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

JULY 22, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Taichin Preyor on July 27, 2017

Taichin "Box" Preyor's execution is scheduled to occur at 6 pm CDT, on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Taichin was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, however, that date was later removed from Texas' online execution calendar, without comment. 46-year-old Taichin is convicted of the murder of 24-year-old Jami Tackett on February 26, 2004, in Bexar County, Texas. Taichin has spent the last 12 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Prior to his arrest, Taichin worked as a truck driver and a laborer. He did not graduate high school, dropping out after the 10th grade. In 1999, Taichin was arrested and served time for a drug offense in Syracuse, New York. After being released from prison, Taichin moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he was later joined by his wife and children. Police had previously been called to the residence for a "family violence call." Taichin's brother was one of the police officers who responded to the call.

During the early morning hours of February 26, 2004, at approximately 4 am, Taichin Preyor broke into the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Jami Tackett, by breaking down the door. Preyor went to Jami's bedroom, where he jumped on the bed and began attacking her with a knife. He also stabbed Jami's new boyfriend, Jason Garza, who fled the apartment, going to a neighbor and asking them to call the police.

During the fight, Preyor lost his car keys, leaving him unable to flea the scene. Preyor searched the apartment while Jami lay on the floor, struggling to breathe. As he attempted to leave the building for a 2nd time, Preyor encountered the police. The police were forced to use pepper spray to subdue Preyor, who refused to comply with their demands. Preyor was covered in blood when he was arrested.

Jami died from her injuries before paramedics arrived on the scene. Jason survived his injury.

During his trial, Preyor attempted to argue that his actions that morning was self defense. Prosecutors argued that the door being broken down indicates that Preyor was the aggressor.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Jami Tackett and for Jason Garza. Please pray for strength for the family of Taichin Preyor. Please pray that if Taichin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Taichin may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



Waco: Judge denies habeas corpus relief to convicted killer

A Waco district judge refused to grant habeas corpus relief to a man convicted in the same courtroom 2 years ago of capital murder but did allow appeals lawyers to submit briefs on 2 topics.

Judge Ralph Strother, in 19th District Court, said granting relief on the habeas corpus issue would "be like trying this case all over again," as US Carnell Petetan, dressed in jail clothing, sat silent and motionless at the defense table.

Petetan was convicted in the same courtroom in 2014 and Strother, after the jury's recommendation, sentenced him to death.

Bailiffs cleared the courtroom of visitors and attorneys while Petetan, shackled at the wrists and ankles, was led in.

After he was seated the judge allowed everyone back in the courtroom.

Lawyers with the state Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, in Austin, presented Strother with an 8-page application that listed 8 major issues at trial and expanded on each one.

Strother, as presiding judge, was directed to determine if there were any unresolved issues stemming from the trial, if so, identify them and finally determine what action needed to be taken, Jeremy Schepers, 1 of the appellate lawyers, said.

Schepers argued that Petetan was convicted by the jury who didn\'t have knowledge of his behavioral deficiency and that deficiency, under state law, means Petetan is ineligible for the death penalty.

But Assistant District Attorney Sterling Harmon reminded Strother that Petetan, himself, testified at his own trial and the jury was able to see and hear him for themselves.

As well, Schepers said, Petetan's lawyers at trial were ineffective and did not properly represent him.

At the end of the 40-minute hearing Strother denied habeas corpus relief but did direct appellate lawyers to prepare briefs on 2 issues: the 1st Petetan's developmental disability and 2nd his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Waco attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., represented Petetan at trial and Strother directed that Hunt be given 120 days to respond to the appeals charge.

The briefs are due back to Strother and he will review them to decide if further hearings are necessary.

If Strother finds merit in the appeals argument, he likely would set another hearing on that specific issue.

Petetan was convicted of killing his estranged wife on Sept. 12, 2012 and was sent to death row in 2014.

Kimberly Farr Petetan, 41, was gunned down at an apartment complex on Lake Shore Drive and her daughter was abducted.

Police in Bryan arrested Petetan after they found him and the little girl there.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals already has upheld Petetan's conviction and death sentence, rejecting an appeal in which his attorneys raised 30 points of error from his trial, during which the defense maintained Petetan was mentally impaired and thereby ineligible for the death penalty.

Friday's habeas corpus hearing is required by state law in all death penalty cases.

(source: KWTX news)


Statements: Accused killer denies murder but tells troopers he watched man die

Justin Richard swore up and down in recorded statements he gave to state troopers that he didn't kill Randy Sampsell but he did say he watched the man die.

Richard sparred verbally with Troopers Phil Davis and James Nizinski in his initial police interview as part of the Sampsell murder investigation.

It was recorded on video June 28, 2012, and played Thursday in Union County Court during a hearing on Richard's bid to quash statements he made to police on 5 separate occasions.

Richard, 33, is charged with killing Sampsell, faces a capital murder trial and could receive the death penalty if convicted.

"The dude didn't deserve to die. I'll tell you straight up, I watched him die," Richard told Davis and Nizinski in the recorded interview. "That wasn't part of the plan. I do have a conscience."

Over and over, though, Richard insisted "I didn't do it" when asked who killed Sampsell on June 12, 2012.

In the video and on an audio recording of a separate interview, Richard appeared agitated and combative. He frequently spoke over investigators and offered a slew of obscenities during the interviews.

Sampsell, 51, was shot dead during a home invasion. According to Richard's statements to police, an unknown black male kicked open Sampsell's front door and shot the man as he attempted to stand up from a recliner.

Police said Richard and Herbert Tiebout were among 4 men who targeted Sampsell for a robbery. The robbers thought they'd make off with marijuana and money. They fled with prescription pills. 2 of the men were never identified and remain at large.

Scott Vonneida, of Millmont, was badly injured and lost vision in 1 eye from a blow to the face by Richard in a robbery hours before the Sampsell murder, police said. Vonneida was robbed of 10 guns, including a rifle used to kill Sampsell.

The statements Richard is not contesting were used as part of a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder and faced between 16 and 32 years for testimony against Tiebout.

Richard twice recanted his statements, though - the 2nd time at the outset of Tiebout's murder trial in September 2015. 2nd- and 3rd-degree murder charges were dismissed against Tiebout and haven't been filed again.

A 1st-degree murder charge against Richard followed in December 2015 when prosecution witness Amanda Kratzer modified previous police statements to accuse Richard of twice confessing to shooting Sampsell himself.

Richard is fighting the murder case and related robbery accusations, aided in his defense by attorneys Michael Dennehy and John McLaughlin.

Thursday's hearing was on motions by Richard's defense team to suppress the police statements and dismiss the case for prosecutorial vindictiveness.

The hearing began at 9 a.m. with a lengthy behind-closed-doors meeting with attorneys from both sides with Judge Michael Sholley. When it resumed at 10 a.m., Davis took the stand. Video from the June 28 interview was played, followed by audio from an October 20, 2012, interview at the state prison in Frackville.

"The whole thing was about weed," Richard told Davis on the audio recording.

"The man wasn't supposed to die. I live with that every day of my life. Now I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison because some idiot pulled the trigger," Richard said later in the interview.

District Attorney Pete Johnson entered recordings, recording transcripts and Miranda rights waivers signed by Richard into evidence in a move to support his argument against the defense's assertions that the statements were involuntary and under duress.

The hearing was scheduled for the morning only. A slow pace looked to push it into the afternoon, conflicting with previously scheduled hearings.

Sholley abruptly adjourned the proceeding, offering no explanation from the bench. He couldn't be reached for comment.

The prosecution and defense are each under a gag order, barring the attorneys from discussing the case with media members.

An order on Richard's motions was not issued by Sholley by the end of Thursday and the hearing was not added to court schedules for Friday or next week. It remains unclear if and when the hearing will resume.

At the hearing's outset, Dennehy reiterated the defense's wish to continue the hearing regarding the suppression motion.

"We're looking for a continuance to further develop the issue for court," Dennehy said of attempting to show Richard was in an adverse mental state when he spoke with police.

(source: The Daily Item)


Gov. McAuliffe made an irreversible mistake

William Charles Morva was put to death because our legal system failed him. When Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) denied Morva clemency on July 6, he apparently misunderstood the facts about Morva's mental illness and squandered an opportunity for compassion.

When the governor refused to intervene, he missed a chance to exercise a solemn constitutional duty to save Morva's life. In a case that cried out for mercy, McAuliffe disregarded that the sentencing jurors never heard the compelling evidence of Morva's long-standing, debilitating mental illness. Although Morva's death is an irreversible mistake, he should not die in vain.

Death should be an extraordinary, rare punishment. U.S. and Virginia laws reflect the centuries-old bedrock principles that a death sentence is exceptional and that mercy alone is always reason enough to avoid the death penalty.

Jurors are not only allowed but also required to follow their individual moral judgment in determining whether death is the appropriate punishment. The governor, in wielding his awesome power to grant or deny clemency, carries that same obligation. Virginia's constitution provides the governor the unrestricted power to commute capital punishment to life in prison.

If McAuliffe had fully understood Morva's disease, he would have surely spared Morva's life. In 2006, believing himself to be the target of a sprawling conspiracy to kill him through abusive prison conditions, Morva escaped from a jail where he awaited trial on felony charges and killed 2 public-safety officers. If told little more than these facts, a jury might understandably have little sympathy for Morva.

But what jurors never got to hear was testimony from a psychiatrist - placed on the case in 2014 - that Morva suffered from a treatable, schizophrenia-like illness with psychotic features and was mentally incompetent to participate in his legal proceedings.

This psychiatrist could have related to jurors what scores of Morva's family members and friends reported to her: They had watched Morva's mental health precipitously decline in the years before the crimes and had seen his untreated illness worsen for the remainder of his life. Morva's mother and others reported how, for years, he refused to take visits or calls from her and his lawyers, believing them all to be part of the grand conspiracy. Jurors also did not hear that Morva believed his behavior was saving Native American tribes, nor that he subsisted on a diet of raw meat and pine cones while living in the woods barefoot in the winter. The experts at Morva's trial never learned, or bothered to learn, about Morva's debilitating delusions.

Instead, jurors heard only that Morva's "odd beliefs" resulted from a personality disorder that the prosecution asserted was untreatable and made him likely to kill again. Given the sparse, inaccurate information before them, the jurors unsurprisingly sentenced Morva to die.

The details of Morva's debilitating illness from his family, friends and psychiatrist would have been powerful evidence - had the jurors ever heard it.

Faced with this new and clearly relevant evidence, the state chose to ignore it, never seeking an expert to consider what witnesses said and to review the psychiatrist's findings.

Oddly, the governor's statement denying clemency relied on the fact that the psychiatrist's post-trial diagnosis conflicted with the testimony jurors heard at trial. But that is precisely the point: Jurors never heard the observations of severe symptoms that anyone who crossed Morva's path in the years before the crime would have seen and the informed opinion of a qualified doctor. Rather, the experts at trial relied on outdated information about Morva's childhood long before his symptoms began.

In short, the trial evidence painted a grossly inaccurate picture of Morva's life and true self. Before Morva's delusions began, friends, classmates and family described acts of care and love toward them and others. The jurors never got to hear of Morva - a young man, like others, of character and promise - as McAuliffe did.

In denying clemency, the governor asked, "Does Morva deserve to live?" Instead, he should have asked, "Do I, in my personal moral judgment, think the state proved it has the right to take this life?" The right question would have led McAuliffe to reach a different conclusion and to spare Morva's life.

Applying mercy to capital cases reaffirms our common beliefs in the rule of law and in the dignity and value of every person regardless of what he or she has done.

(source: Opinion; By Gene Rossi and Edward J. Ungvarsky----Gene Rossi is a retired Justice Department prosecutor. Edward J. Ungvarsky is a career public defender based in Vienna who represents defendants prosecuted in Virginia on capital murder charges----Washington Post)


Psychologist: Accused killer had been diagnosed with PTSD

The Texas man accused of robbing and killing a Granville County couple almost 3 years ago had been diagnosed as a child as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of repeated physical and emotional abuse by his father, a psychologist testified Friday.

Eric Alexander Campbell, 24, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree burglary, 2nd-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and 2 counts of cruelty to animals in the Dec. 31, 2014, deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into the Faulkners' home in northern Granville County, robbed them, set fire to the house and killed them before fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV.

Eric Campbell insisted during testimony Thursday that his father killed the Faulkners and that he was outside their home in northern Granville County during much of the attack.

Leigh Hagan, a Virginia-based psychologist hired by the defense, said several psychologists have diagnosed Eric Campbell with chronic PTSD, starting at age 8. Hagan said his own examination found Campbell to be so afraid of his father that he would never challenge or even question him, even during the brutal attack on the Faulkners.

"The abuse relationship substantially accounts for Eric's conduct in the time frame of this offense," Hagan testified. "Eric endured reasonable fear that he would suffer immediate death or bodily injury if he didn't submit to his father's will.

"Eric decided ... it would be better for his own protection to do what Daddy says," Hagan later testified.

Edward Campbell killed himself in March 2015 in Raleigh's Central Prison, where he was being held.

Earlier Friday, Eric Campbell faced about 3 hours of cross-examination by prosecutors, who repeatedly pointed out inconsistencies between his testimony Thursday and his statements to law enforcement officers shortly after his arrest.

Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the Campbells on Jan. 1, 2015, following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.

Eric Campbell gave West Virginia police a first-person account of the Faulkners' slayings, but he testified that he based that on what his father had told him.

"I'm just telling you what my dad told me what he did," Campbell told Granville County District Attorney Mike Waters.

"I'm not asking what your dad said because you already told the jury you were right there when it happened," Waters shot back.

"I wasn’t watching what my dad was doing. I was looking at a man on the ground, dying," Campbell said.

Campbell said he thought his father planned to rob the Faulkners and was shocked when he saw the carnage inside the house.

(source: WRAL news)


Justice delayed, denied ... for 40 years now

Attorneys for convicted "Stocking Strangler" Carlton Gary argued their case for a new trial, based on what they claim is new evidence, back in January before Muscogee Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr.

As of Friday, there had still been no ruling.

Not that local and state legal officials - some of whom were literally children when all this began - haven't been pushing for one. As reported by the Ledger-Enquirer's Tim Chitwood, District Attorney Julia Slater and a group of prosecutors, including 1 present and 1 former assistant state attorney general, filed a motion June 27 calling on Jordan to make a decision.

So urgent was the prosecutors' insistence on moving this decades-long case forward that their motion cites Georgia law setting a 90-day deadline for the court to issue such a ruling "unless providentially hindered or unless counsel for the plaintiff and the defendant agree in writing to extend the time." It has now been more than 6 months, in case you weren't counting. (Under the same state law, failure to comply "shall be grounds for impeachment and the penalty therefore shall be [the judge's] removal from office.")

Whatever the judge's decision, Slater said, it won't be the end of the matter anyway: "I anticipate that whatever the ruling is, 1 side will appeal."

The sad and ugly reality is that whether we're talking about 90 days or 6 months, it's a relative eye blink in time - though just the latest in what seems an infinite series of them - in the long nightmare of a serial killer's violent, terrifying crime spree and its seemingly endless aftermath.

It has been 40 years since the first of the rapes and stranglings of 7 older Columbus women. Their families' wait for justice is well into its 3rd generation now; it has been so long since these murders shook Columbus and the whole Chattahoochee Valley area that some of the victims' loved ones have lived out their lives, waiting futilely for justice, and passed on.

It has been more than 30 years since Carlton Gary, convicted in three of the murders - the ones for which, in the pre-DNA forensic technology of 1986, prosecutors had the strongest cases - was convicted and sentenced to death. (Years later, DNA evidence from one of the murders for which he was not tried matched Gary's; DNA evidence from 1 of the murders for which he was convicted had been contaminated during comparison tests at the GBI crime lab.)

And it has been more than 7 years since that death sentence was last scheduled to be carried out. At 66, Gary is now older than 3 of the victims when their lives ended in violence, pain and terror.

Both the guilty verdict and the capital sentence imposed on Carlton Gary have been upheld by every court to which the case has been appealed, including the U.S. Supreme Court - twice. No judge in any appeals panel to which the case was presented has offered a dissent. Life without the possibility of parole was not a lawful sentence at the time of Gary's conviction, so commuting his death sentence to life now could present legal complications - including possible (if unlikely) parole, given the time Gary has already served.

A 1980 Georgia Supreme Court ruling requires that a new trial must be based on genuinely new evidence (not just evidence the defense failed or neglected to produce earlier), and that such evidence be so compelling that it would likely have affected the verdict.

In any case, as Slater pointed out, whatever the eventual ruling from the Superior Court, it likely just sets another appeals process in motion. To drag this case out any longer than absolutely necessary, given the heinousness of the crimes and the absurd span of time over which it has been dragged out already, would be unconscionable.

(source: Opinion, Dusty Nix, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)


Lawsuit Challenges State Use Of Solitary For Death Row

A federal lawsuit is challenging Florida's policy of isolating all death row prison inmates in solitary confinement indefinitely.

The lawsuit was filed in Jacksonville federal court on behalf of 9 inmates who have been held in solitary for between 4 and 30 years. It seeks to represent all Florida death row prisoners, who totaled 363 on Thursday.

The Florida Department of Corrections policy violates the Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment and guarantee of due process, according to the lawsuit. It asks a judge to prohibit the department from keeping death row inmates in solitary except for limited periods and for justified reasons.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Louisiana, California, Arizona, New York and New Jersey.

A corrections spokeswoman said the lawsuit would be reviewed.

(source: WGCU news)


St. Cloud father receives death sentence in infant murder

The same jury that last week found a St. Cloud guilty of 1st-degree murder for killing his own son in a sleep-deprived state in 2013 sentenced him to the death penalty Tuesday.

On July 13, the jury found that what Larry Perry, 33, did in killing his son, Ayden, just 3 months old on Feb. 13, 2013, warranted being found guilty of murder. It was more than the lesser charge of manslaughter that he plead guilty to before the jury deliberated.

Then Tuesday, after hearing a day's worth of testimony from mental health experts rating Perry's ability to intellectually process what he'd done, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty. Another hearing will be held on Oct. 13, and unless there is added testimony, Ninth Circuit Judge Jon B. Morgan will formally sentence him.

The trial was delayed for months as the state reassigned the case from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who said she would not pursue the death penalty in any case, to Lake-Marion State Attorney Brad King, and while the defense pursued a public defender qualified for death penalty cases.

During the trial, prosecutors played a chilling 911 call in which a baby is moaning, and Perry is recorded saying, "I told them I couldn't do this any more."

A St. Cloud Fire Rescue official testified finding a bruised, swollen boy after reporting to the home, and a police investigator said on the stand that Perry, during interrogation, was calm and not upset that a child in his care had been brutally beaten, recounting what he did while yawning.

He said the baby's mother had been arrested earlier in the month on a drug charge, and she was the one who was able to keep the boy quiet, but he was alone with the child that night.

After giving Ayden 3 bottles over the course of the evening, Perry said the boy continued screaming and crying. He proceeded to slam him against a wall, threw him on the bed, then put him on the floor and kicked him. Perry then called 911.

"I thought he was dead at first," Perry told the investigators. "I know what I did, I deserve whatever ... nobody helped me, I called 911 myself. I'm telling you, I just can't do this (expletive) myself."

Perry buried his head into his arms at the table during most testimony in both trial and sentencing stages. Afterward, defense attorney Frank Bankowitz offered to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, but argued the murder charge should not stand because Perry, who chose not to testify in the case, had not slept well after the child's mother was arrested and lacked the capacity to know what he could do, or that he could take the baby to a nearby fire station.

"This was not an act thought out," Bankowitz said, saying it lacked the premeditation needed for a 1st-degree murder charge. "He just snapped."

But the jury did not agree and said he should die for his crime.



Alleged murderer's competency called into question in Collier court

Collier County's most gruesome murder case is coming to a close. Accused mass murderer, Mesac Damas, said he wants to plead guilty and be executed.

He's the man charged with the murders of his wife and 5 children.

It seemed like Damas had an agenda in court on Friday. He wouldn't answer the judge's questions, and instead told the judge he wanted to plead guilty and get it over with.

"I would like to represent myself. I would like these 2 gentlemen to be removed from the case, and I would like to plead guilty now," Damas said in a court hearing.

He's asked multiple times to fire his attorneys and said he wants to face the death penalty - but neither of those things happened in the courtroom.

After Damas refused to answer some of the questions that were asked of him, the judge ordered another competency evaluation. He's unsure that Damas is competent to represent himself.

2 more doctors will evaluate him - a process that's been done multiple times since he was arrested in 2009.

We'll be back in the courtroom for this case on August 18 after a report has been given by those doctors. That will determine if he's competent to represent himself.

Linda Oberhaus with the Shelter for Abused Women and Children has been following this case for 8 years.

"It seemed to me that he was just manipulating the court system the same way he was manipulating his family when he had one," Oberhaus said.

In June, Damas told the judge he wanted to die. If the judge accepts Damas guilty plea, Damas still has the opportunity to have a jury decide his sentence or he can have the judge sentence him.

"If the judge finds he is competent to make those decisions and he makes those decisions as announced, there is a path to sentence him to death without a jury trial," attorney Josh Faett said.

Oberhaus says no matter what happens tomorrow; Guerline and her 5 children Mizach, Marven, Maven, Megan, and Morgan will always be remembered. Each of their throats was slit allegedly by the own father.

"It's really difficult to talk about justice when we talk about the fact that a beautiful family has been lost. Whether he gets life or death, that will never bring that family back."

(source: ABC news)


Did judicial override end in Alabama? Some say judges can still overrule jury to impose death penalty

2 north Alabama defense attorneys are disputing a judge's ability to override a jury vote and condemn a capital murder convict to death.

Although a change in state law earlier this year takes away judges' ability to reverse a jury decision and sentence a capital murder convict to death, judicial override might not be over.

The judicial override law bans judges from imposing the death penalty when a jury votes to sentence a capital murder convict to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The law became effective with Gov. Kay Ivey's signature on April 11. But, the law appears to leave a question about the cases to which it applies.

For people who were charged with but not convicted of capital murder prior to April 11, prosecutors say judges still can impose the death penalty, even if a jury votes for life without parole. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, say their clients are protected from judicial override -- just like any suspect charged after the April 11 signing date.

One case in question involves Richard Burgin, a man recently convicted of capital murder in the notorious Huntsville church food pantry killings. His lawyers argue Madison County Circuit Judge Karen Hall cannot sentence the 54-year-old to die for killing brothers Anthony and Terry Jackson in 2013.

Because a jury voted 8-4 to send Richard Burgin to prison for life without parole, Judge Hall must impose the jury's recommendation, Huntsville lawyers Larry Marsili and Chad Morgan said in a court filing. The lawyers argue Alabama's recently-enacted Judicial Override law prohibits the judge from reversing the jury's sentencing recommendation.

Final sentencing rests with Circuit Judge Laura Hall.

Burgin was convicted and sentenced in May -- a month after the law was signed by the governor. But, prosecutors say the law doesn't protect Burgin because he was charged with capital murder before the bill became law. Burgin was arrested for capital murder in 2014. He was indicted the following year.

The only sentencing options in Alabama capital cases are life without parole or death. Alabama had been the only state that allows a judge to override a jury's recommendation when sentencing capital murder cases.

Judge Hall has not said whether she plans to sentence Burgin to death.

The judicial override law states, "This act shall apply to any defendant who is charged with capital murder after the effective date of this act and shall not apply retroactively to any defendant who has previously been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death prior to the effective date of this act."

"It leaves open the question of someone who has been charged but not convicted," said retired Judge John Carroll, a professor at the Cumberland School of Law. "It's not crystal clear."

Madison County Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann disagrees.

"In the law, they made it real clear," Gann said. "It's not retroactive and it doesn't apply in this case. It's a done deal. It's unambiguous. For us, this is a dead issue."

Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General's Office, said the defendant would need to have been charged after April 11 to be protected from judicial override.

Burgin's trial was conducted under the theory that the judge had the final say in sentencing. The Madison County District Attorney's Office asked the jury to sentence Burgin to death, and now prosecutors are requesting the same from the judge. Sentencing is set for Aug. 22 at 1:30 p.m.

Because the defense lawyers argue the judge can't override the jury's recommendation, they say a sentencing hearing is "unnecessary and unauthorized," the court filing states.

"The newly enacted law makes no reference to the initial date of charging concerning the applicability of the law, instead indicating that the law 'shall apply to any defendant who is charged with capital murder after the effective date of this act,' Burgin's lawyers said in the filing.

Defense lawyers Morgan and Marsili also argue that if the legislature intended for the law not to apply in pending cases, like Burgin's, that lawmakers would have specified that.

Alabama Sen. Dick Brewbaker, a Republican from Montgomery, drafted the Judicial Override Bill.

"The intent of the legislature, and what we thought we were doing with passing the bill, was that upon signature of the governor, it would end judicial override in Alabama," Brewbaker told "I think everyone in that chamber who voted for the bill thought, going forward, the juries' wishes would be the last word in all cases."

The Judicial Override Bill passed the House and Senate before being sent to the governor.

Birmingham lawyer Richard Jaffe has handled several death penalty cases in his career. He said at this point, the important question isn't whether judges can still legally override a jury verdict, but rather, "Why would they?"

"Because of the new law and the tenuous nature of the override practice, it would be perilous, and frankly, quite foolish for a judge to override," Jaffe said. "It's not in anyone's best interest for a judge to override. It's not fair to the victims' families or to the defendant. It would just be something that's litigated for years to come."

Jaffe told even before the law changed in April, many judges said override was so questionable that they wouldn't do it.

"You have to think about the constitutional implications," Jaffe said.


OHIO----impending execution

Ohio argues against execution delays for 3 condemned inmates

Ohio state attorneys argued on Friday against delaying 3 upcoming executions on grounds that the condemned killers have little chance of legal victory and repeated postponements are draining state resources.

The state's 1st execution in more than 3 years is scheduled for Wednesday. Death row inmate Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

He and 2 other inmates seek more time from the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal Ohio's lethal injection method.

Their lawyers argue the procedure's 1st drug, the sedative midazolam, creates an unconstitutional risk of pain by not rendering prisoners deeply unconscious before 2 other drugs kick in.

Midazolam has been used in some executions that were problematic, including in Ohio, Arkansas and Arizona.

Phillips' attorneys argue they need time to appeal a lower court decision allowing Ohio to use the new method. The other drugs are rocuronium bromide, which paralyzes inmates, and potassium chloride, which stop their hearts.

The attorneys want the delay because they believe the full Supreme Court will take their appeal of last month's ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. That's because that decision runs counter to previous rulings by the high court, and because it "involves an issue of recurring and national importance," the attorneys said in Tuesday's filing.

In Friday's response, the state disputed inmates' claims that Ohio has made inconsistent legal arguments as it has sought to legally defend its various, evolving execution protocols. Some changes were made necessary because of a lack of available drugs.

"Petitioners allege Ohio made 'unequivocal promises' to 'never again...use a paralytic or potassium chloride.' Not so," the state wrote. "There is a wide gulf between what the affidavit says - that those drugs would not be used 'going forward' under the new protocol - and the argument that Ohio promised to never, under any circumstances, use those drugs."

The request for the delay was made to Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such appeals for Ohio.

Ohio argued the state risks "ongoing irreparable harm" if the delays are granted and that "Ohio's interests are harmed each time it has to stop and start implementation of its execution protocol."

Lawyers note that training for an execution takes at least 30 days and requires 4 rehearsals. 6 are usually held. They said delaying Phillips' execution also runs the risk of delaying those executions scheduled after his.

Phillips has separately sought an emergency stay on Wednesday's execution based on his age at the time of the murder. He was 19 and, he contends, just "slightly older" than the Supreme Court's cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring executions of juveniles. His request argues the age should be 19 or 21.

Attorneys for the state said in another filing Friday that Phillips' arguments are legally baseless and misplaced.

"Phillips is right that the Governor (John Kasich) has been considerate in ensuring that Phillips' case gets adequate review," they wrote. "But Executive grace is not boundless and Phillips' case has been adequately and lawfully reviewed."

Kagan is expected to rule on both requests next week.

(source: The Republic)


Victims' families in Ohio need resources, not executions

In 1997, my brother, James Nero, was brutally gunned down in a road-rage incident in Canton. After a minor accident, James insisted that the other driver provide his insurance information. Instead, the driver returned from his car with a gun and shot my brother in the face. Then he shot James again, point-blank as he lay on the pavement.

James was just 20, and a proud father to an 18-month-old son. He was engaged to be married to his son's mother. Like every 20-year old, he had many plans and dreams. I thank God that I saw James on the last day of his life, because during our last time together, he hugged me and told me that he loved me. At least I have that to remember him by.

When the court case about his murder was over, James was still dead. My family had never experienced the intense trauma of losing a loved one to murder, and we had no idea how to deal with the pain. No state or city agency ever provided our family with any information about resources available to help us deal with the situation. We had only ourselves and our church community. We were on our own, as far as the state of Ohio was concerned.

The death chamber at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.

This is why when state officials and others say we have executions so that victims' families can have "justice," or "finality," or "closure," I say that's just political grandstanding.

Most cases in which the death penalty could be imposed do not end in a death sentence or an execution. There have been thousands of murders in Ohio since our capital punishment law was enacted in 1981, but only 53 executions. How can it be true that executions are for victims' families when we use them so infrequently? What do politicians say to the vast majority of us, for whom the so-called "justice" of an execution is never even possible? The silence is deafening.

In any case, I know that an execution wouldn't have helped my family heal. Among other issues, Ohio does a disservice to families when the killer is sentenced to death, because the family has to put its healing process on hold for decades through the capital punishment appeals process. We have 27 prisoners currently scheduled for execution. 8 of them will have been on death row longer than 30 years by the time of their scheduled execution. 12 will have been there longer than 20 years. All those years are years the family is holding its breath and suffering through court date after court date, newspaper article after newspaper article.

Without a death sentence in our case, we began our healing process as soon as the trial was over. If there had been a death sentence, we would probably still be waiting.

Terry Freeman put 2 bullets in my brother's head. But killing Terry Freeman won't bring my brother James back. We don't want the state using our pain to justify another family losing a loved one - even if he is guilty. There is no such thing as "closure" because there will always be that empty seat at the table when family members of a murder victim gather.

With Ohio about to embark on executions again after 3 1/2 years without them, I will no longer sit by quietly while elected officials tell us that we must have executions so that murder victims' families can have "closure" in their case. We must reject the myth that executions always help victims' families.

Instead of wasting resources trying to execute a handful of killers, Ohio can do better for all victims' families. My family could have used counseling and other kinds of support instead, which I believe would have helped our recovery and grief. Ohio does provide some support to victims' families, but it varies greatly among Ohio's 88 counties. Fix that. Trained, certified, qualified mental health professionals must be available to any family experiencing homicide. They should be available to all, without disparity of access based on race, economics, geography, or prior unrelated encounters with law enforcement. Fix that too.

Gov. John Kasich has an opportunity to be merciful here - to all families affected by homicide in Ohio. Stop wasting resources on executions, and do better for all murder victims' families.

(source: Op-Ed; LaShawn Ajamu co-chairs the Murder Victims Families Support Project of Ohioans to Stop Executions----Toledo Blade)


Hamad motions aim to reduce chance of death penalty if convicted

Several of the motions filed by attorneys for Nasser Hamad in his aggravated-murder case focus on reducing the chance that Hamad could get the death penalty if he's convicted of killing 2 people at his Howland home in February.

Hamad, 48, of state Route 46, is charged with aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of 2 people and attempted aggravated murder in the wounding of 3 others who police say went to his house Feb. 25.

Police say Hamad shot all 5 after a day of Facebook taunts among Hamad and some of the victims, which caused the 5 to drive to his house for a fistfight.

After a fistfight between Hamad and 1 of the 5, Hamad went into his house, got a gun, returned to the front yard and fired at the 5, police said.

A recent motion by his attorneys asks that Judge Ronald Rice of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court order prosecutors to turn over any evidence they possess that is favorable to Hamad's defense, especially that which "tends to mitigate the penalty or extenuate the circumstances of the crime."

The filing adds that an example is "any evidence that Hamad had been threatened previously by the victims in prior incidents or that police located evidence suggesting that people on the scene carried weapons or instruments that could be used or construed as weapons."

A separate filing asks for police reports prior to Feb. 25 that mention threats to Hamad by the victims.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


My husband supervised Ohio executions for 5 years. It changed his life

Linda Collins is the widow of Terry Collins, who served for 33 years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, including as director from 2006 - 2010.

To be asked to carry out an execution as part of your job is an extraordinarily difficult experience. I know this because my husband of 44 years, Terry Collins, was placed in this position many times throughout his career, including as director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. Each of the 33 executions he oversaw took a tremendous toll on him.

As I read the news that Ohio is planning to resume its use of the death penalty for the 1st time in more than 3 years, with plans to carry out at least 27 lethal injection executions, I think about all the stress and the burden that was placed on him and his staff.

The Department is like one big family. Over decades, you get to know people and their families. You care. When it comes to executions, Ohio is about to go from zero to 60. I am concerned about the risks this fast-paced execution schedule poses to the people tasked with carrying them out.

I know the dedicated professionals who work for the Department would undertake this somber task with the utmost care and the highest standards. But as we all know, even under the best circumstances, executions are very hard on the corrections staff, and sometimes executions don’t go as planned.

For many, participating in executions becomes a major event in their own lives, and can affect them for years to come. I saw the impact executions had on my husband, my best friend.

To be sure, executions go far beyond the walls within which they are carried out. After he retired, I was often struck by public comments Terry would make about executions.

(source: Op-Ed; WCPO news)


Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Parma Heights prison pen-pal double slaying

Cuyahoga County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 42-year-old man accused of stabbing to death his prison pen-pal and her boyfriend, then leaving their bodies in a Parma Heights home as he committed more crimes.

Thomas Knuff Jr. was indicted on multiple charges including aggravated murder with capital specifications that will make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted in the May 11 slayings of John Mann, 65, and Regina Capobianco, 50, at Mann's home in the 6200 block of Nelwood Road, near Ackley Road.

Knuff is also accused of soliciting 2 people, described as unindicted co-conspirators, to set fire to the bedroom where he left the couple's bodies, according to the indictment.

Knuff, who is currently being held on a $50 million bond, is set for a July 25 arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Thomas Knuff, 42, is accused of killing his prison pen pal and the woman's boyfriend in Parma Heights, police say.

Capobianco met Knuff through a prison inmate-to-inmate pen-pal program and the two exchanged letters for about 10 years, Parma Heights Capt. Steve Scharschmidt said.

Knuff was serving a 12-year sentence on multiple counts of aggravated robbery and breaking and entering charges.

Capobianco and Mann picked up Knuff when he was released from the Lorain Correctional Institution on April 11 and took him back to Mann's home.

Capobianco's sister reported her missing to Stark County authorities May 23, about 12 days after authorities believe the couple was killed.

Police found their bodies on June 21 along with a knife at the scene, Scharschmidt said.

Investigators obtained warrants to search Knuff's property, including his cellphone, and uncovered phone calls, text messages and letters that Knuff had written to an ex-girlfriend in the weeks after the killing, Scharschmidt said.

Knuff asked the woman to buy kerosene and have another man set fire to the room where the bodies were found in exchange for $500, Scharschmidt said.

They also tied Knuff to break-ins at Classic Hair Studio and Spa & Nails on May 17 and 18, according to the indictment.

Knuff's indictment comes days after death penalty opponents called on Gov. John Kasich not to resume executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Akron killer Ronald Phillips, convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, is scheduled to die July 26. It will be Ohio's 1st execution since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of executions.



Opinion Ohio has a troubled death penalty system yet intends to resume executions anyway

It's been more than 3 years since Ohio last executed a convicted killer. Unfortunately, the state is poised to resume the barbaric practice next week despite serious questions over respect for constitutional protections and the basic fairness of how the state administers the capital punishment system itself.

Capital punishment had been halted in the wake of a botched execution. In early 2014, the state had converted to a new, untested 2-drug lethal injection protocol - the sedative midazolam followed by hydromorphone, a painkiller - because it no longer could find suppliers for pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, the more powerful barbiturates it previously used in both single- and 3-drug protocols.

Critics warned that midazolam wouldn't sedate inmate Dennis McGuire sufficiently, and, indeed, witnesses reported that McGuire "snorted, gasped and struggled" during a procedure that dragged on for 26 minutes, more than 10 minutes longer than lethal-injection executions usually take. (Midazalom does not have the same anesthetic effect as a barbiturate; an expert in pharmacology and toxicology offers a good overview of execution drugs here.)

That grotesque killing led the state and, later, a federal judge to halt executions until officials could figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it.

Ohio already was reexamining its capital punishment system, and 3 months after McGuire's execution, the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty issued 56 recommendations aimed at insuring defendants' rights were protected and that the innocent were not executed.

But to date, "the most substantive of our recommendations to the Legislature lay idle," retired state Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, complained Wednesday. "This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions."

The safeguards range from expanding defendant access to legal help, to barring death sentences unless specific biological evidence or a voluntary recorded confession link the suspect to the murder, to removing the death penalty from specific types of felony murder (committed in the commission of another crime). Ohio intends to forge ahead anyway, despite a dodgy history of wrongful convictions.

Yet Ohio intends to forge ahead anyway, despite a dodgy history of wrongful convictions. 9 death row inmates in Ohio have been exonerated since 1979, 4 of them in the past 4 years. All but 2 of the 9 had served at least a quarter-century before their exonerations, and 3 had served 39 years in prison. That is a pretty high failure rate in a state with 140 people on death row, and 53 executions since 1999.

The prospect that Ohio might resume killing the condemned before fixing the flaws spotlighted by the task force (I doubt they can be fixed) has sparked outrage, and a campaign is underway urging Gov. John Kasich to reinstate a moratorium.

This, of course, puts Kasich, a once and possibly future presidential contender, in a bit of a corner. Kasich is pro-death penalty, Still, his decision here shouldn't be couched in terms of political popularity, but in terms of morality and good governance. It is immoral to kill, especially so for a state to kill its own citizens.

More prosaically, capital punishment, once administered, cannot be undone, but the system that delivers it is rife with errors, leading to wrongful convictions. It also is inherently unjust in that it falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities. And it is a massively expensive system to maintain, a cost that becomes harder to defend when you factor in the wrongful convictions - making it an expensive and failed system.

Rather than rushing back into the immorality of executions, Ohio ought to move in the opposite direction, and take steps to end the practice altogether.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Jury Selection to Begin September in Case of Woman's Death

Attorneys working the case of a man who is accused in a Tennessee woman's death have met with potential jurors before selection begins in roughly 6 weeks.

The Jackson Suns reports that jury selection will begin Sept. 9 before Zachary Rye Adams is tried following his not guilty plea to kidnapping, rape and murder charges in the death of Holly Bobo. Attorneys met with potential jurors on Thursday in Hardin County, asking that some be prepared to return for selection and ready to listen Sept. 11 when the trial begins.

Some jurors have been released for their death penalty beliefs, which prosecutors are seeking.

Bobo disappeared from her Parsons home in April 2011. Authorities say in September 2014 2 men found the 20-year-old's skull in a Decatur County wooded area.

(source: Associated Press)


No death-penalty appeal for man convicted in 2002 Norfolk bank robbery

The Nebraska Supreme Court has rejected the death-penalty appeal of 1 of the men convicted of the fatal shootings of 5 people in a Norfolk bank.

Erick Vela claimed he received ineffective representation after he was charged with 5 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 2002 botched robbery of a U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk. He filed a post-conviction motion seeking a hearing to present evidence in support of his claims, with the ultimate goal of having his sentence reduced to life in prison.

Last year, Madison County District Judge James Kube rejected Vela's claims and denied the motion for an evidentiary hearing. On Friday, a unanimous Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision.

Vela is 1 of 3 gunmen convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of 4 employees and a customer at the bank. Killed were employees Jo Mausbach, Sam Sun, Lola Elwood and Lisa Bryant and customer Evonne Tuttle.

Also on death row for the killings are Jose Sandoval and Jorge Galindo. Francisco Rodriguez was sentenced to life in prison for serving as the lookout.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


California Woman Admits to Kidnapping and Then Abandoning Slain Half-Sister's Children: DA

A California woman whose boyfriend allegedly killed her half-sister admitted Wednesday to abducting - but then abandoning - the slain woman's 3 children, PEOPLE confirms.

Brittney Sue Humphrey has been charged with the kidnapping of Kimberly Harvill's 3 children, ages 5, 3, and 2, last August. After kidnapping the children, she left them in a New Mexico motel, according the Los Angeles District Attorney Office.

Last August, Los Angeles officials asked for the public's help in locating the children after a motorist came across the dead body of Harvill on the side of the road in Lebec, California. Harvill had died as a result of head trauma, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s news release states.

During their investigation, authorities learned that Harvill's 3 children, Joslynn, 2, Brayden, 3, and Rylee, 5, were missing. The children were found unharmed more than a week later in a motel outside of Albuquerque.

Shortly after the children were found, Humphrey, 22, and her boyfriend Joshua Robertson, 27, were arrested in Pueblo, Colorado, according to a statement from the DA’s office. Robertson was charged with murder in Harvill's death. A third suspect, Alex Valdez, 29, was later arrested and also charged with murder.

The killing was premeditated, according to criminal complaint obtained by the Santa Calrita Valley Signal. It was not immediately clear what the motive was.

California officials say Harvill depended on panhandling to support her family, who moved from motel to motel. In 2015, the children's father killed himself by lying in front of a train.

Robertson and Valdez are eligible for the death penalty for a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will seek the death penalty.

Robertson is also charged with 1 count of possession of a firearm by a felon and 2 counts of an unrelated arson, as well as 1 count of possession of flammable material, according to the statement.

Robertson's preliminary hearing is scheduled for August while Valdez's preliminary hearing is ongoing. Both Robertson and Valdez have pleaded not guilty. Information about Robertson, Valdez or Humphrey's attorney was not immediately available.

The children will returned to California, where it will be decided whether they would be placed with relatives or not. Harvill is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7 and faces up to 26 years and 4 months in state prison. It is unclear at this time who her attorney is.



Feds get more time for death penalty decision in Olathe Austins Bar shooting

Federal prosecutors have been granted more time to decide if they will seek the death penalty for the fatal shooting of an Indian man at an Olathe bar.

A federal judge on Thursday granted prosecutors a 6-month stay in the federal hate crime case filed against Adam Purinton.

"A stay would give the parties appropriate time to investigate and present aggravated and mitigating factors bearing upon the death penalty decision," U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia said in his order.

The stay in the federal case means that Johnson County prosecutors will proceed 1st in their 1st-degree murder case against Purinton.

Purinton, 52, is charged with killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla in February at Austins Bar & Grill.

He is also charged in Johnson County with the attempted murder of two other men who were wounded, Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot.

Several months after the state charges were filed in Johnson County, federal prosecutors filed the hate crime charge against Purinton, alleging that he targeted Kuchibhotla and Madasani "because of their actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin."

Both men were from India and worked as engineers for Olathe-based Garmin.

While the maximum penalty for the murder charge is life in prison, the federal charge carries a potential death sentence.

Purinton is being held in the Johnson County Detention Center, and his preliminary hearing on the Johnson County murder charge is scheduled for Sept. 18.



EU Criticizes Belarusian Death Sentences, Says Should Be Abolished

The European Union on July 21 criticized the two latest death sentences handed down in Belarus, saying that they "violate the right to life."

Belarus's Mahilyow Regional Court sentenced Ihar Hershankow and Syamyon Berazhny to death on July 21 after they were convicted of 6 murders linked to a real estate scam.

The defendants allegedly posed as estate agents and persuaded elderly homeowners to sell them their apartments at discounted prices, before killing them.

"The European Union is strongly opposed to capital punishment and expects that the legal right to appeal for both convicts will be fully guaranteed," EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

"The continued application of the death penalty goes counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community," she said. "The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment."

The Council of Europe also spoke out against the planned executions.

Kocijancic said the EU raised its opposition to Belarusian death sentences at the Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on July 20. She said all remaining death sentences should be commuted and a moratorium imposed on death penalties, which she said should eventually be abolished.

Belarus is the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment.

(source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)


3 Kenyan Men Get Death Sentence for Sexually Assaulting Woman

A Kenyan court sentenced 3 men to death Wednesday for stripping and sexually assaulting a woman they believed was dressed too provocatively.

The incident 3 years ago sparked nationwide outrage. On Nov. 17, 2014, hundreds of Kenyan women - and some men - took to the streets in Nairobi to protest the assault after a video of the attack surfaced online. The hashtag #MydressMychoice trended on social media in Kenya.

On Wednesday, Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi issued death sentences against attackers Edward Gitau, Nicholas Mwangi and Meshak Mwangi.

The judge described the "senseless" offense as "most heinous" and "uncouth," and said the sentence was a "notice to uncivilized men."

Catherine Muthoni says she is a victim of such a crime.

"Violations are always painful," she said, "like there is no English word in the dictionary to describe the amount of psychological pain, trying to heal from such a process."

Linda Oloo, a researcher and activist based in Nairobi, took part in the march 3 years ago. She says the ruling is a victory for women all over Kenya, and is much more than a warning.

"[It's] not really a warning to men, but just sending a statement on the freedom and emancipation of women, in the sense men generally do not define how women dress," Oloo said. "Women themselves define what fits them, so they dress according to what fits them - their personalities, their lifestyles, their career, their occupation. It really is not defined by a segment of men."

Oloo says she took part in the 2014 protest to highlight some men's lack of respect for women and to support women's rights in Kenya.

"The march had an impact," Oloo said, "because it got massive attention from the media - that's mainstream media and social media. It kind of created an awareness and these incidences have since reduced."

The court on Wednesday also ordered each of the men to serve 25-year prison terms, in addition to their death sentences. Kenya does not carry out the death penalty, and such sentences are usually commuted to life in prison.

(source: Voice of America News)


4 German women could face death penalty for joining ISIS

4 German women, including a 16-year-old girl, who joined Islamic State in recent years are being held in an Iraqi prison and receiving consular assistance, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday.

It said diplomats had visited the 4 in a prison at the airport in Baghdad on Thursday and they were doing well given the circumstances. They could face the death penalty in Iraq for belonging to the militant group, the magazine added.

It said Iraqi authorities had given Germany a list with the women's names at the beginning of the week, identifying the teenager only as Linda W. from the small town of Pulsnitz near the eastern city of Dresden.

Germany's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

German prosecutors said on Tuesday they were checking reports that a 16-year-old under investigation for supporting Islamic State was among 5 women arrested in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Iraqi forces declared victory over Islamic State earlier this month.

Der Spiegel said 1 of the Germans had Moroccan roots and another seemed to come from Chechnya but had a German passport.

The BfV domestic intelligence agency estimates that 930 people have left Germany in recent years to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. About 20 % of them are women. Minors account for about 5 % of the total number, of which half are female, it reckons.



Hamas court condemns 2 to death for Israel spying

A Palestinian court in Hamas-run Gaza on Thursday sentenced 2 men to death for allegedly spying for Israel, the latest in a series of such rulings that have drawn international condemnation.

The interior ministry said 3 men were convicted, including 2 to death, for "spying for the occupation" and the other handed a life sentence with hard labour. The men were not named, but the ministry in a statement said the 2 sentenced to death were born in 1985 and 1964.

Islamist movement Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since 2007 and it has since fought 3 wars against Israel. In May, three men accused of collaborating with Israel in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Gaza were executed. The executions were carried out after a brief trial only weeks after the arrests of the 3, leading to international condemnation.

In April, the group hanged another 3 men accused of spying for Israel. The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade, while Egypt's crossing with the enclave has also remained largely closed in recent years.



MPs concerned over British role in Saudi executions

A group of senior British MPs has expressed concern that their country's police might have directly contributed to the arrest of 14 Saudi Arabian people facing imminent execution in the kingdom.

In a cross-party letter published on Friday, the MPs said they were "gravely concerned" that UK police training of Saudi agents in cyber forensics may have enabled the arrests and called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to "personally urge Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Bin Salman to halt the 14 upcoming executions."

The prime minister must "take urgent steps to confirm that UK assistance played no role in these individuals' conviction under Saudi Arabia's anti-cyber crime law," the lawmakers noted.

"If the UK has trained Saudi agents in gathering the kind of evidence which is being used to hand down death sentences, it would call into question the viability of UK training for Saudi Arabian criminal justice bodies," the letter wrote.

The letter, signed by Conservative Andrew Mitchell and Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, also demands a "full account to Parliament of any and all UK training for Saudi police and criminal justice institutions".

The 2 MPs had raised concerns about the situation of the 14 men in an urgent question to Parliament earlier this week and called for the UK to condemn the use of the death penalty.

In response, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the British government only had "sketchy" reports but was seeking further clarity in Riyadh and London.

"The UK government opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country including Saudi Arabia, especially for crimes other than the most serious and for juveniles," said Burt.

Additionally, Maya Foa, director of the leading London-based rights group Reprieve warned of the consequences if the UK government kept silence in the face of the upcoming atrocity.

"There are serious concerns that the UK government was complicit in their arrest and convictions based on false confessions obtained through torture," she said.

"By not speaking out against these abuses, the prime minister is condoning the beheadings and putting the UK's reputation as a defender of human rights at serious risk. Instead of giving British assistance to the Saudi executioners, the prime minister should offer her unequivocal support to those young men facing beheading," Foa noted.

"When 14 young men face imminent beheading for protest-related offenses, simply raising the cases in private doesn't cut it," she concluded.

Among those facing imminent execution are Munir al-Adam, who is half-deaf and partially-blind, and Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, who was only 17 when he was sentenced to death, according to Reprieve.

Saudi Arabia has been facing protests since 2011, when a wave of uprisings and revolutions hit dictatorial Arab monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized Britain and the United States for giving the Saudi regime an easy pass on perpetrating human rights abuses on its own people.

Saudi Arabia executed a record 158 people in 2015 and another 153 people last year, according to Amnesty International.

A June report by Reprieve found that 41 percent of those executed in the oil-rich kingdom in 2017 were killed for non-violent acts such as attending political protests. UN experts have called for an end to executions for non-violent offenses.



Urgent Action: 14 Saudi Arabian Men Could Face Execution (Saudi Arabia: UA 180.17)

Urgent Action


The families of 14 Saudi Arabian men sentenced to death fear that they are at risk of execution after they were transferred to Riyadh on 15 July. The men were sentenced to death on 1 June 2016 after a grossly unfair trial based on "confessions" they said were obtained under torture.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to quash the conviction of the 14 men, given grave concerns about the fairness of the trial, to retry them in line with international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty;

* Calling on them to order a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment;

* Urging them to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 1 September, 2017:

King and Prime Minister

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of Interior)

+966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)

Twitter: @KingSalman

Salutation: Your Majesty

Ambassador Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

Washington DC 20037

Fax: 1 202 944 5983

Phone: 1 202 342 3800

Email: Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Brother of death-row inmate harbours hope to save him----Sum Ah Yoon says his younger brother deserves a 2nd chance at life and family members need to see an end to their pain.

There was a time when Sum Ah Yoon never had an opinion about the death penalty, but that changed when his younger brother was sentenced to the gallows in January 2009.

"I am against it. My brother deserves a second chance at life," the 60-year old retired banker said.

"Maybe one day your family member will become a victim. You never know," he said on the sidelines of a conference and training workshop titled "Abolition of the Death Penalty in Malaysia and Asia Pacific" here yesterday.

Ah Yoon, who has been the main person involved in the legal processes for the case and who visits his younger brother Yat Loy in prison, says he still harbours hope that the 58-year old will be spared or even released.

He is also keen to highlight the little-known ordeal that a convict's loved ones go through in facing his or her death sentence.

His worry is that his nieces aged 18 and 22 might lose their father, making it a double-blow after the death of their mother.

"They need their father's love. They have already lost their mother. Now their father is behind bars," he said.

"My brother should be given a 2nd chance to provide his family with love."

Yat Loy, a welder from Bentong, was sentenced to death by the High Court for murdering his wife Khee Ah Chai, then 34, in their house at Taman Cheras Perdana in Hulu Langat, Selangor, on Feb 16, 2002.

Ah Yoon said Yat Loy had gotten into an argument with his wife, something that happened frequently in the family.

"That day, the quarrel at their rented home was very heated. They threw things at each other," he said.

"In the heat of the moment, Yat Loy murdered his wife, who was suffering from depression.

"But, it was not intentional," he said, adding that the relationship with Yat Loy's in-laws was good, now as they had forgiven his brother.

Appeals to the Court of Appeal and subsequently the Federal Court were filed, but they failed.

Now Yat Loy is in the Bentong prison on death row.

Ah Yoon said he himself slipped into depression, exhausted from all the work he had to do, including the filing of the various appeals and petitions.

He said he would submit a fresh letter for pardon, after having sent the last one 5 years ago with a public petition and relevant supporting letters to the Sultan of Selangor.

In the meantime, he would keep praying that things get better, as worrying did not help the situation, he said.


State pardons boards should meet periodically, says lawyer

The pardons board of every state should hold meetings periodically to pore over cases under their respective jurisdictions, the Malaysian Bar’s migrants, refugees and immigration affairs committee said today.

Its chairman M Ramachelvam said that at present, each board's activities were opaque and one did not hear of anything much happening at these meetings.

He also said neither the frequency nor the results of the meetings were made known to others, with the exception of the Johor Pardons Board where there were some commutations of sentences in conjunction with the Sultan of Johor's coronation.

"We do not know about their meetings. So our recommendation is that they should hold periodic meetings," he said.

"They can do so quarterly or have half-yearly meetings to look at cases which have come to the pardons boards in the various states," he said when met on the sidelines of the 2-day conference and training workshop titled "Abolition of the Death Penalty in Malaysia and Asia Pacific" today.

Ramachelvam said the board should not only look at death penalty cases as there were other cases too worthy of attention.

"Of course all death penalty cases have to be considered by the board. But there are a whole host of other cases, such as prisoners facing life in prison and people who have got grounds to seek pardons or commutations (of sentences)," he said.

"If there is no hearing of the state pardons boards, how can they consider all those applications for commutation of sentences?" he added.

Earlier in his presentation titled "Death Penalty - Migrants and Foreign Nationals", Ramachelvam said some state boards did not hold meetings for long periods.

The Federal Constitution provides for a Pardons Board, presided over by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, for each state, as well as one for all the Federal Territories (FT) in the country.

It comprises the attorney-general, or his representative, the FT minister and three other members to be appointed by the King.

Before giving its decision, the board must consider the written opinion of the attorney-general.

(source for both: Free Malaysia Today)


Egypt court sentences 28 to death over 2015 prosecutor killing

A Cairo criminal court on Saturday sentenced to death 28 people over the 2015 killing of Egypt's top prosecutor after the death penalty was approved by the country's top religious authority, and it also jailed 15 others for 25 years each.

Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was killed in a car bomb attack on his convoy in the capital, an operation for which Egypt blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza-based Hamas militants. Both groups have denied having a role.

The court had in June recommended passing the death penalty to Egypt's top religious leader, the Grand Mufti, who can approve or reject the recommendation. The mufti's guidance is required when a court seeks the death penalty but his decision is not binding.

The sentences, confirmed by the court in Saturday's hearing, can be appealed.

"The verdicts were shocking today," said one of the defense lawyers, Ahmed Saad. "Others who had nothing to do with the assassination of martyr Hisham Barakat received life sentences. They had nothing to do with the incident."

Egypt's Interior Ministry released a video last year showing several young men confessing and admitting going to Gaza for training from Hamas, but some later denied the charges in court.

The defendants said they were forced to confess under torture and their lawyers asked that they be medically examined.

Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by Islamic State in North Sinai, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed. But the group has increasingly targeted Egypt's Christians with church bombings and shooting.

(source: Reuters)


2 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Charges

On the morning of Thursday July 20, two prisoners on death row in Khorramabad's central prison (Parsilon Prison) were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for execution. According to close sources, the prisoners were sentenced to death on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of the prisoners: Iraj Ghobadi and Kavous Maleki.

"Iraj Ghobadi had no previous criminal record. Both [Iraj and Kavous] were both farmers who were unemployed for several years as a result of drought. Both of them were convicted in the same case file and were sentenced to death on the charge of possessing and trafficking 19 kilograms of heroin," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

The execution of prisoners with drug charges continues in Iran while the Iranian Parliament has approved a general plan to amend the law for combating drugs. The Parliament is scheduled to vote on the bill again following a two-week holiday. In the event of the final approval of the plan, the death sentences for many prisoners will be commuted to a prison sentence.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

JULY 21, 2017:


District attorney to pursue death penalty against 4 suspects

After a review of 58 pending capital murder cases, officials with the Harris County District Attorney's Office told KPRC they have decided to seek the death penalty against 4 defendants in 6 cases.

Many of the recently reviewed cases were filed under the previous administration.

One of the cases involves in the February 2015 death of Kella Bracken. The 22-year-old was found stabbed multiple times in the parking lot of a northwest Harris County pizzeria.

"She was like my other half. She was my best friend," said Katelynn Schmidt, Bracken's sister. "We're pretty much at a loss for words. This monster has taken everything from us."

The man charged with murdering Bracken is Maytham Alsaedy. Recently, the DA's Office decided it would seek the death penalty in Alsaedy's case.

The head of the DA's trial bureau, David Mitcham, said the decision was reached after the case was examined by the office's capital review committee. Mitcham said the committee reviews every capital murder case filed in Harris County. Currently, the committee has reviewed 58 of these cases.

Mitcham said after all the evidence is gathered and grand jury indictments handed down, each case is presented to a committee of at least 5 and up to 12 high-level prosecutors. Mitcham said the prosecutors on the committee all have numerous years of experience handling capital cases.

"Eventually there's a vote to determine which course of action we should pursue," Mitcham said.

Mitcham said after being presented with the facts, the committee then discusses evidence and circumstances before voting, by a show of hands, whether the death penalty will be sought.

The ultimate decision on whether to seek death rests with District Attorney Kim Ogg. However, Mitcham said Ogg has shown "great deference" to the committee's recommendations.

Mitcham also said these decisions "are not set in stone" and can change if new evidence comes to light. He added there is no set formula for making a decision in a capital murder cases.

"Where that crosses the line is determined by the evidence," Mitcham said.

The other cases where the death penalty will be sought involves accused killers David Conley, Lucky Ward and Steven Hobbs.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions and cases where a death sentence is sought have been dropping over the last several years.

According to the DPIC, the number of executions in the United States dropped from a high of 98 in the late 1990s to 20 in 2016. The DPIC also reported the number of death sentences dropped from a high of 295 in 1998 to 30 in 2016.

(source: KPRC news)


McAuliffe should have spared William Morva

Gov. McAuliffe should be ashamed at his inaction to grant clemency to William Morva. On July 6, the commonwealth committed state-sanctioned homicide, and the governor failed to use his office to intervene.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that, "all men ... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life."

The Commonwealth of Virginia, those states that still sanction capital punishment, and the federal government fail people like Mr. Morva.

For rights to be "unalienable," no one can take them away, and yet that is just what occurred when Morva was sentenced to death and when Gov. McAuliffe failed to grant clemency. I do not agree with what Morva did, nor am I in a place to forgive him. The lives he took caused permanent pain and loss to the victims' families.

Taking Morva's life does not undo what he has done. It has been said that Morva was mentally ill, which makes Virginia's actions that much more heinous.

For the commonwealth and the rest of the United States to live up to the words of that famous Virginian and Founding Father, the death penalty must end in all forms.

I urge Gov. McAuliffe, whomever succeeds him and lawmakers to please end the barbaric practice of capital punishment.

Let William Morva's be the last life the state takes away. Join the other states and countries that have abolished the death penalty by now. Be a better commonwealth.

Matthew Richard


(source: Letter to the Editor, The Free Lance-Star)


Capital murder charges expected for Kristopher Jones, suspect in Petersburg abduction

Petersburg Commonwealth's Attorney Cheryl Wilson revealed in court Thursday that she intends to serve Kristopher Jones with capital murder charges. This would make Jones eligible for the death penalty.

Wilson stated to the judge that Jones is accused of embarking on a deadly crime spree in January, that began with the alleged fatal strangling of his girlfriend, Janice Lugo, 52. Later that same day, Jones is accused of abducting and demanding money from Pastor Alfred Woodard, 81, after fatally stabbing his wife Minnie Woodard, 76, in the couple's Petersburg home.

Currently, Jones is facing multiple felony charges related to the carjacking and abduction of Alfred Woodard. No murder charges have yet been brought against Jones.

Defense attorneys for Jones asked the judge that a trial date be set, since charges have already been brought against him, months ago. Defense attorneys argued that Jones has the right to a speedy trial, and the legal deadline would be the end of August.

Wilson argued that there was a delay with autopsy results and said her office is still waiting on DNA evidence. She also noted that Jones confessed to both murders to Commonwealth's attorneys. Wilson stated she has direct indictments prepared to serve Jones on August 1, his next scheduled court date, with capital murder charges.

No word on whether the Commonwealth will pursue the death penalty.

The judge agreed not to schedule a trial on Thursday and to wait for Aug. 1 for further action.

(source: WWBT news)


Death penalty sought against young suspect in Jeffco fast-food restaurant killing

A trial date has been set for a young Dolomite man charged with capital murder and multiple robberies after deadly three-city crime spree in one 2016 night, and prosecutors confirmed they are seeking the death penalty.

Bessemer Cutoff Circuit Judge David Carpenter on Thursday set a Jan. 29, 2018 trial date for 20-year-old Roderick Derrell King. King had previous trial dates set for April and September, but those were delayed because of a change in his attorneys and other matters.

Carpenter had previously ordered a mental evaluation for King, who has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, and he re-ordered that again on Thursday.

King is charged with the Jan. 13, 2016 slaying of Ashton Blake Roberts at Jack's in Pleasant Grove. Authorities say he also carried out robberies on the same night at Burger King in Fairfield and Papa Murphy's in Hueytown.

During the robbery at Jack's, the suspect demanded everyone get on the ground and he fired o1 shot from what looked like a pistol-grip AK-47 type weapon, killing Roberts, authorities have said. A 7.62 shell casing was found at the Jack's restaurant scene.

A gunman brandishing a rifle fired shots inside the Burger King in Fairfield, then robbed Papa Murphy's in Hueytown before fatally shooting a customer inside Jack's in Pleasant Grove.

Video of the robberies were recovered at all 3 restaurants and the suspect in all three robberies wore what appeared to be similar clothing but the suspect's face wasn't visible, detectives have said. At the robbery in Hueytown, police found a cellphone and an unspent 7.62 caliber bullet lying on the ground where a witness had seen the suspect's car. Hueytown police, who had known King from a previous investigation, found King's photo on the phone's lock-screen.

Shell casings recovered from the Fairfield robbery, where there was a shootout, also were 7.62 caliber of the same type as used in the other 2 robberies. When looking for King later that evening in Dolomite where he lived Hueytown police ran into King's girlfriend who told them she had loaned King her car - a gray metallic Honda Accord. A witness at the Jack's robbery in Pleasant Grove had said the suspect had driven away in a silver car. A witness at 1 of the other robberies had described it as gray.

King was captured by Birmingham police about 1:15 a.m. the following morning when they spotted King drive the car into a club, The Palace, on Third Avenue West in Birmingham where his girlfriend worked. King got out of the car and into a white Marquis with his brother. King had on a hat similar to the ones in the video and underneath some coveralls he had black cargo style plants, both similar to the ones in the videos. Inside his pants was an unspent 7.62 round like the ones found at all 3 robbery scenes, police later testified.

Roderick Derrell King, 19, is now held without bond in the shooting death of Ashton Blake Roberts and the robbery of a fast-food restaurant in Hueytown. He remains a suspect in Fairfield.

King is also charged with 1st-degree robbery in the holdups in other the cities. The capital murder case and the robbery cases will be tried together.

At the time of his arrest last year, King already was awaiting trial in a 2014 case in Hueytown. In that case, King and a 16-year-old were arrested after a Nov. 25 6:30 a.m. holdup at the Burger King on Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive. The robbers fired several shots in the parking lot.

King has remained jailed without bond since his arrest.

In October 2016, authorities charged King with bribery of a public servant. The suspect offered to pay a jail deputy hundreds of dollars if he would smuggle in cellphones, cigarettes and drugs.

According to an arrest warrant and affidavit in that charge, King on Aug. 16 offered the deputy $350 to bring in contraband to him, and the deputy reported the incident to his supervisor. 2 days later, King offered the same deputy $500, again to deliver the requested items to him.



Attorneys seek to bar death penalty for Demarcus Means

The defense attorneys for a Columbiana man accused of capital murder filed a request on Thursday, July 13, to prevent the imposition of the death penalty if he is convicted.

Attorneys Victor Revill and James Ransom asked the Shelby County Circuit Court to prohibit the state from sentencing 21-year-old Demarcus Lamar Means to death.

Revill and Ransom cited a psychological evaluation of Means performed by psychologist Ron Meredith as evidence that Means is "intellectually disabled." According to Revill and Ransom, his execution would be a violation of Alabama law and the 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Means, who lists an address on Alabama 25, was arrested and charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed 18-year-old Haleigh Danielle Green. His charge was later upgraded to capital murder.

According to the motion, Means's intelligence level is "of the low average range." Revill and Ransom also stated that Means has exhibited symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, moderate to severe problems with abstract or symbolic thought, depression and anxiety.

The psychological evaluation stated that Means has suffered from a head injury while playing basketball as a high school student.

"His impaired intellectual functioning, combined with ADHD and a form of dementia resulting from blunt force trauma during childhood, severely limits his ability to cognitively and intellectually deal with his surroundings," the motion read.

In the evaluation, Meredith wrote that Means was "unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts due to mental illness or disorder at the time of the commission of the crime."

Means is currently being held in the St. Clair County Jail in Ashford on no bond. His next status call is set for Aug. 22.

(source: Shelby County Reporter)


Boyfriend charged with murdering pregnant woman

It's been nearly 3 months since Aretha Otis laid her younger sister to rest.

She said her death is still hard on the family.

"It's a sad situation that we all have to go through this and its sad that her 3 children have to grow up without her," Aretha Otis said. "But I will be there for them."

Lashanda Otis was found dead on May 1 in DeSoto County.

She was found shot in the head next to a burning vehicle.

She was 2 months pregnant and partially burned.

On Wednesday her live-in boyfriend Mario Stevenson was booked into the DeSoto County Jail.

He is now charged with capital murder in her death.

The sister said she thought Stevenson was responsible for the murder.

"From my understanding it was for the insurance money," Aretha Otis said. "Because he had an insurance policy out on her. I don't know why it took multiple people to do it. I'm not understanding that."

Stevenson is the 2nd person to be charged with Otis' murder.

Demario Dansberry who was arrested in May is also charged with Capital Murder.

Family said Stevenson and Dansberry are friends.

"Maybe they planned on sharing the insurance money or something," Aretha Otis said. "I really don't know."

Family members told FOX13 this isn't Stevenson's first run in with the law.

Aretha Otis said Stevenson served ten years in jail for a similar crime. "When he was locked up for the past couple years it was told that him and his sister did the same thing to her husband," Aretha Otis said. "But except the fact that they thought he was dead, but he wasn't he was alive."

In May, FOX13 obtained an incident report that showed Stevenson went to a precinct and reported Otis missing, just a few hours after she was already found dead.

The sister said she had her suspicions about the missing persons report.

She said Stevenson never attended the funeral or helped with any of the arrangements.

"We didn't have no type of communication," Aretha Otis said. "He didn't let me see my niece. He didn't contact us at all. The only time he contacted us was for the death certificate."

And Otis said the arrests help to bring closure for the family.

"I just want justice to continue to be served," Aretha Otis said. "Whether he gets the death penalty or whether he just stays in jail for the rest of his life. Justice will get served."

Sources previously told FOX13 2 other Memphis men were arrested along with Stevenson.

No official comment has been made regarding additional arrests.



Calendar's Restaurant killer death sentence reinstated

A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated Todd Kelvin Wessinger's death sentence in the 1995 double murder at a popular Baton Rouge restaurant.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 decision by U.S. District Judge James Brady that Wessinger had not had an effective lawyer during the penalty phase of his trial. Brady had ordered that the state court re-do the penalty phase.

Wessinger's initial attorney was indicted in an unrelated case six months before Wessinger's June 1997 trial. The replacement attorney's father died 3 months later. That attorney has since died.

The appeals court ruled that the list of carefully documented efforts to appeal specific elements of the case and to find funding for additional legal and investigative work -- which mostly failed -- were evidence of diligent and competent legal work.

Wessinger had once worked as a dishwasher at Calendar's Restaurant on Perkins Road near Essen Lane. He went to the restaurant before it opened on Nov. 19, 1995, to rob the place.

