. Gov. Jay Nixon should not take the chance of doing so. He should exercise his power to call off Goodwin's execution.

(source: Editorial, Kansas City Star)


Suspect Could Face Death Penalty in West Side Double Murder

Police have named a suspect in connection with the brutal murders of 2 people on the city's west side on Sunday, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Detectives say Christopher Bernard Doss is charged with Capital Murder-Multiple Persons, a charge that potentially carries the death penalty. He remains at large and is the object of a manhunt.

Police say when a 34 year old woman, believed to be an ex girlfriend of Doss, was walking to an SUV in front of her home in the 2300 block of Delgado Sunday afternoon, when Doss walked up behind her, grabber her around the throat, and then shot her several times in the chest.

Doss then allegedly opened fire into the SUV, shooting the woman's boyfriend to death, and then shot and killed the family dog.

2 girls, an 8 year old and a 15 year old, were also present. The 8 year old, identified as Yessenia Vasquez...was hit by broken glass and suffered injuries. The 15 year old was not hurt.

(source: WOAI news)


Appeals court hears arguments from death row inmate

Maryland's 2nd-highest court is weighing the future of Jody Lee Miles, 1 of 4 men left in limbo on death row after lawmakers abolished the death penalty.

Lawyers for Miles and state Attorney General Doug Gansler agree that Miles can't be executed because the state no longer has the authority to carry out the death penalty. But in arguments before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis on Monday, Miles' lawyers and Gansler offered different suggestions of what should happen next.

Miles' lawyers are asking for his case to be sent to a lower court for a new sentencing hearing, and they hope a jury would be able to consider either life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gansler said Miles' sentence should be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Miles was convicted of the robbery and murder of musical theater director Edward Joseph Atkinson on the Eastern Shore in 1997.

Maryland's death penalty had been on hold since 2006, when a court threw out the state's regulations for lethal injection, and new regulations were not written. Then in 2013, state lawmakers abolished the death penalty.

"The sentence of death can no longer be carried out," said Robert Biddle, one of the lawyers representing Miles.

There's no indication when the court will rule.

Outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, has signaled that he may be weighing whether to commute the sentences of Miles and the other 3 men on death row. He has spoken with some of the victims' families in recent weeks, but has not indicated whether he will take action.

(source: Baltimiore Sun)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia Is About To Execute An Intellectually Disabled Man Whose Lawyer Was A Drunk Felon

Robert Wayne Holsey's attorney during his capital trial was an alcoholic who admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka every night while he was representing Holsey at trial. While the trial was going on, the lawyer was also facing a lawsuit from a client he had taken over $116,000 from. Eventually, the attorney lost his law license and was sentenced to three years in prison over the dispute with this client. During the period when he was preparing for Holsey's trial, the attorney got into an argument with his neighbors that culminated in him threatening them with a gun while screaming "N*gger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass." Holsey is African American.

In 2006, perhaps due to the shambles the lawyer's life was rapidly descending into, a Georgia state judge determined that Holsey's attorney "failed to prepare and present any meaningful mitigation evidence as a defense to the death penalty" during the phase of Holsey's trial that determined that he would be sentenced to die. Perhaps most damningly of all, the attorney "advised the trial judge at a pre-trial hearing that I.Q. and mental retardation were not going to be issues at trial." A Georgia law provides that a defendant may be found "guilty but mentally retarded," and that capital defendants who receive this verdict cannot be executed. Several years after Holsey"s conviction, the Supreme Court held that "death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal." (The term "mentally retarded," though widely viewed as offensive today, used to be the clinical term for the disability now known as "intellectually disability.")

The attorney's failure to introduce evidence that could have spared Holsey from a death sentence is expected to be addressed at a last-minute clemency hearing that takes place on Monday. Holsey's best path to escape execution, however, most likely stems from the fact that, as someone who is probably intellectually disabled, he should be ineligible for the death penalty.

There is significant evidence showing that Holsey is intellectually disabled. Several experts testified in subsequent proceedings, where Holsey was represented by different counsel, that Holsey has "significantly subaverage intellectual functioning with an IQ of approximately 70," according to Holsey's current attorneys. An IQ of 70 or less is one of the standards clinical psychologists use to measure intellectual disability. Yet Holsey is scheduled for execution on Tuesday and, unless a court or a clemency board rethinks a state law that hobbles the constitutional ban on executing the intellectually disabled in Georgia, Holsey's execution is likely to proceed.

Although Georgia law does permit intellectually disabled inmates to argue that they are ineligible for execution, the state supreme court reads the state's law to only permit such inmates to win this argument if they are "found beyond a reasonable doubt to be retarded." The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is an extraordinarily high evidentiary burden - it is the standard prosecutors must overcome in order to obtain convictions because our Constitution requires the state to overcome a high burden before denying anyone of life or liberty - and it is not typically imposed on people who have themselves been accused of a crime. Indeed, Holsey's lawyers argue that Georgia's decision to impose this burden on intellectually disabled inmates is "unique" among the states.

Applying this rigid standard, the state judiciary has thus far refused to grant Holsey relief from his death sentence. Until recently, moreover, it appeared that they were free to do so. Although the Supreme Court ostensibly forbade executions of the intellectually disabled in its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, that opinion contained a significant loophole. Atkins, left "to the State[s] the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon [their] execution of sentences." As a result, it appeared that Georgia might have the authority to place a burden on intellectually disabled inmates that many of them would not be able to overcome.

Earlier this year, however, in a case called Hall v. Florida, the Court began to close this loophole. Hall recognized that "[i]f the States were to have complete autonomy to define intellectual disability as they wished, the Court's decision in Atkins could become a nullity." Though "the States play a critical role in advancing protections and providing the Court with information that contributes to an understanding of how intellectual disability should be measured and assessed," they do not have "unfettered discretion to define the full scope of the constitutional protection."

This language in Hall suggests that the Supreme Court has grown frustrated with state laws that create too many barriers between intellectually disabled inmates and their constitutional rights. The most important question in Holsey's case, however, is likely to be whether the justices' frustration extends to Georgia - or, alternatively, whether the Georgia courts are willing to preempt this question by eliminating the requirement that Holsey prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt.


MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri prepares to execute convicted killer Paul Goodwin; would be state's 10th this year

Missouri is preparing for its final execution of 2014, a year in which the state has rivaled Texas with its use of the death penalty.

Paul Goodwin is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1998 killing of a 63-year-old St. Louis County woman with a hammer. He would be the 10th person put to death in Missouri this year - the most since the death penalty was instituted. Already, the state has tied for the record set in 1999.

33 people have been executed in the U.S. this year, Texas topping the list with 10. Texas, Missouri and Florida have combined for 27 of them.

An appeal from Goodwin's attorney to the U.S. Supreme Court raises concerns about Missouri not disclosing the name of compounding pharmacy from which it obtains the pentobarbital used for executions. The Missouri Attorney General's office, in a response, notes that the court has already denied similar petitions in previous executions.

Attorney Jennifer Herndon also has filed appeals to the Missouri Supreme Court and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, along with a clemency petition to Gov. Jay Nixon, claiming Goodwin has an IQ of 73 and is mentally incapable of helping with his defense.

Herndon said Goodwin, 48, understands he is about to be executed, but lacks the mental capacity to articulate information that might help his cause.

"The big problem is he can't help us at all," Herndon said. "He can't understand what we're doing to help him, and he can't provide any information to be helpful."

In the mid-1990s, Goodwin lived in a St. Louis County boarding house that was next door to Joan Crotts, a widow. The 2 had been involved in several verbal confrontations.

Goodwin was evicted in 1996 after he and friends harassed Crotts, including throwing beer cans into her yard. Court records show that Goodwin blamed Crotts for his eviction, telling her, "I'm going to get you for this," according to testimony from Crotts' daughter.

On March 1, 1998, Goodwin entered Crotts home and confronted her. After a sexual assault, he pushed her down the basement stairs, and then used a hammer to strike her in the head several times.

Herndon said Goodwin is remorseful.

"He was drunk when he did it," she said "From the beginning he's said, 'This is horrible.' But he's so impaired that he doesn't really have the ability to show remorse like a normal adult would."

(source: Associated Press)


Day 17 of Jodi Arias trial: No trial this week, judge rules

A Maricopa County Superior Court spokesman said the next court date is an evidentiary hearing at 9:30 a.m. and the jury won't return until Monday, Dec. 15.

The jury has already been off since last week as two evidentiary hearings were Thursday and Friday.

The defense last week tried again to get her murder conviction tossed out on the grounds they claim certain computer evidence was destroyed while in the custody of Mesa police.

Another juror, Juror No. 3, was dismissed Tuesday and defense witness and clinical psychologist Dr. L.C. Fonseca was back on the stand for further cross-examination by prosecutor Juan Martinez.

The Arias trial has garnered national - even worldwide - attention. A jury on May 8, 2013, convicted her of murdering her ex-lover Travis Alexander, and while they found her eligible for the death penalty, they could not unanimously agree to hand down the sentence.

Because of that, Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial.

After months of legal wrangling, a new jury was eventually impaneled, and a retrial of the sentencing phase began Oct. 21. It is expected to last until the middle of the month.

In the meantime, rumors that Arias herself will once again take the stand continue to swirl.

(source: KPHO news)


Is it time to abolish the death penalty? Panelists ponder the moral, racial and ethical aspects of the long-simmering debate at a Levan Institute conversation

The death penalty debate was organized by the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics.

A bumper sticker reads, "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

The question was examined during a recent panel discussion held on the University Park Campus. "Is It Time to Abolish the Death Penalty?" was organized by the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, housed in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Recent botched executions by lethal injection have renewed the debate. New advances in DNA technology are leading to the exoneration of more and more prisoners on death row. Calls of racial discrimination in the selection process have raised concern.

Panelist Ralph Wedgwood, professor of philosophy at USC Dornsife, specializes in ethics and epistemology. He argued against the death penalty, saying that while killing someone who is posing an imminent threat - or in self-defense - can be justified, executing a condemned person in prison offers no advantage to the public.

"The condemned prisoner is locked up in a cell, he is defenseless and poses no threat to anyone," Wedgwood said.

Executing a prisoner runs a high risk, he added.

"Speaking from the perspective of epistemology, I do not believe the past is ever utterly certain. People can be framed, evidence can be planted, memories play tricks on people. I don't think we can ever be certain enough to justify risking the extraordinary injustice of killing someone who may be totally innocent."

Wedgwood brought up legal philosopher Antony Duff, who believes that when we punish people, we still must regard them as human beings - they are members of the human family.

"I believe in punishing someone, we should always leave room for the possibility of their repenting for their crime, with the goal ultimately of reconciliation," Wedgewood said. "If you kill someone, you preclude that possibility."

Alone in the world

Moderator Sharon Lloyd, professor of philosophy, law and political science at USC Dornsife, said the topic resonates more with people now because the public has become more educated on the issue.

"The United States is almost alone in the civilized world in imposing the death penalty on its own citizens," Lloyd said. "Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, life is a human right, and for a government to kill its citizens is a violation of that most fundamental right."

According to Lloyd, support for the death penalty has been slowly eroding in the U.S., due in large part to economic concerns.

In the discussion, panelist Dan Simon of the USC Gould School of Law pointed out that the cost is about 100 times more to convict and sentence someone to death than to incarcerate them for life. He said cases of botched executions have raised the concern that the death penalty violates our constitutional right not to be subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment."

Racial bias?

Panelists - who also included USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni and Martin Levine, USC vice provost and senior adviser to the provost and Michael Brennan of USC Gould - touched on the issue of racial bias and how minorities and lower socioeconomic classes are disproportionately affected.

"One benefit to the death penalty debate is that it's focusing more attention on the functioning of the criminal justice system," Simon said.

Brennan, who has worked as a criminal defense attorney, noted that the system of capital punishment in the U.S. simply does not work. Death penalty cases can take as long as 20 years in the courts, becoming incredibly expensive. In the past 40 years, 12 people in California have been put to death, he said, costing $4 billion.

"The combination of too many mistakes and too much money doesnít justify the few people who are actually executed in California."

The religion perspective

Soni discussed the death penalty from the perspective of religious traditions. He maintained that religions and their ancient texts must be malleable and interpreted within a modern social and technological context. In past civilizations, he said, justice was meted out much differently in the absence of modern legal and prison systems as well as scientific and DNA-based evidence.

But even the modern system is flawed, he said, quoting 12th-century Jewish legal scholar Mosheh ben Maimon, who said, "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."

"And yet we know in our modern criminal justice system, we have not upheld this ideal," Soni said. "We know we have killed people who were later exonerated through DNA evidence."

One argument often cited by proponents asks whether a person would support the death penalty if it was their family member that was murdered.

"Many of us would say 'yes'," Soni said. "Of course - we are human, we are upset and angry. But that's why we have the criminal justice system and not a system of posse justice. We have substantive and procedural due process, and it's not up to us to mete justice."

Levine brought up what he called "the informal justice system" in our country, or excessive use of force.

"The formal criminal law process in America executes 30, some years maybe 100 people. But the informal way to execute people is for a policeman to pull out his gun and kill a person. That's something in the order of 1,000 people a year."

All things considered, Levine said the "unofficial death penalty" is more important than the official one. Reforming the criminal justice system should have as much to do with the police force and its rules of engagement, and what can be improved systematically within law enforcement organizations.

Rise above it

Wedgwood's final comments questioned the emotional urge for retribution.

"When you really, deeply hate someone, you have a wish to destroy them. Lots of religious traditions have observed natural human impulses like this one, but nonetheless dictate that we have to rise above them."

He cited Socrates and Plato, who argued that the belief in retaliation should be rejected.

"In the end, the kind of certainty and level of confidence you'd need to justify running the risk of killing an innocent person would have to be extraordinarily high," Wedgwood said. "Going back to Duff's theories of punishment, I believe we should always hold the hope for reconciliation, however forlorn that might seem."

(source: USC News)


Bali completes probe into US pair accused of suitcase murder

Police in Indonesia have completed their probe into an American man and his girlfriend accused of killing the woman's mother in Bali and stuffing her body in a suitcase, a prosecutor said Monday (Dec 8), adding the pair was expected to go on trial next month.

He also said 19-year-old Heather Mack, who is pregnant, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer were being transferred from police cells to the resort island's notorious Kerobokan jail, where prisoners live in cramped, filthy conditions and drug abuse is widespread.

The battered body of Sheila von Wiese Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the boot of a taxi in front of an exclusive hotel in the upscale Nusa Dua resort area in August. Mack and Schaefer, 21, had been staying with her but fled to another part of the island after the killing. They were caught the following day and police have said they could face the death penalty if found guilty of premeditated murder.

Prosecutor Eddy Artha Wijaya told reporters in the Balinese capital Denpasar that police had finished their investigation and handed responsibility to the prosecution service. "We have received the case file from the police," he said. Prosecutors have an initial 20 days to draw up charges and Wijaya said he hoped the pair would face trial in January.

If the case does proceed to court, Mack and Schaefer will be formally charged at their first appearance, which is the usual procedure in the Indonesian legal system. They had been in police holding cells during the police investigation. But now that probe had wrapped up they would be moved later Monday to Kerobokan, Wijaya said.

Mack's lawyer, Raja Nasution, insisted that "she will be more comfortable there as it's bigger". He added that she would go to hospital every month to check on the progress of her pregnancy. The victim and the suspects are all from the Chicago area.

(source: ChannelNewsAsia)


New TV show to feature death row inmate Coble, Vicha family

A prosecutor once said that Billie Wayne Coble has a heart full of scorpions.

Now, a new television series is calling him "Most Evil."

Coble, 66, a Texas death row inmate from McLennan County, will be featured at 9 p.m. Sunday on a new Investigation Discovery channel television series called "Most Evil."

The new series premiered Sunday night with an episode named "Manipulators." Coble, who killed his estranged wife's brother and parents in Axtell in 1989, is featured in an episode called "Control Killers."

"Each episode of 'Most Evil' looks at 3 cases meticulously dissected by Dr. Kris Mohandie to get to the heart of the terrifying question: What drives someone to murder?" a release from Investigation Discovery says.

Mohandie, a forensic psychologist who has worked with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, interviewed Coble on death row for the program.

The program will delve into the reasons people kill and will rate Coble on an "official scale of criminal behavior," ranging from 1 to 22, to create a "hierarchy of evil," the network release says.

Besides Coble, Waco attorney and former McLennan County District Attorney's Office prosecutor J.R. Vicha will be featured in the episode.

Vicha, 36, was 11 when Coble, distraught at his impending divorce from Vicha's aunt Karen, killed Vicha's father, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, and Vicha's grandparents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, at their Axtell homes.

Coble tied up J.R. Vicha and his cousins and told the girls to say goodbye to their mother. He then kidnapped Karen, who was his estranged wife, and fled before they were injured in a wreck after a high-speed chase with police in Bosque County.

Coble twice was given the death penalty, the last time in 2008. He has had several stays of execution and his latest application for writ of habeas corpus is pending with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

J.R. Vicha, who became a prosecutor because of his father's law enforcement influence, said he initially declined to be interviewed for the "Most Evil" show, thinking, "What's the point?"

He said he changed his mind after show producers told him that they were talking to Coble.

"Coble didn't testify at either of his trials, so who knows what he was going to get on there and say," Vicha said. "I didn't really want to do it, but I thought I had better agree to go on to rebut whatever lies he was going to tell."

Vicha said he has vivid memories of the incident in which his father and grandparents were shot and killed. He says he didn't know they had been killed while Coble was restraining him and his cousins and said he remembers thinking that nothing that bad was happening.

"It never crossed my mind one time that anything like that was going on," he said. "I didn't know people were capable of that."

(source: Waco Tribune)


Penalty phase begins for ex-Texas justice of peace

Jurors are considering life in prison or the death penalty for a former justice of the peace convicted of killing a prosecutor's wife in North Texas.

The trial of Eric Williams enters the punishment phase Monday in Rockwall.

Williams was convicted Thursday of capital murder in a revenge plot against a Kaufman County district attorney, his wife and a top assistant.

He lost his judicial job and law license after being prosecuted and convicted in 2012 of stealing county computer monitors.

Williams was found guilty in the March 2013 fatal shooting of Cynthia McLelland. Her husband, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, was also found slain at their home. Williams is also charged with killing assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse in January 2013.

Williams did not testify at trial

(source: Associated Press)


Arguments to be heard in Wicomico death penalty case

Attorneys for Jody Lee Miles, on death row since 1998 in the murder of a Wicomico County man, say his death sentence is illegal.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler says otherwise, though he agrees it's not possible Miles could be executed.

Both sides in the case of Jody Lee Miles v. State of Maryland are set to state their positions during oral arguments at the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland's lower appellate court, in Annapolis on Monday morning.

The parties will head to court on Miles' 3rd motion to correct illegal sentence, according to the appellant's brief, filed by Miles' defense. A Queen Anne's County Circuit Court judge denied the motion and a motion for reconsideration, the brief states, and Miles appealed the case.

The trial was held in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court in 1998, though the April 2, 1997, shooting death of Edward Atkinson happened in Wicomico County. The body of the musical theater director was found off Old Bradley Road in Mardela Springs, the town in which he lived.

Gansler said in November the state's position is that the judge must impose a life without parole sentence. But defense attorney Robert Biddle said in November the defense plans to seek a sentence of less than life without parole.

He said Jody Miles' defense - which consists of Biddle and Erika Alsid Short, who are of different firms, and Brian Saccenti of the Office of the Public Defender - will be asking for a sentence that would allow Miles to leave prison before he dies.

"Mr. Miles looks forward to having an opportunity to pursue a just, fair, and appropriate sentence other than death following the removal of the death sentence," a November statement from the defense on Biddle's letterhead read.

Both sides agree that Maryland does not have the authority to create protocols to use for the death penalty, and that Miles wouldn't be able to be executed, according to a legal stipulation.

Although Attorney General Doug Gansler and the defense agree on that point, Wicomico County State's Attorney Matt Maciarello voiced his opinion in November that by not executing Miles, the state "is letting the family down."

The defense, according to its brief, believes the act that repealed the death penalty on Oct. 1, 2013, is retroactive because, for one, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services can no longer execute the death penalty legally.

The state in its brief, written by Attorney General Doug Gansler and Assistant Attorney General James E. Williams, disagrees, saying that even the language of the statute brings an "unavoidable conclusion" that it is not meant to be retroactive.

The defense argues in its brief that "Mr. Miles' sentence is illegal as it is unenforceable and therefore must be vacated." The defense also argues that it is illegal because it exceeds the maximum sentence, and that it would be cruel and unusual to have Miles held under a death sentence when that can't happen.

While the state writes in its brief that the sentence is not and was not illegal, it feels the death sentence should not be kept because of due process - without the death sentence being dropped, Miles would continue to be held for a death penalty that would not happen.

The state's brief says that because Miles' sentence is not illegal and related to repeal legislation, his sentence should be changed to life without parole.

"Life imprisonment, instead of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, was only available to Miles if: (a) the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Miles was a principal in the first degree murder; (b) that Miles did not commit murder in the course of a robbery; (c) that aggravators did not outweigh the mitigating circumstances," the state wrote in its brief.

The jury did find those things were met in this case, according to the state's brief. The state also cites part of the death penalty repeal legislation.

The defense writes in its reply brief that it wants a new sentencing hearing for Miles. The defense brief states that the jury wasn't allowed to consider whether a life sentence should be with or without parole.

Additionally, the defense writes that Miles has much remorse about taking Atkinson's life and that there are at least 11 letters from correctional officers that speak highly of Miles. The defense brief also discusses how Miles was sexually abused as a child and the effect that had on him with post-traumatic stress disorder and in how that impacted his actions on April 2, 1997.

A decision in the case is not expected Monday.



State set to wrap up case in pawnshop murder trial

The prosecution is looking to wrap up state testimony around lunch today in the 7-week-long Kyle Harris murder trial in Cumberland County Superior Court.

The timing could depend on the medical condition of defense lawyer Steve Freedman, who was hospitalized Wednesday at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center after experiencing a flare-up of high blood pressure in the courtroom.

District Attorney Billy West said late last week that the prosecution needed roughly a half-day to finish its evidence in the case.

Defendant Cedric Theodis Hobbs Jr. is charged with 1st-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. He is charged with killing Harris, a 2009 graduate of Cape Fear High School, in the Cumberland Pawn Shop on Grove Street during a robbery on Nov. 6, 2010.

If found guilty of 1st-degree murder, Hobbs could face the death penalty.

Hobbs, 33, also is suspected of killing Rondriako Burnett in Georgia and stealing his Suburban SUV the day before Harris, who was 19, was killed. Prosecutors say Hobbs then killed Harris in the pawnshop after the Suburban broke down in Fayetteville. After allegedly ditching the Suburban for Harris' Saturn Ion, Hobbs and his fiance and accomplice, Alexis Mattocks, were arrested in Washington, D.C.

The defense has indicated that it needs at least a couple of days for evidence. Should the trial proceed as expected, closing arguments could be heard toward the end of the week or near the beginning of the week of Dec. 15.

Dr. Daniel Brown, a former eastern regional medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, had just started his testimony Wednesday when Freedman exited the courtroom not feeling well.

Hobbs has admitted in Superior Court that he shot Harris and robbed the business. But he said in a taped 2010 interview with investigators that it was an accident. Hobbs said he only wanted to scare the pawnshop employees into giving him the money from the cash register.

Hobbs also said in the taped interview that he wanted to get cash and guns during the store robbery.

Defense lawyer Lisa Miles told the jury that Hobbs suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse at the time of the Fayetteville homicide.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Clemency hearing to be held for death row inmate

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles plans to hold a clemency hearing for a Georgia death row inmate convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy.

The clemency hearing for Robert Wayne Holsey is set for Monday. Holsey is to be executed Tuesday. A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey of killing Baldwin County sheriff's deputy Will Robinson.

Holsey robbed a Milledgeville convenience store in December 1995. The clerk called police immediately afterward and described the robber and his car.

Robinson pulled Holsey over minutes later. Authorities say Holsey fired at Robinson as the deputy approached the vehicle.

Holsey's lawyers say he shouldn't be executed because his trial lawyer failed to present evidence that could have spared him the death penalty.

Clemency hearings are closed to the public and media.

(source:Associated Press)


Inmate Execution Scheduled for Tuesday

Condemned murderer Robert Wayne Holsey is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. Holsey was sentenced to death for the December 1995 murder of 26-year-old Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson in Baldwin County.

Media witnesses for the execution are: Kate Brumback, The Associated Press; Malcolm Johnson, WGXA; Randall Savage, WMAZ-TV; Walter Geiger, The Herald-Gazette; and Liz Fabian, The Macon Telegraph.

There have been 54 men executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. If executed, Holsey will be the 32nd inmate put to death by lethal injection. There are presently 85 men and 1 woman on death row in Georgia.

The Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison is located 45 minutes south of Atlanta off Interstate 75. From Atlanta, take exit 201 (Ga. Hwy. 36), turn left over the bridge and go approximately 1/4 mile. The entrance to the prison is on the left. Media covering the execution will be allowed into the prison's media staging area beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

(source: Coosa valley News)


Miss. court won't toss rape conviction appeal

The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied a prosecutor's motion to throw out a death row inmate's appeal of his 1994 rape conviction.

Charles Ray Crawford 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's office argued in requesting the dismissal 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 Supreme Court denied the motion Thursday without comment.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

State should spare man-child's life

Missourians might feel that actions by officials suggest a more fitting new motto: the Shame Us State. There have been the sorry scenes in Ferguson and the continued executions in our state - 10 since last November - with Paul Goodwin, who is intellectually disabled, pitifully set to be killed Dec. 10, recognized elsewhere around the world as Human Rights Day.

If courts fail to intervene, hopefully Gov. Jay Nixon will spare his life and bolster our state's moral standing. By so extending mercy, he would also be affirming the relevancy of Missouri law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. His Democratic predecessor Gov. Bob Holden, after all, signed legislation in 2001 prohibiting the death sentencing of individuals formerly termed "mentally retarded."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional the following year in the Atkins decision. The court cited factors including Missouri's law as proof of an "evolving standard of decency" nationwide, realizing that because intellectually disabled individuals are less culpable of their crimes, they should be spared the harshest punishment (as should be all human beings, we furthermore believe).

A few years before Atkins, Paul Goodwin killed Joan Crott in 1998. We mourn with her loved ones over Crott's death by Goodwin's awful actions. There is, however, much explanatory information never heard by jurors in St. Louis County (where more people than any other state jurisdiction have been death-sentenced - the 9th-most nationally - under the direction of Prosecutor Bob McCulloch).

Executing Goodwin would be akin to killing the intellectual equivalent of a child. Denis Keyes, a psychologist who specializes in identifying mental deficits, conducted a battery of tests on Goodwin in 2001 and again last month. In the earlier report he found Goodwin "functioned below the intellectual cut-off level of mental retardation," roughly at the "age equivalent of 7 year olds." Keyes also interviewed more than 20 of his relatives, former teachers and other acquaintances. He reported Goodwin's adaptive skills, a measure of one's ability to function independently as an adult (manage money, attend to personal health needs, etc.) were "within the moderate to severe range of retardation," Keyes wrote, similar to "the level of a child between 3 and 5 years of age."

Goodwin meets the criteria for mental retardation under Missouri law - including evidence of his intellectual disability present before age 18. In 1980, when he was 13, his full-scale IQ was estimated to be 72, well within the standard of error for sub-average intellectual functioning. Keyes reported in 2001 that school records indicate Goodwin was initially enrolled in special education classes in 1st grade, then throughout his schooling. He had to repeat an elementary grade t3 times.

Due to inadequate legal representation at trial and other legal snafus, the courts have yet to consider Goodwin's disability. Jurors heard from prosecutors a tale of premeditation not intellectually possible by Goodwin, but one mapped out publicly for Goodwin, who would be the 79th person executed by state officials since 1989.

Goodwin's family recently wrote that "Paul was distraught over the death of his longtime girlfriend. His mental retardation left him unable to deal with his grief as most adults would do, and unable to make rational decisions. He tried to drown his grief in alcohol, and as a result, lost control during a confrontation with Ms. Crotts. Paul was remorseful and shocked at what he had done, and he willingly reenacted the events of the night for police." The family's statement insists, "He had no intention of killing Ms. Crotts."

Executing him would cause immense grief for them and many others who have come to know Goodwin, who is 6-foot-5 and weighs about 280 pounds and is seen as a gentle giant. He had no prior violent criminal record. Caryn Platt Tatelli, a mitigation specialist working with Goodwin's clemency attorneys, interviewed eight prisoners in Potosi last month to get their perspectives on him for an affidavit (officials have discouraged correction workers from sharing insights about condemned prisoners with the attorneys representing them). Prisoner Walter Storey says Goodwin's a kind man "just like Lennie, the slow-witted character in 'Of Mice and Men.'"

He and other prisoners shared their concerns that Goodwin has been unable to properly care for himself, as his mother and sisters had assisted him before the crime. Another former cellmate, Charles Armentrout, said he, for example, "worried about Paul Goodwin's consumption of sweets because he knew that (he) was diabetic," according to the affidavit. He successfully urged Goodwin to stop "drinking soda, but he would still eat something like twenty (20) Honeybuns in a sitting." He explained, "I do not think it was that Paul did not care about his health; it was more that he was not able to think through the consequences of his eating habits."

Further confirmation of his childishness has come in game-playing. Carmen Deck, another prisoner, noted that Goodwin had begun to enjoy some physical activities like racquetball, though he's not very coordinated. Deck recounted that whenever "Paul did something good, he will make the 'W' sign on his forehead and jump around happily shouting 'I'm a Winner, I'm a Winner' - just like a child would."

Please urge Gov. Nixon to halt the execution of this man-child if courts don't; call his office at 573-751-3222, or write him a letter, faxing it via 573-751-1495 or emailing via If the execution still seems possible, join Vigils for Life from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday outside the governor's office, 2nd floor of the Capitol in Jefferson City and/or from 5 to 6 p.m. in front of the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. For more information, call 573-449-4585.

(source: Jeff Stack is coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation; Columbia Daily Tribune)


Chol Soo Lee, Who Sparked Early Pan-Asian American Movement, Dies at 62

Chol Soo Lee, a Korean American whose wrongful conviction in a 1973 San Francisco murder case galvanized a historic pan-Asian American movement to win his freedom, died Tuesday at age 62.

He passed away at a San Francisco hospital, after suffering medical complications stemming from a digestive system problem that had him hospitalized for 2 weeks, according to friends.

Lee, an immigrant from South Korea who came to the U.S. around middle-school age, was arrested by San Francisco police in June 1973 for the murder of Yip Yee Tak, a local Chinatown gang leader, who was shot dead in broad daylight.

Chol Soo Lee and K.W. Lee spoke last year at the National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco.

Though Lee was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison a year later, he maintained his innocence. Thanks to the persistence of a group of Asian American supporters who rallied to his side, a Korean American journalist by the name of K.W. Lee (no relation to Chol Soo Lee) began investigating the case in 1977.

K.W. Lee, then a staff writer for The Sacramento Union, would write more than 100 articles that raised troubling questions about Chol Soo Lee's conviction. Chol Soo was much shorter than eyewitness descriptions of the gunman and had a mustache that not a single witness mentioned to police. Notably, Lee was often identified as Chinese during his trial. There was also a spate of Chinatown gang violence during this period, and political pressure on local authorities to make an arrest in the Yip Yee Tak murder.

The series of news articles would help spark the Free Chol Soo Lee Movement, which was one of the earliest pan-Asian American movements, bringing together a diverse group of supporters that included third-generation Asian American college students and community activists, as well as Korean immigrant grandmothers.

While incarcerated, Chol Soo Lee got into a prison yard brawl with a white supremacist gang member, whom Lee killed in self-defense. The incident led to a conviction of murder with special circumstance and the death penalty.

Lee was on death row as his supporters were raising money, holding demonstrations and hiring new attorneys to fight for his freedom.

On Sept. 3, 1982, a San Francisco jury acquitted Lee of the Yip Yee Tak murder. And by March of 1983, he was a free man, after a California appeals court nullified his death sentence in the jailhouse killing.

Over the years, following his release, it was no secret that Lee had a difficult time adjusting to life after 10 years in prison and had some brushes with the law. Lee himself had said part of him remained in prison.

Hollywood made a 1989 film, "True Believer," starring James Woods and Robert Downey, Jr., based on the Lee case, but the movie left out the key role of the Asian American community. Lee, however, never forgot.

Just a year ago, on Dec. 7, 2013, Chol Soo Lee joined several of his most ardent supporters - including K.W. Lee and community activists Peggy Saika, Grace Kim, Jai Lee Wong and Warren Furutani - at Kardia United Methodist Church in West Los Angeles for an event that commemorated the 30th anniversary of his release from death row.

A 2013 edition of Amerasia Journal marked the 30th anniversary of Chol Soo Lee's release from death row.

Chol Soo Lee talked about the continuing need to speak out for justice and expressed his deep gratitude to his supporters, many of whom were inspired by the case to seek careers that worked toward social justice, as attorneys, activists and political leaders.

Before his death, he wrote his memoir, "Freedom Without Justice," which he worked on with Asian American studies scholar Richard S. Kim of UC Davis. It is not yet published.

In a 2005 interview with Kim, Chol Soo shared these words about lessons from his own painful brush with injustice: "I feel that the greatest message that could be given from the Chol Soo Lee movement is that, as Mr. K.W. Lee said, the purity, the unselfishness, the integrity of people, giving to a stranger. And I think that message needs to be brought back to the Asian community....The need to give today is far greater than in my own time."

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 11 a.m. at the Yeo Lai Sah Buddhist Monastery, 200 San Bruno Ave. W., San Bruno (in San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco).

To read K.W. Lee's reflections on the Chol Soo Lee case from a January 2013 column in Nichi Bei Weekly, go online to



Suspected LAX Gunman Due in Federal Court

The man charged in a deadly shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport is due in court and prosecutors could announce whether they will seek the death penalty.

Paul Ciancia is scheduled to appear Monday for a status hearing in Los Angeles federal court.

Prosecutors said this summer that they expected a decision in November from the attorney general about whether to pursue the death penalty in the killing of a Transportation Security Administration officer and the wounding of 3 other people at LAX last year.

A federal prosecutor said Thursday that the attorney general had not yet made a decision about the death penalty.

Ciancia, a New Jersey native, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

The judge wants the case to go to trial next year.

(source: ABC news)


Johnson wants change of venue for death penalty hearing

A former north Iowa woman sentenced to death in 2005 is asking for her new sentencing hearing to be moved out of Iowa.

According to federal court documents filed last week, Angela Johnson's defense is asking that proceedings be moved to Minnesota because of extensive publicity the case has received in Iowa. Johnson was convicted of helping her boyfriend, Dustin Honkin, kill 5 people including 2 children in 1993. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in Mason City.

In 2012, a federal judge determined that Johnson's defense was inadequate, and vacated her death sentence. A trial is scheduled in the coming months for a new jury to hear the case again and determine what her final sentence should be.

According to the recent documents, Johnson's defense is asking - if the case is not moved to Minnesota - that jurors be chosen from parts of Iowa where people are less familiar with her case and previous death sentence. The defense has also ask that a judge rule that a new death sentence would be unconstitutional before trial even begins.

(source: KIMT news)


Crazy Justice, and Murder, Mayhem and the Death Penalty

A federal appeals court has halted Texas' execution of convicted killer Scott Panetti, who, while allegedly suffering from religious delusions, murdered his wife's parents.

The appeals court considered Panetti's history of mental illness in ruling that he may be exempt from execution. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled nearly 30 years ago that mentally incompetent persons could not be executed as that would be cruel and unusual punishment prohibited under the Eighth Amendment.

Justice can have some very fine lines, and determining mental fitness for execution is certainly one of them. In addition to insanity, courts have ruled that convicted murderers can be too young, or have too low an IQ to receive the death penalty. This leads to some interesting questions about rehabilitation, guilt and innocence, and public safety.

A person can commit horrific crimes, claim innocence due to insanity, and eventually rejoin society as a free person.

Last month, convicted murderer Theodore LeLeaux, who, in 1984 murdered a coworker, cut out his heart and put it in his jacket, was paroled in San Luis Obispo County by a judge who decided he was rehabilitated. LeLeaux had claimed he suffered a psychotic delusion when he committed the savage murder. But he is all right now? Really? If Charles Manson is all right now should he be released into society?

It can all be a bit ironic. If Panetti is too crazy to execute, then maybe his murder conviction should be overturned. Then, he could be retried, found innocent by reason of insanity, and afterward if he could convince some judge that he was no longer insane he could be a free man. So, one can be crazy enough to commit murder, but too crazy to be fully punished for it.

How can it be accurately determined who is or is no longer a psychotic killer? And what is insanity anyway? Panetti's defense is that he suffered from psychotic religious delusions; you know, the devil made him do it.

It can be argued that all religious beliefs are delusions; therefore any religious person committing a crime could be innocent by reason of insanity. So, all those Islamic State barbarians butchering people in the name of god could be innocent. They simply suffer from religious delusions.

It challenges both the notions of logic and justice that some people committing murder are evil and deserve punishment, including the death penalty, while others are mentally ill and deserve rehabilitating therapy. If the latter are innocent and not evil, then there is no guilty party; the murder victims are simply victims of an unfortunate accident. That can be difficult for the victims' loved ones to accept. Somehow a tree falling on daddy is not the same as some lunatic cutting out daddy's heart.

While some murders are committed out of mercy, as when someone kills a loved one who is suffering a painful terminal illness and wants to die, most murders are either cold-blooded or acts of rage. Why are they not acts of insanity? What is sane about cold-blooded or enraged murder? All such murderers are crazy, so why is it OK to execute any of them and not all of them?

However, who is nuts and who is not isnít the most critical issue in deciding justice for murder, the death penalty itself is. While the courts are deliberating over whether a murderer is sane or not, or who is too young or not smart enough to execute, or what method of execution is constitutional, the larger problem is the many instances of failed justice that result in wrongful convictions. Time and time again innocent people have been sent to death row.

Unless justice can be absolutely infallible, all cops and prosecutors honest, and all juries impartial, the death penalty is not appropriate. With police around the country executing people on the streets with impunity, and with the federal government using drones to assassinate, without due process of law, U.S. citizens, we sure don't need more state-sanctioned executions by a fallible, sometimes corrupt, judicial system.

The widespread police thuggery, the emerging police state that spies on and bullies the public, the twisted justice that punishes victimless drug users while it ignores fraudulent bankers who victimize millions of people has made American justice suspect. Public trust in the judicial system is in jeopardy.

Justice in America is the best money can buy, and for that reason and others it is not always impartial, honest or fair. It is certainly not infallible. Allowing such a system to put people to death is not only barbaric; it is a lethal threat to every citizen.

(source: Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer;


Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike in Urmia face threat of execution

The hunger strike of Kurdish political prisoners in the Urmia central prison continues for the 18th day as administrators are responding to the protest with a threat of execution.

The hunger strike by 27 Kurdish political prisoners was launched in protest against the Iranian regime's decision for the transfer of criminal prisoners to the political prisoners' ward in the central Urmia prison.

Information obtained from the prison reveals that the Iranian intelligence service has many times threatened the prisoners on strike with execution or transfer to other prisons south of the country since their protest began.

Osman Mostafapour who is also taking part in the protest has reportedly been interrogated by an intelligence officer this week. It is reported that in response to the threats uttered in order for the ending of the hunger strike, the political prisoners remain determined to continue their protest until their demand is met and non-political prisoners are removed from their ward.

In the meantime, the health of the political prisoners is reported to be deteriorating as the hunger strike continues for the 18th day. Ali Reza Rasuli is reported to be refusing treatment despite having been referred to hospital several times.

Names of 27 prisoners participating in the hunger strike are: Ali, Wali and Jafar Afshari (brothers), Sherko Hassan Pur, Mohammad Abdullah, Xizir Rasuli Rad, Saman Nasim, Amir Maladoost, Sirwan Najawi, Jafar Mizayi, Ibrahim Resapur, Abdullah Efxeri, Abdurhaman Sileman, Ebudllah Omeri, Seyd Sami Hiseni, Ebdulla Hemudi, Ehmed Temuyi, Osman Mistefa Pur, Behroz Alxani, Mistefa Rehman, Yusif Kakememi, Seyd Cemal Mihemedi, Eli Reza Resuli, Sores, Hebib Efsari and Mistefa Dawudi.

(source: Firat News)


8 sentenced to death for China attacks; Convicts accused of carrying out 2 deadly attacks in the violence-torn far-western Xinjiang region.

A court in China has sentenced 8 people to death for allegedly carrying out 2 deadly attacks in the violence-torn far-western Xinjiang region, state media said.

5 others were given suspended death sentences, a penalty normally commuted to life in prison, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday.

Another 4 were jailed over the attacks, which killed 39 people at a market and 1 at a train station this spring. Several attackers also died.

In 1 incident, assailants armed with knives and explosives reportedly attacked a train station in the regional capital Urumqi in April, killing 1 person and wounding 79 on the final day of a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 2 assailants also died.

In May, 39 people were killed, along with 4 attackers, and more than 90 wounded when assailants threw explosives and ploughed 2 vehicles through a market in Urumqi, state media said.

Over the past year, at least 200 people have died in a series of clashes and increasingly sophisticated attacks in the region and beyond it.

The sentences are the latest in a series of harsh punishments by Chinese authorities, who are in the midst of a "strike hard" campaign against violence in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is frequently hit by unrest prompted by fierce tensions between China's ethnic Han majority and the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs, with authorities regularly blaming Uighur fighters for the violence.

Some Uighurs in the region are hostile to the Communist Party's leadership.

They said they were victims of discrimination and left out of the benefits of development in Xinjiang, which has seen an influx of Han Chinese moving in from elsewhere in the country.

Xinjiang, a resource-rich region in China's far west, which abuts Central Asia, is home to about 10 million Uighur Muslims, who mostly follow Sunni Islam.

Experts and human rights activists said that policies regarding religion and culture adopted by China stoke tensions in the region.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Court Suggests Death Penalty for 4 Brotherhood Leaders; A Cairo court refers four Muslim Brotherhood leaders to Egypt's grand mufti to consider the death penalty.

A Cairo court on Sunday referred 4 Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who are on trial for the killing of 9 and injuring more than 90 in 2013, to Egypt's grand mufti to consider the death penalty.

The defendants in the case include 17 Brotherhood leaders, among which are former Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni, Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, and his deputy Khairat El-Shater, according to the Al-Ahram newspaper.

The top Brotherhood leaders involved in the case are not among those referred to the grand mufti, however, the report stressed.

The court has set February 28 2015 for a final verdict on the remaining defendants.

The defendants are accused of murder, inciting violence, and possession of live ammunition.

The sentences are the latest in an ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood which began in 2013 when the army ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Last week, a court sentenced 188 defendants to death for a violent attack on a police station after Morsi's ouster that left 11 police personnel and 2 civilians dead.

More than 500 people were sentenced to death in March for a separate attack on a police station in Minya on the same day.

In April, another 683 supporters of Morsi, including leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood, were sentenced to death as well.

The rise of mass convictions in Egypt has been described by the United Nations as "unprecedented".

The United States and the European Union have decried the mass convictions as well, but Egypt rejected the criticism, terming it "unacceptable interference in the judiciary affairs".

(source: Israel National News)


Kalynda Davis, Peter Gardner, Bali 9 pair face execution

At least a dozen Aussies face the firing squad in Asia, nearly 50 years after the last Australian was hanged on home soil.

3 Australians are currently on death row and up to 9 others face the firing squad if found guilty.

Sydneysiders Kalynda Davis, 22 and Peter Gardner, 25, are the most recent Australians to face execution after they were busted in China for trying to smuggle ice into Australia from China.

They are thought to be among 9 Australians in the Chinese court system who face the death penalty.

Throughout the world 58 countries still carry out executions, including popular holiday locations such as the USA, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Australia's most well known death row inmates are Bali 9 members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan who have been facing the ultimate penalty since February 2006.

New Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently endorsed the execution of 5 death row inmates, but it is believed they do not include the Australian pair.

The pair appealed to the previous president for clemency 2 years ago, but their appeals have not been heard.

4 other Bali 9 members had their sentences increased to the death penalty on appeal and then reduced again after another appeal.

Australian citizen Pham Trung Dung faces the death penalty in Vietnam after trying to smuggle 2 suitcases of heroin on a flight to Sydney.

Schapelle Corby once faced the death sentence for smuggling cannabis in her bodyboard bag into Bali, but after an agonising wait during her trial was given a 20-year sentence.

The last Australian to be executed was Melbourne man Van Tuong Nguyen, 25, who was hanged in December 2005.

Nguyen was hanged in a Singapore jail in 2005 after he was arrested at Changi Airport with almost 400 grams of heroin.

3 Australians were executed in Malaysia in the 1980s and 1990s.

(source: Herald Sun)


Drug mules' execution

The relatively high number of Pakistanis executed for drug smuggling this year in Saudi Arabia raises key questions about how these individuals are able to slip through our borders, and what is being done by the authorities here to demolish the criminal networks that facilitate this trade.

As per 1 figure recently cited in the media, at least 15 Pakistanis have been executed for drug trafficking by Riyadh in the current year.

These drug mules usually belong to the working class and are duped and then forced by criminals to carry contraband abroad. Criminals try and ensnare individuals with promises of visas and jobs in the kingdom.

Hailing from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, these men find the prospects of making a better life abroad irresistible.

Yet once such individuals take the traffickers' bait, they are forced to carry drugs across borders, or suffer the consequences. Often, as soon as the drug mules land at Saudi airports, they are rounded up by local authorities, and once the narcotics are discovered it is pretty much a guarantee of ending up on death row.

Of course, there is much to question about the transparency of the Saudi legal system in this regard, especially when it comes to prosecuting foreigners. Representatives of international monitor groups including Human Rights Watch have termed it 'arbitrary'.

While this newspaper opposes the death penalty, we realise that drug trafficking is a serious crime. We must ask then what our own government is doing to crack down on networks in this country involved in the drug trade. While drug mules are executed by foreign governments, the powerful players in this country that exploit these men remain largely untouched.

The state must rectify this with stricter monitoring of individuals at airports used to transport drugs abroad and by dismantling the local networks involved in smuggling narcotics. Also, a public awareness campaign is needed to warn potential drugs carriers not to fall prey to glittering but suspect offers of a passport to Middle Eastern prosperity.

(source: Editorial, Dawn)


Govt plans stringent punishment for hijackers

The government will introduce a bill seeking stringent punishment, including death penalty, for hijackers. The bill will be moved in the Rajya Sabha this week.

The Union Cabinet on December 2 approved the new legislation strengthening an earlier bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2010.

Sources said the government would now withdraw the Anti-Hijacking Amendment Bill, 2010, and introduce the new bill. The current law, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, was last amended in 1994.

The Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha is learnt to have allotted two hours for the discussion of the bill.

After the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 in December 1999, it was felt necessary for awarding death penalty to perpetrators of the act of hijacking. The incident of 9/11, where aircraft were used as weapons, also created the need to further amend the existing Act.

(source: Deccan Herald)


Court convicts 4 persons in 1975 L N Mishra murder case

Nearly 40 years after the then Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra was killed in a bomb blast at a function at Samastipur Railway Station in Bihar, a Delhi court today convicted 4 persons for the charges of murder and criminal conspiracy.

District Judge (DJ) Vinod Goel convicted the 4 persons, Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshananda Avadhuta, Sudevananda Avadhuta and Gopalji for various offences punishable under the IPC, including sections 302 (murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon or means) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt).

The court also held them guilty for offences punishable under the Explosive Substances Act.

"Vide separate detailed judgement, accused Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshananda Avadhuta, Sudevananda Avadhuta and Gopalji are convicted for offences under sections 120-B, 302, 326, 324, 34 (common intention) of the IPC," the judge said.

The court has fixed December 15 for hearing the arguments on quantum of sentence in the case. They will either get life term or death penalty. All of them were out on bail in this case.

"All these accused be taken in custody," the court said, adding, "Now to come up for hearing on quantum of sentence on December 15."

Lawyers for the 4 convicts, who were present in the court and appeared devastated, said they will appeal against the court order.

The case relates to the bomb blast at a function attended by Mishra at Samastipur Railway Station on January 2, 1975. He succumbed to injuries the next day.

Besides Mishra, 2 persons had died in the bomb blast while 7 others were injured.

Over 200 witnesses, including 161 prosecution witnesses and more than 40 defence witnesses, were examined in the case.

Advocate Ranjan Dwivedi, who was 24-year-old at that time and the youngest among the 4, was named as an accused in the case along with 4 Ananda Marga group members, 1 of whom has died.

The charge sheet in the case was filed on November 1, 1977 in a CBI court in Patna. The case was shifted to Delhi in 1979 on a plea by the then Attorney General to the Supreme Court.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Komnas HAM urges Jokowi to drop executions plan

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to review a plan to execute 5 drug traffickers on death row by the end of this year, demanding that he instead fall back on issuing life sentences to the convicts.

Komnas HAM stated that Indonesia does not yet have a reliable enough legal system for it to implement the ultimate punishment of death, with many law enforcement officers still missing their mark in upholding justice.

Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah cited wrongful arrests and bribery involving officials, to mention 2 examples, as irregularities that were commonly found in the countryís judicial system.

"We need to first make sure that our legal system is reliable before we implement [the death penalty]," she told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

"Komnas HAM is officially against the death penalty. It is the worst violation of human rights because it violates people's right to life."

Jokowi has been subject to protests from human rights defenders in the country as well as abroad following a plan to execute the 5 drug convicts later this month. The 5 are among 64 inmates currently on death row.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said the execution of the 5 convicts was due to the President's instruction.

According to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), 77 drug traffickers have been on death row since 2004. Nine of them have been executed, 2 of whom were executed last year, including Nigerian drug smuggler Adam Wilson in March and a Pakistani drug smuggler in November.