He killed manager Stephanie Guzzardo, who was on the phone with a 911 operator and could be heard begging for her life as he forced his way into the restaurant's office and shot her.

He fatally shot cook David Breakwell and injured Mark Armentor. One other employee escaped injury because Wessinger's gun malfunctioned.

Wessinger escaped with about $7,000 but was identified as the murder suspect very quickly. Police took the unusual step of releasing the 911 recording of Guzzardo's desperate last moments.

(source: WBRZ news)


Longtime DEA task force member pleads guilty to reduced charges, agrees to help DOJ

Todd Wessinger's death sentence in the 1995 shooting deaths of 2 Calendar's Restaurant employees in Baton Rouge was reinstated Thursday by a federal appellate court in New Orleans.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Senior U.S. District Judge James Brady, who in July 2015 threw out Wessinger's death penalty in the killing of Stephanie Guzzardo, 27, and David Breakwell, 46, during a robbery at the now-closed restaurant that Guzzardo managed. Wessinger was a former dishwasher at the eatery.

Guzzardo's father, Wayne Guzzardo, said he almost passed out and his wife nearly fell off the couch when the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office called late Thursday afternoon with the news.

"We couldn't be any happier. We thought we had been lost in the system. It's a relief," he said. "We just want justice done. At least it's a step closer."

18 years later, father of victim in Baton Rouge restaurant slaying still fighting to see death sentence carried out against daughter's killer

Brady, who let Wessinger's 1st-degree murder convictions stand, ruled that Wessinger's trial attorneys provided him ineffective assistance at the 1997 penalty phase of his trial.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision Thursday, disagreed with Brady.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III applauded the court's ruling and "thorough review of the record in reinstating Wessinger's death penalty.

"This case and the appellate process has haunted these victims' families for years," he said. "Hopefully this decision will put these families closer to imposition of the jury's decision and justice for all."

Stephanie Guzzardo was making a 911 call when she was shot. She had begged Wessinger to spare her life.

Wessinger shot a 3rd employee in the back, but that worker survived. Wessinger's gun malfunctioned when he tried to shoot a 4th employee in the head.

Wessinger's attorneys had argued to Brady that one of his trial lawyers, the now-deceased Billy Hecker, was appointed to represent Wessinger just 6 months before the start of his trial and was not prepared. Hecker inherited the case from Baton Rouge lawyer Orscini Beard in January 1997 after Beard was indicted on felony theft charges. Hecker's father died in April 1997.

Wessinger was convicted and condemned to die by an East Baton Rouge Parish jury in June 1997.

(source: The Advocate)

OHIO----impending execution

Ronald Phillips makes 2nd appeal to top court to stop execution

A condemned child killer in Ohio has made a second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his scheduled execution.

Ronald Phillips asked the high court Thursday for an emergency stay based on his age at the time of the murder. He was 19, older than the Supreme Court's cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring executions of juveniles. His request argues the age should be 21.

Also before the court is Phillips' request for an emergency stay based on an execution method he and other inmates have challenged.

Phillips is set to die July 26 in what would be Ohio's first execution in more than 3 years.

Phillips was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and killing of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)


John Kasich Will Monitor Ohio's 1st Execution in 3 Years Next Week

Ronald Phillips is slated to be executed by the state of Ohio next Wednesday, July 26. It would be the state's 1st execution in 3 years after a series of legal and governmental delays after the last execution, of Dennis McGuire, during which the state used an untested cocktail of drugs, including midazolam, and which led to what witnesses described as gasping and choking during the 26 minutes it took McGuire to die.

A federal judge in January declared the use of midazolam unconstitutional, but a federal appeals court ruled 8-6 last month that Ohio can use the sedative in the process. Lawyers for Phillips, who was convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993, have asked the Supreme Court to delay the execution, noting that the divided ruling proves more debate is needed on the matter.

"What is happening in Ohio is a matter of great concern everywhere," attorney Mark Haddad said in a statement to "The record in the Ohio prisoners' case firmly establishes an intolerable risk of resuming executions under the midazolam 3-drug protocol."

Coalitions and advocacy groups, including former death row inmates who have since been exonerated, have pressed Ohio Governor John Kasich to postpone the execution. There are larger legal and moral issues at play here, to be sure, but as retired 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge James Brogan told the Dayton Daily News, the very idea that Ohio plans on resuming executions when a state Supreme Court task force's extensive recommendations on the use of the death penalty have been largely ignored is "troubling."

Kasich, for his part, hasn't acceded to pressure to delay Phillips's death, but the Associated Press and Dayton Daily News report that Kasich will skip the opening of next week's state fair to monitor the developments at what is charmingly referred to as the Death House.



Venue change sought in murder case

Attorneys for the Howland man facing capital murder charges in the Feb. 25 killing of 2 people and wounding of 3 others at his home have filed a host of motions, including a request for change of trial venue, that may be addressed by a Trumbull County judge today.

Cleveland attorneys Robert A. Dixon and David L. Doughten, who both represent Nasser Hamad, 47, of 1564 state Route 46, also filed a motion June 30 that asks Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald J. Rice to dismiss capital murder specifications that could result in the death penalty if Hamad is convicted.

A hearing has been scheduled at 9 a.m. in Rice's courtroom, but rulings may not come down since assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor Christopher Becker said he is not expected to file responding motions until this morning.

Hamad, who is facing a jury trial Sept. 18, pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of aggravated murder that carry death penalty specifications, and 6 counts of attempted aggravated murder with firearm specifications.

The case revolves around a confrontation between Hamad and occupants of a van that drove up to his Route 46 home late in the afternoon of Feb. 25. Hamad and several occupants of the van had engaged in taunting and threatening behavior over social media in the hours before the shootings, according to a Howland police investigators' report.

A memo in support of the defense motion to drop the death penalty specification cites the 8th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which extends protection of citizens against cruel and unusual punishment.

As for the venue change motion, the defense cites the heavy media attention paid to the case, which can prejudice any Trumbull County jury that would be seated, the document states.

"Further, the social media interaction in this county cannot be measured, but would be estimated to be considerable," states the memo in support of the motion.

The motion also stated the defense has met the burden of showing a fair and impartial jury cannot be found.

"There is shown a reasonable likelihood of an unfair trial ... a showing of actual prejudice is not necessary," the memo states.

Other defense motions that may be ruled on today include requests for more evidence, sealing and transcribing grand jury proceedings in the case and restraining certain parties from discussing the case.

Rice already has ordered court officials and defense attorneys to not talk about the case outside court.

Court records show Dixon and Doughten, who have experience in trying capital cases in Ohio, joined Hamad's defense team April 19.

Killed in the Feb. 25 shooting were Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20. The 3 other gunshot victims were April Vokes, 43; John Shivley, 17; and Bryce Hendrickson, 20.

Haber was declared dead at the scene, while Williams later died at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. Vokes was shot numerous times in the head, arms, chest and legs while in the driver's seat of the van. Hendrickson was shot in the face and arm and underwent surgery, while Shively was shot in the back.

(source: Tribune Chronicle)


Prosecutors to Hear Evidence Before Ruling on Death Penalty

Prosecutors will hear evidence from attorneys of a man charged with aggravated murder for a blaze that killed 7 people in Ohio before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports ( Summit County prosecutors are making the case of 58-year-old Stanley Ford part of a pilot program allowing defense attorneys to share mitigating evidence before prosecutors ask grand juries to add death penalty specifications to charges.

Ford is charged with 7 counts of aggravated murder and arson for the fire on May 15 in Akron that killed a couple and 5 children who lived near him. Authorities haven't offered a motive.

The case must be presented to a grand jury by Aug. 20, which is 90 days from Ford's arrest.

(source: Associated Press)


Ammon man charged with 1st-degree murder

A 20-year-old Ammon man is in the Bonneville County Jail on a charge of 1st-degree murder for a report he killed a 62-year-old Ammon woman by hitting her in the head with a baseball bat.

The Bonneville County Prosecutor's Office charged Jameion Hernandez following an investigation into a crime scene where a decomposing body was found July 2 in a home at 2390 Ross Ave.

Bonneville County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Hernandez on Wednesday. He was arraigned Thursday via video in Bonneville County Court before Judge Michael Kennedy. Because the charge carries the possibility of the death penalty, Hernandez was not allowed to post bond.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Detective Korey Payne, Hernandez is accused of killing Lisa Stukey on or about June 16.

Payne stated in a probable cause hearing Thursday that Sheriff's Office detectives had interviewed Hernandez, his sister Addonna Olivas, and 2 of his friends, Loren Petterson and Tristan Furrows.

Payne testified that Petterson and Furrows told police Hernandez had said he murdered Stukey. Bonneville County detectives interviewed Olivas on Wednesday. Olivas also told Payne that Hernandez told her he killed Stukey. Payne testified that Petterson, Furrows and Hernandez had referred to details from the scene that were not publicly known.

Payne testified that Petterson said Hernandez told her about killing Stukey sometime before Stukey's body was found. It was not mentioned when Olivas or Furrows learned of the murder.

Hernandez told detectives he had been angry with Stukey after she dated his grandfather, and that she was the reason for his family's financial struggles and his parents' divorce, Payne said. Hernandez's grandfather died in April 2016, according to Payne's testimony.

Hernandez walked detectives through what happened June 16. He said he showed up at Stukey's house early in the morning wearing black clothing and gloves and kicked the door down after failing to pick the lock. He then got "spooked," according to Payne, and returned with an aluminum baseball bat.

Payne said Hernandez told detectives he went to the master bedroom and hit Stukey on the left side of her face with the bat. He then began taking items from Stukey's house when he heard her moaning.

Payne testified Hernandez told detectives he then returned to the bedroom, covered Stukey's head with a shirt, and hit her on the back of the head with the bat.

Stukey's injuries as described by Hernandez were consistent with the coroner's findings, Payne testified.

Hernandez said he disposed of the bat by throwing it into an unspecified body of water, Payne said. Payne said Hernandez was cooperating with police to find the bat.

A diamond-shaped imprint from the bottom of 1 of Hernandez's shoes was found on the arm of a couch in Stukey's home and Hernandez told detectives he wore shoes matching that description on the morning of the crime, Payne testified.

The homicide investigation began July 2 when a friend of Stukey's discovered the door had been kicked down and found a badly decomposed body in Stukey's house. The decomposition made it difficult for investigators to determine the identity and gender of the victim.

1st-degree murder is punishable in Idaho with the death penalty or up to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $50,000.

Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Danny Clark said he hasn't decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

"At this time we've made no decision regarding the death penalty," Clark said. "It's simply too early on the case to do that. We'll review the facts and the information over the coming weeks in order to make that determination."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 2 before Judge Kent Gauchay.



Man arrested in Ammon murder appears in court for 1st time

An Ammon man who was arrested for the murder in connection with a decomposing body made his 1st appearance in court Thursday afternoon.

Jameion K. Hernandez, 20, was charged with 1st-degree murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty. He was represented by defense attorney Jordan Crane with the Bonneville County Public Defender's Office.

"Because of the nature of the charge and the possibility of a death penalty, no bond is allowed at this time," Magistrate Judge Michael Kennedy said in court.

Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Danny Clark said a conviction could alternatively result in life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum, along with a $50,000 fine.

"At this time we've made no decisions regarding the death penalty - it's simply too early on in the case to do that," Clark told "We'll review the facts and the information over the coming weeks in order to make that determination."

2 no-contact orders were also issued to protect the witnesses in the case. Each one is in effect for 3 years.

Clark appreciates the public's patience regarding the identification of the decomposing body found in an Ammon home. He said he is fairly confident at this point that the body can be identified as Lisa Stukey, who owned the home.

Law enforcement were called to Stukey's home after friends showed up and became suspicious. On July 2, deputies discovered a person in the bedroom who had been deceased for a week. It was impossible to identify the person, gender or age. On July 10 the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office determined a murder had occurred.

Clark said given the condition of the body and the DNA testing that needs to take place, the confirmation will take time. The sheriff's office has enlisted the help of the FBI, which is conducting the DNA testing.

"That being said, there were some indications on the body regarding medical procedures and things of that nature that helped us identify the body sufficiently at this point," Clark said.

A preliminary hearing for Hernandez has been scheduled for Aug. 2.



A man accused of killing a Burlington High School student facing possible death penalty in federal court if convicted

A man accused of killing a Burlington High School student in March 2016 may face the death penalty if federal prosecutors decide to indict him on hate crime charges in the youth's death.

The news about the federal investigation into the killing of Kedarie Johnson came to light during a hastily called hearing late Thursday afternoon in Des Moines County District Court.

(source: The Burlington Hawk Eye)


Capital punishment an effective way to combat drug dealers: Tito

National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said on Thursday that the example of the Philippines illustrated that capital punishment was an effective way to combat drug dealers.

He said capital punishment delivered a deterrent effect, despite controversies surrounding its implementation.

"From practice in the field, we see that when we shoot at drug dealers they go away," Tito said, referring to the drug war initiated by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Civil societies that focus on human rights have long lambasted the Indonesian government for persistently implementing the death penalty. These groups often highlight the country's judicial system, which is still marred by rampant corruption.

Tito earlier expressed appreciation for the work of his subordinates who succeeded in foiling a plan by four Taiwanese citizens to smuggle one ton of crystal methamphetamine into Greater Jakarta last week.

During the drug bust, 1 smuggler was shot dead while resisting arrest.

Tito said he had told police officers "not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest."

(source: Jakarta Post)


British grandmother on Indonesian death row could be executed at 'any time'----Lindsay Sandiford's appeal was turned down by the Indonesian Supreme Court.

A British grandmother fears she could be executed at "any time" after money that had been raised to help her legal fees disappeared.

Around 40,000 pounds had been raised by family, friends and supporters of 61-year-old Lindsay Sandiford who is trying to appeal a death sentence by firing squad for smuggling 10lbs of cocaine into Bali in 2013.

The money had been put into a bank account that was controlled by Indonesian legal advocate Ursa Supit, who used to work with British charity Reprieve.

But despite almost 8,000 pounds being withdrawn, no appeal has been lodged, leaving Sandiford unsure of her future.

In her latest statement she said: "I could now be taken way and executed at any time."

Sandiford, who lived in Cheltenham at the time of her trip to Bali, has been left with no legal representation after the British government said they weren't going to fund her appeal and her previous lawyer was jailed for corruption in an unrelated case in 2015.

Sandiford has always maintained that she was carrying the cocaine hidden in the lining of her suitcase to protect her son from being threatened. In 2013, Sandiford appealed her death sentence but this was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court.

Speaking to the BBC in 2013, Sandiford said that the actions taken by the British government were "tantamount to condoning the death penalty... The government and FCO are doing all they can to resist me at this difficult time."

Indonesia is known for its tough penalties and zero-tolerance policy on drug offences.

Indonesia's President Jodo Widodo has defended the country's death penalty laws saying they act as an "important shock therapy" for future offenders.

During a lecture at the Yogyakarta college in December 2014, Widodo said drug traffickers on death row had "destroyed the future of the nation."



Man hanged to death in Attock jail

A death row convict was executed in Central Jail Attock in the early hours of Thursday morning. M Lateef had stabbed to death his relative Abdul Waheed over monetary dispute on March 25, 2004. Police have registered a case against the accused over the complaint of the deceased's uncle Faizur Rehman. The court found the accused guilty and had sentenced him death penalty on July 1st, 2004.

Later, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench and the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court, and his mercy appeals were also rejected.

(source: The Nation)


PHC suspends execution of death row prisoner

A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday suspended execution of death sentence awarded to a prisoner till July 26 and issued notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa advocate general in the prisoner's writ petition seeking directives from the court to the government to introduce a less painful mode of execution instead of hanging to death.

The bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor ordered that till next date of hearing, July 26, the death sentence awarded to the prisoner, Jan Bahadur, shall not be implemented.

The bench ordered that the advocate general should appear and argue on the points raised by the petitioner, Jan Bahadur.

The petitioner, imprisoned at Haripur Central Prison, has requested the high court to declare the mode of hanging to death as un-Islamic and unconstitutional as it was painful and against human values.

Directs AG to give arguments on mode of execution

The petitioner states that section 368 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provides: "When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead."

He has requested the court to issue directives for ending the execution of death row prisoners through hanging as it is cruel, painful, un-Islamic and inhuman.

He added that the court may issue directive that such mode of execution should be adopted which is not painful.

The petitioner was arrested in connection with a murder case registered at Takhtbhai police station, Mardan, on Oct 22, 1993. He was sentenced to death by an additional district and sessions judge on Apr 7, 2000, at Takhtbhai.

The said judgment was upheld by the high court on Mar 12, 2002, and subsequently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also upheld the verdict. His review petition and clemency petition were also rejected.

The respondents in the petition are: provincial home secretary, superintendent of Haripur Central Prison, provincial law secretary, secretary to Council of Islamic Ideology, and district and sessions judge, Mardan.

The petitioner's counsel, Mohammad Khursheed Khan, stated that there are 9 modes of carrying out death penalties, which includes: death by hanging; through firing squad; shooting in the head; through lethal injection; beheading; stoning to death; gas chamber; through electric chair; and pushing from height.

He stated that in past in all the states of USA the mode of execution was through hanging. Subsequently, he states, the use of electric chair was devised, which was considered less painful. However, he added that in 1921 the State of Nevada introduced gas chamber for carrying out death penalty.

He contended that in over 30 states in the USA, the mode of execution was now through lethal injection, which is considered more humane and less painful. He stated that through that mode 3 injections were administered to a death row prisoner - the 1st injection turns a prisoner unconscious; the 2nd makes his body paralysed and the 3rd one stops his heart function.

He claims that in 28 countries prisoners are executed through firing squad, whereas in 22 countries prisoners are killed by shooting in the head.

He stated that the colonial rulers had introduced death by hanging through the CrPC in 1898 and after creation of Pakistan the same mode was adopted.

? (source:


Bangladeshi human rights activist detained

The Malaysian authorities must immediately release a distinguished Bangladeshi human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience and allow him to speak at and participate in a conference on the death penalty, Amnesty International said today.

The Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport detained Adilur Rahman Khan, the Secretary of Odhikar, a leading Bangladeshi human rights organization, this morning as he arrived in the country to speak at a conference on the death penalty.

"The Malaysian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Adilur Rahman Khan and allow him to participate in and speak at the conference," said James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

There is no justification for detaining him whatsoever. It is an outrage that a human rights activist cannot even travel freely to speak on a key human rights issue. Moreover, we understand that he still has not been given access to legal advice and is at risk of being deported."

"We are concerned that this arrest and detention is the latest target in a growing trend to impose travel bans on human rights defenders entering Malaysia."

Adilur Rahman Khan's detention is the latest in a series of cases where peaceful activists have been barred from entering the country, including Hong Kong political activist Joshua Wong, Indonesian human rights defender Mugiyanto Sipin and Singaporean political activist Han Hui Hui. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, the organizers of the conference, said that Adilur Rahman Khan was the only foreign participant not allowed into the country. Human rights campaigners from Amnesty International are among those in attendance.

(source: Amnesty International)


Nairobi men who attacked woman gets death sentence

A sexual assault case that was opened in 2014 has finally come to an end and it's a death penalty.

The death penalty in South Africa was abolished in 1935, however, it seems that this form of punishment for crimes committed still exists in Kenya.

According to Daily Sun, in 2014 an incident occurred that shocked everyone. A woman was attacked by three men on a bus because she was not dressed 'inappropriately'. The death sentence was handed down to them after they were convicted of robbery with violence.

Evidence of this cruel assault was scatted all over social media showing the terrified victim being stripped and manhandled by the 3 men.

This incident resulted in protests all over Kenya with the hashtag #mydressmychoice that made the rounds after the incident went viral.



Parliament Votes on Halt to Drug-Related Executions in Iran

Human Rights Watch said today that the Iranian government should immediately halt all executions for drug-related offenses while parliament debates amendments to reform the country’s drug law. In two weeks Parliament is expected to vote on an amendment to the drug law that will drastically raise the bar for a mandatory death penalty sentence.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, "It makes no sense for Iran's judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month. It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended."

Parliament approved a proposal on July 16, 2017, to amend Iran's 1997 Law to Combat Drugs to limit the death penalty for some nonviolent, drug-related offenses, but then parliament sent the draft legislation back to the parliamentary judiciary commission to deliberate the proposed changes for certain offenses.

At least 10 offenses, including some that are nonviolent, are punishable by death under Iran's current drug law, including possession of as little as 30 grams of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine. The death penalty is also mandated for trafficking, possession, or trade of more than five kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin; repeated offenses involving smaller amounts; or the manufacture of more than 50 grams of synthetic drugs.

146 members of parliament introduced a draft amendment on December 6, 2016, seeking to replace capital punishment for drug offenses with imprisonment for up to 30 years. The death penalty would be allowed if the accused or one of the participants in the crime used or carried weapons intended for use against law enforcement agencies. As well, the death penalty would apply to a leader of a drug trafficking cartel, anyone who used a child in drug trafficking, or anyone facing new drug-related charges who had previously been sentenced to execution or 15 years to life for drug-related offenses.

The judiciary commission retracted part of their proposed amendments on July 9th, under pressure from the judiciary and administration. It added the death penalty for nonviolent charges of "production, distribution, trafficking, and selling" of more than 100 kilograms of "traditional" drugs like opium, or 2 kilograms of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. Also restored, is the death penalty for possession, purchase, or concealing more than 5 kilograms of synthetic drugs. The death penalty would only apply in those cases where the accused had previously been sentenced to more than two years for drug-related offenses.

Hasan Noroozi, the commission's spokesman, told IRNA news agency on July 18th, that the commission is adding "possession, purchase or concealing" 50 kilograms of "traditional" drugs to the offenses punishable by death.

Last April, the commission proposed that the amendments be applied retroactively, which would dramatically reduce the number of people currently on death row in Iran. In addition, in early July, judiciary commission members asked the judiciary to suspend executions of drug offenders until parliament could vote on the bill.

A review of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization’s database, which documents executions in Iran, by Human Rights Watch, shows that Ghezelhesar and Karaj Central prisons have carried out no executions since the beginning of Ramadan, but that other prison authorities in Isfahan, Western Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, and Khorasan Razavi, have continued to execute people convicted of drug offenses. The group said that at least 39 people have been executed since July 5 on drug-related charges. Additionally, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented serious violations of due process, torture, and other violations of the rights of criminal suspects facing drug-related charges.

Iran has one the highest rates of executions in the world. According to Amnesty International, in 2016, Iran executed at least 567 people, the majority for drug-related convictions. In December 2016, the parliamentary judicial committee spokesman Noroozi, urged parliament to amend the law, stating that several thousand people are on death row for drug related offenses, most of them ages 20 to 30.



Urgent Action


Sources close to the government of Maldives have confirmed that executions in the country will resume on 21 July 2017. The Maldives Supreme Court has upheld the convictions and death sentences of 3 men, who are all now at imminent risk of execution. If carried out, it would be the first executions in the country in over 60 years.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Halt any plans to resume executions and establish an official moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

* Immediately commute the death sentence against all prisoners under sentence of death, including those imposed for crimes committed when the prisoners were below 18 years of age;

* Amend national legislation to remove provisions that are not in line with international law and standards and abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 15 August, 2017:

President of Maldives

Abdulla Yameen Gayoom

The President's Office

Boduthakurufaanu Magu

Male' 20113

Republic of Maldives

Fax: (960) 332 5500

Twitter: @presidencymv

Salutation: His Excellency

H.E. Ambassador Ahmed Sareer

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations

800 Second Avenue, Suite 400E

New York, NY 10017

Fax: 1 212 661 6405

Phone: 1 212 599 6194

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

JULY 20, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: Represented by Wikipedia----TaiChin Preyor did not get the legal expertise he deserved

The exact details of the crime that delivered Taichin Preyor to death row remain unclear and continue to be investigated by his current team of attorneys. What's clear is that Preyor was denied certain constitutional rights during both his trial and the appeals process. But unless Gov. Greg Abbott grants him clemency or he receives a stay, he will be executed next Thursday, July 27.

Three recently filed motions by Preyor's latest attorneys argue that Preyor was represented through his appeals by a disbarred attorney, Phillip Jefferson. His current lawyer, Catherine Stetson, of the Washington, D.C., firm Hogan Lovells, told the Chronicle that Jefferson used Brandy Estelle, a California attorney who works in real estate, as his legal stand-in to represent Preyor. A federal court in San Antonio originally denied Estelle's motion to represent Preyor, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later granted her request and began paying the real estate lawyer for her services. (Estelle was also collecting money from Preyor's mother for much of the same work.) What's more egregious is the possibility that Estelle may have relied on Wikipedia to file Preyor's federal appeal. The latest motion, filed on July 14, states within Estelle's files was "a copy of the Wikipedia page" titled "Capital punishment in Texas" on the printout with a Post-It note reading "Research" next to highlighted passages of "Habeas corpus appeals" and "Subsequent or successive writ applications."

A July 11 supplement also argues that Preyor's previous attorneys "completely overlooked" the physical and sexual abuse Preyor experienced as a child. The mitigating evidence, says Stetson, could have convinced the trial jury to spare him a death sentence. Stetson said she and her team are currently investigating Preyor's past as well as the crime itself that landed him on death row.

? The state claims that Preyor "fatally stabbed" his "girlfriend" Jami Tackett after breaking into her San Antonio apartment in February 2004, and in the process stabbed another man. But in Preyor's appeals, Estelle argued that Tackett was actually his drug dealer (not his girlfriend), and that Preyor acted in self-defense against her and her male companion. Preyor was arrested shortly after the attack, covered in Tackett's blood.

In March 2015, a judicial clerk reviewing death penalty cases contacted the Texas bar to seek new counsel for Preyor. The clerk, Stetson said, had concerns about how Estelle and Jefferson had handled the case. "When the federal court system sees this and asks for help, it tells you something awful happened," said Stetson. Austin attorney Hilary Sheard took over Preyor's case (one year after the 5th Circuit denied his appeal), and ushered in Stetson's firm in May after she fell ill. That month, the court approved her budget request of $45,000 to further investigate the case. The new motions seek a stay on Preyor's execution so that his new attorneys can prepare a case for mitigation.

A week before Preyor's execution date, Stetson said his team remains "in the dark" about what or when a ruling will come, but they're "continuing their investigation to better expose" Estelle and Jefferson's fraud. Should their efforts be unsuccessful, Preyor will be the 1st Texan killed by the state since James Bigby in March, and only the 5th this year. 542 Texans have been executed since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


State Attorney to seek Death Penalty in CR 340 murder case

The State Attorney plans to seek the Death Penalty in the Staleys murder case. Bill Cervone, State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit said on Monday, July 17, "We intend to pursue the Death Penalty in this case." Cervone went on to say that they are working on the case, but he did not expect the case to come to trial until sometime in 2018.

On April 28, 2017, Phillip David Wheeler was indicted for the murder of Kevin Lawrence Staley, 49 and Kevin Justice Staley, 19. The Gilchrist County Spring Term Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Phillip David Wheeler at the Gilchrist County Courthouse. The Staleys were found dead back in November of 2015. The murders occurred at a mobile home located off CR 340 near Bell.

Phillip David Wheeler was 37 when he was indicted and a resident of Old Town and a former resident of Newberry.

(source: Gilchrist County Journal)


3rd death penalty sentencing for convicted killer J.B. Parker likely a year away

State prosecutors will try for a third time to get a death sentence that will stick for convicted killer J.B. "Pig" Parker, but it will be at least a year before they will have the chance.

Parker is 1 of 4 men convicted of the April 2, 1982, murder of Julia Frances Slater, who was kidnapped shortly before midnight while working at a convenience store on U.S. 1 in north Stuart.

Slater, of Jensen Beach, was later shot and stabbed off Kanner Highway west of Stuart.

John Earl Bush was executed in 1996 at age 38, a decade after he filed his last appeal and after 15 years on death row.

Terry Wayne "Bo Gator" Johnson, who was passed out drunk in the vehicle and didn't participate in the murder, was sentenced to life in prison and now lives in Fort Pierce after being released on supervision in 2008, in part because of the forgiveness of the victim’s mother, Sally Slater.

The other 2 remain in the maximum-security Union Correctional Institution.

Alfonso Cave, 58, is on death row, and has been for 34 years, the longest anyone from the Treasure Coast has sat on death row. He has exhausted his appeals after being sentenced to death for a 3rd time.

In 2012, TCPalm reviewed 20 boxes of court records related to the Cave and Parker cases. Court papers showed taxpayers spent more than $348,000 on Cave's appeals, and Parker's tab at that time exceeded $296,000.

At about $65 each day, housing both men on death row has cost an estimated $1.58 million, according to state officials.



Billings murders: Gonzalez's death penalty resentencing could be year away

A resentencing for the death row inmate who was found guilty of killing local couple Byrd and Melanie Billings could be more than a year away as the court waits on appeal proceedings.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., 43, was sentenced to death for the 2009 murders, but was recently granted a resentencing under Florida's revised death penalty laws.

Gonzalez was convicted in 2010 of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.

He led a group of men who forced their way into the Billings' home in Beulah in July 2009 and gunned down the couple during an attempted robbery. The couple had 17 children, 13 of them adopted. Nine of the children were home at the time of the murders.

The jury in Gonzalez's case imposed the death penalty in a 10-2 vote, a move that has been deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawmakers changed the state's death penalty laws at this year's legislative session to mandate a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty cases.

Gonzalez didn't appear in Escambia County court Wednesday for a status conference in his case, but his attorney, Eric Pinkard, spoke in court via telephone. Retired Judge Nicholas Geeker, who presided over the original trial, is handling the case.

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said there likely won't be any more developments in the resentencing case until the appeals process is complete.

Gonzalez is appealing on a number of allegations, including that his lawyer at trial was ineffective, and that Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan inappropriately engaged with the jury during the trial.

Gonzalez also claims that due to the high-profile nature of his case, his trial should have been held elsewhere as the local area was "saturated" with media reports. Marcille said the judge denied the post-conviction relief motion without a hearing, so an appeal now goes to the Florida Supreme Court. Marcille said if the Supreme Court rules in Gonzalez's favor, he could be entitled to another hearing, which may get him a new sentencing or an entirely new trial.

More: Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. could be re-sentenced for Billings' murders under new law

If that appeal is denied and concluded, the resentencing phase can continue at the circuit court level. In that instance, Gonzalez's guilty conviction would remain, but a new jury would re-hear the case's evidence and decide whether he should be again sentenced to death or whether he should serve a life sentence.

"The only issue before the jury would be whether or not the sentence of death or life is appropriate, but we would need to present the facts again," Marcille said.

Pinkard was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Carlie Brucia's father furious that her killer could get off death row

In 2004, the shocking murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia horrified the nation. The Sarasota girl was on her way home when she was kidnapped by Joseph Smith. He raped, strangled and murdered the girl, then dumped her body behind a church.

After a 10-2 jury decision, Smith was sentenced to death. But, a circuit judge has now ruled that Smith can have a new sentencing trial.

This all stems from a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring juries to be unanimous when sentencing someone to death. The high court decided any Florida death row inmate sentenced after 2002 could have a new sentencing trial.

Right now there are 364 inmates on death row, and under this new law, roughly 1/2 of them could be eligible for re-sentencing.

Carlie's father, Joe Brucia, is furious.

"I don't feel it has anything to do about justice or the law," said Brucia.

"We've been waiting a long time, the family and I, we were looking for some kind of justice and it seems to elude us," Brucia added.

"They seem indifferent to the victims and their families. They think they can just do these things without affecting people, but it affects people a lot," Brucia added.

Attorney Derek Byrd, who is not connected to this case, says prosecutors will have a difficult time assembling a case because it happened so long ago. Some witnesses have retired and Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, recently died.

"Having a unanimous verdict on a death penalty, like a 12 to nothing unanimous verdict, that's a pretty tall order. That doesn't happen very often, even in egregious cases," explained Byrd.

Joe Brucia does not want this to happen.

"[Joseph Smith] does not deserve to live on the taxpayer's expense any longer," said Brucia.

"I don't understand why we have such great concern and such money over an individual that could torture, rape and murder a child. It's baffling, really," he added.

Joe Brucia and his family are writing letters, asking the governor and the attorney general to step in.

"I want to reinstate the death penalty. I want them to use the weight of the attorney general's office and their resources and do the right thing, do what the state of Florida promised my family and I, and that is to put Joseph Smith to death," said Brucia.

Joseph Smith's new trial date has not been scheduled yet.

(source: WFLA news)


OHIO----impending execution

Urgent Action


Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on 26 July. He was sentenced to death in 1993 for a murder committed earlier that year when he was 19 years old. He is now 43. This would be the first execution in Ohio in 3 1/2 years.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling on the governor to stop the execution of Ronald Phillips and to commute his death sentence;

* In your own words, urging the governor not to allow executions to resume in Ohio;

* Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of violent crime or its consequences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact this official by 26 July 2017:

Governor John Kasich

Riffe Center, 30th Floor

77 South High Street

Columbus, OH 43215-6117


Fax: +1 614 466 9354

Email (via website):

Twitter: @JohnKasich

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Summit County changes death penalty process; attorneys for Akron man charged in fatal fire to present evidence before case goes to grand jury

The factors involving the crime and the defendant that may be considered in Ohio death penalty cases include:

-- Whether the victim induced or facilitated the offense.

-- Duress or coercion.

-- A mental disease or defect.

-- The defendant's young age.

-- Lack of prior criminal history.

-- The degree of participation in the offense.

-- Any other relevant factors.

[source: Ohio Revised Code (Section 2929.04.)]

Before Summit County prosecutors decide whether to pursue the death penalty against an Akron man accused of starting a fire that claimed 7 lives, they will consider evidence from defense attorneys about why a life sentence might be more appropriate.

This is a new process the county is trying, following the lead of other large Ohio counties, including Cuyahoga and Montgomery.

"Let's have all those cards on the table from the beginning," said Brad Gessner, chief counsel for the Summit County Prosecutor's office. "This is all about justice - for these individuals, the victims as much as the people charged, to feel they were fairly treated by the system."

Stanley Ford, 58, is charged with 7 counts of aggravated murder and 1 count of aggravated arson for a May 15 fire on Fultz Street that left 2 adults and 5 children dead. He is being held in the Summit County Jail on a $7 million bond, $1 million for each of the 7 victims.

The defense attorneys for Ford are pleased that the prosecutor's office will allow them to share potential mitigating evidence before the case is presented to a grand jury. Such evidence has previously only been considered at the end of a capital case, after the defendant had been convicted.

"I give a great deal of credit to the prosecutor's office for spearheading this innovative approach to the capital process," said Don Malarcik, who is representing Ford, along with attorney Joseph Gorman.

Malarcik has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Summit County Prosecutor's Office for continuing to pursue capital cases, despite the unwillingness of juries to recommend a death sentence. Of Summit County's last 10 capital cases since 2014, only 1 drew a death sentence. The rest resulted in life sentences.

Summit County prosecutors have said they might seek the death penalty against Ford. The case meets the parameters because it involves multiple murders, including juveniles, and was allegedly done during the commission of a violent crime - arson.

Ford, who was arrested May 23, has waived his speedy trial rights, opening the way for the new mitigation process to be tried.

Summit County prosecutors previously decided whether a case should be presented to the grand jury with death penalty specifications based on police evidence and informal discussions with defense attorneys.

Seeking the truth

Gessner said he and Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi learned about the early mitigation process during recent seminars they attended. He thought it made sense for prosecutors to learn more about the defendant at the beginning of the process rather than the conclusion.

"Our job's to get to the truth," Gessner said.

Malarcik and Gorman have contracted with Dr. James Crates, a forensic psychologist, to talk to Ford and find any mitigating evidence that should be shared with prosecutors. Crates can earn up to $5,000 without further permission from Summit County Common Pleas Court, according to court records.

Amy Corrigall Jones, the administrative judge in Common Pleas Court, recently issued orders for the release of records on Ford from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Summit County Juvenile Court, Stark County Juvenile Court and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Malarcik said the defense is looking for anything that "lessens moral culpability" for Ford.

"What we intend to present is arguments that weigh in favor of a life sentence," Malarcik said. "We want to understand the full history of Mr. Ford's life."

When Malarcik and Gorman have finished gathering information about Ford, they will present their findings to Summit prosecutors. This will happen informally and not in open court, similar to the private plea negotiations that happen routinely between prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The clock is ticking, though, for this process to conclude. Gessner said the case must be presented to a grand jury within 90 days of Ford's arrest or by Aug. 20.

The presentation of mitigating evidence at the start of the case won't preclude defense attorneys from presenting such evidence at the end of the case, if it proceeds with death penalty specifications, Gessner said.

Whether this new process will be used in future potential capital cases will depend on the speedy trial deadline and whether the defense attorneys are willing and interested in participating, Gessner said.

State-level review

Though Malarcik is pleased with the new approach Summit County is trying, he doesn't think it goes far enough. He'd like to see the state adopt a recommendation of a death penalty task force appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court that a charging committee be formed at the Ohio Attorney General's Office. County prosecutors would submit potential capital cases to the committee, which would approve or disapprove the death penalty specifications. The committee would be made up of former county prosecutors and attorney general staff and would pay particular attention to the race of the defendant and victim.

"I think that's an important issue when deciding who is subjected to the ultimate punishment," Malarcik said, adding that geography is also an important consideration.

Studies have shown that a defendant's and victim's race and where a crime occurs play a large role in whether the person faces the death penalty.

Gessner, however, doesn't favor this centralized approach. He thinks it takes away too much local control.

"Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh is elected by the citizens of Summit County to do justice in Summit County," he said. "The citizens' views might be different in a larger city or a smaller rural county. Each county has their own standards. It takes that out and adds another layer of government bureaucracy."

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)


Monica Robins prepares to witness Ohio's 1st execution in 3 years

Ohio's 1st execution in 3 years is scheduled to take place a week from Wednesday.

Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993, is scheduled to die July 26.

WKYC's Monica Robins will be there to witness the execution.

Monica spoke with WKYC's Investigative Producer Phil Trexler who has witnessed for executions, as a means to prep for next week's execution.

The 2 went live WKYC's Facebook page answering questions, and discussing the execution process.

(source: WKYC news)


Ohio death penalty opponents urge Gov. John Kasich to postpone executions

Death penalty opponents on Wednesday called on Gov. John Kasich not to resume executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Ohioans to Stop Executions delivered 27,503 signatures to Kasich's office, urging the Republican governor to postpone the state's 27 scheduled executions. The petition calls for better safeguards to prevent innocent people from being sentenced to death, including 2014 recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court's death penalty task force.

Retired Dayton-area Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, said executions should not resume before state legislators consider the 56 recommendations from the panel.

"This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions," Brogan said in a statement.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of executions.

But they said earlier this year they have enough of the new 3-drug combo to carry out several executions.

Convicted Akron killer Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die July 26. Phillips was convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. The Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for Phillips in December, calling his crime "among the worst of the worst." The young victim's half-sister and aunt asked state officials to move forward with the execution to bring the family closure.

Phillips' execution has been delayed several times as death row inmates and death penalty opponents have challenged the state's untried protocol. Phillips' attorneys made a plea this week to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the next three executions while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

In a separate letter to Kasich, 17 former corrections officials and administrators, including 3 from Ohio, warned of possible errors with the use of midazolam, which has been used in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Alabama. The group warned a disturbing execution could traumatize corrections officials carrying it out.

Rex Zent, a former Ohio prison warden and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction official, said execution team members often deal with stress and anxiety from carrying out routine executions.

"Think of the psychological damage when something does go wrong or when they think of the men who have been exonerated from death row," Zent said at a Wednesday news conference.



Death penalty sought for accused soldier killer----accused in a double homicide of 2 Fort Campbell soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.

Notice was filed in May to seek capital punishment against Jeremy J. Demar, 36, according to Commonwealth's Attorney Lynn Pyror.

(source: Kentucky New Era)


Mom in toddler murder case appears in court

Anastasia Weaver, mother of murdered 2-year-old Alithia Ivory Boyd, appeared briefly Wednesday in Marion County Circuit Court.

Weaver, 21, of Mountain Home, faces charges of manslaughter and permitting child abuse in connection with her daughter's May 6, 2016, death.

Her boyfriend at the time, 24-year-old Cody Allen, faces a capital murder charge in connection with the toddler's death. Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty for Allen.

While Weaver is scheduled to go to trial on her charges in early August, court watchers believe that date may be pushed back. Allen is not scheduled to go to trial until January of next year.

Weaver is out of the Marion County jail on a $20,000 bond, as she has been since the date of her arrest.

Allen had his parole revoked and is currently serving time at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He was on parole for a 5-year sentence from 2014 when he was found guilty of residential burglary, breaking or entering and theft of property.

Shortly after his arrest on the upgraded charge of capital murder, Allen's parole was revoked and he was sentenced to a year in prison. He will have another parole hearing at some point.

If he is let out on parole for the 2014 convictions, he will not be free as Marion County authorities have a detainer on him for the capital murder charge. That means if the parole board frees Allen, he will immediately be transferred to the custody of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Allen's chances for such a parole will be hampered by the records he has amassed while in prison. Between December of last year and the end of June this year, Allen has been found guilty of 16 major rule violations.

Allen's latest risk level assessment, entered into his prison record on March 30, saw him be labeled a "maximum" risk. While out on parole since May of 2015, he was labeled a "minimum" risk during nine different assessments.

The death of Alithia Boyd

Allen was arrested May 3, 2016, by Flippin police and Marion County Sheriff's Office personnel in connection with the girl's injuries following an intense, 48-hour investigation. On May 1, police began the investigation into the girl's injuries after they received a call about an unresponsive child at Hillside Apartments in Flippin. Once on scene, they were told the girl fell down a set of stairs.

However, authorities said the injuries appeared to be too severe for that explanation. Flippin police were joined by investigators from the Marion County Sheriff's Office in processing the scene of the incident.

The little girl was taken by Air Evac to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo.

On the same day Alithia Boyd died, May 6, Allen was in the Marion County jail. Court officials arranged for a Rule 8.1 Hearing on that day, with Allen appearing before Circuit Court Judge Gordon Webb via video conference. Rule 8.1 Hearings are conducted to make certain defendants are brought before a judicial officer in a timely fashion.

Marion County, where the capital murder charge against Allen was filed, does not provide electronic access to court records. A hand search of the file in the case revealed a document describing what occurred during the hearing.

"Defendant (Cody Allen) cried, then screamed the devil would kill all our fine souls," Webb wrote of what Allen reportedly said during the hearing. "Defendant asked if this has the death penalty. Judge said that is a possibility. Defendant asked if he could just go ahead and plead guilty."

(source: The Baxter Bulletin)


Group scores criminal justice legislation

A New Mexico advocacy group supporting criminal justice reform efforts released its report card Wednesday on legislation from the 2017 regular legislative session. Specifically, the group, NM SAFE, analyzed legislation aimed at changing criminal penalties.

At a press conference, a few members of the group spoke about the analysis and what it means for New Mexico.

Tanya Romero with the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families said the state needs more reforms instead of tougher criminal penalties.

"Domestic violence, a good percentage of it, is through historical trauma," Romero said. "It is time for us to break the cycle, it is time to educate many about the acts of violence."

Steve Allen, with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, criticized Gov. Susana Martinez for vetoes of bills NM SAFE supports.

"It's great idea after great idea that this governor refuses to get on board with," Allen said. "We are never going to move this state forward with proactive, creative criminal justice reform until we have a new governor in office."

Martinez's office did not comment on the group's criticisms before press time.

Of the 2-dozen proposals NM SAFE looked at, only 1 became law. The rest either failed in committee or was vetoed by Martinez.

Martinez signed a bill that limits when school officials can physically restrain a student. The bill was a bipartisan effort, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.

The legislation with the worst grades were generally sponsored by Republicans and focused on increasing criminal penalties. A high profile bill from the House aimed at reinstating the death penalty, for example, received an "F," the lowest possible grade.

NM SAFE, which includes various advocacy groups and community members, said the death penalty bill sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, "fails every element of the SAFE test and is the ultimate misguided public safety."

The group also gave low grades to proposed penalty enhancements like including crimes against police officers and first responders as protected classes under the state's hate crime law and bolstering the state's "3 strikes law."

Bills that focused on alternatives to criminal sentences or eliminated punishments, like one that proposed to legalize recreational cannabis, received higher grades.

NM SAFE also praised legislation that focused on reform and prevention rather than punitive actions after crimes are committed.

A bill that would have increased penalties for crimes involving firearms, for example, received a "C" for focusing too heavily on increased sentences and not on gun control.

"Rather than incarcerating after-the-fact, the only way to prevent gun violence is to make guns unavailable to high risk individuals," the report read.

In its report, NM SAFE wrote each bill was judged on its ability to make New Mexico safer, whether it was apolitical, fiscally responsible and whether there is sufficient evidence to support the respective bill.

NM SAFE is made up of 30 groups and individuals and was created in October 2016, when Gov. Susana Martinez called for a special session primarily focused on increasing criminal penalties.



Ending the death penalty would save money and save souls

19 states have abolished the death penalty. Utah isn't one of them. In fact, Utah is the only state in the modern era to use the firing squad. That's not something to shout from mountaintops.

Granted, Utah doesn't see many capital offense cases. Since 1976 Utah has executed seven people. Utah currently has nine inmates on death row. But on these most important of cases, attorneys struggle to get paid. This tension between budgets and priorities puts attorneys in the unfortunate position of choosing between zealous representation, which ethics require, and adequate representation, or even barely-competent representation.

Death penalty cases require a specialized skillset. In 2008 the state Supreme Court noted it would start overturning death penalty sentences and sending cases back for re-sentencing if qualified attorneys were not available to take the cases.

Yet counties are still limiting the pool of qualified attorneys by capping case costs at a rate that makes representation, especially by solo practitioners, economically impractical. Unnecessarily strict limits on the number of defendant visits and witness, investigative and expert resources is completely inapposite to zealous representation.

The state's Division of Finance has capped payment for a capital offense case at $60,000. If you reduce an attorney's rate to $100 an hour, $60,000 equates to 15 weeks at 40 hours a week. Few attorneys work 40 hours a week, and no capital offense cases are ever resolved in 15 weeks.

The solution to underfunded capital cases, of course, is to abolish the death penalty. As English jurist William Blackstone famously stated, "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." There is something wrong with a nation that mistakenly puts its citizens, mostly poor, and disproportionately black, to death.

More than 159 people have been freed from death row after evidence of their innocence exonerated them.

Since 1976 1,456 people have been put to death under the death penalty. Of those, 34.5 % were black, yet only 13.3 % of the American population is black. 96 % of states that have studied race and the death penalty found discrimination.

Even aside from mistaken and racists convictions, the death penalty as a deterrent to murder is ineffective. The 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South, which accounts for more than 80 % of executions, has the highest murder rate. If the death penalty is supposed to deter murder, it isn't working.

Fiscal analysts have estimated it costs an additional $1.6 million to litigate a capital offense case. But repudiating the death penalty is more than an opportunity to save money. It's an opportunity to save souls.

(source: Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune)


Mair found competent to stand trial for 2016 trailer park shooting

ed of shooting a Cedar City resident to death in June 2016 has been found competent to stand trial for murder.

Police say Mark Mair, 28, shot 34-year-old Justin Bruce Hanna in the Reber Court Trailer Park; Hanna died as a result of the multiple gunshot wounds from a .40-caliber handgun. At a hearing Tuesday in the 5th District Court, Judge Keith Barnes ruled Mair had been found mentally competent in 2 separate evaluations. While both evaluations said he was fit to stand trial, the evaluators did indicate other mental health issues. The exact findings are unknown at this time as the results of the evaluations are private.

"We're fine with the court making that finding, but based on the other information confirmed in that diagnosis we feel Mr. Mair's mental health is an issue and will continue to be an issue throughout this case," defense attorney Douglas Terry said. "We will monitor that and proceed accordingly."

Mair was arrested and charged with aggravated murder after more than 36 hours on the run in July 2016. He's also facing charges for 1 1st-degree felony count of aggravated burglary and 7 counts of felony discharge of a firearm in connection with the alleged murder.

It is not known how the victim knew his alleged killer, but court documents reveal that the woman Hanna had been in bed with at the time of the shooting had previously been romantically involved with Mair "a few days prior." He pushed a fan through the bedroom window before firing multiple shots at Hanna, according to the report.

Police also found a large amount of illegal drugs in the trailer during an investigation of the crime scene.

Following the shooting, Mair allegedly fled the state with 2 females and another male. Mair and 19-year-old Elcha Hatch, who was accused of driving the getaway vehicle, were arrested at a home in Grand Junction, Colorado, the next day following a 4-hour police standoff.

Hatch and 2 other individuals previously accused of helping Mair evade capture were all charged with obstruction of justice. The charges against the three have since been cleared.

In the courtroom Tuesday, Mair again expressed his dissatisfaction with his attorney. In April, Mair submitted a letter to the court requesting a change of counsel due to multiple grievances with Terry, primarily the lack of communication. His family is currently seeking private counsel.

"I told you in the letter I don't feel like I have a good working relationship with my attorney," Mair said to Barnes.

Mair initially requested the preliminary hearing be continued for 2 to 3 months as they determine whether private counsel is an option. But Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett pushed for the preliminary hearing to be scheduled as normal due to the slow movement in the case.

The case will be a year old on Monday. No major progress has been made since that time.

Barnes agreed, encouraging Terry and Garrett to schedule a one-day preliminary hearing "reasonably soon."

But the question about Terry's performance isn't off the table. If Mair's family doesn't hire an attorney, Barnes will weigh Mair's complaints before determining whether his current defense team is suitable to continue to represent him or if someone else needs to be appointed.

Mair's 2nd case, a felony drug case for methamphetamine distribution resulting from a 2016 controlled buy conducted by the Iron/Garfield/Beaver Counties Narcotics Task Force, will continue to take a backseat. The matter was set out for Dec. 12 as the capital homicide case proceeds.

In the year since the alleged murder, court proceedings have moved at a glacial pace. The preliminary hearing was continued multiple times after the state's primary witness, Chandra Davis, fled Iron County. Court documents indicate Davis was with Hanna at the time of the murder. She was arrested in November 2016 on an outstanding drug distribution warrant, but she is considered to be missing again after she failed to appear for a sentencing earlier this year.

Garrett is confident there is enough evidence for the preliminary hearing to still go forward without Davis' testimony.

If convicted, Mair could still face the death penalty. The state still has the option to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty up to 60 days after the arraignment.

(source: The Spectrum)


Nevada judge orders prosecutors to deliver execution warrant----Scott Dozier's days may be numbered unless he tries to stop the clock on death

If Scott Dozier is executed in Nevada, he will get what he wants, according to a defense attorney, Scott Coffee. On Tuesday, prosecutors were ordered by District Judge Jennifer Togliatti to pen and deliver an execution warrant by next week. The state's law mandates that after the judge signs the order, convicted killer Dozier must be executed after 60 days but not in excess of 90 days. Dozier might be executed by the end of October.

Brooke Keast, spokeswoman for Nevada's Department of Corrections, said the execution can happen if corrections officials are court-ordered to "make it happen." Keast didn't explain how the state can carry out an execution warrant in light of earlier reports that the ability to attain the necessary recipe for the Lethal Injection protocol proved futile.

Dozier has been on death row almost 10 years - post his murder conviction. On October 31, 2016, he wrote the judge and requested that the process affecting his appeal be terminated and conveyed that he wanted to "be put to death."

Mental evaluation finds 'no grounds' to interfere with killer's death wish

To be certain that the murderer fully grasped the request he penned, Togliatti ordered a psychiatric evaluation. The outcome was a 13-page evaluation by a doctor who wrote there is "no grounds," such as mental, psychological, or health, to conflict with the condemned killer's choice to be executed.

The killer wasn't in court on Tuesday when Togliatti read from the evaluation report but is expected to be present at a hearing on July 27, which is when the judge could sign his execution warrant.

His expressed goal, he told Togliatti earlier in the year, is to be executed "first and foremost."

On Tuesday, Tom Ericsson, the killer's attorney, told Togliatti that his client's stance still stands. Contrary to his lawyer's direction and counsel, Dozier is firm about waiving his appellate rights. He described his client as "quite adamant" about his position on the subject.

Condemned man murdered and mutilated victim

Dozier landed himself on death row following a 4-week trial December 2017 for murdering and, then, mutilating 22-year-old, Arizonan Jeremiah Miller at the (now) closed La Concha Motel. He also robbed his victim of $12,000 that Miller took with him from Phoenix to Las Vegas to buy materials that were needed to make methamphetamine.

The killer cut up Miller's torso into 2 pieces - discovered in a suitcase and in a trash bin at an apartment complex April 2002. The victim's head, lower legs, and lower arms were never found.

In Arizona 2005, he was convicted and received 22 years in prison for 2nd-degree murder.

He shot to death a man, age 27, then, stuffed the man's body in a plastic container. He dumped the man's body near Phoenix in the desert.

Killer made the call to halt appeals

His attorney Ericsson informed the judge that Dozier wanted the right to go ahead with post-conviction appeals if Nevada was not able to execute him. In less than a month, he stopped his appeals after prison authorities announced that they received no response to 247 requests sent when the state searched for, at least, 1 of the drugs used in its lethal injection protocol.

Since Nevada's Legislature reinstated capital punishment in 1977, 12 inmates have been executed. 11 of those executed voluntarily stopped appeals. Coffee is a defense attorney who has dealt with approximately 20 capital punishment cases in 15 years. As well, he analyzes death penalty cases in the United States. He is anticipating that there will be some type of intervention.

Killer could change mind about his execution

Dozier could change his mind and appeal to try stopping his execution up until the 11th hour prior to when the death sentence is exacted. Another way it may be halted is by a third party, without a direct tie to the case like the American Civil Liberties Union, trying to intervene by filing a legal challenge.

If his client is executed, Dozier's lawyer said, it's not because Nevada wanted it. It will be because it's what Dozier wants. If his client is put to death, Coffee said it isn't anything other than "state-assisted suicide."



2 missed chances

There were several issues Nevada's legislators debated in 2017 but could not develop a consensus to move forward on, even in the Democratic caucuses.

One bill, Assembly Bill 237, would have eliminated the death penalty in Nevada, while another, Senate Bill 261, would have allowed terminally ill patients to choose to die with a doctor's assistance.

Nevada hasn't executed anyone since 2006 and will be unable to carry out the death penalty in the foreseeable future as the lethal drugs needed to do so are unavailable, but legislators still refused to give up the ultimate punishment. AB 237, sponsored by Assemblymember James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, didn't even make it out of the Judiciary Committee, chaired by another Democrat who works as a public defender in his day job.

There have always been a handful of legislators, such as Sen. Joe Neal and Assm. Bernie Anderson, who were strongly opposed to the state having the power to execute its citizens, but their numbers have never reached critical mass. Some progress has been made over the years in restricting the death penalty from being applied to certain sub-populations such as youth and persons with mental retardation, but Nevada has never come close to prohibition altogether.

Despite arguments that death penalty cases cost far more than non-death penalty cases and studies that show it is disproportionally applied to poor, minority populations, it's not likely that Nevadans will change course and switch to the abolition side in 2019. After all, the state spent $900,000 over the last 2 years to build a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison. But legislators should be encouraged to consider further restrictions on the death penalty and prohibit its use for people with a severe mental illness.

States are uneven in the application of the death penalty for this population, with some using a standard of "rational understanding" of the punishment before it can be applied. Research has shown that many people on death row do suffer from severe mental illness. The American Bar Association has endorsed proposals to ban the practice just as it is prohibited for children and the intellectually disabled.



rocedural issues stall death penalty case

The prosecutor in the case of a Bullhead City man accused of killing a child is still seeking names of expert witnesses and other evidence.

Justin James Rector, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella on Sept. 2, 2014. He is also charged with kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body after allegedly strangling the girl and leaving her body in a shallow grave near her Bullhead City home.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips issued a status report Tuesday on the death penalty case that is approaching its third year. The prosecutor said he has had no communication with Rector's defense attorney, Gerald Gavin, since a June 2 hearing.

"The status of this case is that nothing is happening," McPhillips said.

At the request of Grogan-Cannella's family, McPhillips will file a motion asserting speedy trial rights on the victim's behalf. The case has stalled and the prosecutor is asking the judge to move the case along at a faster pace.

McPhillips, who picked a psychiatrist in October 2015, is asking to complete mental health exams. The defense attorneys have still not disclosed Rector's mental health records. Seven mental health experts have been hired by the defense but none of those experts nor their reports have been disclosed.

Trial cannot be held until the mental health exam is done and the sanity issue has been resolved.

The attorneys also have stalled on completing interviews. McPhillips has requested but not received dates for interviews. He also said he has not received disclosure from the defense. No names and addresses of witnesses to be called at trial, no expert witnesses, evidence, mitigating circumstance, mitigating witnesses or mitigating evidence have been disclosed, he said.

As far back as Nov. 4, 2016, Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen has ordered the defense to disclose all mitigation experts by Jan. 13, which has not been done. McPhillips is asking the judge to impose sanctions on the defense.

Jantzen previously said he expects to set a trial date and order a mental health exam at the next hearing. Rector's next hearing is set for July 28. The trial was originally set to begin October 2016.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Suspect in Bullhead girl's murder allegedly attacks detention officer

A man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of a young girl in 2014 fought with a detention officer Tuesday afternoon in the Mohave County Jail, according to law enforcement.

Justin James Rector, 29, of Bullhead City allegedly became aggressive towards the detention officer, who had entered Rector's cell to remove a shirt that was hanging from a vent.

"They got into a brief struggle where punches were thrown," a press release from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office stated.

Rector was charged with aggravated assault on a detention officer, a felony.

He also is facing charges for 1st degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body for the Sept. 2, 2014 death of Isabella "Bella" Grogan-Canella.

Rector was a friend of the girl's mother, Tania Ann Grogan, and was staying at the family home in Bullhead City when the crime occurred. Police said Bella was last seen at about 11:30 p.m. that night by her older sister.

Bella's mother and stepfather were not home at the time, and the children were being watched by their grandmother. The parents were later arrested on drug charges, and the mother remains in prison after being sentenced to 5 years with the Arizona Department of Corrections in September 2015 for selling dangerous drugs.

Police questioned Rector the next day about the girl's disappearance and found his alibi was false.

He allegedly buried her body in a shallow desert grave about a quarter-mile from her home. FBI investigators were able to match shoe prints at the gravesite to Rector's shoes.

The Mohave County Medical Examiner's office first reported there was no physical evidence the girl had been sexually assaulted, but it was later revealed that her hymen was missing and there were hemorrhages in her vaginal wall.

Prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty against Rector. Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen previously ruled there were "aggravating circumstances," including the girl's age and cruelty of the crime, to support the state's position.

But Rector has been awaiting trial since October, as trial dates are repeatedly postponed. According to a status report filed in Mohave County Superior Court on July 18, Rector's defense has not submitted necessary mental health records to move forward with a trial.

The filing added that there has been no defense filed other than general denial, there have been no names of witnesses submitted and there has not been evidence or mitigating circumstances disclosed to the court.

The state intended to file motions to compel action and added the defense was in violation of court order for failing to provide exerts by the assigned date of January 13, 2017, the filing stated.

(source: Havasu News)


Watch Ethel Rosenberg's sons on 60 Minutes this Sunday!

This Sunday, July 23rd, 60 Minutes will rebroadcast their groundbreaking story examining the controversial trial and executions of my grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. It will air at 7:00 pm ET/PT on CBS.

The report features interviews with my father Robert and my uncle Michael, who were 6 and 10 years old when their parents were killed. It also highlights the evidence showing Ethel was not a spy and her execution was wrongful, which led to our nationwide campaign last year asking President Obama to exonerate my grandmother.

The Rosenbergs were young parents and left-wing activists who were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed by the U.S. government in 1953, at the height of the McCarthy Era. They were accused of giving "the secret of the Atomic Bomb" to the Soviet Union.

60 Minutes filmed the segment in the wake of the groundbreaking evidence showing Ethel was not a spy and her execution was wrongful, which launched the nationwide campaign asking President Obama to exonerate Ethel. The report features interviews with Rosenberg sons Robert and Michael Meeropol and others. It explores the Rosenbergs' controversial trial and execution for the so-called "crime of the century."

If you're unable to watch live, the segment will be available on the 60 Minutes website for several weeks after the broadcast.

* 60 Minutes

* Sunday, July 23rd

* 7pm ET/PT on CBS


(source: Jennifer Meeropol, Executive Director)

THE MALDIVES----impending execution

Stop imminent executions in the Maldives

The Maldives may be best known as an idyllic holiday destination, but reports suggest that the President of the Maldives has approved plans for authorities to carry out the 1st execution in over half a century - possibly within the next 24 hours.

Why is this happening now? It has nothing to do with "justice". President Yameen has just lost his majority in Parliament following defections from his own party and is using the death penalty as a tool to strengthen his grip on power and suppress dissent.

Death penalty trials in the Maldives do not meet the most basic fair trial standards. Forced confessions, politically-motivated charges, and other abuses are commonplace. Children and those suffering from mental illness have been sentenced to death, in violation of international law. If the 60-year moratorium is broken, they will face execution.



The tragic story of the last 2 men in the UK executed for being gay: 'Mercy could not be expected of men like them'

On the 27th of November 1835, a crowd of people gathered outside Newgate prison in the City of London to watch the 1st hanging there in 2 years.

2 men were hanged for "the abominable crime of buggery" and became the last men in Britain executed for homosexuality.

James Pratt, aged 30, was a horse-groomer, who lived in Deptford, London with his wife and children.

John Smith, 40, was from Southwark. Some reports say he was an unmarried labourer, though others sources state he was married and worked as a servant.

On an afternoon in late August 1835, Pratt met Smith, and a man called William Bonill in a pub in Blackfriars.

The 3 men returned to Bonill's room that he rented in Southwark, from landlords George and Jane Berkshire.

They had no way of knowing that by that night they would all be arrested. In 3 months 2 of them would be dead.

Mr Berkshire later claimed that Bonill had frequent male visitors, and that his suspicion was aroused when he saw the 3 men enter the room together.

In the hope of finding a reason to evict Bonill, who he and his wife thought of as an "old villain", George spied on the men through the window from an adjacent building.

Mr Berkshire roused his wife, and both looked through the keyhole and where they said they witnessed Pratt and Smith engaging in sexual acts.

They fetched a policeman and all 3 men were arrested there and then.

The magistrate who committed the 3 men to trial called them "degraded creatures".

They were also told that "in this country mercy could not be expected of men like them".

The men's conviction rested entirely on the Berkshires' story. Neither James Pratt or John Smith were allowed to give evidence at their trial.

A number of people came forward to testify as character witnesses to Pratt's good character, though none spoke on the behalf of Smith.

Both pleaded "not guilty" to the charge, nevertheless the jury returned a guilty verdict.

Reporting at the time said that the evidence at the time was "so conclusive, that not the least shadow of doubt remained of their guilt", though modern commentators view the Berkshires' testimony as weak.

Whether they were really guilty or not remains a mystery to this day.

Either way, Pratt and Smith were convicted under the Offences against the Person Act 1828 and sentenced to death. Bonill was convicted of accessory and sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia.

He was 1 of 290 prisoners on the ship Asia, which arrived in Van Diemen's Land (now called Tasmania) in February 1936. He died in a hospital there 6 years later.

While they were imprisoned in Newgate, Pratt and Smith were visited by Charles Dickens, who was told by the jailer that the 2 were "dead men".

Dickens wrote about the 2 men in his Sketches by Boz, saying they "had nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown, their doom was sealed".

Pratt and Smith are buried in a common grave, with others executed at Newgate, in the City Cemetery, Manor Park, London E12.

In the period from 1810 to 1835, 46 people convicted of sodomy were hanged and 32 sentenced to death but reprieved. A further 716 were imprisoned or received lesser sentences, such as public shaming and abuse.

On July 27, 1967, the Sexual Offences Act gained Royal Assent, partially decriminalising homosexuality in England and Wales. Further moves to equality came with the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

It is estimated that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 men were convicted under discriminatory anti-gay laws between 1885 and 2003.

In January 2017, Pratt and Smith were among the many posthumously affected by "Turing's Law", which pardoned those who had been convicted of offences under criminalised homosexuality.

"This is significant. And it's as important to the whole lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, as it is for the gay and bi men affected," a Stonewall spokesperson said at the time.

"The more equality is enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become."

(source: Pink News)


Presidential secretariat: Belarus gradually moving toward death penalty abolition

The Belarusian presidential secretariat has replied to a petition by Belarusian human rights activists on imposing a moratorium on the death penalty, the Viasna human rights center reported on Wednesday.

"As follows from a reply signed by chief of the main directorate for work with petitions by individuals and legal entities at the presidential secretariat Grigory Shlyk, 'the country as a whole is consistently moving toward the gradual abolition of the death penalty'," Viasna said.

The reply from the presidential secretariat cites statistics showing that the number of people sentenced to death in Belarus has been decreasing. It also cited the results of a 1996 nationwide referendum, in which 80.44% of respondents voted for preserving the death penalty.

Valentin Stefanovich, a Viasna lawyer, said, "European practice shows that the death penalty has been abolished in most countries exclusively by the political will of the elites rather than through referendums."

"The current trends are such that most countries have abolished the death penalty," he said.

Stefanovich also called for starting a discussion in society in favor of repealing the death penalty.

In early July, Belarusian human rights activists handed over to the presidential secretariat a petition signed by nearly 20,000 people in favor of imposing a moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


M Ravi and his unforgivable behaviour in the case of the executed Malaysian drug trafficker

M Ravi was once famed for his brilliant oratorical skills and taking on cases that many would shy away from. These days, he is more commonly known for his buffoonish behaviour and baseless tirades on Facebook Live. He has become a ghost of his former self.

When viewed in the context of how he has been medically diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one may be able to understand why he is behaving in such a manner. M Ravi has had manic relapses in the past, and the consequences of such relapses have ranged from being forcibly remanded in the Institute of Mental Health ("IMH") to, more recently, being denied a practicing certificate.

By his own admission and the accounts of those close to him, he has consistently refused to seek treatment and take his pills. He has also lashed out, which some may say is an understatement, at anyone around him who suggests that he rests or seeks professional help.

Armed with Facebook Live, he now has a new outlet that gives him access to thousands of people who tune in for entertainment, where he proceeds to bash those who have stood by him.

One such example is criminal and human rights lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam. When Ravi was suspended from the Bar, Mr Thuraisingam helped him argue against his suspension in court. Mr Thuraisingam also offered him a job as Head Knowledge Manager - as Ravi is now a non-practising lawyer - at his firm.

In the infancy of his current manic relapse, Ravi lambasted Mr Thuraisingam on a Facebook Live video. Even after that, Mr Thuraisingam accepted his apology and allowed him back into the firm. Since then, Mr Thuraisingam realized that Ravi's repeated harassment of his staff and his frequent baseless denunciations of him and the firm could not be tolerated any longer, and he proceeded to terminate his contract.

From his former employer to civil society activists, many good people have fallen victim to Ravi's ire. Those who have known Ravi for a long time have opined that this manic relapse, with the availability of Facebook Live, has been the worst.

During past relapses, he has been known to cross-dress, dance and hug trees. Most of the time, his actions have only affected those close to him and himself. However, over the past 2 weeks, his actions have adversely affected a literal life-and-death situation.

Over his legal career, Ravi has taken on many death penalty cases. The most famous, arguably, was that of Yong Vui Kong's, where Ravi helped him escape the noose. Needless to say, he took on those cases when he was mentally fit. In the past, he also has been reasonable enough to relinquish all cases, especially capital cases, to other lawyers during his manic relapses. But not this time.

Prabagaran was executed by hanging at dawn on July 15 after a 5-year battle in court. On the afternoon of July 13, Singapore's apex court heard a final appeal for a stay of execution. As the issue before the courts was whether a case that has yet to run its course in Malaysia with regards to Praba's right to a fair trial would justify a stay of execution, 2 human rights lawyers from the Malaysian Bar - Mr N Surendran MP and Mdm Latheefa Koya - assisted Mr Remy Choo Zhengxi, Praba's counsel, at the hearing.

Mdm Latheefa and Mr N Surendran have taken on many high profile cases across the border, and they are the co-founders of Lawyers for Liberty.

M Ravi assisted Mr Kanagavijayan when he was representing Prabagaran in high court. Ravi was never lead counsel for Prabagaran at any point of time, but he was the point of contact for his family. During the time he was assisting Mr Vijayan, Ravi made Praba's mother, Mdm Eswari, his domestic helper of sorts by making her cook and deliver lunch to his office. He didn't pay her for her deeds, but actually demanded that she paid him for legal fees instead.

When President Tony Tan rejected Praba's clemency petition last week, Praba's family was informed that his execution had been set for July 14. Consequently, Mdm Eswari repeatedly contacted Ravi to no avail. Although Ravi was active on social media, he did not return any of Mdm Eswari's calls. Out of desperation, Mdm Eswari made her way to Ravi's house. Even then, Ravi ignored her. Thankfully, she was able to contact Mr Vijayan, who then put her in touch with Mr Choo.

Mr Choo was then instructed by Mdm Eswari to act for Praba. He then filed for a hearing which was set for July 13. Although he was not instructed by the family, M Ravi had also filed an application on behalf of Praba, which was set to be heard alongside his application.

In the Court of Appeal

Even before the start of the hearing, he implored Mdm Eswari to dismiss Mr Choo as her lawyer and choose him instead. He said, "Do you want your son to die? If you don't, choose me as your lawyer. Why do you trust this Chinese guy?"

Mdm Eswari, who was already distraught, held her ground. How anyone could ask a grieving mother such a question was beyond us. He then proceeded to ask Praba himself if he wanted to die. The 2 Malaysian lawyers present helped console the family and shielded them from Ravi.

Throughout the hearing, whenever the judges disagreed with Mr Choo, Ravi nodded his head in agreement and expressed verbal agreement with the judges. Ravi also kicked Mr Choo's chair as he was speaking.

When it came time for Ravi to present his case, the gallery was aghast when the judges revealed that his applications for Praba were only a couple paragraphs long and he had no submissions. His oral arguments were utterly irrelevant and had more to do with himself than with Praba. He spoke about his sexuality, why he wanted to wear a sari to court, and how the police violated his rights as a pansexual when he was arrested for criminal trespassing.

Here was what Mdm Latheefa said of Ravi's actions during the hearing, in response to a Facebook Live video where Ravi had the gall and temerity to hold Mr Choo responsible for Praba's death.

Mr N Surendran, who is also MP for Padang Serai, had this to say.

As the DPP made his arguments, Ravi left his seat to proceed to the gallery. This time, instead of pleading with Mdm Eswari, he started to accuse her in Tamil of killing her son. Fortunately, Mr Surendran stepped in and confronted Ravi, who then shied away and accused the police of not protecting him against Mr Surendran.

Many in the courtroom were surprised by the amount of patience that the judges showed Ravi. One has to keep in mind that that was, in all likelihood, Praba's last night on earth and therefore, the more time Ravi wasted 'arguing', the less time Praba would have to see his family.

It took the judges no more than 2 sentences to dismiss Ravi's application. The prosecution also sought a cost order against Ravi by arguing that it was clear his arguments 'were all about him and not about Praba.' Granting a cost order in criminal cases is almost unheard of.

Ravi's fiasco did not end there. In light of the hearing, the prison wardens had agreed with Mr Choo that afterwards, they would extend the visiting hours till 7pm in order for Praba to meet his family for 1 final time. They did not anticipate that the hearing, which started at 2:30pm, would drag on until 5pm because of Ravi's submissions.

Even then, Mr Choo, the prosecution and the prison wardens were able to reach an agreement to clear the court if the judgment was not in Praba's favour, to allow Praba's family to meet him on the premises. After the judgment was delivered, Ravi continued to argue with the judges and questioned the whereabouts of his handphone, which ate into the precious time that Praba had with his family. In total, Ravi wasted close to 1 hour.

When Mr Choo and the prosecution stood up to urgently ask that the judges allow the family to meet Praba as the application has already been dismissed, Ravi scolded them for interrupting him. In the end, the judges stopped Ravi from speaking and acceded to the request. They asked that Praba leave the room and head to the basement of the Supreme Court so that his family could be with him until 7pm.

At the Vigil

On the evening of July 13 till the morning of July 14, a candlelight vigil for Prabagaran was held outside the main gate of Changi Prison. It was a relatively peaceful and solemn procession, where people from all walks of life gathered to stand in solidarity with Praba's family.

Executions are usually carried out at the first break of dawn at 6am. At about 5:30am, Ravi, who was accompanied by George - his ardent supporter - appeared at the vigil to berate everyone there. Most of the people he confronted tried to bring him away from the grieving family by engaging him and walking away from the vigil.

After some time, he approached Mdm Eswari and told her in Tamil that "she was responsible for her son's death as she heeded the advice of Mr Choo and the anti-death penalty activists in Singapore." When those present confronted Ravi to take him away from the family, he held on to Mdm Eswari, insisting that she was his client. He started spewing Tamil vulgarities at the top of his voice to those who argued that he should leave the mother alone and settle whatever problems he had away from the family. He even shouted at George when he tried to restrain him. Ravi was also seen berating journalist and anti-death penalty activist, Kirsten Han.

After being separated from the family, he then proceeded to throw soya bean at a volunteer cameraman after asking him to film the scene. It was around this time that all the plainclothes policemen who were observing the vigil stepped in and restrained Ravi. They managed to keep Ravi far away from the vigil for the rest of the night. For their professionalism and sensitivity, due credit must be given.

Thankfully, at least as far as Praba's family was concerned, that was the last they saw of Ravi. He continued his rants online.

What Should We Do?

Clearly, Ravi should not be allowed near any legal case, let alone one that involves life and death.

In the eyes of many, Ravi is a champion of humans rights. For these people, the account above will make for some uncomfortable reading, but it can be corroborated by court transcripts, the police, and first-hand accounts of all who were present at the court of appeal and the vigil. Those who continue to egg and spur him on - through Facebook Live and other means - must come to understand the effects of your encouragement.

In his current manic state, Ravi is a megalomaniac who thrives and craves attention. Every like, comment and share on his post gives him the false impression that he is a hero of the masses. In fact, to most of his entourage on Facebook, he is little more than comedic relief - this can be seen from how he repeatedly fails to raise funds, as well as the number of people that actually turn up to physically support him. He is nothing but a bad joke.

He may have mental illnesses to blame, but many of those who cheer him on don't.

What, then, can be done to help him, you ask.

1) Don't feed the troll

Stop giving him attention. Do not like, comment or share any of his posts. Don't engage with him on his Facebook Live videos either. Do report his posts to Facebook - especially when they are aimed at smearing the efforts of good people. With enough reports to Facebook, his access to Facebook Live will be temporarily revoked.

2) Don't fund the troll

He has often raised funds for legal cases, but when one actually views his submissions - like in the case of Prabagaran, where they were only a couple paragraphs long - they will realise that their money is not being used to fund the defense of the downtrodden. In the case of the Elected Presidency, for example, his submissions were deemed "... unmeritorious in almost every conceivable aspect ..." and dismissed with costs.

3) Advise him to seek medical help

To date, anyone close to him who suggests that he seeks help will be denounced. If one has the time to interact with him, on Facebook or in person, one should urge him to seek professional help. The more people continue to urge him to seek professional help, the more he may be more convinced to do so. There is also the possibility that the court will order him to be remanded again at IMH.

4) Educate his supporters about the real M Ravi

If you know anyone who still supports him on Facebook and in real life, share this article with them to educate them on the consequences of their support. He can only blame his illness in so far as he is willing to seek treatment for it. It is irresponsible for him to commit to cases that he later drops or fumbles when he enters a manic phase.

The fall of M Ravi may be dastardly painful to watch, but more importantly, he is a clear and present danger to anyone who, based on his previous fame and feats, makes the mistake of engaging him, whether directly or indirectly, for legal help or representation. He will jeopardize and imperil their case or defense. The trauma that he causes will remain for a very long time to these people’s families, as he may negate any merits and ensure a conviction. Worse still, he may even go on to lay blame at their feet.

That he requires professional help is obvious, but this publication humbly submits that it is now needed with paramount urgency.

As for Ravi himself, he announced that he's taking "a deserved break".



Japan executions: Inside the secretive, efficient death chambers

There are polished floors, clean surroundings and symbolic statues.

But this place is far from peaceful and there's a reason why it's known as the Tokyo death house.

This is where Japan hangs its criminals in secrecy so tight that not even the convicted know when their time is up.

Last week's execution of 2 convicted murderers has once again cast light on the country's practise of putting people to death, a method labelled cruel and inhumane by human rights groups.

Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing four female bar owners in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing a female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.

The government remained unrepentant despite calls from activists to stop the hangings.

"Both are extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives on truly selfish motives," Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said.

"I ordered the executions after careful consideration."


Japan remains notoriously secret about its use of the death penalty, with the US remaining the only other major developed country which carries out capital punishment.

In Japan, most prisoners wait years for their fate to be carried out.

In 2010 the media was given a rare glimpse into the execution chamber in Tokyo where the condemned are put to death.

Prisoners are kept in isolation and have access to a priest before they die.

A statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, is in a nearby room, just metres from where prisoners will take their last breath.

They are then led into the chamber and a noose is put around their neck while red boxes around a trapdoor indicate where the condemned are to stand.

In the room next door, three executioners have access to the trap door which will give way once the buttons are pressed.


Human rights group Amnesty International called Japan's use of the death penalty inhumane and said it showed "wanton disregard for the right to life."

"The death penalty never delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment," Hiroka Shoji, East Asia researcher at the campaign group, said in a statement last week.

"Executions in Japan remain shrouded in secrecy but the government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, as the majority of the world's states have turned away from the death penalty."

The 2 men's deaths bring to 19 the number of people executed in Japan since 2012, with 124 remaining on death row, Amnesty said.

The human rights group also said prisoners were often only given a few hours notice with lawyers and family only notified after it had taken place.

"Secret executions are in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty," Amnesty said.

Nishikawa was hanged while seeking a retrial. But Mr Kaneda indicated it was mistaken to believe that death-row inmates cannot be executed as long as their retrial pleas are pending.


> While the 2 men last week were convicted of murder, not everyone on death row is actually guilty.

In 2014 Iwao Hakamada was released after 45 years on death row after being convicted on falsified evidence.

The former boxer had confessed to murdering 4 people in 1966 but retracted his statement shortly after.

Once released he said he was coerced into confessing the crime.

Prosecutors claimed the case against Hakamada rested on bloodstained pyjamas. But instead of presenting the pyjamas at the trial they found 4 other pieces of clothing, each with blood on them, at his workplace.

A court found that a DNA analysis obtained by Hakamada's lawyers suggested that investigators had fabricated evidence and he was eventually freed.



Man to die for raping and killing 7-year-old girl----The convict has also been fined Tk5 lakh

A Kushtia court has awarded the death penalty to a man for killing a 7-year-old girl after raping her in 2015.

Kushtia Additional District and Sessions Judge Reza Md Alamgir Hasan delivered the verdict on Wednesday.

The convict, Jahid Mondol, 30, was also fined Tk5 lakh.

According to the case statement, Jahid raped a 7-year-old girl and then killed her at a banana plantation in Kumarkhali upazila's Jaduboira village on December 5, 2015.

The victim's father filed a case with Kumarkhali police station on the day of the incident.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Shazneen murder case: Death row convict seeks presidential clemency

Shahidul Islam, the death row convict in Shazneen Tasnim Rahman rape and murder case, has sought presidential clemency, seeking any other punishment other than death penalty.

He sent the mercy petition to the home ministry on July 3 through the office of the Senior Jail Super of Kashimpur High Security Jail and the home ministry sent it to the maw ministry seeking its opinion thrice.

Muhibul Haque, additional home secretary, told Prothom Alo that they sent letters to the law ministry several times. Although they got opinion on other issues, the decision on Shahidul has been delayed.

Sending opinion as soon as possible is the normal procedure, he said.

Another high official of the ministry said as soon as they would get the opinion, they would send the letter to the president. It would not be possible to execute him unless they got the opinion.

Asked what his opinion would be, Law Minister Anisul Huq told Prothom Alo, "I won't give opinion in favour of the accused. However, it is for the president to decide whether he would give clemency or not."

In line with the jail code, May 24 was fixed for executing Shahid, according to a letter sent to the home minister from the jail. But he was not executed as the jail authorities did not get government's nod, sources told the Bangla daily.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Prothom Alo that any convict could seek clemency and they would send the petition to the president following due procedure.

Under the constitution, the president has the jurisdiction to give someone clemency or commute punishment and he will make a decision in this regard, the minister said.

Shahid pleaded guilty when the trial court asked him if he would plead guilty or not.

Shazneen, a class-IX student of Scholastica, was raped and murdered at her Gulshan home on April 23, 1998. She was the daughter of Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman.

On April 30, the Second Tribunal for Prevention of Women and Children Repression issued the death warrant for Shahidul, a week after the Supreme Court released its full verdict, rejecting his petition for reviewing its earlier judgment that upheld his death penalty.

Earlier on August 2 last year, the Appellate Division upheld the death penalty of Shahidul, a domestic help at Shazneen's home.

But it acquitted 4 others -- Syed Sajjad Mainuddin Hasan, a contractor for renovation of Shazneen's house, his assistant Badal, and housemaids Estema Khatun Minu and Parvin.

(source: The Daily Star)


Inching away from the hangman----The argument that the lifting of the moratorium on capital punishment is crucial to combatting terrorism simply does not hold ground

National Commission for Human Right (NCHR) recently held a conference titled 'Moving away from Death Penalty in Pakistan'. The issue is least discussed in Pakistan, as the country always favoured death penalty with the exception of a 7-month moratorium.

The world is divided in 2 camps: abolitionist and religionist. There were many common arguments both ways. But the reality is a large number of countries have moved away from death penalty by replacing it with life imprisonment, moratorium or they do not practice it at all.

In 1984, General Assembly passed a resolution specifying strict condition for the countries that have not abolished death penalty. The resolution prohibited the application of death sentence on persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of crime, pregnant women, and new mothers or on person who suffer from mental disability.

An accused should be given a fair trial and right to appeal or seek pardon. It further said pardon or commutation of sentence may be granted in all cases of capital punishment. The 1984 resolution was a milestone. 37 more countries either abolished or put moratorium on death penalty, increasing the number of countries without death penalty to 190. The list includes a number of OIC countries like Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Maldives, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, and Mauritania Niger. Pakistan and Turkey had put a ban on death penalty which was recently lifted.

Article 6 of the international covenant on civil and politics rights (ICCPR), to which Pakistan is a signatory, states, "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law." It further states, "Nothing in the article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any state party to the present covenant. In 2008, the government of Pakistan had placed a moratorium and stopped execution of prisoners on death row.

Wrongful convictions are a common phenomenon. Even well-functioning legal systems have sentenced to death men and women who were subsequently proved innocent After a brutal terrorist attack on Army public School Peshawar in December 2014, the voluntarily imposed moratorium was lifted first for terrorism-related cases and then in March 2015, for all capital punishment cases. Although Article 6 (2) of the ICCPR permits application of death penalty, it is restricted to the ‘most serious crimes’, in accordance with ECOSOC (resolution 1984) safe guard.

In countries like Pakistan where investigation and evidence gathering are fragile and conditions to fulfill the requisites of justice are non-existent, fair trial cannot be guaranteed. Sometimes the truth of the deceased being innocent never comes to light even decades later. Wrongful convictions are a common phenomenon. Even well-functioning legal systems have sentenced to death men and women who were subsequently proved innocent.

Recently, in nearly a dozen cases, the Supreme Court acquitted the accused, who had appealed against the high courts, confirmation of their death sentence. The accused had spent 8 to 20 years in prison. Their acquittal was on lack of adequate evidence or collusion between the complaint and the police. Political influence and corruption becomes a major obstacle in dispensation of justice. Even in a country like United States, more then 100 cases of wrongful convictions is a glaring example of erroneous judgement. Human Rights activists believe that it is better to pardon erroneously than to punish erroneously. The killings should not be driven by politics in any case.

In 1947, Pakistan set death penalty for 2 offences only, but now it is increased to 27 offences. Since 2014, 416 people were given death penalty and 425 in 2016. Out of 87 people executed last year, only 14 were terrorists. The argument that lifting of moratorium is to combat terrorism does not hold ground.

Eminent lawyer Faisal Siddiqui says that in reviewing jurisprudence, moratorium has no legal basis hence cannot be a permanent solution and that traditional remedies will not work.

The constitution of Pakistan is neither secular nor theocratic, but a hybrid. The state policy towards crime is to kill everyone who does not comply, which is why the society is completely traumatised and brutalised. There is a death consensus between state and society. The penal law is therefore militarised.

The new phenomenon of mob-violence, to dispense justice is becoming part of our daily lives. Recent killing of Mashal is a case in point. Blasphemy law has been used time and again as a weapon to settle scores.

We need to get out of the stagnant situation and review mandatory death penalty in 27 crimes. The list can be curtailed to most serious offences, definition maintainable human rights standards. These procedures have been laid down by various human rights intuitions, international tribunals and officials. The right to be heard fairly in court, to have a legal counsel, no torture to extract confession and adequate evidence are some of the pre-requisites. The state is bound to provide a procedure for reviewing the court decision, and to arrow capital offenders to seek amnesty, pardon or commutation of death sentence. Juvenile offenders and mental disability cases should be treated according to the procedure laid down for them. The death sentence is not applicable to pregnant women or new mothers. These principles reflect profound universal sentiment.

Instead of mandatory capital punishment, judges should be given options for life imprisonment. One more factor which needs our attention is the lack of legal counsel for accused from poor background. Many death convicts are underprivileged and cannot have access to quality legal assistance. There is also an issue with due process of law. In a recent visit to Karachi jail by NCHR delegation, the common complaint from the prisoner was unavailability of competent legal counsel. Many complained the state council does not turn up on hearings.

Discrimination on the of basis of financial status, sex, ethnicity or political affiliation is a violation of human rights. In Pakistan, as someone remarked either the prime minister or the poor prisoners are sent to gallows. Former chief justice of India Justice Bhagwati once said, "In India, only the poor get death sentence."

Fair trial means that accused and his lawyer get sufficient facilities and time for their defence. Some countries Like Pakistan and Bangladesh have enacted separate laws for trials of different categories of crimes to combat terrorism. Speedy trials or military courts do not fulfill the criteria of a fire trial. The presumption of innocence is not held in high regard either. It is a common sight to see accused handcuffed, maltreated and in degrading conditions.

In a number of cases, evidence is inadequate and faulty. Our Judicial system does not meet the universally acknowledged human rights standards in awarding capital punishment to offenders of the "most serious crimes." It needs to be reformed as soon as possible to stop arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, and unlawful detention.

(source: Opinion, Anis Haroon; The writer is a member of the National Commission on Human Rights----Daily Times)


Thailand taking middle path on capital punishment----But public revulsion over a spate of gruesome murders threatens to reverse de facto moratorium on executions

At a press conference last week on the arrest of 8 suspects in the recent massacre of 8 family members in Krabi, the national police chief said the perpetrators were inevitably destined for capital punishment.

After a spate of gruesome murders in recent months involving dismemberment of the victims and the execution-style shooting of a whole family including children, many citizens no doubt heartily agree with Police General Chaktip Chaijinda that the cold-blooded killers deserve to be put to death. Strong support for capital punishment in Thai society is buttressed by the argument that it acts as an effective deterrent against serious crimes, though human rights campaigners and international organisations deny this and routinely call for the death penalty to be abolished.

Amnesty International reports that Thai courts handed down 216 death sentences last year, leaving 427 prisoners on death row at the end of 2016 - including 24 foreign nationals. But no execution has been carried out in this country since August 2009.

Countries can be divided into 4 major groups when it comes to the issue of capital punishment - those that retain and use it, those that abolish it for all crimes, those that abolish it most cases but retain it for "exceptional' circumstances, and those that have abolished it in practice. The latter group of countries have executed no prisoners for 10 consecutive years and have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions

Thailand is categorised among the 58 countries that retain and use capital punishment, while a total of 105 countries have abolished the practice completely. Yet Thai policy appears to be shifting towards the latter group of countries who retain the punishment in law but do not in practice.

Last year in May, Thailand accepted recommendations from the United Nations' Human Rights Council to review the imposition of the death penalty for offences related to drug trafficking, to commute death sentences with a view to abolishing capital punishment, and to take steps towards abolishing the death penalty.

It seems capital punishment is being retained here with the purpose of deterring violent crimes, though no actual executions have been carried out for almost 8 years.

During that time, those convicted of murder or masterminding murder have simply been incarcerated on an ever-lengthening death row.

Some have even had their sentences commuted to life terms after confessing to and showing remorse for their crimes. Meanwhile thanks to the Corrections Department's system of grading inmates, those classified as "excellent prisoners" or "good prisoners" can be entitled to reduced terms and even pardons. These convicts can simply wait to be released after completing their reduced terms.

A number of murderers convicted in high-profile cases have already been freed.

Thai authorities appear to have opted for a middle path, seeking to appease both rights advocates and those who want capital punishment to be retained. This policy has the merit of helping protect the human rights of both convicted murderers and the victims and their grieving families.



2 men accused of raping and filming woman referred to criminal court

A North Cairo prosecution referred on Wednesday 2 men accused of raping and filming a woman in Imbaba district in 2016 to the criminal court.

The defendants are accused of abducting the victim from the Sahel Shoubra district before taking her to Imbaba, where they raped her in an apartment after threatening her with weapons, according to the prosecution.

The men then allegedly robbed the victim of her jewelry and filmed her, threatening her with exposure if she reported the incident.

The defendants were arrested after the victim reported the crime in November 2016.

According to Egyptian law, the defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.

In May 2017, Egyptian prison authorities executed a 22-year-old man convicted of raping and murdering a f5-year-old girl in Upper Egypt's Minya governorate in 2014.



Halt Drug-Related Executions----Spate of Executions Despite Imminent Reforms

The Iranian government should immediately halt all executions for drug-related offenses while parliament debates amendments to reform the country's drug law, Human Rights Watch said today. Parliament is expected to vote in 2 weeks on an amendment to the drug law that would drastically increase the bar for a mandatory death penalty sentence.

"It makes no sense for Iran's judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended."

On July 16, 2017, parliament approved a proposal to amend Iran's 1997 Law to Combat Drugs to limit the death penalty for some nonviolent, drug-related offenses. However, parliament sent the draft legislation back to the parliamentary judiciary commission for a 4th time to deliberate the proposed changes for certain offenses.

Under Iran's current drug law, at least 10 offenses, including some that are nonviolent, are punishable by death, including possession of as little as 30 grams of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines. The law also mandates the death penalty for trafficking, possession, or trade of more than 5 kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin; repeated offenses involving smaller amounts; or the manufacture of more than 50 grams of synthetic drugs.

On December 6, 2016, 146 members of parliament introduced a draft amendment that sought to replace capital punishment for drug offenses with imprisonment for up to 30 years, while allowing the death penalty if the accused or one of the participants in the crime used or carried weapons intending to use them against law enforcement agencies. The death penalty also would still apply to a leader of a drug trafficking cartel, anyone who used a child in drug trafficking, or anyone facing new drug-related charges who had previously been sentenced to execution or 15 years to life for drug-related offenses.

Under pressure from the judiciary and administration, however, the judiciary commission retracted part of their proposed amendments on July 9. It added the death penalty for nonviolent charges of "production, distribution, trafficking, and selling" of more than 100 kilograms of "traditional" drugs such as opium or 2 kilograms of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines. The commission also restored the death penalty for possession, purchase, or concealing more than 5 kilograms of "synthetic drugs." In both cases the death penalty would only apply where the accused had previously been sentenced to more than 2 years for drug-related offenses. On July 18, Hasan Noroozi, the commission’s spokesman, told IRNA news agency that the commission is adding "possession, purchase or concealing" 50 kilograms of "traditional" drugs to the offenses punishable by death.

On April 9, the commission proposed to apply the amendments retroactively, which would dramatically reduce the number of people currently on death row in Iran. In addition, on July 5, judiciary commission members asked the judiciary to suspend executions of drug offenders until parliament could vote on the bill.

A Human Rights Watch review of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization's database, which documents executions in Iran, shows that Ghezelhesar and Karaj Central prisons have not carried out any executions since the beginning of Ramadan on May 26, but that other prison authorities in Isfahan, Western Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, and Khorasan Razavi, have continued to execute people convicted of drug offenses. The group said that the authorities have executed at least 39 people since July 5 on drug-related charges.

In mid-July, Human Rights Watch interviewed via smartphone applications six family members of prisoners who are on death row. They said that they are hopeful that the new law would spare their loved ones from execution. The mother of a man executed in Khoram Abad prison in Lorestan province on June 24, said, "If authorities hadn't executed my son today, [under the new law] he would have been sentenced to imprisonment."

Iran has one the highest rates of executions in the world. According to Amnesty International, in 2016, Iran executed at least 567 people, the majority for drug-related convictions. In December 2016, Noroozi, the parliamentary judicial committee spokesman, urged parliament to amend the law, stating that 5,000 people are on Iran's death row for drug-related offenses, the majority of them ages 20 to 30.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented serious violations of due process, torture, and other violations of the rights of criminal suspects facing drug-related charges. Such flawed judicial proceedings heighten grave concerns about the application of the death penalty.

Under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, countries that still retain capital punishment may apply the death penalty only for the "most serious crimes." The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that interprets the covenant, has said that drug offenses are not among the "most serious crimes," and that the use of the death penalty for such crimes violates international law. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because it is inherently inhumane and irreversible.

"Parliament should resist any pressure to curb reforms to the drug law and move forward with a bill that better protects the right to life," Whitson said. "This would be the 1st step in addressing the epidemic of executions in Iran and a move toward abolishing the death penalty."

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Execution Site Near Mosul's Old City----Investigate, Punish Those Responsible for Any War Crimes

International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul's Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.

Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.

"As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he's promised to liberate," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Abadi's victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces."

International observers, whose evidence has proven reliable in the past, told Human Rights Watch that on July 17, 2017, at about 3:30 p.m., a shopkeeper in a neighborhood directly west of the Old City that was retaken in April from ISIS took them into an empty building and showed them a row of 17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood. They said many appeared to have been blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back. They said the shopkeeper told them that he had seen the Iraqi Security Forces' 16th Division, identifiable by their badges and vehicles, in the neighborhood 4 nights earlier, and that night had heard multiple gunshots coming from the area of the empty building. The next morning, when armed forces had left the area, he told them, he went into the building and saw the bodies lying in positions that suggested they were shot there and had not been moved. He said he did not recognize any of those killed.

The international observers also saw soldiers from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in the area. They contacted Human Rights Watch by phone from the site and later shared five photos they took of the bodies.

On July 17, another international observer told Human Rights Watch they spoke to a senior government official in Mosul who told them he was comfortable with the execution of suspected ISIS-affiliates "as long as there was no torture." The observer said a commander showed their group a video taken a few days earlier of a group of CTS soldiers holding 2 detainees in the Old City. They said the commander told them that the forces had executed the men right after the video was taken.

Salah al-Imara, an Iraqi citizen who regularly publishes information regarding security and military activities in and around Mosul, published four videos allegedly filmed in west Mosul on Facebook on July 11 and 12. One video, posted on July 11, appears to show Iraqi soldiers beating a detainee, then throwing him off a cliff and shooting at him and at the body of another man already lying at the bottom of the cliff. Human Rights Watch had verified the location of the first video based on satellite imagery. Other videos showed Iraqi soldiers kicking and beating a bleeding man, federal police forces beating at least 3 men, and Iraqi soldiers kicking a man on the ground in their custody.

A 3rd international observer told Human Rights Watch on July 18 that they witnessed CTS soldiers bring an ISIS suspect to their base in a neighborhood southwest of the Old City on July 11. The observer did not see what happened to the suspect next, but said that a soldier later showed them a video of himself and a group of other soldiers brutally beating the man, and a 2nd video of the man dead, with a bullet to his head.

"Some Iraqi soldiers seem to have so little fear that they will face any consequence for murdering and torturing suspects in Mosul that they are freely sharing evidence of what look like very cruel exploits in videos and photographs," Whitson said. "Excusing such celebratory revenge killings will haunt Iraq for generations to come."

A 4th international observer told Human Rights Watch on July 11 that the day before they had witnessed a group of CTS soldiers push a man whose hands were tied behind his back into a destroyed shop near the main road in the west to the Old City. They said they heard several gunshots, went into the shop after the soldiers had left, and found the man's body with several bullet holes in the back of his head. They shared the photo of the body.

On July 10, the same observer said they saw Iraqi Security Forces just outside the Old City holding about 12 men with their hands tied behind their backs. They said an officer told them that the military's 9th Division had detained these men inside the Old City on suspicion of ISIS affiliation. They said they saw the soldiers lead the detained men just out of sight, then heard shots ring out from their direction. The observer was unable to verify what happened.

On July 7, 2 additional international observers told Human Rights Watch that on different occasions in late June, they witnessed soldiers bring at least 5 suspected ISIS affiliates out of the Old City to the west, strapped to the hoods of Humvees, when temperatures in the city often reached 48 degrees Celsius, or 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

The nongovernmental organization Mosul Eye has been documenting abuses by all sides in Mosul since 2014, and has posted numerous videos and witness statements about executions on its Twitter feed since July 14, with one reading: "Mass Executions 'Speicher Style' [a reference to an ISIS massacre in 2014] for the last survivors of the old city. ISF is killing and throwing bodies of everyone it finds to the river."

As of July 10, the Iraqi military has prevented access to west Mosul for most journalists, limiting coverage of recent events inside the Old City. Iraqi forces should allow journalists access to west Mosul to report on the conflict and any alleged abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

Throughout the operation to retake Mosul, Human Rights Watch has documented Iraqi forces detaining and holding at least 1,200 men and boys in inhumane conditions without charge, and in some cases torturing and executing them, under the guise of screening them for ISIS-affiliation. In the final weeks of the Mosul operation, Human Rights Watch has reported on executions of suspected ISIS-affiliates in and around Mosul's Old City.

An Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative told Human Rights Watch on July 19 that he would request a government investigation into the allegations. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about allegations of ill-treatment, torture, and executions in meetings with Iraqi officials in Baghdad as well as with representatives from United States-led coalition member countries. Human Rights Watch does not know of a single transparent investigation into abuses by Iraqi armed forces, any instances of commanders being held accountable for abuse, or any victims of abuse receiving compensation.

Iraqi criminal justice authorities should investigate all alleged crimes, including unlawful killings and mutilation of corpses, by any party in the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, up to the highest levels of responsibility. Those found criminally responsible should be appropriately prosecuted. Extrajudicial executions and torture during an armed conflict are war crimes.

"Relentless reports, videos, and photographs of unlawful executions and beatings by Iraqi soldiers should be enough to raise serious concerns among the highest ranks in Baghdad and the international coalition combatting ISIS," Whitson said. "As we well know in Iraq, if the government doesn't provide an accounting for these murders, the Iraqi people may take matters into their own hands."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

JULY 19, 2017:


Convicted killer returned to Waco for appeal hearing

A man convicted of killing his estranged wife on Sept. 12, 2012 was back in McLennan County Tuesday for an appeals hearing.

US Carnell Petetan, Jr, 41, was held in the McLennan County Jail awaiting a writ of habeas corpus hearing which is set Friday morning in Judge Ralph Strother's 19th District Court, the court docket shows.

Petetan was convicted and sent to death row in 2014 for killing Kimberly Farr Petetan, 41, who was gunned down at an apartment complex on Lake Shore Drive.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals already has upheld Petetan's conviction and death sentence, rejecting an appeal in which his attorneys raised 30 points of error from his trial, during which the defense maintained Petetan was mentally impaired and thereby ineligible for the death penalty.

The pending habeas corpus hearing is required by state law in all death penalty cases, a spokesman for the district attorney said Tuesday.

(source: KWTX news)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Jury sentences St. Cloud man to death for fatally beating infant son

A jury on Tuesday sentenced a 33-year-old St. Cloud man to death for killing his 3-month-old son.

Larry Perry was found guilty last week of 1st-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Investigators said Perry beat Ayden Perry so badly at their home in February 2013 that the boy died.

Testimony continued Tuesday on whether Perry has an intellectual disability. The defense put 2 experts on the stand Monday who said Perry fits that criteria.

The state brought in an expert Tuesday who disagreed with the defense's analysis.

"To not meet criteria for intellectual disability is that he demonstrates personal and social self sufficiency," psychologist Greg Prichard said. "In other words, he demonstrates the ability to independently live in society without supports."

Prichard noted numerous factors, including Perry's ability to live independently by getting a driver's license, holding a job and filing for unemployment online.

Perry said on the stand Monday that he wasn't equipped to care for his son without the boy's mother, who was jailed.

"I told everybody I need help," he said. "I was under a lot of stress. I wasn't used to this stuff."

Perry said he didn't remember anything that happened the day Ayden died, but he told jurors that he snapped because the boy wouldn't stop crying.

Prosecutors dismissed his claim that he was under a lot of stress, saying that he never sought help.

Closing arguments of the sentencing phase began at 1:30 p.m.

During final arguments, the baby's mother and aunt wiped tears as one again, the baby's cries were heard on a 911 call from the night he dies.

The state asked the jury to use common sense.

"The law says we don't kill our babies. We protect them. We cherish them," said prosecutor Nick Cox.

The defense also used a common sense argument, emphasizing that Perry's state of mind during the baby's death shouldn't be ignored.

The jury delivered its sentence just before 7:30 p.m.

State Attorney Brad King, who was appointed to the case by Gov. Rick Scott after State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced she would not seek the death penalty in any case her office handles, said there was no winner Tuesday.

"This is just a very, very sad case," he said. "It's one of the saddest cases I've been a part of.

"I don't know if I would put it in terms of having won, but yes, the jury recommended death."

Perry's attorney, Ed Mills, said the sentence did not come as a surprise.

"It wasn't totally unexpected, I'll say that," he said.

(source: WFTV news)


Death sentence for Carlie Brucia's killer is vacated

Joseph P. Smith, one of Southwest Florida's most notorious convicted murderers, will receive a new sentencing trial.

Sarasota County Circuit Judge Charles Roberts granted a part of Smith's motion to vacate his death sentence for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, a girl whose haunting death drew international attention to the region in 2004 and 2005.

In one of the most poignant images emerging in the case, a motion-activated surveillance camera showed Carlie Brucia walking away with Smith from Evie's Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road. She was never seen alive again. Smith left her body in the woods behind Central Church of Christ on Proctor Road, where it was found 5 days later.

In December 2005, a jury recommended death for Smith by a 10-2 vote and also imposed concurrent life terms for the sexual assault and kidnapping convictions.

In this latest ruling, Judge Roberts ordered a new penalty phase trial, which does not overturn the verdict in the case. The judge ruled that the 51-year-old Smith demonstrated an entitlement to the vacation of his sentence under the amended death penalty statute. Judge Roberts cited Hurst v. State, case law in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a Florida capital-sentencing law, and ruled it unconstitutional.

Smith's sentencing decision retroactively applied to the precedent, and the state conceded that the court was bound by the precedent.

A date for the new sentencing trial has not yet been set.

Roberts denied Smith's request to automatically substitute a life sentence, opening the door for a new sentencing trial.

Smith, who is no longer listed as 1 of Florida's 364 death row inmates, now has 30 days to appeal any decision made in the order.

Judge Roberts was assigned to the case after the retirement of former Judge Andrew Owens.

It is likely Smith will file a motion asking for a life sentence despite winning a new sentencing trial to avoid the risk of capital punishment, said Sarasota criminal defense attorney Derek Byrd, who is not involved in the case.

"It's certainly a victory for him to have another trial, but it's not the ultimate victory because another jury could decide to give him the death penalty," Byrd said.

Juries in some of the region's recent death penalty cases, including those of convicted murderers Christian Theodore (a 10-2 vote) in Sarasota County and Andres "Andy" Avalos Jr. (7-5) in Manatee County, failed to impose death.

"Those people heard the entire trial," Byrd said, referring to the 10-2 jury decision in Smith's trial. "They heard how bad the facts were abducting and killing a little girl and there were still 2 people who would not go along with the death penalty. It's a tall order for the state to get a unanimous verdict."

Judge Roberts' ruling comes 3 months after Brucia's mother, Susan Schorpen, died of an apparent heroin overdose in Polk County. 2 people who attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with Schorpen said she struggled with the "demon" of drug addiction.

Schorpen's emotional pleas for the return of Carlie after she was kidnapped by Smith captivated the nation during a 6-day search in February 2004.

Smith quickly became a suspect in the case based on the video. His instructions to his brother led law enforcement to Carlie's body, which had been dragged into a wooded area near the church. Court documents indicated she had been assaulted, bound and strangled.

The aggravating circumstances in the case led a majority of jurors to impose death in Smith's case.

The convicted murderer appealed the judgments and sentences in his case to the Florida Supreme Court in 2009 - and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 - but was denied "post-conviction relief."

In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court twice ruled that the death penalty law was unconstitutional because it did not require a jury to unanimously impose capital punishment. The Florida Legislature updated the death penalty law requiring a unanimous jury to impose death in March.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law, opening the door for Smith to once again ask for relief from his murder conviction.

A management conference in Smith's case is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 at the Sarasota County Courthouse.

(source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune)


Release of Florida's 27th Exonerated Death Row Survivor Highlights Fatal Flaws In Death Penalty System

After 3 years spent on Florida's death row for a crime he did not commit, former Air Force Sergeant, Ralph Wright, Jr. has been freed. His release today makes him Florida's 27th exonerated death row survivor, and the 159th person exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Wright's release today highlights the serious and tragic flaws in Florida's death penalty system as Florida continues to have by far the nation's highest number of exonerations of wrongfully convicted people on death row. Prior to his conviction, Mr. Wright is reported to have never been in trouble with the law and had no prior criminal record.

On May 11, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court directed that Wright be acquitted of all charges related to the murders of his ex-girlfriend and their son, ruling that the "purely circumstantial" evidence against him was insufficient to convict. At the time of his conviction in 2014, Florida did not require a unanimous jury recommendation for death. In Wright's case, the jury voted 7-5, a bare majority, to recommend the death penalty. Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's sentencing scheme for non-unanimous jury recommendations for death to be unconstitutional, the legislature passed a bill, which was signed by Governor Rick Scott in March of this year to now require a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty sentencing. While this requirement fixes one of the many flaws in Florida's death penalty system, it remains a fatally-flawed, wasteful, and unnecessary government program.

Responding to Wright's release, Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty stated:

"If an Air Force Sergeant and former Orange County Deputy Sheriff with no criminal record can be wrongfully convicted and sent to death row, it can happen to anyone."

"The exonerations of 27 innocent people on Florida's death row demonstrate the catastrophic failure of a pretentious government program trying to play God."

"It's time to pull the plug on this wasteful, mistake-ridden, and unnecessary big government program that puts blood on all our hands."

(source: Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) is a non-profit and non-partisan Florida organization of individuals and groups united to abolish the Death Penalty in Florida)


Russell Tillis faces jury in battery trial; death penalty case to come

Russell David Tillis walked into a Duval County courtroom with a confident stride Tuesday, the opening day of his trial. A guard handed the 56-year-old a plaid tie and black belt to complement his outfit of black slacks and a light-colored button-down shirt. Tillis then took a seat next to his attorneys and for the next several hours he listened closely as 2 prosecutors and 2 police officers laid out a case against him.

\Tuesday was part of a long battle he faces with the state of Florida.

The police officers testified that twice in May 2015 they tried to serve Tillis with arrest warrants and twice their efforts were stymied when Tillis ran into his Southside house. During the 2nd attempt, an officer hopped a fence and came down on a board partially covered in sand but riddled with 4-inch nails sticking upright.

There were other dangers in the yard as well: a tripwire connected to an electrical outlet and rusty razors fastened in hedges, prosecutors say. About eight hours after trying that 2nd time to serve Tillis with warrants - on allegations he violated an injunction and a threat to someone - 3 officers came back to Tillis' home with a plan to draw the man out of his house.

It was past midnight when the officers started lobbing rocks at an RV and a metal fence on Tillis' property in an effort to get his attention. It worked.

Armed with 2 knives Tillis gave chase until he fell, kicking a police officer, the arrest report said. Tillis' defense on Tuesday seemed to indicate that Tillis didn't realize he was being chased by police but rather others who apparently had it out for him.

Dale Beam who was living in the RV at the time, testified that 3 days earlier, 3 men came to the property with bats and knives and roughed Tillis up. Beam told the jury that Tillis called him when the rocks were being lobbed and Tillis suggested to him that the 3 men were back to get him. Beam also testified he heard Tillis say to police that he didn’t realize who they were.

Tillis was arrested on aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. He faces 30 years in prison. The case is expected to wrap up Thursday.

Win or lose, Tillis' problems will be far from over after this week's battery case.

Last month the State Attorney's Office filed a notice that it intends to seek the death penalty against Tillis in the death of Joni Lynn Gunter. Investigators believe Gunter died sometime between February 2014 and May 2015 when Tillis was arrested on battery charges. Her bones were unearthed from his property after a tip from a fellow inmate last year.

When juries consider sentences, past criminal convictions can lead to more serious penalties. So a guilty verdict in the battery case could be used to bolster the state’s claim that Tillis should be condemned to death should he be convicted in Gunter's death.

(source: Florida Times-Union)


Duane Owen fights to get off death row for 2 vicious 1984 murders

A Palm Beach county man who is on death row for fatally stabbing a Delray Beach babysitter in 1984 and using a hammer to beat a Boca Raton mother to death 2 months later should be given a chance to live the rest of his life in prison because separate juries didn't unanimously agree he deserved to die for his horrific deeds, his attorney told a Palm Beach County judge on Tuesday.

Notorious double-murderer Duane Owen could get the chance to persuade a jury that he shouldn't be put to death for slashing and raping 14-year-old Karen Slattery while she was babysitting. But his chances of overturning his death sentence in the murder of Georgianna Worden is less certain.

When the Florida Supreme Court this year overturned the state's death penalty because it didn\'t require unanimous jury verdicts, it set what Owen's attorney called an arbitrary date that allows some - but not all - death row inmates to seek mercy. The date is June 24, 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona's death penalty was unconstitutional.

Although it took the nation's highest court another 14 years to throw out Florida's death penalty for similar reasons, the state Supreme Court rolled back the clock. It ruled that those who were handed a death sentence after Ring vs. Arizona was decided are entitled to have their sentences reconsidered.

Since Owen won a 2nd trial in Slattery's death, his sentence didn't become final until December 2002 - roughly 6 months after Ring was decided, according to state records. However, his conviction and death sentence in Worden's death, became final in 199200.

But, attorney James Driscoll, who represents Owen, said it would be manifestly unfair not to reconsider both of his client's death sentences. In both cases, juries voted 10-2 for death.

"Mr. Owen's case shows the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty in Florida," he told Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley. "A random date in 2002 is unconstitutional."

However, Assistant Attorney General Celia Terenzio said the state's highest court "didn't just throw a dart at a calender" when it decided those sentenced after Ring are entitled to relief.

"Up until Ring we relied in good faith on cases that said Florida's death penalty was constitutional." Therefore, she argued, Owen's death penalty in Worden's death shouldn't be overturned.

Further, she said, Owen's crimes standout even when compared to those committed by the other 363 inmates on death row. Slattery was stabbed 18 times. The county medical examiner testified she remained conscious for at least a minute, feeling each excruciatingly painful stab wound, Terenzio said. "She clearly knew of her impending demise," she told Kelley.

But, Driscoll countered, the jury should have been given more details of Owen's horrific childhood. His parents, both raging alcoholics, abused him. After his father committed suicide, he was placed in an orphanage where he was sexually abused. He has gender identity disorder and other mental ills, he said.

Terenzio said jurors who in 1999 convicted Owen in Slattery's death were told about his painful past. They rejected his claims his own abuse made him delusional, believing that if he killed a woman and then raped her, he would become a woman. They convicted him despite his insanity defense. Then, 10 of the 12 jurors agreed he should be put to death.

The 10 who voted for death made a reasonable decision, she said. That is a factor Kelley should consider before agreeing to summon another jury to consider whether Owen should be killed by lethal injection.

Still, she conceded, the Florida Supreme Court in more than a dozen cases has agreed that those who were handed death sentences since Ring was decided deserve to have new sentencing hearings. But, she would not concede that Kelley's hands are tied or that he should grant a Owen a new sentencing hearing in either murder.

Kelley said he will need additional information before making a final decision. "Obviously, it doesn't get any more serious than this," he said.

He gave Driscoll and Terenzio until Sept. 15 to submit additional information. He said he would likely hold another hearing before making a decision.

(source: Palm Beach Post)


3 Ohio death-row inmates ask Supreme Court to stay executions

3 death-row inmates in Ohio asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to stay their executions as they challenge the state's use of a lethal execution method that they say raises the risk of a painful death.

Ohio has not executed anyone since January 2014, when the state first used a lethal injection method that includes the sedative Midazolam. It took the inmate, Dennis McGuire, 25 minutes to die, and witnesses reported he had uttered loud sounds and gasped several times during the execution.

Attorneys for the inmates - who include a man convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter - argue the execution method raises the risk of causing pain so severe it violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment."

Tuesday's filing asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling last month by a 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. In the 2-1 decision, appeals court judges, reversing a lower court ruling, said the plaintiffs failed to prove the execution method "is sure or very likely to cause serious pain."

Use of Midazolam in executions has been blamed for unnecessary pain or struggles in Arkansas, Arizona and Virginia.

The January execution of convicted murder Ricky Gray in Virginia left him with blood in his lungs and other indications that he had struggled, an autopsy showed.

Some critics have called for a ban on the use of Midazolam in executions.

In their filing Tuesday, attorneys for the inmates argued the appeals court ruling violates the Constitution, contradicts Supreme Court precedent and "involves an issue of recurring and national importance."

Ronald Phillips is the 1st of the 3 inmates scheduled to be executed, on July 26, for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron. Gary Otte's execution is scheduled to die Sept. 13 for a 1992 double murder in a Cleveland suburb, and Raymond Tibbetts' on Oct. 18 for a 1997 fatal stabbing in Cincinnati.

(source: Talk Media News)


Judge denies request for execution witnesses

A federal judge has denied a request by attorneys for Ohio death row inmates to allow extra witnesses of upcoming executions.

Attorneys want 2 "appropriately trained persons" such as a nurse anesthetist and a lawyer to ensure the execution is carried out in a constitutional manner.

The state is scheduled to resume executions July 26 after a more than 3-year delay while Ohio searched for new supplies of lethal drugs.

Judge Michael Merz rejected the request Tuesday. He said there's no evidence a nurse anesthetist would be able to evaluate an inmate's consciousness from the viewing room.

He also said the person would be perceived as biased coming from the inmate's legal team.

(source: Daily Journal)


Special Master to Probe Missouri Death Penalty Case Claims

A former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice has been chosen to sort out whether the state accessed jailhouse visitor logs and telephone recordings to get defense strategy of a man accused in the deaths of 2 sisters forced off an abandoned Mississippi River bridge.

A St. Louis judge appointed Mike Wolff as special master in the January death penalty retrial of Reginald Clemons, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reported Tuesday. Wolff will determine if the state's attorney general's office violated attorney-client privilege or learned identities of defense expert witnesses when it subpoenaed the jail logs and recordings of Clemons' phone calls at the jail since March of last year.

Wolff also has served as dean of Saint Louis University's law school.

Assistant Attorney General Christine Krug has said the state didn't listen to any Clemons calls to public defenders, and that Clemons waived attorney-client privilege when he called his lawyers knowing the jail records calls.

Clemons spent 22 years on death row before a judge last year granted a retrial.

Clemons was 1 of 4 men convicted in the 1991 deaths of 20-year-old Julie Kerry and her 19-year-old sister, Robin. The sisters were visiting the abandoned Chain of Rocks bridge with a male cousin, Thomas Cummins, late one night when they encountered Clemons, who was 19 at the time, along with his cousin, Antonio Richardson, and 2 friends, Marlin Gray and Daniel Winfrey.

Prosecutors alleged the men raped the sisters and shoved them off the bridge into the river, and forced Cummins to jump. Cummins survived.

Clemons was convicted in 1993. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction in November 2015 and sent the case back to St. Louis Circuit Court.

Winfrey received a 30-year sentence in exchange for his cooperation and has since been paroled. Gray was executed in 2005. Richardson's death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge paves way for convicted killer Scott Dozier's execution

Scott Dozier may soon get his death wish.

District Judge Jennifer Togliatti on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to write an execution warrant for the convicted killer and deliver it to her next week. Once she signs the order, state law requires the act be carried out no less than 60 days and no more than 90 days, which means Dozier could be dead by the end of October.

And now Nevada Department of Corrections officials say they can carry out a fatal injection, despite previous reports of futile efforts to obtain the drug cocktail for lethal injection.

"If we are court-ordered to do it, we could make it happen," said prison spokeswoman Brooke Keast, though she could not elaborate on how.

The condemned 46-year-old man, sent to Nevada's death row nearly 10 years ago for his 2nd killing, might be the only one with the power to halt his own execution. Less than a year ago, on Oct. 31, 2016, Dozier sent a letter to the judge, requesting that his appeal process cease and he "be put to death."

Togliatti ordered a mental evaluation to ensure Dozier fully understood his request.

On Tuesday, the judge read from a doctor's 13-page evaluation, which found "no grounds - health, mental, psychological or otherwise - that would impede the defendant choosing to negate his rights to postconviction and have the death sentence imposed."

Dozier was not in court Tuesday, but he is expected at a July 27 hearing, when the judge could sign off on his execution. Earlier this year, he told Togliatti: "My goal is to be executed, first and foremost."

His lawyer, Tom Ericsson, told the judge Tuesday that Dozier's position remains the same.

"Mr. Dozier's been representing to me that he is still set on waiving his appellate rights, and he's doing that, obviously, against my counsel and direction," Ericsson said. "He seems quite adamant about that, as of this time."

Dozier was sentenced to die in December 2007 after a 4-week trial for the murder and mutilation of an Arizona man in a Strip hotel.

A Clark County jury convicted him of killing 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at the now-closed La Concha Motel and robbing him of $12,000 that Miller had brought from Phoenix to Las Vegas to purchase materials to make methamphetamine.

Miller's torso, cut into 2 pieces, was found in April 2002 in a suitcase in a trash bin at an apartment complex. His head, lower arms and lower legs never were recovered.

In 2005, Dozier was convicted in Arizona of 2nd-degree murder and given a 22-year prison sentence. In that case, prosecutors said he shot and killed a 27-year-old man, stuffed his body into a plastic container and dumped it in the desert near Phoenix.

If the state is unable to carry out Dozier's execution, he wants the legal right to proceed with postconviction appeals, his lawyer told the judge. Prosecutors didn't argue.

Less than a month before Dozier stopped his appeals, prison officials announced that they had sent out 247 requests for proposals after a stockpile of at least 1 drug used in executions expired, and not 1 response was received.

Nevada's last execution, by lethal injection, occurred at the Nevada State Prison in April 2006.

The state has executed 12 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated by the Nevada Legislature in 1977. All but 1 were inmates who, like Dozier, voluntarily gave up their appeals.

Legal experts said Dozier could ask to stop his execution up to the 11th hour, or a 3rd-party without direct connections to the case, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, could try.

Defense attorney Scott Coffee, who has handled roughly 20 death penalty cases in the past 15 years and analyzes capital punishment across the country, expects some sort of intervention.

"Where do you get to the point that he's gone too far, and he can no longer take it back?" Coffee said. "That's an ongoing question, and I don't think that question's resolved anyplace.

"If Dozier is executed, it's not because the state wanted it, it's because he wanted it. If it goes through, I don't know how you call this anything other than a state-assisted suicide."

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Accused of killing daughter, he said he’d represent himself; now he wants attorney

Mark Edward Mesiti, who is accused of killing his daughter and burying her body in a Ceres home's back yard, has decided not to legally represent himself in his capital murder trial.

The trial was scheduled to start last week in Stanislaus Superior Court. Mesiti, 49, chose to act as his own attorney in October 2015. The defendant was expected to question witnesses, present his arguments in court and participate in jury selection.

Mesiti changed his mind last week, asking the court for an attorney to represent him in the trial. Modesto defense attorney Martin Baker has been Mesiti's advisory counsel in the murder case. The court has now appointed Baker as Mesiti's defense attorney in the trial.

Jury selection for the trial is now expected to start at some point next month. Mesiti is scheduled to return to court Aug. 14.

The defendant is accused of sexually abusing and killing his 14-year-old daughter, Alycia Mesiti. On March 25, 2009, her body was found buried in the back yard of the Ceres home where her father lived at the time of her August 2006 disappearance.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Mesiti is charged with murder and more than 40 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, as well as sexually abusing 2 other girls.

By the time Alycia's body was found, her father and the rest of his family had moved to Los Angeles. There, he was arrested and later convicted in 2011 of manufacturing methamphetamine. Prosecutors here waited 2 years before Mesiti's case in Los Angeles concluded, and he was returned to Stanislaus County to face charges in his daughter's death.

Mesiti's murder trial has been postponed before.

In April, the trial was postponed because a prosecution investigator discovered photos collected as evidence that had not been provided to the defense until March.

In January, the trial was postponed because the defendant, who was then acting as his own attorney, wasn't given sufficient access to a writing surface to properly prepare his defense while in jail.

(source: Modesto Bee)


Lawyer at hearing: Accused murderer wanted to die

He was in a Canadian prison 29 years ago, already serving a life sentence for murdering a Victoria, B.C. woman, when Tommy Ross Jr. confessed - in a whispered voice - to law enforcement authorities that he brutally murdered Janet Bowcutt of Port Angeles, according to testimony at a Clallam County Superior Court hearing Tuesday.

But Ross' lawyer, Lane Wolfley of Port Angeles, said that his client had said in the same interview that he was innocent of Bowcutt's murder.

Ross wanted to return to the U.S., get the death penalty and die, Wolfley said.

"He would do anything he could to get to the states to be near his family," Wolfley said.

Ross' statements "describe a man desperate to be killed at that time," he added.

Wolfley also acknowledged that Ross' damning statements were voluntary, as such passing a key legal test in terms of their admissibility at Ross' March 2018 murder trial.

Judge Brian Coughenour presided over the 3.5 hearing to determine if Ross' unrecorded confession to killing Bowcutt, the 20-year-old mother of a 6-month-infant boy, on April 24, 1978 will be allowed as part of the trial proceedings.

Coughenour said after the required hearing that he will render a decision "by next week" in the case against Ross, who remains in the Clallam County jail on $1.5 million bail.

Testifying at the hearing Tuesday, and all now retired, were then-Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney David Bruneau, then-Port Angeles Police Detective Ken Fox and then-Port Angeles Detective Sgt. Tom Riepe, who later retired as Port Angeles police chief.

Ross, who was paroled in November after serving time for murder in the death of Janice Forbes, 26, of Victoria, had told Canadian authorities prior to the May 11, 1988 interview that he wanted to talk to Clallam County law enforcement officials about the Bowcutt murder, according to testimony at the hearing.

Ross confessed at the interview to killing Bowcutt - and 3 other women - after learning that his trio of questioners was not recording his statements, Riepe said.

Ross sat so close to Riepe inside the Prince Albert prison that their knees were almost touched.

"He was kind of looking around," Riepe recalled.

Then came a torrent of confessions.

"He says, 'Yeah, I killed that girl in Port Angeles' or words to that effect and 2 in Anaheim and 1 in LA," Riepe said.

"It kind of blew me out of my chair."

Bowcutt was found gagged and strangled, her body hog-tied in her West Eighth Street apartment, according to court documents. Her son was lying unharmed on her bed. Forbes' body was found in the same condition, according to records.

"This guy admitted that he murdered," Riepe said.

"I mean, that was huge.

"Now, I have him saying there was a body and it wasn't found.

"He said, 'No, I'm glad I did what I did, and I'm not sorry, which was a little bit shocking."

But Ross would not give any further details, insisting on an arrangement whereby he could return to the U.S., face the death penalty - which by that time was not legal in Washington state - and die, Riepe said.

"He said, 'That's absolutely as far as I'm going until we get my attorney ... and I get the deal I wanted and get to the States."

Bruneau testified that Ross initiated the interview by saying he wanted the death penalty instead of talking about Bowcutt.

"I told him I could not make any deals with him," Bruneau said.

"He said he denied knowledge of the murder but he wanted the death penalty.

"I said, 'You're about the most ignorant person I've spoken with.

"At that point, he got to his feet and said he was going to get me, maybe not today, but he was going to get me."

While the interview was not recorded, Fox took notes during part of the meeting, he said.

For that part of the meeting that he didn't take notes, Fox said he wrote out what was said the evening of the day the interview took place.

Wolfley said that while the notes reflect that Bruneau, Riepe and Fox said they could not arrange for Ross to get the death penalty, they did "promise" to put in a good word for Ross.

"We advised Ross that we would do our best to convince Bruneau and the other authorities in the U.S. that this death penalty request was reasonable, as if that was what he wanted," according to the report, Wolfley said.

"You actually told him you were going to go back to the United States and get some assurances regarding his request.

"Why did you say that, and what was your intent?" Wolfley asked Fox.

"Probably to get a confession," Fox responded.

"When you told him you would follow through with that, you are saying he shouldn't have believed you?" Wolfley asked.

"It's up to him whether he believes us or not," Fox said.

Former Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Kelly, arguing the case pro bono for the county against Ross, stressed that Ross made his statements voluntarily and that Ross' interviewers at the Canadian penitentiary said multiple times that they could not make a deal to get Ross the death penalty.

(source: Peninsula Daily News)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Authorities Execute 2 Men Convicted of Murder

2 Saudi men were executed on Tuesday for killing 2 people in the southwestern city of Abha, the interior ministry said in a statement published by the official news agency SPA.

The 1st convict was identified as Ahmed bin Musa, who was sentenced to death after stabbing another person in a personal dispute.

The other, identified as Abdel Rahman Saad al-Ahmary, was found guilty of shooting and killing a person, according to the interior ministry note.

The 2 verdicts were issued by the general court and later confirmed by the appeal court and the supreme court of Saudi Arabia, and the execution order was ratified by royal decree, according to the procedure in these cases.

Most of the executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, using a strict interpretation of Islamic law or "sharia," which punishes those guilty of murder, drug trafficking, witchcraft and other crimes with the death penalty.

Human rights organizations have denounced that since the arrival of the monarch Salman bin Abdelaziz to the Saudi throne in January 2015, executions have soared, from 88 in 2014 to 158 in 2015 and 153 in 2016.

(source: Latin America Herald Tribune)


5 Prisoners Executed

4 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Isfahan Central Prison, and a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Chabahar Prison.

According to close sources, on the morning of Monday July 17, 4 prisoners were hanged at Isfahan Central Prison. Iran Human Rights has obtained the identities of 2 of the prisoners: Saeed Diyagar, charged with 800 grams of heroin, and Morteza Barghi, charged with 2.5 kilograms of heroin. The other 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged on Moharebeh (enmity against God) through armed robbery charges. Iran Human Rights has not been able to confirm the identities of these 2 prisoners. One of these prisoners reportedly stabbed himself with a knife in order to delay his execution. The prisoner was reportedly given stitches then transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution.

'Morteza Barghi was earning money from beading work in the prison in order to support his wife and child," an informed source told Iran Human Rights.

The Baluch Activists Campaign has reported on the execution of 1 prisoner on the morning of Sunday July 16 at Chabahar Prison (Sistan & Baluchestan province, southern Iran). The prisoner has been identified as Akhardad Hamli. The prisoner was reportedly arrested eight years ago on drug related charges.

Executions for drug related charges are still being carried out in Iran, even though the general outline of a bill to reform the death penalty for drug charges was approved by the Iranian Parliament. If the final bill is approved, the death sentences for many prisoners with drug charges will be commuted to a prison sentence.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced any of these executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


EU lawmakers ask Pimentel about death penalty bill

A delegation from the European Parliament (EP) inquired on tuesday about the death penalty bill passed by the House of Representatives and the human rights situation in the country during a courtesy call on Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

Soraya Post, chair of the EP delegation of the subcommittee on human rights, said the group's visit to the Philippines was not a fact-finding mission but rather a "fact-sharing mission."

"As we are friends, we are very interested in the development of the situation of human rights in the Philippines. So we would like to have a meeting with different stakeholders in [the country]," Post said in an interview with reporters.

The EP observed a lot of killings in the administration's war on illegal drugs and was concerned with a legislative move to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old, Post said.

But she said that violation of human rights was not a problem exclusive to the Philippines.

"We can see a clear decrease on respect for human rights. It's not only about the Philippines, it is across the world," Post said.

She also confirmed reports that the delegation would visit Sen. Leila de Lima on Wednesday in her detention quarters in Camp Crame to look into her condition.

De Lima, a critic of the Duterte administration's war on drugs, had been linked to the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntuinlupa City when she was the justice secretary, an accusation she had denied.

The delegation also made a courtesy call on Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday.

Pimentel said the delegation was indirectly appealing for the Senate not to pass the death penalty bill.



No Mercy: Pranab Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy petitions as President----As president, Pranab Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy petitions, a number greater than the combined total of mercy petitions rejected by his 4 immediate predecessors.

Next Tuesday, when Pranab Mukherjee demits the office of the President of India, he will leave behind an in-tray empty of any mercy petitions requesting him to commute a death sentence to life. Over the 5 years of his presidency, Mukherjee has disposed of 34 mercy pleas (35, if you consider the case of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts financier Yakub Memon who, unsuccessfully, appealed for the presidential pardon twice).

Mukherjee has rejected 30 mercy petitions (31, again, if you include Memon's follow-up plea), and has given fresh leases on lives in 4 cases. His record of rejecting mercy petitions is unparalleled among his immediate predecessors and, in the history of the Indian republic, is 2nd only to President R Venkatraman, who rejected 45 mercy pleas.*

When Mukherjee's successor, who trends suggest will likely be Dalit leader and Bharatiya Janata Party member Ram Nath Kovind, takes office, they will have no pending mercy pleas to act upon, an event that hasn't happened in three presidencies.

When Pranab Mukherjee became president on July 25, 2012, he inherited at least 10 pending pleas for mercy, including 1 from President Kocheril Raman Narayanan's term (1997-2002).

In fact, President KR Narayanan and his successor President Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) hold the distinction of sitting on mercy petitions, or what the Law Commission said in a 2015 report, putting the "brakes on the disposal of mercy petitions."

President Narayanan did not act upon a single mercy petition sent to him, while President Kalam disposed of a grand total of 2 pleas - commuting 1, rejecting the other.

The 10 years of indecision under Narayanan and Kalam were in stark contrast to the term of Pratibha Patil (2007-2012), India's 1st female president who quickly became known for being one of India's most lenient head of state.

Patil's term saw 34 commutations and 5 rejections. Only India's first 2 presidents (Rajendra Prasad with 180 commutations and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan with 57) accepted more mercy petitions than she did.


Under the Indian constitution, the president acts on the advice of the executive, i.e. the prime minister and his cabinet. And so, the argument has often been made that a president's decision - on mercy petitions or otherwise - should be seen in context of the political dispensation in power.

However, the 20 years of presidents Mukherjee, Patil, Kalam and Narayanan have been divided almost equally between governments led by the Congress (2004-2014) and the BJP (1998-2004; 2014-now).

Furthermore, the constitution does not set a time frame in which the president must act upon a mercy plea, though the Supreme Court has indirectly set some restrictions by ruling that an inordinate delay in settling a mercy petition could be grounds for commuting a death sentence altogether.

This allows presidents to express dissent by refusing to act on a mercy petition, a trend seen during the Narayanan and Kalam years.

There have also been precedents, though rare, of presidents going against government advice - just this year, President Mukherjee commuted to life the death sentences of 4 men, going against the Centre's recommendation.

An analysis of denials (or commutations) of mercy pleas suggests that that the person occupying the president's chair does matter, even though the Rashtrapati Bhavan has sought to argue otherwise in the past, for example, in 2012, when it released a statement on behalf of Pratibha Patil to convey essentially that the president acts on behalf of the government and not out of her own will.

The Law Commission in its 2015 report too noted the influence a president has on deciding mercy petitions, saying, "A perusal of the chart of mercy petitions disposed by Presidents suggests that a death-row convict's fate in matters of life and death may not only depend on the ideology and views of the government of the day but also on the personal views and belief systems of the President."


Based on data collated by the Law Commission, here's how India's presidents have dealt with mercy petitions:

Rajendra Prasad accepted 180 mercy pleas and rejected just 1.

Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan allowed 57 mercy petitions while rejecting none.

Zakir Hussain did not send a single man to the gallow, accepting 22 mercy pleas.

VV Giri too did not reject a mercy petition, and accepted 3 pleas.

Fakrudhin Ali Ahmed and N Sanjeeva Reddy did not deal with any mercy petitions in their tenures.

Zail Singh rejected 30 mercy petitions, allowing just 2.

R Venkatraman holds the record of rejecting the highest number of mercy pleas - 45. He allowed 5 petitions.

SD Sharma did not hand out a single commutation, rejecting 18 pleas for mercy.

KR Narayanan kept all mercy petitions pending.

APJ Kalam ruled on just 2 pleas, rejecting 1 and accepting the other.

Pratibha Patil commuted 34 mercy petitions and rejected 5.

Pranab Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy petitions and allowed 4.


Once the Supreme Court gives in its final ruling in a death penalty case, a convict on the death row can approach the president directly, via prison officials, via the Union Home Ministry or via the governor of the state where he/she is incarcerated.

The president then seeks the opinion of the Union cabinet, which is provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The president might, in some cases, send the MHA's recommendation back for further clarifications. The Home Ministry may also recall its recommendation in order to provide a fresh opinion.

Once the MHA submits a recommendation, the President will then accordingly decide upon a mercy petition. However, there is no set time frame within which a President must act.

* The numbers in this article are based on data collated by the Law Commission in its 2015 report. However, in a hallmark of Indian bureaucratic record keeping, exact figures on the mercy petitions rejected or allowed by India's first few presidents aren't easily available. Even the Law Commission in its report noted that the figures it was able to collate were based on empirical verification from the archives which may not be complete.



North Korea conducts public executions for theft, watching South Korea media: report

North Korea carries out public executions on river banks and at school grounds and marketplaces for charges such as stealing copper from factory machines, distributing media from South Korea and prostitution, a report issued on Wednesday said.

The report, by a Seoul-based non-government group, said the often extra-judicial decisions for public executions are frequently influenced by "bad" family background or a government campaign to discourage certain behavior.

The Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) said its report was based on interviews with 375 North Korean defectors from the isolated state over a period of 2 years.

The TJWG report aims to document the locations of public killings and mass burials, which it says had not been done previously, to support an international push to hold to account those who commit what it describes as crimes against humanity.

"The maps and the accompanying testimonies create a picture of the scale of the abuses that have taken place over decades," the group said.

North Korea rejects charges of human rights abuses, saying its citizens enjoy protection under the constitution and accuses the United States of being the world's worst rights violator.

(source: Reuters)


Mapping the Brutality of North Korea, and Where the Bodies Are Buried

For 2 years, from a cramped office in central Seoul, activists and volunteers from 5 different countries have been doing something never tried before: creating interactive maps of places where North Korea is thought to have executed and buried prisoners.

Over the years, defectors from the isolated country have testified to widespread human rights violations there, including what United Nations investigators have determined were extrajudicial executions of political prisoners and others. But there has never been a coordinated attempt to locate where those killings actually took place because the country remains off limits to outside rights investigators.

On Wednesday, activists affiliated with the Transitional Justice Working Group, a human rights group based in Seoul, announced their initial findings, identifying more than 300 sites where executions are thought to have occurred and 47 sites believed to have hosted cremations and burials, places where as many as 15 people may have been executed and their bodies dumped together or left "like trash."

"It is not unreasonable to assume that mass grave sites in existence today will still be there years from now," said Sarah A. Son, the group's research director. "As we have seen in many other post-conflict settings around the world, people will want to know what happened to family members, and an accurate historical record will need to be created as part of the process of recovery, particularly on a scale such as that in North Korea."

Armed with Google Earth satellite imagery, the group has interviewed 375 North Korean defectors, asking them to help locate sites so that international rights officials can one day visit them to investigate, exhume bodies, secure forensic evidence and possibly bring charges against perpetrators. With the maps, the group said it aimed to provide "a sense of the scale of the human rights violations, their locations, and their victims and their approximate numbers."

"We don't know when there will be a trial or other steps to hold perpetrators of the human rights abuses accountable, but that time will come, and we want to be as ready as possible," said Dan Bielefeld, a web developer and human rights activist from Milwaukee. "Our location-based map of suspected sites is a start down that road."

The activists said they were inspired by the United Nations' commission of inquiry, which in 2014 reported prison camps, systematic torture, summary executions and other widespread rights violations in North Korea.