Roichatul said the national rights body had found cases where foreigners convicted of drug smuggling had undergone unfair procedures, such as the absence of interpreters during the legal process.

Although the government has yet to reveal the identities or nationalities of the drug convicts to be executed this month, rights activists, agreeing with Komnas HAM, gave a reminder that the executions would hamper the government's efforts to save Indonesians in other countries from the same punishment.

"How can our government convince foreign counterparts to spare the lives of Indonesians who are on death row while we still implement such a punishment?" said Poengky Indarti, executive coordinator of Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Imparsial.

"Additionally, in terms of the effort to combat drugs, the government can implement the law by closely monitoring and fighting drug dealers, including those backed by high-ranking officials," she added.

Newly appointed head of the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI) Nusron Wahid previously revealed that there were 280 Indonesian migrant workers facing the death penalty abroad who required protection.

Meanwhile, there are 236 other Indonesians facing the death penalty abroad due to their involvement in drug abuse and trafficking.

During a meeting with the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing foreign affairs earlier this year, former foreign minister Marty Natalegawa told lawmakers that the government had saved 184 Indonesians from the death penalty abroad.

According to the Foreign Ministry's data, 20 of them were saved from the death penalty from January to May this year, while the rest had been saved from 2011.

(source: Jakarta Post)


Kiwi drug smuggling suspect refusing to speak to Bali police

The Whanganui man detained in Bali for allegedly smuggling 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine into the holiday island is refusing to co-operate with police.

Antony de Malmanche, 52, was arrested when he arrived at Denpasar Airport last Monday off a flight from Hong Kong, allegedly carrying the drug in his backpack. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

He is being detained in a holding cell at police headquarters in Denpasar where the police commissioner has told ONE News de Malmanche is refusing to speak to police about his case.

"He cannot be questioned by narcotics investigators unless he's in the presence of a lawyer and I understand that de Malmanche is yet to obtain a lawyer," says ONE News correspondent Steve Marshall.

"If he cannot afford a lawyer here in Bali, he will be given legal aid," Marshall says, reporting from near the police headquarters.

De Malmanche's physical condition is said to be okay and the New Zealand consul is expected to arrive in Bali from Jakarta in the next day or two to assist him, Marshall reports.

Video taken by a ONE News cameraman today shows de Malmanche in the police cell.

Under Indonesian law, police can hold a suspect for 30 days without charge, then can apply for a further 30 days.

Death penalty

Prime Minister John Key, meanwhile, says the Government will make its opposition to the death penalty clear to Indonesia's President Joko Widodo if it looks like de Malmanche will face a firing squad.

Mr Key says he thinks it's a known fact that the New Zealand Government doesn't support the death penalty.

"If it looks as if that's how it's going to progress, then obviously we'll make that very clear to the Indonesian President. But let's see how things play out," Mr Key said at his final post-Cabinet press conference of the year.

"We will obviously continue to provide him consular support and make sure he is getting the right legal support which will be provided to him, I'm sure not by the taxpayer necessarily," Mr Key said. "But outside of that we'll just have to see how things progress."

Earlier today, New Zealand police denied a suggestion by an Australian journalist, Michael Bachelard, that they tipped off Bali police to arrest de Malmanche when he arrived in Bali.

(source: ONE news)

DECEMBER 7, 2014:


Records reveal new details in the death of woman

Pieces of a gun and ammunition were found in the road near a ditch where a dead woman was found, killed at the hands of her married boyfriend. The details come from court documents in the investigation into the death of Joyce "Jo" Price Eaton.

Anthony Clay Campbell, 53, of 156 Charleston Way in Mocksville, was indicted this week on 1st-degree murder in the death of Eaton , his 45-year-old girlfriend from High Point. Eaton was found shot and stabbed in a ditch on AT&T Drive in McLeansville June 12, though her identity was unknown at the time. She had been dragged 15 feet off the road, according to the autopsy report.

Both Campbell and Eaton were married to other people; Eaton had been separated for several months.

Campbell was arrested June 17. He remains in Guilford County jail without bail.

Eaton was shot once in the back, according to the medical examiner's report. Law enforcement found one shell casing, as well as several unspent rounds of ammunition in AT&T Road near a puddle of blood, according to court documents. Several parts of a firearms magazine, in pieces, were also found, as well as Eaton's shoes near her body.

Eaton was last known to be alive the evening of June 11, after getting off work at the Verizon Wireless store at the Alamance Crossing shopping center in Burlington.

The district attorney's office has requested a hearing on Jan. 12, where it will announce whether it will pursue the death penalty, according to a court filing this week.

Sheriff's investigators have said one of the motives for Eaton's death was money. According to court documents, the couple may have argued over $1,800 - the amount of monthly rent for Eaton's house.

Despite a June arrest in the homicide, investigators were still conducting interviews and following leads in the case as recently as November.

Eaton was last seen outside of her workplace on June 11 in her BMW. The car was later spotted by Orange County sheriff's deputies just after midnight on June 12, parked on the side of the road in Hillsborough. The Guilford County Sheriff's Office was notified about the car the following afternoon.

Eaton, mother of 5, was reported missing by her eldest son on June 12. Her estranged husband realized the Jane Doe found dead in McLeansville on June 11 was Eaton by the description the sheriff's office released, and he contacted the agency on June 13. The estranged husband confirmed Eaton's identity through photos taken after her death. Eaton was still wearing her Verizon Wireless work clothes, according to the sheriff's office.

According to court documents, the wife of Campbell's stepson, who lives in Mocksville, picked up Campbell on June 11. Driving a Buick Rendezvous, she drove Campbell to a Wal-Mart in Greensboro. The exact time Campbell was picked up is unclear.

The woman said Campbell may have been driving a red pickup.

He is seen on store surveillance video putting gas into the pickup at a nearby gas station about 6:15 p.m. on June 11, the day investigators said Eaton was killed. Campbell used a gas station loyalty card in his name, according to court documents. Investigators also found a receipt for the gas at his house when they searched it.

Campbell owns a 2001 Cadillac Deville, according to paperwork Campbell previously filed with the court.

The Chevrolet pickup belonged to a relative of the wife, according to court documents. She told law enforcement she loaned the truck to Campbell on several previous occasions.

Lt. Brian Hall with the sheriff's office said investigators were trying to determine how Campbell drove around that night, if he moved Eaton's vehicle.

"We were trying to cover every possible scenario," Hall said. "We were trying to fill out some loose holes for how he got home. We were looking at anybody he got in contact with."

The sheriff's office obtained a search warrant on Aug. 28 for the Buick SUV, and a warrant on Sept. 18 for the pickup, according to court documents.

According to the search warrant applications, sheriff's investigators were searching for any blood, fibers, bullets or casings, firearms, digital media, or other items that could be connected to murder. However, Hall said, nothing was found in either vehicle.

Investigators also sought the court's permission to search 4 USB flash drives that were previously seized from Campbell. The items are in evidence at the sheriff's office, but unexamined, according to court documents. The sheriff's office filed the request in November.

Campbell was one of the last people Eaton spoke with on the phone. Using cell tower plotting, detectives have examined Campbell's cellphone and say he was in the area of where Eaton works around the time she got off work on June 11, as well as near where Eaton's body was found and where her BMW was found in Hillsborough, according to court documents.

Campbell told investigators he was in Mocksville that evening.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)


Family of George Junius Stinney Jr. still waiting to clear his name for the 1944 murders of Mary Thames and Betty Binnicker in South Carolina

Stinney, who was black, was charged, tried, convicted and executed in 83 days. He was sentenced to die by an all-white, all-male jury. A forensic psychiatrist called Stinney's statement 'a coerced, compliant, false confession.'

SC Department of Archives and HiGeorge Junius Stinney Jr. was charged, tried, convicted and executed in 83 days for the killing of two girls in South Carolina in 1944. No physical evidence linked him to the crimes.

The skinny black naif, posing for a mugshot in jail stripes, was on a legal steamroller bound for the electric chair.

And the defeated look on his face suggests he was well aware of his destiny.

The boy was George Junius Stinney Jr., 14, who was accused of killing 2 white girls 70 years ago in the Jim Crow south, in the company mill village of Alcolu, S.C.

The crime was a nightmare.

By all accounts, so was the hasty retribution.

On March 23, 1944, Mary Thames, 7, and Betty Binnicker, 11, pedaled a bicycle into the countryside in search of wild passion flower blossoms.

They failed to return home, and their bodies were discovered the next day in a watery ditch near the black side of town, where Stinney lived with his parents and 3 siblings. The girls had been brained with a 15-inch railroad spike.

Deputy Sheriff H.S. Newman, acting on "information I received," arrested Stinney, who had spoken to the girls as they passed his home.

Newman and a state cop questioned the boy and soon emerged with a full confession - 2 confessions, in fact.

In the 1st, the boy said he was helping the girls after Mary fell into the ditch. They suddenly began hitting him, so he defended himself. In the 2nd version, he said he killed Mary so he could sexually assault Betty, although there was no evidence of rape.

Stinney's trial began and ended on April 24, a month after the murders. No physical evidence linked him to the crime, so his prosecution hinged on the confession.

The defense attorney, Charles Plowden, 33, did not challenge the confession. Instead, he claimed Stinney was too young for a murder conviction. It was a wasted argument since state law said 14-year-olds could be charged as adults.

The jury, 12 white men, convicted Stinney in 10 minutes. They recommend no mercy, and the boy was sentenced to die.

Plowden filed none of the legal challenges that were standard in death penalty cases even then.

"There was nothing to appeal on," he later said.

A budding politician, Plowden had antebellum family roots there in Clarendon County. Some say his primary defense strategy was to avoid upsetting the white power structure.

And he succeeded.

With little national notice in a country distracted by World War II, Stinney was sent to death row - the youngest person to face legal execution in America last century.

Local clergymen and black leaders lobbied Gov. Olin Johnston for clemency, but he was not inclined to show mercy.

In a reply to one minister, Johnston suggested that Stinney got off easy: "The colored people of Alcolu would have lynched this boy themselves had it not been for the protection of the officers."

Stinney was electrocuted on June 16, 1944, not yet 3 months after the murders. He was 14 years, 7 months and 29 days old, stood 5-feet-1 and weighed 95 pounds.

Most of his family, which fled Alcolu in fear in the days after the boy's arrest, eventually relocated to the New York area.

For decades, his siblings - Charles Stinney, Katherine Robinson and Amie Ruffner - have sought a reexamination of the case.

They finally got a day in court last January, when South Carolina Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen presided over a hearing to determine whether Stinney got a fair trial.

"They took my brother away and I never saw my mother laugh again," Amie Ruffner, now 78, testified. "I would love his name to be cleared."

Jimmy PriceStinney was electrocuted on June 16, 1944, not yet 3 months after the murders. He was 14 years, seven months and 29 days old, stood 5-feet-1 and weighed 95 pounds.

A forensic psychiatrist called Stinney's statement "a coerced, compliant, false confession."

Today, the sly police art of manipulating a false confession from gullible kids has been well documented. Judge Mullen seemed to recognize that Stinney didn't stand a chance in 1944.

"No one here can justify a 14-year-old child being charged, tried and executed in 83 days," Mullen said. "In essence, not much was done for this child when his life lay in the balance."

Even the prosecutor at the hearing, Ernest (Chip) Finney III, saw the case as a travesty.

"Back in 1944," he said, "we should have known better, but we didn't."

Most expected a quick ruling. But nearly a year after the hearing, Mullen remains mum.

Ray Brown, a Baltimore writer who manages a "Redeem George Stinney Jr." Facebook page, told the Justice Story that he sees politics at play.

"Judge Mullen had all the information she needed to make a ruling at the close of that hearing," said Brown, who is working on a film about the case. "I believe the delay was a choreographed dance to keep this thing under wraps during an election year ... The powers that be in South Carolina are doing their best to not have to deal with a very ugly bit of history. At this point, I think the feds have to step in if we ever hope to get justice."

Stinney's brother, Charles, 83, lives in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

After 70 years of waiting, he said he has little faith in worldly justice.

"I don't know what the delay is about with the judge," he said last week. "But I'm a patient man because I know that, in the end, we all get final justice before the Lord."

(source: New York Daily News)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Clemency hearing for Baldwin deputy's killer to center on defense lawyer's competency

A man convicted of killing a Baldwin County sheriff's deputy is scheduled to be executed next week, but first his lawyers will argue for clemency, claiming the man did not have adequate counsel during trial and sentencing.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles will hear their arguments at 9 a.m. Monday in a special called meeting. Robert Wayne Holsey, 49, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright, who prosecuted Holsey, will argue against clemency, saying Holsey's attorney was lucid and a formidable foe.

Holsey was convicted of killing Baldwin County sheriff's Deputy Will Robinson after the deputy pulled over Holsey in a motel parking lot in response to an armed robbery at a Jet Food Store in Milledgeville Dec. 17, 1995.

Brian Kammer is executive director of the Georgia Resource Center, a nonprofit that represents those on death row. He's representing Holsey in his clemency hearing, arguing he may not have gotten a fair shake at a life sentence.

"What we claimed in his case, in Mr. Holsey's case, was that his attorney Andy Prince had rendered ineffective assistance and violated Mr. Holsey's Sixth Amendment right to competent counsel," Kammer said.

Prince represented Holsey at trial and sentencing.

"Mr. Prince was an active alcoholic at the time of his representation of Mr. Holsey. He was consuming approximately a quart of vodka a night during the trial," Kammer said.

Not long after Holsey's conviction, Prince was found guilty of stealing funds from another client, sentenced to his own prison stint and disbarred.

"He was a complete mess. And he was far, far from being able to provide a minimum of competent assistance," Kammer said.

In the sentencing phase, Prince did not present evidence of childhood abuse suffered by Holsey and his siblings. Neighbors referred to the home as the torture chamber, Kammer said.

Prince also did not share that Holsey's IQ tested as 70 as early as age 15, indicating he had intellectual disabilities, Kammer said.

Holsey's sentence was reduced on appeal. But the Georgia Supreme Court later overturned that ruling.

Bright's recollection of Prince's defense is far different.

"He was the go-to guy for death penalty defense lawyer at the time," Bright said.

Bright said Prince was a tough opponent. Whether Prince drank at night doesn't matter, he said.

"During the day when he was in court he was sober. He was lucid. He was a fighter. He worked his tail off," Bright said.

Bright said Prince defended Holsey against compelling physical evidence that put the gun in his hand despite the lack of eyewitness testimony. His defense kept one juror indecisive for 7 hours of deliberation.

Bright admits Holsey's childhood wasn't great, but it was rough for his sister, too.

"She chose to serve her country in Desert Storm. He chose to rob a convenience store," Bright said. "I told the jury, 'Same mother.'"

Holsey's sister went on to become a Baldwin County deputy and later a deputy U.S. marshal.

As for issues of Holsey's intelligence, Bright said even Prince's experts couldn't definitively say whether Holsey was intellectually disabled.

Bright defends the legal arguments made on both sides of Holsey's case and said that despite his zeal for justice, the last thing he wants is to kill an innocent man.

"We don't take this lightly. It's not a notch on my belt or anything," he said.

(source: Macon Telegraph)


House Bill 663 helps safe guard Ohio execution process: Jim Buchy, State Representative

State Rep. Jim Buchy represents the 84th District.

Guest columnist State Rep. Jim Buchy represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives. He writes in favor of House Bill 663 as a way of preserving Ohio's execution process.

Some pieces of legislation can bring out strong opinions on both sides, not so much because of what is actually contained in the legislation, but simply because of its general subject matter. Such might be the case, I believe, for the Ohio House passage of a bill addressing lethal injection here in Ohio.

Whereas the attention given to House Bill 663 understandably revolved around capital punishment, in actuality the bill itself was much more narrowly focused to protecting the confidentiality of the persons who participate in the process of execution by lethal injection. In other words, the vote taken in the House chamber last week was not a vote in support or opposition to the existence of the death penalty in Ohio. Regardless of the outcome of that vote, the death penalty would have still been around in our state.

The bill was a response to state officials momentarily suspending the practice of capital punishment because of controversies surrounding an execution earlier this year. HB 663, which passed out of the House with bipartisan support, makes it possible to carry out state law while ensuring executions are conducted in an efficient and humanitarian way.

Under the legislation, manufacturers who produce the drugs used in the lethal injection process can request anonymity for 20 years. It also provides additional protections to physicians who testify on the execution process. Because many manufacturers - from whom the state had purchased them for many years - have stopped selling drug compounds for this purpose, a number of states have been left looking for alternative ways to administer executions.

If needed to investigate any illegal activity conducted by a manufacturer and other entities involved, courts will have access to the relevant information. That information would be under seal unless the court, after holding a private hearing with the Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections, finds an entity or individual acted unlawfully. Under that circumstance, the information would be subject to discovery.

I am very familiar with the story behind the murderer whose execution led to this problem in Ohio. The man who was put to death earlier this year raped and stabbed to death a 22-year-old woman in 1989 in Preble County, which I represented at the time. While executions in Ohio should not in any way be rushed or pursued in a reckless manner, it is troubling to think that the murderer lived for a longer period of time following that killing than did his victim in her entire life.

A poll conducted earlier this year by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of Ohioans - nearly 70 % - favored the death penalty. So it is unlikely that the policy is going away any time soon, and that is not what House Bill 663 was about. The bill simply put in place safeguards help the state carry out its laws and to protect those individuals who are involved in the process.


Problems outweigh need for speed on execution secrecy law: Dennis Hetzel, Ohio Newspaper Association

Dennis Hetzel is executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Guest columnist Dennis Hetzel is the executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. He argues for more transparency in the way Ohio conducts executions.

The State of Ohio botched its last execution. The convicted killer struggled for nearly 25 minutes before finally succumbing. Officials attributed it to the difficulty in obtaining the drug "cocktail" needed - drugs that few companies want to sell for executions in response to public pressure, their own beliefs or mandates from their governments overseas. Other states face similar problems and related lawsuits.

The answer to the problem, according to some Ohio legislators and Attorney General Mike DeWine, is more secrecy.

As introduced, House Bill 663 offered anonymity and immunity to all the key players. The names of drug suppliers were secret forever. Even the courts were blocked from obtaining information through subpoena or discovery. Businesses were restricted from the kinds of contracts they could sign with other businesses. The bill inserted government into the relationship between physicians and their professional organizations.

The latest version, which has passed the House and is in the Ohio Senate, is better, and we appreciate the bipartisan effort to improve it. Judges could see this information in some circumstances. Records would eventually become public - in 20 years. Lawmakers also narrowed broad language that invited the courts to find fresh restrictions on access to information. However, major issues remain.

The fundamental problem may be the lethal injection method itself. In essence, the state must coerce private-sector companies to do something they apparently don't want to do, or are saying they won't do unless they receive anonymity.

Companies say they face significant harassment and threats, but Ohio has laws to prosecute legitimate threats and harassment. We haven't seen evidence of this need for special protection. Only extreme circumstances should restrict your right to protest or limit your access to basic information about businesses that do controversial things with taxpayer dollars.

Testimony in the House made it clear that this bill will spawn new, expensive litigation, and witnesses demonstrated that there is no way for the state to guarantee total anonymity to a drug company or pharmacy. For one thing, many claims will occur at the federal level. Constitutional challenges remain. Interference by the Legislature with court procedures, the medical profession and private sector contracts isn't resolved.

Given these issues, it's reasonable to ask whether this bill is appropriate for the fast track in the closing weeks of a 2-year legislative session.

Supporters say the matter is urgent, because executions can't occur in Ohio until this gets resolved. Meanwhile, there has been no consideration of the recommendations of the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force that have been available since April. The argument that the victims of these awful crimes deserve swifter closure is an important one but not a compelling reason to pass a problematic bill. Perhaps legislators can wait a little longer to make sure they craft a good law.

Ohio has an important tradition of an execution process that is quite transparent. This is consistent with our public records law and supported by numerous court decisions that say records must be open with rare exceptions drawn as narrowly as possible.

Everyone should embrace that notion, particularly when the "problem" to resolve is the best process for the state to end human lives. House Bill 663 is highly unlikely to make the execution process faster and more humane, but it unquestionably will make it harder for citizens to hold government accountable for its actions.

(source for both:


Suspects in UC professor's death plead not guilty

Charles Black and Kevin Howard pled not guilty in a Flemingsburg courtroom Friday to charges of murder, kidnapping and robbery in the case of missing University of Cincinnati professor Randall Russ.

Housed in 2 separate jails and appearing at 2 separate times, Charles Black and Kevin Howard are being held on a $1 million cash bond.

In October, 2 months after Russ went missing, Black told police he helped Howard bury him in a shallow grave north of Lexington but denied murdering the professor.

Kentucky State Police recovered the body but have yet to positively identify it as Russ.

Friday, for the 1st time, Russ's sister Connie and daughter Katie came face to face with the man accused of killing their brother and father.

"Those was the last set of eyes my brother seen so therefore I wanted to make sure that they knew we was here," said Connie Fetters.

A hearing to determine whether that million dollar cash bond will be lowered has been set for early February.

The Commonwealth Attorney has not decided whether or not he will seek the death penalty.

(source: Fox news)


Theater-shooting defense lawyers seek trial delay

Defense attorneys in the Colorado theater shooting case have requested another delay in James Holmes' trial, saying they don't have enough time to prepare for the Jan. 20 start date.

In a motion made public Friday, the attorneys asked to push the trial back 2 or 3 months.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., who did not immediately rule on the request, asked prosecutors to respond to the motion Friday. That response, if it was filed, has not been made public.

In another motion, defense lawyers said one of their witnesses won't willingly testify at the trial because it will be televised. They asked Samour to reconsider his decision to allow television coverage.

Samour rejected the request, noting the trial would be heavily publicized even without TV coverage.

Defense lawyers did not identify the witness who does not want to testify if the trial is televised, or indicate what the witness would say. Parts of the motion are redacted.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack at a Denver-area theater. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

He has undergone two sanity evaluations at the state mental hospital, the second because the judge ruled the first one was flawed.

Holmes' lawyers said they won't be ready for the scheduled start of jury selection next month because they are still reviewing material from the 2nd sanity evaluation as well as other newly received evidence.

Evidence in the case now totals 85,000 pages of documents, 366 CDs and 282 DVDs, along with other materials in computer memory drives, they said.

Holmes' attorneys also said one member of the defense team, Daniel King, has spent eight days testifying under subpoena in another case, taking him away from preparing for Holmes' trial.

If the trial is delayed again, the new date would be the 6th one set for the case.

The 1st, in August 2013, was canceled after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty, raising numerous issues that had to be resolved before the trial. The second, in February, was scratched after prosecutors asked for the 2nd sanity evaluation.

The 3rd was Oct. 14, which Samour postponed to Monday after the doctor conducting the 2nd evaluation requested an extension. Samour pushed the trial back to Jan. 20 to give defense lawyers time to review the 2nd sanity evaluation.

(source: Associated Press)


Families of California crime victims demand faster executions----Executions temporarily halted in 2006, leaving death row prisoners in limbo

Crime victims groups in California are demanding that the execution of death row inmates be accelerated, after an 8-year moratorium on lethal injections.

California halted executions in 2006, after concerns about the cocktail of drugs used.

Since the death penalty was adopted in California, 900 convicted criminals have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed. American football star Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister and 2 nephews were murdered in a case of mistaken identity in 1984, is leading the campaign to have executions resumed.

The man responsible for the killings has on death row for almost 30 years.

Alexander told Sky News: "They won't allow me to do it, so if society has it on the books they have to get it done.

"Don't make us suffer the anguish of waiting to see if it is going happen.

"I'm saddened because we can't get on with our lives because this is in the back of our minds. Our family has been badly mauled."

Earlier this year, Judge Cormac Carney ruled that keeping prisoners waiting, in some cases for decades, on death row constituted a cruel and unusual punishment, and the death sentence was thus unconstitutional.

"For most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence ... has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," wrote Judge Carney.

"As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose."

Governor Jerry Brown recently changed state regulations to allow single drug executions, in an attempt to sidestep concerns about the efficacy of triple-drug cocktails.

The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation is suing state officials for taking too long to adopt single-drug execution procedures.

However, the California corrections department says that a shortage of execution drugs was making the adoption of the new procedure difficult.

The backlog of executions is not limited to California, with only 1% of the 3,000 condemned inmates in the US put to death annually.

Experts say that lengthy legal procedures and growing concerns about the drugs used for lethal injections are behind the delay, with lawyers appealing thousands of death sentences after a series of high-profile botched executions.

(source: IB Times)


California Bid To Resume Death Row Executions----Some victims' families say it is time to restart executions in California after an 8-year moratorium - but others disagree.

Campaigners in California are calling on the state's government to resume executions on America's biggest death row.

More than 740 inmates live under the threat of death by lethal injection in a state that has not executed anyone for more than 8 years.

California placed a moratorium on executions in 2006 over concerns about the cocktail of drugs used and earlier this year a federal judge declared the administration of it as "dysfunctional".

Judge Cormac Carney said keeping prisoners waiting for decades represented cruel and unusual punishment, a breach of the US Constitution's Eighth Amendment.