The report led United Nations member states to adopt a resolution asking the Security Council to refer the North Korean leadership to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for prosecution of possible crimes against humanity.

The North vehemently denied the findings, and its allies China and Russia have stalled any attempt to bring the North before the tribunal.

The activists' group, whose mapping project was financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, based in Washington, did not include the interactive maps in its report for fear North Korea would tamper with the sites. But it allowed a reporter to examine them on the condition that the locations of the sites would not be revealed.

More than 200 locations where killings are suspected, marked with blue squares, were clustered in Hamgyongbukdo, a northeastern province of North Korea. Most of the defectors interviewed hailed from that province. (A vast majority of 30,000 North Korean defectors living in South Korea come from the provinces bordering China.)

When Mr. Bielefeld zoomed in on one town, 53 blue squares appeared within 2.5 miles of a hillside site where burials are suspected. When he clicked on a square, a brief summary popped up: a public execution by firing squad on charges the victim stole parts of mining equipment. The victim was shot by 3 officers from the Ministry of People's Security.

Each square was linked to digital testimonials, including audio files, from defectors. Some testimonials gave detailed firsthand accounts with the name and profession of the victim, while others relied on secondhand information.

In 1 testimonial, a defector cited a neighbor who saw security officers hacking a victim to death in a garage. The neighbor later confirmed from a relative working as a security officer that such extrajudicial killings were common in the garage. Mr. Bielefeld put a blue square on the building on his program based on the open-source OpenStreetMap.

The group said North Koreans were executed for such crimes as smuggling mushrooms to China, stealing copper from factories, distributing South Korean dramas, human trafficking and "a slip of the tongue," usually a reference to criticism of the regime.

Public executions took place most often between 1994 and 2000, during which North Korea struggled to control its people suffering in a nationwide famine, it said.

"They hanged people in crowded places like markets and left the bodies there for hours to instill fear among the people," said Oh Se-hyek, a North Korean defector who conducted the interviews for the mapping project.

Mr. Oh said the biggest challenge for him was to persuade other defectors to testify for the mapping project, even when he promised not to reveal their personal information. Even after resettling in South Korea, defectors feared that the North Korean authorities would trace their whereabouts and retaliate against their relatives back in the North.

Some of the executions on the digital maps dated from the 1960s, but some were as recent as 2015. As many as 15 people were executed at the same time, usually by firing squad.

Lee Young-hwan, executive director of the Transitional Justice Working Group, recalled the shock he felt when he was a college student doing volunteer work with North Korean defectors in 1999. During a painting class, a 7-year-old boy from the North depicted a scene he saw in his old homeland: uniformed North Korean soldiers executing people by shooting.

Encouraged by the 2014 United Nations report, Mr. Lee began putting together the international team to use satellite imagery and open-source mapping technology to record North Korean human rights violations, just as security analysts use such technology to monitor the North’s military and nuclear sites.

"As we interview more defectors down the road, we expect to locate more killing and burial sites across the North," Mr. Lee said. "Our work is still at an early stage. This is a collaborative work, and we expect more technical and other volunteers to join us."

(source: New York Times)


Suspects In Krabi Massacre Will Be Executed Police Chief Says----Police question Surifat about the Krabi massacre.

Police said Sunday they arrested a man who engineered a home invasion which left a local official along with 7 family members dead in Krabi province.

Surifat Bannobwongsakul, 41, was detained without a court warrant on Saturday evening and accused of killing village administrator Worayuth Sanlang and his relatives, including his 2 young daughters, at their residence. The June 10 incident has drawn widespread attention due to the savage nature of the crimes.

Police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda said he even wished Surifat would have put up a fight during the arrest so that security officers could have gunned him down.

"In fact, I didn't even want him captured alive," Gen. Chakthip said at a Sunday news conference about the investigation. "I prayed he would fight, but he didn't."

7 men identified as Surifat’s accomplices were also arrested, the police chief said. All of them are being held at an army base in Krabi under a special junta order that allows soldiers to detain individuals without charges for up to a week. Legal counseling is typically not provided during the detention.

Chakthip said police will apply for a formal arrest warrant for Surifat and his alleged accomplices after they are released from questioning, but insisted investigators have enough evidence to implicate them.

"In the end, all of them will be executed anyway," Chakthip said.

All of the suspects are civilians, he added.

The police commissioner said Surifat confessed to plotting vengeance on Worayuth because the official was suing him over a land dispute. Worayuth also owed a large sum of money to Surifat, he said.

"The deceased and the perpetrator had many heated arguments, especially about land deeds," Chakthip said. "There was a lawsuit. They took it to the court. The lands were worth millions."

The shootings took place at the Sanlang family residence. Of the 11 people present at the home at the time, only 3 survived the killings. The rest were either killed on the spot or died later at the hospital, from gunshot wounds to the head.

The dead include Worayuth, his wife and his daughters, age 13 and 11. Another 6 year old girl was among those killed.

In Sunday's news conference Chakthip gave chilling details of how Worayuth and his family were murdered.

According to the police commissioner, Surifat and 7 men donned army uniforms and entered the residence on the pretense that they were searching for narcotics. Since the May 2014, it's become common for soldiers to raid properties without warrants.

The assailants then reportedly held the family members hostage as they waited for Worayuth to come home. When he did, he was detained alongside his family.

Although the survivors described the intruders as being armed with assault rifles, Chakthip said those were in fact BB guns. He said Surifat acquired the murder weapon from Worayuth; as the village chief reportedly owned several handguns and shotguns at his home.

Surifat, the police chief said, then shot Worayuth and his family 1 by 1 in cold blood.

"He was the one who shot them all," Gen. Chakthip said. "I think he planned it all along. He's a cruel man."

This was a truly horrific crime, it is unimaginable what those poor people went through. There are many valid arguments against the death penalty but in this case it's hard to put them forward.

(source: Buriram Times)


Govt to pay K400 million for 'killing machine'

It will cost the State about K400 million to set up a State-sanctioned killing machine to carry out the death penalty.

K400 million, is how much the new government will spend to build the infrastructure for the death penalty.

But Constitutional Law Reform Commission secretary, Dr Eric Kwa has a better alternative to save this money also avoid international condemnation by anti-death penalty advocates - repeal the death penalty.

Dr Kwa said the commission was preparing a report for the new government.

He said the challenge for the new government is to repeal the death penalty if it could not implement it, as the previous government had failed to implement in the past 5 years.

Dr Kwa said the Constitutional Law Reform Commission report was based on a recent public forum which drew participants including churches who were also divided over the application of death penalty in PNG.

Dr Kwa added that the government could repeal the law if it could not implement it.

"The death penalty law was amended to include more offences and passed by Parliament in 2013," Dr Kwa said.

He said the method of execution had not been implemented on the 12 people who were still waiting on death row - 1 recently died in jail.

"The government has approved the method of killing, it's all set, it's the implementation the government has withdrawn a bit."

Dr Kwa said the delay was caused by public and international pressure.

He was tight-lipped on the approved method of execution, saying it was confidential.

Following the amendment, a team including Dr Kwa had visited places on a fact finding mission where the death penalty was practised. They visited Texas in the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and returned with recommendations for the government.

"We looked at execution by hanging, electrocution, firing squad, lethal injection with depravation of oxygen, lethal injection with overdose. We recommended 1 out of the list," he said.

He added that it would cost K400 million to step up the system to execute the 12 on death row.

Under the amended law, the offences that attracted death penalty included "willful murder, aggravated piracy, aggravated robbery, sorcery-related killing, rape and killing of a girl under the age of 10."

(source: Post-Courier)


Matatu driver, tout to hang for stripping woman

Three men accused of stripping and robbing a female passenger in a Githurai-bound bus in December 2014 have been sentenced to death.

Bus driver Nicholas Mwangi, conductor Meshack Mwangi and petrol station attendant Edward Ndung'u were found guilty of robbery with violence and assault by Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi.

The magistrate handed them another sentence of 25 years in jail for stripping and sexually assaulting the woman. But the jail term was suspended as the trio had already been handed the death penalty.


In the judgement, the magistrate ruled that the accused took part in a "senseless and uncouth act that they seemed to enjoy because they were cheering as they stripped the woman."

The victim had told the court that there were about 7 men in the bus and they wanted to rape her but she lied that she is HIV-positive.

She said the video recording was only 59 seconds long but the incident lasted longer.


The 3 had been charged with robbery with violence and assault.

The charges against them state that on the night of September 19 and 20 at Millenium petrol station in Githurai 44, jointly with others, they robbed a woman identified as H E W (to protect her identity) of Sh10,200, a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone worth Sh27,000, one bottle of perfume, a clutch bag and a make-up kit all amounting to Sh41,700.

They further faced a charge of sexually assaulting the victim in the incident that caused an uproar after a video clip of the act was circulated on social media.



Mphoko wants death penalty for graft

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has called for sweeping law reforms which impose stiffer penalties such as cutting hands and shooting people tried and found guilty of corruption.

Mphoko's calls are at odds with his colleague - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has publicly said he is against death penalty - a position which stems from his personal experience during the war which saw him avoiding the noose due to young age.

Zimbabwean laws currently impose capital punishment on people who would have been found of guilty of committing aggravated murder.

Mphoko told State media last weekend that Zimbabwe must wage war on deep-seated corruption by introducing stiffer penalties and methods such as those used by the Chinese and Muslims.

"I wish we were like the Chinese or the Muslims who say if you steal, they will cut your hand off; the Chinese would take you to the firing squad straight away.

"But here, people have no feelings for other people. The solution we keep on talking and have stiff penalties,'' said Mphoko.

"But stiff penalties also are questionable because if you are taken to prison, especially when there is politics of poverty, everybody is accessible to be bought.

"Stiff penalty? You take a man to prison and in the prison, he lives like a king because he has money," he added.

Since assuming office 4 years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged war on corruption, with dozens of senior people jailed, including Zhou Yongkang, who was once China's powerful domestic security chief, given a life sentence for corruption last year.

Human rights law expert Dzimbabwe Chimbga said that under current Zimbabwean laws, it was not possible to impose capital punishment for corruption.

"Legally, it is not possible to impose capital punishment, which is the death penalty, because Section 48 of the Constitution now limits imposition of the capital punishment to only persons who have committed murder under aggravated circumstances.

"And even then, the capital punishment may not be imposed on a woman or anyone below the age of 21 or above the age of 70 at the time the offence was committed," Chimbga said.

For bribery, one may be convicted for a period of up to 20 years and for criminal abuse of office, for a period of up to 15 years, in terms of the Criminal Code. Critics and the opposition accuse President Robert Mugabe of failing to tackle high-level graft and say endemic corruption is one reason foreign companies are hesitant to invest in the country.

Mugabe has at times admitted to corruption among his Cabinet ministers but says police lack the evidence to prosecute.

Harare lawyer Obert Gutu said that the maximum sentence for corruption is not well defined in the country's statutes, but agreed with Mphoko that the law was too lenient in punishing offenders.

"In fact, there are yawning gaps in as far as what level of sentence, exactly, should be imposed on corruption offenders. I definitely agree with . . . Mphoko that we are too lenient when it comes to sentencing corruption offenders and consequently, there is not enough incentive for Zimbabweans not to indulge in acts deemed as corruption.

"In the same breath, I am unable to agree that we should impose the capital sentence on corruption offenders as is the case in countries such as China.

"At any rate, the Constitution of Zimbabwe outlaws the imposition of the death sentence on corruption offenders. My take is that our courts should be ruthless when they sentence corruption offenders. It might sound draconian but I humbly submit that high-level corruption offenders should be sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour," Gutu told the Daily News.

A Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) revenue performance report for the 1st half of 2017 released last week by chairperson Willia Bonyongwe bemoaned runaway corruption in the country.



Death penalty discussion necessary

The loss of a loved one as a result of an accident or a medical condition is heart-rending to say the least. But the anguish that accompanies the murder of a relative, I cannot begin to imagine what that would feel like.

With a heavy heart I wish to express condolences to the families of those whose lives have been taken by individuals who can best be described as soulless monsters.

I never thought the day would come when Barbadians would be advised to exercise caution when going about our normal day to day activity. When are we going to take these killings seriously as a nation? Will it take divine intervention?

I continue to hold the view that if a person wilfully, maliciously and callously takes the life of another, they have lost their right to live. I can appreciate the many variables and motives that must be considered when dealing with those accused of murder.

Once the evidence (DNA) and otherwise proves that the accused has committed a murder so heinous, so unnecessary, that it sent a very cold chill down the backbone of our psyche, a murder so brutal that Barbadians are compelled to live in fear, in my opinion that individual should no longer benefit from, or be rehabilitated at, tax payers' expense.

We can ill afford the spin-offs of inaction as we have seen the repercussions in other places when serious issues like murder are allowed to fester. My fellow Barbadians, we must never cower in our agitation for a safe society and we must never allow ourselves to be scared into inaction. Again I make an urgent appeal for national dialogue on the topic of capital punishment. I look forward to having conversations with anyone who wishes to do so; feel free to email me at Let us come together Barbados and ventilate our respective positions and viewpoints. Let us weigh the pros and the cons. Let us decide as a nation what our best interest is and let us return our country to the status it once held.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Sean St Clair Fields; Barbados News)

JULY 18, 2017:

OHIO----impending execution

This killer turned prison chaplain shows what's wrong with the death penalty.

Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die on Wednesday, July 26. It is the 7th time this death row inmate in Ohio has been slated for execution since he was sentenced in 1993 for brutally killing a child. Mr. Phillips's crime was horrendous: He raped and beat to death his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, Sheila Marie Evans. That was 24 years ago when Mr. Phillips was 19 years old.

Today, Ron Phillips is an unofficial chaplain at Ohio's Chillicothe Correctional Institution. He attends multiple church services each week and has spent time with other inmates discussing Bible readings and life's challenges.

Chris Gebhart, a retired businessman and practicing Catholic, has worked with multiple death row inmates at the prison since 2012. Ron Phillips at 43 years old is a very different man from the disturbed young adult who killed Sheila Marie in 1993, says Mr. Gebhart. He has visited Mr. Phillips regularly, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the inmate for 2 hours every month, sharing stories and studying the Bible. Mr. Phillips is now a nondenominational Christian who deeply regrets what he did. "He is close to God," says Mr. Gebhart. "He feels it, and he is concerned about others. I would trust him with my life. I can't say that about too many people."

National media are now watching the stories of Ron Phillips and 2 other Ohio inmates for their implications for death row prisoners across the country. All 3 are supposed to die by lethal injection using a cocktail of drugs that may not properly anesthetize prisoners. (Their attorneys are hoping to postpone execution once again by taking their cases to the Supreme Court.) But Mr. Phillips's story also raises a greater question: Can a person change so dramatically over the course of 2-plus decades that he no longer deserves to die?

Mr. Phillips, says Chris Gebhart, is not asking to be set free. He is not asking for forgiveness, either. But Ron Phillips isasking for his life to be spared and to have his sentence commuted to life in prison without parole so he can spend his remaining days on death row as a fellow inmate and prison minister to his peers. It is something Mr. Phillips is uniquely positioned to do, says Mr. Gebhart. "There are guys in high-security prisons that wouldn't trust outsiders, but they would sit down with him because he's one of them," says Mr. Gebhart. "He can do so much good. He can reach people that other people can't reach."

The pain and loss that anyone who loved 3-year-old Sheila Marie feels are unimaginable, especially knowing the disturbing details of her final days. In the minutes from Mr. Phillips's December 2016 parole board meeting, Sheila Marie's half-sister, Renee Mundell, noted that "Phillips took away her opportunity to watch Sheila grow up." The minutes describing the meeting also said: "It is difficult for [Mundell] to face the reality of the pain and fear her sister endured. It makes her sick to think about it." Both Ms. Mundell and Sheila Marie's aunt, Donna Hudson, asked the court to serve "justice" by executing Mr. Phillips. In support of their plea, on a Facebook page maintained in memory of Sheila Marie, visitors continually and passionately advocate for executing Ron Phillips.

For many, the details of Mr. Phillips's appalling crime warrant the death penalty. But a closer look at the ways he has changed over 24 years makes it difficult to argue that the man he has become deserves to die. According to those same 2016 parole board minutes, "Phillips insisted what he did to Sheila was wrong, and he is the only person responsible for his actions." He said that he is "not the same arrogant, immature and selfish person who committed those crimes." He requested his sentence to be commuted to life in prison without parole. His plea was denied by the parole board 8 days later,10 votes to 2.

Killing Ron Phillips will achieve a measure of vengeance, but it will not undo any of the terrible things he did to Sheila Marie. By now, Mr. Phillips's execution might not even serve justice; killing him releases him from the burden of thinking every single day about the horrendous crimes he committed.

Catholic teaching opposes the death penalty in all but the rarest of circumstances. Pope Francis has gone even further saying, "Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed." This case, in particular, highlights why capital punishment should be rejected: Had Ron Phillips been executed 20 years ago, he would not have had the chance to seek and find God, to continually repent for the crimes he committed and to become a leader, an instrument of faith and a voice of peace and love amongst his peers.

How many more people like Ron Phillips - searching for salvation, open to change - fill our country's prisons? How many inmates could Mr. Phillips serve and bring closer to God if only he could live among them?

Now, as he counts the days until his July 26 execution, Ron Phillips is "taking 1 day at a time" and praying a lot, says Chris Gebhart. He is hoping others will see the value in working to reform prisoners instead of killing them.

"He believes God is using him to show the world that people change,”"says Mr. Gebhart, "and that capital punishment in and by itself is wrong."



Ronald Phillips: Breakdown of Criminal Justice

A ruling by a federal court makes it more likely that executions will resume in Ohio on July 26, despite warnings that the state's drug protocol could cause immense pain. The 1st person due to face this pain is Ronald Phillips.[i]

Phillips is used to suffering pain: his childhood consisted of intense, frequent "abuse, chaos, and dysfunction ... in which criminal activity, sexual deviancy, and physical abuse were not only acceptable but were the norm". His father first raped him when he was 4. His parents taught him and his siblings to lie to officials to conceal the criminality, thus blocking escape routes for the children. As a result, Phillips grew up a confused, ashamed, angry, and guilt-ridden individual.

Phillips finally fled home at the age of 17, having acquired from his upbringing a personality disorder with borderline and paranoid features that left him unable to trust others. Often such individuals gravitate to others with similar disorders; thus it was that Phillips took up with a woman whose problems with sexual boundaries compounded his own ignorance of what constituted abuse.

Phillips insists that when he was abusing his girlfriend's daughter, Sheila, it never occurred to him that what he was doing was wrong. One psychologist who assessed Phillips explains:

"To someone like Phillips, abusing Sheila was not something that would be clearly wrong in his mind."

Sheila died as a result of the abuse at the age of 3 1/2, in 1993.

At the time of his trial, still terrified of his father, Phillips was unwilling to report his own catastrophic childhood abuse, but disclosed it much later; his reluctance to confront the impact of his disastrous past is typical of such cases. His trial counsel failed to ask his step-sister, Mary Phillips, to testify about the abuse in his childhood home. His lawyers and investigator also failed to produce Children's Services Board records that could have alerted jurors to mitigating factors in Phillips's case; this resulted in "a complete breakdown of the criminal justice system".

On death row a prison Christian group has provided Phillips with the therapy of interacting with people he trusts and feels comfortable with; this is allowing him to recover. Phillips now deeply regrets the abuse he inflicted on Sheila, and believes he is "a salvageable human being".

Executing Phillips will not prevent deaths like that of Sheila; additional intervention and support for those who are severely damaged, like Phillips, might do so. Family and friends of the victim are unlikely to derive the peace they hope for from another death.[ii]

On the other hand, Phillips's execution will probably traumatize a whole range of innocent people, including his half-sister, siblings, friends, jurors, and attorneys, as well as other death row inmates and prison staff, especially the executioners. And many other Ohioans will be shocked and ashamed that their state is planning to kill a man who caused death while his mind was disordered because of his horrific childhood.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has started a petition asking Ohio's Governor Kasich not to carry out this and other scheduled executions (including that of Jeffrey Wogenstahl). We urge you to sign it.

[i] Most of the information for this post can be found in the minutes of the Parole Board meeting, Re Ronald Phillips, CCI #A279-109, held October 16, 2013. Phillips's more recent clemency appeal, in December, 2016, was also rejected.

[ii]See, for instance, the experience of families of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing: "6 months after the bombing a poll taken in Oklahoma City of victims' families and survivors showed that 85 % wanted the death penalty for Tim McVeigh. 6 years later that figure had dropped to nearly half, and now most of those who supported his execution have come to believe it was a mistake. In other words, they didn't feel any better after Tim McVeigh was taken from his cell and killed."


TEXAS----impending execution

Court papers: 'Utterly unqualified' attorney used Wikipedia to defend death penalty inmate----Lawyers for death row inmate file last-minute motions days before scheduled execution

With just days left till the next scheduled execution in the Lone Star state, lawyers for convicted Bexar County killer TaiChin Preyor on Friday filed a flurry of last-minute paperwork seeking to halt the condemned man's death.

The pair of motions - in the Western District of Texas - claim one of Preyor's former attorneys on the case, Brandy Estelle, was "utterly unqualified" and may have even resorted to the popular crowdsourcing site Wikipedia for research in the case.

Preyor, who murdered a woman who sold him drugs more than a decade ago, is scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on July 27.

The 46-year-old was convicted in the 2004 slaying when he repeatedly stabbed Jami Tackett before cutting her throat. Neighbors found the dying woman after hearing her screams - and police caught Preyor after he came back to retrieve his car keys, the San Antonio Express-News previously reported.

The San Antonio man has been on death row since 2005 fighting his case. At issue now is the allegedly subpar defense counsel who represented Preyor during parts of the federal appeals process.

"It appears she relied on Wikipedia, of all things, to learn the complex ins and outs of Texas capital-punishment," Preyor's attorneys wrote of their client's former counsel, noting that Estelle's case files included a print-out of the Wikipedia page "Capital punishment in Texas" with a Post-It note labelled "Research."

In addition, court papers contend Estelle was getting help on the case from an attorney disbarred for showing a "gargantuan indifference to the interests of his clients," a federal court wrote in a published decision.

"No doubt fearing repercussions, Estelle never disclosed her disbarred co-counsel's lead role in the case to this Court," claims the convicted man's legal team, which includes Catherine Stetson, Preyor's pro bono attorney and a partner at Hogan Lovells.

The dozens of pages of motions and exhibits filed Friday call Jefferson and Estelle's work "shocking conduct" and "exactly the kind of extraordinary circumstance that warrants this Court's intervention."

The motions for stay of execution and relief from judgment ask the court to halt Preyor's death date and reopen his federal appeal, this time with "licensed and qualified counsel."

Last-minute stays of execution are more the exception than the rule - but they're certainly not unheard of.

In 2011, Harris County death row inmate Duane Edward Buck was granted a last-minute reprieve amid questions of racially tainted expert testimony. He's still on death row as the appeals process continues to play out.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Pennsylvania execution notices are 'not worth the paper they're written on'----The death warrants have been around since 1995, a strain on court time and resources.

The news rolled in earlier this month, for the 460th time since 1985: A Pennsylvania death row inmate had received an execution notice or warrant. This time it was for Philadelphia murderer Omar Sharif Cash, and like 457 men who've come before him he will almost certainly never be put to death.

Cash could get a reprieve for several reasons, the best-known likely being Gov. Tom Wolf's death penalty moratorium. Should any death penalty case go the distance, Wolf has said he will halt the execution. But long before it comes to that, the execution notice signed for Cash will likely be stayed, amounting to what one of the country's foremost death penalty opponents considers a waste of time. And since 1995, 350-plus other notices and warrants could be classified in the same category.

"They're legally premature," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, "meaning they're not worth the paper they're written on."

Pennsylvania elected officials created the execution warrant system still used today in 1995, during the beginning of Gov. Tom Ridge's 1st term. At the time, he and many legislators - Republican and Democrat - were pushing a tough-on-crime stance. Ridge even held a special session focused on crime-related legislation. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105th), mandated the governor sign an execution warrant for a death row inmate by at least 90 days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision of the inmate's direct appeal. If the governor didn't sign the warrant, then the Department of Corrections would have to issue a notice of execution within 30 days of the previous deadline.

"Despite the law, there was no death penalty in Pennsylvania," Ridge said in 1995. "When you kill in cold blood, you deserve to pay the highest penalty."

The thought behind the bill was inmates had no motivation for pushing through with the appeals process because governors had not been signing warrants in a timely manner. An execution warrant or notice would get the inmate continuing on with the appeals.

Any inmate sentenced to death gets 3 avenues of appeal: The direct appeal, which consists of matter related entirely to the criminal trial. The indirect appeal, which is also run through Pennsylvania's courts and formally known as the Post Conviction Relief Act appeal. And then habeas corpus, a federal appeal.

But by November 1995, a few months after the bill went into effect, an important change had been made in Pennsylvania law. Anyone applying for the Post Conviction Relief Act appeal had to do so within 1 year after failure of the direct appeal, which was already under a time constraint. The clock that supporters of the warrants bill said needed to be started was now being started by another law.

And yet the execution warrants and notices were still signed in a timeframe when sometimes all 3 avenues of appeal were on the table and most of the time the indirect appeal and habeas corpus appeals were left. Almost every time, the courts responded by staying the warrants because the inmate had those appeals.

This is why Dunham considers the warrants legally premature. By signing the warrants and the notices in the middle of the appeals process the court has basically no choice but to offer a stay so long as the appeal is legitimate. As Dunham says, "they are bound to be stopped."

"There have been well over 350 occasions," he said, "in which courts have had to unnecessarily take the time to consider stays of execution that the law would require them to grant."

Between 1995 and 2014, just over 350 execution warrants were signed by governors. Of that total, all but 4 were signed when the prisoner had at least the federal habeas corpus appeal left. Most of the warrants were signed when the indirect appeal and habeas corpus appeal remained.

"If you're going to have an automatic warrant," Dunham said, "the only place that serves a legitimate purpose would be after the habeas corpus process is done or (the inmate has) failed to enact according to the deadlines."

The warrants and notices just require a signature from the governor or the head of the corrections department. That's not a legitimate strain on time or resources. But once signed, a process begins that requires attorneys and the courts to act, taking time away from employees of the AG's office or local DA's offices and judges.

When an execution notice was signed for inmate Patrick Haney earlier this year, for instance, the notice was challenged to the Pennsylvania Western District Court. 17 court filings later, the Court granted a stay at least until Haney's indirect appeal process had been exhausted.

"You're talking about the time for prosecutors and for defense lawyers, and the time for court personnel in filing the petitions, and court personnel in arranging for hearings," Dunham said. "You're talking about the judges' time. Some would say they're salaried. But that misses the point. Those people could be doing other things."

Marsico declined an interview request about the subject but passed the message onto a legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Mike Kane, who briefly discussed it. He said, "The bottom line of it all is there's a point where no appeal is quote 'pending.' That is my understanding of when these warrants get issued." A higher-up in the AG's office whose focuses include the death penalty did not respond to a request for comment.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17), who wants the death penalty abolished, admits of this warrants topic, "it's just never come up." Leach is on the state committee that was formed to study the death penalty during Gov. Tom Corbett's tenure. About 3 years after its report was due, it has been recently finalized and will soon be disseminated, according to committee member Gary Zajac (he declined to provide a specific date). The committee has been more focused on whether it is applied fairly, rather than the process by which it is applied.

So the topic of execution notices and warrants is hardly on anyone's radar, save for Dunham. He's crunched data and given presentations on it over the years and can rattle off dozens of statistics. He can't understand why these warrants keep coming, prematurely, and the court costs must follow.



Philly DA's office needs a change, but not this kind----Lynne Abraham, who served 18 years as Philadelphia's district attorney, wants to return to the post for the rest of 2017.

The selection of a new district attorney in Philadelphia - albeit an interim DA who will serve until the end of 2017, when the winner of the November election (in which Democrat Lawrence Krasner is heavily favored) starts a 4-year term - should be a cause for celebration. It's the next big step for moving past the era of disgraced ex-DA Seth Williams, who pleaded guilty last month to selling out his office. In a perfect world, the interim DA will serve as a bridge between finally putting the dim past of the office in the rear view era and a bold new age of reform, which is coming under either Krasner or, to a lesser extent, underdog GOP rival Beth Grossman.

But this is Philadelphia, and we have a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (and not just in sports.) It doesn't help matters that - in classic Philly fashion - the process for picking Williams' successor on Thursday is about as undemocratic as it gets. The interim DA will be picked by 88 judges, barely accountable to the public, who will hold multiple ballots until one of the 14 interested candidates gets a majority. The system for electing a new Pope feels more transparent - at least they pump out that cool white smoke.

But here's 2 important things to know going into the vote later this week.

Under no circumstances - let me repeat that in big annoying capital letters ... NO CIRCUMSTANCES - can the job go to the former district attorney who has tossed her hat into the ring, Lynne Abraham. Honestly, I'd rather see a return of the grifter Williams than a throwback Thursday for the bad old days of Abraham, whose zeal for the death penalty, decimation of Philadelphia neighborhoods through mass incarceration policies, and role in wrongly convicting some city residents of murder makes her completely unsuitable. Here's what I wrote about Abraham's DA politicking earlier this year:

[Abraham ran an] an office that relied in too many big cases on questionable high-pressure police confessions and hardball witness coercion, that pursued the death penalty with draconian glee, and made Philly a mass incarceration capital of the world.

Last year, a report by the Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project lambasted Abraham as one of America's "5 deadliest DAs" who, collectively, have been responsible for 1 out of every 7 people still on death row in America. It argues that the 108 death sentences won by Abraham - who branded herself famously as "One Tough Cookie" - are a grim example of "personality-driven capital sentencing." A top assistant who tried many of those cases, the late Roger King, had plastered his wall with pictures from the capital cases he'd prosecuted, with a circle-slash around the face of suspects and "death" written on every one.

2. I'm not big on making endorsements, and some of the candidates like retired Common Pleas Court Judge Ben Lerner, said to be a front-runner, have distinguished track records. But from everything I've seen in the months since Williams was first indicted earlier this year, his 1st assistant Kathleen Martin has done a perfectly fine job managing the office. Why rock the boat - whether it's for a reformer like Lerner or a regressive like Abraham - for 5 months? As they like to say on TV, winter is coming - and so is a long-awaited radical makeover for criminal justice in Philadelphia. Judges, don't muck this up.

(source: Will Bunch,


Campbell double murder trial enters 2nd week

The 1st day of the 2nd week of testimony in the trial for a man arrested in West Virginia on New Year's Day 2015, bringing to an end a multi-state crime spree, was dominated by testimony about what was found in the truck that was located near Lewisburg.

Monday, the 6th day of the Eric Campbell double murder trial in Granville County, North Carolina, was dominated by the introduction of evidence found in the 2 vehicles that Eric and his father, Edward Campbell, used to travel from North Carolina to West Virginia after they allegedly robbed and murdered Dora and Jerome Faulkner at the couple's North Carolina home on New Year's Eve 2014.

The prosecuting attorney called Detective Doug McPhee of the Granville County Police Department, who handled and took pictures of all the evidence presented, to the stand Monday to testify about the evidence found in the vehicles that stopped on Interstate 64 near the Lewisburg exit.

Eric Campbell, now 23, was driving a stolen white suburban through Greenbrier County when he was pulled over by police. His father Edward then pulled over in the red pick up truck that was stolen from the Faulkners, and opened fire on officers. After the shootout with police in which 2 officers were wounded, the Campbell's crime spree that started in Texas came to an end. The officers eventually recovered from the shooting.

Eric Campbell was in court Monday for the sixth day of his trial. If convicted he would face the death penalty.

According to McPhee's testimony Monday, among the items found in the 2 vehicles were shoes and prescription pills that belonged to the Faulkners and a loaded weapon. A chemical sprayer and bleach were found in the back of the Faulkner's truck, which was used to try and clean DNA evidence and blood from the truck.

After the Campbell's arrest West Virginia Police discovered the bodies of Dora, 62 and Jerome, 73 covered by a chained down mattress in the back of their stolen pick up truck. Sheets used to wrap their bodies stolen from their North Carolina home and bloody latex gloves purchased at Walmart by the Campbells a few days before the murders were the most substantial pieces of evidence presented on day 6.

Eric Campbell faces the death penalty in North Carolina for those crimes. Edward Campbell committed suicide in jail 2 years ago before a trial could commence.

Eric Campbell claims that he didn't want to harm anyone and only thought his father was planning on robbing the elderly couple. He said he believed his father to be dangerous and was not sure he would survive.

Earlier in the trial the prosecutor told the jury Campbell was with his father before the murders when he purchased chemicals, gasoline, and other items that were used to destroy the Faulkners home. The prosecutor also said Eric Campbell should have known there was something more going on, and that he made a concious decision to be involved in the crime.

Campbell is being tried under the death penalty in North Carolina.

The trial is expected to continue for most of the week.



Man indicted in July 2016 torture death of Marietta resident

A Cobb man has been indicted in connection to the July 2016 murder of a 58-year old man at Windcliff Drive near Terrell Mill Road in Marietta. But metro Atlanta authorities believe 29-year-old Rickey Earl Taylor may be responsible for 2 other deaths in a similar fashion in another metro Atlanta county.

Taylor is accused of tying up Richard Olen Bell's wrists and ankles with clothing, shoelaces and cords, and inflicting "lethal blunt force injuries" to his head, according to an indictment handed down by a Cobb grand jury last month. He was indicted on 2 counts of felony murder and 1 count each of malice murder, false imprisonment and aggravated assault in connection to the death of Bell, who according to Cobb Police resided at the Lincoln Hills Apartments, now known as The Grandstand.

An arrest warrant on Taylor for the crime was issued mid-February by Cobb Police, accusing the man of striking Bell in the head with a "heavy linear object." The Cobb warrant came months after he was arrested on charges that he killed a mother and son in Norcross in Gwinnett County.

Gwinnett authorities on Aug. 7, 2016, found 29-year-old James Sramek dead with his hands bound and hanging in a closet, while the body of 61-year-old Nicola Sramek was covered with sheets, the Gwinnett Daily Post previously reported. The 2 had been tortured with a hammer and knife before their deaths, police said.

According to the newspaper, the Srameks were believed to have been killed 3 days earlier, with Taylor linked to the crime scene through video surveillance and physical evidence.

He was arrested the day before the 2 bodies were discovered, according to a Gwinnett County Police news release, initially for his possible involvement in a string of armed robberies over the course of about two days. In a preliminary hearing in August, a Gwinnett Police detective testified that police found Taylor less than a mile away from the Srameks' apartment, with the man having on him several belongings of the 2 victims, according to the newspaper.

Police days after Taylor's arrest said robbery was believed to have been the motive of the murders, and that Taylor had known the younger Sramek.

The Gwinnett District Attorney's Office last week filed notice that it would seek the death penalty against Taylor, the newspaper reported, though a trial date was not set at the time.

Taylor's case in Cobb has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Gregory Poole, though no arraignment date had been set as of Monday.

Cobb court documents list Taylor as having a Mount Pisgah Lane address in Austell, though the February warrant stated that he resided in the 2300 block of Cobb Parkway in Smyrna. Other media outlets have reported him as being from Norcross.

(source: Marietta Daily Journal)


Florida prosecutors seeking 1st-degree murder indictment against Dartmouth woman

Florida prosecutors will seek a 1st-degree murder indictment against Desiree Jean Tedder, a 23-year-old Dartmouth woman who could face the death penalty, if convicted.

Meanwhile, Florida's rendition package to return her from Massachusetts has been completed and sent to Bay State officials. The prosecutor in charge says, if all goes well, he expects she will be returned in the next several weeks or by the end of August.

Tedder is currently charged with second-degree murder in Florida for the gruesome killing of Drulmauert Mims, a 23-year-old drug dealer in Penascola, Fla., area. According to Florida court documents, she repeatedly struck Mims in the face with a crowbar while he slept, stabbed him with a kitchen knife and suffocated him with a pillow as he choked on his own blood.

The case against Tedder revolves around a statement given police by Lizmary Rodriguez, her 23-year-old former roommate, who said she was lying in bed with Mims when Tedder killed the drug dealer.

According to court documents, Tedder rolled Mims' body in a carpet or a tarp and pushed the victim into a trash can. Later, Tedder used a shovel to dig 6-foot hole and buried Mims' body, still inside the trash can, in the yard of her grandmother's Penascola home on the same property she was killed.

According to court documents, Tedder was tired of being broke and killed Mims for his money and drugs.

Police located the body of Mims, who was last seen March 29, on June 28, court documents said.

Tedder, who came to New Bedford after she and Rodriguez were shot in Penascola on April 3, was arrested June 28 at her mother's home in Dartmouth as a fugitive from justice. She is currently being held without bail at the Bristol County House of Corrections in Dartmouth. Her next court date on the fugitive from justice complaint is Aug. 7 in New Bedford District Court.

Prosecutors completed their rendition package to return Tedder to Florida and it has been reviewed by the Governor's office and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker's office on Friday, said Greg Marcille, a prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office for Escambia, Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties in Florida. It still has to be reviewed by Baker's office and state Attorney General Maura Healey's office.

State prosecutors are preparing their case for a Escambia County, Fla., Grand Jury, where they will seek a 1st-degree indictment against Tedder, he said.

The case remains under investigation, but Tedder is "the only one who has been charged with the crime at this time."

"We do feel we have sufficient evidence to move forward on this case," he said.

Florida has the death penalty and has until 45 days after Tedder's arraignment on the murder charge, if prosecutors plan to seek it.

"That decision has not been made at this time," Marcille said.



Penalty phase underway for St. Cloud man convicted of killing baby----Larry Perry was convicted of violently attacking his 3-month-old son when the infant wouldn't stop crying, telling a 911 operator he "went crazy," according to court documents.

The death penalty sentencing phase is underway for a man convicted of killing his baby.

The state has now rested in the death penalty case of Larry Perry.

Larry Perry was convicted of violently attacking his 3-month-old son when the infant wouldn't stop crying, telling a 911 operator he "went crazy," according to court documents.

Back in 2013, Perry told police that while home alone with the 3-month-old, he picked up the child and, in a fit of anger, threw the baby against the wall, court documents show.

The child's mother, Kathy Barnes, had been arrested at the time, and Perry was left to care for Ayden.

(source: WESH news)


Police: Mississippi girl dies after beating over math lesson

A Mississippi man who fatally beat a 3-year-old girl because she couldn't correctly answer questions about numbers told investigators that "this was a tough world and she had to be tough if she wanted to survive," Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose said Monday.

Joshua Salovich was charged with capital murder, meaning he could face the death penalty, and held without bail. Detectives testified in an initial court appearance that the 25-year-old boxer-in-training beat toddler Bailey Salovich at maximum force with a bamboo rod, a cellphone cord and his hands.

Salovich's court-appointed lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a phone message and an email seeking comment Monday evening.

Dubose said it isn't clear whether Salovich is the child's biological father.

Police were called Friday afternoon after the child arrived at a local emergency room with bruises and cuts all over her body, and at least 1 head wound, Dubose said.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO----impending execution

Ohio moves forward with plans to execute Ronald Phillips in one week----State released its execution policy in-place to carry out the death sentence.

Ohio is set to execute 43-year-old #Ronald Phillips on July 26. Phillips received the death sentence following his conviction for raping and murdering the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend in 1993. He is scheduled for the state's 1st execution since January 16, 2014, when it took 26 minutes to execute Dennis McQuire as he struggled for life - gasping, seizing, and snorting.

Shortly before McQuire's scheduled execution date, drug manufacturers banned Pentobarbital for administering in the process of carrying out the looming death penalty. As an effect and as a different drug in the mix for execution, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) administered a cocktail using #Midazolam instead of Pentobarbital.

The lethal injection of McQuire included a barbiturate, short-acting, of course, to ensure he was unconscious before injecting him with a heart-stopping, paralytic combination of the sedative Midazolam and Hydromorphone, an opioid pain medication. Phillips is slated to have the same drug-cocktail administered as McQuire encountered.

Death penalty opponents want to stop Phillips' execution

Reverend Lynda Smith, retired United Church of Christ pastor, is among approximately 12 people who converged outside the building housing Ohio Governor John Kasich's office. They held signs to effect giving him their message to end executions in the state.

According to Smith, Caucasians who are wealthy end up on death row far less than other races with less economic stature.

If the United States Supreme Court does not halt the execution process, Phillips will die in a week.

He will be transferred to Ohio's death house at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility 24 hours before his execution. A 3-member execution team will monitor him. The condemned inmate will have an opportunity to visit with spiritual advisers and with family members. Additionally, there is the formality of medical professionals evaluating his veins in preparation for inserting lines intravenously so that the lethal injection cocktail can be administered and kill him.

Phillips is begging for mercy, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times. He's hoping that his date with death is, once again, delayed while the challenge of the lethal injection protocol continues. July 26 marks the 7th time Phillips has been scheduled to die.

Ohio plans more executions for 2017

After Phillips' death penalty is exacted, 3 additional executions are on Ohio's calendar for 2017 - in September, October, and November. JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the DRC assured that all the steps, mandated for Ohio's execution protocol, have been "complied with" as the state prepares for Phillips' execution.

If his death sentence is achieved, Ohio will be 2nd to Arkansas in resuming executions this year following a lull. In April, Arkansas attracted attention internationally by successfully executing its 1st inmate since 2005.

Rather than commence executions in the cloak of darkness compared to most, which happens in isolation and at night, Arkansas created a tight execution schedule, planning 8 deaths over 11 days. Some of the execution drugs were about to expire without a guarantee that more would be available. The state said its scheduling was "necessary." 4 of the 8 executions were completed. The additional 4 were delayed.

Of the 6 states that have executed inmates to date this year, Arkansas accounts for more than 25 %. With Phillips' execution on the horizon, Ohio is set to become the 7th state to carry out executions. In 2016, only 5 states executed 20 condemned inmates.



Attorney: Exclude Death Penalty In Murder Case

The attorney for 2 co-defendents charged with killing UK student Jonathan Krueger made their case to exclude the death penalty in the case Monday.

Efrain Diaz, Justin Smith and Roman Gonzalez Jr. are charged with robbing and killing Krueger back in April of 2015.

Last month, lawyers for Diaz and Smith lobbied the court to take capital punishment off the table.

It's reported that Diaz's attorney argued that his client's young brains weren't fully developed since they were both under the age of 21 during events that led up to Krueger's death.

All 3 are scheduled to go to trial in October.

(source: The Herald-Leader)


Attorneys hope testimony over brain development could remove death penalty option----Efrain Diaz, Justin D. Smith and a 17-year-old have been charged with fatally shooting Jonathan Krueger, a junior at the University of Kentucky, on April 17.

A hearing on Monday in a high-profile murder case in Lexington centered around scientific research on brains. The defense team in the case is hoping that research may lead to the judge taking the death penalty off the table for their clients.

Defendant Efrain Diaz was 20-years-old back in 2015 when Lexington Police arrested him for the slaying of 22-year-old Jonathan Krueger. Justin Smith was 18-years-old. Police also charged him with the robbery and murder that claimed the UK student's life.

A prior federal ruling takes the death penalty off the table for defendants who commit a crime at age 17 or younger. While both men were older than that at the time of their arrests, their attorneys brought in a psychology professor and expert in hopes of proving that their brains were still in an immature state.

Ph.D. Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, says brains of 18- and 20-year-olds typically function more like young teens than adults. However, Dr. Steinberg said there is no way to evaluate brain maturity on an individual level.

"Even though adolescence is a time of relatively more risky behavior, that manifests itself in different ways in different people," Steinberg testified.

That professor is set to send the court additional research to back his testimony.

A 3rd suspect charged in the murder, Roman Gonzalez, was 17 at the time of the crime. He will not face the death penalty when his case goes to trial.

(source: WKYT news)


Outrage Mounts as Saudi Arabia Plans Imminent Executions for 14 Accused Pro-Democracy Protesters

As President Trump vows not to let human rights concerns interfere with U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, the country is set to execute 14 men, including Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, who was only 17 when he was sentenced to death 5 years ago. He had planned to visit and attend Western Michigan University but was detained by airport authorities in Saudi Arabia for allegedly attending a pro-democracy rally earlier the same year. We speak with Maya Foa, director of the legal charity Reprieve. We also speak with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which is speaking out against the planned execution.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today's show in Saudi Arabia, where 14 men accused of taking part in protests are reportedly facing imminent execution. The group includes Munir al-Adam, who is half-deaf and partially blind, and Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, who was only 17 when he was sentenced to death 5 years ago in 2012. Majtaba'a had planned to visit Western Michigan University, where he had applied for admission, but was detained by airport authorities in Saudi Arabia for allegedly attending a pro-democracy rally earlier the same year. He was accepted by the university as a student in 2013 but was not able to attend.

Following President Trump's visit earlier this year, a Saudi criminal court upheld several death sentences handed down to protesters. During Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May - his 1st trip abroad as president - he suggested human rights concerns would not interfere with U.S.-Saudi relations.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values, to pursue a better future for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Human rights organizations say prisoners are often tortured into making false confessions and convicted in secret trials. Rights groups have urged the Trump administration to use its ties to the kingdom to prevent further abuses and stay the executions.

To talk more about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and the possible execution of these 14 men, we're joined by 2 guests. In London, Maya Foa is with us, director of the international legal charity Reprieve. And here in New York, we're joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let's begin with Maya Foa in London. Talk about who these men are and why you believe that their execution is imminent.

MAYA FOA: Well, these 14 men - thank you. These 14 men, many of them very young, some of them under 18 when they were arrested by Saudi forces, are all alleged to have been involved in protest-related offenses. Now, to give you a couple of examples of what that means, we had another case of a young man called Ali al-Nimr, who was facing imminent execution last year. He's still in danger. He's not among the 14. But his charge sheet explained that among the offenses that had rendered him - that had made him death-eligible were inviting people to the protest on his Blackberry, administering first aid on his Blackberry - not on his Blackberry, administering first aid to protesters at the protest.

There were offenses in the case of, that you mentioned, Mujtaba'a - he was accused of attending the protest and inviting others to the protest. These are clearly not offenses that we would deem - that we wouldn’t deem them offenses at all, let alone worthy of sentencing people to death. Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, who you mentioned in the intro, was 17 years old when he was allegedly at this protest. He had a future in America. He had been admitted to 2 colleges. 2 universities had given him placements. And he was actually due to travel over to the U.S. He was in the airport on his way there to go and look at the 2 campuses and decide where he wanted to go, when he was arrested by Saudi forces. He was brutally tortured, so much so that they broke his shoulder. They denied him first aid. And, of course, the torture was intended to get him to confess to this so-called crime of attending the protest.


MAYA FOA: He gave a confession after torture, which is not admissible under international law or Saudi's own law. He was later sentenced to death. And now he and 13 others look to be executed at any moment -

JUAN GONZALEZ: Maya, I wanted to ask you - a report that you - that you issued recently -

MAYA FOA: - if the international community is not able to intervene and call on the kingdom to halt these executions.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Maya, a report that your organization issued recently says that as many as 40 % of the people executed in Saudi Arabia are executed for nonviolent offenses like participating in protests?

MAYA FOA: That's absolutely right. We've seen a massive uptick in executions and death sentences for nonviolent protest offenses. It looks very much to us like an attempt to quell any kind of dissent. Any kind of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly are being entirely eradicated in Saudi Arabia. On the 2nd of January last year, there were 47 people executed in a mass execution on 1 day. Among those were numerous so-called protesters and a couple of juveniles, as well, at least 6 of them. One of them, Ali al-Ribh, was dragged out of school by the police. He was then, again, brutally tortured, forced to confess, and then executed without anybody knowing, so that his family only found out about the execution of their son, after the execution itself, from newspaper reports. To date, they still haven't been told where his body is. They never got to see it, never got to give him a burial. They don't know where he was buried or even how he was executed. And that young man, that child, was executed for apparently attending a protest.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Randi Weingarten, the AFT weighing in on this issue, the importance, and why your union is involved in this issue?

RANDI WEINGARTEN: So, Maya - so, first off, Reprieve is our heroes. And Maya got to one of our staffers over the weekend. In fact, we represent - we are the largest higher education union in the United States. And as you know, Juan, you know, with what we did in terms of students at Rutgers, who are DACAmented, and fighting for them, we have this reputation now of making sure that we fight for our students and have multinational, multiethnic universities. And so, Reprieve got in touch with our locals out in - first, in the University of Michigan, because we thought that he was going to the University of Michigan, and then we found out later it was Western Michigan. We represent grad students, adjuncts, professors. And we just, on Saturday, just went into motion and tried to figure out how to engage - you know, that's kind of funny, with the Trump administration, ironic - but how to engage the State Department, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and do it in every way we could in terms of shining the light, because if we don't do that, and as Maya said, what happens is all this gets done in absolute secrecy, all to - intentionally to suppress freedom of speech. And so, our union is on it. And we have tried to find ways to make sure that the Saudi government knows that the American government is watching this and is fighting this. And that's what we're trying to do in every way we can.

Obviously, this is a suppression of speech. These are our values. These should be values internationally. And equally, if not more important, how does anyone - how does any country be in the community of countries and behead people? And ultimately, I would say, if anybody in Saudi Arabia is watching, how do you fight terrorism, how do you fight ISIS, how do you fight all of this, if you are beheading people? And so, there is a moral issue here, as well as just us wanting to fight for this child. This child. He's 17. When he got into university, he was 17 years old. He has been in jail. And what Reprieve has found, because - historically, because what they know, is that the moment that people are moved to Riyadh, the moment that people are moved to the capital, then we don't know if their beheading is imminent or their death is imminent.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Maya Foa, what are you calling for now? And, Randi Weingarten, have you reached anyone in the Trump administration, since they have close ties to Saudi Arabia?

RANDI WEINGARTEN: Yes, we actually - between the senators and us, we actually reached people. We're - and Maya, you know, we are trying to see if we can get someone to visit this youngster. So we are - you know, we did actually reach people over the weekend. But as I said, Maya and Reprieve are - we're working very closely with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Maya, what you're calling for now and the indications to you that the execution is imminent, with the removal of the men, and specifically Mujtaba'a, from the prison to Riyadh, which is a sign of imminent execution?

MAYA FOA: That's absolutely right. We are extremely concerned about Mujtaba'a and the 13 other men, young men, who are now potentially facing imminent beheading and execution. We are calling on the international community to raise these cases, to raise them with the new prince in Saudi Arabia, to raise them with the American government. All of Saudi Arabia's allies need to be saying that it is not acceptable to be beheading and killing children, killing people who have simply - their only crime is to have attended a protest, to have expressed a view about democracy, to have exercised their democratic right to free speech, that it is not acceptable to quell dissent in this way and to carry out these executions in secret, without informing the family, in a manner that the U.N. has said is tantamount to torture. We need to hear from the allies.

Donald Trump, at the head of this program, you had quoted him saying that we share values. Well, I would very much hope that the execution of children for attending protests, the execution of disabled people, people who have been disabled through torture they have received at the hands of the Saudi authorities, that American values are not in killing those people, that America still stands for democracy, for freedom of speech, for freedom of assembly, and that we do not support the executions, the unlawful executions, of children, of peaceful protesters, of vulnerable people, like disabled Munir al-Adam. And I would hope that we can all call on the Saudi authorities to halt these imminent executions of these 14 individuals immediately and give them a permanent stay of execution.

AMY GOODMAN: Maya Foa, we want to thank you for being with us, director of Reprieve, speaking to us from London.

(source: Democracy Now!)


Stop imminent executions in Saudi Arabia


(source: Reprieve)


Urgent Action


An appeal court has upheld the death sentence against Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, a Shi'a man who was convicted of offences committed when he was 16 years old. The court appears to have based its sentence on forced "confessions."

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Urging the authorities to quash the conviction of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, and order a retrial in line with international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty;

* Calling on them to order an independent investigation into his allegation of torture and other ill-treatment;

* Reminding them that Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below the age of 18;

* Urging them to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 28 August, 2017:

King and Prime Minister

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of Interior) +966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)

Twitter: @KingSalman

Salutation: Your Majesty

Ambassador Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington DC 20037

Phone: 1 202 342 3800

Fax: 1 202 944 5983


Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International USA)


3 More Executions for Drug Charges, Authorities Still Silent

3 more executions reported in Urmia's central prison for drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights had reported on the executions of 2 prisoners by the names of Mashallah Siyadnavin and Mohammad Reza Sadeghi.

According to a report by the human rights news site, Maf News, 3 prisoners were hanged on drug charges at this prison on Friday July 14. The prisoners were identified as Parviz Tamaripour, Faramarz Asgharzadeh, and Ramin Honareh. The report confirms that Mashallah and Mohammad were also executed on Friday, despite earlier reports that they were executed on Saturday.

These prisoners along with another prisoner by the name of Tohid Amini were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. Tohid's execution sentence was not carried out.

Executions for drug related charges are still being carried out in Iran, even though the general outline of a bill to reform the death penalty for drug charges was approved by the Iranian Parliament. If the final bill is approved, the death sentences for many prisoners with drug charges will be commuted to a prison sentence.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these 5 executions.

(source : Iran Human Rights)


Halawa case 'moving towards a conclusion'

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said the trial of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa in Cairo looks to be "moving towards a conclusion".

Mr Halawa, 21, was 17 at the time of his arrest in 2013 and has been charged with serious offences related to his alleged participation in a political protest, all of which he strongly denies. His lawyers believe that, if convicted, he may face the death penalty.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Coveney said: "I have just had a report from our team of diplomats at the Irish Embassy in Cairo who were in court today for the latest hearing in the ongoing group trial involving Ibrahim Halawa.

"Today's court session saw video evidence shown and discussed, and 17 witnesses called by the defence lawyers. The judge said that this was the full list of defence witnesses, and that no further witnesses remain to be called in the trial.

“The case will continue on 25 July and the judge indicated that the prosecutor will present the final arguments for the prosecution side on that occasion. Irish Government observers will be present in the court again for that hearing and for the subsequent hearings when the defendants' cases will be presented.

"It has taken a long time to get to this stage in the process, but it finally looks as if this trial is moving towards a conclusion."



3 to die for killing boatman in Manikganj

A Manikganj Court has sentenced 3 people to death penalty for killing a boatman in 2015.

The death-row convicts are Monirul Islam, Rasel Mollah and Kartik Hawlader hailed from Faridpur and Pabna.

The court also fined them Tk 20,000 each.

Judge Md Mizanur Rahman of Manikganj District and Sessions Judge Court passed the order on Tuesday morning.

According to the court sources, the accused took Abdur Razzak's engine-driven boat on rent on October 5, 2015. Later, they fled with the boat after killing Abdur Razzak.

Deceased's brother, later, filed a murder case with Harirampur Police Station.



No threat of imminent execution to Kulbhushan Jadhav SC lawyer

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Pavani Parameswara Rao on Monday asserted that there can be no imminent execution of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav as the matter is pending before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

"They (Pakistan) cannot execute Jadhav as of now, because they made a promise before the ICJ that as long as the proceedings are continuing, they cannot execute. So they will honour the commitment," Rao told ANI.

He said that there are other ways in which the plea for Jadhav's clemency can be made in Pakistan.

"There are other parties also who have powers of clemency. The President of Pakistan has power to grant pardon, and commute sentence just like the President of India. So therefore they can always make appeal," he added.

Welcoming the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's decision to review Jadhav's case, Rao said, "If he wants to exercise his power then he is most welcome, if he doesn't do then President of Pakistan can be approached. Even if he does not do that, then the ultimate result is to go to the ICJ where the case is pending."

The advocate's remark came a day after Pakistan's media wing, ISPR, informed that the Paksitan chief was "analysing" evidence against Jadhav.

"The petition of Indian national is now with COAS who'll decide soon. The Army Chief is looking at each aspect of Jadhav's appeal,analysing the evidence and will decide on merits", Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said.

Jadhav's clemency appeal has been rejected by the Military Appellate Court. If his appeal for clemency is rejected by General Bajwa, he can then file another mercy petition with President Mamnoon Hussain within 90 days of the Army Chief deciding on his appeal.

Jadhav was arrested on March 3 last year from Balochistan allegedly for espionage attributes. He was later awarded death sentence by a Pakistani military court.

India had then moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the death penalty and in its verdict on May 18 had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav.

A leading Pakistani daily has voiced its support in favour of the alleged Indian spy's mother, saying that she should be granted visa to visit Pakistan on 'humanitarian grounds as this provides the latest opportunity for India and Pakistan to back away from an increasingly confrontational stance against each other.



Death penalty belongs to medieval ages, says Oppn V-P nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi----Opposition parties' vice presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi responds to Shiv Sena's allegation that he had opposed 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon's death sentence.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who filed his nomination on Tuesday as the vice presidential candidate of 18 opposition parties, said he believes death penalty belongs to the medieval ages and it's wrong.

Gandhi's statement came amid allegations by Shiv Sena that he had opposed 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon's death sentence.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had said on Monday: "Even after the plotters of the Mumbai 1993 blasts were given capital punishment, some people tried their best to get the death sentence commuted and show leniency. Gopalkrishna Gandhi was one of them. I think the Congress party is insulting the country by nominating such a person to a constitutional post."

But the former West Bengal governor cleared his stand on Tuesday, saying: "I believe death penalty belongs to the medieval ages. It's wrong. My views inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ambedkakar."

Gandhi said such an allegation was expected from the Shiv Sena.

"Yes, I had also written to Pakistan PM demanding that he should not hang Kulbhushan Jadhav," Gandhi said after filing papers for the vice-presidential election.

He said he is an ordinary citizen, and not associated with any party.

"My views are my own. I am not here to oppose any person or party, here with all humility to place before electors, the aspirations of citizens."

The former West Bengal governor said there is a people's faith in politics has diminished and collapsed. "I would like to see a revival of that," he said.

(source: Hindustan Times)


Govt Clarifies On Ugandans On Death Row in China

The ministry of foreign affairs has dismissed allegations on social media that over 23 Ugandans accused of drug trafficking are to be hanged in China.

In a statement released today, the ministry brands as false, the message being circulated on different social media platforms with names of the victims.

"This is to inform the general public that the list that is in circulation is one of Ugandans who were sentenced to death a number of years ago but were granted a 2-year reprieve by the Chinese courts, which was later reduced from deaths to life imprisonment and further to a fixed term," the statement reads in part.

The ministry says it understands the Chinese government has not scheduled any executions of Ugandan prisoners lately and that the 2 governments carryout bilateral discussions on bilateral pending cases.

"The information that is circulating regarding the alleged executions is therefore false and we request that out of respect for each other, as well as the families of those concerned, individuals should exercise restraint and sensitivity when making a decision to circulate unsubstantiated information," the statement continues.

Margeret Kafeero, the ministry's acting Head of Public Diplomacy, told The Observer today that whereas Ugandans are arrested all over the world for offences among which is drug trafficking, this particular communication was to address only the issue of China following the "false alarm and not because there is any sort of crisis".

She notes that all governments are engaged in situations like this but emphasis has been on China because of the death penalty issue which has caused an outcry.

"We as a government do not encourage our citizens to break the laws and are not advocating for them to be above the laws of their host countries. Our appeal is for clemency not for impunity," Kafeero said.


JULY 17, 2017:


Death penalty is road to hell

As someone who has steadfastly opposed capital punishment for my entire thirty years of adult life, I was always concerned that one day someone I loved would be murdered and hence I would find myself in an awkward Catch-22. Since life is usually as surreal as a Frida Kahlo painting, I suppose it's no surprise that I would meet William Morva, a future victim of Virginia's death penalty system, several years before the awful crimes he committed took place.

When I met Morva at a coffee shop in Blacksburg, he seemed like an intelligent, but disturbed young man. When The Washington Post interviewed me after the murders Morva committed, I expressed that it was painfully obvious how mentally ill he was. But, I knew from my years as a reporter that this factor would be discounted by the jury in Abingdon, especially since 1 of the victims was law enforcement.

While I am grateful to Dawn Davison and her brave efforts to spare a sick man's life, I am equally frustrated by Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorneys Mary Petitt and her predecessor Brad Finch, Governor Terry McAuliffe, whom I otherwise respect, and yes, those twelve men and women in the jury box as well as Judge Ray Grubbs. My despondency is further extended to those of you, even those of you who have been life-long friends, who continue to support this great moral travesty.

There is no one who feels for the victims of Morva's crime or any homicide equally or more than I do, but the death penalty is the ultimate road to hell, and an expensive one at that. If this particular road to hell was once paved with good intentions that certainly is no longer the case now.



(source: Letter to the Editor, The Roanoke Times)


East Alabama murder-for-hire case featured in national TV show

A murder case that haunted the East Alabama community 10 years ago and was dragged out after 2 trials will once again be revisited in a national murder TV show.

Lisa Graham, the Russell County woman convicted in the murder-for-hire death of her daughter in 2007, will be the subject of a national murder TV show.

The case will be featured Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT and again at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on the show "Snapped" on the Oxygen network.

Graham was found guilty on March 5, 2015, of capital murder in the murder-for-hire plot that killed her daughter, 21-year-old Stephanie Shae Graham in July 2007.

Lisa Graham was convicted in 2015 in the murder-for-hire death of her daughter and was given the death penalty on November 18, 2015.

The jury in her retrial recommended that Graham be sentenced to death, with 10 of the 12 jurors voting for death and the remaining jurors voting for life without the possibility of parole.

Graham was accused of hiring Kenny Walton to kill her daughter. Walton is serving a life sentence after he confessed to the murder.

Stephanie Shae Graham was found shot and killed on Bowden Road (Highway 165) near Cottonton, Alabama. A man driving down a dirt road found her body along the side of the road.

She had been shot 6 times, her shorts and underwear were down around her ankles, was raped, run over, and left for dead.

The gunman, Kenny Walton, confessed to shooting Shae Graham with a gun belonging to and given to him by Lisa Graham.

Graham's 1st trial in September 2012 was declared a mistrial when the judge fell ill.

There are other twists in turns that have also surfaced in court, like the motive that suggests Lisa wanted Shae dead because Lisa's husband paid more attention to Shae than he did to her.

Lisa also claimed the 2 had sexual relations and Shae's drug problem was costing them too much money.

(source: WTVM news)


Execution policy released

As Ohio plans for the 1st execution in more than 3 years, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) has released their execution policy. Ohio is planning to execute Ronald Phillips, 43, who was sentenced to death for the rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. Phillips is scheduled to be executed on July 26. It will be the 1st execution since the state's longest lasting execution of Dennis McQuire, which lasted 26 minutes as McQuire seized, snorted, gasped and fought for life.

Execution drug, Pentobarbital was banned from use in executions by drug manufacturers just prior to McGuire's scheduled date with death. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections policy at the time stated that in the event that Pentobarbital, 1 of the drugs used in the 3-drug-cocktail, is not available then midazolam and hydromorphone could be used as a replacement.

The 3-drug cocktail consisted of a short-acting barbiturate to render the inmate unconscious, followed by a paralytic, and then a chemical to stop the heart. Midazolam is a benzodiazepine that is used as a sedative. Hydromorphone is an opioid analgesic pain medication. Basically, the midazolam was used to sedate McGuire before he was overdosed on the pain medication.

Ohio plans to once again try the 3-drug method. According to Ohio's execution policy, "the terms 'Execution Drugs' means any of the following three options, under whatever names those drugs may be available to DRC from a pharmacy, manufacturer, supplier, wholesaler, distributor, pharmacist, or compounding pharmacy: 1) Pentobarbital; or 2) Thiopental sodium; or 3) A 3-drug combination of: a. Midazolam Hydrochloride; and b. One of the following 3 drugs: i. Vecuronium bromide; or ii. Pancuronium bromide; or iii. Rocuronium bromide; and c. Potassium Chloride."

The policy further states that the execution drugs used are at the discretion of the warden.

"It is the policy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to carry out the death penalty in a constitutional manner and as directed by Ohio Courts of Law. All execution processes shall be performed in a professional, humane, sensitive, and dignified manner," the policy further states. "It is the responsibility of the Director to designate a penal institution where death sentences shall be executed. The Warden of that facility, or Deputy Warden in the absence of the Warden, is responsible for carrying out the death sentence on the date established by the Ohio Supreme Court. The procedures set forth in this policy are to be strictly followed. Any situation that arises that would make following these policies difficult, impractical, or impossible shall be immediately reported to the Director or the Warden. Any variations of a substantial nature must be approved by the Director as described in this policy."

Phillips has less than 10 days until he is scheduled to die. This is not Phillips 1st execution date as his counsel argues that the 3-drug method is not humane. 24 hours prior to the execution, the death row inmate will be moved to Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), location of the state’s death house. There, Phillips will be monitored by 3 members of the execution team. During this time, the inmate will be able to meet with visitors including family and spiritual advisers. Phillips will also be evaluated by medical professionals in order evaluate his veins and plan for the insertion of the intravenous lines that will carry the execution drugs throughout his body.

Phillips continues to beg for mercy in hopes that his execution date will again be delayed as the fight against the selected execution drug method continues.


MISSOURI----impending execution





Attorney representing Utah death row inmates says he's not being paid adequately - and he's not the 1st to raise concerns

An appellate attorney for a Utah death row inmate is asking the state's highest court to follow through on a promise made nearly a decade ago: The justices said they would reverse death penalty convictions if inmates couldn't get an adequate defense.

The time is now, attorney Samuel Newton wrote in a recent motion in the appeal for Douglas Anderson Lovell, who in 2015 was sentenced to be executed for killing 39-year-old Joyce Yost in 1985 to keep her from testifying that he had previously raped her.

Newton, who is based in Montana, said that defense attorneys are not being given enough money to support thorough death penalty case reviews - and in the cases for 2 Utah death row inmates Newton represents, he said he has had trouble getting paid.

Newton points to a 2008 Utah Supreme Court opinion for death row inmate Michael Anthony Archuleta in which the high court expressed concern that there was a diminishing pool of competent attorneys to work on capital cases. The justices wrote then that if qualified attorneys could not be found, the court might be forced to overturn death penalties and send the cases back to district court for imposition of life-without-parole sentences.

"This court should end the punishment [of execution] in this state once and for all," Newton wrote in his motion on behalf of Lovell.

Newton also laments in the motion a financial cap that Weber County officials have put on him to represent Lovell at an upcoming evidentiary hearing, where he is expected to question witnesses over several days about what work Lovell's trial attorney did on the case - and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interfered with the trial by limiting what bishops who worked with Lovell at the prison could say on the stand.

Newton says the hearing will require hundreds of hours of investigation and preparation, which he estimates will cost more than $37,000. The county, however, has only authorized $15,000, up to this point. County officials also have expressed concern that Newton was overbilling, he wrote, and said he spoke to Lovell too frequently.

County officials indicated in an email to Newton that if his billing practices don't change, they will have to find someone else for future appeals.

"That's the bind," Newton said in a recent interview. "Do I represent my client zealously like I'm constitutionally required to do? Or do I tread lightly so I don't lose my livelihood?"

Lawyers for Weber County wrote in court papers that the county is open to requests for additional funding in Lovell's case, and said that while Newton continues to be paid, he is "not entitled to an open checkbook."

But Newton said he has already lost tens of thousands of dollars representing Lovell, 59, and another death row inmate, 61-year-old Floyd Eugene Maestas, who was sentenced to be executed for stomping to death 72-year-old Donna Lou Bott during a burglary at her Salt Lake City in 2004.

The financial burden has caused him stress-related heart problems, Newton said, to the point where he asked to be removed from the Maestas case - a request that lawyers with the Utah attorney general's office opposed because it would cause further delays in the case. A judge has denied Newton's request. State attorneys, however, have asked that Newton be removed from Lovell's case because of his health concerns.

The attorney general's office declined to comment for this story.

Newton is not the 1st attorney to raise concerns about payment in Utah death penalty appeals. A decade ago, as an appeal for death row inmate Ralph Menzies was underway, no qualified attorneys would take the case for the amount of money offered. It got to the point where a judge briefly appointed defense attorney Richard Mauro to represent Menzies, though the lawyer said he took the case unwillingly.

In an amicus brief filed by the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Menzies' case in 2007, several well-known defense attorneys wrote affidavits detailing the financial difficulties they encountered by accepting death penalty appeals. One lawyer wrote that his final hourly wage came to under $17 an hour, though he normally bills at a rate about ten times higher than that. Another said he made $19 an hour representing a death row inmate in a state appeal.

Some attorneys said they paid for expenses out of pocket and were never reimbursed. And one attorney wrote that he left private practice after representing a death row inmate because the costs had left his practice "in shambles."

Mauro said recently that it is especially difficult for a private practitioner to take on a weighty death penalty appeal, as opposed to having the support and resources of a law firm. He said that when he worked in private practice, he only willingly took on 1 state appeal.

"They were too difficult to do," Mauro told The Tribune. "Too time consuming. If you are doing the work the way it's supposed to be done - and trying to keep the lights on and run the copy machine - it's really not a feasible thing to do."

Back in 2008, when Mauro was appointed to represent Menzies, the state's Division of Finance capped the pay for attorneys in death-penalty appeals at $37,000. Now, that cap has been increased to $60,000, and an appellate attorney also has the option to ask for more funding if a judge determines there is "sufficient cause." But Newton said he has exceeded that amount already in both Lovell's and Maestas' appeals.

Robert Dunham, executive director for the national non-profit organization Death Penalty Information Center, said underfunding for defense in capital cases happens in every state where the death penalty is used - especially in places where counties are expected to foot the bill, as in Utah.

When county budgets are tight, Dunham said, officials generally want to spend money earmarked for public safety on police and fire services, not on defense lawyers and experts for those accused of capital crimes.

"Underfunding defense lawyers is bad for the criminal justice system," Dunham said. "Not just because it risks unfair and unconstitutional trials, but because it costs taxpayers more in the long-run when the cases have to be re-done."

There are 9 men on Utah's death row. Maestas was sentenced to be executed in 2008, and Lovell was given the death penalty in 2015 after a retrial. They are the most recent inmates to receive death sentences.

They are the only 2 death row inmates who have pending appeals solely at the state level; the remaining 7 have various appeals pending in state and federal court.

It is not apparent from a review of Utah death penalty cases filed in U.S. District Court that funding issues are being raised by federal defenders.

The next death penalty trial is scheduled for November, where a jury will decide whether 36-year-old Steven Crutcher should be executed for killing his cell mate, 62-year-old Roland Cardona-Gueton, at the Gunnison prison in 2013. Crutcher pleaded guilty to aggravated murder last May, so the jurors at his trial will not be asked to determine guilt, only what punishment he should face.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimated in 2012 that it costs an additional $1.6 million to handle all the appeals and costs of a death sentence over 20 years, compared to a sentence of life without parole.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers considered studying the costs of the death penalty more in-depth - but the bill never came up for a final Senate vote. State lawmakers came close to abolishing capital punishment altogether in 2016, but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of the session.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Turkey's Move Toward The Death Penalty May Be A Move Away From The EU

Turkey's president again said he supports reinstating the death penalty, a move that could further complicate the country's relationship with Europe.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan marked the anniversary of a failed coup with a pair of speeches in which he said Turkey needed to forge its own path.

Turkey was first recognized as a candidate to join the European Union in 1999. The country has been working to join the union ever since.

But reinstating the death penalty would probably knock Turkey out of consideration for good.

In fact, the president of the European Commission wrote in a German newspaper that if Turkey embraced the death penalty, the country "would definitively slam the door on EU membership."

When Erdogan's AKP party won the country's general election in 2002, he was seen as having strong European ambitions.

This recent speech suggests he's moving away from those original goals.

Closing the door on the EU might not be a good idea politically, though. A recent survey found about 76 % of Turkish people still wanted to join the union.



Turkey won't get EU membership if it legalises death penalty: Juncker----Turkey's 12-year-old EU membership talks have ground to a halt

The head of the European Union's executive body says the EU's hand remains outstretched to Turkey but is renewing warnings that Ankara will not get EU membership if reinstates the death penalty.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wrote in Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Turkey being democratic, stable and economically successful is important to the EU. He said Turkey should "move closer to Europe rather than moving away from us."

Turkey's 12-year-old EU membership talks have ground to a halt.

Juncker stressed the bloc is a "union of values." He added "if Turkey were to introduce the death penalty, the Turkish government would definitively slam the door on EU membership."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday he would approve a bill reinstating the death penalty if parliament proposed it.



Death penalty talk puts spotlight on judiciary

The debate on the functioning of the judiciary was reignited following a spate of execution-style murders in recent months, which led to a number of political figures calling for the reinstatement of capital punishment. A group of jurists and party representatives oppose this solution and blame the problem on the lack of independence of the judiciary system itself.

Beirut-based NGO The Legal Agenda, the International Commission of Jurists and the Siracusa International Institute - together with a group of judges and party representatives - have formed a commission that is currently working on a new draft law that seeks to reinforce judges' independence from the executive branch, which they aim to present to Parliament by the end of the year.

Nizar Saghieh, co-founder and executive director of The Legal Agenda, said what emboldens perpetrators is "a culture of interference in the judiciary" that creates a sense of impunity.

"The problem is not if the punishment is severe or not ... we are talking about people who were not really tried," Saghieh told The Daily Star. "According to us, [this happens because] we don't have an independent judiciary system. The independence of the judiciary is a necessity for a society to live in a minimum standard of security."

Said Benarbia, director of the ICJ program in the MENA region, echoed this sentiment. "Reinforcing the trust of the public in the judiciary is something that is really needed in the case of Lebanon," Benarbia told The Daily Star, adding that a number of factors contribute to the erosion of public trust.

The 1st issue identified by the commission is the composition of the Higher Judicial Council, a body that falls under the organizational structure of the Justice Ministry that is responsible for the operation of the ordinary courts. Exclusively judicial in composition, the Higher Judicial Council deals with judicial appointments, transfers, training and the disciplining of judges.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee had already stated back in 1997 that the procedures governing the appointment of judges and in particular members of the Higher Judicial Council were "far from satisfactory."

At present, the Higher Judicial Council is composed of 10 judges, 8 of which are elected by the executive. This makes the judges servants to the political party that elected them, the commission claims.

In order for the reform proposal to have realistic chances of being approved in Parliament, the executive would be granted the power to nominate 1/2 of the Higher Judicial Council's members. As The Legal Agenda explained, judges would be able to elect the other 1/2 - in compliance with international standards - while 1 seat would be reserved for the executive to correct any eventual sectarian imbalance.

The proposal also introduces the nomination of nonjudicial figures, such as representatives of the bar association, university professors and other professionals. "We think that the judiciary is a service provided to others and it should not only be independent but it should be seen as being independent," Benarbia said. "Having members of the civil society [in the Higher Judicial Council] enhances its accountability and the trust of the public."

Given that this body is responsible for ruling over the careers of the judges, its composition is seen as a key issue by the commission.

2 judicial sources who accepted to speak to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity confirmed feeling pressured by political parties through the Higher Judicial Council.

"If any judge tells you that to [advance] in his career he didn't have to be aligned [to a political party], it's not true - it's a big, big lie," the 1st source said, adding that transfers and promotions, which the Higher Judicial Council is responsible for, are at times used "as a weapon" to guarantee a judge's compliance to a specific request.

The 2nd source confirmed experiencing retribution after being pressured to comply with a request. "I was moved from [a city in the north] to Beirut, which might seem like a promotion but it wasn't because my family is back home," the source said.

According to The Legal Agenda, public opinion is not fully aware of the pressures that judges are subject to because of this system. "People think judges are so bad and that's why the system is bad. And of course politicians strengthen this perception, because if people believe judges are bad they will go to them [as] their protectors," Saghieh said.

The Daily Star interviewed a leading lawyer representing the interests of the state, who refused to be quoted for the purposes of this report. The source conceded the need for some reform, but said the independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the constitution. He also denied that nominations by the executive automatically result in political affiliation and said the independence of the judiciary mainly depends on the judges' own moral integrity.

The Beirut Bar Association was contacted but did not respond to The Daily Star's request for an interview.

Contrary to the lawyer's position, the commission claims the present setup of the judicial system does not leave room for moral integrity. Similarly to the Higher Judicial Council, the Judicial Inspection Body ' tasked with the evaluation of the public service of justice - is also identified as a tool of the executive to exert pressure on judges.

"The function of the inspection service is opaque. Judges don't have access to evaluation reports, their case file, they cannot challenge an assessment ... they cannot have access to all the elements related to the development of their career," ICJ director Benarbia said.

"The management of the career of a judge - their promotion, transfer, the disciplinary proceedings, are based on the reports of these inspection services, so it is important to increase the guarantee of transparency and the guarantees of effective functioning of these inspection services" he added.

In its proposal, the commission has allocated 3 main roles to the Judicial Inspection Body and set up more transparent procedures for inquiries.

In addition, the draft law calls for giving judges the right of association, which they are currently denied. While the constitution regards the Higher Judicial Council as an associative body, the commission claims its role as a supervisor differs from that of representation that a syndicate would provide.

"We tried [many times] to form a syndicate, but we have two problems. One is the prohibition [to do so] by the Higher Judicial Council and the other one is [the conflict between] judges themselves, because we do not have a common interest," the 1st judicial source said, adding that some judges would be reluctant to give up the personal privileges resulting from their political affiliation.

Saghieh claims those who seek to be independent are forced to comply with a system that leaves them few choices. "Lots of judges feel criticized by society and are not given the opportunity to play a role," he added. Saghieh said the first step toward reform is winning the debate in the public arena. "Our fight now is not in the Parliament [but] in the public debate. Once we [do so], the perception of the judiciary will be different," he said.

Some parties, including Future Movement and the PSP, have appointed a representative to follow all the sessions organized by the commission. "We are partners in this project because what is certain is that, in order to build a state, we have to have an independent judiciary system," Lama Hariz, the representative for the PSP, told The Daily Star. "We need this to be an independence that truly goes beyond [the will of] the Justice Ministry and the government."

(source: The Daily Star)


Pro-democracy demonstrator handed death penalty in Egypt

An Egyptian court yesterday confirmed a death sentence handed to a man after he was found guilty of violence in a case relating to a protest against the 2013 military coup that ousted former President Mohamed Morsi, the Anadolu Agency reported citing 2 sources.

A judicial source told journalists that the Janayat Al-Tal Al-Kabir Criminal Court in the Ismailiya Province, sentenced Osama Gomaa, 32, to death on a charge of murdering a driver on 13 July 2013 following a quarrel between the 2 during a pro-Morsi protest.

On 17 May, the same court had referred the defendant's file to the Grand Mufti, the state's top religious authority, indicating that it recommends the death penalty for the defendant. Yesterday, the court confirmed the decision.

The ruling may still be appealed in the Court of Cassation within 60 days.

The defendant's lawyer, Nabil Abdel Salam, said that he will appeal the ruling, according to Anadolu.

The charges that the defendant is facing include "murdering a driver who objected to pro-Morsi chants during a protest supporting the latter". The charges also include "joining an illegal group" in reference to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The defendant denies all charges.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Student facing beheading in Saudi Arabia was to attend Western Michigan

A Saudi Arabian student who was arrested 5 years ago as he was about to fly to Michigan to attend college is believed to be facing imminent execution by beheading, officials say.

Mujtaba Al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012, was moved Friday from detention in Dammam to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by beheading customarily take place.

Earlier that year, Al-Sweikat allegedly attended a pro-democracy rally, which led to his arrest.

Al-Sweikat intended to visit Western Michigan University, where he had applied as a student, according to Reprieve, an international human rights group that has offices in New York and London and operates with partners around the world. He was later accepted by the university as a student. The Free Press has seen a copy of the acceptance letter from Western.

Western Michigan confirmed Al-Sweikat had been accepted to the university in 2013, but never attended.

"We were stunned to learn, for the first time today, of this situation," Western Michigan spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said in a statement to the Free Press. "It is not unusual for an admitted student to opt out of enrolling at the last minute, so we had no idea there was such a troubling reason behind this student's failure to come to campus."

Human rights groups said the execution is troubling.

"The increasingly brutal Saudi Arabian regime has ramped up executions for protest-related offences in recent days, and this latest move is extremely worrying," said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve. "Mujtaba was a promising 17-year-old boy on his way to study in Michigan when he was arrested, beaten, and later sentenced to death on the basis of a 'confession' extracted through torture. He now faces the imminent threat of beheading along with 14 others, including at least one other juvenile and a young disabled man.

Foa said the executions would constitute an appalling breach of international law. Foa urged President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to "use their close ties to Saudi Arabia to make clear that these egregious abuses must stop - and the imminent executions be immediately stayed."

The American Federation of Teachers also urged Trump to get involved.

"Saudi Arabia's threat to behead its own citizens for attending an anti-government protest is an unthinkable and despicable violation of international law and basic humanity," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. "This group includes 2 youths - 1 of whom, Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, was at the airport coming to the United States to attend college when he was arrested - a man with disabilities, and 11 other people. People must have a right to speak and associate freely. Should these executions occur, Saudi Arabia should be considered a pariah nation by the world.

"We implore President Trump, as the standard-bearer for our great nation, to do everything in his power to stop the atrocities that may otherwise take place in Saudi Arabia."

Western Michigan joined the call for Trump to get involved.

"The AFT information makes it clear that the critical national political figures with influence in such a situation are informed," Roland said. "We join the AFT in urging them to use that influence to ask the Saudi government to exhibit compassion."

Al-Sweikat was not allowed access to a lawyer at any point before or during the interrogations, according to Reprieve. He was forced to sign a "confession" document in relation to several alleged offenses, including attendance at protests. If he refused to admit to any allegations, he was again beaten, tortured and subjected to verbal abuse.

Initial reports were that Mujtaba was on his way to attend the University of Michigan. U-M officials spent 18 hours searching records going back several years at all of its campuses and were unable to locate him as a student - either one who enrolled or had been accepted, a spokeswoman told the Free Press.

Mujtaba is part of a group facing execution by beheading for offenses related to attending protests, Reprieve said. Reprieve obtained information about Mujtaba and the others from his friends.

They were convicted and sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia's controversial Specialised Criminal Court, which, although established to hear terrorism cases, has been used by authorities to silent dissent through the use of the death penalty, Reprieve said.

All 14 men and boys were transferred recently to Riyadh from Dammam Mabahith prison in preparation for their execution. However, the current execution practice is so shrouded in secrecy that not even their families know when they will be executed; only the King, who issues a decree ordering their execution, knows, Reprieve said in a briefing shared with the Free Press.

4 others were executed July 12 for similar protest-related charges.

(source: Detroit Free Press)


7 Prisoners Including Pakistani Citizens Hanged in Sistan & Baluchestan

In the past few days, 7 prisoners, including 2 Pakistani citizens, were reportedly hanged at Zahedan Central and Iranshahr prisons.

On the morning of Thursday July 13, a prisoner by the name of Sharif Reigi was reportedly executed on murder charges at Zahedan Central Prison (Sistan & Baluchestan province, eastern Iran). According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, Mr. Reigi was transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday July 9 in preparation for execution.

On Saturday July 15, 3 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Zahedan Central Prison on drug related charges. The prisoners have been identified as Sheikh Mohammad Baluchzehi, 50 years of age, Kabir Dehghanzehi, 21 years of age, and Dadmohammad Dehghanzehi. These prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on Thursday July 13 in preparation for execution. Dadmohammad and Kabir were reportedly Pakistani citizens who were arrested 8 years ago. According to a report by the Baluch Activists Campaign, Kabir was 13 years old at the time of his arrest. This report says that Kabir had travelled to Iran for driving lessons. Iran Human Rights has not been able to confirm Kabir's exact age at the time of his arrest.

On the morning of Sunday July 16, 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged on murder charges at Zahedan Central Prison. The prisoners have been identified as Yousef Bozorgzadeh, 46 years of age, and Ebrahim Damani. Yousef was reportedly arrested 11 years ago.

Also on Sunday, a prisoner was reportedly executed on drug related charges at Iranshahr Prison (Sistan & Baluchestan province, southern Iran). The prisoner has been identified as Abdoljalil Shahli, arrested 7 years ago.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced any of these executions.


3 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges, Iranian Officials Silent

On the morning of Saturday July 15, 3 prisoners were reportedly hanged on drug related charges at Parsilon, Khorramabad's central prison (Lorestan province, western Iran).

Iran Human Rights has obtained the identity of 1 of the prisoners: Najmoldin Safipour, sentenced to death on the charge of 12 kilograms of crystal meth. According to close sources, Mr. Safipour was a taxi driver. The identities of the 2 other prisoners are not known at this time.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these executions.

"They had arrested Najmoldin along with his friend four years ago, but the drugs they charged him with belonged to an individual whom they executed last year," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

These 3 prisoners were hanged 3 days before a bill to reform the death penalty for drug related charges is scheduled to be addressed in an open session by the Iranian Parliament.


2 More Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges----They were hanged 3 days before a bill to reform the death penalty for drug related charges is scheduled to be addressed by the Iranian Parliament.

On Saturday July 15, 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Urmia's central prison on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of the prisoners: Mohammad Reza Sadeghi and Mashallah Siadnavin.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these 2 executions.

Mr. Sadeghi and Mr. Siadnavin were hanged 3 days before a bill to reform the death penalty for drug related charges is scheduled to be addressed in an open session by the Iranian Parliament.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)


Iranian parliament votes to limit death penalty for drug traffickers

The Iranian parliament approved a bill on Sunday to limit death penalty for drug offenders.

182 out of 245 MPs present in the parliament voted in favor of the bill.

The bill will be turned into a law when it is studied by parliament's Judicial Committee and after being confirmed by the Guardian Council.

A lawmaker said that those who committed crimes related to drug trafficking due to poverty and unemployment will not be sentenced to death.

However those offenders who carry deadly weapons while trafficking drugs as well as drug lords will get death sentence, he explained.

The bill to limit death penalty for drug offenders was introduced last year. Reportedly, more than 100 lawmakers have helped draw up the legislation.



Japan's death chambers: Inside the secretive world where prisoners are executed with brutal efficiency----Japanese executions are shrouded in secrecy and heavily ritualised. The nation has been condemned for retaining the death penalty when many countries have abolished it

For Masakatsu Nishikawa, death was an efficient affair.

There was a polished floor and tasteful lighting, the soothing calm of a Buddhist sutra and a last glimpse of art.

Then - with a brutality that no fine furnishings can hide - a noose was put around his neck and the trapdoor beneath his feet gave way.

He was probably dead within seconds, killed by a state that shrouds its execution process in such secrecy even the condemned prisoner only knows he is due to die a handful of hours before.

Japan may be one of the most forward-thinking nations in the world but it shows little sign of consigning the death penalty to history.

Nishikawa, 61, was no saint. He had been convicted of murdering 4 women in an horrific killing spree more than 25 years ago.

Koichi Sumida, the 2nd man Japan executed that day, was also guilty of murder - this time of a female ex colleague.

But opponents of the death penalty remain vociferous in their argument that it never delivers justice.

"These executions show the Japanese government's wanton disregard for the right to life," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment.

"Executions in Japan remain shrouded in secrecy but the government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, as the majority of the world's states have turned away from the death penalty."

Notorious death row prisoners' last meals revealed - including fried chicken, chocolate milkshake and a single olive

Japan has executed 28 of its citizens since 2010. There are thought to be 122 prisoners currently on death row.

They are held in solitary confinement and only allowed to exercise twice a week.

There is little to relieve a life of queasy boredom with family visits kept to an absolute minimum.

Most spend at least 5 years awaiting their fate and some - like Nishikawa - spend decades never knowing quite when death will come.

In a report published in 2008, Amnesty said as a result inmates were being driven insane and exposed to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" punishment.

There has also been criticism by the UN Committee Against Torture, which highlighted the secrecy of the execution system and the psychological strain it puts on inmates and their families.

It is a peculiar position for a nation - the 2nd richest in the world - which prides itself on advancement and where citizens enjoy an enviable standard of life well into old age. The only other member of the G8 power group which retains the death penalty is the US.

Yet capital punishment remains widely supported by the Japanese public and - with no option for life imprisonment - judges face a choice between prison with certain release or death for multiple killers.

In 2010, Japanese authorities took the unusual step of allowing journalists into the Tokyo Detention House.

Pictures show a suite of rooms both mundane and deeply sinister.

Thick carpet, cedar floors and soft lighting evoke a hotel conference centre.

Not so the hooks on the walls where inmates are chained or the square trap door at the centre of the execution chamber.

Red lines mark the spot where convicts stand with the noose around their necks. The mechanism is triggered by 1 of 3 wall-mounted push buttons in a neighbouring room all pressed simultaneously by 3 officers.

This is so no one officer knowns if he pressed the deadly button.

It is similar to the method used when capital punishment is carried out by a firing squad – at least one of which will have a blank cartridge instead of a live round.

The man who fired the fatal shot will never know.

Details of the process emerged in a piece by Charles Lane, who wrote: "At the press of a button, a trap door directly under the prisoner swings open, and he drops through a square hole in the cedar, or the carpet.

"The noose at the end of a slender beige rope tightens, the prisoner's neck snaps, and he stops moving.

"His body dangles in a separate room downstairs, until the time comes for a doctor to verify that he is dead.

"On this lower level, the environment is unadorned concrete. There is a drain in the middle of the floor."

In 2013 Masahiko Fujita , 66, who served as an executioner in the 1970s while a senior officer at the Osaka Detention House, recalled the face of one executed convict, noting he was pale but "looked very peaceful."

"I'd rather be fishing": Memorable final words uttered by death row inmates moments before they are executed

He said once the inmate is pronounced dead by a doctor, the rope is loosened and his corpse is placed in a coffin.

Fujita said the rope is tied so its noose comes to the side of the neck, making it look as if the condemned is bowing toward witnesses when dropped from the upper floor.

The prisoner’s hands and legs are bound to prevent them from flailing, he said.

There is a viewing window where officials can watch the hanging and the law dictates prosecutors are sometimes required to serve as witnesses.

When a prosecutor returns to his office after an execution, he may find the floor strewn with salt. It is an act of ritual purification.

On Thursday July 13, Nishikawa woke in his cell in Osaka Detention Centre to be told his time had come. In Hiroshima, 34-year-old Sumida received the same news.

There was time for a last meal - but not to say goodbye to their families in the outside world.

On the way to the execution chamber is a sculpture of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. She was sentenced to death for refusing to marry the husband her father chose for her - but the executioner's sword broke before he could harm her.

She will be one of the last faces a condemned prisoner sees. They go blindfold to the room where the hangman's noose awaits them.



Pakistan hangs 465 people since 2014----Becomes the 5th most prolific executioner in the world

Even though the death penalty has failed to curb crime, including terrorism, it is exceedingly used as a political tool, sometimes even as a jail overcrowding solution in Pakistan, said Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), an organization working for prisoners' rights. According to its report, the country executed 465 people since the lifting of a moratorium on death penalty in 2014, thus becoming the "5th most prolific executioner" in the world.

"It is a high number of the executions that made Pakistan 'fifth most prolific executioner' in the world, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq," the JPP report said.

A data analysis by the organization showed a total of 465 prisoners have been executed during the last 2 1/2 years since the country lifted moratorium on executions.

It said that the Pakistani government justifies the lifting of the moratorium by claiming it is necessary to deter the terrorist threat to the country.

"The government is mostly hanging terrorists through military courts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and through anti- terrorism courts in Sindh," the report said.

The maximum number of executions were carried out in the eastern Punjab province which accounts for 83% of total executions, and 89 % of total death sentences.

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said: "Pakistan's troubling and continued use of the death penalty has continuously fallen short of meeting its international human rights commitments and fair trial standards, as well as our own domestic laws."

"The death penalty is not an effective tool to curb militancy and crime," she said, adding that it is time for the stakeholders to commit to genuine reforms in the criminal justice system, and until it is done, to restore the moratorium on the death penalty.

Pakistan lifted a self-imposed moratorium on death penalty in terror related cases in December 2014 after Taliban militants massacred at least 150 people, mostly students, at an army-run school in Peshawar.

(source: Taiwan News)


Pak Military Court Rejects Mercy Plea Of Kulbhushan Jadhav, Petition Now With Army Chief----Military Court has rejected mercy petition of Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Bajwa is now considering the appeal of former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was awarded death sentence for espionage by its military court.

"The petition of Indian national is now with COAS who'll decide soon. The Army Chief is looking at each aspect of Jadhav's appeal,analysing the evidence and will decide on merits",Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said.

Jadhav's clemency appeal has been rejected by the Military Appellate Court. If his appeal for clemency is rejected by General Bajwa, he can then file another mercy petition with President Mamnoon Hussain within 90 days of the Army Chief deciding on his appeal.

Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that the authorities are considering the Indian External Affairs Ministry's request of Jadhav's mother to grant her a visa so that she could visit her son in prison.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, last week, took on Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz for not entertaining the request for visa to the mother of Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death for alleged espionage.

Jadhav was arrested on March 3 last year from Balochistan allegedly for espionage attributes. He was later awarded death sentence by a Pakistani military court.

India had then moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the death penalty and in its verdict on May 18 had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav.

A leading Pakistani daily has voiced its support in favour of the alleged Indian spy's mother, saying that she should be granted visa to visit Pakistan on 'humanitarian grounds as this provides the latest opportunity for India and Pakistan to back away from an increasingly confrontational stance against each other.'



Double killer to hang

Robert Chiguma of Hwedza, who killed 2 people after being confronted over the theft of a kitchen cabinet, has been sentenced to death.

Chiguma committed the offence on October 21, 2014 amid allegations that he had stolen a kitchen cabinet from his neighbour.

The 2 victims were killed while trying to investigate the theft at community level.

After the gruesome murder, Chiguma went on to steal bags of fertiliser and a pair safety shoes belonging to the deceased.

High Court judge Justice Happias Zhou found Chiguma guilty of murder with actual intent before slapping him with capital punishment.

The judge said under the circumstances, the death penalty was appropriate.

"While I accept that the Constitution gives the court the discretion as to whether or not to pass the sentence of death, it would be a seriously improper exercise of judicial discretion not to impose the death penalty in the circumstances of this case, unless the accused person can show cause why the sentence of death should not be passed in respect of each of the two counts of murder," ruled Justice Zhou.

The court did not find any extenuating circumstances warranting a prison term.

"In the instant case, the court has already found that there are no extenuating circumstances in respect of both counts," said the judge.

Justice Zhou said Chiguma killed innocent people who were merely accompanying a neighbour to check on the suspicious kitchen cabinet.

"As regards aggravating circumstances, this court finds it to be more than serious that the accused person killed the deceased persons for merely accompanying a person who intended to make a genuine inquiry about a kitchen cabinet which he believed to be his,"ť he said.

On the eve of the gruesome murder, one Khawun Mpofu was accompanied to Chiguma's house by the 2 now deceased, Gilbert Maweto and Phineas Chiwande, to investigate a matter involving the theft of a kitchen unit.

Upon their arrival, Mpofu positively identified his kitchen unit in the absence of the accused.

The following day, Chiguma learnt that some men had inquired about the kitchen cabinet and in a rage tracked down Maweto whom he allegedly struck several times with a log, killing him in the process.

He stuffed the corpse in a fire vault and proceeded to Chiwande's house and again assaulted him several times with a sharp object killing him before dumping the body in a pool along a stream.

The 2 deceased's remains were located on October 24 and November 1, 2014.

In his defence, Chiguma argued he was forced to confess to the charges and to plead guilty against his will.

He argued that he did not kill the duo even though they had problems over the kitchen cabinet.

(source: The Herald)

JULY 16, 2017:


Texas Cracks Down on the Market for Jailhouse Snitches

Prosecutors love jailhouse informants who can provide damning testimony that a cellmate privately confessed to a crime. Jailhouse informants, in turn, love the perks they get in exchange for snitching, like shortened sentences, immunity from prosecution or a wad of cash.

As you might imagine, though, in a market driven by such questionable motives, the testimony these informants provide is often unreliable.

Even worse, it can be deadly. False testimony from jailhouse informants has been the single biggest reason for death-row exonerations in the modern death-penalty era, according to a 2005 survey by the Center on Wrongful Convictions. They accounted for 50 of the 111 exonerations to that point, and there have been 48 more exonerations since then.

Last month, Texas, which has been a minefield of wrongful convictions - more than 300 in the last 30 years alone - passed the most comprehensive effort yet to rein in the dangers of transactional snitching.

Texas has become a national leader in criminal-justice reforms, after having long accommodated some of the worst practices and abuses in the nation. The state, particularly in light of past abuses, deserves credit for seeking innovative solutions to problems that have long proved resistant to change.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The new law requires prosecutors to keep thorough records of all jailhouse informants they use - the nature of their testimony, the benefits they received and their criminal history. This information must be disclosed to defense lawyers, who may use it in court to challenge the informant's reliability or honesty, particularly if the informant has testified in other cases.

The law was recommended by a state commission established in 2015 to examine exonerations and reduce the chances of wrongful convictions. The commission also persuaded lawmakers to require procedures to reduce the number of mistaken eyewitness identifications and to require that police interrogations be recorded - smart steps toward a fairer and more accurate justice system.

But the new procedures on jailhouse informants shouldn't have been necessary in the 1st place. Under longstanding Supreme Court rulings, prosecutors are required to turn over any evidence that might call an informant's credibility into question - such as conflicting stories or compensation they get in exchange for their testimony. Yet far too many fail to do so.

A better solution would be to bar the use of compensated informants outright, or at least in cases involving capital crimes, as one Texas bill has proposed. Studies have shown that even when a defense lawyer is able to make the case that an informant has an incentive to lie, juries are just as likely to convict. And that's assuming a defense lawyer uses such evidence - not always a safe assumption given the wide range of quality in the defense bar.

Also, making evidence admissible at trial only goes so far. The vast majority of convictions are the result of guilty pleas, which means a defendant may not even find out that an informant was paid to incriminate him before having to decide whether to accept a plea offer.

Some states have begun to require that judges hold hearings to test an informant's reliability, much as they would test an expert witness's knowledge - before the jury can hear from him.

But the deeper fix that's needed is a cultural one. Many prosecutors are far too willing to present testimony from people they would never trust under ordinary circumstances. Until prosecutors are more concerned with doing justice than with winning convictions, even the most well-intentioned laws will fall short.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Lynn Abraham vies for interim D.A. job

Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who held the job longer than anyone else in the history of the city, heads a list of applicants to serve as the interim D.A. until a replacement for former D.A. Seth Williams is elected this November.

Abraham, the city's first female district attorney, held the office from 1991 to 2010. During her term she earned nicknames such as "Deadliest D.A." and "Queen of Death" for the high rate at which her office sought the death penalty. However, none of her cases has ever resulted in an actual execution.

Former D.A. Williams, an Abraham protege who eventually succeeded her, resigned from the position on June 29 after pleading guilty to 1 charge of bribery. Williams was indicted on 29 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and extortion back in March. He will be sentenced later this year.

The interim will hold the position until the fall general election when Democratic favorite Larry Krasner faces off against Republican underdog Beth Grossman.

Other interim hopefuls for the position are James F. Berardinelli, John P. Delaney, Curtis R. Douglas, Arlene D. Fisk, Kelley Brisbon Hodge, Joseph Jamil Khan, D. Webster Keogh, Benjamin Lerner, William J. Manfredi, Kathleen E. Martin, Paul P. Panepinto, Robert A. Rovner, and Leon A. Williams.

Khan finished s2nd to Krasner in the Democratic primary. Martin has been running the office in Williams' absence.

To qualify, applicants had to meet the standards for the position "District Attorney" as outlined in Purdon's Pennsylvania Statues.

They must be a resident of the city, at least 25 years old and must have practiced as an attorney for 1 year before being appointed, among other requirements. They also had to be in good standing , meaning they have not been suspended from practicing law or serving probation.

On July 19, each of the 88 members of the Board of Judges will hear presentations from each of the candidates, and on July 20 they will cast a vote to select the candidate.



'Good citizens' will love him. 'Criminals will learn to hate him,' sheriff says of new DA

When Jonathan Adams took office as district attorney in January, he faced a number of challenges in the Towaliga Judicial Circuit that includes Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties.

As the 1st new district attorney in the circuit in 17 years - only the 2nd since its creation in 1999 - Adams was faced with a myriad of new administrative tasks when he first took office.

The district attorney's office didn't have an office manual with policies and procedures in place. He had to prepare for April budget hearings.

With Butts and Lamar counties considering courthouse renovations and the Monroe County district attorney's office needing to find new office space, Adams faced additional real estate and architectural concerns.

And it all was happening in the final months before Christopher Calmer was set to stand trial in June in the 2014 fatal shooting of Monroe County deputy Michael Norris.

"It was a juggling act," said Adams, 41.

A little more than 6 months later, Adams has begun building a reputation of being hard on crime while also making strides to make the district attorney's office more efficient and modern.

He's well-liked by law enforcement, said longtime Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick.

"I think Jonathan has done a great job since he has taken office," Bittick said.

He credited Adams for his work on the Calmer case, securing a conviction in the high-profile case despite jurors’ decision not to sentence Calmer to death.

"I'm just looking forward to working with him," Bittick said.

Making changes

In his 1st months in office, Adams has asserted new goals of taking more cases to trial and taking a strong stance to push older cases forward.

9 days after his swearing in, prosecutors indicted 3 people in the 2008 robbery and killing of a Butts County business owner.

Butts Sheriff Gary Long said he'd asked the circuit's former district attorney to seek the death penalty against Fuquah Cashaw in the 1999 cold case kidnapping, sexual assault and fatal strangulation of Heather Davidson. A grand jury indicted Cashaw on murder charges in 2015.

Davidson's family didn't understand why prosecutors weren't taking a harsher stance, Long said.

After reviewing the case, Adams found a number of "aggravating factors" that led him to think the case warranted seeking the death penalty, Adams said.

He filed a notice of intent to seek capital punishment in February.

"He really turned my head," Long said of the decision. "It was a breath of fresh air to have a prosecutor come in who was taking a stand to be hard on crime."

It was a breath of fresh air to have a prosecutor come in who was taking a stand to be hard on crime.

Butts County Sheriff Gary Long

While law enforcement has a role in reducing crime, "ultimately it's lying with the district attorney's office and the district attorney and his leadership to send harsh penalties out for people committing crimes," the sheriff said. "He has done just that"

Like Bittick, Long said he's looking forward to working more with Adams in the future.

"The good citizens of the county will love him and the criminals will learn to hate him," the sheriff said. "That's exactly what we need."

Adams said the GBI asked him to give a second look at a 2012 child molestation case that previously had been dismissed by the district attorney's office. After finding "sufficient evidence," he reopened the case and is pursing prosecution.

The mounds of documents that once were used in the district attorneys' office have been replaced by desktop digital scanners that allow documents to be delivered to defense attorneys electronically, Adams said.

Staffers now participate in quarterly training days and have an office manual that clarifies workers' responsibilities.

In an effort to standardize prosecutors' sentencing recommendations, the office now has a list of guidelines, he said.

Goals for the future

In the next 6 months or so, Adams is hoping to help launch a circuit-wide victims advocacy program designed to provide services to crime victims in all 3 counties.

Monroe County victims have been served by the sheriff's office's C.A.R.E. Cottage since the 1980s and the new initiative would expand the C.A.R.E. Cottage concept to all 3 counties, Bittick said.

Adams said his office is applying for grants to hire a second investigator and a victims' advocate whose job will be focused on linking victims with a state compensation program and to work with partner agencies that provide victim services.

The state only pays the salary for one investigator, no matter the size of the circuit, he said.

"At the end of the day when law enforcement investigators get a case ready for an arrest, they make the arrest and then they move on," Adams said. "Our investigators are there to take that arrest to trial, the rest of the way."

It's a district attorney's office investigator's job to help apply for warrants, listen to jail phone calls for evidence and to find victims and witnesses who may have moved before a trial begins, he said.

Looking to 2018, Adams said he wants to find strategies to partner with law enforcement and businesses to help sex trafficking victims on the road as they stop off at truck stops, restaurants and other businesses on the Interstate 75 corridor that passes through the circuit.

"There are training programs available for those staff members that work in those facilities," he said. "There are tell-tale signs of what a victim of sex trafficking may look like."

Stickers and signs are available that can be posted identifying places as "safe havens," so victims can understand what to do to get help without alerting the person trafficking them, Adams said.



DA says he'll pursue death penalty in capital murder case

Prosecutors will pursue the death penalty if a Morgan County jury convicts Dewayne Oneal Hicks of capital murder for the 2013 slaying of James Patrick Travers II during an alleged robbery attempt, said District Attorney Scott Anderson.

Jury selection for Hicks' trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 2, with opening remarks by attorneys slated for Aug. 7, according to court records and attorneys involved in the case.

Hicks' court-appointed attorneys, Brian White and Griff Belser, declined to discuss details of the case this week, citing the seriousness of the charges, but said they are prepared to go to trial next month and do not foresee any delays.

Hicks, 26, of Madison, is one of three men charged with capital murder in the slaying that occurred during an apparent botched robbery attempt at Travers' home.

One of the defendants, Ryan O'neal Caudle, 25, of Decatur, already has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of felony murder. He was given a life sentence in exchange for the guilty plea and his agreement that he testify against the remaining defendants in the case, according to the DA's office.

The 3rd defendant, Charles K. Makekau, 28, of Decatur, is scheduled for trial Oct. 25 on a charge of capital murder for his alleged role as the planner of the robbery.

If convicted of capital murder, state law only allows for 2 possible sentences: death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Anderson was not prepared to say whether his office would pursue the death penalty against Makekau if he is convicted of capital murder.

"We'll just take them 1 case at a time," he said.

According to the sworn affidavit of Decatur Police Detective Michael Burleson, police responded to a 911 call reporting a burglary in progress at Travers' home on the night of June 18, 2013.

The caller, Jasmine Sharpley, said 2 men entered the home at 1402 Mitchell Pines Trail S.E. while she and Travers were in bed and demanded money, according to the affidavit. At least 1 of the men was armed with a rifle, Burleson swore in the affidavit.

The 2 men pulled Travers from his bed, and one took him downstairs. Moments later, Sharpley said she heard a gunshot and was escorted downstairs by the other man, according to the affidavit.

The 2 men fled the scene together, and a passerby discovered Travers' body lying at the edge of U.S. 31, about 30 yards from his residence, minutes after the 911 call, Burleson swore.

The affidavit does not specify how police identified Caudle and Hicks as suspects, but said they became suspects in the initial stages of the investigation. It also said Caudle had taken possession of a .30-caliber carbine rifle hours before the murder and that the 2 men went to the residence about 7 hours before the incident and conducted a "practice run" of the robbery.

Caudle was arrested in Detroit on July 29, 2013, and provided a written statement detailing how he and Hicks planned, practiced and executed the robbery and claimed Hicks was the one armed with the .30-caliber rifle and the one who shot Travers, according to the affidavit.

Hicks gave a conflicting statement when he was brought in for questioning the next day, claiming he and Caudle planned and practiced the robbery but backed out when he found out who the target was and spent the entire night with a friend. That alibi was "refuted by the witness," according to the affidavit.

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Hoover determined a bullet removed from Travers' body during an autopsy was a .30-caliber carbine projectile, according the affidavit.

In a separate affidavit, Burleson swore Makekau said during questioning that he had come up with the plan to burglarize Travers' home, giving Caudle the disarm code for the alarm system and telling him there would be a large amount of cash at the residence.

Makekau told police he was to be paid a portion of the money from the home and that he had texted Caudle at 2 a.m. the night of the incident to ask what happened, according to the affidavit.

"I didn't get nothing, he ran," was Caudle's response, according to the affidavit.

Hicks and Makekau are being held in the Morgan County Jail without bail.

(source: The Decatur Daily)


Judge orders mental competency hearing for man accused in series of homeless attacks

A judge Friday ordered a mental competency hearing for a man accused of attacking mostly homeless men in San Diego neighborhoods last year, resulting in 4 deaths.

Jon David Guerrero, 40, is charged with 4 counts of murder, including a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders that could lead to the death penalty if he's convicted.

Judge Michael Smyth suspended criminal proceedings against Guerrero and set a July 24 competency hearing after receiving word from a doctor who evaluated the defendant.

Deputy Public Defender Dan Tandon - who represents Guerrero with Deputy Public Defender Whitney Antrim - said Guerrero has suffered from severe mental illness for many years.

"Understanding his illness is the key to understanding what happened and why,'' Tandon said. "That kind of knowledge takes time and compassion on both sides.''

Authorities said the first attack happened on Feb. 8, 2016. Guerrero allegedly stabbed a man, who was sleeping on a sidewalk, in the face and neck.

The victim chased the defendant, who dropped a flashlight, Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey alleged. Guerrero's DNA was found on that flashlight, according to the prosecutor.

On June 28, 2016, Guerrero allegedly attacked two men while he was riding his bike, hitting them in the back of the head.

About 8 a.m. on July 3, 2016, the burning body of Angelo De Nardo was found underneath an Interstate 5 offramp near the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park. Witnesses described seeing a man running across the freeway near Clairemont Drive, carrying a gas can. The 53-year-old victim had a railroad spike driven into his head and chest, the prosecutor said.

The following day, Shawn Mitchell Longley, 41, was found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach with a railroad spike driven into his body, and 61-year-old transient Manuel Mason was severely injured by a railroad spike near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district, according to police

. On the morning of July 6, 2016, Dionicio Derek Vahidy, 23, was gravely injured in downtown San Diego by an assailant who fled after leaving a towel burning on top of him. Vahidy died in a hospital 4 days later.

Harvey said Guerrero is also charged in the death of 83-year-old Molly Simons on July 13, 2016, in North Park. The victim was not homeless and lived with her husband, police said.

The prosecutor said Simons was walking to the YMCA, where she volunteered several times a week, when Guerrero allegedly rode by on a bicycle and struck her in the back of the head, causing her death.

Another attack happened shortly after 4:30 a.m. July 15, 2016, when 2 San Diego Harbor Police officers in a squad car in the 1800 block of C Street heard someone underneath Interstate 5 in the East Village yelling for help, police said.

The officers pulled over and found a 55-year-old homeless man suffering from "significant trauma'' to his upper body.

Guerrero was arrested that day on his bicycle. The defendant had a backpack containing a large mallet with apparent blood stains along with three railroad spikes, according to the prosecutor.

(source: KUSI news)


Questions remain after week of testimony in murder case----Edwin Lara accused in death of Kaylee Sawyer of Bend

Just shy of the 1-year anniversary of a suspected murder that shocked Bend residents and local law enforcement, much remains unknown about the death of Kaylee Sawyer.

After 5 full days of testimony in the murder case against suspect Edwin Lara, some new information has come to light, but key details remain unknown.

At stake is whether key evidence - including Sawyer's body - will be admissible at trial.

Lara, 32, is accused of murdering Sawyer, 23, on July 24 after encountering her while working as a security guard at Central Oregon Community College, where he also studied criminal justice. An immigrant from Honduras, Lara had no criminal history of any significance. At the time of Sawyer's death, Lara was married to a woman who had recently been hired as an officer for the Bend Police Department. He himself had aspirations to become a police sergeant, he told investigators following Sawyer's death. Now, he is charged with four counts of Oregon's most severe crime - aggravated murder - and faces the death penalty.

About 2-dozen witnesses testified last week during 5 days of hearings in which Lara's defense team was trying to keep Lara's apparent confession to police - and any associated evidence - inadmissible in his scheduled October 2018 trial. The hearings continue Tuesday and are scheduled to go through Thursday. They will then resume over a day or 2 in September, after which Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler will issue a ruling.

Sawyer was last seen in the very early hours of July 24 after participating in a bachelorette party in downtown Bend. While her boyfriend was giving her a ride home, the 2 got into an argument.

Rather than follow him to their apartment, Sawyer walked off. The 2 exchanged some texts, but conversation stopped around 1 a.m.

How Sawyer may have encountered Lara and how she died are unclear. In the days following Sawyer's death, Lara told many people he killed her accidentally with his car, according to court testimony. However when investigators inspected the vehicle they did not find evidence to support that theory.

Lara is also charged with a count of aggravated murder for allegedly attempting sexual assault in the commission of a murder. Details of that allegation have not been discussed in court, though testimony has suggested Sawyer's body was only partially clothed when found.

More information is likely to come starting Tuesday when court proceedings resume. Adler has ordered that at least significant portions of Lara's alleged confession be played in court.

The defense team is arguing Lara's apparent confession should be thrown out because statements he had made about talking with an attorney were apparently ignored by the Tehama County jail staff prior to the interrogation. Defense attorneys say the information Lara gave them was improperly obtained, and the evidence collected as a result of that information - including Sawyer's body - should also be inadmissible at trial.

The Deschutes County District Attorney's Office says Sawyer's body would have been found soon anyway, likely by workers on a road project that started July 26 on the stretch of U.S. Highway 126 between Redmond and Sisters where Sawyer's body was found.

If Adler rules in favor of the defense, there's still a heap of evidence against Lara.

Aside from his statements to Central Oregon investigators, Lara admitted to killing Sawyer to several people over the 2 days following her death, according to court testimony. Further, Sawyer's bloodied possessions were found in a shed behind Lara's house, along with a bloody rock. Blood was found on his work car and on his work boots.

While evidence against Lara has been clearly laid out, the motive for allegedly sexually assaulting and murdering a stranger has yet to be touched in court testimony. The 2 sides that have been painted of Lara - a young man seeking a career in law enforcement, or a man who told people he had an "urge to kill" - conflict. They also make the alleged murder that much more terrifying, said Eric Beckwith of the Redmond Police Department, the lead investigator on the case.

"We realized early on that this was what we would call a worst-case scenario," Beckwith said on the stand.

Following Sawyer's death, Lara is suspected of wrapping up and dumping her body, then blackmailing his cousin to help him move it to a 2nd location, according to court testimony. Police allege he then drove to Salem and kidnapped a 19-year-old woman at gunpoint as she got off work at Ross Dress for Less.

Police say Lara then drove to Yreka, California, where he broke into a motel and attempted to steal a car from an elderly man. When the man called for help, Lara allegedly shot him in the chest and left him for dead, although the man survived.

Lara is then accused of running to a nearby gas station, where he allegedly carjacked and kidnapped three people. He then allegedly engaged in a high-speed police chase before surrendering, requesting to speak with Central Oregon law enforcement and allegedly confessing during a 6-hour interrogation.

Beckwith made a comment to Lara during the interrogation about possible other crimes he committed, as if it was inconceivable Lara could have started his criminal life in such shocking fashion.

"I don't think you are a bad guy," Beckwith told Lara in the interrogation. "I think this thing has spun completely out of control."

A year later, the case is still perplexing to many. It's held the attention of locals for the past year but has also attracted national eyes, as People Magazine was rumored to be calling attorneys on both sides of the case and published a story about the killing Wednesday.

Several law enforcement officers testified over the past week that in their combined dozens of years on the job, they have never encountered something quite like this.

On Thursday, Beckwith said the case presented unusual elements because Lara was working in a form of law enforcement and was married to a cop. After telling his wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, that he accidentally killed Sawyer by striking her with his car, Lara left the couple's Redmond home with a 9 mm handgun while making suicidal comments, Ponce-Lara told police.

Beckwith testified that because of Lara's experience with law enforcement, when interrogating him he decided to lay all of his cards on the table. Trying to use rudimentary interview techniques would be "insulting" to someone like Lara, he said.

While much has been said about the case over the past week, the core details of Sawyer's death, including a possible murder weapon, have not been discussed.

Testimony is set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court.

(source: The Bend Bulletin)


nian MPs approve generalities of bill to reduce death penalty for drug offences

The Iranian parliament approved general outlines of a bill to reduce death penalty for drug offences in the country.

The bill was approved on July 16 by 182 MPS votes in favor of it, 36 against and 6 abstained, Iran's ISNA news agency reported.

The bill, which is under study in parliament for more than 1 year, will save at least 5,000 prisoners pending for execution once approved.

Under the new bill, those convicted of producing or distributing more than 100 kilograms of opium or 2 kilograms of industrial narcotics will face death penalty.

Under the current law, smuggling of 30 grams of industrial drugs and also 20 kilograms of opium is punishable by death.

According to Amnesty International, Iran carried out 567 executions in 2016, standing among the top 5 executioner countries in the world.

(source: Trend News Agency)


Eye For An Eye: Man awarded death sentence

Additional and District Sessions Judge Javed Iqbal Ranjha on Saturday awarded the death sentence to an accused involved in a murder case of Shahpur City Police station. According to the prosecution, accused Muhammad Aslam was a resident of village Jhaverian. He lived with his father, Muhammad Ramzan. The accused along with his father murdered his relative Allah Ditta, who was the son of Lal Khan. They had a family dispute on April 18 last year. The court awarded the death penalty to Muhammad Aslam with a fine of Rs200,000 while acquitting Muhammad Ramzan.

(source: The Express Tribune)


British grandmother on death row in Bali faces losing last-ditch appeal after thousands of pounds of funding goes missing

A British grandmother on death row for drug-smuggling faces losing her last chance to escape the firing squad after thousands of pounds to fund a final appeal went missing.

Well-wishers and church groups raised 40,000 pounds to help Lindsay Sandiford, 61, appeal against the death penalty for smuggling 10 lb of cocaine into Bali in 2012.

The money was paid into accounts controlled by Indonesian legal advocate Ursa Supit, who used to work with British charity Reprieve.

But 18 months after receiving the funds, Supit has failed to lodge an appeal - despite withdrawing 7,800 pounds to make the arrangements.

She has also refused requests from Sandiford to produce bank statements to account for the remaining money and has now cut off all contact with her.

Friends of Supit say the 45-year-old is a drug addict and is unable to account for the funds.

Sandiford, of Redcar, Teesside, said: 'I could now be taken away and executed at any time.'

Supit is living on an island near Bali where she bought a 3-year lease on a complex of holiday bungalows.

She did not respond to calls from The Mail on Sunday.

iii Sandiford has had no legal representation since her previous lawyer was jailed for corruption in an unrelated case in 2015.

The British Government has refused to fund her appeal.



Revealed: Ghana has no hangman to execute death row convicts

The last time the death sentence system was used was in 1993.

There is no personnel to operate the hangman system at the Nsawam medium prison.

The Director of Administration at the Prison Service, Stephen Coffie, has revealed that Ghana currently has no hangman to execute death sentences. According to him, the last professionally trained hangman Ghana had has long left the system and is yet to be replaced.



Erdogan backs death penalty on Turkey coup attempt anniversary

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reiterated his support for reinstating the death penalty in an emotive and combative speech to tens of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul to mark the anniversary of last year's attempted coup.

On Saturday a sea of marchers flocked to the Bosphorus Bridge where 36 people were killed by coup soldiers exactly a year ago.

In a speech packed with religious references, Erdogan said defendants in coup-related trials should wear a standard uniform "like in Guantanamo", warned that Turkey would "cut the heads off" traitors bent on destabilising the country, and brandished the coup plotters as "unbelievers".

"The most powerful weapons were mercilessly used by the enemies of our nation," he said. "Our people only had the flag and faith."

During the attempted coup, tanks and fighter jets were deployed in the streets and skies of Ankara and Istanbul, when a faction within the military attempted to overthrow the elected government.

The coup was defeated after citizens of all political stripes took to the streets to challenge the soldiers. The government blames Fethullah Gulen, an exiled preacher based in the US with a large grassroots following, and his movement for orchestrating the coup attempt.

But Turkey is in the shadow of a crackdown that has gone beyond the coup plotters to encompass dissidents and even opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of people have been dismissed or detained from the civil service, police, military, judiciary, media and academia, and rights activists have been repeatedly detained. On Friday the government sacked an additional 7,000 people, and more than 150 journalists are in prison.

In his speech after unveiling a monument to the victims at the Bosphorus Bridge, which has been renamed the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, the president harshly criticised opposition parties, indicating that there would be no attempt at a post-coup consensus.

Erdogan was scheduled to deliver a speech in the early hours of Sunday at the Grand National Assembly to mark the moment during the coup when parliament was bombed by the plotters.

Marches and commemorative events were planned around Istanbul, Ankara and other big cities to mark the anniversary of the coup, including "democracy watches", in which citizens occupy the cities' main squares.

(source: The Guardian)

JULY 15, 2017:


Death row inmate requests electric chair, Florida law may make it possible

Considered among the most dangerous inmates, Action News met with Wayne Doty in a small room at Florida's death row. Despite his wrists being shackled, security still watched his every move.

"An individual has the right to choose their own destiny," Doty professed.

Then, the Plant City man uttered what no Florida inmate has requested before. The 44-year-old is demanding to be put to death by the electric chair and not by the lethal injection method.

"The bottom line is, at the end of the day I'm the one that murdered an individual," said Doty. "Not you, not anybody else. So it is my life, it is my crime, it is my means of execution."

His reasons even dumbfounded Mark Elliott, Executive Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

"I don't understand. I don't know what his motives are," said Elliott.

Why he wants the electric chair

Doty's claims are flabbergasting. He doesn't like needles. He was also a former welder and believes that electrocution is a more humane way to die.

"Electricity, 2000-3000 volts of electricity right through a person's brain will render you dead within seconds," said Doty.

The state doesn't agree

Florida took the electric chair out of commission after the execution of triple murderer Allen Lee *Tiny* Davis back in 1999 went horribly wrong. Davis' execution drew nationwide attention after he bled profusely from the nose while being electrocuted.

? Many argued that execution by electrocution was outdated.

Then Governor Jeb Bush, agreed that lethal injection would become the primary means of capital punishment.

The loophole in the law that may grant Doty his wish

"Although we are locked up in prison we have our own rights," said Doty.

A rarely used Florida law gives the state no choice but to honor Doty request. Once sentenced, inmates have a one time option of requesting their means of execution.

What landed Doty on death row

Doty shot to death Harvey Horne II, a worker at a manufacturing plant in Plant City in 1996. But that murder didn't send Doty to death row. He got life in prison.

Doty landed on death row only after killing another inmate, Xavier Rodriguez years later in 2011.

Why Doty says he did it

His reasons behind killing the inmate are another mind twister.

Doty said he did it for Horne's sake.

"It is just my right to bring closure to the victim's family," said Doty.

According to court records, for weeks, if not months, Doty had been planning the murder of Rodriguez.

What his victim's son thinks

"I was shocked and flabbergasted and totally disgusted," said Harvey Horne III.

Horne is the son of the man Doty killed in 1996.

"He and another man shot him 5 times in the face," said Horne.

Doty ultimately confessed to the murder of Harvey Horne admitting he shot Horne in the face during a drug robbery, according to court records.

"He didn't say he wanted to die when he was on trial when he first went to court when he killed my father. He tried to fight it," said Horne.

Doty saying that he killed the inmate for Horne's sake, truly infuriates Horne's son.

"My father's loss had a tremendous impact on me. I did not get a chance to be with my dad. He was killed right before my 20th birthday and now you just took this man a way to give me peace? That does not give me any peace it makes it worse. What kind of man are you?" asked Horne.

Doty's 2nd motive

He said was to get out of general population.

"Would you like to do life in prison?" he asked.

Doty's request comes to light as Florida's death row policies are in complete chaos

Pressure from the federal and state courts led to a new law in March. Now, death verdicts have to be unanimous.

Legal experts explained that nearly 150 inmates, nearly half on Florida's death row could get a new trial or even their sentences reversed.

Doty is one of those inmates, but is waiving appeals.

Is Doty seeking the electric chair as a delay tactic?

"If something happens and capital punishment is thrown out which could happen in the foreseeable future. That's not my problem," said Doty.

(source: WFTS news)


On Death Row for a 1960 murder, freed Jacksonville man reflects on another chance

The mid-morning air feels like a wet blanket, but to 74-year-old Calvin Thomas, that suits him just fine. In fact, just about anything does these days.

Using a cane to steady himself, Thomas directs his long-legged body to the chair at an outdoor table and slowly eases into it. A grin steals over his face as he takes in surroundings at the halfway house. It's a place for those, like him, who are starting over.

"It's a beautiful thing. It's a beautiful thing," he says seemingly about nothing in particular and at the same time about everything.

Thomas nods toward the outdoor grill and explains that on his 1st night here there were juicy burgers with slices of cheese waiting for him when he arrived after the bus ride to Bradenton in Manatee County from Jacksonville, a place that long ago he called home. The meal, something so simple to many, was a far cry from those he had day in and day out while eating alone on Florida's death row.

"God has blessed me," he says. "I don't have a sentence no more."

Thomas truly is in the midst of a transition after being given another shot at life. He entered death row at the age of 18. Today, 56 years later, Thomas toddles on a cane and smiles broadly, revealing gaps where teeth once stood. Steadfastly, Thomas prays for forgiveness for his terrible misdeeds while offering up thanks for his blessings.

Blessings include an about-face with Florida's tough-on-crime approach for juvenile offenders such as himself, a successful legal challenge that said the state's parole system was lip service and a public defender who made Thomas' case - the oldest of about 80 or so that will come through Northeast Florida's 4th Judicial Circuit for re-sentencing hearings - a priority.

At the halfway house just two months now, Thomas is a leader and an inspiration to others starting over.

"I know what I did was wrong and it was horrible," he says. "I'm just sorry that I had to be part of something that caused problems and harmed lives. I'm just so sorry it happened."


They were inseparable. If people saw 1, they'd see all 3. All went by nicknames. 17-year-old Calvin Thomas was Pop; Harold Simon, also 17, was known as Jackie; and the eldest at 24, Willie Young, was called Booster.

Being black didn't get you far in Jacksonville in 1960. The Ku Klux Klan held sway and economic opportunities were slim. But there was something that saved and then ruined these 3 young men: moonshine.

Thomas' father peddled moonshine, the poor man's gold, and so it seemed fitting that his son would too when Calvin Thomas Sr. skipped out on the family in the 1950s - leaving the eldest boy to help his mother support the then family of five. Ertha Lee Cooper worked as a maid to white families in Jacksonville.

Back then, a 5-gallon drum of moonshine fetched $25. In today's dollars, that’s the equivalent of $205.

Not bad, thought Thomas. Good money for someone who dropped out of school after 8th grade. And for a time, as long as there was a need for the homespun booze, Thomas, his buddies and his family were set.

"That was big money. That was the way of life," Thomas recalls.

That is until one day in the spring of 1960. The 3 friends were walking through the woods to make a delivery when the rumbling of a truck churning up the dusty road caught their attention. They slipped off the path and into the bushes to hide. As the truck passed, they popped their heads up and saw their still, their entire operation - save for the barrel of moonshine that they carried - being carted away on the back of someone else's truck.

They were devastated. To start over, they'd need at least $300 upfront to rebuild their still. Their business. Their lives. So they roamed the old Arlington neighborhood, begging for money from family and friends. Nothing.

The 3 friends then made a decision that ruined their lives - and the lives of others.

"We go across town," Thomas recalls, "and we see this little grocery store and so we say, 'Let's go in there and get the money,' and I say, 'Are you sure?' And Young says 'Yeah.'"


It was closing time on June 9, 1960, for Catherine and Eugene Richardson at the Daylight Grocery Store on North Myrtle Street when Thomas' 2 friends pulled handkerchiefs up to their eyes and entered the store. Thomas, the lookout, said he was checking out the back of the store when the gunshots went off near the front.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

He bolted.

"I ran and ran and ran. I ran down a dark alley, waiting and listening and I'm thinking, Lord have mercy. Then I heard someone say, 'Hey, Pop. Hey. Hey. Hey.'"

It was Young.

"He shot Jackie," Young said. "He was trying to shoot me, so I shot back."

In just a few hours, there was banging at Thomas' door. The police had come for him. 40-year-old shopkeeper Eugene Richardson was dead. No money was ever taken.

Police yanked Thomas from bed and took him down to the station. There, in an interrogation room known as the Shoot, he was in instant fear. Growing up, he heard all sorts of stories of what happens in the Shoot. They weren't stories any more. Thomas said he was forced down in a chair, his arms pinned behind his back.

"They whipped me. They beat me," he said. Someone shouted: "Don't hit him in the face."

So they hit him in the chest, Thomas said.

Thomas confessed. Simon and Young did too, telling investigators that the plan was just to run into the store, grab the money and run back out. Obviously it didn't go as planned.

"I'm just so sorry that it happened," Thomas says. "I made this bad choice when I was young. It was the worst decision that I ever made in all my life and it cost me almost my entire life in prison."

In racially divided Jacksonville, the pace at which the case moved through the court system was swift. The crime was in June. The trial in September. The sentencing in October after a motion to vacate the guilty verdict was denied. On Oct. 31, 1960, Thomas and Simon and Young became the 18th, 19th and 20th prisoners on Florida's death row, Thomas said.


Day by day his life was spent in a 6-foot-by-9-foot box at the Florida State Prison.

Because death row inmates aren't allowed in the chow line of the general prison population, food is brought to their tiny cells. Showers, that brief reprieve outside the cell, lasted only minutes every few days. It wasn't until Thomas was in there a few years that the state built a small recreation yard for death row prisoners to occasionally get a little bit of air and sunshine.

Life in the world outside his box slipped past Thomas. Outside the prison walls, the nation went to war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Assassins killed President Kennedy; the president's younger brother, Robert Kennedy; and Martin Luther King Jr.

Thomas tasted freedom when a judge granted his release in 1979, but he returned on a parole violation in 1989. He was behind bars when the World Trade Center was attacked.

When Thomas first went to prison, Dwight Eisenhower was the nation's 34th president. A few months before his latest release, the country's 45th president, Donald Trump, moved into the White House.

Thomas was supposed to die before any of those events ever happened.

The fact he is alive today is remarkable, said Bill White, the former public defender for the 4th Judicial Circuit.

"If he was white, he had a shot," White said of the court system in Jacksonville in 1960. "If he was black, he had no shot."

Across the South, young black people were rounded up guilty or not. There were lynchings and death row wasn't just a place for the most heinous of killers. Rapists and robbers were sent there as well.

Back then no blacks were allowed to serve on jury duty. Back then the KKK held sway. Back then a 1st-degree murder conviction automatically sent someone to the electric chair.

All 3 young men were tried for murder although only one, Young, was the killer. It took 33 minutes for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.


Thomas could take no more than 5 steps before reaching the end of his cell, so he'd turn around and pace another 5 steps back to where he started. He did that again and again in the Ready Room, his last stopover before the death chamber next door.

Days earlier on Oct. 3, 1963, 2 of the largest men Thomas had ever seen came to his cell and moved him there. Florida Gov. C. Ferris Bryant had given the OK to kill him.

Before he would die, Thomas had choices to make: Gray, blue or black were Thomas' color choices for a suit - care of the state - to be buried in. Thomas chose gray and the men took out measuring tapes to get his size. His final choice in life was when he ordered his last meal. He picked pork chops - hands down his favorite - as well as shrimp, steak, crab, fried fish and lots of banana pudding - all gifts for the guards, as he knew he'd be too nervous to eat his last meal.

"I thought maybe I'd just have a sip of juice or a bit of milk in the morning to settle my stomach," Thomas said.

As hours ticked closer to 8 a.m. on Oct. 7, 1963, the time when Thomas was set to be executed in the electric chair, he paced his cell. He cried out to God.

"Don't let them kill me. Don't let them kill me."

Just 14 hours before Thomas was set to die, he saw 2 men, strangers, standing with a sergeant outside his cell. "Are you Calvin Thomas Jr.?" one asked.

"Yes sir," he said.

"We have a stay of execution for you."

Thomas dropped to his knees. He cried. He prayed.

"I've been crying and praying ever since, you know. It's beautiful. It's wonderful," he said.

Back in Jacksonville, an expected funeral turned into a party, said Marion Erwin, who was 15 when her brother was sent to death row.

"We were just elated that he was not put to death," she said.

It didn't dawn on her or her family that a commuted death sentence didn't necessarily spell freedom.


By the mid-1960s, America began to change.

The faces of young blacks on death rows across the land filled newspapers and news magazines. Everyday people began to react, to think twice about the death penalty, White said.

The change in opinion, coupled with scores of legal appeals by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, put the brakes on the use of Florida's electric chair. Then came the landmark 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed capital punishment.

In Florida the ruling meant the sentences of 95 men and one woman were commuted to life in prison. No longer would they see the same fate as Frank Johnson of Duval County who on Oct. 7, 1924, became the 1st Department of Corrections inmate to die in Florida's 1st electric chair.

4 of the first 5 death row inmates killed in the chair were from Duval.

3 months after the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty, Thomas, Simon and Young were transported back to Jacksonville so that their death sentences could be set aside and they could be re-sentenced.

Young asked Judge Marion Gooding for credit for the 12 years that he'd already served.

Gooding said no. "I am not willing to do it. This was a very vicious murder ... and frankly I have no sympathy with you whatsoever."

What the judge refused to do in 1972, the Florida Department of Corrections did 7 years later when Thomas, Simon and Young were released on parole. For Thomas, the allure of drugs, booze, sex - making up for 20 years of the outside world that that he missed - pulled him in. He was sent back to prison in 1989 when he stabbed his girlfriend during an argument. Police records say her injuries were moderate.

A judge in Duval sentenced Thomas to 4 1/2 years in prison for the battery charge. But because Thomas violated his parole, he'd now have to complete his life sentence and try again to get out on parole.

"I hate it. I hate it. I hate it," Thomas said of failing to stay out of trouble in 1989. "I did something stupid and that hurts. I wasn't ready. I really wasn't quite ready to get out. I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I thought the world owed me something and I felt like I had to catch up."


Much changed in the judicial system in the 57 years since Eugene Arnold Richardson was killed. Back then Florida law allowed for anyone connected with a crime that ends in a killing to meet the same fate as the actual killer even if the penalty was death. Today, only the killer can be condemned to die and not the accomplices.

Also a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision said it is unlawful to sentence juvenile killers to death. Both Simon and Thomas were juveniles at the time of Richardson's death.

More legal rulings followed regarding automatic life sentences for juveniles and death penalty decisions. All the while the number of cases that were going to be sent back to the 4th Judicial Circuit for re-sentencing hearings were mounting. Thomas, who had a relatively blemish-free inmate record and who was asked to start a prison ministry in the gang-plagued Columbia County Correction Institution, estimates that he went before the parole board 10 times seeking another shot at freedom. Each time he was denied.

Even though parole was largely done away with 34 years ago, the parole board still exists to hear older cases like Thomas'. For years lawyers have argued that few convicts who were juveniles at the time of their offenses, and who are eligible for parole, are really given a meaningful shot at freedom. A Florida Supreme Court case said as much last May.

"It's not a system that really works," said Stephen Harper, Florida International University law professor. "... People accused of 1st-degree murder were not very likely to get out."

The Florida case regarding parole opened up that possibility for Thomas on April 24.

Using a cane to steady himself, Thomas methodically made his way through a Duval County courtroom and stood before Judge Mark Borello. Because his case dated back longer than any of the roughly 80 re-sentencing cases that are expected to come back to the circuit due to legal decisions, the Public Defender's Office made Thomas' case a priority, said Kate Bedell, his attorney.

As Thomas stood in court, Borello looked through the paperwork. Borello spoke of Thomas' conviction from nearly 57 years ago. He spoke of the death sentence. He spoke of Thomas' old friend Young being 81 years old and how his old friend Simon died of natural causes 9 years ago.

Borello remarked that Thomas lived a relatively problem-free life behind bars. And then it was time for Thomas to be sentenced. The 56 years, 10 months and a day since Thomas was sent to death row as a teen was enough time behind bars for the man who went into prison as a teen and came out an old man.

"Time served, Mr. Thomas," Borello said. "Good luck to you, sir."

Thomas was stunned. He was free.

"I was praying the judge would have mercy on me and consider the time I spent in prison," he said. "I thought maybe I was hearing things or that it was a joke and then the public defender said, 'We did it.'"


The cook at the Bradenton halfway house greets Thomas as she walks past the tidy outdoor area where he sits on a steamy summer day.

"Good morning, Mr. Thomas," she says. Thomas follows her inside.

The living room and kitchen are tidy. So is Thomas' 4-bunk room.

The pride of starting over and the giddiness of his new blessing has yet to wear off.

Thomas nods over to his collection of donated shirts that hang in his section of the closet. He points to the 4 pairs of shoes lined with almost military precision under the side of his bunk.

For the next year Thomas will call the Harvest House home. There is a curfew, a job requirement and a program that consists of Bible study and anger management.

Borello told Thomas that if he is successful after a year of working the program at the halfway house, he can come back to Jacksonville for 1 more year of probation.

So far Thomas has done much more than work the program. Because of his age, his ailing back and positive attitude, the Harvest House gave Thomas the job of house leader. In this peer support position, he makes sure that all the chores assigned to about a dozen men starting over like Thomas get done.

Thomas has taken the peer support idea outside of Harvest House as well. Not long after arriving here, he shared his life story, that of a young man messing up terribly and landing on death row only to throw away his 1st chance of freedom to today when he spoke to the 125 men and women participating in Harvest House's Freedom Program.

"I wish I could live my life over again, but I can't," he says. "I must go on from here and make the most of it, which I am going to do."

Thomas hopes to continue to share his story and speak at churches and schools, basically anywhere he can encourage people to think hard before making rash decisions.

"He's awesome," said Erin Minor, the executive director of Harvest House.

Just as Thomas feels blessed to have landed at the halfway house, Minor said the blessing is shared. "What a privilege for us."