He wrote: "In California, the execution of a death sentence is so infrequent and the delays preceding it so extraordinary that the death penalty is deprived of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had."

It is estimated that the death penalty has cost the state more than $4bn since it was re-introduced in 1976.

Since then, just 13 inmates have been put to death.

Across America, opinion is divided on the death penalty.

Some states have abolished it, while others have experienced shortages of execution drugs and botched procedures.

This week the execution of a man said to be mentally ill in Texas was put on hold.

But some victims' families say it is time to restart the executions in California.

American football legend Kermit Alexander's mother, sister and two nephews were murdered by a gang member who had gone to the wrong address in Los Angeles.

He remains on death row, 30 years after the killing.

Alexander is now leading the campaign to resume executions.

He told Sky News: "They won't allow me to do it so if society has it on the books they have to get it done.

"Don't make us suffer the anguish of waiting to see if it is going happen.

"I'm saddened because we can't get on with our lives because this is in the back of our minds. Our family has been badly mauled."

Lorrain Taylor, whose twin sons were murdered in a drive-by shooting in Oakland, disagrees.

She runs a support group for the family of murder victims and said: "Why use money to take another person's life - eventually, if it ever happens - when you can use those same funds to help law enforcement to stop violence, to provide counselling for children who are left behind.

"To me it makes no sense, I think that it is also an act of violence and it is sending the wrong message."

She agrees with this warning from Shujaa Graham, who spent 10 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.

He told Sky News: "Why do we kill someone to prove that killing is wrong - and we say life is the most sacred thing?"

(source: Sky News)


O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens: Poor organization, training led to mistakes with jailhouse informants----She says poor organization, not misconduct, led to jail mistakes.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens this week joined the county's top prosecutor in defending the use of jailhouse informants placed in cells wired to capture recorded confessions.

"The use of jailhouse informants has proven to be very effective," Hutchens said. "But you've got to be careful not to be taken by those guys. They're pretty sophisticated."

Hutchens, in an interview, weighed in on the legal battle over the surreptitious use of informants to question suspects after their arrest and the prosecution's withholding of evidence retrieved from those informants.

2 of the most prolific informants at jails in Orange and Los Angeles counties earned more than $70,000 apiece, paid by local police agencies, and received lenient treatment in cases that could have sent them to prison for life, according to documents obtained by the Register. Perks included Del Taco deliveries, cigarettes, PlayStation 3 and private cable TV.

The sheriff conceded her department could have benefited from better organization and training of jail deputies in how to handle informants working for the police.

"We didn't have a comprehensive plan for handling informants," Hutchens said. "The department has to take responsibility for not having a good policy in place. We do now."

Prosecutors and police have relied on a secret network of jail informants to coax confessions from inmates in scores of cases and then in some of those cases failed to disclose the evidence to defense attorneys. The practice emerged earlier this year when authorities used an informant to obtain information from Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to gunning down eight people at a Seal Beach salon but is fighting a potential death sentence.

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, has filed a series of legal motions challenging the use of jailhouse snitches and the withholding of evidence in his bid to keep Dekraai from death row.

Under persistent questioning by Sanders, the Orange County District Attorney's Office conceded that evidence in other felony cases in addition to Dekraai's inadvertently had been withheld from defense attorneys. These "mistakes," as termed by prosecutors, have caused at least 3 murder cases to unravel. And more cases are being scrutinized.

Like District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Hutchens said this week some evidence was not given to defense attorneys in a timely manner, but it was not intentional.

"There was no deliberate attempt to withhold documents or keep anything from the public defender," Hutchens said. "It occurred, but it occurred because of poor practices."

The Sheriff's Department and its jail staff now keep centralized records on which informants are being used in what case and when, she said. Notes and information received from the informants also are being centrally stored. An investigator is now in charge of the sheriff's informant program, Hutchens said.

Sanders dismissed the sheriff's explanation.

"The Sheriff's Department has likely been using informants from the 1st day it opened the jails. Concealing for decades informant evidence and records was a decision, not an oversight," Sanders said.

In August, Sanders attempted to use the informant violations to persuade Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to block the death penalty case against Dekraai, who admitted shooting his estranged wife and seven other people in a 2011 rampage.

Goethals declined to dismiss the death penalty case, but ruled that prosecutors committed misconduct, though not intentionally.

Sanders, with a shackled Dekraai, was in court Friday and received Sheriff's Department records showing the jailhouse movement of informants used in several other criminal cases. Sanders said he will pore over the documents, looking for more evidence of mishandling of informants by police and prosecutors.

Sanders has again asked Goethals to take the death penalty off the table for Dekraai and is trying to document a broader pattern of misconduct by police and prosecutors that extends far beyond his client. His new argument is partially based on his allegations that three jail deputies lied while testifying before Goethals at a recent hearing. Sanders and prosecutors will return to court on the issue on Thursday.

In his latest motion, Sanders argued that 3 deputies testified they could not remember where and when certain informants were moved inside the jail even though that information could be easily retrieved from an electronic database kept by the Sheriff's Department.

Hutchens said this week the deputies were unprepared to testify - and for that, she takes the blame.

"I have not seen anything that would lead me to believe any of the deputies were deliberately trying to mislead anyone," Hutchens said. "I think the department failed them by not providing appropriate training."

She said the deputies, assigned to work in the county jail, were unaccustomed to testifying and had not been on patrol. Hutchens said the deputies shouldn't be faulted, because the department was at the time disorganized in its handling of informants. Not everybody knew what was available, she said.

(source: Orange County Register)


7 books about . . . Life - and death sentences

Why has Europe ended the death penalty, but we've still got it? The conventional answer trades on cultural divides: America is an immature cowboy nation, racist and trigger happy, while Europe is more measured, mature, and its societies, chastened by 2 world wars, are understandably keen to avoid further violence. They're enlightened; we're philistine. Germany, in fact, got rid of capital punishment in 1949 and Britain in 1969. Before I read today's books, I'd vaguely guessed that the Germans acted in revulsion at their Nazi past, and the British embraced the moral revolution of the 60s. I was flat wrong; in both cases, the people overwhelmingly supported the death penalty. But their leaders coolly, blatantly overruled them.

"Ending the Death Penalty: The European Experience in Global Perspective" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010) helped me, like no other book, to understand the worldwide evolution of the ultimate punishment. When Andrew Hammel, a professor of American law at the University of Dusseldorf, asked European jurists and pols why they've succeeded where we've failed, he constantly heard this refrain: Americans are naive to think public opinion must change before the law changes. That's because the "desire to see murderers executed is a basic drive of human nature, one which only the most educated are able to overcome."

So that's their strategy: an elite fait accompli. There are long roots here, for the earliest calls for diminishing the death penalty came from European philosophers invited by European monarchs to put their ideas into practice. Voltaire was pivotal and so was Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria, whose 1764 landmark treatise, "On Crimes and Punishments" (Beccaria, 2013), remains powerful reading today and had a marked influence on Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Beccaria found it immoral and illogical to treat brutality with brutality: "Murder, which [judges] would represent to us as a horrible crime, we see practised by them without repugnance or remorse."

In our era, when those on death row in the United States are in for heinous crimes only, we forget that the state once killed for far less. In 19th century Britain, you could die for some 200 transgressions, including vagrancy and "theft from the premises of a calico printers." The march toward abolition was a slow one, steadily scratching offenses off - but it was basically a top-down process. Such condescension is a nonstarter in our more populist, pluralist society where 63 % of Americans favor the death penalty. Eastern European countries had similar stats but, in order to join the European Union, they had to end the practice. The responsive structure of American politics guarantees, for now, it's here to stay.

Then again, we once did stop the death penalty. It just didn't stay stopped. "A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America" (Norton, 2013) gracefully traces the 4-year period starting in 1972, when the Supreme Court ruled against Georgia's death penalty in Furman v. Georgia (a verdict that was expected to spread to other states), only to see capital punishment reinstated in 1976 by Gregg v. Georgia. The stats since then: 1,392 executions, and 32 states with the death penalty.

Author Evan J. Mandery opens his story in 1963, with Alan Dershowitz clerking for Arthur Goldberg, as the Supreme Court justice begins his tactic of, essentially, pitting parts of the Constitution (capital punishment is endorsed in the 5th and 14th amendments) against another (the 8th, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment"). It was a radical - arguably elitist - move: At the time, not even the ACLU opposed the death penalty. But the NAACP Legal Defense Fund steps in to combat capital punishment as a civil-rights issue, not just for the racial imbalance in its imposition, but because "[d]eath is factually different." As Legal Defense Fund lawyer Anthony Amsterdam argued before the court: "Death is final. Death is irremediable. Death is unnullable. It goes beyond this world."

Here is where even death-penalty advocates recoil - at the nightmare of killing an innocent person. This theme has gathered much bookish steam, most recently with "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" (Spiegel & Grau, 2014) by Alabama death-row lawyer Bryan Stevenson, whom Desmond Tutu compares to Nelson Mandela and John Grisham compares to Atticus Finch. Stevenson is a sympathetic and impassioned narrator. His book is part memoir, part case history, and, echoing Beccaria, part philosophical treatise. Indeed, Stevenson offers much on how our legal system is rife with racial and class inequities. As a mentor tells him, 'capital punishment means 'them without the capital get the punishment.'"

The book's main murder case takes place in Monroeville, Ala., Harper Lee's hometown. The accused, an African-American business owner tainted by an affair with a white woman, is thwarted at every turn: Exonerating witnesses are threatened; the jury is all white; the judge turns a life sentence into a death sentence. Stevenson finally frees him. But he witnesses the execution of another client - the scene is visceral, shame-filled, and very hard to take - who asks that the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" plays as he goes to the chair. Stevenson is soaked in sorrow and outrage: "[W]e would never think it was humane to pay someone to rape people convicted of rape or assault and abuse someone guilty of assault or abuse. Yet we were comfortable killing people who kill, in part because we think we can do it in a manner that doesn't implicate our own humanity."

2 more wrongful conviction books vary deeply in their approach. This 1st is personal in tone and, given its high profile, virtually anthemic: "I Am Troy Davis" (Haymarket, 2013) follows yet another the Georgia case (Davis was accused of killing a Savannah police officer) that drew nearly 1 million petition signatures in 2011 calling for commuting his sentence, plus appeals for clemency from Pope Benedict XVI, President Jimmy Carter, and 51 members of Congress. The book is co-written by Jen Marlow and Marina Davis-Correia, Troy's sister, with Davis himself, and it's highly moving.

But honestly, I was more struck by the dispassionate, cumulative power of "The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution" (Columbia University, 2014) by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. This case is examined to such an earth's-core depth - the book is full of site maps and footnotes and its website features much more - that readers will come away absolutely convinced that the conviction of Carlos DeLuna was a profound injustice. Troy Davis may have been just as innocent, but "The Wrong Carlos" benefits, somehow, by the fact that DeLuna lacked Davis's obfuscating charisma. It begins with a Corpus Christi convenience-store theft gone bad, a slain clerk, and a suspect misidentified by one witness. In 1989, DeLuna is put to death, when Carlos Hernandez should've been convicted instead.

If you write about the death penalty, you need to come clean: I'm against it. And though this next book, which is pro-death penalty, did not change my mind, it definitely unnerved me. "The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) is a polemic-reportorial blend by Robert Blecker, an NYU criminal-law professor who calls himself a "retributivist" in that he feels the punishment should match the crime: "Which do you prefer for a serial killer who rapes and murders children: death, or a life watching television, playing sports, going to therapy and arts and crafts with free medical care inside prison?" He adds that true retributivists support the Innocence Project - the organization that, since 1989, has helped exonerate scores of people through DNA testing - because the right punishment should go to the right people. That surprised me, I must say. So did this fact: One reason German leaders eliminated the death penalty over 6 decades ago was because too many Nazis were being executed for war crimes. Reality can be hard on philosophy.

(source: Katharine Whittemore is a freelance writer based in Northampton; Boston Globe)


Celebrating human rights

This Wednesday, December 10, is designated World Human Rights Day and as such it is an appropriate time to reflect over the next 2 weeks on the extent to which Barbados' human rights record is consistent with the benchmarks and traditions which can be identified in any long-standing democracy.

This critique is by no means intended to be comparative. Certainly there is a relevance to comparative analysis of human rights issues but there is also a danger in the assumption that Barbados is doing well simply because others are doing worse. On this occasion the intention is to assess our performance based on objective benchmarks, to which we have subscribed as a nation and which we therefore agree are not only appropriate ideas to which we ought to aspire, but also standards of behaviour which we have pledged before the international community to uphold.

The focus therefore is placed on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant) which Barbados acceded to in 1973 with reservations that were deemed necessary to protect some laws from censure. The extent to which these reservations may themselves be indicative of areas in which we have fallen short of noble objectives is an issue that is best perused separately. Notwithstanding, our accession to this covenant as a nation means that we have subjected ourselves to a periodic review where both our laws and practices are held up to scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Committee.

This is a long process, which includes a phase where local and international non-governmental organisations comment on the extent to which we are either a "paragon of virtue" or alternatively have "fallen short of the glory" and an opportunity for Barbados to respond to criticisms before the committee offers its "concluding observations". The last such set of observations were offered in 2007 and make interesting reading. Barbados was first chided for the fact that it had last reported to this committee in 1991 and therefore 18 years had elapsed since the previous report, which was inconsistent with the timeline of our reporting obligations. This tardiness speaks volumes about the extent to which such matters are a priority for the Government of Barbados.

Substantively, Barbados was commended in 2007 for:

- Adopting the Penal System Reform Act;

- Establishing the Police Complaints Authority;

- Adopting the Evidence Act; and

- Implementing UN basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

These initiatives reflect a significant effort on the part of Barbados to modify its legal and police procedures in the direction of international best practice to protect the rights of individuals here. However, the committee also commented negatively on several issues which continue to be problematic today, 7 years since its last intervention. As they prepare for the next review of Barbados performance before the committee, non-governmental stakeholders have recently raised these outstanding issues again.

Among the more contentions of such issues is the suggestion that Barbados ought to abolish the death penalty, but that if we are to retain it, we should at least abolish the mandatory death sentence for murder, consistent with article 6 of the Covenant. In fairness, we have only just recently introduced legislation into our Parliament which seeks to abolish the mandatory death penalty.

The larger issue is, however, another matter which is buttressed by considerable support in the public domain. Sadly, successive governments have conspicuously avoided an outright rejection of the death penalty in deference to well-known public support, although it is unlikely that a majority of parliamentarians or lawyers (if asked) would themselves support it. The issue is complex, with imperfections of our justice system which inadvertently targets the lower socio-economic groups playing an important role, but there has hitherto been a lack of political will to confront public opinion or engage in a process of education to encourage greater understanding. It is therefore highly likely that for the time being, the abolition of the mandatory death sentence in case of murder will be as far as we will go on the issue of the abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES); National News)


China's tyrant spy chief faces death for 'leaking state secrets'

China is likely to stage a secret trial for its fallen spy chief, Zhou Yongkang, to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information about its dealings with foreign intelligence agencies, according to western diplomatic sources.

A midnight announcement on Friday disclosed that Zhou, 71, had been arrested and expelled from the Communist party after a 1-year investigation into his alleged "disciplinary violations".

The party has hinted that Zhou may face the death penalty. Last Tuesday 200 high-ranking officials assembled in the Great Hall of the People for the screening of a film, The Case of Huang Kegong, about a Long March hero who shot dead a girl and was executed for the crime.

The message: no one is above the law. Chinese diplomats abroad have also dropped hints that a capital sentence could be handed down.

(source: The Sunday Times)


Convict sentenced to death commits suicide in Belagavi jail

A convict, sentenced to death for rape and murder, committed suicide by hanging in Hindalaga prison premises here, a police official said on Sunday.

"Nanajappa Shivananjappa, who was sentenced to death for rape and murder, last night committed suicide by hanging himself in the toilet near barrack No. 7 of Hindalaga central jail," Belagavi Police Commissioner S Ravi said.

The Second Judicial Magistrate First Class Court at Mysuru had awarded death penalty to Shivananjappa (22) who hailed from Yedahalli village in Mysuru, he said.

Shivananjappa was brought to Hindalaga jail on February 25 last year after he was sentenced to death, he added.

A case of suicide has been registered in Belagavi rural police station, Ravi said.

(soure: Deccan Chronicle)


PAS wants death penalty for the traitors

Sabah Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has proposed the death penalty for syndicate members or individuals found guilty of issuing birth certificates or MyKads to illegal immigrants if it is serious in solving the problem.

"This is because theirs is an act of treason. They are traitors. They 'sell' our State and this nation for their own profit. This new law must apply throughout Malaysia because its nature is the same as those offences in Chapter VI of the Penal Code, i.e. offences against the State," he said, in a statement.

Its Deputy Commissioner II Hamid Ismail said although he is not satisfied with the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) findings on illegal immigrants in Sabah, Sabahans still need to accept it in order to move forward.

He said all public officers in Sabah irrespective of their posts must be instilled with noble moral values and the spirit of love towards Sabah and the nation.

"Those who are trustworthy, honest and love God will never 'sell' this State and nation. They will also never comply with orders from their corrupt superiors that could endanger Sabah.

"Tightening the immigration and registration laws is a good move as suggested by some parties, but I think that the new tightened laws will be useless if those responsible in enforcing the laws are corrupt," he said.

Hamid also said the State government must act now without waiting for solutions from the Federal Government because the immigration and registration laws are already in place and need to be enforced.

"Mobilise the personnel in both departments. If the State Government waits, nothing will happen. Just see the statements of witnesses during the RCI proceeding. They testified that since 1999, they informed Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister about the issue but there was no positive response from federal.

"This is what happened to Sabah. The Federal Government merely promised solution to the problem but didn't do it. It was only near the GE13 that they announced the establishment of RCI," he said.

Hamid said in enforcing the law and taking action against illegals, public officers must ignore politicians who "stand" between them and the illegal immigrants.

District officers told the RCI proceedings about political elements that disturbed the demolition process of squatter houses.

(source: Daily Express)


Activists hold conference in Taipei to promote the abolition of death penalty

Activists against capital punishment and legal experts from over 10 countries gathered at an international conference in Taipei over the weekend to discuss Taiwan's progress in putting an end to the death penalty.

Organized by the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, the two-day symposium held at National Taiwan University is to be followed by 3 follow-on forums scheduled for today in Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung.

By continuing to implement capital punishment, the government has violated 2 UN covenants that President Ma Ying-jeou signed into law in 2009, the group said, referring to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The execution of 5 prisoners in April further alienated the nation from global human rights standards, the group said.

In contrast, although South Korea still has the death penalty, in effect a moratorium has been in practice for the past 16 years, with the last state-sanctioned execution carried out in 1997.

Andrew Kim Duck-jin, secretary-general of the Seoul-based Catholic Human Rights Committee, said on Saturday that efforts to legally abolish the death penalty in South Korea face resistance from the public, which is largely in favor of retaining it.

"Although a draft bill to abolish capital punishment was proposed in parliament, the bill never made it to the plenary session to a plenary vote, as there is still a huge amount of opposition from the public," Kim said.

"Every year three to four people are sentenced to death by [South] Korean courts. The number of death sentences has even increased," said Kim, adding that legal experts in South Korea are still discussing alternatives modes of punishment to the death penalty, such as imprisonment for life.

The moratorium was first enacted when former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung was in office, who had at one time been sentenced to death as a political prisoner when the nation was governed by an authoritarian regime.

National Taipei University criminology professor Chou Susyan said despite results of surveys indicating overwhelming support for the death penalty among Taiwanese, there is still room for discussion.

"When you present the public with a concrete alternative, it is certainly possible to change public opinion," Chou said.

After a temporary moratorium from 2006 to 2009, Taiwan reimplemented capital punishment in 2010, with 4 to 6 executions carried out each year.

(source: Taipei Times)


Woman who admitted to stabbing American teacher to death inside Abu Dhabi mall will face the death penalty as victim's family speaks of their 'devastation and horror'----The woman who is charged with killing American teacher Ibolya Ryan in Abu Dhabi will face the death penalty

The veiled attacker who stabbed an American teacher to death in an upmarket Abu Dhabi mall faces the death penalty after admitting the crime.

Ibolya Ryan, 47, was brutally attacked just hours before the suspect allegedly planted a bomb outside the home of an American doctor in the Arab state.

The special needs teacher's family spoke for the 1st time today about how they have been left 'devastated and traumatised' by the attack.

Her former husband described the attacker as a 'monster' as he made an emotional tribute to his ex-wife.

Writing online last night, he said: 'Rest in peace, our love. Your beauty and pure love will live on within us, forever.'

Dala al Hashemi, 38, a Yemen-born Emirati national was arrested Thursday on suspicion of murdering the teacher, who had moved to the Middle Eastern country in search of a better life following a divorce.

Police believe that the attacker, who lured Mrs Ryan into a conversation by pretending to be a vulnerable elderly woman, targeted the teacher because of her nationality.

This as shocking new details of Mrs Ryan's final moments have emerged, revealing how she had been lured in to a toilet cubicle after the attacker asked her for assistance.

The Yemeni allegedly turned on Mrs Ryan once inside the cubicle, stabbing her repeatedly with a butcher's knife.

After her attacker fled, the wounded teacher stumbled to the mall's main walkway - only yards from a Waitrose supermarket - but collapsed in a pool of blood.

Speculation has also been mounting that the attacker may have belonged to a terror cell rather than acting as a lone wolf.

During his emotional interview Mr Ryan referenced the 'forces of darkness and terrorism that expressed themselves very clearly here in the Middle East'.

In a further development, Mr Ryan revealed that the suspect has admitted the crime according to local police.

Discussing the possible conviction of his former wife's alleged attacker, he said: 'As far as I can tell so far, it's seems pretty damning evidence and she had confessed.'

Mr Ryan said that he had been left traumatised after viewing images released by local police after the attack.

The pictures show the blood-stained knife used by the attacker on the restroom floor, as well as a trail of blood left by Mrs Ryan as she stumbled for help.

Mr Ryan said: 'Obviously I am totally horrified by what happened. You only need to look at the images of that bathroom. I still hope my children haven't seen that.

Fighting back tears, he added: 'Those beautiful children that I have...making sure that they get the comfort and the sense of their mother and their future.'

'My dear Ibolyah, and I do mean that, will not have died in vain.'

A devastated Mr Ryan also said that he believes the attacker may have belonged to a terrorist cell.

UAE police also told ABC News about reports that the suspect was 'not a lone wolf' and her house was 'a base of operations'.

'There might be a cell involved, certainly, but after seeing the video of how she was captured and what was in her car, she had everything there all for herself,' they said.

'She is thought of as a lone wolf. As an American I can easily view that with some scepticism. Initially I thought why couldn't it be part of a terrorist cell?'

Al Hashemi was arrested in a raid on her house and is also accused of trying to bomb an Egyptian-American doctor, said Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed al Nahyan, the minister of the interior for the United Arab Emirates, at a press conference on Thursday.

As expats living in the country expressed their fears following the incident, the US State Department's issued a new warning telling Americans to change their routines in case they are also targeted.

It said: 'We suggest that all U.S. citizens be vigilant of their surroundings and events unfolding around them.'

Following the couple's 'amicable divorce', Mr Ryan moved to Vienna while his former wife relocated to Abu Dhabi for 'better financial and moral independence'.

The couple's daughter, 13, went with her father to Europe to attend a boarding school while their 11-year-old male twins moved to Abu Dhabi with Mrs Ryan.

The distraught father said that the family had considered moving back to the US together after the boys had finished their education in the arab state.

Mrs Ryan's killer may face the death penalty in the country if found guilty of her murder, however national laws allow the family of the victim to issue a pardon.

The teacher's former husband said that he had still not made up his mind about whether he would do this.

'I can't believe I have the power to pardon. That is shocking to me. I don't even want that responsibility. But we'll have to wait and see,' he told CNN.

After arriving in the country only days after his wife was targeted due to her nationality, he said he felt safe in the Arab state.

He admitted previously being 'fearful' of being an American in the Middle East.

Mr Ryan said in a statement tonight to the government-run Emirates News Agency: 'When I viewed that video that showed the arrest and the crime scene, I felt grateful for capturing such a monster.

'I feel very grateful for what I've seen here. When I got here, I had some preconceptions about how the situation would be here.

'But what happened is that my doubts were dispelled. I felt that the forces of darkness and terrorism that expressed themselves very clearly here in the Middle East will disappear with time, thanks to the forces of good that I saw here.'

He also told of the heartbreaking moment his twin sons realised their mother had been murdered after waiting for her in the shopping mall as she was being attacked.

He told The National they had gone to use the male restrooms in Boutik Mall while she went to the women's toilets and had agreed to meet her in a coffeeshop afterward.

'They waited there for an hour wondering what had happened,' he said.

'They saw police officers run by at one point but then they just waited for her.

'She didn't come and they looked around and couldn't find her so they went home, which is just steps away from this mall. They went home and waited for her there."

Mr Ryan said he was trying to keep the horrors of what happened that day from them.

'They know she was attacked," he said. "I have asked them not to watch that video, not to see the scenes of the bathroom and I hope they don't.'

He added he had newfound respect for the UAE government after seeing 'the seriousness with which they take everything.'

Mr Ryan said: 'I began to realise how personally they took this attack in this society and that they were deeply wounded by it, they were shocked and angered by it, that this could happen.'

The Government has pledged to pay the school and university costs for the 3 children from their 17-year marriage.

'We try to remember what is important,' said Mr Ryan. 'She was just a very pure-hearted, beautiful person and would never hurt anybody.

'Everybody loved her, enjoyed her vivaciousness, her very positive outlook on life, bubbly personality.

'That was certainly what they will always remember and what everyone remembers.'

Ms Ryan came from humble beginnings in a small, rural village in Romania. She went on to earn her master's degree in special education and eventually sought to live a financially independent life in the UAE.

She will be flown back to be buried in her homeland, where her mother and older brother still live.

The thousands of dollars raised through a fundraising campaign will be donated to her relatives in Romania.

Mr Ryan added: "My focus has been strictly on the kids. The investigation is out of my hands.

'Of course I want the perpetrator captured and whatever was behind her to be discovered and wrapped up - of course I want that. That's important for a sense of closure, but really, that's out of my hands.'

In a reflection of the concern felt at the top of the government over the killing, she said: 'Our UAE society is known for tolerance and harmony among all nationalities.

'We are a country that respects and encourages all cultures to live in peace and security.'

At the same time, Mrs Ryan's other employers, Footprints Recruitment, has launched a campaign asking for funds to educate her children and repatriate her body.

'We are hoping to raise as much money as possible to help this family torn apart and to ensure that the children have access to the education that she had dedicated her life to,' the company said on its website.

'The family is in need of financial assistance to establish an educational trust for the children and help with other costs incurred.'

Mrs Ryan, who was Hungarian-born, raised in Romania and trained as a teacher in the U.S., was left in a pool of blood after what police said was a 'brawl' in the toilets of the upmarket Bourik Mall.

As security guards rushed to the scene of the killing, her attacker calmly got in an elevator and walked out into the car park. The assailant left behind the weapon, a large kitchen knife.

In the newly-released video, the suspect is then seen heading towards the doctor's home with a small black suitcase. A security guard said he saw her enter and then leave quickly.

The bomb was spotted when the doctor's son was going to mosque in the evening to pray and noticed the strange object in front of the house.

Colonel Rashid Bourshid, head of the criminal investigation department, said: 'The doctor who was targeted with the bomb, 46-year-old MH, informed the security guard about the strange package in front of his door.

'The guard in turn informed the police who rushed to the spot and evacuated the site.

'They dismantled the bomb and identified its primitive components that included small gas cylinders, a lighter, glue, and nails to cause maximum injuries when detonated.'

It set off alarm bells as a woman wearing a niqab and gloves had called at the house several days earlier to see if the family was home - then fled at top speed before the doctor or his wife could identify her.

She was also seen driving a white SUV with a United Arab Emirates Flag across its back window and had tried to disguise the vehicle's license plates.

'Your brothers at the Ministry of Interior and security forces have worked all night and day to reach this suspect and to identify her, despite all of her attempts to disguise herself,' Sheikh Saif said.

He said the woman was identified in less than 24 hours and arrested in less than 48 hours. It is unclear how authorities were able to identify the suspect.

Separate CCTV footage released by authorities earlier this week showed that the suspect spent at least an hour apparently waiting in the toilets of the mall.

She entered the mall from the car park at 1.12pm and after apparently asking a security guard for directions, headed to the restroom. An hour and a half later she is seen leaving the toilets.

Witnesses told MailOnline that they overheard a heated row between two women and then heard one threaten to kill the other.

Vithi Cuc, a Vietnamese restaurant worker, was in a toilet cubicle when she heard banging sounds from the disabled toilet cubicle next door.

She said: 'Then I heard 1 of them threatening the other saying: 'Sit down or I'll kill you'.' I heard one of them try to call out for help. By this time there were 3 of us outside the toilet and one of us ran to get security.

'When the female guard arrived they told us to leave the bathroom. I was so scared and frightened for her.'

Another witness said he saw a woman bleeding on the floor outside the entrance to Waitrose, the upscale British supermarket nearest the toilets in the mall.

Bernadette Ruizo, manager of La Brioche restaurant near the scene of the murder, said: 'I heard she was stabbed 5 or 6 times.

'None of us knows exactly what happened as it was so busy in the restaurant. There was a crowd around the toilet entrance and I only found out afterwards what had happened.'

On the CCTV footage, people on the scene can be seen reacting to the killing. One mother with a young child can be seen hurrying him away while security guards move towards the corridor.

She then calmly goes down to the parking garage and is last seen moving towards cars in it.

In new footage released on Thursday, the suspect can be seen walking towards a parking lot of vehicles while dragging a small dark suitcase on wheels, although it is not clear when this was taken.

She then apparently drives off in a white SUV draped with the flag.

The victim - who is divorced from the father of the twins, 11, and their older daughter, 13 - described herself in an online profile as a teacher at a large kindergarten called Al Oula in Abu Dhabi, 35 minutes away from the downtown area of the emirate.

She had previously lived in Denver, Colorado, where she worked as a special educational needs teacher and took a course in teaching English as a foreign language.

She has also worked as an executive assistant at a Colorado technology company, an event planner at a Hungarian hotel, a substitute teacher at the American International School in Vienna, and a part-time events planner in Abu Dhabi.

She wrote: 'I enjoy learning about other cultures, and as a person I enjoy being with others and tend to be an organizer of those around me.

'Also I have high interest in other languages; one of my goals while here in the UAE is to gain some proficiency in Arabic.

'I live in Abu Dhabi with my 10-year-old twin boys and I teach in a big KG school named Al Oula KG School, 35 minutes away from downtown Abu Dhabi.'

The victim's ex-husband, Paul, was said to be overseas but was flying back to comfort his sons.

Mrs Ryan lived in a beachside apartment on Reem Island, where the mall where she was murdered is situated. Her ex-husband is believed to currently live in Europe.

After her murder, America's embassy in Abu Dhabi issued new security advice to US citizens.

In a statement, the embassy said: 'On December 1, a U.S. citizen was killed in a public restroom at a shopping mall on Reem Island in Abu Dhabi. The U.S. Embassy is working with all the appropriate authorities to seek further information.'

It listed extra precautions for US citizens, saying they should avoid crowds and places they did not know previously, and 'minimize their profile in public'.

The embassy did not say it was linked the murder to the jihadi threat, which was highlighted to American citizens at the end of October in a statement on the embassy website.

It said: 'The Embassy/Consulate wishes to notify the U.S. citizen community of a recent anonymous posting on a Jihadist website that encouraged attacks against teachers at American and other international schools in the Middle East.

'The Mission is unaware of any specific, credible threat against any American or other school or individual in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

'Nonetheless, the Mission is working with local schools identified with the United States to review their security posture. U.S. citizens residing in or visiting the UAE should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and be alert to local security developments.'

Reem Island is a residential, commercial and business development connected to Abu Dhabi city centre by a bridge. It was built as the city center became over-populated.

It is mostly inhabited by expatriates and boasts the upmarket Boutik Mall, which opened in 2011 and has 50 shops and restaurants, including the capital city's first Waitrose, the upscale British supermarket chain, Leopold's of London and La Brioche.

The mall bridges 2 residential buildings, Sun and Sky towers. Its website says it 'offers the best of everything that anyone needs to lead a stylish life.

'Serving the vibrant and cosmopolitan community of Shams Abu Dhabi and beyond, Boutik is an oasis of independent retailers, brand outlets, comfortable cafes and day-to-day services.

'For busy professionals living and working in the adjoining towers and for students at the Sorbonne, it is a welcome social centre and cornerstone of the community.'

Although Abu Dhabi is not the largest emirate - Dubai has the biggest population - it has an estimated 40,000 American expatriates.


Until now, the United Arab Emirates - and particularly its capital Abu Dhabi, and economic powerhouse Dubai - have been regarded as the safest part of the Middle East for Westerners.

If Mrs Ryan is a victim of jihadis, she is the 1st American to die as a result of Islamic terrorism in the Emirates.

Unlike their larger neighbour, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates have so far managed to keep al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups at bay and maintain close alliances with the West.

The UAE is currently home to 1 significant American military unit - the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing - and Dubai is used as a transfer point to Afghanistan by military personnel.

The Emirates are close allies of the US and its airforce's F-16s were among the 1st to join the international effort to blast ISIS.

Military authorities proudly published pictures of the country's 1st female pilot preparing her aircraft.

But there was a backlash which may be an ominous sign of the tensions inside the UAE - which have no functioning democracy and where rapid economic expansion has gone hand-in-hand with a conservative legal and social system - as the female pilot was threatened on social media.

In fact there have been growing signs in recent months of those tensions. In June 7 men were jailed after being arrested the previous year over an alleged plot to attack targets in the Emirates.

Since then, embassies have consistently issued security warnings to Westerners with the latest today in the wake of Mrs Ryan's murder.

The most specific of all the warnings was that issued in October to teachers by the American embassy.

But security experts believe that Islamic militants are likely to target Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other 5 Emirates not just because of their alliances and actions against ISIS but because of their economic success and their vast non-Muslim populations.

There are are 1.4 million Emiratis and largely open borders mean there are 7.8 million expatriates.

Among those are an estimated 40,000 Americans, mostly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and now clearly seen as potential targets by their own embassy.

(source: Daily Mail)


Death penalty to go

Fiji has taken an undertaking during the recent Human Rights Convention in Geneva, Switzerland, to remove the death penalty from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Act, says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

He made the announcement during the end of the 16th Attorney-General's Conference at InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa yesterday.

"We have given an undertaking that will remove the reference (with the British Army Act) and categorically the death penalty won't happen under the military law," he said.

"We have also given an undertaking to ratify the Convention against Torture. Similarly, we have also recognised that many of the provisions in our Constitution go beyond the provisions that exist in some international conventions.

"We are very much in sync and perhaps ahead in some of the areas."

Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also commended the participants of the conference on a successful 2-day meet.

"This has been the largest conference with 425 registered participants. Perhaps this is a sign of the interesting topics that we had."

He said they had wanted the conference to focus on cutting edge areas of the law.

(source: The Fiji Times)

DECEMBER 6, 2014:


El Paso County should stop using death penalty

On Nov. 30, El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty lit the Star on the Mountain in observance of "Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty," when cities around the world light a significant monument in their city to promote abolition of capital punishment.

In El Paso, about 50 people assembled to reflect on how to promote a culture of nonviolence and restorative justice while remembering victims of violence and persons executed in our name.

The death penalty has not been shown to deter crime, and there is much evidence of wrongful convictions - and even wrongful executions.

The process is often political and is sometimes determined more by the jurisdiction of the crime and the quality of legal representation than by the facts of the crime. It is biased against the economically poor and racial minorities and can prolong suffering for victims' families without providing the promised peace.

Furthermore, the availability of a sentence of life in prison without parole costs the taxpayers much less than the death penalty, while keeping society safe.

Many counties in Texas have stopped using the death penalty because of the costs and flaws in the system, and we call upon El Paso County to do the same.

Pat Delgado - Northeast El Paso

(source: Letter to the Editor, El Paso Times)


Panetti case of cruel and unusual punishment

So what does "cruel and unusual" mean?

I once asked that of a law professor. The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment, but I figured there had to be some technical definition I, as a layperson, was missing. I mean, from where I sit, it's pretty "cruel and unusual" to execute someone, but to judge from the 1,392 executions of the last 38 years, that isn't the case.

Scott Panetti almost became number 1,393 last week, but within hours of his scheduled lethal injection, he was reprieved by a federal judge. The court said it needs more time to consider the issues his case raises.

In a rational place, it would not be news that Panetti was not killed. In a rational place, they would understand that state-sanctioned execution is a relic of frontier barbarism that leaves us all wet with the blood of the damned. In a rational place, they would say there's something especially repugnant about applying that grisly sanction to the mentally ill, like Panetti.

But Panetti doesn't live in a rational place. He lives in America. Worse, he lives in Texas.

They love their executions in Rick Perry's kingdom. Since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an advocacy group, that state has killed almost 520 people. That's nearly five times more than the next bloodiest state, Oklahoma, with 111.

There is no question Panetti deserves punishment. In 1992, he shot his estranged wife's parents to death as she and the couple's daughter looked on. He held them both hostage before releasing them unharmed.

But there is also no question that Panetti, 56, suffers from severe mental illness. At his trial, in which he was somehow, bizarrely, allowed to represent himself, he wore a purple cowboy suit with a 10-gallon hat and summoned a personality he called "Sarge" to explain what happened on the fateful day. His witness list included 200 people. Among them: John F. Kennedy, the pope, Anne Bancroft and Jesus Christ.

The state contends that Panetti, who was off his meds at the time of the killing, is faking it. During a 2004 hearing, the county sheriff called him "the best actor there is." In its most recent filings, Texas accuses him of "grossly exaggerating" his symptoms.

If it's an act, it's been going on a long time. His attorneys say Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia 14 years before the shootings and was hospitalized 13 times between 1978 and 1991. Now a court decides on his life or death.

It's a pregnant decision in a country where, apparently, it isn't "cruel and unusual" to preside, as Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton did, over the execution of a man so profoundly impaired that he saved the pie from his last meal to eat later. Or to let a man gasp and snort for almost two hours as a lethal injection very slowly killed him, as happened in Arizona. Or to set a man on fire, as has happened at least twice in Florida's electric chair. Or to execute people for crimes committed when they were children. Or to send innocent people to death row. Or to choose whom to execute based on color of killer, color of victim, gender, geography and class.

So what, exactly, might be too cruel and unusual for us to allow? The professor could not answer. Which, of course, is an answer.

As flawed and broken as our system of death is, we continue to embrace the puritanical morality of eye for eye and blood for blood. Most of the western world has left this savagery behind, but we insist on it, leaving us isolated from our national peers, those nations whose values are most like ours, but looming large among the outlaw likes of Somalia and Iran.

Now we are debating whether to kill a man so addled he tried to subpoena Jesus. And that leads to a conclusion as painful as it is unavoidable:

What's "cruel and unusual," is us.

(source: Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald; The Newsstar)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Clemency hearing Monday for Georgia inmate

An attorney for a man sentenced to die for killing a Baldwin Count sheriff's deputy will argue for clemency on Monday.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is scheduled to hear arguments Monday morning in the case of 49-year-old Robert Wayne Holsey. He is scheduled to die Tuesday. Holsey was convicted of the 1995 killing of Deputy Will Robinson in Milledgeville.

Brian Kammer of the Georgia Resource Center says he will argue that Holsey's trial attorney was an alcoholic who offered ineffective assistance at trial.

The prosecutor, District Attorney Fred Bright, told the Macon Telegraph ( ) that he will argue that Holsey's attorney was the go-to lawyer for death penalty defense cases and he was a tough opponent in court.

(source: Associated Press)


Should Georgia's Next Execution Be Stopped?

The State of Georgia is set to execute a man on December 9, but before that can happen, nagging issues of whether or not he received adequate council have to be put to bed.

Robert Wayne Holsey was convicted of killing Baldwin County Sheriff's Deputy Will Robinson after Robinson pulled Holsey over on the road while responding to an armed robbery call. His conviction was far from open and shut, but in the year's since no one has asserted his innocence.

That includes Brian Kammer, executive director of the Georgia Resource Center, a non-profit that represents those on death row. Kammer has argued for clemency a number of times, including the high-profile case of Troy Davis, whose execution drew international attention. He's representing Holsey in his clemency hearing. He said even given Holsey's apparent guilt, he might not have gotten a fair shake at a life sentence.

"What we claimed in his case, in Mr. Holsey's case, was that his attorney Andy Prince had rendered ineffective assistance and violated Mr. Holsey's 6th amendment right to competent council," Kammer said.

Andy Prince represented Holsey at trial and sentencing. The problems with his representation are well documented.

"Mr. Prince was an active alcoholic at the time of his representation of Mr. Holsey. He was consuming approximately a quart of vodka a night during the trial," Kammer said.

Not long after Holsey's conviction, Prince was convicted of stealing funds from another client, sentenced to his own prison stint and disbarred.

"He was a complete mess. And he was far, far from being able to provide a minimum of competent assistance," Kammer said.

According to Kammer, Prince's inadequacy was nowhere more important than in the post conviction, sentencing phase of Holsey's trial. It was there that Prince elected not to present to jurors evidence of terrific childhood abuse suffered by Holsey and his siblings. Neighbors referred to the home as the torture chamber.

Prince also never told jurors how Holsey's IQ was tested at 70 as early as age 15. That's widely considered the limit for mental competency for execution across the country.

A later judge did hear all of that evidence as well as details of Andy Prince's alcoholism and disbarment. That judge reduced Holsey's sentence. But the Georgia Supreme Court later overturned that ruling.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright convicted Wayne Holsey and will argue against clemency for him. His recollection of Prince's defense is far different.

"He was the go to guy for the death penalty defense lawyer at the time," Bright said.

Bright said from his side of the table, Prince was a tough opponent regardless of whether or not he was an alcoholic at the time.

"It wouldn't shock me that he drank at night. I'm not there so I wouldn't know, but that wouldn't shock me," Bright said.

But Bright says what Prince did at night doesn't matter. He says in court, Prince was formidable.

"During the day when he was in court he was sober, he was lucid, he was a fighter, he worked his tail off," Bright said.

Bright said Prince defended Holsey against a raft of compelling physical evidence that put the gun that killed Deputy Will Robinson in his hand despite the lack of eyewitness testimony. His defense kept 1 juror indecisive for 7 hours of deliberation.

As for Holsey's childhood, Bright will admit it wasn't great, but it was rough for his sister Regina, too.

"She chose to serve her country in Desert Storm. He chose to rob a convenience store," Bright said, "I told the jury, 'Same Mother.'"

Holsey's sister went on to be a Baldwin County Deputy and later a Deputy U.S. Marshall.

As for issues of Holsey's intelligence, Bright said Prince left that out of court because even his experts could only give him a lukewarm maybe as to whether Holsey was, in the legal terminology of the day, mentally retarded.

Bright defends the legal arguments made on both sides of Holsey's case and said that despite his zeal for justice, the last thing he wants is to kill an innocent man.

"We don't take this lightly. It's not a notch on my belt or anything," he said.

No one is arguing Wayne Holsey's innocence.

(source: Georgia Public Broadcasting)


Former diplomat and founder of oldest penpal organisation in Europe pleads to the commission on offender review in Florida

Jan Arriens, a former diplomat and founder of LifeLines, the oldest penpal organisation in Europe, addresses the Commission on Offender Review in Florida with a video plea asking to spare the life of his friend Michael Lambrix, on death row in Florida. It is filed by the clemency counsel representing Michael Lambrix.

Jan Arriens started writing to Michael Lambrix 23 years ago, shortly after having founded LifeLines, a non campaigning, non political organisation, which purpose is to provide support through letter writing to prisoners on death row in the USA. According to him, the Departments Of Corrections throughout the USA often mention how such activity helps make prisoners become better human beings and easier to deal with. In Jan Arriens' words: "It extends their humanity".

Today, Jan Arriens as well as Mike's family and his small community of pen friends around the world are extremely worried that the State of Florida may decide to proceed with the execution and they hope that the Commission on Offender Review will give Michael Lambrix a favourable recommendation.

They all believe he is innocent of capital murder.

He says: "We would be all deeply shocked and devastated if this would proceed to execution. I know that Mike has had clemency reviews, but that has been a long time in the past, a lot of happened since then and if you are going to proceed towards execution, I feel that all possible avenues must be explored (...). I feel the case has never been looked at as an integrated whole".

M. Lambrix was indicted on 2 counts of 1st degree murder on March 29, 1983 on Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant outside his home. Clarence Moore was a 35-year-old career criminal, and a known associate of South Florida drug smugglers, while Aleisha Bryant was a 19-year-old local waitress who had just met Moore. Clarence Moore had also a record of violence towards women.

M. Lambrix always maintained his complete innocence in the murder of Aleisha Bryant, and that he was compelled to act in in voluntary self-defense when he killed Clarence Moore, attempting to stop the violent assault of Clarence Moore upon Aleisha Bryant. His case is circumstancial. He has no prior record of violence.

At his first trial, the Glades County jury ended with the declaration of a mistrial on December 17, 1983, when the jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for 11 hours. The retrial jury found M. Lambrix on both counts of indictment on February 24, 1984. The first clemency review took place in 1987. At the time, Michael Lambrix was facing execution with the electric chair. Facing an imminent execution transformed him as a man, and he feels he has already met with death.

Michael Lambrix wrote: "I had reached the point of accepting death, at a depth of of the inner self that simply cannot be described. It's like something inside just lets go. And it was that "virtual reality" death. (...) There is no experience more intense than death and it's that experience more than anything else that tells me there really is a God".

Jan Arriens says: "He is an intelligent, sensitive, may I say decent person and I would be devastated if he were executed. To me, he has become something like a brother (...). So my appeal to the board is: Please recognize that and do not proceed to execution".

Clemency counsel, Adam Tebrugge, says: "I am hopeful that there will be a new investigation into the Michael Lambrix case. His court hearings have been plagued by repeated errors and he has never received a full and fair judicial review. People from all over the world have been writing to me to emphasize that Mike's life has value and to plead against his execution. I am optimistic that Michael Lambrix might be the 1st person to receive clemency in Florida in over 30 years."



What's the chance that a racist system produces non-racist results?

In October 1978, jurors in Fulton County, Ga., convicted Warren McCleskey of shooting a police officer to death as McCleskey robbed a furniture store. Predictably, that jury sentenced McCleskey to death.

Why was their sentence predictable? McCleskey was black. His victim, Frank Schlatt, was white. And if you had to guess who in Georgia was most likely to be sentenced to death, you'd have guessed a black person convicted of murdering a white person.

You'd probably have guessed so before McCleskey appealed his death sentence, but afterwards, no guessing was needed. The condemned man presented rigorous research conducted by Professors David C. Baldus, Charles Pulaski, and George Woodworth. The Baldus Study, as it became known, examined more than 2,000 murder cases in Georgia in the 1970s and concluded that defendants charged with killing white people were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death as defendants charged with killing black people.

Prosecutors, according to the study, sought the death penalty in 70 % of cases involving a black defendant and white victim. In cases with white defendants and victims, prosecutors sought death 32 % of the time, that is, not even half as much. Cut that number in half and you get the frequency of Georgia prosecutors who sought death for black people killing black people: 15 %. As for white people accused of killing black people, the state's prosecutors sought the death penalty 19 % of the time.

All of the above figures were cited and accepted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell in 1987. But he still wrote the 5-4 majority opinion denying McCleskey's appeal.

Statistics, at most, may show only a likelihood that a particular factor entered into some decisions." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell

"Even Professor Baldus does not contend that his statistics prove that race enters into any capital sentencing decisions, or that race was a factor in McCleskey's particular case," Powell wrote. "Statistics, at most, may show only a likelihood that a particular factor entered into some decisions ... McCleskey asks us to accept the likelihood allegedly shown by the Baldus study as the constitutional measure of an unacceptable risk of racial prejudice influencing capital sentencing decisions. This we decline to do."

Who cares what the statistics show, right? Who cares if a careful analysis shows that in the criminal justice system black lives don't matter as much as white lives? That doesn't prove that race was at play in any one particular case. So there!

This is where we find ourselves in 2014. Stories abound of black men being unfairly stopped, harassed and abused by police officers. What statistics there are back those stories up. And yet, as one black man after another is killed by the police, as racism in the criminal justice system is brought into sharper and sharper focus, we find ourselves confronted with arguments that it can't be proved that racism played a part in Michael Brown's death or Eric Garner's death or Tamir Rice's death or John Crawford's death or Cameron Tillman's death or Akai Gurley's or Rumain Brisbon's.

According to a report from the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, between January 2009 and May 2010, New Orleans police intentionally fired their weapons at 27 people -- all of them black. The report called that "a troubling racial disparity that warrants a searching inquiry into whether racial bias influences the use of force at NOPD."

Whether? We need such inquiries nationwide. But even if such inquiries were conducted, and even if they revealed to everybody's satisfaction that the police are just quicker to shoot black people, you can expect this argument: OK, but how do we know bias played a role in this case? In siding with McCleskey and against the majority, Justice William Brennan wrote that McCleskey's appeal was unlike previous challenges to the death penalty. It was, he wrote in his dissent, "the first to base a challenge not on speculation about how a system might operate, but on empirical documentation of how it does operate."

And yet, a majority of justices concluded that the empirical evidence showing a racist application of the death penalty was not reason enough to spare McCleskey that penalty.

So what are the chances that reports revealing the deadly consequences of discriminatory policing could convert those committed to maintaining the system?

Years after he retired from the court, Powell said he had lost confidence that the death penalty could be applied fairly. He wished he could do McCleskey over. Despite his later regret, he gave respectability to the "Yeah, but" response that's popular with those who love the status quo more than they hate racism.

You've heard it. Yeah, racism exists. It might even be rampant, but in this case...