As Thomas winds his way through what will be his home for the next year, he takes out a set of keys and remarks that he - an old man who ordered his last meal from death row - now holds the the keys to the halfway house's otherwise secure pantry.

"Can you believe it? I'm finally getting another chance at life to get away from prison," he says. "I'm so grateful to God, I can't say enough I just can't say it enough. I can't stop smiling. I'm a free man. It's great to be free to see all the beauty of the things God created; to see the birds flying. ... It's great not being in there. It feels so good and I’m never going back there."

With that, a smile breaks across his face.

(source: The Floirda Times-Union)


Death penalty reinstated for woman who fatally stabbed Orange County girl in 1990

A federal appeals court Friday reinstated a death sentence for Maria Del Rosio Alfaro, convicted of murdering a 9-year-old Orange County girl a quarter-century ago .

Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace during a burglary and robbery of her family's home in Anaheim Hills in 1990. Wallace, home alone after school, let Alfaro in the house because she recognized her as an acquaintance of her older sister.

Alfaro was 18 at the time and a drug addict. She had 4 children when she was sentenced to death at age 20. She was convicted of stabbing Wallace more than 50 times.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney overturned Alfaro's death sentence on the grounds that delays in California's capital punishment system produced arbitrary results in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

But a 3-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that Alfaro should have raised that claim 1st in state court.

In a similar case in 2015, a different 9th Circuit panel reinstated a death sentence for Ernest Dewayne Jones. Carney overturned Jones' sentence on the same grounds he had overturned Alfaro's.

The majority in the Jones case ruled that that federal judges may not consider new constitutional theories in cases of habeas corpus, the legal means prisoners use to challenge their confinement.

The panel that reinstated Alfaro's sentence said the Jones ruling had been undermined by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Awarded death penalty earlier, retrial finds 11 guilty again

11 people, sentenced to death last year for killing a woman in 2014, were again found guilty today of the murder by a Nadia district court during their retrial, held on the Calcutta High Court orders.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Madhumita Roy found all the 11 guilty again.

The quantum of punishment would be pronounced tomorrow, the court said after convicting the accused.

Krishnagar AD&SJ Partha Sarathi Mukhopadhyay had awarded capital punishment to all the 11 for shooting dead a woman, Aparna Bag, on November 23, 2014 in their bid to grab a piece of government land.

The case then went to Calcutta High Court which sent it back to the lower court on May 19, 2016 for retrial. After it was completed, the judge found the 11 accused guilty again.

The 11 had been charged under sections 9B of Explosive Act, 27/35 of Arms Act, IPC 307 (attempt to murder) and 302 (murder).

Among those who had been sentenced to death earlier in the case is a former Trinamool Congress leader Lankeswar Ghosh, but the ruling party has said that he was not its member.

According to the prosecution, the woman was killed when Ghosh along with his gang tried to seize "21 bigha and 15 cottah" of land at Ghungragachhi under Krishnaganj block, which belongs to Refugee and Refugee Rehabilitation Department of West Bengal Government.

The land was being tilled by 55 families for long and they claimed to have its possession. Some had even sold portions they claimed were theirs.

On November 23, 2014, Ghosh and his men reached the field on a tractor and tried to take over the land by force but faced resistance from the tillers.

In the clash that ensued, there was firing and 3 women received bullet injuries. Aparna Bag was hit on her chest and died. The other injured recovered later.



UN Condemns Execution of 29-Year-Old Malaysian While Some Singaporeans Celebrate a Job "Well Done"

The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia has condemned Singapore for the execution of 29-year-old Malaysian Prabagaran Srivijayan who was hanged this morning after being convicted for importing 22.24 grams of diamorphine - a raw form of heroin - into Singapore in 2014.

Prabagaran was executed after the Court of Appeals rejected an 1th hour motion to delay the execution, under the basis that an appeal Prabagaran's lawyer had submitted to halt the execution was still pending at the Court of Appeal in Kuala Lumpur.

In dismissing the motion yesterday, Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang called the attempt "an abuse of process" before stating:

"The judiciary of each country is entitled to act in accordance with its Constitution and its laws. No judiciary of one country interferes in the judicial process of another country."

The UN office said on its Facebook page:

"We deeply regret that so far in 2017, there have been at least 4 executions in Singapore for drugs related offences. This is an increase on previous full-year statistics. According to Singapore Prison authorities, there were 2 executions for drugs related offences in 2014, three in 2015 and 2 in 2016.

"We are concerned that death row inmates and their families are given very short notice of the date of the scheduled execution. In most cases they have been notified only a few days in advance. We are also concerned that executions continue to be carried out in a secretive manner, with no public information on the number of people on death row in Singapore and little public information on the executions that have taken place.

"We reiterate our position that drugs related offences are not considered as a 'most serious crime' under international law and should not carry the death penalty. We also reiterate previous calls to the Singaporean government to immediately instate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which we believe has no place in the 21st century."

Prabagaran's mother has maintained that her son was innocent.

A widow, she has repeatedly stated that the car that her son was driving did not belong to him and that he did not even know there were drugs in the car until he was stopped at Woodland Checkpoint in 2012:

"They could not find his fingerprints on the drugs, or that he had consumed any but the judge ruled him guilty by stating that the car belonged to him."

Meanwhile, despite the doubts that have been cast upon the legitimacy of Prabagaran's conviction, some netizens have lauded the Singapore justice system for not budging from their position of sentencing Prabagaran to an irreversible fate, as a job "well done".



activists slam pre-execution photoshoot

They say the practice is inhumane and morbid, while being insensitive to the grief and anguish one has to endure when on death row.

N Surendran has slammed the practice in Singapore which has death-row inmates take part in a photoshoot "a day or 2" before they are sent to the gallows, labelling it "inhumane".

The lawyer who represented the family of S Prabagaran, the Malaysian who was hanged in Singapore for drug trafficking, also said the act was morbid.

"It shows the harshness of Singaporean authorities to treat a person like that. They (death-row inmates) are not dolls," he told FMT.

He was asked to comment on a tweet by We Believe in Second Chances co-founder Kirsten Han who uploaded a picture of a smiling Prabagaran.

"This was taken of Prabagaran this week as part of the pre-execution prison photoshoot. Photos are then given to the family," she wrote.

In a subsequent tweet, Han said that while the practice seemed morbid, she had heard that some relatives find it comforting to have photos of loved ones "out of prison garb".

Human rights activist Michelle Yesudas said although a smiling photo might be some comfort to a grieving family, staging a pre-execution photoshoot is insensitive to the grief and anguish one has to endure when on death row.

"The death penalty and a pre-execution photo shoot are archaic, morbid and inhumane practices that have no place in the modern world," she said.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said it is unusual and "weird" for a country to have such a practice.

"It's a bit unusual for me, but every country has its own jurisdiction," said Paulsen.

Channel NewsAsia reported that Prabagaran was executed at Changi Prison on Friday morning after he was convicted in 2012 for being in possession of 22.24g of diamorphine, a pure form of heroin.

Authorities discovered the drug in his car at the Singaporean immigration checkpoint as he tried to enter the country.

Prabagaran said he was innocent, claiming that he did not own the car and was not aware of the drugs being in it.

Earlier this year, he turned to the Malaysian courts to compel the government to start legal proceedings against Singapore before an international tribunal for denying him a fair trial.

On March 24, Prabagaran failed to obtain leave at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to compel the Malaysian government to start proceedings against Singapore.

Earlier, Surendran said Singapore's Court of Appeal had dismissed Prabagaran's application to stay his execution pending his case in the Malaysian courts.

He told FMT the appeals court had ruled that Singapore is a sovereign nation and that it would not wait for the outcome of proceedings in Malaysia.



Iran Regime's Official "Proud" of Role in 1988 Massacre

In an interview with a state news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the official - Judge Ali Razini, the head of Branch 41 of the Supreme Court - said that the execution of prisoners in 1988 in what has been named the 1988 massacre was "fair" and "lawful".

Judge Razini is the head of Branch 41 of the Supreme Court.

During the 1988 massacre, the so called "Death Committee" ordered the execution of political prisoners, many of whom were members or supporters of the PMOI, the banned opposition group. The prisoners' fate was decided based on their loyalty to the Islamic Republic.

The judge said he was "proud" to have had an important role during the 80s. He also framed many political dissidents so that they could not be released from prison.

He spoke about what he did: "Specifically I interviewed 1,000 prisoners [in 1986] to make them confess to committing offenses inside prison so that we would have a logical reason to put them on trial and convict them again. They were sentenced to additional prison terms between 3 and 5 years."

He added: "Rulings by the top 20 judges and I ensured the country's security at that time and ever since. As a consequence, the MEK can never establish itself here. We nipped them in the bud. In Bojnourd, 80 to 90 % of the high school and university students had ties with opposition groups. We began to prosecute and sentenced 5 of them to death. 3 months later, the situation changed and their families took us seriously and chastised their children [to dissuade them from joining the groups]."

The issue of the 1988 massacre came up again during the recent presidential elections. One of the main candidates, Ebrahim Raisi, was a member of the famous "Death Committee". This re-opened wounds for the Iranian people and triggered a new wave of dissent across the country. They called on justice for those who died and urged the regime to denounce his actions.

The people were victorious in that he didn’t become president, despite being the favoured one for the Supreme Leader. The resistance in Iran is growing in numbers and in strength and it will be the downfall of the regime.


JULY 14, 2017:


Hogan Lovells Argues Disbarred Lawyer's 'Mouthpiece' Doomed Death Row Inmate

In a Texas death row case in which a disbarred lawyer may have previously represented the defendant, a Hogan Lovells team has joined with local Texas counsel to try to derail an execution set for later this month.

The lawyers are seeking either commutation or, alternatively, a delay of convicted murderer TaiChin Preyor's July 27 scheduled execution.

They have asked Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the reduced sentence or delay so they can deploy $45,000 that a federal court has awarded Preyor to pursue his clemency request and investigate allegations about his initial post-conviction counsel, Brandy Estelle.

Estelle, a court-appointed public defender, was "woefully unqualified," and served only as a "mouthpiece" for Phillip Jefferson, the disbarred lawyer, who handled the legwork for Preyor's appeals, according to Preyor's application for commutation of sentence filed last week with the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles.

Estelle also double charged the federal court and Preyor's mother for the legal work she was having Jefferson do, according to the same application's allegations.

"This is not just an individual plea for mercy," said Catherine "Cate" Stetson, a member of Hogan Lovells' global board and a co-director of its appellate practice group, who represents Preyor.

Her firm handles multiple death row cases on a pro bono basis, but "this one was to our collective sensibilities jarring," Stetson said, given the allegations about Preyor's prior appellate counsel.

Neither Preyor nor his present lawyers deny that he committed "a terrible act," but "the gross infirmities in his representation during the sentencing phase and during habeas proceedings should give this Board pause," his commutation application stated.

According to an Associated Press account, Preyor was sentenced to death in 2005 for killing 20-yea-old Jami Tackett in a brutal San Antonio slashing and stabbing attack that also wounded Tackett's boyfriend.

Estelle did not return a call for this story. Jefferson could not be reached. Estelle's law firm's website lists her as graduate of Loyola Law School and notes her "15 years of legal work in both public law and private practice," citing specifically "her extensive background in real estate.'


Habeas Reforms

Texas lawmakers have made efforts to reform the process for appointing lawyers to help death row defendants pursue their writs of habeas corpus - the appeals that serve as the criminal justice system's final safety net. In habeas proceedings, a defendant's lawyer can present new exculpatory evidence, previously untapped witnesses and indications that trial counsel failed to do their job properly.

In 1995, Texas lawmakers passed the Habeas Corpus Reform Act, a law guaranteeing Texas death row inmates "competent counsel" for their habeas appeals. 4 years later they passed another law giving trial courts the authority to pick lawyers from an "approved attorneys" list drawn up by Texas' highest court for criminal appeals.

But those reforms "were not enough to target this kind of practice," Stetson said of the Preyor case.

According to Preyor's application this month, Jefferson, who like Estelle is from California, had been castigated in an unrelated case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for having shown "a gargantuan indifference to the interests of his client," committed "gross misconduct," shown "chronic inattention to his client's interests," and been "wholly incompetent."

Jefferson never disclosed to Preyor or his family that he was disbarred, according to Preyor's commutation application.

For her part, Estelle never informed the court about Jefferson's role in the case, the same application alleged.

"[I]t appears from the documents filed by Ms. Estelle that she and Mr. Jefferson conducted no investigation beyond the record as it then existed, and raised no arguments before the habeas court regarding the sentencing phase of his trial," the application stated.

Estelle and Jefferson "overlooked" that Preyor's trial counsel had failed to hire a mitigation specialist during a sentencing phase, and "it appears they conducted only a cursory mitigation investigation despite references in trial counsel's files to the fact that Mr. Preyor experienced a deeply troubled childhood," the application asserted.

The Texas governor isn't exactly known for granting frequent commutations and pardons, Stetson noted.

"The record is not good, but we are still hopeful," she said. "If you look at the fact pattern here and the nature of the representation, a disbarred lawyer using a California real estate lawyer [Estelle] as his beard, even if you are supportive of capital punishment, there is a baseline foundation of fairness that was not met."

(source for both: Texas Lawyer)


Governor is true to campaign promise on capital punishment

Gov. McAuliffe's decision last week not to commute the sentence of convicted double-murderer William Morva is in line with what candidate McAuliffe told Virginians during his run for the top job 4 years ago: While he is personally against the death penalty, McAuliffe said, only in rare and specific cases would he substitute his judgment for that of the legal system.

McAuliffe came under pressure from a wide spectrum, ranging from Democratic legislators to the European Union to Virginia's 2 Roman Catholic bishops, to spare the life of Morva because, they suggested, he was mentally ill at the time of the 2006 crime, and because the jury had not been given sufficient information about his mental state while deciding punishment for the crime.

Morva was convicted of the brutal slayings of Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Cpl. Eric Sutphin and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland, following what the governor termed "a carefully orchestrated effort to escape custody while awaiting trial for burglary, robbery and firearms charges."

Recent efforts to paint Morva as suffering from significant mental illness, the governor said, do not jibe with evidence and professional opinions presented at the trial, including experts called by both the prosecution and the defense.

"These experts thoroughly evaluated Mr. Morva and testified to the jury that, while he may have personality disorders, he did not suffer from any condition that would have prevented him from committing these acts consciously and fully understanding their consequences," the governor stated.

Morva "was given a fair trial" and "the jury heard substantial evidence about his mental health as they prepared to sentence him in accordance with the law of our commonwealth," the governor noted in his statement, turning back yet another point of argument by those eager to spare the defendant's life.

(source: Editorial, Sun Gazette)


State seeks death penalty for man accused of murdering 9-year-old girl, grandmother in Darlington Co.

State prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty against the man accused of murdering an 9-year-old girl and her grandmother in July of 2016. A wrongful death suit filed by the family of the victims claims that the murders were related to drug use and other illegal activity taking place at the grandmother's home.

Cephas Cowick was served with the notice of intent for the state to seek the death penalty on June 6, 2017.

Court documents said certain aggravating circumstances in the murders of Denise Couplin and her granddaughter, Deziyah Chatman, led to this change:

1)The victim of the murder was under the age of 11.

2)The murder was committed for himself and/or another with the purpose of receiving money or a thing of monetary value.

3) There were multiple murder victims (2) during this incident.

Meanwhile, a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Cephas Cowick, his wife Katherine Baucom-Cowick, who is also charged with 2 counts of murder, and the estate of Denise Couplin.

That suit was filed June 27, 2017, almost 1 year since the murders happened.

The woman filing the complaint, Tonay Davis, is the mother of 9-year old Deziyah Chatman.

Tonay is also the daughter of Denise Couplin.

The lawsuit alleged had Couplin had "questionable involvement with illegal activity including drug use and associating with individuals who sold and used drugs, including Cephas Cowick and Katherine Baucom."

Tonay said in the lawsuit that, unbeknownst to her, Cowick and Baucom were often invited to Couplin's home to buy or use drugs or other illegal activity.

"Although the exact details of what occurred on Sunday, July 17, 2016, are still under investigation, it is believed that Denise Couplin allowed Cowick and Baucom to enter the home. Apparently some argument or issues developed in regard to the criminal enterprise which led to an argument and altercation leading to Cowick shooting both Denise Couplin and Deziyah Chatman," the lawsuit claims.

The family said they have incurred funeral expenses, loss of services, loss of companionship, loss of comfort and use of intestate's society, anxiety, wounded feelings, shock, grief, mental anguish, suffering, sorrow and bereavement as a result of Deziyah's death.

"The plaintiff respectfully prays for judgement against the Defendants, for an award of actual damages, punitive damages, for the costs of this action, and for such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper," according to the lawsuit.

Both Cowicks have been charged with: 2 counts of murder; 3rd-degree arson; criminal conspiracy; armed robbery with a deadly weapon; 1st-degree burglary; grand larceny less than $10,000; and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

According to testimony from the prosecution at a bond hearing after the murders, the couple acted in concert in the deaths of Chatman and Couplin, shooting the grandmother and her granddaughter with a pistol while in a bedroom.

Warrants allege the suspects went to the victims' home for the purpose of robbery.

It was also alleged the Cowicks stole Couplin's vehicle and later burned it in an attempt to conceal their crimes.

(source: WMBF news)


Hearing held for man accused of murder, arson

Attorneys representing a man charged with killing his 14-year-old stepdaughter and setting fire to his Cobb home argued Thursday the court proceedings should be closed to news cameras and photographers.

Dafareya Hunter, 38, appeared in Cobb Superior Court wearing handcuffs and a suit alongside his state-appointed legal counsel, who maintained that pre-trial hearings should be held outside the view of news cameras and the millions of Cobb residents who could see those images.

Crystal Bice, of the Georgia's Capital Defenders Office, which offers legal assistance to defendants facing the death penalty, called witnesses who testified that media coverage of Hunter's case would negatively influence the prospective jury pool and have a detrimental effect on her client's right to a fair trial.

"This case has contained a considerable amount of notoriety," Bice said. "Any additional coverage could add to that notoriety, causing Mr. Hunter not to receive a fair trial in the case."

Attorney Lesli Gaither, who represents the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, argued that cameras increase the openness of judicial proceedings in Georgia courts.

Statistician Jeffrey Martin, a witness for the defense, testified that more than 9.2 million people living in the Atlanta media market have already viewed news clips reporting on the death of Ana Then and her stepfather's subsequent arrest.

Cobb County makes up about 11 % of the overall market, he said, adding that news footage related to Hunter's arrest and the case against him received more than a million views from potential Cobb jurors.

Cognitive psychologist Christine Ruva was called by the defense to discuss the detrimental impact those news reports could have on a prospective jury pool.

Ruva, who looked over news clips that reported on Hunter's case, maintained that none of the stories portrayed the defendant in a positive light, something that could sway a juror's opinion of whether the man is innocent or guilty long before his trial even begins.

Particularly detrimental clips about the case, she said, were the ones that included interviews with neighbors who maintained that during the blaze, Hunter seemed more concerned about his dogs and car; interviews with devastated family members; and interviews about the state's decision to seek capital punishment in the case because "the fact that these crimes are so heinous, the death penalty must be sought."

"Information you have been exposed to prior to coming here is going to impact all future information processing," Ruva said, arguing it is extremely difficult for jurors who have been exposed to such information to remain unbiased in a criminal trial.

Superior Court Judge Lark Ingram took the arguments under advisement and will make a ruling whether to allow photographers and news cameras in the courtroom at a later date.

Hunter is accused of raping his stepdaughter, stabbing her multiple times and then dousing her body in gasoline before setting it on fire. The man's stepson was sleeping in the home at the time but managed to escape the fire through a window, sustaining minor injuries, court documents show.

Hunter was indicted Nov. 3 on charges of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, rape, first degree cruelty to children, aggravated child molestation, 1st degree arson and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

His case marks the 1st time Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds has sought the death penalty since taking office in 2012.

(source: Marietta Daily Journal)


Prosecutors Predict 6 Death Penalty Cases In Bay County Could Be Overturned

The Florida Supreme Court is sending another death row inmate back to Bay County for re-sentencing.

The high court overturned the death sentence Kevin Jeffries, 32, received for the torturing and killing of a 90-year-old Lynn Haven man in 2013.

He was part of a trio that killed Wallace Scott at his home.

State Supreme Court justices ruled the jury didn't have the necessary findings to impose the death penalty on Jeffries.

It's one of several local death row inmates who's sentences have been overturned.

Although he was only an accomplice, the other 2 defendants cut deals, and Jeffries was the only one to receive a death sentence.

However, that's not why he and others are receiving new sentencing phases.

"The United States Supreme Court decision in Hurst requires not only the jury must unanimously find that a defendant committed the crime, but the jury must unanimously find that death is the appropriate decision," said Prosecution Attorney Larry Basford.

In Jeffries' case, the jury recommended the death penalty by a 10 to 2 vote.

Last week the court granted a new sentencing for Robert Bailey who shot and killed Panama City Beach Police Sgt. Kevin Kight in 2005.

Before being interviewed Thursday, Basford joined defense attorneys for a status hearing for James Card, another murderer who's getting a new sentencing.

Basford said this process is taking a toll on his staff, and even more-so on the families of the victims.

However he says the state attorney's office will continue to seek "just" punishment in each case.

"We intend to still pursue the death penalty when we believe that that is an appropriate sentence and that we have evidence and the law is on our side to support the death penalty," said Basford.

Card will be back in court next month for another hearing.

Basford says it's ultimately up to the victim's family whether the state will pursue the death penalty or a life sentence life without parole for the other remanded cases.


Death Penalty Overturned in Torture Murder

Another local man sentenced to death will get a 2nd chance at the death penalty phase of his trial.

The Florida Supreme Court ruling was released this morning in the Kevin Jeffries case. Jeffries and his accomplices tortured and killed Wallace Reid Scott in April of 2013. According to the ruled Jeffries tortured Scott for the pin number to his debit card.

The jury voted 10-2 that Jefferies should be sentenced to death. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the method in which Florida courts determine the death penalty was unconstitutional and a unanimous decision for death is required by a jury.

This is just the latest in several death penalty cases that have been remanded back to local courts for a new sentencing phase. The most high profile case was Robert Bailey who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Sgt. Kevin Kight of the Panama City Beach Police Department.

Bailey's new sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

(source for both:


St. Cloud father found guilty in infant's murder

A St. Cloud man was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and child abuse in the killing of his infant son.

Larry Perry, 33, now faces the death penalty.

Perry had admitted guilt to a manslaughter charge in the 2013 death of his nearly 3-month-old son, Ayden Perry. But prosecutors argued that the killing was murder, and jurors agreed.

The jury will return Monday for the penalty phase of the trial, in which they will have to decide whether Perry should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

To stop Ayden from crying, he threw the child against a wall and tried to twist his neck, at which point Ayden stopped crying. Perry then brought the child into his apartment's living room, dropped him onto the floor and stomped on his face and chest. Then he called 911 and asked for help.

"That baby was tortured to death in the hands of the man who was supposed to love him unconditionally," Assistant State Attorney Mark Interlicchio said.

Ayden had a severely fractured skull, bruising on his face and chest, and broken ribs.

Defense attorney Frank Bankowitz argued that Perry, who was caring for Ayden by himself after the child's mother was arrested on a drug trafficking charge 2 weeks earlier, snapped under the pressure. Perry said as much when he called 911, Bankowitz said.

"That's not a murderer, that's a person who comes to their senses and realizes, oh my God, what have I done?" Bankowitz said.

Perry's case is 1 of 24 that Gov. Rick Scott took away from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala after she announced she will not seek the death penalty. Ayala sued to get the cases back and is now waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether Scott had the authority to take the cases away.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Anti-death penalty prosecutor pulled over in traffic stop

There was nothing unusual about a June 19 traffic stop in Orlando -- except the driver happened to be Florida's 1st African-American state attorney who also happens to be in a legal fight with the governor over the death penalty.

2 Orlando police officers told prosecutor Aramis Ayala they stopped her because her car's tag didn't come back registered to any vehicle and because the windows were tinted. They were polite, and Ayala said in a statement that the stop appears to be consistent with Florida law.

However, she also said she violated no law and sees the incident as a point of dialogue with the police chief as she seeks better relations between police and the community.

"My goal is to have a constructive and mutually respectful relationship between law enforcement and the community," she said.

Orlando police have released a bodycam video of the encounter.

Ayala's refusal to seek the death penalty has riled Gov. Rick Scott.

She announced earlier this year that her office would no longer seek the death penalty because it wasn't a deterrent and it dragged on for victims' families. In response, the governor took away almost 2 dozen cases from her office. She is currently fighting the governor's decision before the Florida Supreme Court.

In a statement, the Orlando Police Department said that the agency allows the running of tags for official business only and it's done routinely on patrol.

In the bodycam video, 1 of the officers tells the prosecutor, "We run tags all the time ... that's how we figure out if cars are stolen."

The police agency added in its statement, "As you can see in the video, the window tint was dark, and officers would not have been able to tell who, or how many people, were in the vehicle."

Ayala said the tint of her car's windows wasn't in violation of the law and that her license plate was properly registered and confidential. Florida law authorizes confidential vehicle registrations for some law enforcement officials.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorney in Alexandria fatal shooting to file competency motion

An Alexandria man facing the death penalty for a fatal February shooting was agitated from the time he was brought into a Rapides Parish courtroom Thursday morning.

Timothy Teasley, 25, faces 1st-degree and attempted 1st-degree murder charges for the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 27-year-old Thaer Zidan at the Chi-Town Gas & Grocery on 3rd Street in Alexandria.

Another clerk at the store had been shot at but wasn't injured. Teasley suffered minor gunshot wounds during the incident, which the Alexandria Police Department said "did not appear to be a robbery," according to a Town Talk article.

Community members came together for a vigil days after the shooting.

"We don't hold anyone responsible except the person that did this," said Zidan's brother, Lou Zidan, that night. "This wasn't black vs. Arab. This was 1 person."

But in late April, the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office announced its intention to seek the death penalty a day after Teasley was indicted.

The Town Talk left a message for Assistant District Attorney Monica Doss about the reasons behind that decision, but a response wasn't immediately received.

Before court started, Teasley kept hopping up from his chair, waving his hands that were cuffed and shackled to his waist, while talking to a bailiff. The Rapides Parish Sheriff's deputy kept telling Teasley to sit down and calm down before he had to take Teasley out of the courtroom.

Not everything Teasley said could be heard. "I'm telling you the truth," he said to the bailiff before he was led out.

Minutes later, Teasley's defense attorney, Dwight M. Doskey with the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, was taken to meet with his client.

After 9th Judicial District Court Judge Monique Rauls entered, Teasley was the first before her. As Doss and Doskey tried to conduct the pretrial hearing, Teasley interrupted and tried to talk to Rauls about the case.

"No, you're not," she said. "No, you're not."

Teasley continued to talk over the attorneys even after that, with the bailiff standing behind him telling him to be quiet.

Doskey said he intends to file a motion to determine Teasley's competency to assist in his defense. He at first said Teasley was unwilling to assist, but then said it would be better to say Teasley is unable to assist in his defense.

Doskey said Teasley insists that police arrested the wrong man in the case. He asked Rauls to continue the hearing until Sept. 12, and she approved that request over the objection of Doss.

As Teasley was being led out of courtroom, he told the bailiff, "You better be ready to fight."

The day after Teasley was charged in this case, he also was arrested in a case that happened the day before the fatal shooting. Police have said the shootings do not appear to be related.

Both shootings happened on 3rd Street. The Feb. 13 shooting was at a convenience store in the 4300 block. Responding officers found a man who had been shot in his abdomen, but the man recovered.

(source: The Tgown Talk)


Pre-trial continued until September for Rapides man facing death row trial

A pre-trial was reset until September 12 for Timothy Teasley, 25, of Alexandria who is charged with 1st degree murder and attempted 1st degree murder for the February murder of Thaer Ziden, an employee at Chi-Town Gas & Grocery, and the attempted murder of another employee.

In June, the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office filed a notice that it plans to seek the death penalty for Teasley in the case. Teasley is being represented by attorneys with the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana.

His pre-trial was scheduled for Thursday. Before court began, Teasley started getting restless with court bailiffs, repeating over and over, "I ain't got time." And, "I'm telling you the truth."

When he was brought before Judge Monique Rauls, Teasley became restless again and made an effort to try to talk to Judge Rauls about the case, to which she replied, "Not you're not."

Dwight Doskey, who is serving as co-counsel for Teasley, told the judge that, "Mr. Teasley has been unable to speak to us. He feels they have the wrong man." Doskey said he plans to file a motion to determine Teasley's competency.

The pre-trial was reset for September 12. Teasley became restless again and was escorted out, telling the bailiff, "You better be ready to fight."

(source: KALB news)


Armande Tart charged with 4 counts of 1st-degree murder in Metairie quadruple slaying

A Jefferson Parish grand jury on Thursday indicted Armande Tart on 4 counts of 1st-degree murder for a quadruple killing in a Metairie apartment complex in March.

Tart, 20, was also indicted on 1 count of obstruction of justice.

The 1st-degree murder charges would allow District Attorney Paul Connick's office to pursue the death penalty.

"That decision has not been made," said Paul Purpura, Connick's spokesman.

State law allows for the charge of 1st-degree murder in certain circumstances, though Connick, who has been the district attorney since 1996, has for years generally charged defendants in murder cases with 2nd-degree murder, which is punishable by mandatory life in prison without benefit of parole, probation or suspended sentence.

Last year, however, Connick's office secured 1st-degree murder indictments in two high-profile cases: the brutal stabbing of the manager of a Raising Cane’s restaurant in Kenner and the slaying of a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputy in Harvey.

In both of those cases, Connick's office announced quickly that it would pursue the death penalty. Death penalty cases generally are more complicated and expensive to prosecute and defend. They also require unanimous jury verdicts and carry automatic appeals upon a conviction.

Whether those 2 cases - currently the only 2 open death-penalty cases in Jefferson Parish - mark a new tack for Connick's office toward prosecuting capital cases is uncertain. Purpura declined to comment on the decision to seek the 1st-degree murder indictment against Tart, citing the office's policy of not commenting on open cases.

The killings at the center of Thursday's indictment involved several aggravating factors, including drugs, burglary and multiple victims.

Tart, who also goes by the nicknames "Baby," "Big Baby" and "Pop Tart," is accused of killing 4 people in the early morning hours of March 15 and injuring another woman, whom he shot in the face.

The woman called 911 and was rushed to University Medical Center as deputies discovered the bodies of Rosemary Charles, a 61-year-old elder care worker, and her boyfriend, John Edward Henry, 56.

Charles and Henry each had been shot once in the head. A visiting friend, Kyle Turner, 40, was shot twice in the head.

In another apartment in the same complex, 56-year-old Harold Frisard was found dead from multiple stab wounds to the head.

Tart surrendered to authorities March 17 in Kenner. He is being held without bail in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)

OHIO----impending execution

Judge Rejects Last-Ditch Effort to Block Ohio Executions

Rejecting Eighth Amendment challenges to the drug cocktail Ohio uses to give the death penalty, a federal judge moved the state one step closer Wednesday to resuming lethal injections.

The executions of Alva Campbell Jr., Gary Otte, Ronald Phillips and Raymond Tibbetts have been on hold since January, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Merz found that the state's 3-drug injection protocol violated the Eighth Amendment.

Merz said that"'the use of midazolam as the 1st drug in Ohio's present 3-drug protocol will create a 'substantial risk of serious harm'" to the prisoners.

But the Sixth Circuit lifted the ban 2 weeks ago in a 8-6 en banc ruling, clearing the way for the state to move forward with the executions.

Ohio is scheduled to execute convicted murderer Phillips on July 26.

Otte and Tibbetts had tried to block their executions by raising 49 claims under the Eighth Amendment, asserting that the state will be "experimenting" on them by using an untested, lethal drug cocktail.

Judge Merz rejected each challenge Wednesday.

"Our revulsion from the so-called medical 'experiments' conducted by the Nazis and indeed from the notorious syphilis experiments on African-American men in this country has led to strict controls of medical experimentation, including the requirement of informed consent," the 60-page opinion states. "But that is not what defendants are engaged in, although they have appropriately considered the results of the use of particular drugs in planning future executions."

Merz dismissed the prisoners' other various claims related to the purported pain they will suffer during the execution, citing Sixth Circuit precedent that a prisoner has no property interest in a painless death.

Ohio's lethal-injection procedure came under national scrutiny following the botched execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014.

As noted by Justice Samuel Alito when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol in the 2015 decision Glossip v. Gross, efforts to lobby against the death penalty have been widely successful in pressuring drug companies to stop selling the drugs used in the lethal-injection process to states for execution purposes.

As a result, the drug cocktail injected into McGuire's veins had never been used before.

Ohio ran out of pentobarbital, and instead used a mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone to sedate McGuire, before administering the next 2 execution drugs.

McGuire was not rendered unconscious by the midazolam, however, and the protocol left him choking and gasping for air for 25 minutes before he died.

Ohio has not carried out an execution since killing McGuire.

(source: Courthouse News)


Executions traumatic for prison employees

As a retired prison warden, I feel obligated to speak out as Ohio proposes restarting executions. While I read the Monday op-ed "Wrongful convictions make death penalty too risky" by Dale Johnston, I couldn't help but think how unfair this heavy execution schedule would be for corrections workers, even without the horrific risk of executing the wrongfully convicted.

The public should not ignore the fact that corrections staff are people who have dedicated their lives to serving the state. Performing so many executions would impose extraordinary and unnecessary stress and trauma on them.

Additionally, even before an execution takes place, these public servants are placed in a terrible paradox: After dedicating their professional lives to protecting the safety and well-being of prisoners and the public, they are then asked to participate in the death of a person under their care.

Finally, lethal-injection executions are very complex with little room for error. This exhausting execution schedule increases the risk of error. A problematic execution would add to the trauma already present for the corrections officers when they are tasked with carrying out a death sentence.

A better option would be to continue to use Ohio's supermax facility for inmates who present a threat to the public without resorting to executions.

Rex Zent


(source: Letter to the Editor, The Columbus Dispatch)


Judge upholds death sentence for Shockley

A Crawford County judge has ruled to uphold the death penalty for a Van Buren man who shot and killed a Missouri state trooper in March 2005.

Lance Shockley, 40, was found guilty of the 1st degree murder of Sergeant Carl Dewayne Graham Jr., armed criminal action and leaving the scene of an accident by a West Plains jury in 2009.

Shockley had filed an appeal, claiming that he had ineffective assistance of defense attorneys and wanted a new trial. But on Monday, Crawford County Circuit Judge Kelly Parker ruled against Shockley, stating in his order, "Wherefore, the Court overrules Movant's [Shockley's] amended motion to vacate, set aside or correct judgment and sentence following an evidentiary hearing and Movant's claims are denied."

Shockley was represented by attorneys Jeannie Willibey and Pete Carter. Assistant Greene County Prosecuting Attorneys Emily Shook and Todd Myers represented the state.

Shockley was sentenced to death on May 22, 2009, by Circuit Court Judge David P. Evans after the jury that found Shockley guilty became deadlocked during the penalty phase of the trial.

According to the probable cause statement, Shockley waited at Graham's home near Van Buren on March 20, 2005, armed with a shotgun and a rifle. Graham was shot as he stepped out of his cruiser once by a rifle bullet and at least once by a shotgun blast, authorities said.

Police said that Shockley knew Graham was investigating his role in a fatal vehicle crash months before the murder in which Shockley was believed to have been driving and left the scene of the accident in which his friend and passenger Jeff Bayless died.

According to the statement, Shockley borrowed his grandmother's red Pontiac Grand Am on that same day and asked someone for directions to Graham's residence. Police said several witnesses spotted a red Grand Am parked on a secluded gravel road just north of the trooper's home that day.

Shockley owned several firearms, including .223-caliber and .224-caliber rifles and at least 1 12-gauge shotgun, according to the affidavit. A search of Shockley's house in Van Buren turned up a spent .22-caliber shell which a forensics comparison determined it matched a bullet pulled from Graham, police said.



Anthony Garcia case shows the flaws of the death penalty

Anthony Garcia has been found guilty of murdering 4 people, including a child. But now his Omaha-based attorney has been suspended from practicing law in Nebraska while he completes continuing education requirements ("Local lawyer suspended, who defends Garcia?" July 13 World-Herald).

His Chicago-based attorneys are barred from practicing law in the case without their Nebraska sponsor. And the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy has been appointed to help with the defense, which has spurred an appeal, but the State Supreme Court has refused to adjudicate the matter until Garcia is actually sentenced.

The most likely scenario is that whatever decision is made, someone will appeal, and Garcia will be given a new sentencing hearing.

Then the real process of appeals starts - cruel and unusual punishment, improper consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors, and on and on and on. And with the grandstanding Motta family representing Gracia, you can bet there will be plenty of appeals, full of theatrics and accusations against the state.

There will be appeal after appeal, and the state will never get around to executing Garcia.

If the governor and the people of Nebraska are serious about the death penalty, then let's make sure the administration of justice is swift.

Otherwise let's repeal the death penalty and spend the money on building parks and schools instead of lining the pockets of lawyers.

Nathan Rice, Omaha

(source: Letter to the Editor, Omaha World-Herald)

WYOMING----female may face death penalty

McWhorter pleads not guilty to Evanston murders 'by reason of mental illness'

Michelle Lee McWhorter pleaded "not guilty by reason of mental illness," and the alternative plea of "not guilty," at her arraignment Thursday morning. She is charged with murdering 2 Evanston residents in September 2016, among other crimes.

McWhorter appeared calm as she walked into district court wearing a rosary and ankle cuffs. She occasionally looked into the audience while her public defender, Kent Brown, conferred briefly with county attorney and prosecutor Loretta R. Howieson.

Before listing the charges, Judge Joseph Bluemel asked McWhorter if she was competent to stand trial. She stated that she has a mental illness but is being treated for it and that she understood what was going on.

Bluemel clarified that McWhorter waived her preliminary hearing, and she stood by her earlier decision. He then listed her Constitutional rights before detailing the 6 charges she is facing.

McWhorter is accused of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder: of killing, purposefully and with premeditated malice, Christina L. Caves between the dates of Sept. 1 and Sept. 16, 2016, and Dean L. Corlett between the dates of Sept. 15 and Sept. 26, 2016.

A 1st-degree murder conviction could bring the death penalty, life imprisonment without parole, or life imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Bluemel said that if the State of Wyoming pursues the death penalty in the case of a conviction, there would be a separate hearing to determine whether that is appropriate.

McWhorter is also accused of remaining in Caves' residence and in Corlett's residence with the intent to commit theft (2 charges). Bluemel asked Howieson about the justification for the original "aggravated" charge attached to the case, to which Howieson said that word was likely a typo and should be removed. Bluemel amended both charges.

If McWhorter is convicted of the amended theft charges, she could be imprisoned for up to 10 years for each and fined up to $10,000.

Finally, McWhorter is charged with 2 counts of burglary from Caves' and Corlett's residences, specifically with taking property valued at less than $1,000 from each. These charges, if McWhorter is convicted of committing them, come with a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $750.

All told, 4 of the 6 charges are felonies. Each conviction would also be accompanied by a crime victims compensation fine as well as other possible court costs.

Bluemel summarized the maximum possible penalty if McWhorter is convicted of all 6 charges, saying she could be sentenced to death or for 2 life sentences (with or without parole) plus 21 years and up to $41,500 in fines.

Upon listing the possible penalties, Bluemel commented that McWhorter's eyebrows rose at the extent of the potential fine.

He then added that, if she is convicted of any crime, she could be ordered to pay restitution for damages and to reimburse the public defender's office. Any felony convictions would also result in stripped rights to vote, carry firearms, hold public office and other penalties.

As proceedings continued, McWhorter's answers to Bluemel's questions became more subdued although no less certain. However, before asking for the plea, Bluemel asked if McWhorter has been satisfied with Brown's representation, to which she answered emphatically, "Oh, yes."

She then entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness on all 6 counts.

Upon this plea, Bluemel said that the court will enter an order to have McWhorter evaluated. In the meantime, McWhorter will return to the Wyoming State Hospital, where Howieson said McWhorter has been housed.

Caves and Corlett were found dead several days apart in their Evanston homes last September. According to court documents, McWhorter gave detailed accounts of the crimes to investigators and allegedly confessed to both murders while she was in custody in February for unrelated charges.

(source: Uinta County Herald)


We Saw Monsters. She Saw Humans.----Scharlette Holdman, pioneering foe of the death penalty, dies at 70.

Scharlette Holdman, whose pioneering work with defense lawyers contributed to the decline of the death penalty nationwide, and whose clients included Ted Kaczynski, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, died Wednesday. She was 70. In the tight-knit world of defense lawyers who focus on the death penalty, Holdman was a revered figure, a non-lawyer responsible for the development of mitigating evidence, aimed at convincing jurors to spare the lives of men and women whose crimes, at first blush, only elicited disgust. It is now common practice for capital defense lawyers to hire "mitigation specialists," and in recent years such evidence has often convinced district attorneys not to seek the death penalty in the first place.

"Her enthusiasm and strength of personality inspired hundreds of young people to join the struggle against the death penalty," said Judy Clarke, the criminal defense attorney, who worked with Holdman on several high-profile cases.

Holdman grew up in Memphis, Tenn., the daughter of a landlord who described collecting rent and evicting his poor black tenants as "going niggering," according to the journalist David Von Drehle, who profiled Holdman in his book Among the Lowest of the Dead. She rebelled, studying anthropology and working among civil rights activists before running chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s. During those years, the Supreme Court struck down the country's death penalty laws and state legislatures raced to rewrite them. When the court restored capital punishment in 1976, it declared that those who sentence people to death must be able to consider "compassionate or mitigating factors stemming from the diverse frailties of humankind."

As the number of death row prisoners grew, Holdman ran the Florida Clearinghouse on Criminal Justice, where she tried to find lawyers for the men as their execution dates approached.

"She was like a medic performing triage at a train wreck," Von Drehle wrote. "The 1st job was to determine who was closest to dying." She was famous for her skill in cajoling lawyers over the phone into taking on appeals. She worked round the clock for $600 per month while raising 2 kids, surviving on KFC fried chicken, coffee, cigarettes, and jug wine, all the while gaining a nickname in the press: "Mistress of Delay."

In such grim circumstances, a macabre sense of humor flourished. On the anniversary of an execution, she sent Florida attorney general Jim Smith a "deathday cake" with black candles.

In another case, while trying to show a court that a mentally ill man was not "competent" to be executed, she encountered a state-hired psychiatrist who said the man had beaten her at tic-tac-toe, thus proving his mental acuity. Holdman remembered that as a child she'd seen a chicken at a fair that could play tic-tac-toe, and she tried to get such a chicken admitted as a witness. The judge "felt that bringing the chicken into the courtroom to play tic-tac-toe would degrade the dignity of the court," Holdman later told This American Life. "I thought that the dignity of the court was degraded by executing a mentally retarded, mentally ill person."

Holdman later worked in California and Louisiana, and shifted from appeals to investigations before trial. Her training in anthropology allowed her to develop a deep understanding of her clients and their backgrounds. "What she saw is that killers are not just born," said lawyer George Kendall, who represents death row inmates. "They have had unbelievably abused and neglectful lives, and that history is relevant. You become your client's biographer, you speak to the 60 most important people in that person's life - friend and foe."

Many clients had suffered sexual abuse and other traumas, and trust was key. "How do you get people to talk about the worst family secrets? None of that comes easily," said James Lohman, a lawyer who worked with her in Florida. "She figured it out, and then trained people how to do it." Many of the mitigation specialists who followed in her footsteps are journalists and social workers. "It's the antithesis of being a lawyer; it's all about human feeling and connection."

In recent years, Holdman worked with the lawyer Judy Clarke on the cases of Jared Loughner, who pled guilty to the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson in which U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured, and Eric Rudolph, responsible for the 1996 bombing at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She was famous for her devotion to her clients, and they often grew attached to her; after Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, was sentenced to life in prison for a series of bombings, he asked that Holdman be given his Montana cabin. (According to The New Yorker, the government did not let her keep it.)

Her final client was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. She studied Islam while preparing for his military trial. She received a Muslim burial Thursday, according to a colleague.

(source: The Marshall Project)


Rights group slams Japan's latest executions as 'inhumane' as 2 murderers are hanged----The deaths bring the total number since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012 to 19

Japan executed 2 convicted murderers on Thursday, the justice ministry said, ignoring calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment.

The hangings of Masakatsu Nishikawa and Koichi Sumida bring the total number of executions since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012 to 19.

Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing 4 women in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing a female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.

"Both are extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives on truly selfish motives," Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said.

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan

Japan's Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda faces tough questions on capital punishment after 2 murderers were hanged.

"I ordered the executions after careful consideration," he added.

Amnesty International condemned Japan's continued use of the death penalty and said it was a "wanton disregard for the right to life".

"The death penalty never delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment," Hiroka Shoji, East Asia researcher for the group, said.

Nishikawa was hanged while seeking a retrial. Though not unprecedented, it is rare in Japan. Kaneda indicated it was wrong to believe that death row inmates could not be executed while their retrial pleas are pending.

"When a rejection is naturally expected, we cannot help avoiding carrying out [capital punishment]," Kaneda said, noting he was not commenting on either of Thursday's cases.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Kaneda made the decision "appropriately under the provision of the law".

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan despite protests from European governments and rights groups.

Opponents say Japan's system is cruel because inmates can be on death row for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending execution a few hours ahead of time.

Out of 124 death-row inmates, 91 are seeking a retrial, according to Jiji Press.

(source: South China Morning Post)


Germany Urges Japan to Abolish Death Penalty - Commissioner for Human Rights

Germany calls on Japan to abolish capital punishment, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office Baerbel Kofler said Thursday.

Earlier in the day, media reported that 2 criminals were executed in Japan despite international criticism.

"The federal government is against the death penalty ... I would like to ask the Japanese government to reconsider this practice and to stop further use of death penalty. In Japan there is an open discussion in the civil society regarding the matter of the abolition of the death penalty. I welcome this discussion, it is an important starting point for dialogue," Kofler said as quoted in the newsletter of the German Foreign Ministry.

Kofler stressed that Germany and Japan worked closely and trustingly on many issues.



Singapore hangs Malaysian despite UN plea to pause death penalty

Malaysian S. Prabagaran was hanged in Singapore this morning despite calls from the United Nations and others to suspend his execution.

The 29-year-old who was convicted of drug trafficking was executed at Changi Prison at 6am, according to Kirsten Han from a non-governmental group called We Believe in Second Chances.

"The family is collecting his body now," she was quoted saying in a report by The Star Online.

Prabagaran's lawyers had also called for a halt on the execution, saying their client still had a case pending with the Malaysian Court of Appeal.

His lawyers had previously filed for an application with the Appellate Court in Putrajaya for the case to brought up to the International Court of Justice.

But the Singapore Court of Appeal rejected the application just a day after the UN Human Rights Office in South-east Asia urged for the execution to be put on hold.

Prabagaran was arrested on a drug charge in 2012 when a car he was driving at the Singapore immigration checkpoint was found to contain 22.24g of diamorphine, the pure form of heroin.

He had however claimed that the car he was driving belonged to other individuals and that he was not aware of the presence of the drugs in the car.



Malaysian executed for drugs conviction after unfair trial

Responding to the news of Malaysian national Prabagaran Srivijayan's execution in Singapore today, James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for South East Asia and the Pacific said:

"This execution is a shocking violation of the human right to life. That this cruel punishment has been administered after a trial filled with flaws makes this flouting of international law all the more disturbing.

"That an appeal was pending on this case in his home country at the time of execution, and that there were serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, underlines a flagrant disregard for due process in profoundly dubious circumstances."


Prabagaran Srivijayan was convicted of drug trafficking and given a mandatory death sentence in 2012 after 22.24g of diamorphine was found in the arm rest of a car he borrowed. He has consistently maintained his innocence.

Prabagaran Srivijayan's legal team have raised serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, including the authorities' failure to follow up leads and call on key witnesses that would corroborate his version of events.

His legal representatives also launched a case in Malaysia in March 2017 to urge the country to seek the intervention of the International Court of Justice, with an appeal on the matter still being considered at the Court of Appeal. International safeguards for death row prisoners clearly state that the death penalty must not be carried out while appeals are pending.

An application for a stay of execution was filed at the Singaporean Court of Appeal but dismissed on 13 July.

(source: Amnesety International)


Murder of wife's ex-lover: Death penalty sought----Prosecution says assault was 'savage' and 'cruel'; High Court to deliver decision at a later date

Prosecutors yesterday urged the High Court to impose the death penalty on a 57-year-old businessman for the savage murder of his wife's former lover.

Chia Kee Chen had been found guilty in January of forcing the victim, 37-year-old material analyst Dexmon Chua Yizhi, into the back of a van and assaulting him, together with Indonesian Febri Irwansyah Djatmiko, between Dec 28 and Dec 29, 2013.

A 2nd accomplice, Chua Leong Aik, drove the van but later fled.

"This was a planned and premeditated attack on an unsuspecting victim who had made a cuckold out of the accused," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wen Hsien.

She argued that Chia, who found out about his wife's extramarital affair in November 2012, clearly bore fatal grudges against the younger man.

The victim had made police reports that Chia was making threatening phone calls to him and stalking him.

Ms Tan argued that the assault was "savage" and "cruel". The victim was tied up and thrown into the back of the van and was battered so viciously that almost every bone in his face below the eyes was fractured.

She noted that Chia had carried out his attack in a calm and collected manner. On the day of the murder, he attended a wedding lunch with his family and had a nap before collecting the borrowed van to calmly lay in wait for the victim to turn up at the carpark near his Choa Chu Kang home.

After dumping the victim's body at a military live-firing area in Lim Chu Kang and cleaning the van, Chia went to Malaysia for a holiday with his family.

Ms Tan also pointed to his "utter lack of remorse". It was only 10 days after his arrest that Chia admitted he had hit the victim with a hammer-like object.

During his trial, Chia tried to downplay his role and pinned the blame on a fictional character named "Ali", she pointed out.

But Chia's lawyer, Mr Anand Nalachandran, pushed for life imprisonment, arguing that it was unsafe to hang him as there were contradictions between the accounts of Febri and Chua Leong Aik.

Mr Nalachandran argued that Febri, who fled to Indonesia but had given a statement to local police, cannot be believed as his version was "self-serving". Chua Leong Aik is serving a 5-year jail term.

For instance, Febri said the trio had discussed a "murder plan" but Chua Leong Aik said it was just a plan to "attack" the victim to teach him a lesson.

The lawyer argued that there was only a plan to abduct the victim and there was no conclusive evidence that Chia had any plan to commit murder.

Justice Choo Han Teck will deliver his decision at a later date.

(source: The Straits Times)

JULY 13, 2017:


Texas' slow, tortuous fight to kill a mentally ill man----The state's fight to kill Scott Panetti is now in its 3rd decade.

Scott Panetti is very seriously mentally ill. He once buried his furniture in his backyard in the belief that this would purge the devil, who Panetti believed to have possessed his home. He was institutionalized about a dozen times, often involuntarily, for suicidal and homicidal behavior. Eventually, Panetti's illness overcame him, and he murdered his estranged wife's parents.

At Panetti's trial, he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself. With his life on the line, Panetii wore a purple bandana around his neck, a cowboy hat and suspenders. He tried to call the Pope, Jesus Christ, and John F. Kennedy to the witness stand. And he sometimes shifted into an alternate personality named "Sgt. Ranahan Ironhorse."

He was sentenced to die.

Since then, Panetti's been the center of a seemingly never-ending legal fight between lawyers trying to save his life and Texas officials who want to kill him. The 1st time Panetti's lawyers sought a court order stopping his execution, Bill Clinton was in the White House, TLC was topping the music charts, and Buffy Summers was still in high school.

Panetti won a victory in the Supreme Court, had that victory rendered largely meaningless by lower courts, sought refuge in a 2nd, unrelated Supreme Court decision, and, just this week, won another incremental victory in a federal appeals court. There are no signs that his litigation saga is anywhere near completion.

Tuesday's decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit arose out of Texas' apparent effort to execute Panetti without telling his lawyers about it.

At a prosecutor's request, a state court set a December 3, 2014 execution date for Panetti without consulting his attorneys. The lawyers found out that their client was about to be killed from an October 30 news report. Multiple courts then refused to delay Panetti's execution or to provide his lawyers with the time or resources they needed to contest his execution?- though the Fifth Circuit did eventually stay that execution to give the lawyers time to seek these resources.

Tuesday's decision in Panetti v. Davis holds that Panetti must receive paid legal counsel, assistance from mental health experts that can help him build his case, and a full hearing to determine whether he is competent to be executed. The Texas legislature, it should also be noted, since changed the state's law to prevent the kind of ambush executions attempted in this case.

But Panetti's life remains in jeopardy largely due to an inconsistency in the Supreme Court's precedents governing people with mental disabilities charged with capital crimes.

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held, using a term that is now considered antiquated, that "death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal." People with intellectual disabilities, the Court explained, "have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others." These deficiencies sufficiently "diminish their personal culpability" to take the death penalty off the table.

A few years later, the Court extended this holding to juvenile offenders in Roper v. Simmons.

The Court has not, however, held that people with severe mental illnesses like Panetti are similarly ineligible for the death penalty, even though people with such disabilities also possess diminished capacities like the ones described in Atkins. Instead, the Court applies a very different test to determine whether someone with a severe mental illness may be executed.

“It might be said that capital punishment is imposed because it has the potential to make the offender recognize at last the gravity of his crime," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court in Panetti v. Quarterman -?an earlier stage of Mr. Panetti's litigation saga. But "the potential for a prisoner's recognition of the severity of the offense and the objective of community vindication are called in question . . . if the prisoner's mental state is so distorted by a mental illness that his awareness of the crime and punishment has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts shared by the community as a whole."

A death row inmate must have a "rational understanding" of why they are being executed before the state may put them to death.

This rule creates a bizarre framework whereby an inmate who flashes back and forth between periods of delusion and moments of sanity may be killed so long as the execution occurs while the inmate is lucid. It encourages the very kind of never-ending litigation that characterizes the Panetti case, and potentially pulls prosecutors into the ghoulish task of repeatedly asking a court's permission to kill a person whose mental state is in flux.

Someone like Scott Panetti, meanwhile, is subjected to a very peculiar form of torture.

For over 2 decades he has sat in a cell, perhaps understanding and perhaps not understanding why he is always on the edge of death. Yet also knowing that, with little warning, he may be strapped to a gurney and killed.



Controversial Drug Used in Virginia's Latest Executions

Last week Virginia executed 36-year-old William Morva for the murders of a sheriff's deputy and security guard back in 2006. In the final hours of his life, Morva's lawyers raised concerns over how Virginia gets the drugs it uses in executions, and why they may not be working properly.

Last week outside Greenville Correctional Center, a small group of anti-death penalty activists held vigil as William Morva was executed. With song, prayer and candles they marked the moment.

Despite a last minute appeal 1 of Morva's lawyers, the execution went on. Rob Lee had asked the Governor for a reprieve, to investigate concerns over one of the drugs used during lethal injection.

"And we got a response relatively quickly from the Governor's counsels," Lee recalled. "Thanking us for bringing the matter to his attention and stating that it had been given careful consideration and the Governor was going to deny our request for a reprieve."

Lee's concerns came from a news report that had been released the day before by The Guardian, including details about another recent Virginia execution.

Gray's Execution

Ricky Gray had been sentenced to death for the brutal murder of a young family in Richmond in 2006. His execution was slated for January 2017.

But leading up to the date, Virginia officials faced a problem. they didn't have the drugs to kill him. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, opposed to the death penalty, had stopped supplying them.

So Virginia lawmakers struck a deal. They passed a law allowing the state to buy the drugs from a compounding pharmacy instead. A compounding pharmacy makes drugs to order, but also under less scrutiny from the FDA. The deal also allowed the state to buy the drugs in secret, shielding the identity of the pharmacy from the public and the press.

In January, Gray was executed using a compounded drug called midazolam, purchased from an unknown compounding pharmacy in Virginia, for 63x the normal price.

"I can't say of course what he experienced, what I can say is that midazolam is not an anesthetic," says Mark Edgar, a pathologist at Emory University. My concern is that it might be like drowning from within, having your lungs fill with fluid and not being able to do anything about it.

Like Xanax or vallium, midazolam is a sedative used to calm people before surgery, but never as the sole anesthetic. In some executions, though, it's used to put inmates to sleep before a 2nd drug paralyzes them, and then a 3rd stops their heart.

In Oklahoma and Ohio, inmates have woken up after midazolam is administered.

Pathologist Mark Edgar has reviewed more than a dozen autopsies from executions. One of the reports that recently landed on his desk was Ricky Gray's, provided from Gray's family via his.

It showed blood-tinged liquid in his airways.

"That's something that you don't typically see in a hospital autopsy, that's more characteristic of, for instance, a sarin gas attack," Edgar says. "My concern is that it might be like drowning from within, having your lungs fill with fluid and not being able to do anything about it."

Morva's Execution

Witnesses to Gray's execution described movement and heavy breathing after the compounded midazolam was administered. Edgar says if the drug didn't render Gray fully unconscious, he would have experienced pain, terror and panic.

"It seems like it's coming close to cruel and unusual punishment. If you knew that they were not in any way aware, I wouldn't be concerned," Edgar says. "But I don't think we do know that."

It was this report that William Morva's lawyers saw just shortly before his execution. Despite their appeals, Morva was executed using the same drug. Witnesses described gulping and chest convulsions.

Lisa Kinney, a spokeswoman for Virginia's Department of Corrections, say the drugs are tested monthly, and there's no plan to discontinue the use of midazalom.

(source: WVTF news)


Man resentenced for murder of Upstate principal----William Bell sentenced to life in prison instead of death

A man who was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of an Upstate principal has been given a new sentence.

William Bell and Kevin Young were convicted in the death of West Franklin Street Elementary principal Dennis Hepler.

Hepler was gunned down during a robbery on the steps of the elementary school.

Bell and Young were given death penalties. Investigators said Young was the trigger man. He was executed in 2000.

At the time of Bell's murder conviction in 1988, a person convicted of murder could either be punished by death, or by life imprisonment.

In November of 2016, following the change in the law and a motion by his defense attorneys, Bell was granted post-conviction relief and his death sentence was vacated. Bell was found to be intellectually disabled under criteria laid out by the United States Supreme Court, which meant he could not be executed.

Since Bell was determined to be ineligible for the death penalty due to the change in the law, his prior death sentence was vacated.

Judge Lawton McIntosh resentenced Bell on Wednesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

Bell has already served 20 years, and now a parole board will review his case to decided if he will be allowed to leave prison, the judge said.

West Franklin Street Elementary has since been closed, and it is now known as the Westside Community Center.

(source: WYFF news)


2 Clay County murderers to receive resentencing hearings under new death penalty system

It was just 5 days after Christmas 1997, when police discovered Shannon Holzer's body in a wooded area near her abandoned car, partially clothed and riddled with 9 stab wounds.

Holzer had been on her way to deposit money from her place of employment, Buddy Boy's, a small convenience store in St. Johns County, when she offered to give a ride to John Calvin Taylor II to Green Cove Springs to retrieve a rental car.

Several co-workers saw Taylor in her vehicle. She dashed away their concerns.

He "was harmless," she said. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about it. I'll be back in a minute."

Police discovered 6 stab wounds in her heart the following afternoon and another 3 in her lungs. According to state records, a forensic pathologist at the trial concluded each stab could have been fatal, and that Taylor made the initial wound while Holzer was sitting in her car. What police didn't find was the $6,000 co-workers said she was on her way to deposit.

Taylor had that. He deposited $1,700 into his bank account, went to a local bar and racked up a tab buying random patrons drinks. He tipped the bartender 2 $100 bills on a $200 tab and left.

Police arrested Taylor the next day for an unrelated burglary in his mobile home. He was in boxer shorts at the time.

On those shorts, police found bloodstains that matched Holzer's DNA.

2 years later, a jury sentenced Taylor to death. It was a split jury, a 10-2 decision. Now, 20 years later, Taylor and other Clay County murderers will see a resentencing due to retroactive changes in Florida's death sentence.

The changes stem from the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Hurst vs. Florida.

The case established that Florida's current death sentencing scheme was unconstitutional because it limited juries to an advisory role, which violated inmate's trial by an impartial jury promised under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Previously, Florida courts decided capital punishment by a simple majority. Now, states are required to impose the death penalty by a unanimous jury.

This ruling applies retroactively, meaning even 20-year-old cases decided by a non-unanimous jury will now go back to lower courts for a new penalty phase.

Another Clay County murder case that will get a resentencing hearing in the wake of the Hurst decision is that of David James Martin of Jacksonville, who was convicted in the 2008. Martin was convicted of bludgeoning Jacey McWilliams, 24, and dumping her body in a wooded area near Middleburg. He was given the death penalty after a jury voted 10-2 and not unanimously.

Criminal justice experts say that of the 395 prisoners currently on Florida's death row, nearly 150 of them qualify for resentencing hearings under Hurst.

Of those, 35 of them are within the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

"I'll use 1 word - chaos," said retired Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan of Miami in describing what the aftershock of the Hurst ruling in Florida. "It's just a mess."

Prosecutors, some of whom argued these cases years prior, will resentence the cases with a new jury while maintaining their normal caseload.

Each of these cases must be reinvestigated and presented in full by both the prosecution and the defense.

Because these cases will receive new penalty phases exclusively, jurors will not decide on guilt, rather jurors will decide on the punishment.

The state recognizes a life sentence if even 1 juror votes no to capital punishment.

Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson said she has already heard new mitigating factors and evidence from defense attorneys arguing older cases while the state goes through the process of identifying which cases they will again seek capital punishment on, and which and they will commute to life sentences.

The Hurst ruling may also effect current proceedings. In late April 2016, the State of Florida filed a notice to seek the death penalty in the case of Bobbi Lee White and her husband Joseph Lloyd White for the alleged murder of a Jacksonville man whose remains investigators found inside a torched van in Jennings State Forest.

Last July, Bobbi's attorney filed a motion to block the state from pursuing the death penalty due to the change in death penalty guidelines.

Joseph's public defender has yet to file any such motion.

While the State Attorney's Office has not yet identified even a cursory price attached to these coming proceedings, Nelson said the figure will be significant.

"Each [case] will be slightly different...but I think after we go through 1, we will have a high figure associated with the cost of resentencing," Nelson said.

While taxpayers might pay the price for the Hurst ruling, Nelson said survivors and loved ones of the dead will pay the true cost.

"We are calling them sometimes 30 - in 1 case 40 years - in many cases 20 years after the fact, and explaining what this new law means and walking them through the process," Nelson said. "They deserve, and obviously the community deserves, for us to make timely decisions - but certainly the next of kin do."

The State Attorney's Office will complete preliminary decisions on which Hurst-qualified cases they will seek the death penalty on by Saturday.

(source: Clay Today)


Lawyers for accused wife killer make 3rd attempt to block death penalty

Lawyers for a St. Johns County man accused of killing his wife and her friend in 2015 are trying, for a 3rd time, to prevent the State Attorney's Office from seeking the death penalty if he's convicted.

James Colley Jr. is charged in the murders of his wife, Amanda Colley, and her friend, Lindy Dobbins. He faces 5 other charges.

On Wednesday, Colley's lawyers filed a motion asking a judge to find Florida's death penalty is still unconstitutional, despite recent changes by the Legislature.

Another defense motion seeks a change of venue.

An affidavit signed by Colley says, "It is not possible for me to get a fair and impartial trial in St. Johns County, Florida, because there is a great deal of prejudice against me."

His lawyers tell the judge they expect the "enormous amount of pretrial publicity" to continue in the media.

There's a hearing set for October on the new motions.


OHIO----impending execution

Anti-Death Penalty Advocates Hope to Stop Ohio's 1st Execution in More Than 3 Years

Ohio is set to execute an Akron man inmate later this month. If it happens, it will be the 1st execution in the state in 3 1/2 years. And death penalty opponents are trying to stop it.

Retired United Church of Christ pastor, the Rev. Lynda Smith, is 1 of about a dozen people who stood outside the building where Gov. John Kasich's office is located, holding signs and sending a message to him to stop executions in Ohio.

\"People of color, poor people, get sent to prison and wind up on death row a lot more than white rich people."

The state's next execution is that of Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.

His execution had been put on hold while courts determined if Ohio's lethal injection method is constitutional. But a federal appeals court ruled last month the state can proceed. So barring any action by the U.S. Supreme Court, Phillips will be put to death on July 26th.

(source: WKSU news)


State fails to stop execution-drug suit----Judge studies jurisdiction question

A lawsuit claiming that Arkansas prison officials duped a medical supplier into selling them medication used to execute four convicted killers survived another court challenge on Wednesday.

After a 2-hour hearing Wednesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray rejected a motion from the attorney general's office to dismiss the suit filed by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.

But the judge said she needs more time to consider whether she has any further jurisdiction over the proceedings. At issue is whether state attorneys can move the proceedings to another judge in another county under a new statute that has never been court-tested.

Gray promised a decision on the jurisdiction issue as soon as possible.

McKesson wants the judge to make Arkansas return the supply of vecuronium bromide the company sold to the prison department last year. The company is accusing Department of Correction officials of tricking its salesman into selling them the paralytic, then reneging on a promise to return the drugs when McKesson refunded the state's payment.

The bromide is 1/3 of the drug combination Arkansas uses for lethal injections. The state carried out 4 of 8 planned executions in April before the supply of another drug it uses passed its use-by date.

Arkansas does not have enough of the necessary drugs to conduct further executions, and none have been scheduled.

State attorneys deny that Arkansas officials did anything wrong, calling the litigation a case of "seller's remorse" brought on by the public disclosure of McKesson's role in providing the paralytic, a disclosure that could open McKesson to government sanctions in Europe and from the bromide's manufacturer.

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has been pressing for the lawsuit by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. to be transferred to Faulkner County Circuit Court since the litigation began in April. But Rutledge will not say why she prefers that court.

Wednesday marked 3 months since the lawsuit was filed, and Rutledge's spokesman continued to decline to answer questions about the attorney general's insistence on moving the lawsuit out of Little Rock, the usual venue for civil actions against the state.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt told the judge the state has an "absolute right" to change courts under the new law, Act 967 of 2017, arguing that the statute requires Gray give up jurisdiction to Rutledge's choice of Faulkner County.

The law, which was passed and went into effect about a week and a half before the lawsuit was filed, allows the government to have any suit brought against it moved to any circuit court of its choosing if the plaintiff is not an Arkansas resident.

Attorney Michael Heister, representing McKesson, told the judge that the company is sufficiently established in Arkansas, through a distribution center in Little Rock, to meet the standard for residence.

He said the state attorneys are trying to get Gray to apply a different standard, state citizenship, as the test for whether the litigation remains in Little Rock.

"Our point is, the venue statute doesn't talk about [citizenship]; it talks about residence," Heister told the judge. "We are a resident of the state under the statute. We pay taxes."

The company, an arm of the international health care giant McKesson Corp., sued to block the state from using the vecuronium bromide the company had sold to the Department of Correction last year.

The drug is a general anesthesia recognized internationally as an essential medication, but McKesson and the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, don't want it to be used for executions.

The company has also asked for the drug to be returned.

2 Pulaski County circuit judges, acting in separate proceedings, sided with the company and ordered the prison department not to use the paralytic.

But the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned those orders on emergency appeals by Rutledge, so the state was able to use the drug in the four executions that were conducted.

About 30 minutes of Wednesday's proceeding involved Merritt trying to convince an obviously skeptical Gray that the judge still had jurisdiction over the case, even though the attorney general's office has appealed the judge's April ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Gray had ordered the Department of Correction not to use McKesson's bromide, which would have halted the executions. But the high court suspended Gray's order while the justices consider whether Arkansas' sovereign immunity shields it from the McKesson suit.

Gray ruled in April that the state isn't immune from the McKesson suit. The attorney general's appeal has lodged the immunity question with the superior court, Gray said. So how could she also take up the same question again until the Supreme Court makes its decision? Gray asked.

"That concerns me," the judge said. "I don't want to run afoul of an appellate court's right to decide an issue."

Merritt argued that Gray still had the authority to rule on the immunity question. The attorney said she expected Gray to again reject the immunity argument.

But that second rejection, which Gray presented on Wednesday, would allow the state to bring a fully decided appeal to the high court as opposed to the partial appeal that got underway in April, Merritt said. One appeal instead of two will save both courts time and effort, she said.