(source: Jarvis DeBerry, New Orleans Times-Picayune)


The Court agreed to spell out how state courts, in death penalty cases, are to handle the issue of whether the defendant is sufficiently mentally disabled to be spared a capital sentence.

In accepting a Louisiana murder case for review on Friday, the Court agreed to sort out whether an individual accused of a capital crime has a right to an independent court hearing on whether he suffers from mental incapacity, and thus could not be sentenced to death. In the case of Brumfield v. Cain, the issue of Kevan Brumfield's mental state was decided as an issue at the penalty phase of his murder trial, rather than at a separate inquiry.

Brumfield was sentenced to death for the shooting death of an off-duty Baton Rouge police officer during an attempted robbery at a night deposit box at a bank in 1993. The officer had used a police car to transport a store manager on a trip to the bank to deposit the store's proceeds. Brumfield was charged with killing the officer and wounding the store manager.

In taking the case to the Supreme Court, Brumfield's lawyers argued that he has a serious defect in his intellectual capacity, but that state courts dealt with his mental disability only for purposes of mitigation during the penalty phase of his trial. The petition contended that he was entitled to a separate hearing on the question whether he was, because of his mental disability, eligible for the death penalty at all. His petition raised a separate question on whether Brumfield was entitled to have the state pay for gathering evidence of his mental incapacity.



Kentucky plans to seek death penalty for man accused in I-75 shooting

By the end of 2015, an Illinois man accused of shooting a mother and son could have to fight for his life in both Ohio and Kentucky.

Terry Froman, 41, of Illinois, is facing the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder, 2 counts of kidnapping and discharging a firearm on prohibited premises, for the Sept. 12 fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend. His 3-weekend trial in Warren County is scheduled to begin Aug. 3.

Elizabeth Kimberly Thomas, 34, Froman's ex-girlfriend who kicked him out of her Mayfield, Ky., home about a month before the slaying, is the 2nd person he is accused of killing on the late summer day.

Froman allegedly shot and killed Thomas' 17-year-old son, Michael "Eli" Mohney, just hours before abducting Thomas and driving to Ohio with her in his GMC Yukon with licence plates "TRICKE1"

"I am 99 % sure (we will seek the death penalty) here," said David Hargrove, Commonwealth Attorney in Graves County, Ky.

Froman is charged with murder that includes aggravating circumstance, kidnapping, burglary and tampering with physical evidence in Kentucky.

"We know it could be a year before Ohio gets done with him and we can get him down here," Hargrove said. "So there is no hurry at this point."

Hargrove added officials from both states are in constant contact and just last week, investigators from Kentucky made a visit to Warren County to talk about the case.

"There's evil in the world," Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said in October when the indictment against Froman was announced.

Froman is accused of going to Thomas' home and shooting Mohney twice at close range. He was spotted at one point forcing Thomas into his white SUV at a convenience store near Paducah, Ky.

Hargrove said just prior to the incident Froman had been living in Metropolis, Ill., just across the Ohio River from Paducah, with is not far from Mayfield.

Authorities were alerted after Thomas's friends went to her home about 10 a.m. - after she did not report to work - and found Mohney dead on the living-room floor.

Froman and Thomas were tracked using Froman's cell phone. State troopers in Ohio spotted Froman's SUV just before 1 p.m. and pulled him over about 20 minutes later, according to authorities.

Thomas' body was found in the SUV, naked and bloody, shot multiple times. Froman was treated for a gunshot wound before being transported to the county jail in Lebanon.

The investigation shut down northbound I-75 between Ohio 63 and Ohio 122 for about 4 hours.

During the investigation of the I-75 crime scene, Ohio State Patrol investigators found 2 cell phone, according to court documents obtained by the Journal News. Froman was communicating with others by cell phone during the commission of the offence and investigators initiated a search warrant to get records from those 2 phones.

Thomas had recently gotten a new cell phone, which was missing from the crime scene. Investigators are also seeking records from that phone, according to court documents.

Froman is housed in the Warren County Jail without bond. He is scheduled to be back in Warren County Court before Judge Robert Peeler Froman on Jan. 7 for a hearing about the use of DNA samples by the prosecution.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

MISSOURI----impending (Human Rights Day) execution

Missouri Poised to Execute Individual with Significant Intellectual Disabilities

Despite Missouri law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the execution of persons with mental retardation (now known as intellectual disability), Missouri is poised to kill an individual with obvious limited intellectual capabilities.

Paul Goodwin, scheduled to be executed on December 10, meets the criteria for intellectual disability under Missouri law-including low IQ scores, significant deficits in adaptive skills (i.e. life skills and communication). Evidence of his disability existed well before the age of 18.

Throughout his school years, Goodwin received services from the Special School District in St. Louis. He failed 3 grades and had low IQ scores. As an adult he needed help with basic living skills, such as managing money and performing ordinary tasks. Even now at age 48, those who know Goodwin see him as a "simple-minded kid" who often exhibits childish, immature behavior. Unfortunately, no court has fully examined his claims of intellectual disability.

Paul Goodwin needs to be held accountable for the murder of Joan Crotts, but it is inappropriate for someone with his level of disability to be given the ultimate punishment. Modern society recognizes that the death penalty is not meant to be used upon people, like Paul Goodwin, who have diminished capacity and diminished culpability. He can be adequately punished by spending the rest of his life in prison.

Please contact Governor Jay Nixon at 573-751-3222 or by clicking here and ask that he halt the execution of Paul Goodwin. The execution of a person with significant intellectual disability would serve no purpose and would diminish us all.

(source: Missouri Catholic Conference)


Local Amnesty group plans letter writing event for human rights

The world's largest annual human rights event will take place from Dec. 1 - 17 in schools, coffee shops, community centers, and street corners around the globe.

Members of Amnesty International (AI) worldwide will participate in the annual Write for Rights: Amnesty's Global Write-A-Thon.

The Oklahoma City group will hold an event on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Full Circle Book Store, 1900 N.W. Expressway, from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. The public is invited to participate.

John Walters, Legislative Coordinator, Amnesty USA-OK-Group #238 said, "During the Write for Rights event we will write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience all over the world.

"By taking part in the Write for Rights Write-A-Thon you can help bring about the release of a prisoner of conscience or an end to the harassment of someone standing up for Human Rights."

Every year, close to Human Rights Day on Wednesday, Dec. 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world will send a message to someone they've never met to demonstrate their support.

For 53 years, AI's human rights campaigns have been instrumental in obtaining freedom for prisoners worldwide through pressure from letters, faxes, and e-mails written by Amnesty International activists. "You are joining your voice with others around the world to demand that the rights of individuals be respected and protected," Walters added. "You have the power to change someone's life by simply writing a letter.

"At this event we will also write Christmas cards to all prisoners on death row in Oklahoma."

Currently the state has 49 inmates on death row. In 2015 there are 4 state executions scheduled: Charles Warner on Jan. 15, Richard Glossip on Jan. 29, John Marion on Feb. 19 and Benjamin Cole, Jr. on Mar. 5.

Adam Leathers, OK-CADP) co-chair said, "The Oklahoma Coalition against the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) is proud to participate in this annual Amnesty International Group #238 project.

"It is one more way we can let those prisoners on Oklahoma's death row know that they are not forgotten. I hope with all my heart that it also signals to them that we are working tirelessly to end this travesty of 'killing people who kill' to show that killing people is wrong."

Amnesty International has 3 million supporters who take action each year in this event.

Tens of thousands of individuals have been released from jail, rescued from torture, or aided in other ways following action by Amnesty International.

Mideksa Birtukan is from Ethiopia and one of those who benefited from the 2009 Write for Rights event.

"Through your work on behalf of thousands of prisoners of conscience around the world, Amnesty International continues to be the conscience of humanity," said Birtukan.

"You have a hallowed mission to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. Your letters, phone calls, and petitions were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none."

Thousands of people are in prison around the world because of their beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. Many are held without charge or trial and are at risk of torture or execution.

The Write for Rights campaign empowers individuals to take action against these violations.

Walters said, "We will have all you need including the letters and postage. You just need to sign, and write custom letters on cases you select. But if you can, please bring a book of stamps to contribute to the effort."

(source: The City Sentinel)


Death penalty opponents to speak in Lex Sunday----Schiebers oppose it despite the 1998 murder of their daughter

Vicki and Sylvester Schieber lived through their worst nightmare in 1998.

Their daughter, Shannon, was raped and killed in her apartment by a man who was eventually revealed to be a serial rapist. Shannon was in her 1st year of a full scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania when she was killed.

So what did the Schiebers do in the wake of unimaginable tragedy? They dedicated themselves to the cause of ending the death penalty.

The Schiebers were leaders in a successful 2013 campaign to end the use of the death penalty in their home state of Maryland. On Sunday, Dec. 7, they will be speaking at First Presbyterian Church of Lexington.

Sylvester Schieber said that for many people, the death penalty issue is an abstract. It's something they see or hear about, but have no direct experience with.

"When our daughter was murdered, we had to confront the issue head on. It wasn't abstract for us anymore," he said.

It took 4 years for authorities to catch up with Shannon's murderer, but well before he was captured, the Schiebers already decided they did not want to see him put to death.

"When he was captured in Colorado in 2002, the Philadelphia district attorney held a press conference that she was going to seek the death penalty in the case, even though we had already said publicly that we were against it," Schieber said. Eventually, the DA relented and Shannon's murderer pleaded guilty to 6 rapes in Colorado, 6 more in Philadelphia (including Shannon's), and murder. He was sentenced to life without parole for the murder and hundreds of years of additional time for the sexual assaults.

"He's in a maximum security prison in Colorado, and he'll be there for the rest of his life," Schieber said.

What would motivate a couple that conventional logic would dictate might be in favor of the death penalty? "Some of it is based on religious grounds," Schieber explained. "My wife and I were both raised Catholic."

There's more to it, though. "After Shannon's death, we really began to research the topic, and the more we learned, the more we were against using the death penalty," he continued.

"The application of the use of the death penalty is extremely uneven. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, 85 % of counties have not had a single death penalty case. The 15 % that have only represent about 30 % of the total population of the country," Schieber said.

"Most of the cases are in densely populated urban areas, but it varies even from city to city. In Missouri, where I'm from originally, if you commit a murder you are far more likely to be sentenced to death in St. Louis than if you committed the crime in Kansas City," he said. "In Texas, you are far more likely to be sentenced to death for murder in Houston than in Dallas."

Lower income and minority defendants are sentenced to death in disproportionate numbers, as well, he noted.

"On the victim side of things, the death penalty process becomes extremely hard on the surviving family members. The typical execution doesn't take place until 17 years after the commission of the crime, and in the meantime there is the trial, re-trial, and hearing after hearing," Schieber said.

The Schiebers will be sharing their story and their views on the death penalty at the church during Bible School at 9 a.m. and a public event at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The event is free. Vicki is a member of the national Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty, an organization that works in close collaboration with the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Sylvester holds a PhD in economics from Notre Dame and will explain why the death penalty is a fiscal failure.

(source: Lexington Clipper-Herald)


Firing Squad Bill To Be Introduced In The Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Judiciary Committee will introduce a new bill to the Wyoming Legislature this January that would offer death by firing squad as an execution alternative.

5 legal execution methods exist in the United States: lethal injection, electric chair, hanging, gas chamber, and firing squad. Currently, no one is on Wyoming's death row. But if an inmate were to be executed, the state would use lethal injection with the gas chamber as a backup.

Senator Bruce Burns of Sheridan was the bill's initial sponsor. He says lethal injection drugs are difficult to get ahold of nationwide, and that Wyoming's gas chamber is broken and could take millions of dollars to fix. This bill would give the option of using firing squads in place of the gas chamber.

In addition to implementing the firing squad as the secondary form of execution, Burns says the bill would allow executives to be carried out more efficiently.

"It also allows the secondary form of execution to be used if the 1st form cannot be carried out in a timely fashion."

Despite the outcome of his bill, Burns says it's already initiated some conversation. "It has also provoked a debate on the death penalty, and Wyoming using the death penalty, in the first place," Burns says. "And I welcome the debate."

Senator Burns says the firing squad is cheaper and more reliable than most of the other methods.



7 defendants receive death sentences in 2nd Rafah massacre case----Another 22 defendants received 15 years in prison

The Cairo Criminal Court upheld death sentences on Saturday for Adel Habara and 6 other militants in the "2nd Rafah massacre" case, according to state media reports. The defendants were charged with the killing of 25 police conscripts in an ambush on a police convoy in August 2013 in the Abu Tawila region, along the international Al-Arish/Rafah road.

Another 22 defendants received 15 years in prison

The court referred Habara and the 6 defendants to the Grand Mufti, last October, to confirm their death sentence.

They are charged with committing "terrorist acts" in Northern Sinai and Cairo, and collaborating with the extremist group Al-Qaeda.

The "2nd Rafah massacre" occurred in August 2013, following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Habara, allegedly a leading member in the "Ansar and Mujahideen" jihadist group, was arrested by North Sinai Security Forces last year in Al-Arish, where he was in hiding.

He had earlier been sentenced to death in absentia for participating in the 2005 Dahab and Taba bombings, which were claimed by Al-Qaeda.

(source: Daily News Egypt)


Cameroon's Anti-Terrorism Law - Reversal of Human Freedoms

Legislators in Cameroon have voted in a draft law proposing the death sentence for all those guilty of carrying out, abetting or sponsoring acts of terrorism. The draft law, which is now being examined by the Cameroon Senate, call for punishment acts of terrorism committed by citizens, either individually or in complicity, with death.

The draft law also prescribes the death penalty for persons who carry out "any activity which can lead to a general revolt of the population or disturb the normal functioning of the country" and for "anyone who supplies arms, war equipment, bacteria and viruses with the intention of killing."

The same applies for people guilty of kidnapping with terrorist intent, as well as for "anyone who directly or indirectly finances acts of terrorism" and for "anyone who recruits citizens with the aim of carrying out acts of terrorism."

"This [anti-terrorism] law is manifestly against the fundamental liberties and rights of the Cameroonian people ... In the guise of fighting terrorism, the government's real intent is to stifle political dissent" - Kah Wallah, leader of the Cameroon People's Party

The draft law also punishes people and companies found guilty of promoting terrorism, as well as people who give false testimony to administrative and judicial authorities in matters of terrorism, with various fines and prison terms.

The anti-terrorism law has sparked a wave of criticism across the political chessboard - from opposition political leaders to civil society, church ministers and trade unions.

"This law is designed to terrorise the people and kill their freedoms," opposition leader, John Fru Ndi told IPS.

Kah Wallah, the lone female leader of a political party in Cameroon [the Cameroon People's Party], added that "the government is taking us back to the worst days of the most barbaric dictatorship --- This law is manifestly against the fundamental liberties and rights of the Cameroonian people --- In the guise of fighting terrorism, the government's real intent is to stifle political dissent."

For Maurice Kamto, a former cabinet minister who resigned to form the Movement for the Revival of Cameroon (MRC), President Paul Biya - now in power for 32 years - is afraid of any popular up-rising that could put his stay in power in jeopardy.

"The president has certainly learnt from the lessons coming from Burkina Faso. A similar uprising here will sweep his failed presidency under the carpet," he said. Facing mounting pressure, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso was forced to resign on Oct. 31 after 27 years in office.

Various opposition political leaders and civil society exponents have vowed to fight the proposed law to its logical end. "Cameroonians must resist and say no to this other manoeuvre ... We will fight this law by every means," Ndi said, without elaborating.

However, Jean Mark Bikoko, president of the Public Service Workers' Trade Union, already has an idea on how to proceed. In a strongly-worded statement released on Dec. 3, Bikoko said that the law "is a veritable declaration of war against the people ... The anti-terrorism law has provoked the ire of civil society and we will protest on December 10 - International Human Rights Day."

But the government has said it will not falter in the fight against terrorism. Justice Minister Laurent Esso told MPs that "Cameroon will never be complicit to those whose only agenda is to cause mayhem and destabilise the normal functioning of the state."

Counting the costs

In the north of the country, Cameroon's military are combating cross-border raids by Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram. On May 17, President Biya along with other regional leaders and French President Francois Holland said they were declaring war against Boko Haram.

Cameroon has since deployed thousands of troops in the country's Far North Region and plans to send still more troops. Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo'o and Delegate General for National Security Martin Mbarga Nguele have announced that some 20,000 defence and security forces will be recruited within the next 2 years to reinforce the fight against Boko Haram.

However, as the security crisis in the country continues to worsen, Cameroonian authorities have been counting the costs, not only in terms of human loss, but also in terms of the impacts of the crisis on the economy.

During a special parliamentary plenary session on Nov. 27, Ngo'o said that since the crisis escalated eight months ago, Cameroon has so far lost some 40 soldiers, but killed about 1,000 Boko Haram fighters. "Our defence forces have simply been formidable," he said.

But the economic costs of the war are heavy. According to the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, "the most affected sectors have been the tourism, transport, trade, agriculture and livestock sectors."

He said that "almost all tourism enterprises have been shut down, the number of tourists visiting attraction parks like the Waza National Park and the Rhumsiki Mountains have gone down drastically, and the hotel occupation rate has dropped from 50 % before the crisis to just 10 % today."

In addition, there has been a sharp drop in customs revenue. Although customs officials have not tallied the losses, they say they are astronomical.

"There was a border custom post in the Far North Region that used to give us a monthly income of CFA 700 million (1.4 million dollars).That customs post has been closed down. Can you imagine what the state is losing yearly in customs revenue? It's enormous," said the Director-General of Customs, Lissette Libom Li-Likeng.

Government spokesman and Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told journalists in Yaounde that in view of the human, economic and psychological losses that Cameroon has been incurring as a result of Boko Haram, a stringent law is necessary to contain the militant group.

(source: IPS news)


Ibrahim proposes Lebanon use death penalty sentences in response to Nusra Front: report

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, tasked by the government to follow up on the hostage crisis, has reportedly proposed that the state carry out death penalty sentences against terrorist convicts in retaliation for the possible killing of captive servicemen.

As-Safir reported that Ibrahim, who was among several security and government officials at an urgent security meeting Friday, proposed that the government respond quickly to vengeful acts by ISIS or Nusra Front and carry out death penalty sentences issued by the Lebanese judiciary against some terrorists in prison.

Ibrahim is the head of General Security and had successfully mediated the release of Lebanese held hostage by a Syrian opposition group in 2013 and the 2014 release of nuns held by Nusra Front, also in Syria.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Tammam Salam Friday, was convened only a few hours before Nusra Front said it executed a Lebanese policemen in retaliation for the detention of women and children.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated group was referring to the arrest of 2 women: the wife of an ISIS commander and his 2 children, and the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and her children.

The arrest seemed to be an attempt by the government to use the detainees as a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations with Nusra Front and ISIS over the release of 25 policemen and soldiers held by the groups since clashes near the border with Syria in August.

Meanwhile, a media report said the government agreed during the meeting to limit negotiations with the militants to Ibrahim and consider the Qatari mediator as one of many channels available for officials.

Al-Akhbar quoted ministerial sources who attended a security meeting Friday as saying that the general direction was "to limit negotiations to security channels, that is through Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, without closing the door on other channels that the 'government might use later in light of developments."

The sources also said that there was consensus in the meeting that the Qatari mediator was ineffective and would be dealt with as another channel but not the exclusive one.

The Qatari mediator, Syrian Ahmad Khatib, was tasked by Doha to negotiate the release of the servicemen.

(source: The Daily Star)


Australian cop's daughter Kalynda Davis and Peter Gardner may face firing squad in China for alleged crime

Up to 9 Australians now face the prospect of being executed by firing squads in China prisons for drug offences, following the arrests of Sydneysiders Kalynda Davis, 22, and Peter Gardner, 25 in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.

The pair were the latest to be busted trying to smuggle methamphetamine, also known as "ice" and "crystal", into Australia from China's drugs hub as part an intensifying national anti-narcotics sweep by the administration of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The couple, from the western Sydney suburbs of Penrith and Richmond, were allegedly attempting to smuggle 75kg of the drug; now they face a minimum of life imprisonment and probably death, according to Chinese lawyers who spoke to News Corp Australia.

Wang Jinhe, a lawyer in Guangzhou who has represented several cases involved with drug trafficking, said: "76kg of drugs, in my legal career of 15 years, is an extremely high amount, record breaking to my knowledge. I'm representing a case with an African accused of drug trafficking for of 60kg and I am afraid none of them can escape death penalty."

Methamphetamine has emerged in recent years as the region's No. 1 drug scourge and its tentacles are fast spreading into Australia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is offering consular assistance to Davis, Gardner and seven other Australians accused of drug smuggling, all of whom are now languishing in harsh Chinese detention centres. But DFAT would offer no further comment nor would the Guangzhou police.

It remains unclear whether the pair have been charged yet, but the process to a trial can take as long as a year in system that has a conviction rate of over 99 %, according to Chinese government statistics. Detainees are effectively guilty until proven innocent.

In September, the Federal government warned about the possibility of a death sentence for drug trafficking after a string of Australian arrests. In the past 12 months the Chinese government has mounted a major anti-drugs program across the country known as Operation Thunder.

"Keeping high pressure on drug traffic is a long-term policy in China, it is not a temporary campaign," Mr Wang said.

"With more foreigners in China, there is an increase in foreigners found drug trafficking too."

But even a far smaller amount could see offenders face bullets to the head, Xie Yanyi, a lawyer in Beijing told News Corp Australia.

"Trafficking of drugs (including meth and heroin) of more than 50 grams could lead to (a) death sentence."

Unlike other charges relating to business deals, which have proven controversial for some Australians sentenced to prison on China, drug cases are relatively cut and dried Mr Xie said.

"And China is taking tougher stance against drug trafficking, since it is a universal crime in any legal system, facts are relatively easy to confirm, and there is less possibility of political or ideological interpretations to such cases," he added.

Until they are officially charged, the families of Davis and Gardner must apply for special permission to see them, Mr Xie said. And even after charges are laid and sentences handed down, they will only receive one visit from family each month. That will remain the same if they escape death, for the rest of their lives, he added.

Guangzhou's position in the far south of China means it is the biggest city on the Chinese coast close Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle, with major air and sealinks via the nearby ports of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Chinese gangs also manufacture huge quantities of the drug as well as having connections to notorious Mexican drug cartels.

Chinese authorities have few qualms about executing foreigners for drug offences. In July 2 Ugandans were executed. A number of Africans, who are prominent in on-the-street drug dealing in big Chinese cities are understood to be on death row. In 2010 4 Japanese were shot after being found guilty of drug offences.



'Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional' ---- The former Supreme Court judge says the death penalty has to go from our statute books.

Last year, former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas created ripples in the judicial system when he said the death penalty to Rajiv Gandhi's 3 killers would amount to a judicial murder and sought a review of the judgement that he had pronounced in 1999. His reasoning was the 3 prisoners had already spent 22 years in prison in the shadow of death and a death penalty would have amounted to a double sentence - life imprisonment, which is for 14 years, and death. In an interview to Anuradha Raman, Justice Thomas says the death penalty has to go from our statute books.

Why do you want the death penalty abolished now when, as a judge, you had the choice of not awarding it?

I took an oath to interpret the law and this oath had nothing to do with my predilection. I conferred the death penalty in 6 cases and in all, I was discharging my duty as a judge. But I do feel that death penalty should be abolished. Punishment must be similar to that of a father who punishes his child--with the objective of reforming him. The death sentence is not a deterrent. By giving death you are giving away the chance to improve the prisoner.

So, do you regret awarding death penalty in the 6 cases?

I was going by the statute books. The question is, how will you rectify a wrong? There is always a % % doubt, no matter what evidence is produced and argued upon. That's the percentage of human error judges have to deal with. How will you ever rectify human errors in cases of death penalty?

What's your reaction to those who say it is a deterrent?

I did a study in Travancore district in Kerala. Before the death sentence in the law books there were fewer murders. After it was introduced in the 1950s, murders also increased. The death penalty is not a deterrent. It is an untested, unresolved myth and I believe the death penalty is unconstitutional. The government has to decide under CrPC provisions whether to keep it or not.

(source: Outlook India)


Alleged drug smuggler may have been led astray - cousin

The New Zealand embassy in Jakarta is trying to speak to a New Zealander arrested for allegedly smuggling 1.7kg of methamphetamine into Bali.

Antony Glen de Malmanche, 52, is facing the death penalty after he flew into Bali from Hong Kong with a suspicious looking package.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta has contacted Bali police for an update and to speak with de Malmanche direct.

His cousin Jim says he travelled to Hong Kong to see a woman he'd met online and may have been led astray by the prospect of love.

"He was looking for a nice lady and he thought he had found one online and look what happened."

De Malmanche told police his bride-to-be would also be coming to Bali where they planned to marry, airport's head of customs office Budi Harjanto told reporters in Bali on Friday.

"Whether it's true or not, we don't know. Maybe it's just a lie, especially when we waited for 4 days, the woman is not coming."

De Malmanche was acting suspiciously when taking his luggage on Monday morning.

An X-Ray identified an object in his backpack, which turned out to be a package with clear plastic wrapping, wrapped in duct tape, containing 1709 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

De Malmanche is facing drugs charges which carry maximum penalties of death and a one billion rupiah (NZ$104,400) fine.

De Malmanche is a keen fisherman and diver, according to his social media pages.

He attended Freyberg High School in Palmerston North and previously worked as an arborist.

Last year his health deteriorated, complaining on Facebook of headaches and insomnia.



Life NGO asks govt to cancel executions of 5 people

An NGO has asked the government to call off its plan to execute 5 people by the end of this year. The government has also been asked to impose a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty.

"The government must immediately halt plans to carry out executions. Given President Joko Widodo's campaign commitments to improve respect for human rights, resorting to the death penalty would be a serious stain on the early human rights record of his administration," said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a press statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

He said it was proven that the death penalty did not work as deterrent to committing crimes, as has been widely perceived.

Previously, junior attorney general for general crimes Basyuni Masyarif confirmed that the government was planning to execute 5 people before the end of the year.

According to reports, 1 of the 5 individuals facing imminent execution is being detained in Tangerang, Banten, while another 2 are being held in Batam, Riau Islands, and a further 2 at Nusakambangan maximum security prison in Cilacap, Central Java.

The 2 detained at Nusakambangan have reportedly been convicted of murder and the remaining 3 of drug-related crimes.

(source: Jakarta Post)

DECEMBER 5, 2014:


Readers frown on proposed death-penalty secrecy rules: What you're saying

Proposed new secrecy rules for Ohio executions didn't sit well with many readers.

According to our unscientific poll of more than 175 readers, 29 % indicated they support legislation that would shield the identity of small-scale drug manufacturers that prepare lethal-injection drugs for the state.

Nearly 49 % of those polled, meanwhile, indicated that they favor banning capital punishment altogether in Ohio. About 12 % of respondents said they oppose the bill and favor finding an alternative to lethal injections; roughly 8 % favored the status quo.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in May showed that 43 % of Ohio voters favored the death penalty. 40 % supported life in prison with no chance of parole, while 9 % favored life in prison with a chance of parole.

In addition to keeping compounding pharmacies anonymous, physicians who testify about the state's execution method would be protected from having their state medical license revoked. The bill would also void contracts or agreements prohibiting the sale of lethal-injection drugs to the state.

Supporters of House Bill 663 say the secrecy provisions are needed to convince compounding pharmacies to make pentobarbital for the state - Ohio's lethal-injection drug of choice that European manufacturers have refused to continue selling for legal and moral reasons. However, critics said the bill would go too far in hiding how Ohio executes people. Lawsuits have been filed against similar confidentiality rules in a number of other states.

Commenters weighed in on the issue from a number of perspectives, in reaction to both the poll and news that the bill passed the Ohio House.


"It's a sad commentary on our society when laws cannot be enforced because companies and individuals are fearful of vindictive reprisals from those who disagree with the laws."


"I vote to ban the death penalty and even full life in prison. It would take some better rehabilitation to make it work but for all the resources we put into other issues, I would advocate we go in that direction. As a culture we need to start improving our attitude on prolonging life, not shortening it."

Blacksquirrel: "Ohio has chosen to assign death to the most heinous of criminals. Trying to make carrying out this sentence 'more humane' is a crock. We have decided to kill this person for his or her crime. We must own our decision. ... Firing squad would do, and relieve us of this silly quest to find a humane death cocktail."


"While I have no sympathy for criminals who take lives, Ohio's death penalty system is demeaning to Ohio's citizens. Secrecy by government is always suspect, and secrecy in the taking of a life is indefensible. This is a very Orwellian bill which deserves the death penalty in committee itself."

(source: Letters to the Editor,


Justices Take Up Low IQ Death-Penalty Case

The Supreme Court took up a case Friday where the 5th Circuit reinstated Louisiana's plan to execute a cop killer whom a federal judge found was "mentally retarded."

A jury ordered the death penalty for Kevan Brumfield in 1995 after finding him guilty of 1st-degree murder related to the death of Cpl Betty Smothers, an officer of the police department in Baton Rouge, La.

Though Brumfield initially challenged his conviction on the basis of insanity, he claimed mental retardation after the Supreme Court prohibited states from executing the mentally impaired with the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia.

The trial court denied Brumfield an Atkins hearing, but the inmate finally obtained one in 2010 after a victory in federal court.

A federal judge for the Middle District of Louisiana granted Brumfield's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2012 on the grounds that he is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution.

Though the court enjoined Louisiana from executing Brumfield, the 5th Circuit reversed earlier this year because it found that the Middle District did not give the state court's determination appropriate deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

"Based on the evidence in the record, we conclude that the state court did not clearly err in determining that Brumfield failed to satisfy his burden under Louisiana law of placing his mental condition at issue," the appellate court found.

Per its custom, the U.S. Supreme Court issued no comment in taking up the case Friday.

(source: Courthouse News)


Challenge to death penalty rejected in Colorado theater massacre

The judge presiding over the Colorado theater-massacre case has rejected a new effort by attorneys for accused gunman James Holmes to have the state's death-penalty law declared unconstitutional, court documents showed yesterday.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of opening fire in a Denver-area theater in July 2012 during a midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with many counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and said they would seek the death penalty for the 1-time neuroscience doctoral candidate if he is convicted.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


"The True Legacy of Atkins and Roper: The Unreliability Principle, Mentally Ill Defendants, and the Death Penalty's Unraveling"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper by Scott Sundby now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In striking down the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile defendants, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons have been understandably heralded as important holdings under the Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that has found the death penalty "disproportional" for certain types of defendants and crimes. This Article argues, however, that the cases have a far more revolutionary reach than their conventional understanding. In both cases the Court went one step beyond its usual 2-step analysis of assessing whether imposing the death penalty violated "evolving standards of decency." This extra step looked at why even though intellectual disability and youth were powerful mitigators, juries were not able to reliably use them in their decision making.

The Court thus articulated expressly for the first time what this Article calls the "unreliability principle:" if too great a risk exists that constitutionally protected mitigation cannot be reliably assessed, the unreliability means that the death penalty cannot be constitutionally imposed. In recognizing the unreliability principle, the Court has called into serious question the death penalty for other offenders to whom the principle applies, such as mentally ill defendants. And, unlike with the "evolving standards" analysis, the unreliability principle does not depend on whether a national consensus exists against the practice.

This Article identifies the 6 Atkins-Roper factors that bring the unreliability principle into play and shows why they make application of the death penalty to mentally ill defendants unconstitutional. The principle, which finds its constitutional home in the cases of Woodson v. North Carolina and Lockett v. Ohio, has profound implications for the death penalty, and if taken to its logical endpoint calls into question the Court's core premise since Furman v. Georgia, that by providing individualized consideration of a defendant and his crime, the death penalty decision will be free of arbitrariness.



Iran considers ending death penalty for drug offenses

Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council, said that Iran is looking to end the death penalty for drug related cases, which he said account for 80% of the country's executions. His comments followed statements by the head of Iran's judiciary, who earlier said that the country's drug laws were not effective and need to be reformed.

Iranian judicial officials have once again stated publicly that the country's criminal prosecution and punishment of drug-related crime need to be reformed.

In a Dec. 4 English-language interview with France 24's Sanam Shantyaei, Javad Larijani said, "No one is happy to see the number of executions is high. And it's a sad story that we have this much drug related crime. ... According to the existing law, ... they are receiving capital punishment."

Javad Larijani continued, 'We are crusading to change this law. If we are successful, if the law passes the parliament, almost 80% of the executions will go away. This is big news for us, regardless of the Western criticism." His statements were picked up and translated by Iran's Persian-language Fars News Agency.

While not speaking as explicitly as Javad Larijani, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Javad Larijani's brother and the head of Iran's judiciary, addressed the need to change the country's drug laws. During a Dec. 2 meeting of judiciary officials, he said, "On the issue of drugs and trafficking, it feels necessary that we need a change in the legislation because the ultimate goal of the law should be implementing justice, while in reality, this goal is often not realized."

This is not the 1st time that Iran's judiciary has proposed changing the punishment for drug-related crimes, or at least modifying how the punishment is implemented.

In May 2014, current deputy head of Iran's judiciary Gholam-Ali Mohseni-Ejei, while speaking as the country's top prosecutor, said at a meeting of the High Council for Human Rights in Iran, "Unfortunately, the high number of executions in this country is related to drugs smuggling and the heavy penalties for this infraction. If, within the existing laws, we can review it in such a way that we help the intelligence officials to punish the leaders of these smuggling networks, and for the rest, we reconsider [their punishment], the goals of the system can be better realized."

According to conservative Etelaat newspaper, Sadegh Larijani did not advocate softness on drug smuggling. He said that drug smugglers need to be "dealt with seriously" but conceded, "Unfortunately, today, with respect to drugs and drug-related laws, we see that these laws have no impact."

According to Amnesty International, with 369 in 2013, Iran was 2nd only to China in state executions. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th place, respectively. Iran has performed a record number of executions in 2014. According to the Iran Documentation Human Rights Center, there have been 647, though the center claims that Iran has acknowledged only 229 of them.



In Frein case, Louise Luck will look at the man behind the monster----Goshen mitigation specialist is assigned to the defense team of trooper ambush suspect

As a girl, Louise Luck of Goshen strongly identified with the "Peanuts" character Lucy, who gave psychological advice to her young friends. They'd confide in her, and she enjoyed helping them. It was perhaps only natural that Luck went on to pursue a career in psychology.

Now she's part of the defense team that will peer into the psyche of Eric Matthew Frein, the man accused of killing a Pennsylvania state trooper outside the Blooming Grove, Pa., barracks on Sept. 12 and wounding a 2nd.

"The court wants to know the person they are sentencing, and wants to be able to give that particular person an appropriate sentence," said Luck, who is a mitigation specialist. "You cannot really appropriately sentence unless you know who your client is."

She said she cannot comment on any aspect of the Frein case. Frein will appear at a preliminary hearing before District Justice Shannon Muir Tuesday morning at the Pike County courthouse in Milford.

A mitigation specialist must be assigned to the defense team of any person facing capital charges. The team also includes 2 attorneys and an investigator. Luck describes her role as the "social historian of the team," documenting the tragedies in her clients' lives. She is retained by the attorneys in these cases, and not directly by the defendants.

She works to get clients a life sentence instead of the death penalty after they've been convicted for 1st-degree murder. The Pike County District Attorney, Ray Tonkin, said he is seeking the death penalty in the Frein case.

Luck helps the courts determine the factors that might mitigate the defendant's crime, whether it be trauma in their past, or perhaps their capacity for kindness despite an horrific upbringing. She testifies at the penalty phase, and encourages witnesses to turn the prosecutors' monster image back into individualized, humanized beings. She has on appeal saved the lives of many convicts sentenced to death.

She is quick to say that her investigation of a defendant's social, mental, physical, family and psychological history is by no means used to justify what the defendant does, but only to explain the frailties and difficulties in his or her life. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcohol and substance abuse are often passed down through the generations, she said.

Stopping the cycle of violence Luck says she's very sympathetic to the victims' families in these crimes. This comes from personal experience. A close childhood friend of hers, Elaine Norton, was bludgeoned to death in her 5th month of pregnancy. At first, she wanted the killer to get the death penalty. But then she changed her mind, believing that a lifetime spent reflecting on his crime would be worse than death.

Luck said anger and multi-generational trauma are usually found in the histories of people who commit the most horrendous crimes. She said she has stepped into some very strange and frightening situations when learning about her clients.

Teachers and coaches who bond with kids at risk are the most effective agents in turning things around. A gesture as simple as giving a child a smile can work wonders for someone in need of positive recognition, she said.

Famous cases

Over the past 17 years, Luck has been involved in some 300 death penalty cases, and in numerous states. Her interest in mitigation began after working with Steve Lundgren, the former district attorney in Sullivan County, on a serious sex case. Her client had a severe, traumatic brain injury. Luck has since worked with attorneys in numerous states across the country.

She is well-known in her field through her work on many high-profile cases involving heinous crimes, with the Frein case just one in a long list. Some of her biggest include the famous Craigslist murder, in which newlyweds Miranda and Elytte Barbour were convicted of murdering a man they'd lured with an ad in 2013. Luck also worked on the case of Baruch Lanner, who was convicted in 2002 of sexually abusing girls who attended the religious school where he had been principal.

Luck's offices in Manhattan and Orange County also help people correct their behavior, with monitoring and counseling for drugs and alcohol.

From probation to mitigation

Luck's interest in the criminal mind began before she graduated from SUNY New Paltz. At the suggestion of a friend, she took the probation officer test without even knowing at the time what the job entailed.

While working on her masters degree at Marist College, Luck became a probation officer, making sure her clients got therapy and the programs they needed. She also prepared pre-sentencing investigations, mandatory for any offender facing a year or more in prison after pleading guilty. She reviewed school records, employment histories, drug and alcohol use, mental health problems, and family histories. She then worked as a state corrections counselor, addressing inmate needs, making suggestions regarding security levels, and classifying inmates according to their flight risk, the level of violence in their sentence, prior violence, and other factors.

From there she became an institutional parole officer, looking into the progress of inmates, and recommending training programs, anger management, and alcohol or drug programs. She made recommendations about whether inmates should be released.

After her marriage, her husband, Dr. Bernard Luck, made it possible for her to have her own practice, where she could help a smaller number of clients and address their needs on a more personal level. She calls her business Court Consultation Services. She is one of only a handful of sentencing advocate and capital mitigational specialists in New York State, and among only 200 or 300 in the entire country.

In her non-capital cases, her primary concern is addressing the difficulties that lead clients to offend.

"If you can identify and work at correcting these issues, you will be able to address future reciticism and community safety," she said. "It's a moral obligation to our community at large."

(source: The Chronicle)


Delaware jury votes 12-0 Otis Phillips should die

A Superior Court jury on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of the death penalty for Otis Phillips after 2 1/2 hours of deliberation.

Phillips, 38, along with co-defendant Jeffrey Phillips, was convicted late last month of the 1st-degree murder of Herman Curry and the manslaughter of 16-year-old Alexander Kamara Jr. in a daylight shootout at Eden Park during a soccer tournament.

Curry, 47, had been the organizer of the tournament and Kamara was a player on one of the teams.

The panel unanimously ruled that prosecutors had proven two statutory aggravators in the case against Otis Phillips, qualifying him for the death penalty. The jury ruled 2 or more people were killed as a result of Otis Phillips' actions and the murder was premeditated and the result of substantial planning.

Oddly, the jury did not find that a 3rd aggravator - that the murder was committed for the purpose of preventing a witness, Curry, from testifying in a criminal proceeding - as prosecutors argued.

This same jury last month found Otis Phillips was guilty of the 2nd-degree murder of Christopher Palmer in 2008 and prosecutors had argued that on July 8, 2012 Phillips "executed" Curry in order to prevent him from testifying about the Palmer case.

But the jury only needed to unanimously find that there was one statutory aggravator in order to move on to the question of whether the aggravating factors in the case outweighed the mitigating factors and on that question the vote was 12-0.

Otis Phillips, who was dressed in black slacks and a white, untucked button down shirt was wringing his folded hands as he sat at the defense table, before the jury came in. But when Superior Court Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. read the jury vote, Phillips did not react. He instead stared blankly in the direction of the jury and did not appear to speak with his attorneys before he was lead out of the courtroom.

The jury vote is only a recommendation and it is up to the judge to impose the death penalty. But when there is a clear vote, like this one, judges almost always follow the jury recommendation.

Scott did not immediately set a sentencing date.

Earlier, in closing arguments, Deputy Attorney General John Downs argued that for years Otis Phillips did whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it and was rarely held accountable.

He walked away from shootings and robberies, grabbed and fondled women he saw on the dance floor, and lied his way out of jail, Downs said. "And if anyone got in his way, he would be eliminated and that is what happened to Herman Curry," Downs told the jury, asking them to finally hold Otis Phillips responsible.

In this case, Downs said, "the law allows the death penalty and justice demands it."

Phillips' attorney Michael Heyden, meanwhile, described his client as a man who was given few breaks in life. He was 1 of 8 brothers born in one of the poorest countries in the world, Guyana, and was repeatedly abandoned by his parents throughout his childhood.

Phillips was first left at age 7 by his parents when they moved to the United States without him. Then after being reunited with them a year and a half later, he was left again at age 14 when his mother died and his father promptly married another woman and moved, leaving Phillips and his brothers in Brooklyn, New York.

And, Heyden said, Phillips was abandoned a third time when his father came back and told his son they were going on a vacation to Guyana. Once there, the father took Phillips' immigration papers and left him and one of his brothers with strangers. According to testimony, Phillips only found out he wasn't going back with his father in a brief phone call from his Dad from the airport.

Heyden told the jury that if they voted for death, they would be engaging in the same revenge and retaliation that prosecutors charged Phillips engaged in at Eden Park. "You are not a gang, you are a jury. You should show mercy," he said, adding imposing the death penalty on Phillips will only bring more tears.

Heyden showed pictures of Phillips with his young daughter and pictures the daughter drew in crayon to her father, professing her love. "If you kill Otis Phillips, you are hurting that young girl," he said.

Downs, however, recalled the tears of Herman Curry's family and the sorrow expressed at the penalty hearing by Herman Curry's employer. And Downs also recalled the loss to the autistic children Herman Curry taught and mentored in his job.

Downs acknowledged Phillips had a difficult and traumatic childhood, but he said around 2002 Phillips had overcome his upbringing to get married, to have a child, buy a house and to land a solid $20-an-hour union construction job.

But, Downs said, Phillips walked away from all that a few years later, leaving his wife, child and job behind for a thug life with a street gang.

"There was a pattern of violence in his life. Instead of his job, instead of his house, instead of his family, he chose to be the muscle for the Sure Shots," he said, putting up a picture of Phillips as he was being taken into custody after the shooting at Eden Park. "That is Otis Phillips."

"The bad outweighed the good."

Afterward, both prosecutors and attorneys representing Otis Phillips declined to comment.

The jury, judge and prosecutors will be back in court on Monday for the penalty phase hearing against co-defendant, Jeffrey Phillips, who also faces a possible death sentence for his role in the slayings at Eden Park.

Despite having the same last name, Jeffrey and Otis are not related.

While Otis Phillips shot and killed Curry, according to testimony, and Jeffrey Phillips shot and killed Karma, Jeffrey Phillips was also convicted of the 1st-degree murder of Curry under accomplice liability.

(source: The News Journal)


Death Penalty Recommended in Soccer Shootings

A Delaware jury has voted unanimously to recommend the death penalty for 1 of 2 gang members convicted of murder in a 2012 soccer tournament shooting in Wilmington that left three people dead.

The New Castle County jury delivered its recommendation regarding 38-year Otis Phillips on Thursday afternoon. The final sentencing decision will be made by the judge.

The same jury will hear arguments starting Monday on whether to recommend the death penalty for 23-year-old Jeffrey Phillips.

The 2 defendants, who are not related, were convicted of murder in the death of tournament organizer Herman Curry, and manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old player Alexander Kamara.

Authorities say an accomplice who was driving the getaway car for the 2 killers died after being hit by return gunfire from tournament spectators.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty sought for dad in shooting of Hartsville toddler

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a father charged with murder in the shooting death of a 21-month-old girl in Hartsville.

Local media outlets report that in court papers filed Thursday, prosecutors said the case was eligible for the death penalty because Timothy Sanders killed the toddler for money or something else of value and on behalf of another person.

Also charged with murder in the case is the toddler's mother, April Dixon. Investigators say Madison Dolford was shot in the chest in December 2013.

The shooting happened in the front yard while the mother of the child, Dixon, was with the little girl, Coroner Todd Hardee said. The girl's mother called 911 at 6:12 pm, Hardee said.

April Dixon, age 24, and Timothy O'Neil Sanders, age 41, both live at the address where the shooting happened.

Coroner Todd Hardee said authorities initially believed that the shooting incident stemmed from an alleged altercation about a week earlier between some adults.

Authorities have released few details about the case.

(source: WBTW news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Alcoholic lawyer who was under criminal investigation gave poor capital defense, petition alleges

Appellate lawyers for a Georgia death-row inmate are arguing that his life should be spared because his trial lawyer, who drank up to a quart of vodka every night during the trial, did not present mitigating evidence or conduct a proper investigation.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a special clemency meeting on Monday to consider information in the case of Robert Wayne Holsey, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday for the murder of a deputy sheriff. The clemency petition seeks a stay of execution to allow for a full hearing on the request to commute Holsey's sentence to life in prison. WABE and the Associated Press have stories; a press release by the parole board is here.

Lawyers with the Georgia Resource Center filed a clemency petition this week that says Holsey's trial lawyer Andy Prince did not present evidence that Holsey had been abused as a child, and told the court that intellectual disability was not a factor, though records indicate Holsey was intellectually disabled.

During the trial, Prince was drinking heavily and was under investigation for stealing from a client. He was later disbarred and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Prince, who is now deceased, testified at a civil proceeding for Holsey in 2006, saying that he "shouldn't have been representing anybody in any case," reports the AP.

The clemency petition alleges that Prince "drank away the money the court gave him to hire a mitigation specialist to investigate and develop a penalty phase defense, and spent each night of Mr. Holsey's trial swilling up to a quart of vodka in his hotel room while worrying about how to avoid detection and prosecution for embezzling over $100,000 of another client's money. He relied on his inexperienced trial counsel to develop the penalty phase defense, but never bothered to tell her and provided her no guidance about how to do so.

"As a result, the jury never heard the compelling story of Mr. Holsey's terrifically brutalized childhood in a home neighbors referred to as the 'torture chamber.'"

The lawyers have also asked the Georgia Supreme Court for a stay of execution to determine whether Georgia uses the wrong standard to determine whether an inmate's intellectual disability exempts him from execution.

A federal appeals court upheld Holsey's conviction in 2012 in a 2-1 decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in June 2013. Holsey's appellate lawyers are Marcia Widder and Brian Kammer.

(source: ABA Journal)


Jacksonville public defender seeks removal from 2nd death-penalty case----Victim was 65-year-old neighbor

Convicted murderer Randall Deviney looks into the courtroom gallery as he is taken from the courtroom on June 11, 2010, after being fingerprinted prior to his sentencing for the murder of his neighbor.

For the second time in a month, Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper must decide whether the office of Public Defender Matt Shirk has a conflict that requires removing its defense team from a death-penalty case.

The Public Defender's Office has been defending Randall Deviney, whose second murder trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 5, for over 5 years. Deviney, 23, is accused of slitting the throat of 65-year-old Dolores Futrell in August 2008 with a fish filleting knife in her Westside home on Bennington Drive.

The Public Defender's Office is asking Cooper to be removed from the case citing a conflict of interest. The motion by Assistant Public Defender Senovia Portis says the conflict involves another client her office is representing but does not spell out the conflict.

Public defender spokesman Matt Bisbee said the office could not comment because of attorney-client privilege issues.

If Cooper removes the public defender, Deviney's trial will be delayed while new lawyers take over his case.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who is prosecuting Deviney, said his office will oppose the motion. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Deviney was convicted of the crime in 2010, and Cooper sentenced him to death after a jury recommended he be executed by a 10-2 vote.

That conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court in February 2013. Justices ruled that police should have stopped questioning Deviney after he repeatedly told them he was done speaking.

Police ignored those comments and kept questioning him, and Deviney eventually confessed to killing Futrell. That videotaped confession was shown to jurors at trial.

Under the law an interrogation must stop if a suspect invokes his right to remain silent, the Florida Supreme Court said in its unanimous ruling, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's Miranda ruling.

Deviney was Futrell's neighbor. She often paid him to do odd jobs around her house because she suffered from multiple sclerosis. Deviney told police he went to her house that night but got upset because Futrell brought up questions about his childhood and he "lost it."

Cooper ruled earlier this week that the public defender could not withdraw from the death-penalty case of Donald James Smith. Smith, 58, is accused of raping and killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

The Public Defender's Office also said it has a conflict in that case and is now taking Cooper's ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

The 2 death-penalty cases are currently scheduled to run back-to-back in January, with Deviney's trial starting Jan. 5 and Smith's Jan. 20.



Trial date set for man in 2007 slayings of 2 Bessemer bank tellers, wounding of 2 others

The federal trial of a man, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted in the 2007 slayings of 2 Bessemer bank tellers and the wounding of 2 others during a robbery, will begin this spring, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Court Judge David Proctor set the trial of William Merriweather Jr. to begin April 20. The judge in October had ruled - for a 2nd time in nearly 2 years - that Merriweather Jr. was competent to stand trial.

The trial is expected to take up to 2 months with jury selection taking about 2 weeks. On April 17 an 18- to 20-person jury with be selected with 12 jurors and 6 to 8 alternates.

Proctor this week ordered that on or before March 2 both the prosecutors and defense attorneys are to submit to the court the final joint proposed juror questionnaire and a proposed narrative summary for the court to use during jury selection.

In orders this week Judge Proctor also set a list of other deadlines, including:

- On or before March 16 both sides are to submit to the court joint proposed jury instructions as to both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial.

- On or before March 30 the defendant is to submit to the judge requested instructions as to both the guilt and penalty phases of trial which may reveal any unique theories of the case.