Otherwise, with the Supreme Court now on its summer vacation, the state would have to go through 2 appeals before the immunity issue was resolved, a process that could take at least 8 months, Merritt told the judge.

Merritt said the vitality of the McKesson medications is also at stake. Arkansas has already lost 1 of its 3 death-penalty drugs, the sedative midazolam, because the medication expired in May.

"Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the expiration date of these drugs," she said.



Defense for double murder suspect adds attorney with death penalty experience

A man charged with 2 counts of murder for the deaths of a Kentucky couple faced a judge on Wednesday.

Craig Pennington appeared in Washington Circuit Court for a hearing.

During the hearing, the defense revealed they would being adding counsel to the team in Mid-August. The new attorney has extensive experience in capital cases.

Family members of Bobby Jones and Crystal Warner were inside the courtroom on Wednesday. Jones and Warner went missing on July 3, 2016. Police say Pennington murdered the couple who was renting a home to him in Washington County. It would be months before police found the bodies of the pair; Jones in Clark County and Warner in Bath County.

During the hearing, the defense said the prosecution had not provided them with everything entered as evidence in the case.

A judge set the next hearing for the case for September 20 next; he will likely set a trial date at that time.

(source: WKYT news)


Anthony Garcia's Omaha attorney temporarily suspended from practicing law in Nebraska

Typically a murder case is focused on the alleged conduct of the defendant, not on the attorneys representing him.

The Anthony Garcia case is anything but typical.

Garcia's lead local attorney, Jeremy Jorgenson, has been suspended from practicing law in Nebraska until he shows proof that he has taken several continuing legal education courses, The World-Herald learned on Wednesday.

The suspension likely is short-lived. Under Nebraska court rules, attorneys must complete 10 hours of education, including 2 hours focused on ethical requirements. Jorgenson said Wednesday he already had completed the required courses but failed to show proof of it. Jorgenson has applied for reinstatement and expects to get his license restored within a week or 2.

"It's not newsworthy," he said.

The suspension is just the latest news made by Garcia's defense team - primarily made up of Jorgenson, Robert Motta Jr., Robert Motta Sr. and, for a while, Alison Motta.

And it has only added to the twists for Garcia, the former Creighton University medical resident convicted in the revenge-fueled serial killings of 4 Omahans.

The Mottas, who are from Chicago, had been practicing in Nebraska on what amounts to a guest pass provided by Jorgenson, his former law partner David Reed and another Omaha attorney, James Owen. (Jorgenson took the lead among the local attorneys - and the other 2 attorneys' involvement has been virtually nonexistent in recent months.)

Now, with Jorgenson suspended, it's unclear whether the Mottas can continue to represent Garcia in the death penalty phase of Garcia's case. Bob Motta Jr. did not return a phone call Wednesday.

Garcia faces the possibility of the death penalty after a jury found him guilty of killing 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman in March 2008 and Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65, in May 2013.

In April, Judge Gary Randall appointed the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy to help represent Garcia in the sentencing phase.

That led Jorgenson and Garcia to object and to file an appeal contending that the judge's appointment of additional attorneys interfered with Garcia's right to choose his own attorney.

"You are my choice for lawyer," Garcia wrote to Jorgenson on May 1. "The Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy ... Randall and Kleine are all part of a conspiracy against me and you," he wrote, referring to County Attorney Don Kleine.

That appeal has fallen on deaf ears so far. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Garcia's appeal cannot be heard until after he is sentenced.

That leaves Judge Randall with a decision.

With Jorgenson temporarily suspended, will the judge allow the Mottas to represent Garcia? Or will he remove the Mottas and allow the commission to represent Garcia alone?

Neither set of attorneys wants to combine forces to represent Garcia. One reason: If they join ranks, the commission would be unable to raise issues of whether Motta and Jorgenson were effective at trial.

Jeff Pickens, chief counsel of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, said his office is awaiting a decision and stands ready to use its experience trying death penalty cases.

"We're eager to represent Dr. Garcia and provide him the best defense possible at no cost to Douglas County taxpayers," Pickens said.

Jorgenson said he also is eager to see Garcia's case through.

Jorgenson and the Mottas have made news for other actions in the past 2 years - including a case in which Alison Motta received a rare rebuke just 2 months ago.

Alison was kicked off of the Garcia case in April 2016 after she, on the eve of his originally scheduled trial, said that DNA tests exonerated Garcia and implicated another man in the death of Sherman. (The DNA tests didn't.)

Judge Randall's subsequent denial of Alison's application to practice law in Nebraska meant that she had to watch Garcia's trial from the courtroom gallery.

In May, Alison Motta was suspended for 3 months from an Illinois federal court system for trial antics that included rolling her eyes at a judge's ruling and calling it "(expletive) bull(expletive)."

"These instances of disruptive conduct occurred even after multiple warnings from the trial judge," Chief Judge Ruben Castillo of the Illinois district wrote in her reprimand.

In October, Jorgenson failed to show up for oral arguments on behalf of a client before the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals - oral arguments that were occurring while Bob Motta was delivering closing arguments in Garcia's case.

Jorgenson then blew a deadline to explain why he failed to show. That led the 8th Circuit to bar him from practicing in front of the federal appellate court and to recommend that he face disciplinary actions in Nebraska.

Early this year, he moved to the Chicago area to join the Mottas' law office. Before either was suspended, Alison Motta and Jorgenson successfully defended a case in federal court in southern Illinois.

Jorgenson said Wednesday he has since returned to Omaha for personal reasons. He said he will return to Chicago to help the Mottas with a few cases but plans to primarily practice law here.

The suspension has put at least a momentary hiccup in his ability to do so.

Jorgenson said he received notice of the law-license suspension this past week. He said the month delay in discovering his suspension likely occurred because he didn't update his office address and the Supreme Court notice went to a former address.

"I can't do anything until I'm reinstated," Jorgenson said. "Which I'm hoping will be soon."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Deal offered for man facing death penalty, but he wants to fire lawyers

Prosecutors offered to withdraw the death penalty and agree to a sentence of 32 years to life in prison for Benjamin Frazier, who is accused of killing a man at the former Drai's nightclub and shooting 2 security guards.

Instead, Frazier told a judge Wednesday that he wants to fire the defense attorneys who negotiated the deal.

In a short, somewhat disjointed speech, Frazier told District Judge Douglas Herndon that he did not trust Randall Pike and Jeremy Storms, with the Special Public Defenders office. The 45-year-old jailed defendant, who is being held without bail, suggested his lawyers had done nothing for him and complained about access to writing utensils and lack of medical attention from doctors outside the Clark County Detention Center. He said he had suffered seizures and injured his head in his cell.

"I've been lied to, and I've been manipulated numerous times," Frazier said. "I wasn't even in a condition to work on my case, and I believe they didn't give a damn. This has been hell. This has been hell."

Pike, who worked directly with the county's top prosecutor, Steve Wolfson, on hammering out a deal in which Frazier could plead guilty but mentally ill through what's known as the Alford decision. That means he would not admit guilt, but acknowledge that prosecutors have enough evidence to prove the charges against him.

Video surveillance from Oct. 21, 2013, inside Bally's, at 3645 Las Vegas Blvd. South, where the club was previously located, shows Frazier repeatedly firing a .38-caliber revolver, wounding two men, and fatally shooting 40-year-old Kenneth Brown, who police said was a "Good Samaritan" and tried to subdue Frazier.

A quarrel started after Frazier asked club security whether he could preview the crowd before paying an entrance fee, authorities said. He decided to pay the cover and walked inside, but left soon after, demanding a refund because the club wasn't full.

The defense attorneys had hired a neuropsychiatrist, 2 counselors, another doctor to generate documents for the plea, retained and consulted with other experts, coordinated with mitigation specialists for a possible penalty, and worked with investigators, Pike said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci said the offer would remain open "for the sake of these attorneys" until Frazier's next court appearance in September.

"I really want to vent my spleen because they're going out of their way for him, so this concept that somehow they're falling down is rather repugnant to me," the prosecutor said. "At some point, it has to end."

The judge rejected Frazier's request, and set a trial date for April, should he decline the offer.

Negotiation in Drai's shooting

Prosecutors for the 1st time Wednesday made public the details of an offer extended to Benjamin Frazier, who is accused of fatally shooting a man and injuring 2 others at the former Drai's nightclub. Frazier would plead guilty to 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted murder and be sentenced to 32 years to life in prison, according to the deal.

District Judge Douglas Herndon refused to kick Frazier's attorneys off the case at his request.

"There is always going to be a rub between what you think needs to be done, and what they have the wisdom to know needs to be done," the judge said. "And there comes a time where if they feel like a case has a certain value to it, they've got an obligation to try and secure for you the best resolution they can."

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Death penalty retrial projected for 2019

A retrial for a Kingman man facing the death penalty in the stabbing death of a Kingman woman won't take place until 2019.

Darrell Bryant Ketchner, 59, is charged with 1st-degree murder and burglary. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, 1 of 2 capital cases in Mohave County. 2 qualified defense attorneys are required in a death penalty case.

The Arizona Supreme Court overturned Ketchner's murder conviction and death sentence in December 2014. The high court upheld his conviction and prison sentence for attempted murder, 3 counts of aggravated assault and a weapons charge.

Ketchner, whose case is being heard before Superior Court Judge Rick Williams in Bullhead City, was back in court Tuesday morning with the judge allowing the prosecutor until Aug. 31 to respond to a defense motion. No trial date has been set, but the attorneys said they expected to be ready by the spring of 2019.

Jennifer Allison sat at her kitchen table on the night of July 4, 2009, with her 18-year-old daughter, Ariel Allison, at their Kingman home. Ketchner chased Jennifer Allison outside and shot her in the head as she lay in the driveway.

Ketchner went back inside and allegedly stabbed Ariel Allison 8 times in her mother's bedroom, where she later died. Several other children escaped through a window. Jennifer Allison survived her wounds.

Justin James Rector, 29, is the county's other death penalty trial. He is accused of kidnapping and killing 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella on Sept. 2, 2014, in Bullhead City.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Hearings provide new details in crime spree, killing of woman

In the days following the death of Kaylee Sawyer in Bend last summer, suspected killer Edwin Lara confessed his involvement in her death to virtually everyone he encountered, according to a prosecutor, at one point saying he had an "urge to kill."

That's according to testimony given by a number of witnesses in court Monday. It was the 1st of 5 days of scheduled hearings to discuss the admissibility of evidence, specifically Lara's apparent confession and the evidence that resulted from it.

Lara, 32, is charged with 4 counts of aggravated murder in the death of Sawyer, 23, on July 24. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is seeking the death penalty.

Monday's hearing centered on Lara's alleged California crime spree after the death of Sawyer.

Still to be discussed is an apparent confession he gave to Bend police officers, and whether he was read his Miranda rights beforehand, or was denied an attorney after asking for one.

As with nearly all hearings in the case, a number of Sawyer's friends and family were present in the courtroom Monday. A group huddled across the courtroom's pewlike benches and prayed in anticipation of graphic testimony, which included a 15-minute 911 recording where Lara discussed Sawyer's death.

Sawyer disappeared in the early morning hours of July 24 after a night in downtown Bend. After getting in an argument with her boyfriend during the ride home, Sawyer walked off from her house near Central Oregon Community College. Friends and family never saw her again.

At Monday's hearing, Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Gunnels said in his opening statement that Lara was at work that night as a security officer for the college. Gunnels said the scene of the killing was parking lot B12, a gravel lot high up on the hilly campus surrounded by juniper and sagebrush.

Investigators from the Central Oregon Major Crimes Team - made up of officers from various law enforcement agencies - found drag marks and blood in the parking lot, Gunnels said. The drag marks led up the hill to a location in the brush where a significant amount of blood was found.

However, this is not where Sawyer's body was found. Police believe Lara put Sawyer in the trunk of his car - where blood also was found - and transported her body to the location on Highway 126 where it was found two days later. Police found it after Lara alerted them to a note he left in a car he abandoned in Salem.

The note 3 times had the number 18700, though there was no context. Police used the Deschutes County property information database to run the number, which turned up an address on Highway 126 between Sisters and Redmond.

Bend Lt. Brian Kindel testified that the body was dumped just off the side of the road and wasn't covered with rocks or brush. He said a person could see Sawyer's shoulder from the road side of the guardrail.

Lara fled to Salem after his then-wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, confronted him the day after the killing, accusing him of acting weird.

(source: The (Bend) Bulletin)


Why the U.S. could see more executions this year

The death penalty is in decline. In each of the past 7 years, the United States has seen the number of executions fall or remain flat. This shift is part of an overall trend that, since the turn of the century, has seen the death penalty dwindle nationwide, although this year might see an increase in the number of executions.

Capital punishment was at its modern peak in 1999, when there were 98 executions in the U.S.. During the mid-1990s, more than 300 people were sentenced to death in 3 consecutive years. The issuance of death sentences became increasingly rare, falling from 315 such penalties in 1996 to 31 in 2016, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks capital punishment activity. Executions similarly plummeted, declining to 20 last year, the fewest in a quarter-century.

States are also moving away from capital punishment. There are 19 states without the death penalty, and 7 of them abolished it or had courts strike down the practice since 2007; several other states have official moratoriums on executions or, lacking the ability to procure lethal injection drugs, are simply unable to carry them out.

This year, it appears the country will see more executions than the year before for the 1st time since 2009. There have been 14 executions so far in 2017, equal to the number at this point in 2016. In a report issued this week, the Death Penalty Information Center said it expects there will be "a slight increase" in executions from the 20 carried out last year. Even with the expected uptick in executions, the report noted, 2017 would still see fewer executions than most years since 1990.

Part of the explanation for this potential increase rests with Ohio, one of the more active death penalty states this century but a state that has, in recent years, been unable to carry out executions. Ohio had been a consistent executioner, carrying out at least one death penalty each year between 2001 and 2014. (During the same span, only Texas and Oklahoma had at least one execution each year.) Ohio's last execution, in 2014, lasted nearly half an hour, 1 of 3 lethal injections that took an unusually long time that year.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since. Ohio has postponed its planned executions multiple times while changing the drugs it hoped to use to carry them out, delaying planned lethal injections multiple times during the past few years. Ohio was among many states that have had to scramble their lethal injection protocols due to an ongoing drug shortage, and state officials had said that they needed delay the executions due to the time it would take to find new drugs.

"Ohio's executions have been delayed for years as Ohio struggled to obtain execution drugs," the state said in a court filing earlier this year.

The state announced last year that it adopted a new lethal injection procedure involving different drugs. With that in hand, Ohio said it intended to move forward with the execution of Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993, as well as other executions to follow. Phillips and other inmates challenged Ohio's execution protocol, and a federal judge stayed their executions, prompting Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) to once again postpone executions in the state.

In June, a divided federal appeals court reversed that judge's stay, potentially clearing the way for Ohio to resume executions later this month. When Ohio changed its lethal injection protocol again last year, it said it would use three drugs, which is roughly the same procedure in place in Florida, Oklahoma and other states. (3-drug lethal injections used to be common in the United States, but the drug shortage - spurred in part by drug companies' objections to capital punishment - has forced some states away from that.) 1 of those drugs, midazolam, has been repeatedly questioned for its utility in lethal injections, an issue that has arisen after bungled, unusually long or otherwise controversial executions in Ohio, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama and, earlier this year, Arkansas.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit dismissed claims made by Phillips - along with 2 other inmates scheduled to be executed this fall - that the new Ohio execution protocol would cause them unconstitutional pain. Allen Bohnert, one of the attorneys representing the death-row inmates, criticized the decision and vowed to challenge it at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In one of the dissents, Judge Jane B. Stranch highlighted declining public support for capital punishment. A Pew Research Center survey last year found that American support for the death penalty fell below 50 %, its lowest level since the 1970s. A Gallup poll showed support remained at 60 %. Both polls ultimately showed support is far below where it was in the 1990s, when 4 out of 5 Americans backed the practice. In Ohio, though, a 2015 poll showed higher support for executions than in the rest of the country.

Phillips's execution is scheduled for July 26, more than 3 1/2 years after Ohio's last lethal injection. Three executions are set to take place in September, October and November. If those executions are carried out, along with five planned in Texas by the end of the year, they will push this year's total executions nationwide ahead of last year. Other executions could be added to the calendar, and it is possible not all of those scheduled will take place, as executions are routinely postponed. Even Texas, long the country's leader in capital punishment, is not immune to delays and has seen a handful of executions delayed or execution dates changed for various reasons recently.

In Ohio, state officials say they are moving ahead with preparations for Phillips's execution. Under Ohio's execution protocol, by this point officials must have had medical staff evaluate Phillips to look for potential problems in placing the IV (which was blamed as the issue behind a bungled Oklahoma execution in 2014). 2 weeks before the scheduled execution - Wednesday - officials also are directed to make sure the state has enough lethal-injection drugs to carry out the procedure.

In a court filing in Phillips's case, Ohio officials said they "ensured that it could obtain all 3 drugs" before changing the execution protocol. A spokeswoman declined to answer questions about Ohio's supply of the drugs.

"To date all steps of Ohio's execution protocol have been complied with in preparation of the execution scheduled later this month," JoEllen Smith, the spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in a statement.

(source: Washington Post)


Japan executes 2 convicted murderers

Japan executed 2 convicted murderers on July 13, the justice ministry said, ignoring calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment.

The hangings of Masakatsu Nishikawa and Koichi Sumida bring to 19 the total number of executions since conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in late 2012.

Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing 4 female bar owners in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing a female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.

"Both are extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives on truly selfish motives," Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said.

"I ordered the executions after careful consideration," he told a news conference.

Human rights group Amnesty International protested at the Japanese government's continued use of the death penalty, saying it demonstrates "wanton disregard for the right to life."

"The death penalty never delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment," Hiroka Shoji, East Asia researcher at the campaign group, said in a statement.

Nishikawa was hanged while seeking a retrial. Though not unprecedented, it is rare in Japan.

Kaneda indicated it was mistaken to believe that death-row inmates cannot be executed as long as their retrial pleas are pending.

"When a rejection is naturally expected, we cannot help avoiding carrying out (capital punishment)," Kaneda said, noting he was not commenting on either of Thursday's cases but speaking in general terms.

Out of 124 death-row inmates, 91 are seeking retrial, according to Jiji Press.

Japan and the United States are the only major developed countries that still carry out capital punishment.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said "the justice minister made the decision appropriately under the provision of the law."

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Opponents say Japan's system is cruel because inmates can be on death row for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending execution a few hours ahead of time.

(source: Hurriyet Daily News)


2 men hanged as reprehensible executions continue

The Japanese government's continued use of the death penalty demonstrates a contempt for the right to life, Amnesty International said, following the execution of 2 men on Thursday.

The executions, the 1st in Japan in 2017, take the number of people executed under the current government to 19 since 2012.

Masakatsu Nishikawa, who was convicted of the murder of four people in 1991 and 1992, was executed at Osaka Detention Centre. He maintained his innocence on some of the charges against him and the Asahi Newspaper reported that he was seeking a retrial. Koichi Sumida, who was convicted of murder in 2011, was executed at Hiroshima Detention Centre.

"Today's executions shows the Japanese government's wanton disregard for the right to life. The death penalty never delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

"Executions in Japan remain shrouded in secrecy but the government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, as the majority of the world's states have turned away from the death penalty."

On 1 July, Mongolia became the most recent and the 105th country worldwide to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

There are 124 death row prisoners detained in Japan, based on the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice.

Secret executions

Executions in Japan are carried out with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, and some given no warning at all. Their families, lawyers and the public are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Secret executions are in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty. This and the lack of other adequate legal safeguards for those facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized by UN experts.

This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel and a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases. Several prisoners with mental and intellectual disabilities are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)


Death penalty sought for Japanese man over murders in Manila

Prosecutors demanded Thursday the death penalty for a Japanese man who allegedly arranged the murders of 2 compatriots in Manila in 2014 and 2015 in order to collect insurance payouts.

In their closing argument at the Kofu District Court in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, the prosecutors maintained Toshihiko Iwama, 43, committed a "heinous and inhuman" crime when he orchestrated the killings. They added there is no possibility of rehabilitation.

Iwama's defense counsel said the accused was not cash-strapped at the time of the crime and had no motive to kill the two. Iwama also said at the court, "I never committed (the murders)."

The district court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Aug. 25.

According to the indictment, Iwama conspired with his accomplices to hire a local hit man who shot and killed Shinsuke Toba, 32, in October 2014 and murdered Tatsuya Nakamura, 42, in a similar way between the end of August and beginning of September in 2015 in the Philippine capital.

Both victims were from Yamanashi Prefecture. Toba, a manager of an osteopathic clinic, lived in Nirasaki and Nakamura, a company executive, was a resident of Fuefuki.

(source: The Mainichi)


3 Prisoners Executed

On the morning of Wednesday July 12, a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Urmia's central prison on murder charges, and 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Hamadan Central Prison on drug charges.

The 2 prisoners from Hamadan Prison were among a group of 3 prisoners who were transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday July 9 in preparation for their executions. Close sources have identified 1 of the prisoners who was executed as Samad Abdoli, but the identity of the other prisoner is not known at this time. The execution sentence for the other prisoner, Masoud Joodaki, was postponded for unknown reasons.

Iranian authorities are carrying out death sentences for drug related charges at the same time that a bill is being reviewed by the Judicial Commission of the Iranian Parliament calling for the death sentences for many prisoners charged with drug trafficking to be called off. Iranian parliament members had requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5,000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

According to close sources, the prisoner who was executed at Urmia's central prison is Borzou Sheikhi. According to a report by the human rights news agency, HRANA, Mr. Sheikhi was a professor at the University of Urmia.

Iranian official sources, including the media and the Judiciary, have not announced these executions.


6 Prisoners Executed in Rajai Shahr Prison on Murder Charges

6 prisoners were reportedly executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison on murder charges.

According to close sources, the executions were carried out on the morning of Wednesday July 12. These prisoners were among a group of 13 who were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on Monday July 10 in preparation for their executions. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of 3 of the prisoners: Mohammad Hamavand, Hamid Eslami, and Mohammad Shirzad. The other 7 prisoners were reportedly returned to their cells after their execution sentences were postponed by the complainants on their cases.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced these executions.


More than 1 Execution Every 4 Hours in July

Following a pause in executions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, executions in Iran have dramatically increased since Saturday July 1.

In the past 12 days, Iran Human Rights has reported on 56 executions carried out in Iran. 31 of the 56 prisoners were reportedly hanged on drug related charges. Only 7 of the 56 executions were reported by official Iranian sources, including the Judiciary and state-run media.

Iran Human Rights considers the volume of executions in Iran inhumane and calls for their immediate halt. "In the past 12 days in Iran, we have witnessed more than 1 execution every 4 hours. This is unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is crucial that the international community reacts to this," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

"It is incomprehensible that the death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges are being hastily carried out at the same time that a bill is being reviewed by the Iranian Parliament to stop the death sentences for many prisoners with drug charges. It is possible that the Iranian authorities intend to carry out the death sentences for as many prisoners with drug related charges as possible before passing the bill. If this is the case, then we will be witness to a massacre."

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam calls on the international community and civil societies inside and outside Iran to help prevent a massive human tragedy before it is too late by reacting to the wave of executions in Iran.

Previously, Iranian parliament members had requested from the Iranian Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5,000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)


Iran Regime's Plan to Execute 120 Prisoners

Reliable reports received from the families of prisoners incarcerated in Gohardasht prison and some informed sources in the prisons indicate that some prisoners who were transferred to solitary confinement in the past few days have met with their families for the last time in Gohardasht prison near Karaj.

According to the families, the death sentence of at least 13 prisoners will soon be implemented.

A large number of the families of the death row prisoners had gathered outside the prison on Tuesday, July 11, behind the prison doors.

Three prisoners who are supposed to be executed on Wednesday, July 12, are identified as Mehdi Ahmadi, Hamid Ismami and Nader Ahmadi.

According to the prisoners, some prison officials have said that 117 people are supposed to be executed in Gohardasht prison in the next few weeks. For this reason, the regime has increased the implementation of death sentences in Gohardasht prison from 1 day a week on Wednesdays to 2 days a week on Sundays and Wednesdays.

It should be mentioned that they have executed some prisoners last week on Sunday in Gohardasht prison. Some of these prisoners were transferred from Qezelhesar prison to Gohardasht. The names of those executed last Sunday, July 2, were not announced and only the names of those prisoners executed on Wednesday, July 5, (9 or 10 people) were officially published.

According to Gohardasht prisoners, death row prisoners who have been in prison for more than 10 years have given 45 days to get consent otherwise their death sentence will be enforced.

Some of the executions carried out by the clerical regime in the past 3 weeks are as follows:

11 July 2017 -- 2 prisoners were executed in Semnan prion, central Iran.

10 July 2017 -- 2 prisoners were hanged in Gorgan prion, northern Iran.

10 July 2017 -- 2 prisoners were executed in the prisons of Mahabad (western Iran) and Rasht (northern Iran).

9 July 2017 -- A prisoner was executed in central prison of Arak.

8 July 2017 -- 4 prisoners were hanged in central prison of Orumiyeh (northwest Iran).

6 July 2017 -- 2 prisoners were executed in Maragheh prison, East Azerbaijan province.

5 July 2017 -- The death sentences of at least 7 prisoners were implemented in Gohardasht prison in Karaj.

4 July 2017 -- The death sentence of a man in Ghaemshahr prison (northern Iran) was enforced.

4 July 2017 -- 2 other prisoners were also executed in central prison of Orumiyeh. On the same day, the death sentences of 2 prisoners were implemented in public on the side of a sports hall in the city of Torbat-e Haidariyeh.

On 12 July 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported in a statement that the inhuman regime of the mullahs has hanged at least 57 prisoners in Iran Since the Beginning of July.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Amnesty: Saudi Arabia silence Shia dissent with execution

Saudi Arabia is using the death penalty as a means to silence Shia dissent, says Amnesty International.

"These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities' ongoing persecution of the Shia minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence," said the group's director for research, Lynn Maalouf, on Wednesday.

Maalouf made the remarks after Saudi Arabia executed four Shias in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province over allegations of conducting terrorist activities.

"The international community must come down hard on Saudi Arabia to ensure that others currently facing execution after deeply flawed legal proceedings do not meet the same fate. Saudi Arabia should quash their death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions," she added.

Amnesty has documented a further 34 other cases of Shia men currently sentenced to death mostly following unfair trials based largely on confessions obtained by torture.

The Shia-dominated Eastern Province, particularly the Qatif region, has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters, complaining of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The Shia community of the province accounts for somewhere between 10 and 15 % of Saudi Arabia's 33-million-strong population.

"The Saudi Arabian government is showing no signs of letting up in its use of the death penalty and has employed it vigorously since the traditional pause for Ramadan ...The death penalty continues to be used in violation of international human rights law and standards on a massive scale, and often after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated," concluded Maalouf.



Partially deaf and blind Saudi man 'moved into solitary confinement in preparation for his execution'----Munir al-Adam 'held in cell for 24 hours a day' and could be beheaded at any time

A disabled man who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for attending a protest, has been moved into solitary confinement in preparation for his execution, a human rights group has claimed.

Munir al-Adam was found guilty of "attacks on police" and other offences during protests in the east of the kingdom in the April 2012.

A court in the country's capital, Riyadh, sentenced the 23-year-old to death in January last year. That sentence was upheld in May 2017.

Mr Adam has impaired sight and was already partially deaf when he was arrested, but he is now completely deaf in one ear. He claims this is a result of being badly beaten by police.

Human rights group Reprieve, said Saudi authorities had not given a reason for his move to solitary confinement, which took place on 22 June. But it said prisoners were usually transferred into cells alone prior to their execution.

Mr Adam's family had not been allowed to visit him, the group said, adding that it believed he was being held in a cell for 24 hours a day without outdoor exercise breaks.

The 23-year-old steel cable worker could be executed at any moment without his family being notified, Reprieve director Maya Foa said.

"There's usually no date and no location given," she said. "The system is incredibly secretive and opaque, which adds to the distress for the families of those involved."

Reprieve said the case against Mr Adam - made in a secretive criminal trial - relied on a false confession he was tortured into giving. He has since retracted the statement.

In May, the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court upheld the death sentence against Mr Adam, days after US President Donald Trump visited the kingdom.

Reprieve had called on Mr Trump to raise the issue of human rights during the trip, but he is not thought to have broached the subject.

News that Mr Adam had been moved into solitary confinement came after the Saudi interior minister announced that 6 people were executed earlier this week. Among them was a Pakistani man arrested for drug offences.

The deaths are thought to bring the number of executions by Saudi Arabia this year to 44.



New law to enable Vietnam's corrupt officials to escape death penalty by paying back stolen money

The law was passed despite concerns that it may weaken the fight against corruption.

Amendments to Vietnam's Penal Code, which takes effect in January 2018, give those found guilty of corruption and bribery the chance to escape the death sentence if they return 75 % of their ill-gotten gains.

Those sentenced to death for corruption or taking bribes can have their punishment commuted to life in jail if they cooperate with the authorities during the investigation and voluntarily return at least 75 % of their illegal earnings, officials said at a press briefing called by the President Office on Wednesday.

The 2015 Penal Code had been scheduled to come into effect in July 2016 but was shelved due to multiple errors and loopholes. The National Assembly, Vietnam's top legislature, approved the revised law last month.

The clause was one of the controversial parts of the new code. Some lawmakers argued that it would weaken the fight against corruption, which the Vietnamese government has set as one of its priorities.

Under the 1999 Penal Code, capital punishment could be handed down to those who abused their power to embezzle VND500 million ($22,000) or take bribes of at least VND300 million. Vietnamese workers earned an average of $2,200 last year.

The new law also spares convicts over 75 years old from the death penalty, as well as those convicted of robbery, vandalizing equipment and works significant to national security, opposing order, surrendering to the enemy, drug possession, drug dealing and the production and trade of fake food. That will bring Vietnam's number of capital crimes from 22 to 15.



Petty Crime Suspects Summarily Executed

State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared 4 others since April 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Most victims were accused of stealing items such as bananas, a cow, or a motorcycle. Others were suspected of smuggling marijuana, illegally crossing the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo, or of using illegal fishing nets.

The 40-page report, "'All Thieves Must Be Killed': Extrajudicial Executions in Western Rwanda," details how military, police and auxiliary security units, sometimes with the assistance of local civilian authorities, apprehended suspected petty offenders and summarily executed them. 2 men were killed by civilians after local authorities encouraged residents to kill thieves. In all the cases Human Rights Watch documented, the victims were killed without any effort at due process to establish their guilt or bring them to justice, and none posed any imminent threat to life that could have otherwise justified the use of lethal force against them.

"Rwandan security forces are carrying out a brutal campaign of cold-blooded murder in the Western Province," said Daniel Bekele, senior director for Africa advocacy at Human Rights Watch. "Fighting petty crime or offenses by committing murder doesn’t build the rule of law, but only reinforces a climate of fear. The Rwandan authorities should immediately halt the killings and bring those responsible to justice."

Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in Rwanda with 119 witnesses, family members and friends of victims, government officials, and others. Human Rights Watch also released photographs of some of the victims.

On July 5 and 6, 2017, Human Rights Watch shared its findings with 5 local authorities in Rubavu and Rutsiro districts, the areas where Human Rights Watch documented the killings. The officials denied that any extrajudicial executions had occurred, although one said that people had been killed while crossing the border from Congo because of a "security issue." Human Rights Watch also shared its findings with senior government officials in the capital, Kigali, but has not received a response.

These killings occurred in advance of Rwanda's presidential elections, scheduled for August 4. President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2003, is running against two opponents, both of whom have complained of harassment, threats, and intimidation since announcing their candidacy.

The executions, some in front of multiple witnesses, are rarely discussed in Rwanda. Given Rwanda's strict restrictions on independent media and activists, no local media outlets have reported the killings, and local human rights groups are afraid to publish information on such issues.

The killings and enforced disappearances appear to have been part of a broader strategy to spread fear, enforce order, and deter any resistance to government orders or policies, Human Rights Watch said.

In 1 example, Fulgence Rukundo, a father of two, was detained by a local government official and six soldiers at his home in the village of Munanira in Rubavu district in the early morning of December 6. Witnesses said he was questioned about a stolen cow, then taken to a community meeting with the district mayor. "When the meeting was finished, the soldiers walked Fulgence to a small field near a banana plantation," one witness said. "There were many of us following; some were primary students. We wanted to see what would happen ... A soldier told him to stand up and walk, and another soldier told us to leave. At that moment, I heard three shots."

More than 40 people interviewed said they had participated in community meetings in Rubavu and Rutsiro districts at which military officers or local government officials declared that thieves would be arrested and killed.

Authorities used the extrajudicial executions to serve as a warning. In most of the cases documented, local military and civilian authorities told residents, often during public meetings, that the suspected petty offender had been killed and that all other thieves and other criminals in the region would be arrested and executed.

In the case of Francois Buhagarike, killed between October 19 and 20 in Busuku cell in Rutsiro district, one resident said: "[The authorities] say, 'Someone who supports thieves will also have problems with us. Those caught stealing will be killed, like Francois. To anyone who knew Francois, if you steal, you will also be killed.' All this was said by the military so it must be taken seriously."

Many family members were threatened when they tried to recover the bodies of their loved ones. Some families buried the body in secret, and several left their villages, fearing that they could also be targeted.

In almost all the extrajudicial killings documented, family members of victims were afraid to exercise their right under Rwandan and international law to seek justice.

The Rwandan government should ensure an immediate end to the summary executions of suspected criminals by security forces, Human Rights Watch said. They should also ensure that thorough, impartial investigations into these serious violations are conducted, including to establish how and with whom any policy originated; and that those responsible for the violations be held accountable.

Judicial, military, and police officials should also make public and clear statements forbidding any state security force member from intimidating or threatening family members of victims.

"Instead of investigating the executions and disappearances and providing information or assistance to the families, local authorities threatened some who dared to ask questions," Bekele said. "The government should focus on investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the crimes, and not allow a cover-up."

[also, see:]

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Scrap the death penalty, Amnesty International urges government

Amnesty International said close to 150 death row inmates languish in grim conditions in Ghana with only a fraction able to appeal their convictions.

In a new report, available to the Ghana News Agency, it called on the government to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

Based on interviews with 107 death row prisoners, 'Locked up and Forgotten: The need to abolish the death penalty in Ghana' provides further evidence of why the country should abolish this cruel punishment, in line with the recommendation of the 2011 Constitution Review Commission document.

Alioune Tine, Amnesty International's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said "the 2011 constitutional review should have signaled the end of the road for the death penalty in Ghana, but 6 years on, courts continue to hand down this cruel punishment, while death row prisoners remain trapped in cramped conditions, separated from other prisoners, and with no access to educational or recreational activities."

"The Ghanaian authorities should commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners to terms of imprisonment and ensure that all these cases are reviewed to identify any potential miscarriages of justice."

Fair trial concerns

Many death row inmates told Amnesty International that they did not receive adequate legal representation for their trials and the vast majority have been unable to appeal. Although around 3/4 of prisoners were provided with a government-appointed lawyer in court, some prisoners said that their lawyer asked for payment. Several said that their lawyers had not attended all the court hearings while many others said they did not have a chance to talk to their lawyer to prepare their defence.

One death row prisoner said: "I have no money, this is why I am here. If I had money I would be outside by now." The UN Human Rights Committee and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have previously raised concerns over the quality of state-supplied legal aid in Ghana.

Fewer than 1 in 4 death row inmates interviewed had been able to appeal their conviction or sentence, and the Ghana Prison Service informed Amnesty International that only 12 death row inmates had filed appeals since 2006 - 1/2 of which were successful. Few inmates interviewed were aware of how to appeal or access legal aid, while most were unable to pay for private lawyers.

Poor conditions on death row

The death row at Nsawam Prison is overcrowded, poorly maintained and there are just 7 toilets between more than 100 prisoners. The men's section contains 24 small cells to hold 4 prisoners each, 4 medium-sized cells with up to 8 prisoners per cell and 2 larger cells to hold 16 prisoners each. The single window in each cell is locked with metal bars and cannot be opened. Small holes in the cell walls provide limited ventilation.

There are just 4 female death row prisoners at Nsawam and they share a single cell, isolated from other female prisoners. Prisoners on death row displayed signs of distress and anxiety, with several men and women in tears when speaking to Amnesty International about their situation.

1 prisoner told Amnesty International: "If I were to be killed, it would be better than being here."

In March 2017 there were 6 prisoners on death row officially considered to have mental and intellectual disabilities. They received no specialized treatment, although the Prison Service said it was seeking psychiatric support.

"Keeping people with mental or intellectual disabilities on death row violates international human rights law, and puts their safety and that of other prisoners at risk," said Alioune Tine.

Death row prisoners also face discrimination and isolation as they are not allowed to participate in the recreational or educational opportunities available to other prisoners.

1 prisoner described the death row section as "a prison within a prison". 1 woman who had been on death row for 9 years told Amnesty International, "I don't do anything. I sweep and wait."

Trend towards abolition

Amnesty International is calling on the Ghanaian authorities to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

"105 countries around the world, including 19 in Africa, have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. A great way for Ghana to mark its 60th anniversary of independence this year would be to abolish this cruel punishment and end the suffering of the death row prisoners who have been locked up and forgotten," said Alioune Tine.


As of 30 December 2016, 148 prisoners were on death row in Ghana - 144 men and 4 women. All were sentenced to death for murder. The last execution in Ghana took place in 1993.

For this report, Amnesty International interviewed 107 prisoners on death row - 104 men and 3 women - during 2 visits in August 2016 and March 2017.

(source: Ghana News Agency)


Urgent Action: Aliaksei Mikhalenya At Risk Of Imminent Execution (Belarus: UA 172.17)

Aliaksei Mikhalenya was sentenced to death by the Homel Regional Court, in southeast Belarus, on 17 March. His sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on 30 June and he is now at risk of imminent execution.


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

Urging President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to commute the death sentence of Aliaksei Mikhalenya and all those on death row in Belarus;

Calling on the President to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

Stress that whilst we are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime, research shows that the death penalty does not deter crime more than imprisonment, and is the ultimate denial of human rights.

Contact these two officials by 24 August, 2017:


Alyaksandr Lukashenka

Vul. Karla Marksa 38

220016 Minsk, Belarus

Fax: +375 17 226 06 10 or +375 17 222 38 72


Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka

Charge d'Affaires Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky

Embassy of Belarus

1619 New Hampshire Ave NW

Washington DC 20009

Fax: 202 986 1805 or 1 202 986 1805

Phone: 202 986 9420 or 1 202 986 1606


Salutation: Dear Counsellor

(source: Amnesty International)

SINGAPORE----imminent execution

Malaysian death row inmate to hang in Singapore

Malaysian S Prabagaran, who was convicted for drug trafficking in Singapore, has failed in his bid to halt his execution at the 11th hour.

Lawyer N Surendran, in a tweet today, said Singapore's Court of Appeal dismissed Prabagaran's application to stay his execution, pending his case in the Malaysian courts to refer Singapore to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for denial of a fair trial.

"Stay of execution jst dismissed by Spore ct of appeal. S Prabagaran will be hanged 2moro morning," he tweeted.

He told FMT in a message the appeals court had ruled that Singapore is a sovereign nation and that it will not wait for the outcome of proceedings in Malaysia.

Prabagaran is scheduled to be executed early Friday morning.

Singaporean anti-death penalty group We Believe In Second Chances, in a Facebook post after the appeals court dismissed Prabagaran's bid to stop his execution, said the NGO would hold a candlelight vigil at Changi Prison tonight.

"This vigil is a show of solidarity and support for Prabagaran's family at this difficult time, and will be peaceful and non-disruptive.

"We have not sought a permit for this gathering, and there is a chance that the authorities might ask us to disperse.

"If this occurs, all participants should comply and move on accordingly without violence or disruption so as not to add to the distress of the family at this time," the group said in its Facebook post.

In a response, Amnesty International consultant Michelle Yesudas expressed her disappointment over the decision on her Twitter feed.

"This is horrible news, as there is a pending case in the Malaysian courts. It is disappointing the court did not provide them with a stay," she said.

Prabagaran was convicted in 2012 after 22.24g of diamorphine, a pure form of heroin, was found in his car at the Singaporean immigration checkpoint as he tried to enter the country.

He has maintained his innocence, claiming that he did not own the car he drove and was not aware of the drugs being in it.

Earlier this year, he turned to the Malaysian court to compel the government to start legal proceedings against Singapore before an international tribunal for denying him a fair trial.

Surendran had said this application was unprecedented as his client and family members had exhausted all avenues to stop the execution from being carried out.

On March 24, Prabagaran failed to obtain leave at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to compel the Malaysian government to start proceedings against Singapore.

Justice Hanipah Farikullah ruled, in chambers, that the courts had no powers to interfere with foreign policy issues.



Prosecution seeks death penalty for man who killed wife's former lover

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for a man who assaulted his wife’s former lover to death and later left the body along Lim Chu Kang Road in 2013.

Chia Kee Chen, 56, was convicted of murder in January this year after he was found guilty of forcing Dexmon Chua Yizhi, 37, into a van and subsequently bashing him so brutally with a hammer-like object that Chua died from blunt force head injuries. Chia committed the offence between 28 and 29 December 2013 with the help of 2 accomplices, Indonesian Febri Irwansyah Djatmiko and Chua Leong Aik, a longtime friend of Chia's.

Febri was involved in the attack while Chua drove the van, which was used to abduct the victim. Chua left the van midway through the act.

Lawyers from both sides spent Thursday morning (13 July) making submissions on Chia's sentence.

The prosecution, represented by Tan Wen Hsien, said that Chia deserved the death penalty - in part because of the savage nature of the attack and the premeditation involved.

Defence counsel Anand Nalachandran sought life imprisonment for Chia, whom he said had hatched a plan of abduction without an intention to kill. Chia wanted to "shield his wife from the possibility of any future harm", said Nalachandran.

However, the prosecution maintained that Chia alone had the motive and intention to kill Dexmon as he bore ill-will towards his wife's younger ex-lover for making him a "cuckold". DPP Tan pointed out that Chia had stalked and harassed Dexmon after discovering his wife's extramarital affair in November 2012.

Chia's "long, deepset and fatal grudges" towards Dexmon had persisted a year after his wife had stopped seeing him and the ill-will continued throughout the time "without provocation of contribution" by [Dexmon], said the prosecution.

Chia's attack on Dexmon was also "savage and cruel". Said DPP Tan, "Once [Dexmon] got out of his car ... [Chia] and Febri set upon him in a vicious and unbridled manner ... The blood spatter found at the walls, floor and ceiling of the MSCP (multi-storey car park) are testament to the bloodshed that occurred even before [Dexmon] was bundled into the back of the van."

Chia had also executed his plan to murder Dexmon in a "calm and calculated manner", claimed the prosecution. In the months leading to the offence, Chia set in motion various parts of the plan, including asking Chua and Febri for help, gathering the weapons and renting a van.

There was also an utter lack of remorse on Chia's part, added the prosecution. He ran "spurious defences and sought to downplay his true involvement in the offence" during the trial, such as denying the use of a hammer-like object, even though he had volunteered the information to the police and drawn a picture of the object.

Nalachandran urged for life imprisonment to be imposed on Chia, arguing that inconsistencies between Febri and Chua's accounts made it "unsafe" for the court to hang him as Chia's role in the affair was ambiguous.

For example, Febri had claimed that there was a plan involving knives and electrodes but no such evidence came from Chua. Nalachandran argued that Febri, who had given a statement to Indonesian police, had "every reason to distance himself and downplay his role" and had given a "self-serving statement".

The defence also submitted a psychiatric report by Dr John Bosco Lee, done after Chia's conviction, to show that Chia was assessed to be suffering from Major Depressive Disorder which "affected his perceptions, his emotional responses, his behavioral responses" and "contributed much to his disturbed mental state around the time of the offence".

However, the prosecution took issue with the report, dated 21 June this year, pointing out that it wasn’t relevant as it didn't show any "causal or contributory link" to Chia's act. DPP Tan added that Dr Lee was only engaged some 3 1/2 years after the offence was committed.

Justice Choo Han Teck will give Chia's sentence at a later date.

(source: Yahoo News)

JULY 12, 2017:


Death row inmate who shot in-laws in Fredericksburg granted evaluation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with a Texas death row inmate, ordering on Tuesday that Scott Panetti's case be returned to a federal district court in Kerr County with orders to appoint counsel, authorize funds for a mental health evaluation and allow adequate time to prepare a petition raising the claim he is currently incompetent to be executed.

Panetti, who suffers from schizophrenia, shot and killed his in-laws in Fredericksburg in 1992. Dressed as a cowboy, he insisted on representing himself at his trial and attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Panetti has twice been granted a stay of execution, in 2004 and 2014. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Panetti's execution, saying lower courts should have considered psychiatric evidence about his mental illness.

His attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase released a statement Tuesday saying Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for nearly 40 years and has not been evaluated by a mental health expert since 2007.

A defendant must be found competent in order to be executed. Competency is defined by state laws as being aware of what is going on in the case. Panetti's attorneys said he was convinced the reason was going to be executed in 2014 was for preaching the gospel.

His attorneys released a statement: "We are grateful that the court found that Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of documented schizophrenia and severe mental illness provided a sufficient showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue the claim that he is currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful to the Texas Defender Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a stay and to litigate on behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti has not been evaluated by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe mental illness has only worsened while in prison. We are confident that when the lower court is presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr. Panetti, a schizophrenic man ... is not now competent for execution. Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral justice system.:

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Windows On Death Row: Boiling Down the Death Penalty to a Single Frame----An exhibit at the University of Houston-Downtown showcases editorial cartoons about the death penalty and artwork by inmates, some of them on death row. "Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" is on display through July 31.

An editorial cartoon about the death penalty from the Houston Chronicle's Nick Anderson, which is part of the exhibit "Windows on Death Row: Art From Inside and Outside the Prison Walls."

How do you encapsulate an issue as complex and sensitive as capital punishment into an editorial cartoon or a painting?

A traveling exhibit looks to answer that question at the O'Kane Gallery at the University of Houston-Downtown through July 31, 2017.

"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" features more than 60 pieces of artwork on the subject of the death penalty from political cartoonists and prison inmates on death row. It includes work from Nick Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle.

Michael Hagerty recently visited the exhibit to take a look at the artwork and to talk with Dr. Krista Gehring, an assistant criminal justice professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.



Trial begins for St. Cloud man accused of fatally beating infant son

The murder trial of a St. Cloud man accused of killing his 3-month-old son in 2013 will begin Wednesday morning.

Investigators said Larry Perry beat Ayden Perry so badly at their home that the boy died at a hospital.

Archie Guzman, Perry's neighbor at the time, told Channel 9 in 2013 that she often babysat the child for Larry Perry and his girlfriend.

Guzman said the beating was so loud that she could hear it from next door.

"I was coming into the kitchen, and all of a sudden I heard boom," she said. "He didn't mean to. I can feel it, because he just snapped."

Larry Perry told investigators that he harmed his son, because he couldn't take it anymore, an arrest report said.

Larry Perry faces the death penalty if convicted.

The case was 1 of 24 that Florida Gov. Rick Scott reassigned from State Attorney Aramis Ayala to State Attorney Brad King after she announced she wouldn't pursue the death penalty during her tenure.

Opening statements will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: WFTV news)


Ayala's Office Operating With $1.3M Budget Cut In Rift Over Death Penalty

Heads nod and papers shuffle at a small meeting for Florida Abolitionist inside an unassuming office building in Winter Park. Staff member sit in a circle discussing new human trafficking cases and deciding whose turn it will be to oversee the organization’s emergency hotline.

The group formed 8 years ago. Its goal has been to expose central Florida's underbelly: parents selling children into slave labor. Foreign-born workers arriving stateside with visas only to be outsourced for scam jobs.

"It could be someone who thinks maybe they're getting a job modeling, and it ends up being they're forcing them to be an escort in porn," said Tomas Lares, executive director for Florida Abolitionist.

He has seen his share of cases which include victims caught up in a cycle of manipulation, exploitation, and crime.

"It impacts their community economically with them going to the jail continuously, then they have to go through the clerk of court, they have to see a judge, then they're back, unfortunately, a lot of times, back into the traffickers' hands. This has an impact on our economy with crime," said Lares.

The direct number of people involved in human trafficking s hard to gauge. In the 1st quarter of this year, Florida Abolitionist worked on nearly 50 sex trafficking cases with the state attorney's office alone, according to the organization's data. Lares said that is the tip of the iceberg. With more and more people coming to central Florida each month, he sees the need for investigators, victims' advocates, translators, substance abuse services, and a dedicated shelter.

"If there's not advocacy in this true, targeting funding to help these victims, then these traffickers and pimps are getting away, basically, in my opinion, with murder," said Lares.

The Florida Legislature saw a need last April when it awarded the Orange and Osceola state attorney's office $1.4 million to target human trafficking and domestic violence. It was the only office in the state to get the extra money. Jeff Ashton, then ninth circuit state attorney, hailed the funds as the largest amount the office had ever received directly from the Legislature.

"We were really excited that we were getting this extra money and we would be able to do this sort of extra, extra work," he said. "It was basically to make the 9th circuit the example of how good it can be and how much additional funding can help those particular problems."

Less than 6 months into state attorney Aramis Ayala's term, the Legislature voted to cut $1.3 million, most of the special appropriations funds. The move came after Ayala announced she would not pursue the death penalty, and after Governor Rick Scott subsequently reassigned 2 dozen 9th circuit murder cases to 5th circuit state attorney, Bradley King.

Republican Representative Scott Plakon of Longwood was the behind the cut.

"She's refusing to do a significant part of her job, so if she refuses to do that, someone else has to do it," he said.

Under a provision Ayala could request to get the money back if there's any left after the 2 dozen death penalty cases are prosecuted. Plakon, who has backed legislation in support of both causes added that the $1.3 was not the special appropriations funding, per se, and that it was, rather an estimate made from staff analyses of how much it might cost for another prosecutor to take on ninth circuit death penalty cases. He argued Ayala's office can shuffle funds to address human trafficking and domestic violence.

"They have the positions open. They have the funding open. They don't need the $1.3 million."

Democratic Senator Randolph Bracy was the staunchest advocate of a smaller cut in to the special appropriations fund, which House lawmakers did not approve. For him, the cut was a political statement.

"That we are the Legislature and we make the laws and if you don't follow the law, then we have other ways to punish you," he said.

Ayala has argued repeatedly that tough cuts to staff in her base budget are not a solid starting point to be able to deeply penetrate human trafficking or domestic violence.

"We see 60 million visitors come through Orlando, and because of that, it's the primary spot for human trafficking, so when we aren't properly equipped with it, the crime continues and continues. It devastates and basically paralyzes all of those efforts that we’re not able to expand it," she said.

Her predecessor, former boss, and political opponent former state attorney Jeff Ashton agreed.

"My 1st feeling is, that's 2 years of hard work squandered because it was a very, very concerted, long term effort to get that money and so, now, presumably, that's gone."

But he said it could have been prevented by approaching death penalty cases differently.

Victims' advocates' groups hope more money will come from the Legislature to support the work. But in the meantime, the Florida Supreme Court's decision in the death penalty standoff will be the biggest indicator of whether the $1.3 million will be restored.

(source: WMFE news)


State appeals ruling that suspended death penalty

An Indiana Court of Appeals decision that suspended executions in the state violated the separation of powers and resulted in new, unintended burdens that could lead to "dysfunction" in carrying out executions, the state argues in seeking transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The state on July 3 petitioned justices to review a Court of Appeals ruling that held Indiana's lethal injection formulation that included an untried drug was "void and without effect." The court ruled that the Department of Correction was bound to enact new lethal-injection protocols under the state's Administrative Rules and Procedures Act through rulemaking subject to public review and comment, which it did not do.

"While the Court of Appeals opinion purports to effectuate the policy choices of the legislature ... it eschewed that legislative judgment and substituted its own," the state argues in its petition to transfer the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. "This violation of the separation of powers has resulted in confusion in how capital punishment should be administered, potentially enlarged the role of the judiciary in supervising the administration of prisons, and moved Indiana down the wrong path for ensuring a fair and reasonable system of capital punishment."

"It appears the state is presenting the same arguments that were previously rejected by the Court of Appeals. We intend to bring that to the attention of the Supreme Court," said David Frank, a Fort Wayne attorney who represents Roy Lee Ward. The case is Roy Lee Ward v. Robert E. Carter, Jr., Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, and Ron Neal, Superintendent of the Indiana State Prison, in their official capacities, 46A03-1607-PL-1685.

"We think the Court of Appeals made a very persuasive, very sound decision on the black-letter law, and we will ask the Supreme Court to deny transfer so we can move forward on our case on the merits," Frank said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement when asked to comment on the case and the state of capital punishment in Indiana moving forward.

"The citizens of Indiana have clearly expressed their belief that the death penalty ought to be an option for the worst and most extreme offenses, and I respect that and agree with them. That said, there should not be a shred of doubt an individual is guilty of the most heinous offense if the death penalty is a consideration."

A death row inmate, Ward successfully challenged the DOC's method of execution that had been developed internally without public review. The formulation of a 3-drug lethal injection "cocktail" included a drug never tried in a state or federal execution - methohexital (known by the brand name Brevital) - along with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Ward was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County. He is 1 of 12 people on Indiana's death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. However, only 10 of those inmates are currently facing a capital punishment sentence.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial last September for Wayne Kubsch, who was sentenced to death after he was convicted in the 1998 murders of his wife, Beth Kubsch; Rick Milewski; and Aaron Milewski, Rick Milweski and Beth Kubsch's son, in Mishawaka. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

DOC spokesman Isaac Randolph said Kubsch will remain on death row pending further appeals, as will Michael Overstreet, who was ruled not competent to be executed. Overstreet received the death sentence in 2000 for the 1997 abduction, rape and murder of Kelly Eckart, a Franklin College student.

Randolph said the court ruled that Overstreet was not "currently competent," a condition that could change.

In addition to the 12 men on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, one woman housed in Ohio has been sentenced to death. No executions are currently scheduled in Indiana, and the Ward ruling leaves the state without a statutory means of carrying out the death penalty.

The state argues in its petition brief that the DOC has never been held to a public-review standard, even though it has carried out 20 executions under the current death penalty statutes. The state argues I.C. 35-38-6-1(d) says lawmakers wrote that the DOC "may" adopt rules necessary to implement lethal injection. "The legislature's choice of the permissive language was no accident, and is supported by historical experience and sound public policy," the petition says.

The COA ruled that the General Assembly specifically exempted certain state agencies from the requirements of rulemaking under ARPA, but it did not specifically exempt the Department of Correction.

A rulemaking requirement would place Indiana closer to California, which the state argues has gone for a decade without enacting a method of execution.

“During that time, the proposed rules have been [held] up in rulemaking or judicial challenges by reluctant government officials, opponents of capital punishment, and death row offenders," the state says in its transfer petition. "... Indiana's General Assembly has never indicated its preference for such dysfunction in our state, and this Court should avoid unnecessarily requiring such an active judicial role for management of the internal affairs of the (DOC) and the Indiana State Prison."

The state notes in petitioning for transfer that along with California, Kentucky is the only death penalty state whose courts have found a rulemaking requirement for their methods of execution. Other states that have ruled on the question - Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington - have found execution protocols are exempt from administrative rulemaking.

(source: The Indiana Lawyer)


Man facing death for murder of Missouri trooper loses appeal

A circuit judge ruled Monday that a man from Van Buren received effective legal defense when he was convicted of killing a state trooper. The ruling came in a post-conviction appeal by Lance Shockley, who faces a death penalty.

Shockley killed Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dewayne Graham on March 20, 2005. A jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action for the shooting. It also convicted him of leaving the scene of an accident in November 2004.

Graham was outside his home near Van Buren when he was ambushed and shot. Investigators said Shockley killed Graham because Graham was investigating Shockley for involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of a 1-vehicle fatality crash in which the person who died was initially thought to have been the driver.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson was appointed as a special prosecutor to handle Shockley's post-conviction claim that he deserves a new trial because his defense attorneys were ineffective.

Judge Kelly Parker of Salem entered a 75-page order on Monday denying all Shockley's claims. The judge, who was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2014 to hear the post-conviction appeal, ruled that Shockley's conviction and death sentence will stand.

Greene County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Todd Myers and Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Emily Shook represented the State of Missouri in this case.

Shockley once had an execution date set for Jan. 31, 2014. The Missouri Supreme Court stayed the execution, however, because of pending appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case in 2014 and 2016. As in all death penalty cases, Shockley is entitled to more appeals, including to the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court again.

(source: KSPR news)


Judge displeased with delayed hearing for unprepared defense in triple homicide----Preliminary hearing to be in late September

A Shawnee County District Court judge clearly was irritated Tuesday morning as defense attorneys in a triple homicide case asked for more preparation time.

3 defendants were scheduled for a preliminary hearing this week in the March 12 murders at an airplane bungalow in North Topeka.

Judge Nancy Parish granted the defense motion for a postponement of the preliminary hearing, which now is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26. The last-minute request irritated Parish.

"I'm not going to be happy if we have another request for a continuance on the day of the (September) hearing," Parish said.

Besides all of the supporters and family members of victims and defendants who packed the court room Tuesday, the judge said, she had continued 3 jury trials to accommodate the 2-day preliminary hearing that was to start Tuesday.

The preliminary hearing was to start at 9 a.m. Tuesday, but defense attorneys were in the judge's office at that time. At 9:20 a.m., defense attorneys returned to the courtroom to retrieve their calendars, then left the courtroom again.

By 9:45 a.m., proseuctors and defense attorneys and the three defendants were in the courtroom when Maban Wright, 1 of 2 defense attorneys representing defendant Brian Joseph Flowers, requested the continuance, noting the complexity of the criminal case and voluminous evidence to review, including 50 electronic discs.

Jennifer Chaffee, Joseph P. Lowry's defense attorney, joined the request for more time. Kathleen Ambrosio, defendant Shane Andrew Mays' attorney, didn't join in the request.

District Attorney Mike Kagay told the judge that he and chief deputy district attorney Dan Dunbar were ready to proceed with the preliminary hearing but wouldn’t oppose the postponement.

"Very reluctantly, I will grant the motion for continuance," the judge said.

The September dates are slightly more than the 60 days the defense attorneys requested.

In March, Mays, 19, Lowry, 31, and Flowers, 32, were charged with the slayings of 3 Topekans. Matthew Leavitt, 19; Nicole Fisher, 38; and Luke Davis, 20, who were found late on March 12 inside an airplane bungalow at 115 N.W. Grant.

Topeka police officers had been called to the house at 11:20 p.m. to check the welfare of the occupants, then found the bodies.

The judge addressed the roughly 80 people in the gallery about the propriety of wearing T-shirts with messages tied to the case during the preliminary hearing. Roughly a half dozen young adults wore T-shirts that said "Rest in Paradise" and and victim Matthew Leavitt's 1st name.

The T-shirts can be worn during the preliminary hearing but not during the any jury trial that might arise in the case, the judge said, adding that court rules forbid the shirts during a trial.

As of Tuesday, the 4th defendant, Joseph Aaron Krahn, 34, is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, and Mays is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Flowers and Lowry are charged with 1 count each of 1st-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, and Mays is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

On Monday, the prospect that capital murder charges might be filed against 1 or more of the defendants surfaced when Krahn's public defenders asked to withdraw due to the possibility that charges against Krahn might be amended to include capital murder.

The public defenders aren't certified to handle cases carrying a potential death penalty. District Court Judge David Debenham granted the Krahn request. The Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit is expected to take over the Krahn defense.

Debenham will hear the preliminary hearing of Krahn. The Krahn case next will be in court on July 20 when his preliminary hearing will be scheduled.

Few details have been released about the killings.

(source: TheTopeka Capital-Journal)


Parents taunted malnourished girl before her death, police say

A Utah couple accused in the death of their toddler daughter taunted the malnourished child with food and attempted to cover her injuries with makeup, prosecutors said in charges filed Tuesday.

Authorities say they found cellphone videos that show the 3-year-old girl's condition growing progressively worse over the year and a half before her "extremely malnourished" body was found at the family's home.

Angelina Costello's mother and father were both charged with aggravated murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Their lawyer, James Retallick, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The videos found on the parents' phones show Angelina's parents, Brenda Emile, 22, and Miller Costello, 25, apparently presenting the girl with food, and then taking it away and disciplining her, police said in charging documents.

Angelina was found July 6 at the family home in Ogden after her parents called police to report she wasn't breathing.

Her body was covered with burns, cuts and bruises, some of which looked new and others that appeared to be in various stages of healing, police said.

Emile later told police she used a layer of makeup to conceal some of her daughter's injuries "so they didn't look as bad," charges state.

2 other children were removed from the house and given to state child protective services, police said.

Officers searching the couple's cellphones later found pictures and videos taken between January 2016 and June 2017 that show the child obviously upset, police said. In one video the girl's father used the feet of an infant to kick the girl in the face, prosecutors said.

Police say Costello acknowledged he knew Angelina was in danger of dying if she didn't get medical attention, but did not take her to the doctor.

He said his wife, who cared for their children during the day, told him Angelina's siblings had injured her but Emile didn't want to take her to a doctor because she feared a police investigation and her children being taken away.

(source: Associated Press)


Charges: Ogden couple beat their child to death, then covered her in make-up before calling police

Prosecutors allege an Ogden couple charged Tuesday in the death of their toddler beat the young girl to death, then covered her in make-up to hide the injuries before calling police.

Miller Costello, 25, and Brenda Emile, 22, were charged in 2nd District Court with aggravated murder, a 1st-degree felony that carries the potential of the death penalty.

Police were called to the couple's home last Thursday on a report of a child that was unconscious and not breathing, according to a probable cause statement filed in court. When they arrived, they found a deceased 3-year-old girl who was cold to the touch and stiff. Officers noted that the young girl appeared to have "bruising, contusions, lacerations, burns, open sores and abrasions all over her face, hands, legs, head and neck," according to the probable cause statement.

The girl, Angelina Costello, was also covered in a thin layer of makeup, according to charges, which Emile allegedly later admitted to applying to conceal injuries "so they didn't look so bad."

The child also appeared to be malnourished, according to the charging documents, and police later found a video on one of the parent's cell phones showing the couple "taunting the child victim with food by presenting it to her and then removing it from her and disciplining her."

It appeared as if some of Angelina's injuries were recent and "acute," according to police, though others seemed older and in various stages of healing.

Costello said in a police interview that he knew of the child's deteriorating health, according to charges, and knew that his partner had been withholding food. The man said he noticed new injuries on his daughter when he came home from work, and Emile told him she had been struck by her siblings.

"Brenda told Miller that she did not want to get medical attention for the child victim because she did not want a police investigation or to have her children taken from her," according to charging documents.

Emile was the primary caretaker of the children at the home, charges state. After the couple's arrest last week, 2 other young children were removed from the home and placed in the care of the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

Prosecutors asked a judge to deny bail to the couple in part because Costello and Emile have "self-proclaimed ties to a transient Romanian gypsy community," according to the probable cause statement, and Costello made a good income as a scrap metal buyer.

The couple is being held in the Weber County jail without the opportunity to post bail.

Their next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Testimony: Oregon woman's alleged murderer spoke of "urge to kill"

In the days following the death of Kaylee Sawyer in Bend last summer, suspected killer Edwin Lara confessed his involvement in her death to virtually everyone he encountered, according to a prosecutor, at one point saying he had an "urge to kill."

That's according to testimony given by a number of witnesses in court Monday. It was the 1st of 5 days of scheduled hearings to discuss the admissibility of evidence, specifically Lara's apparent confession and the evidence that resulted from it.

Lara, 32, is charged with 4 counts of aggravated murder in the death of Sawyer, 23, on July 24. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is seeking the death penalty.

Monday's hearing centered around Lara's alleged California crime spree following the death of Sawyer.

Still to be discussed is an apparent confession he gave to Bend Police Department officers, and whether he was read his Miranda rights beforehand, or was denied an attorney after asking for one.

As with nearly all hearings in the case, a number of Sawyer's friends and family were present in the courtroom Monday. A group huddled across the courtroom's pew-like benches and prayed in anticipation of graphic testimony, which included a 15-minute 911 recording where Lara discussed Sawyer's death.

Death of Kaylee Sawyer

Sawyer disappeared in the early morning hours of July 24 after a night in downtown Bend. After getting in an argument with her boyfriend during the ride home, Sawyer walked off from her house near Central Oregon Community College. Friends and family never saw her again.

At Monday's hearing, Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Gunnels said in his opening statement that Lara was at work that night as a security officer for the college. Gunnels said the scene of the killing was parking lot B12, a gravel lot high up on the hilly campus surrounded by juniper and sagebrush.

Investigators from the Central Oregon Major Crimes Team - made up of officers from various local law enforcement agencies - found drag marks and blood in the parking lot, Gunnels said. The drag marks led up the hill to a location in the brush where a significant amount of blood was found.

However, this is not where Sawyer's body was found. Police believe Lara put Sawyer in the trunk of his car - where blood was also found -and transported her body to the location on state Highway 126 where it was found two days later. Police discovered it after Lara alerted them to a note he left in a car he abandoned in Salem.

The note three times had the number 18700, though there was no context. Police used the Deschutes County property information database to run the number, which turned up an address on Highway 126 between Sisters and Redmond.

Bend Police Lt. Brian Kindel testified that the body was dumped just off the side of the road and wasn't covered with rocks or brush. He said a person could see Sawyer's shoulder from the road side of the guardrail.

Lara fled to Salem after his then-wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, confronted him the day after the killing, accusing him of acting weird.

Lara told her he hit a woman with his car and discarded the body, according to statements she made to Redmond Police Department Sgt. Bob Duff. He then grabbed a 9 mm handgun and left.

Ponce-Lara, at the time an officer in training for the Bend Police Department, went to the Redmond Police Department to report the crime. Upon searching the Ponce-Lara and Lara home, police found a white bag with Sawyer's high-heel shoes, a purse containing her black wallet, a blood-stained rock and a clump of hair, according to testimony given Monday. Lara's work boots were also found with blood on them.

At 12:22 p.m., Duff pinged Lara's phone, which showed him in Redmond. A ping at 7 p.m. showed him in Salem.

Alleged crime spree

According to an apparent confession from Lara played in court Monday, Lara drove to Salem and parked his car outside of a Ross Dress for Less store. He saw a woman, Aundreah Elizabeth Maes, and allegedly kidnapped her at gunpoint, making her drive him south to California in her car.

However, the car was leaking oil and broke down in Yreka, California.

In the early morning hours of July 26, Lara is alleged to have taken Maes and broken into Yreka Super 8 Motel room 108, where he found Jack Levy. Lara allegedly pulled a gun on Levy in an attempt to steal his car. When Levy called for help, Lara shot him in the abdomen and fled with Maes, according to court testimony. The entire encounter took place in 15 seconds.

Lara then fled with Maes about 150 yards to a gas station, Yreka Police Department Patrol Sgt. Ray Poutin said in court Monday.

Poutin, nearing the end of an overtime shift, responded to the hotel room. When a report came in shortly after of a carjacking and kidnapping at a nearby gas station, Poutin sent officer Kash Hasemeyer to cover it so he could stay back with Levy until an ambulance arrived.

Lara had allegedly stolen a car with a woman and her 2 teen grandsons inside. The father of the boys was still in the gas station store. Lara, with Maes in tow, allegedly drove the kidnapping victims about 15 miles south on Interstate 5.

The scene was far from ordinary for the small Yreka police department and the town's 7,500 residents.

"We don't normally have carjackings and shootings at the same time," said Yreka Police Lt. David Gamache. Gamache got called in while off duty due to the incidents.

"Urge to kill"

According to a statement from one of the teens Lara allegedly kidnapped, Lara began telling them about his alleged crime spree, when the teen's brother told Lara he should not talk about the crimes. Lara allegedly ignored the advice and said he ran over a girl in Oregon and shot a man in Yreka. He told them he had an "urge to kill," according to the boy's statement.

Lara eventually dropped the family off and continued south with Maes into the Red Bluff area of Tehama County when he had a lengthy conversation with California Highway Patrol dispatcher Rebecca Dutton.

Lara called 911 after noticing police chasing behind him and a police helicopter following him from above. According to the 911 tape, played in court, Lara told Dutton he was traveling at 120 mph. He claimed he was ready to turn himself in.

Lara informed Dutton he was wanted for murder in Oregon for killing Sawyer, though he said it was an accident. He often talked in a nonchalant tone when discussing Sawyer's death, but did apologize to Sawyer's family and said he would reveal the location of the body in time.