- On March 9 a hearing on all unresolved pretrial motions will be held.

- On or before March 13 the U.S. Attorney's Office is to file its trial brief alerting the court to any legal or evidentiary matters it anticipates will arise at trial. The defense has to file its trial brief on or before March 20 alerting the court to any legal or evidentiary matters he anticipates will arise at trial.

Merriweather is charged in the May 14, 2007 bank robbery and deaths of Eva Lovelady Hudson and Sheila McWaine Prevo, and with the wounding of Anita Siler Gordon, Latoya Shaniece Freeman, all tellers at a Wachovia Bank branch in Bessemer.

Merriweather's attorneys have argued for years that Merriweather is schizophrenic and is incompetent to stand trial. Proctor first ruled Merriweather competent in early 2013 - based on a 2011 hearing. The judge set a trial, but then delayed it 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 another competency hearing this summer and in October issued a 124-page ruling, again declaring Merriweather competent for trial.

(Merriweather ruling)

The more than 7-year wait for a trial has frustrated and angered the victims who survived and the families of the 2 tellers who died.

Merriweather, wearing a green baseball-style cap, white shirt, tie, and slacks and shoes partially wrapped in electrical tape, 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 after having killed and wounded the tellers. Merriweather didn't make it out of the parking lot after being wounded by a sheriff's deputy.



Execution drug secrecy bill has unintended consequences, opponents testify

A law hiding the source of drugs used in Ohio executions could trigger wide-ranging unintended consequences, including disruptions in health care and violations of federal interstate-commerce law, opponents charged yesterday.

Few critics expressed opposition to capital punishment, which is legal in Ohio and resumed in 1999.

Instead, Public Defender Tim Young warned that House Bill 663 "is likely to cause long-term, far-reaching consequences."

The bill "sacrifices so much of what we all know about good government: openness, transparency, accountability, oversight and limits on governmental intrusion into contracts, private businesses and the medical profession," Young testified at a hearing of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

In other states where similar laws shielding the source of lethal drugs were enacted, extensive litigation resulted.

Under pressure from a similar law in Missouri, state employees "purchased, with $11,000 in cash, execution drugs from an Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy that was not legally allowed to do business in Missouri," Young said.

Further, he said the bill could disrupt health care because it might void some contracts between drug manufacturers and customers. It also would prevent licensing agencies from disciplining medical professionals who participate in the execution process.

Dr. Mary J. Wall, president of the Ohio State Medical Association, said in written testimony that her group, representing 20,000 physician and student members, is "troubled" by the fact that the bill would prohibit medical professional organizations from disciplining members for ethical violations. The American Medical Association code of ethics says physicians should not participate in a "legally authorized execution."

Prison officials, however, say the law is badly needed because they cannot proceed with executions scheduled next year and beyond without obtaining sufficient supplies of lethal-injection drugs. Most major drugmakers refuse to sell drugs for executions, so the state plans to tap small compounding pharmacies that prepare specific drugs at customer request. However, compounding pharmacies, which are not federally regulated, want to remain anonymous to avoid public protests.

House Bill 663 would shield the identity of a drug supplier, but also would do much more, critics argue.

Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, said it would "spawn new, time-consuming litigation," and "unquestionably will make it harder for citizens to hold government accountable for its actions."

Kevin Smith, representing the Society of Professional Journalists, said it is "one of the most overreaching in terms of secrecy that we have encountered in a long time."

Jim Tobin, spokesman for the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said it represents "an increasing effort to get around the moral, religious and proprietary objections of drug manufacturers who do not want their drugs or their drug formulas used in executions."

There was no testimony from supporters of the bill. Hearings are expected to continue next week.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Evidence Mounts of Paul Goodwin's Intellectual Disability as Missouri Plans Dec. 10 Execution; Citizens to Gather in Vigils for Life

Missouri officials, planning on Dec. 10 to execute Paul Goodwin who is intellectually disabled (mentally-retarded), would be violating state law and a federal ban on the practice established by the US Supreme Court's 2002 Atkins decision. Dr. Denis Keyes, a respected psychologist cited in the Atkins case, released on Thursday a compelling report affirming his 2001 finding that Goodwin meets the criteria for mental retardation under Missouri law and hence protection from the death penalty.

Keyes reported that school records indicate that Goodwin was initially enrolled in special education classes in 1st grade, then throughout his schooling. He had to repeat an elementary grade 3 different times and has also consistently struggled with adaptive living skills, such as managing money, performing basic tasks, and taking care of his personal health needs. He also has significant deficits in hearing and communication skills. We call on Gov. Jay Nixon to halt the execution for the sake of mercy and upholding the law.

Missouri officials have executed 12 people since last November the most over a year-long period since 1899. Goodwin's execution is bizarrely scheduled on what's recognized elsewhere in the world as Human Rights Day.

Dr. Keye's report on Mr. Goodwin states, "it is also not an exaggeration to say that this is the single case (of the more than 75 cases he's reviewed) that has caused this evaluator more desperate concern than any other over the past 26 years." The reasons for this are numerous, but primarily, it is Dr. Keyes' belief that Paul Goodwin's mental retardation claim was never presented in the original trial, that the case was very poorly presented in appeal, and that the Court was unable to make a fully informed decision because of Paul's poor legal representation. As stated, "over the past 26 years, this expert has never seen such a poorly presented case on appeal."

The statewide MADP network will be holding vigils†in 10 cities across the state on†Tuesday, December 9th to raise awareness and call attention to the case of Mr. Goodwin and to remember Joan Crotts who he killed. MADP condemns all murders and mourns with those suffering the violent loss of a loved one Here's the list of gatherings statewide:†

Bonne Terre:†11pm until after the execution at†midnight. Some will carpool from the St. Louis vigil to this one.†A candlelight†vigil will be held†outside the prison where the execution takes place, 2727 Highway K. For more information email, or call Margaret on†314-322-5159.

Columbia:†5pm to 6, Boone County Courthouse, in front of the columns, corner of Walnut and 8th.†For more information contact†573-449-4585.

Jefferson City, Capitol vigil: 12pm. A respectful Vigil for Life outside of the Governors office in the state Capitol. Room 216 on the nd floor of the state capitol.

Jefferson City:†Prayer service, 4pm, St. Peter's Chapel on Broadway St. Vigil across from the Supreme Court Building at 207 West High Street, 4:30-5:30.†For more information contact†573-301-3529.

Joplin:†6:30 to 7pm,†St. Peter the Apostle Church, Mass begins at 6 followed by continued prayer regarding the execution. Contact Fr J. Friedel for more information, at†417-623-8643.

Kansas City:†JC Nichols Fountain on the Plaza, 4pm-5pm (note the new time). For more info contact†816-206-8692.

Kirksville: Time and place TBD, check with Truman State University's Amnesty International chapter.

Springfield:†Park Central Square,†12 noon to 1 pm. For more information call Donna,†417-459-2960.

St. Joseph:†4pm at the intersection of Belt & Frederick. Contact Jean at†816-671-9281†for more info.

St. Louis:†Vigil from 8pm to 9 on the steps of St. Francis Xavier Church at the corner of Grand and Lindell.†A group will carpool from there to Bonne Terre to hold vigil outside the prison until after the execution is completed.†For more information email, or call Margaret on†314-322-5159.

St. Peters:†7pm vigil at All Saints Parish at the Peace Pole Pavillion. 7 McMenamy Drive, St. Peters, MO. For more information contact John, 636-397-1440 x227.

(source: MADP)


Death penalty secrecy imperils integrity of the procedure, US judge warns ---- Federal judge Joe Heaton considers challenge brought by newspapers including the Guardian who say Oklahoma acted unconstitutionally by limiting reporters' access

Allowing the state to filter what the press can see during an execution is akin to a "puppet theater" and would imperil the integrity of the procedure, a federal judge was warned on Thursday as he considered a challenge to the secrecy imposed by the state of Oklahoma during the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April.

US district judge Joe Heaton listened to arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union,which claims Oklahoma prison officials acted unconstitutionally by lowering the blinds between the death chamber and the observation room after it was clear the procedure had gone awry, and from the state, asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The ACLU is joined as a plaintiff in the case filed in the US district court for the western district of Oklahoma by the Guardian, the Oklahoma Observer and journalist Katie Fretland, who was one of the journalists in the observation room for Lockett's execution and who reported for both outlets.

"The supreme court has said repeatedly that justice cannot be done in the dark. That is nowhere more true than when we're talking about killing a human being," ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland, who presented the plaintiffs' case, said before the hearing. "It is imperative that the press, and by extension the public, are able to have independent eyes and ears at that procedure and be certain that the state is carrying out lethal injections in a proper manner."

Rowland asked the judge to consider pre-empting Oklahoma from denying reporters access to the full lethal injection process, arguing that the "press serves as a vital proxy for the public's oversight of the death penalty".

In the wake of the botched execution, Oklahoma adopted new execution protocols that, among other changes, reduces the number of media witnesses from 12 to 5. The new procedures also allow state officials to remove witnesses from the viewing area and lower the blinds during an execution if the inmate is still conscious after five minutes. The lawsuit asks the court to stop Oklahoma from imposing these new procedures.

The state asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit on the grounds that it has the right to limit access of the press during an execution. Representing Oklahoma, assistant attorney general Dan Weitman argued that while it might be "good" to allow the press to witness such procedures, the 1st amendment does not grant reporters unfettered access. Weitman also told the judge that a bungled execution was unprecedented for the state, and that something like Lockett's prolonged death was unlikely to occur again.

On 29 April, Lockett, 38, condemned to death for kidnapping, rape and murder, was ushered into an Oklahoma death chamber, strapped to a gurney and injected with a cocktail of 3 drugs - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. It was soon clear something had gone terribly wrong. He was observed writhing and groaning on the gurney before prison officials lowered the blinds midway through the execution.

Shielded from the view of reporters, Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began. A 2nd execution scheduled to take place that night was postponed.

"The public was deprived of an independent witness in Lockett's death, which, given what happened, is bad for democracy," Fretland told the Guardian after the hearing. "The death penalty is the most severe action the state can take, and it's taking this action in the name of the public, and what's lost, I think, behind the veil of secrecy is the public's right to independently evaluate the proceeding."

Lockett's execution was one of a series of botched procedures that have renewed a nationwide debate about capital punishment in America. A Europe-led boycott of medical drugs that US corrections departments use to kill their prisoners has squeezed states' lethal drug supplies. The scarcity has forced states to find other, potentially less reliable, supply lines.

This risk, Rowland argued, sharpens the need to guarantee reporters and other witnesses are permitted "meaningful, uninterrupted and unedited" access to the lethal injection procedure from the moment the condemned inmate is wheeled into the chamber until the moment of death.

This would include allowing reporters to view the insertion of the IV, which witnesses to Oklahoma executions have traditionally been blocked from viewing. During Lockett's execution, the blinds remained closed while officials inserted the intravenous lines. They were raised only when officials began administering the lethal cocktail.

On this point, Weitman argued that allowing witnesses to observe the IV insertion would put the members of the execution team at risk of being identified. Rowland countered that other death penalty states, including Arizona and Ohio, allow witnesses to view this aspect of the execution, and said the state could take simple steps to conceal the team's identities.

Oklahoma's next scheduled execution, of inmate Charles Warner, whose execution was originally to take place hours after Lockett's, is set to happen on 15 January. Heaton said he would attempt to deliver his decision promptly, with Warner's new execution date in mind.

(source: The Guardian)


Judge in Aurora theater shootings won't bar death penalty

The judge in the Colorado theater shootings case has rejected another attempt by defense lawyers to rule out the death penalty.

Attorneys for defendant James Holmes had asked the judge to bar prosecutors from seeking execution, saying Holmes is mentally ill and putting him to death would be cruel and unusual punishment.

In a ruling released Thursday, the judge said Holmes' mental health is in dispute and would be an issue during the trial. The judge also said the defense didn't make a persuasive argument that executing a mentally ill person was cruel and unusual.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack on a Denver-area theater.

His trial is scheduled to start Jan. 20.

(source: Associated Press)


Arias evidentiary hearing gets heated; prosecutor, IT expert square off .

Although the jury in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial is off until Monday, the lawyers and the judge were still hard at work Thursday.

The jury was given the break while evidentiary hearings were held Thursday and Friday.

At issue Thursday was the alleged deletion of thousands of files, some of which reportedly were pornographic in nature, from Travis Alexander's computer.

The defense filed a motion to have Arias' murder conviction thrown out, claiming that the images were removed from Alexander's computer while it was in police custody.

Martinez is arguing that the defense's own IT expert is the one who erased the files in question.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez accused the expert of using special kind of program to destroy the files. That expert called Martinez a liar, saying he only removed malware and viruses from the machine.

The expert did not stop at accusing Martinez of lying.

Prosecutor: Isn't it true that you used an incinerator program to delete 70,000 files?

Expert: That is absolutely not true. You are absolutely lying. This is prosecutorial misconduct.

The expert also said that somebody accessed porn sites from Alexander's computer on June 10, 2008. Arias killed Alexander, she claims in self-defense, on June 4, several days earlier.

The Arias trial has garnered national - even worldwide - attention. A jury on May 8, 2013, convicted her of murdering her ex-lover, and while they found her eligible for the death penalty, they could not unanimously agree to hand down the sentence.

Because of that, Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial.

After months of legal wrangling, a new jury was eventually impaneled, and a retrial of the sentencing phase began on Oct. 21. It is expected to last until the middle of the month.

In the meantime, rumors that Arias herself will once again take the stand continue to swirl.



Younger Christians less supportive of death penalty

One day after the state of Ohio executed a man for murder, a poll showed younger Christians are not as supportive of the death penalty as older members of their faith.

When asked if they agreed that "the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals," 42 % of self-identified Christian boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, said "yes." Only 32 % of self-identified Christian millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, said the same thing.

The poll conducted by Barna Group surveyed 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 % points.

It showed an even sharper difference in support for the death penalty among "practicing Christians," which Barna defined as those who say faith is very important to their lives and have attended church at least once in the last month. Nearly 1/2 of practicing Christian boomers support the government's right to execute the worst criminals, while only 23 % of practicing Christian millennials do.

Other polling organizations such as Gallup show similar generational trends among Americans in general.

Heather Beaudoin, national organizer for Equal Justice USA, a national organization working to reform the criminal justice system, said the Barna research confirms what she sees: a growing desire among younger Christians to abolish the death penalty.

"The question for them is no longer 'Is it right or wrong?'" said Beaudoin. "They are seeing how it is actually functioning in our country - the race issues, the risk of executing the innocent, the fact that if you can afford an attorney you'll probably not end up on death row - and they are changing their minds."

Roxanne Stone, vice president for publishing at Barna, said capital punishment may increasingly be seen as a human rights or social justice issue.

"This parallels a growing trend in the pro-life conversation among Christians to include torture and the death penalty as well as abortion," Stone said. "For many younger Christians, the death penalty is not a political dividing point but a human rights issue."

And what of that age-old question, "What would Jesus do?"

According to the Barna study, only 5 % of Americans believe that Jesus would support government's ability to execute the worst criminals. 2 % of Catholics, 8 % of Protestants, and 10 % of practicing Christians said their faith's founder would offer his support.

Comparatively lower support for the death penalty among young Christians stands in sharp contrast to the way conservative Christian leaders like Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, and Jerry Falwell backed state executions in the 1990s.

"Certain things come to a moment and then become accepted all of a sudden very quickly," Dieter says. "From apartheid to women's rights, we've seen this throughout history. I think we're coming to a moment on this issue now that will lead to the death penalty being outlawed in the United States and around the world."

(source: religion News Service)


Will the Sampson decision affect the Tsarnaev trial?

The cases of Gary Lee Sampson and Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dhzokhar Tsarnaev could not be more different, but they are connected by the Federal death penalty that Massachusetts abolished years ago.

Even though the Commonwealth does not have the death penalty, both Sampson and Tsarnaev are being prosecuted in Federal Court, under Federal law. Whatever a judge rules in Sampson's case, could have a huge impact on the upcoming trial of Tsarnaev.

Sampson was already condemned to die back in 2003, but his death penalty sentence was thrown out. Federal prosecutors are trying to have it reinstated, but Sampsons lawyers are now arguing that it should not be reinstated, because the death penalty in the Bay State had been abolished.

And that argument is being made on the eve of what may be the biggest trial in the state's history, the death penalty trial of Tsarnaev.

Former federal prosecutor, now defense attorney, Brad Bailey is one of many legal analysts closely watching what is happening right now in Federal Court in Boston, and how a decision for Sampson could impact Tsarnaev.

"No question it's relevant. This is the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. One judge issuing a decision on the same topic absolutely creates a precedent in the jurisdiction that would be followed, unless set aside or changed by the governing court of appeals," Bailey said.

The Tsarnaev death penalty trial is set to begin in US District Court in Boston with jury selection Jan. 5.

Bailey expects in the end, that jury, if it convicts Tsarnaev, will decide if Tsarnaev is to live or die. However, he says Federal laws may "trump everything."

"It's been litigated all the way to the US Supreme Court. My guess is, it's gong to hold," he said.



Shakti Mills gangrape: SC to hear death sentence petition today

The Bombay High Court on Friday is likely to hear the death sentence confirmation petition of 3 convicts in the 2013 Shakti Mills gangrape case, CNN-IBN reported.

In April, the sessions court had convicted Vijay Jadhav, Salim Ansari and Kasim Bengali, along with Siraj Khan, for the rape of a photo journalist in August 2013.

3 accused were given death sentence as they had earlier been convicted of raping a telephone operator in the same premises earlier.

The 3 were held guilty under section 376 (E) of the Indian Penal Code which stipulates a maximum punishment of death penalty, and this is considered a landmark judgement since it is the 1st conviction under the amended section.



Is China Really Going to Stop Using Organs From Executed Prisoners?

China's top transplant official seems to have announced - once again - that the country will stop using the organs harvested from executed prisoners, and will from Jan. 1, 2015, onward, only use organs freely donated from regular citizens. At least, that's what the headlines state.

If the promise has indeed been made, it would be the second time that Huang Jiefu, a surgeon with a seat on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the Communist Party, and director of China's Organ Donation Committee, has made the statement.

The 1st time was in 2012, though no hard deadline was set. That claim was also reported enthusiastically by major international media at the time - though there was no follow-up when, earlier this year, Huang backtracked and said that, actually, organs from executed prisoners would still be used, as long as permission is properly obtained.

It seems that similar chicanery is being employed in the present case.

Parsing the Remarks

Huang Jiefu's remarks were made in a medical forum at a conference in Kunming, the capital of the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. There is no official transcript or recording of what he said - only reports in the Chinese media, some of them vague on key questions, all of them requiring some parsing.

For starters, the manner in which it was announced contained some ambiguity - and perhaps enough wiggle room to again renege on the promise if necessary. For example, Southern Metropolis Daily, a relatively liberal newspaper based in the southern city of Guangzhou, wrote that it had received the news "from an authoritative channel," making it unclear whether a journalist with the newspaper was personally there when Huang made the statements.

Also, Huang was never actually quoted saying that organs from death row prisoners would not be used after Jan. 1, 2015, in any of the media reports on the topic. Southern Metropolis Daily quotes him saying, "It cannot be denied that currently in China, apart from traditional ideas leading to unenthusiasm for organ donation, people are worried about the fairness, justness, and transparency of organ donations."

He added that these concerns have been a significant part of the obstacles for China to establish a legitimate voluntary donation system from members of the public, as opposed to reliance on prisoners on death row (or preponderantly on prisoners of conscience, as has been extensively argued and documented by several researchers.)

The part about "completely ceasing use of death row prisoner organs as a transplant donor source" was paraphrased, and attributed to the "authoritative channel."

In all other Chinese reports on the topic, reference to death row prisoners was similarly paraphrased - so precisely what Huang Jiefu said is unclear.

An article in Yunnan Online contained a background section, which parsed the organ trade question in a way that would undermine the claim that China intends to eliminate reliance on prisoner organs.

In a section called "A Look Back," the publication revisited Huang's comments from earlier this year, which noted that death row prisoners are also Chinese citizens, and if they wish to donate their organs after death, they should be allowed to do so.

The key point, he said, is that such transactions should not be made privately, but be filtered through the formally established organ procurement and distribution system that he has worked to establish. This system is supposed to award organs based on need and time spent waiting, rather than how much one is able to pay, or willing to bribe doctors and other officials.

The Guardian made a similar concession. After a headline announcing, "China to stop using executed prisoners as source of transplant organ," another line clarified that "death row prisoners have provided the overwhelming majority of transplanted organs for years, owing to high demand and low donation rates. But in future their organs will only be used if they volunteer to donate and their families approve the decision."

Implicit Admission

This qualification changes the entire story.

It becomes no longer an announcement that China intends to stop using prisoner organs, so much as a clarification that, as researcher Ethan Gutmann put it in an interview earlier this year, "They're basically saying that they need to get their forms in order."

Gutmann's book, The Slaughter, published in August, deals with what he calls the mass killing of practitioners of Falun Gong and other prisoners of conscience for their organs. Gutmann estimates that over 60,000 have been killed since 2000 in this practice. Chinese officials have never given a substantive response to these concerns.

If Huang Jiefu is merely saying that now, Chinese authorities will ensure that organs from death row prisoners are obtained only with proper permission, then this recent bout of news would amount to nothing more than a reiteration of remarks he made in March.

It would, moreover, be a remarkable, implicit admission of gross human rights abuses and violation of international medical covenants -because if China is only now announcing that it will use prisoner organs with permission, Huang seems to have indicated that prior to that, organs were removed from executed prisoners without their permission.

"Consent has been demanded by transplant rules since 1984, and by transplant law since 2007," said Arne Schwarz, a Swiss researcher of transplant practices in China who has won an award for his work.

"Now, Huang admitted what everybody knew: That rules and the law have been ignored in the past. Why should we believe that they will not be ignored in the future?"

Schwarz continued: "But even if written consent can be presented, it is meaningless because international medical societies as The Transplantation Society and the World Medical Association, and even the Chinese Medical Association, agree that prisoners and other people in custody are not in a position to give consent freely."

There is the added danger, Schwarz said, that processing organs from executed prisoners through the organ donation and allocation system, used for the organs donated by free citizens, will simply obscure and entrench the practice. And it will impede rather than enhance transparency and traceability, as the World Health Organization demands, he said.

Schwarz added, "All this shows that this announcement is not a reform, but propaganda."

(source: Epoch Times)


Islami Andolon announces fresh programme----Enact law with provision of capital punishment for atheist, it says

Islami Andolon Bangladesh today announced a 3-month programme demanding enactment of a law with a provision of death penalty as the highest punishment for atheists.

As part of it, the Islamic party will hold rallies and other demonstration programmes between December 9 and March 18. They will also submit a memorandum to the president in this regard during the period.

Mufti Syed Rezaul Karim, pir of Charmonai and also the chief of the party, declared the programme from a rally that began in front of the north gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka around 2:30pm.

They also demanded that the government will have to pass the bill in the upcoming parliament session.

Around 5,000 activists took part at the rally in protest against the anti-hajj remarks made by sacked minister Abdul Latif Siddique.

Vehicular movement stretching from the mosque's north gate to the Dainik Bangla intersection remains suspended following their programme.

The demonstrators were cordoned off by the law enforcers, who also kept a water canon vehicle ready to face any anarchic situation.

The law enforcers also put barricades at Paltan intersection to avert any untoward incident.

Islami Andolon announced the grand rally on November 24, a day after Latif returned home from India.

On the same day, the former minister was sent to jail on his surrender before a police station in a case filed for hurting Muslims' religious sentiment through his comments demeaning hajj.

The ex-minister faces 22 cases in 18 districts for hurting religious sentiments. Of those, 8 were filed in Dhaka. Arrest warrants were issued on him in 4 cases.

He was sacked from the cabinet on October 12 following his comments against hajj and Tabligh Jamaat at a programme in New York on September 28.

Later, he was expelled from the AL presidium, and also lost primary membership of the ruling party.


At the September 28 programme in the USA, Latif said, "During Hajj, so much manpower is wasted. More than 20 lakh people have gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. They have no work, no production and are offering only deduction."

He added some 20 lakh Tablighi Jamaat people get together annually. They do not do any work, except for halting traffic movement in the whole country.

(source: The Daily Star)


Iran to execute blogger for insulting Prophet Mohammed on Facebook

Iran will go ahead with the execution of a blogger whose death sentence was upheld by the country's Supreme Court after he was convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in several Facebook posts.

Soheil Arabi was found guilty in August and the decision was upheld by Iran's Supreme Court last month.

The 30-year-old is said to have insulted the prophet and the 12 holy Imams of Shiite Islam -- both punishable by death in Iran.

However, New-York based Human Rights Watch in a statement condemned the judgment, saying Iran should "urgently revise its penal code to eliminate provisions that criminalise peaceful free expression".

"It is simply shocking that anyone should face the gallows simply because of Internet postings that are deemed to be crude, offensive or insulting," said Eric Goldstein, the group's Middle East director.

Arabi's lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the court did not accept that he had not written many of the Facebook po