After 13 minutes of Dutton trying to talk Lara into pulling over, he finally agreed to.

As he did so, he handed the phone to Maes. As Lara exited the car and went into police custody, Dutton explained to Maes, 19 at the time, how she could safely exit the vehicle without being injured by police. The words were muffled by Maes' uncontrollable sobbing.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Adam Battle, who assisted in taking Lara into custody, said Lara told him he should search his person better, as the first cop to pat him down missed a knife and a handcuff key. Battle said after removing the key and knife, Lara told him he was wanted for murder in Oregon and killed a man in Yreka. Lara didn't know Levy had survived the shooting, according to Battle. Battle said this threw him off, as he had never encountered such a spontaneous admission of guilt in his 22 years in law enforcement.

Lara also told Battle he was wearing body armor.

Battle asked why.

"I came to throw down," Battle said on the stand, quoting Lara.

After this week, the hearings will continue on yet-to-be-scheduled dates in September, when more witnesses will testify. Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler is expected to rule on the admissibility of the evidence being discussed after the September testimony.

(source: Associated Press)


Why Jurors Are Rejecting the Death Penalty----There used to be 300 death sentences each year in the United States. Last year, there were just 30.

Prosecutors in Wake County, North Carolina, have sought the death penalty in 8 cases over the past decade.* Each time, jurors have rejected the sentence, most recently in March. The most recent time Wake County jurors imposed a death sentence was a decade ago. "At some point, we have to step back and say, 'Has the community sent us a message on that?'" Freeman told reporters in February.

Capital punishment has now been outlawed in 19 states. In the places where it remains legal, jurors are increasingly reluctant to impose it. Just 30 people were sentenced to death in the United States last year, and only 27 counties out of more than 3,000 nationwide sent anyone to death row. In the mid-1990s, by contrast, more than 300 people were sentenced to death, with capital punishment being undertaken in as many as 200 counties each year.

Jurors have even started to reject the death penalty in Texas, which has sentenced more people to death than any other state in modern times. Texas prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less often, and when they do, they're frequently failing to persuade juries to impose it. In 15 capital trials in the state since 2015, just 8 have resulted in death sentences.

So, what has changed the minds of jurors? It's not that they're morally opposed to the death penalty. In fact, jurors who object on principle can be disqualified from serving in capital trials. These are people who are open to imposing the ultimate punishment but decide to reject it after hearing a convicted murderer's life story, including evidence of mental health issues, childhood abuse, and other mitigating circumstances.

Take the case of James Holmes, who was convicted of 24 counts of capital murder for opening fire in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. After a lengthy trial in which defense attorneys presented detailed evidence about Holmes' mental health problems, jurors chose a life sentence in 2015. Or consider the less well-known case of Russell Brown, who was found guilty of the capital murder of a state trooper in Virginia. In August 2016, the jury rejected a death sentence after experts testified that Brown was insane.

Another reason for the decline in death sentences is that murders have steadily declined across the country, beginning in the mid-'90s. (There has, however, been a recent spike in the murder rate in certain large cities.) When my co-authors and I analyzed death sentencing data by county from 1990 through 2016, we found that a drop in the murder rate was strongly associated with the decline in death sentencing.

But death sentences have fallen far faster than murders. One reason may be the growth in adequately resourced defense lawyers. In general, states that have statewide offices to represent defendants at capital trials, as opposed to locally appointed lawyers, have experienced far greater declines in death sentencing. Those offices have the resources to hire experts who can present mental health evidence and explain the defendant's social history.

Virginia created regional defense offices to handle death penalty cases in 2004. Defense lawyers began calling more witnesses, presenting more mental health evidence, and telling a more complete story about the defendant's background at sentencing. Although death sentences in Virginia used to be routine, there now hasn't been a single 1 in 7 years.

Our research also shows there is a strong "muscle memory" effect in death sentencing. Counties that have issued a death sentence in the past are far more likely to obtain more. What explains this substantial effect? Prosecutors may get in the habit of seeking the death penalty, even when neighboring counties do not. Perhaps losing a capital trial can put a damper on that enthusiasm. Generally, once that muscle memory fades, counties do not get it back. Indeed, the counties that started out with the most death sentences have experienced the biggest declines over the past 15 years. For example, in Harris County, Texas, where in the mid-1990s prosecutors led the country by securing 15 or more death sentences per year, there were no death sentences at all in 2015 or 2016.

As the death penalty fades, jurors may become more and more skeptical of its utility. Last year, psychologists Daniel Krauss and Nicholas Scurich joined me in surveying nearly 500 people summoned for jury duty in Orange County, California, an area that regularly imposes death sentences. We found that 1/3 of jurors - a surprisingly high share in that fairly conservative county - would not qualify to serve on a capital jury because they opposed the death penalty on principle. About 1/4 - a separate group from the 1/3 of jurors described above - said they would not convict someone of capital murder if that meant the defendant would be executed. Most strikingly, 2/3 of all jurors we surveyed said the fact that there had not been an execution in California in a decade made them less likely to sentence a person to death.

Our sample included both liberal and conservative jurors, and it consisted of whites, blacks, and Latinos, demonstrating that concern about the death penalty is broad-based. The responses of these jurors reveal why the death penalty is already at the end of its rope, no matter what tough-on-crime officials say. In 2015, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote it would be undemocratic for the court to decide whether the Eighth Amendment forbids the modern practice of capital punishment - that the issue should be left "to the People to decide." Well, the people are now speaking, and their message is coming through loud and clear to prosecutors like Lorrin Freeman: The death penalty's time has come and gone.


JAPAN----70-year-old female could face death penalty

Japan: 70-year-old woman accused of multiple insurance murders admits to killing----A woman dubbed the 'Black Widow' who allegedly murdered multiple men for insurance money could face death penalty and says 'give me the drug now.'

A 70-year-old woman could face the death penalty after being accused of multiple murders for insurance benefits. Channel News Asia reported that Chisako Kakehi has been dubbed the "#Black Widow," by Japanese media for her propensity to kill off the male once she is done with them. She surprised reporters when she was questioned about the possibility of facing the death sentence. Asahi quoted her as saying "I'd be happy to die if you give me a drug now."

Through history, women have often chosen poison to dispose of their unwanted male partners, and true to form it is alleged that Chisako used cyanide to kill at least 1 of the men in her life.

She is on trial for the murder of 2 lovers, her 4th husband of just 2 months and an attempted murder of a 4th man.

CNN covered the story 2 1/2 years ago when Chisako was being questioned by the police about a recent death. At that time she said that she had not killed anyone as she was incapable of it. CNN reported that over a period of 20 years, the police believe she killed at least 5 men to get their insurance money.

On Monday this week, now standing trial for the murders, Fuji television network Asahi reported that the "Black Widow" stunned the court when she admitted to killing her husband in 2013. "I was waiting for the right timing as I wanted to kill him out of deep hatred," she said, but she later reportedly said that the killing was just about money.



Pakistan stated to have 'gone over the limit' with death penalty

Justice Project Pakistan held a screening on Tuesday to show Pakistan's 1st ever review under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the UN’s Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

During the review, screened by the JPP at SAFMA centre, the severity and use of the Pakistan's death penalty was widely questioned.

Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the committee, asked whether the moratorium would be re-established. He added that Pakistan must abide by the penalty minimally and with prudence.

"Although Pakistan justifies its use of the death penalty because of the APS attack in Peshawar, the death penalty is applicable to those committing other 27 death-eligible crimes, many of which are not fatal. All Muslim countries are dealing with terrorism and Pakistan is not an exception. Nevertheless, it must abide by minimum standards."

The committee also stated that only a small fraction of executions carried out were over terrorism charges. "Pakistan has the right to defend itself against terrorism, but [it] need[s] to apply the death penalty with prudence," Achour stated.

While Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael stated that there is some flexibility in the interpretation of the "most serious crimes," the committee reiterated that Pakistan has "gone over the limit" by issuing death sentences to those convicted of drug trafficking, having sexual relationships outside of marriage, or blasphemy.

It demanded Pakistan to limit its application of the death penalty by ensuring that it remains fully exceptional, is reserved for only the most serious crimes, and is not used to execute minors under the age of 18.

Pakistan has stated that "the death penalty is imposed after due process and in the case of most serious crimes only." It was also clarified that the death penalty would not be applicable on an individual who was below 18 years of age.

The UN committee called for better implementation of the penalty in Pakistan. It stated that there was a need for judges to be effectively trained and violence by state authorities to be prevented, preferably outlawed.

The committee also questioned why the National Commission on Human Rights chairman was not allowed to attend the review, and why the body had been put under the protection of the Ministry of Human Rights.

The lack of a consular protection policy for Pakistanis on death row abroad was also highlighted by the committee - a cause taken up by the Lahore High Court - which expressed serious concern about the high number of Pakistanis executed by Saudi Arabia.

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal urged the government to reform and engage with the civil society which could help them answer impending questions pertaining to the issue at hand.

"The road ahead is long and there is much to be done. We look forward to the Pakistan's detailed response tomorrow," said Belal, referring to day 2 of the committee's meeting being held today.

Rights activists, along with members of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Family Planning Association of Pakistan and Human Rights Watch attended the session.

In 2010, Pakistan ratified the ICCPR, a multilateral treaty that commits its parties to uphold and respect the right to life for all its citizens.

Following the Peshawar APS attack in December 2014, Pakistan had reverted to being an executing state and had extensively made use of the death penalty, which had been taken up in the issues framed by the Human Rights Council committee.



Crime and death

Capital punishment is often cited as a means to deter crime and effectively maintain law and order. A new report by the Justice Project Pakistan finds the opposite may be true. In the first place, the report notes there is little correlation between executions and a drop in the death rate. While last year Punjab carried out 83 % of executions in the country, it saw only a 9.7 % drop in the murder rate from 2015 to 2016. Sindh experienced a drop of nearly 25 % over the same period, even though it only carried out 18 executions in contrast to 382 in the Punjab. Since it lifted the moratorium on death penalties in December 2014, Pakistan has hanged a total of 465 prisoners - or 3.5 a week. This makes it 5th on the list of nations which carry out the largest number of executions, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. The moratorium was also lifted in response to the attack at APS Peshawar in 2014 in which hundreds of children died. However, in 2015, anti-terrorism courts accounted for only 16 % of executions. The number continued to fall further in 2016 and 2017. Most of those hanged have been taken to the gallows as a result of orders from district and sessions courts which do not deal with terrorism cases.

There are other worrying trends. The mentally ill, juvenile offenders, the physically disabled, and others have been among those against whom death warrants were issued. And some have been hanged for no reason at all. In October last year, 2 brothers who had spent 11 years on death row and then been executed in 2015 were acquitted by the Supreme Court. It was naturally too late to inform them of this verdict. Other similar cases are not unheard of. There are also disturbing indications that executions are sometimes awarded simply to make room for other prisoners in overcrowded jails. Executions, it must be noted, are not a game. It has been obvious for a very long time that Pakistan needs to focus on reform rather than retribution. Much wider public debate on the issue is needed within the country, all the more so given the inadequacies of our justice system. There is no indication that the death penalty reduces militancy or crime. It should not then be upheld as a means to tackle the growth in such trends.

(source: Editorial, The International News)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia executes 4 Shiites for role in violent protests

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday executed 4 Shiites convicted on charges of terrorism for attacks against police and their role in violent protests.

The Interior Ministry said the 4 were executed for incidents that took place in the eastern region of Qatif, which is heavily populated by the kingdom's minority Shiites. Qatif is also home to the town of al-Awamiya, where there has been a surge in violence since May between Shiite militants and security forces who are demolishing the town's historic center.

In the list of offenses broadcast by the Interior Ministry, it did not appear that any of the 4 executed Tuesday had been found guilty of committing murder. Many of the offenses were related to their participation in protests. All were found guilty of disobeying the country's ruler, a common charge leveled against dissidents.

The list of charges, however, also includes violent offenses such as opening fire on police, harboring fugitives, throwing firebombs at security forces during protests and being part of a terrorist cell aimed at undermining security.

Rights groups last month expressed concern that 14 Saudi Shiites face execution for protest-related crimes committed in 2011 and 2012. In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said the rise in death sentences against minority Shiites in Saudi Arabia "is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating 'terrorism'."

Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution. In January 2016, the kingdom executed 47 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses, including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who had led protests in al-Awamiya against the government and its ultraconservative Sunni clerics. He had been charged with inciting violence against security forces and using his sermons to sow sedition - charges he denied.



At Least 10 Prisoners Including Afghan Citizens Hanged on Drug Charges

On Sunday July 9, at least 10 prisoners, including 3 Afghan citizens, were reportedly hanged at Taybad Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of 4 of the prisoners: Nasser Karimi, Mahmoud Teymouri, Abolfazl Mokhtebaz, and Ahmad Sheikhi.

Iranian authorities are carrying out death sentences for drug related charges at the same time that a bill is being reviewed by the Judicial Commission of the Iranian Parliament calling for the death sentences for many prisoners charged with drug trafficking to be called off. Iranian parliament members had requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5.000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced these executions.


At least 2 Prisoners Including Father of 7 Year Old Child Executed on Drug Charges

A prisoner was reportedly executed at Mahabad Prison and at least 1 prisoner was reportedly executed at Rasht's central prison. Both prisoners were reportedly executed on drug related charges.

"Sheikh Morad was arrested 5 years ago on the charge of possession and trafficking of 2 kilograms of morphine. He was sentenced to death even though he had no criminal record. He is the father of a s7-year-old girl with autism," an informed source told Iran Human Rights.

According to a report by the human rights news agency, HRANA, the prisoner at Rasht's central prison was executed on the morning of Saturday July 8. The report identifies the prisoner as Hossein Hosseini, 32 years of age. Mr. Hosseini was reportedly arrested in 2013 on the charge of producing crystal meth. According to HRANA, it is likely that a total of 7 prisoners were executed on Saturday at this prison, but has not been able to confirm the exact number.

"At the time of his arrest, they didn't find any narcotics on him. He was convicted based on the claim of police forces that the machinery and equipment they found on him was for producing crystal meth," a source close to the family of Mr. Hosseini told Iran Human Rights. According to the close source, Mr. Hosseini confessed under pressure and physical torture to producing and selling 3 kilograms of crystal meth. "Other than the forced confession, there was no other evidence against him."

Iranian authorities are carrying out death sentences for drug related charges at the same time that a bill is being reviewed by the Judicial Commission of the Iranian Parliament calling for the death sentences for many prisoners charged with drug trafficking to be called off. Iranian parliament members had requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least five thousand prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

Iranian official sources, including the media and the Judiciary, have not announced these executions.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Scrap death penalty and end grim conditions for scores on death row

Close to 150 death row inmates languish in grim conditions in Ghana with only a fraction able to appeal their convictions, Amnesty International said today in a new report that calls on the country's new government to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

Based on interviews with 107 death row prisoners, Locked up and Forgotten: The need to abolish the death penalty in Ghana provides further evidence of why Ghana should abolish this cruel punishment, in line with the recommendation of the 2011 Ghanaian Constitution Review Commission.

"The 2011 constitutional review should have signaled the end of the road for the death penalty in Ghana, but 6 years on, courts continue to hand down this cruel punishment, while death row prisoners remain trapped in cramped conditions, separated from other prisoners, and with no access to educational or recreational activities," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International's Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

"The Ghanaian authorities should commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners to terms of imprisonment, and?ensure all these cases are reviewed to identify any potential miscarriages of justice."

Many death row inmates told Amnesty International that they did not receive adequate legal representation for their trials, and the vast majority have been unable to appeal. Although around three quarters of prisoners were provided with a government-appointed lawyer in court, some prisoners said that their lawyer asked for payment. Several said that their lawyers had not attended all the court hearings while many others said they did not have a chance to talk to their lawyer to prepare their defence.

One death row prisoner said: "I have no money, this is why I am here. If I had money I would be outside by now." The UN Human Rights Committee and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have previously raised concerns over the quality of state-supplied legal aid in Ghana.

Fewer than 1 in 4 death row inmates interviewed had been able to appeal their conviction or sentence, and the Ghana Prison Service informed Amnesty International that only 12 death row inmates had filed appeals since 2006 - 1/2 of which were successful. Few inmates interviewed were aware of how to appeal or access legal aid, while most were unable to pay for private lawyers.

Poor conditions on death row

The death row at Nsawam Prison is overcrowded, poorly maintained and there are just 7 toilets between more than 100 prisoners. The men's section contains 24 small cells to hold 4 prisoners each, 4 medium-sized cells with up to 8 prisoners per cell and 2 larger cells to hold 16 prisoners each. The single window in each cell is locked with metal bars and cannot be opened. Small holes in the cell walls provide limited ventilation.

There are just 4 female death row prisoners at Nsawam and they share a single cell, isolated from other female prisoners. Prisoners on death row displayed signs of distress and anxiety, with several men and women in tears when speaking to Amnesty International about their situation.

One prisoner told Amnesty International: "If I were to be killed, it would be better than being here."

Amnesty International is calling on the Ghanaian authorities to ensure that prisoners are provided with adequate food, medical care and access to recreational and educational facilities, in line with international standards.

In March 2017 there were 6 prisoners on death row officially considered to have mental and intellectual disabilities. They received no specialized treatment, although the Prison Service said it was seeking psychiatric support.

"Keeping people with mental or intellectual disabilities on death row violates international human rights law, and puts their safety and that of other prisoners at risk," said Alioune Tine.

Death row prisoners also face discrimination and isolation as they are not allowed to participate in the recreational or educational opportunities available to other prisoners.

1 prisoner described the death row section as "a prison within a prison". 1 woman who had been on death row for 9 years told Amnesty International, "I don't do anything. I sweep and wait."

Amnesty International is calling on the Ghanaian authorities to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

"105 countries around the world, including 19 in Africa, have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. A great way for Ghana to mark its 60th anniversary of independence this year would be to abolish this cruel punishment and end the suffering of the death row prisoners who have been locked up and forgotten," said Alioune Tine.


As of 30 December 2016, 148 prisoners were on death row in Ghana - 144 men and 4 women. All were sentenced to death for murder. The last execution in Ghana took place in 1993.

For this report, Amnesty International interviewed 107 prisoners on death row - 104 men and 3 women - during 2 visits in August 2016 and March 2017.

(source: Amnesty International)


Names of 27 people executed in Chechnya without trial have been revealed----A fresh report sheds new light on extra-judicial killings in the Russian region.

A list of 27 people allegedly executed by authorities in Chechnya without going to trial - despite Russia having a ban on the use of the death penalty - has been released by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The newspaper reports that the mass executions were initially triggered by the killing of a police officer on 16 December, 2016.

Dozens of men were rounded up throughout January and detained by authorities without being formally arrested.

The case didn't go to trial, and instead executions were carried out on 25-26 January in the capital of Grozny, with the bodies then dumped in "hastily dug graves," the paper claimed.

Not all of the people killed were from the LGBT+ community, the paper added, but there are definitely gay people on the list published.

Novaya Gazeta also said that this particular massacre of citizens wasn't part of the anti-gay purge to follow, but "made it possible [for] mass persecution of gays in Chechnya" thereafter.

They added that the number of people executed could potentially be up to 56.

"If these reports are true, the US government must act now," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord.

"The perpetrators of these atrocious acts must be brought to justice and we need to make sure that detained members of the Chechen LGBT community do not meet the same fate."

It comes nearly 100 days since the 1st reports of gay men being detained and abused in Chechnya emerged, and days after the Russian LGBT Network revealed that a new wave of arrests in the region has begun.

The Kremlin and Chechen government have both repeatedly denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region.

That's despite Chechnya's president, Ramzan Kadyrov, having publicly declared that he wanted all LGBT+ people in the country to be eliminated by May 26, which marked the start of Muslim holiday, Ramadan.


SINGAPORE----imminent execution

UN Human Rights Office calls on Singapore to halt execution for drugs charges

The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia calls on the Singaporean Government to halt the imminent execution of Malaysian national Prabagaran Srivijayan for a drugs related offence, and urges the Government to immediately instate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

On 6 July 2017, Mr. Srivijayan and his family were informed that he would be executed on14 July 2017. His appeal for clemency to the President of Singapore was declined on 7 July.

Mr. Srivijayan, 29, was arrested in April 2012 in possession of 22.24 grams of diamorphine, a pure form of heroin. The heroin was found in the arm rest of a car that he had borrowed. Mr. Srivijayan claimed that he had no knowledge of the drugs.

On 22 July 2012, Mr. Srivijayan was convicted and sentenced to death under section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act. On 2 October 2015 his appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Separately, in May 2017, Mr. Srivijayan's legal representatives in Malaysia launched a case to urge Malaysia to seek the intervention of the International Court of Justice.

We are gravely concerned that the execution will proceed despite a pending appeal with the International Court of Justice.

We deeply regret that in recent months, four individuals have been executed for drug-related offences in Singapore. Under international law, the death penalty may only be used for "the most serious crimes" which has been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold.

Several States have also called on Singapore to abolish the death penalty, in particular for drug-related offences, during its human rights review in Geneva in January 2016.

For more information on the death penalty in South-East Asia, view our publication entitled "Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Lessons in South-East Asia":



The execution of a M'sian by S'pore must be stopped

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) calls on Singapore to stop its plans to execute Malaysian citizen S Prabagaran on Friday, July 14, 2017.

Prabagaran was convicted and sentenced to death for the offence of drug trafficking by Singapore. There are concerns that he was not accorded a fair trial.

There is an application now pending at the Malaysian Court of Appeal to refer Singapore to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for breach of the right to a fair trial.

Last March, the Malaysian High Court denied the application for leave for a judicial review to compel Malaysia to intervene by referring Singapore to the ICJ.

That means that this judicial review is not even been heard on the merits. Justice demands that Prabagaran not be executed until this court application is heard.

Singapore will not lose anything by simply postponing the execution, or better still, commuting the death penalty to imprisonment.

As such, for Singapore to execute this Malaysian at this stage may be an act of disrespecting not only the Malaysian courts and Malaysia, but also an affront to justice to execute before the convicted is able to fully exercise all available legal options.

To now continue with a speedy execution will also raise the presumption that Singapore may be fearful that the ICJ may indeed confirm that Prabagaran was denied a fair trial.

Whilst Singapore may have amended its laws, making it possible for persons convicted for drug trafficking not to be sentenced to death, there are serious flaws in this new current law.

To escape the death penalty in Singapore, the accused needs to satisfy 2 conditions.

First, he or she must get a Certificate Of Substantive Assistance from the Singaporean Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), which certifies that the accused has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore.

Secondly, it must be proven on a balance of probabilities that his or her involvement in the offence under section 5(1) or 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act was restricted to transporting, sending or delivering a controlled drug; to offering to transport, send or deliver a controlled drug; to doing or offering to do any act preparatory to or for the purpose of his transporting, sending or delivering a controlled drug; or to any combination of activities above.

Thus, without the AGC's certificate, the judges in Singapore cannot exercise their discretion when it comes to sentencing, and will have no choice but to sentence the convicted person to death.

It should only be the courts who determine whether "substantive assistance" was given or not, and certainly not the AGC.

Some persons may not possess any other information, and it is unjust to conclude that since they had not provided "substantive assistance", they will die.

Judges will certainly be more independent in determining whether the required or possible "substantive assistance" was given or not - certainly not the AGC, who is also the prosecuting authority.

Hopefully, Malaysia will not make a similar mistake when it abolishes the death penalty, and would always ensure that only judges will be vested with the discretion to sentence a guilty party.

To compound matters, denying Prabagaran access to lawyers in the Malaysian court actions is unacceptable and against human rights.

As such, here are a number of immediate actions that Madpet believes should be taken:

Madpet calls on Singapore to immediately postpone the planned execution of Prabagaran until he has fully exhausted all his legal options in Malaysia and Singapore, and maybe even the ICJ;

Madpet also calls for Prabagaran's death penalty to be commuted;

Madpet calls on Singapore to amend its laws, returning discretion to judges when it comes to sentencing. The provision in law about the requirement of a Certificate of Substantive Assistance by the AGC, before the convicted becomes entitled to a sentence other than the death penalty, must be repealed;

Madpet also urges Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the Malaysian government to speedily act to save the life of this Malaysian. Malaysia should also withdraw its objections, and allow the judicial review to be heard on its merits by the court;

Madpet also calls on both Singapore and Malaysia to abolish the death penalty, and immediately impose a moratorium on all executions.



oon Tat Street stabbing: 69-year-old man charged with murder, faces death penalty

A 69-year-old man was charged in court on Wednesday (July 12) with the murder that took place in Boon Tat Street near Robinson Road.

Tan Nam Seng, dressed in red polo shirt and dark-coloured bermudas, is accused of killing former director of shipping firm TNS Ocean Lines Spencer Tuppani Shamlal Tuppani, 38, on Monday (July 10). He showed no expression as the charge was read out in English.

Mr Tuppani, who died from his wounds in hospital, is Tan's son-in-law.

The accused's daughter and wife of the victim, Ms Tan Cheng Cheng, 43, said in a statement: "This is a double tragedy for the family. Our family has lost a loved one and my beloved father is facing a serious charge."

Requesting that the family's privacy be respected, she added: "You cannot imagine our immense grief, but please try to understand and let us have some peace."

In an earlier release, the police said they received a call asking for assistance at Boon Tat Street at around 1.20pm on Monday.

Officers who arrived found Mr Tuppani lying motionless at the scene.

He was unconscious when officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force rushed him to the Singapore General Hospital where he died about an hour later.

Tan's lawyer, Mr Andy Chiok, asked district judge Christopher Goh if his client could talk to his family for 2 minutes to ensure that his health was all right. He said that Tan has chronic ailments, though no further details were provided.

When Tan was asked by the judge if he has medication with him, he said yes. The judge denied counsel's request for access as investigations are ongoing.

More than a dozen people were present when the case was mentioned in court.

Tan will be remanded at Central Police Division for investigation until July 19.

If convicted of murder, he will face the death penalty.



Prosecutors seek death penalty for South African who smuggled meth into Bali in underwear

Prosecutors say the death penalty is on the table for a South African woman on trial in Denpasar for smuggling meth into Bali by concealing the drug in her underwear.

The woman's trial opened in Denpasar District Court on Tuesday.

The primary charge that 28-year-old lwethu Sizwekazi Mcinga is facing, is trafficking a type I narcotics weighing more than 5 grams into Indonesia.

"The act of the defendant is a violation of Indonesia's Act No. 35 2009 Law on Narcotics, Article 113, Paragraph 2," said district attorney, Fithrah, as quoted by Tribun Bali.

Mcinga also faces a secondary charge for possession.

The woman's trial is set to pick up again next week with the examination of the prosecution's witnesses.

Mcinga, who works as a hairdresser, was arrested at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in February 2017.

It's alleged that Mcinga met a man called "Mr. William" in Johannesburg in January 2017, who asked her on behalf of another man, "Mr. Victor," to come to Indonesia in exchange for giving her money for a new passport.

Before traveling to Bali, Mcinga was allegedly outfitted with a corset, with 3 packs of meth attached to the her stomach and crotch area.

"After installing the drugs (on Mcinga), Mr. William drove the defendant to OR Tambo Airport, South Africa to be flow to Bali with transit in Doha, Qatar. The defendant arrived on Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 11pm at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport," Fitrah read from the woman's indictment.

Upon landing in Bali, Customs and Excise performed a routine x-ray and found the woman's awkward movements suspicious, so they brought her in for further inspection, the prosecutor said.

"After examining the defendant's body, Customs and Excise officers found 2 clear plastic bags of crystals covered with taped in an abdominal corset worn by the defendant. Also, the officers found another bag containing crystals with brown duct tape hidden in her crotch," the indictment read.

In total, the drugs ended up weighing 1.153 kg.

"From the results of interrogation, the defendant had been promised by Mr. Victor the amount of USD 3,500 if the defendant succeeded in carrying the drugs into Indonesia."

"Mr. Victor" remains at large and is on Indonesia's wanted list, according to Tribun Bali's report.


JULY 11, 2017:


Westmoreland judge issues stay of execution for Smyrnes

A Westmoreland County judge on Monday delayed the potential execution of a North Huntingdon man convicted in the 2010 torture slaying of a mentally challenged woman in Greensburg.

Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway issued the stay to allow Ricky Smyrnes' new defense attorney, Thomas Farrell of Pittsburgh, to file a new post-conviction appeal.

Amy Worden, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said a death warrant for 30-year-old Smyrnes, which was expected to be signed in September, will be put on hold.

Farrell said he sought the stay to ensure the defense has enough time to file a detailed appeal before the warrant is signed.

"It's going to take some time. I'm reviewing the transcript now," Farrell said.

From his cell on death row at the State Correctional Institute in Greene County, Smyrnes in April submitted a form to Westmoreland County Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline in which he said he wanted to appeal his case. Smyrnes contended his trial attorneys did not use the proper documents to support his claim that his intelligence was too low for him to receive the death penalty after his 1st-degree murder conviction.

A month later, the judge appointed Farrell to represent Smyrnes and prepare a more detailed appeal.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February affirmed Smyrnes' conviction and death sentence.

Prosecutors said Smyrnes was the ringleader of a group of 6 roommates that held 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty of Mt. Pleasant captive for nearly 3 days in a Pennsylvania Avenue apartment in 2010. The group systematically tortured Daugherty, then stabbed her to death, prosecutors said.

Her body was wrapped in Christmas lights and garland, stuffed into a trash container and discarded in a snow-covered parking lot off Main Street.

Farrell said he is reviewing Smyrnes' 2-week trial to determine if his previous lawyers provided an ineffective defense during the guilt and sentencing phases.

In May, Hathaway ruled that Farrell had 90 days to file an appeal on Smyrnes' behalf. Farrell said he likely will ask for more time.

Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro declined to respond to Smyrnes' latest challenge of his death sentence.

"We will obviously argue the matter at the appropriate time," he said.



Hearing scheduled to discuss death penalty for Lexington murder suspect

A Rule 24 hearing is scheduled Thursday morning for Patrick McCoy.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the State will be seeking the death penalty in the case.

McCoy is accused of killing Billy Bare, 39, and injuring Tyler Gransbury, in a shooting back in May.

Davidson County Sheriff's deputies say it happened at a home located at 1596 Burkhart Road in the central Davidson County community. Upon the deputies' arrival, they found Bare dead at the scene.

Gransbury was taken to the hospital for treatment. Since the shooting, Gransbury moved out-of-state due to showing signs of PTSD, living in Lexington.

WXII 12 News spoke to family of Bare Monday. Some believe the death penalty should be enforced in this case.

"He needs it. He should have never killed my uncle like he did," said Trevor Bare, Billy's nephew. "It was stupid. They need to do something with him. They don't need to let him out."

McCoy's family issued a statement ahead of the Rule 24 hearing: "We don't want hate to spread. It's unfortunate what happened and we are truly sorry for the life lost and the young man that was injured. We can't do anything to change what has happened. We are praying for peace and comfort."

McCoy's hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in Davidson County.

(source: WXII news)


Athens lawyer to assist in prosecution of suspects in prison guard killings

The Ocumulgee Circuit District Attorney is preparing an indictment to send to a grand jury soon against the 2 men charged with killing 2 state prison guards in Putnam County and a lawyer from Athens is playing an integral part in the prosecution.

Allison Mauldin, who lives in Athens and is the Chief Assistant District Attorney for the circuit, is helping prepare the case, District Attorney Stephen Bradley said Friday.

"We're preparing to send the case to a grand jury. We're collecting all the reports, the history and all the information we can get our hands on," Bradley said.

The grand jury meets in September.

The suspects, Ricky Dubose, 24, and Donnie Rowe, 43, are accused in the shooting deaths of 2 State Department of Correctional guards who were transporting a bus load of inmates from 1 prison to another on June 13. Dubose, who was from Madison County, was serving a 20-year sentence for an armed robbery in Elbert County.

Mauldin has worked in the 8-county Ocumulgee Circuit since 2008.

"She and I will prosecute the case," Bradley said. "It was a horrifying event, a major case and you want the best lawyer on the case. Alli is one of the most tremendous lawyers I've ever had the pleasure to work with."

Mauldin is the wife of Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin.

Bradley has announced he will seek the death penalty against the pair who were captured 3 days after their escape. Authorities said the men committed a series of crimes after their escape from stealing vehicles to holding an elderly couple hostage in their own home to shooting at deputies during a high-speed chase.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Lawyer cries foul as execution date looms----Man who killed 2 in Jacksonville in 1987 set for execution next month

A lawyer for a death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month is accusing Attorney General Pam Bondi of hoodwinking him into agreeing to a delay in a U.S. Supreme Court review.

The postponement, signed off on by Mark James Asay's lawyer Marty McClain last month, could now make it more difficult for the condemned killer to get his case reviewed by the high court.

Gov. Rick Scott last week rescheduled Asay's execution for Aug. 24, more than a year after originally signing a death warrant for the death row inmate.

But in a letter Friday, McClain asked Scott to put a temporary hold on the execution of Asay, arguing that Bondi had misrepresented the status of the case when she gave the governor a go-ahead for scheduling the execution.

After McClain filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, known as a "writ of certiorari," this spring, Bondi sought a 30-day extension in the case.

McClain said he interpreted Bondi's request for a postponement, to which he agreed, to mean that the state would not seek a new execution date for Asay until after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the appeal this fall.

Without the 30-day extension, the justices could have taken up Asay's appeal before their summer hiatus, which started on June 28 and lasts until October, McClain argued.

Instead, the court gave Bondi until July 5 to file her response to Asay's request.

2 days before the deadline, Bondi certified to Scott that Asay was eligible for execution. After Scott signed Asay's death warrant on July 3, setting the execution date for Aug. 24, Bondi quickly filed an objection to Asay's appeal in the U.S. court.

Since a death warrant has been issued in Asay's case, it would take 5 Supreme Court justices to order a review, instead of the 4 that would have been necessary to grant a petition in the absence of a pending execution date, McClain wrote to Scott.

"I think that you should have been fully advised of the pending litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Office request for an extension of time," McClain, who has represented more than 200 death row inmates, wrote to Scott on Friday. "That would have allowed you to be more fully informed when deciding to reset Mr. Asay's execution."

McClain also questioned whether Bondi's office "acted appropriately" in Asay's case.

"The office's action gained an advantage for the state at Mr. Asay's expense," McClain wrote. "What occurred here suggests an ulterior motive and perhaps the bad faith of those in the Attorney General's Office responsible for this."

Bondi's office said Monday it had not seen the letter.

Asay was 1 of 2 death row inmates whose executions were put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court in early 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, struck down as unconstitutional the state's death penalty sentencing system.

The federal court ruling, premised on a 2002 decision in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, found that Florida's system of allowing judges, instead of juries, to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty was an unconstitutional violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

The January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision set off a string of court rulings that have effectively put Florida's death penalty in limbo for 18 months.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black, after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex. According to court documents, Asay later told a friend that McDowell had previously cheated him out of money in a drug deal.

Bondi's request for an extension from the federal court followed by her office's certification of Asay as being what is known as "death-eligible" appeared to be a bait-and-switch, McClain told The News Service of Florida.

"That's what it feels like," McClain said in a telephone interview Monday.



Report: Alabama 1 of 6 states to execute inmates so far this year

Alabama is among 6 states so far this year that have executed death row inmates, according to a review released Monday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Arkansas and Texas have each executed 4 inmates, followed by Alabama, with 2, and Georgia, Missouri and Virginia with 1 each, according to the mid-year review by the Washington-D.C.-based anti-death-penalty group.

Alabama executed inmate Tommy Arthur on May 25 and inmate Robert Melson on June 8. Arthur was executed for his conviction for the 1982 murder for hire of Troy Wicker and Melson for the 1994 shooting deaths of 3 employees at a Gadsden fast-foot restaurant.

No other executions have been announced for Alabama this year.

Despite the 13 executions (of 43 scheduled but delayed or cancelled) nationwide, new executions and death sentences in the United States are on pace to remain near historic lows, the center reports. At the same time last year 14 of 39 scheduled executions had been carried out, according to the center.

Alabama was 1 of 5 states that executed inmates in 2016. Alabama executed 2 - Christopher Brooks and Ronald Bert Smith, according to a report from the center last year. 31 states have the death penalty.

"The numbers show that the long-term historic decline in the use of the death penalty across the United States appears to be continuing," Robert Dunham, the center's executive director, said in a statement.

1 state - Ohio - could determine whether the long-term trend in decreasing executions continues.

Last month a federal appeals court reversed a lower court's order that had declared unconstitutional Ohio's execution method using a three-drug combination. The three-drug method includes midazolam, a sedative involved in problematic executions in Alabama (Ronald Bert Smith execution on Dec. 8), Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio and Oklahoma. Ohio has scheduled 30 executions between July 26 and 2021, with 5 set for the 2nd half of 2017, according to Dunham.

Death sentences

The center also projects that new death sentences will remain near historically low levels partly due to Alabama and 1 other state.

Florida and Alabama have accounted about 1/5 of new death sentences nationwide in recent years, according to the center.

But Florida's abandonment of non-unanimous jury recommendations of death and Alabama's repeal of judges being able to impose death despite jury recommendations for life, is expected to substantially reduce the number of new death sentences returned in those states, according to the center.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in April signed into law the override bill that says juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases.

Ivey signed the bill, which had earlier been passed by the Alabama Legislature.

The nation's highest court disagreed with a federal appeals court, and reversed its decision in the case of James McWilliams.

Mental disability case

1 Alabama prisoner also has been among 3 death row inmates who got favorable decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court so far this year, the report noted.

In McWilliams v. Dunn, the Court found on June 19 that James McWilliams' constitutional rights were violated when Alabama failed to provide him assistance of an independent mental-health expert, according to the center.



Prosecutor considers pursuing death penalty in shooting of Cleveland teen running from robbery

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's office is considering whether to seek the death penalty in the case of a man accused of fatally shooting a 15-year-old during a robbery earlier this year.

Noah Allen, 20, and Devon Shade, 17, are each charged in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court with aggravated murder and several other charges in the March 4 death of Jaevelle Swift.

Allen pleaded not guilty at his Monday arraignment and was ordered held on $1 million bond. Shade is set for a Thursday arraignment.

Shade cannot face the death penalty because he was a minor at the time of the shooting.

But prosecutors noted in an indictment filed late last week that the state reserves the right to seek the death penalty against Allen in the future.

Jaevelle and his 16-year-old friend sat in the backseat of a Jeep with Allen and Shade in the front seat about 7:30 p.m. March 4 on East 86th Street near Woodland Avenue in the city's Fairfax neighborhood, according to police and court records.

Allen turned around, pointed a gun at the teens and demanded money, according to police reports.

The 16-year-old boy gave Allen money before he and Jaevelle got out and ran, prosecutors say. Allen fired shots out of the window and one bullet hit Jaevelle in the back, police said.

Paramedics took Jaevelle to University Hospitals where was pronounced dead. The 16-year-old was not injured in the shooting.

Investigators identified Allen and Shade within days of the shooting. Allen has been in custody since he turned himself in to Cleveland police March 7. Shade was charged in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court the same day, and a judge set his bond at $500,000.



Dale Johnston: Wrongful convictions make death penalty too risky

Gov. John Kasich has announced 27 execution dates through 2021. Until the governor can show that innocent people will not be executed, he should reconsider his decision to restart executions in Ohio.

Ohio has executed 53 people in modern history. In the same time, nine people have been exonerated from death row with evidence of their innocence. One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that 1 in every 25 men currently on death row may be innocent.

Are any of the 27 who are scheduled to be executed innocent? I don't know. You don't know. The governor doesn't know. That's the problem.

I have 1st-hand experience with this issue. In 1984, I was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of my stepdaughter and her boyfriend in Logan. Rumors soon flew around town. After undergoing hypnosis, a single eyewitness identified me as the killer. The only other primary witness provided boot-print evidence that was later discredited.

The authorities knew about four other eyewitnesses with a completely different story about the crime, but they never shared that information with the defense, as they were constitutionally required to do. I spent 7 miserable years in prison, until my conviction was reversed on appeal. I was released in 1990, but my family was under a cloud of presumed guilt for almost two decades. In 2008, another man confessed that he and a friend committed the murders.

Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. Wrongful convictions are a serious problem in our state. 59 people have been exonerated after being convicted of a crime in Ohio, with over 1/2 of them wrongfully convicted of murder.

In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty published a report that included more than 50 recommendations to make the state's death penalty system more fair and accurate. The report included reforms to increase accuracy in sentencing, reduce racial disparities and provide better lawyers for people who cannot afford them.

3 years have gone by and nothing has changed. The legislature has not implemented a single substantial reform. So expect more Dale Johnstons down the road. But don't expect that we will catch every mistake before it's too late. In the rush to carry out 27 back-to-back executions, someone innocent could well be on the gurney.

Executions have been on hold for 3 1/2 years in our state. Has anyone missed them? Ohio has more-important priorities to focus on. Our elected leaders should be fixing the opioid crisis, improving mental-health care, helping small-business owners, and getting people better-paying jobs.

We are better off without the death penalty. One estimate said that the death penalty costs Ohio taxpayers at least $16.8 million each year. We should spend that money saving and improving people's lives, rather than taking their lives.

For what it costs to prosecute, appeal, and carry out 1 death sentence, we could buy thousands of Narcan kits, which are used to counteract the deadly effects of an opioid overdose. This is no small thing: in 2015 alone, Ohio first responders administered almost 20,000 doses of the life-saving drug.

In the 3-plus years since Ohio last had an execution, which was botched, lawmakers have done very little to address victims' families' needs or make changes to prevent wrongful convictions. Instead, the State has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to get execution drugs. We are better than this.

Life without parole keeps the public safe and allows time to discover and correct wrongful convictions like mine. The alternative is unthinkable: the state-sponsored killing of an innocent human being. Rather than rushing to executions, the governor should be rushing to implement the reforms in the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force.

I hope Gov. Kasich hears this message. That is why several exonerees from Ohio's death row - Joe D'Ambrosio, Derrick Jamison, Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, and me - have started a petition at We are living proof that wrongful convictions and death sentences happen and we hope you will join us in signing this letter to the governor. Let's leave the power of life and death in God's hands, where it belongs.

(source: Dale Johnston lives near Columbus; Opinion, Columbus Dispatch)


Lawsuit: ICE negligent in case of man charged in 5 killings

Federal immigration authorities twice missed chances to detain a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally before he allegedly killed 4 men in Kansas and 1 in Missouri, according to a lawsuit filed by relatives of 2 of his victims.

The lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Kansas, says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials didn't follow proper procedures, resulting in Pablo Serrano-Vitorino being released from jail twice before March 7, 2016, when authorities say he shot 4 men in Kansas City, Kansas. He is accused of fatally shooting another man in Montgomery County, Missouri, later the same day, before his arrest.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the widow and 2 children of Clint Harter, 1 of the 4 Kansas men killed, and the widow of Randy Nordman, his victim in Missouri, The Kansas City Star reported ( .

Serrano-Vitorino was deported after he was convicted of a felony in 2003. The lawsuit contends U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had chances to detain Serrano-Vitorino for illegally re-entering the country when he was arrested in 2014 and 2015.

Wyandotte County officials notified ICE in 2014 that Serrano-Vitorino was in jail for domestic battery, but he was released when the agency didn't send an agent to interview him, according to the lawsuit. He was pulled over by Overland Park police for traffic violations in 2015. The lawsuit says ICE prepared paperwork to have him detained but it was sent to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, which did not have Serrano-Vitorino in custody. Overland Park officials, unaware of the paperwork, released him.

"Clint and Randy's deaths are the direct and proximate result of the failure of ICE officials, officers and/or agents to carry out their required duties, which failure provided the means for a convicted felon who was illegally in the country, but in custody, to be released and kill Clint and Randy and 3 other victims," according to the lawsuit.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said Monday that the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The families are seeking unspecified damages.

Serrano-Vitorino is jailed in St. Louis awaiting trial on a 1st-degree murder charge in Nordman's death. He also is charged with 1st-degree murder in Wyandotte County in the deaths of Harter, his brother Austin Harter, Mike Capps and Jeremy Waters.

Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge allows Topeka triple-slaying defendant's attorneys, untrained in capital murder defense, to withdraw----4 defendants are charged in triple slaying in North Topeka

2 defense attorneys sought - and got - a judge's ruling on Monday allowing them to withdraw as attorneys representing 1 of 4 men charged in the killings of 3 people at a North Topeka bungalow.

The 2 were allowed to withdraw because they are not "death-certified," meaning they aren't trained to represent a client who is facing a possible death penalty if he is charged with capital murder.

Monday was the 1st time the prospect of a defendant in the case facing a death penalty in the 3-victim slaying case has popped into view in Shawnee County District Court.

Meanwhile, the 3 co-defendants will face a preliminary hearing before Shawnee County District Court Judge Nancy Parrish on Tuesday. The preliminary hearing is expected to extend into Wednesday and perhaps Thursday.

On Monday, Public Defender Stacey Donovan, who represented Joseph Aaron Krahn, 34, told District Court Judge David Debenham that she and other attorneys in her office aren't "death certified" to represent defendants charged with cases that could result in the death penalty.

Donovan told the judge she consulted with Mark Manna, head of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, and he advised her to withdraw from Krahn's case so DPDU could handle the Krahn case.

The judge granted the Krahn motion.

So far, Krahn, who told a judge he was "innocent" of 3 murder counts during his 1st court appearance, then shrugged, is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Chief deputy district attorney Dan Dunbar told the judge that depending on the evidence surfacing during the preliminary hearing, he might ask the judge to bind over a defendant on charges of capital murder, which carries a death penalty.

So far, no capital murder counts have been filed against the 4 defendants, Dunbar told the judge.

In November 2014, Ozawkie lawyer Dennis Hawver, who wasn't a death-certified attorney, was disbarred after the Kansas Supreme Court found that Hawver engaged in "inexplicable incompetence" in representing King Phillip Amman Reu-El in a capital murder case.

Amman Reu-El, 44, formerly was known as Phillip Cheatham. Hawver represented Amman Reu-El, who was convicted in the slayings of 2 women and severe wounding of a 3rd woman and was initially sentenced to death.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Amman Reu-El's convictions, he eventually made a plea in the re-trial, and he was sentenced for a capital murder conviction to a life term without possibility of parole for 25 years and a consecutive prison term of 13 years and 9 months for an attempted murder count.

In the on-going case, the other 3 defendants are Shane Andrew Mays, 19, Joseph P. Lowry, 31, and Brian Joseph Flowers, 32, who were charged with the slayings in March.

In part, Kansas law defines capital murder as the killing of more than 1 person as part of the same act.

As of Tuesday, Krahn is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, and Mays is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Flowers and Lowry are charged with 1 count each of 1st-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, and Mays is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Debenham eventually will hear the preliminary hearing of Krahn. The Krahn case next will be in court on July 20 when his preliminary hearing will be scheduled.

The victims are Matthew Leavitt, 19; Nicole Fisher, 38; and Luke Davis, 20, all of Topeka. The 3 were found late on March 12 inside an airplane bungalow at 115 N.W. Grant.

Topeka police officers had been called to the house at 11:20 p.m. to check the welfare of the occupants, then found the bodies.

Few details have been released about the killings.

The Capital-Journal was the only news medium in the courtroom on Monday.

Capital murder also is defined as the killing of:

-- A law enforcement officer.

-- A child younger than 14 during a kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping when it was tied to the commission of a sex offense.

-- A victim during a kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping done to hold the victim for ransom.

-- A victim in a contract slaying.

-- A victim of an inmate or prisoner in a state or local correctional facility or jail.

-- A victim during a rape, criminal sodomy or aggravated sodomy.

(source: The Topeka Capital-Journal)


1st of 3 men accused in March homicide headed to trial court

1 of 3 defendants facing the death penalty or up to life in prison - with or without parole - in the March killing of Michael Hamilton appeared for his preliminary hearing Monday morning at the Payne County Courthouse.

Now 38-year-old Gregory Gavin Guard will appear the morning of July 18 in front of Judge Stephen Kistler after Judge Katherine Thomas ruled there was probable cause Guard played a role in Hamilton's death. Hamilton's body was found in a field north of 68th Street east of Range Road shortly after 3 a.m. March 29 when Stillwater Fire Department responded to a report of a fire in that area. According to an affidavit, Hamilton was killed at Guard's house in the 700 block of West 10th Avenue on March 28.

"(When I arrived) From the road, you could smell the burned body," said agent Michael Dean with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation during Monday's preliminary hearing. Dean and the OSBI case agent, Linda Stevens, were the only two witnesses that Payne County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Etherington called for the hearing.

Dean was the agent who interviewed Guard, who he said requested to speak with him. Guard's attorney, Royce Hobbs, made numerous objections and motions during the hearing - several were based on his assertion that Guard should not have been interviewed after he had previously requested an attorney in an interview before he spoke with Dean, and the fact Dean had presented him his Miranda rights didn't matter. Thomas overruled those objections.

Dean said Guard told him Hamilton had appeared at his residence while Guard and Storm Burnett Fields, who is charged with accessory in the homicide, were preparing to go to bed, and Hamilton made his way into the house when he said he had issues with Anthony Wayne Endrina, a co-defendant in the case.

During cross-examination, Dean told Hobbs that he believed Guard implied Hamilton entered the residence without his consent, as well as there being a history of theft of items between Guard and Hamilton. During questioning from Etherington, Dean said Guard told him Hamilton made threats against the families of both Endrina and his nephew, Gary Allen Schaffner, which allegedly led to Hamilton being killed. Dean said Guard told him he didn't believe Hamilton was that violent, but the situation had gone past the point of de-escalating.

According to the affidavit, which is based on Endrina's interview, he said he arrived at Guard's house once Schaffner told him Hamilton had been speaking about him "in a threatening manner." When Endrina entered, he said he heard Hamilton talking about him, grabbed a footlong wooden stick and hit Hamilton in the forehead as he walked down the stairs. Endrina then said Hamilton ran up the stairs and ran into Guard, who struggled with him and "pulled a knife on Hamilton and stabbed him at least once in the leg."

According to Endrina's interview, Hamilton began to threaten him by saying he knew where Endrina lived and worked and when Endrina's wife would be home alone. These threats continued, according to the affidavit, before Schaffner approached with a baseball bat and hit Hamilton in the head. According to the affidavit, they left Hamilton on the floor and later learned he had died of his wounds.

Dean said he believed Hamilton and Endrina's issues came from Hamilton believing Endrina had ripped him off in some sort of drug deal, one of many times Hobbs objected due to hearsay or speculation in Dean's testimony.

"To start an answer with 'I believe' isn't answering the (yes or no) question," Hobbs said. Hobbs and Guard demurred to the information - Hobbs said the crime was "at best, spur of the moment or in the heat of passion" - but it was overruled. Endrina, 48, will appear for his preliminary hearing Aug. 10, and 43-year-old Schaffner will appear for his hearing July 28.

(source: Stillwater News Press)


Will woman convicted of cousin's murder join Arizona's death row women?

Monday morning lawyers began their arguments over whether convicted killer Sammantha Allen should be sentenced to death or receive life in prison for her role in the death of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.

Deal died of suffocation in 2011 after being padlocked inside a plastic storage box for 6 hours as punishment for stealing and eating a popsicle.

Allen was convicted on 1st-degree murder and child abuse charges. Her husband will stand trial in October.

Currently, only 2 women sit on death row in Arizona, compared to the 116 men.


Wendi Andriano was sentenced to death in December 2004 for murdering her terminally ill husband in their Ahwatukee apartment.

She was convicted of poisoning Joe Andriano, stabbing him multiple times, and beating him with a bar stool.


Shawna Forde is also on death row. Forde was an "extreme anti-illegal immigration activist" with the Minuteman American Defense, a self-proclaimed border protection group.

In 2009, Forde and 2 others murdered 29-year old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia during a home invasion in the town of Arivaca.

She had planned to rob drug smugglers to fund her vigilante group, and chose the Flores' home as their target.

Flores' wife was also shot in the home invasion but survived.

There were no drugs and no money found in the home.

DEBRA MILKE (Released)

Debra Milke spent 22 years on death row in her son's killing before her conviction was overturned says she suffered 2 tragedies when the 4-year-old was fatally shot.

"I live with an abiding sense of loss and a chunk of my heart is gone, but Christopher's spirit is with me always, which is a comfort to the remaining pieces of my heart," Milke said in March 2015. "Being convicted of a crime you didn't commit is also a devastating tragedy."

Milke had maintained her innocence and denied that she confessed to the murder to the case's lead detective, Armando Saldate.

"Debra did not stand a chance without a recorder or a witness," said Lori Voepel, one of Milke's attorneys.

An appeals court overturned Milke's conviction after ruling that prosecutors failed to disclose a history of misconduct by the lead detective on the case.



Modesto man accused of killing wife, her 2 sons returns to court

A defense attorney on Monday asked a judge to postpone a bail review hearing for his client, a Modesto man accused of killing his wife and her two sons last month.

Oscar Daniel Espinoza, 28, is charged with 3 counts of murder in the deaths of his Tiffany Espinoza, their son Edward Espinoza, 4, and his stepson Spencer Giese, 9.

The 30-year-old mother and her children were found dead shortly after 7 p.m. on June 17 at their home in the 1600 block of Bay Meadows Drive in north Modesto. Espinoza was found outside the home with what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds.

Deputy Public Defender Marcus Mumford asked the court to delay the hearing because he is expecting to receive more evidence from the prosecution. He also asked because the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office has not decided how it will proceed in Espinoza's case.

Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris on Monday told the judge that prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty against Espinoza. A special circumstance allegation in the criminal complaint against Espinoza makes the case eligible for the death penalty.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves scheduled Espinoza to return to court Sept. 15, when Espinoza's attorney can ask the judge to set a bail amount for his client. The defendant remains in custody at the county jail, where he is being held without an opportunity to post bail.

Espinoza sat quietly next to his attorney during the brief hearing Monday morning. He only spoke when he told the judge he was willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing in a timely manner.

Officers found the victims after 2 visits to their home. Tiffany Espinoza's family had not heard from her for about 24 hours, so they asked police to check on her. Modesto police went to her home about 6:30 p.m. June 17, but nobody answered the door. About 30 minutes later, officers returned to the home after receiving a report there was a bloodied man on the front porch and others possibly injured inside.

Police officials have said the attack on the 3y victims occurred on the night of June 16 or the early morning hours of June 17, based on evidence at the scene.

The criminal complaint includes enhancements that allege Espinoza acted with premeditation and used a baseball bat in the deaths of his wife and the 2 boys.



Jury spares Jessie Con-ui's life for federal prison guard’s murder

A jury on Monday spared an inmate convicted of brutally killing a guard inside a federal prison in 2013, choosing a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole over death.

Jessie Con-ui, 40, murdered Canaan prison guard and Nanticoke native Eric Williams, 34, in a brazen, ambush-style attack that prosecutors seeking the death penalty condemned as "merciless" and "depraved."

The jury heard weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses and impassioned arguments from attorneys pitching their cases for life and death. But in the end, the panel who on June 7 found Con-ui guilty of the murder could not agree whether he deserved to die for it.

Prosecutors argued the brutality of the crime and lasting impact it will have on Williams' loved ones - coupled with Con-ui's violent past - made a death sentence not only warranted, but justified.

Con-ui was sentenced to life in prison for a 2002 gang-related murder in Arizona. Before that, he received an 11-year sentence for a cocaine trafficking conspiracy. In the late 1990s, he served about 5 years for stealing cars, prosecutors said.

While behind bars, Con-ui continued to display a penchant for violence. He stabbed an inmate, beat another with a metal food tray, and threatened to kill a guard, according to prosecutors. Other acts of violence he planned were thwarted before he could carry them out, prosecutors said.

Con-ui's court-appointed defense team argued he was a product of poverty, domestic violence and a flawed prison system that left him ill-equipped to rejoin the population as a productive member of society.

They did not call any witnesses during the trial's guilt phase, in fact admitting in openings he was guilty of Williams' murder "beyond all doubt." But in the penalty phase, they focused largely on Con-ui's stepfather, who they said would sometimes lock Con-ui out of his home and force him to sleep in cars.

Con-ui, a native of the Philippines whose family immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s, once showed promise but turned to hard drugs, alcohol, and crime in his late teens and eventually landed in juvenile prison, his defense argued.

Con-ui served time for stealing cars and later became involved in a fatal shooting for the New Mexican Mafia gang in 2002. He was set to return to Arizona to begin serving a life sentence for the murder in September 2013, about seven months after he killed Williams.

A former Canaan inmate present during Williams' murder previously told the Times Leader he believes Con-ui killed the guard because he preferred the confines of federal prison to that of Arizona's state system, which is regarded as a tougher place to do time.

The former inmate also said many of the hardened criminals present in the unit were "punch-drunk" when Con-ui kicked Williams down a flight of stairs and began beating and stabbing him to death with a pair of homemade shanks.

Guards testified the attack left Williams unrecognizable.



Democracy and Human Rights: Interview with Dr. Moncef Marzouki

Dr. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki served as the interim President of Tunisia between 2011 and 2014, following the Tunisian Revolution. He is best known for his role in establishing the national Truth and Dignity Commission to investigate violations of human rights and provide reparations to victims. Dr. Marzouki has also founded and held leadership in several activist organizations, including the African Network for Prevention of Child Abuse and the Tunisian League for Human Rights.

Harvard Political Review: You were very critical of Western governments that support authoritarian regimes. What do you think would be a more successful approach to promoting democracy in the Middle East?

Dr. Moncef Marzouki: Looking at Iraq, the intervention destroyed the country. Now, you have a fake democracy; you have a corrupt democracy; you have the worst form of democracy in the world. The foreign intervention to impose democracy is totally counterproductive. Democracy must come from within society: even if it takes more time, it is not important. Give the population the means to fight the dictatorship from the inside but never intervene from the outside.

The idea that Western governments have about stability is completely wrong, because they stick to the idea that supporting a dictator would lead to a kind of stability and this is not important for them. In fact, the side effects of this policy are extremely harmful, of course for the population living under the dictatorship, but it is even harmful to the Western governments. You are suffering from terrorism as we are suffering from terrorism. Terrorism is just one of the side effects of this policy of supporting dictatorship. You cannot, on one hand, pretend to fight against terrorism and, on the other hand, feed the very reason that it happens. It is a counterproductive policy, and I would say that it is a stupid policy.

HPR: During your time as President, what were your priorities as the interim democratic leader after the revolution?

MM: Our main problem was the constitution. The constitution determines the kind of state we want, what kind of society we want for the next generation. Of course, the United States does not have this problem because its constitution has existed for two centuries, but writing a constitution in a divided society is an extremely complex task.

We had this divide between secularists and Islamists, a gap between generations, et cetera. Reaching a consensus was extremely difficult, but necessary because you cannot have a stable country without consensus about the state. Our main objective was to promote job creation for young people, economic growth, and so forth. However, you cannot have economic growth without a stable country, and you cannot have a stable country without a good constitution that everyone has accepted.

My priority during the 3 years I served as President of Tunisia was to reach a consensus about this constitution, and I can assure you that we spent hours and hours - months, even - in our discussion. My main obsession is to prevent the new generation from having to suffer from dictatorship. When you say, "we don't want more dictatorship," how can you implement a check-and-balance system so you can prevent the next potential dictatorship? How should the president be? We have decided that the president cannot run for more than 2 terms, whereas in the old constitution, the president could run for as many terms as he wanted. We put in the constitution that everything can be changed except this rule.

HPR: As a leader, how do you balance human rights priorities with national security concerns and government stability?

MM: I have faced this problem many times, especially under the threat of terrorist attacks. Even under these difficult circumstances, I used to tell the military and the police to be very careful, because I did not want any kind of human rights abuse, any kind of torture. This was not only for ethical reasons but also for political reasons, because I believe that torture is one of the main problems behind terrorist attacks. Imagine that you arrest 100 people, and you submit them to torture, 90 % might give you some information, but the other 10 % become your worst enemy. They would become tough and determined to destroy you. Even if by torture you can have some small benefits, the impact of torture, not only on them, is extremely dangerous.

The other problem is the death penalty. I have always been opposed to the death penalty. During my presidency, no one was hanged. I tried my best to ensure that Tunisia would get rid of the death penalty in the constitution, but I could not, because our society is still very conservative.

(source: Harvard Political Review)


Ex-Malawi MP Kara will not hang for murder, resentenced and likely out in 2022: Gets 'Kafantayeni' justice

Former parliamentarian for Dowa East, Wali Nasser Kara of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who was sentenced to death in 2002 of killing his driver has had his sentence reduced to 30 years in jail.

Kara , who is serving his jail term at Zomba Maximum Prison and is an inmate with his former lawyer Ralph Kasambara convicted on conspiracy to murder, appealed to the High Court in Blantyre under the Kafantayeni Resentencing Project.

In 2007 the High Court of Malawi abolished the mandatory death penalty. In what become known as the Kafanteyeni ruling the mandatory death penalty was deemed by the bench as unconstitutional as it amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life, denies an accused the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is running a 'Kafantayeni Project' which aims at giving a 2nd chance to 170 prisoners on mandatory death sentence to be reheard.

Resentencing hearings give prisoners the opportunity to present mitigating evidence before the court so that a judge may be persuaded to hand down a sentence other than death.

The project is also being implemented by Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Legal Aid Bureau and Paralegal Advisory Service International (PASI).

With his sentence being reduced, Kara might be released in 2022 to serve about 15 years imprisonment after he already spent 13 years on death row.

Dziko Ndianthu Malunda, the Desk Officerz of Kafantayenji Project in the Ministry fo Justice and Constitutional Affairs said the State recommended a life imprisonment but it Kara receives a 3rd reduction he will walk free in 2022.

The discovery of driver Alex Mbewe's body - stuffed in Kara's Mercedes Benz car and pushed into a river - followed the mysterious disappearance of Kara's wife Liwoli, and her friend, Chimwemwe Kanfonse, in February 2002.

Witnesses testified that Mbewe was killed because he had evidence incriminating Kara in the women's disappearance.

The former MPs bodyguards Phillip Singo and Charles Kulemeka admitted in court that they drove Mbewe to a remote area near Salima and beat him to death on March 6, 2002, but they said Kara had forced them with threats and promises of money.

Police produced a signed statement in which Kara admitted to ordering his bodyguards to kill his wife, whom he accused of swindling him out of millions of Kwacha and using the money to attract other men. Her friend was allegedly killed because she was with Kara's wife at the time, police said.

Kara claimed at his trial that he was coerced into signing the statement following his arrest last year after months on the run. He maintained his innocence in court until the july found him guilty.

Charges were not brought in the womens' deaths because their remains by that time had not been located. Under Malawi laws, a person is presumed alive until 7 years after their disappearance.

The abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Kafantayeni and the fact that Malawi has not actually carried out an execution since 1992 puts the country in good stead to abolish the death penalty.

Countries like Malawi that have made the transition to democracy increasingly see abolition of the death penalty as a necessary step to signal their commitment to human rights.

(source: Nyasa Times)


FG directs governors to execute death row inmates

In line with the directive of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), directing state governors to sign the death warrants of death row inmates, some states including Edo have allegedly concluded plans to execute some inmates on death row at the Benin Prisons.

Inmates at the Benin Prisons last week were reportedly agitated seeing the gallows being renovated and prepared for the executions.

It is on record that after a 10-year moratorium on execution of convicts for capital offences, the then Edo State Governor, Mr. Adam Oshiomhole in line with a similar directive of the Jonathan administration in 2012 signed the death warrants of 6 convicts who were immediately executed at the Benin Prisons.

The 2012 Benin executions drew the ire of the international community, which had commended the Obasanjo administration for unofficially observing a moratorium on death penalty.

Last Friday in a swift reaction, the Nigerian Anti-Death Penalty Group, a coalition of over 50 Civil society groups, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists working towards the improvement of the criminal justice system and in the long run the abolition of death penalty in Nigeria rose from an emergency meeting in Lagos condemning in strong terms, the planned executions.



Governor wants death penalty for kidnappers

The Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, in Abakaliki on Monday said death penalty as punishment for kidnapping was the way to deter people from the crime.

The governor who spoke during an anti-corruption summit organised by the state government with the theme 'Institutionalisation of Good Governance for Sustainable Development' also said corruption accounts for the high rate of kidnapping across the country.

The summit was organised in conjunction with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, ACAN, and the Foundation for Transparency and Accountability, FTA.

"What these people do is worse than death, imagine kidnapping someone, blindfolding and chaining the person in one place for 6 months or more than that, it is worse than death and people who indulge in such deserve to be publicly executed to serve as deterrent to others," he said.

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi

The Chairman of ICPC, Ekpo Nta, commended the state government for its transparency and openness in governance and urged other states to emulate the state.

He noted that good governance cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of systemic corruption, non-existence or weak regulatory systems, inefficient and corrupt officials and poorly executed physical infrastructure.

"Corruption thrives where all these processes are prevalent and corrupt persons seize these opportunities", he said.

Mr. Ekpo said that prevention of corruption from being committed holds the key to good governance arising from sound fiscal management and efficient/effective government operation, which translate to good life for all citizens.

"ICPC relies heavily on promoting anti-corruption through robust prevention strategies. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption, UNAC strongly recommends that most of our strategies be channelled into prevention processes. This is the practice adopted by countries that have successfully reduced corrupt processes."

The Provost of Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, Sola Akinrinade in a brief remark said the major purpose of the summit was to sensitise critical stakeholders in the state to become viable partners in the war against corruption.

(source: Premium Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi executes 6 for drug trafficking, homicide----Monday's executions bring to 44 the number of convicts put to death this year, according to an AFP tally of government statements.

6 people convicted of drug trafficking and homicide were executed in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the government said, the highest number of executions in a single day this year.

A Pakistani citizen was executed for drug trafficking and 5 Saudi nationals for homicide, the interior ministry said.

Monday's executions bring to 44 the number of convicts put to death this year, according to an AFP tally of government statements.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

The kingdom is governed under a strict form of Islamic law.

Saudi Arabia reported 153 people executed last year, a number confirmed by London-based rights group Amnesty International.



Yemeni court sentences 4 Saudis to death for beheading soldiers

A court in the Yemeni capital Sana'a has handed down the death penalty to 4 Saudi nationals convicted of belonging to the al-Qaeda terrorist group and decapitating 14 Yemeni troops some 3 years ago.

According to the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, the Specialized Criminal Court said that the convicts had been members of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group and had beheaded 14 army soldiers of the 135th Brigade following an attack against a state security center in the city of Say'un in Yemen's Hadhramaut region back in August 2014.

Judge Mohammad Mofleh further ordered for the Saudi convicts to be executed in public and in the presence of the families of those killed, the report added.

The AQAP was established through the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni wings of the Takfiri terrorist al-Qaeda organization in 2009, and since then it has been responsible for numerous attacks on Yemeni army personnel, particularly in the period preceding Saudi Arabia's full-scale war against Yemen in March 2015.

Since the beginning of the Saudi war on Yemen, which was carried out in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, Saudi warplanes have pounded the nation day and night, killing over 12,000 people, including many women and children, and displacing over 3 million others.

The Yemen war has also taken a heavy toll on the country's facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

Furthermore, the chaos created by the Saudi war has given an advantage to the AQAP and Daesh Takfiri terrorist group to secure a foothold in the Arab nation.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has also dramatically deteriorated amid a Saudi blockade, which has put the impoverished country on the brink of widespread famine.



Prisoner Taken to Solitary Confinement for Execution----A prisoner in northwestern Iran is in imminent danger of execution on murder charges.

On Tuesday July 11, a prisoner in Urmia's central prison was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for execution. Close sources have identified the prisoner as Borzou Sheikhi and say he is on death row on murder charges.

13 prisoners in Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison are also in imminent danger of execution on murder charges.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


UN to review Pakistan for compliance with global human rights treaty

The Pakistani government is set to be reviewed on July 11 and 13, 2017 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Pakistan ratified the multilateral treaty of ICCPR in 2010 which stated that the parties are to uphold and respect the right to life for all its citizens. As Pakistan, in 2014, returned to being a state which has the death penalty, this issue has been taken up by the Human Rights Council committee.

Pakistan is obligated to strive for the promotion and protection of the rights recognized in the ICCPR. This is the 1st time that Pakistan will be reviewed for its compliance with the requirements of the ICCPR since its ratification.

Pakistan ratified the ICCPR to qualify for its GSP+ scheme, a preferential trade status that has seen its exports rise to 6.272 billion euros from January - December 2016. Failing to comply with these requirements, that the GSP+ status is conditional upon, can put these economic advantages at risk, reports the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

In its initial state report, submitted 5 years too late, Pakistan has reinforced that "the death penalty is being imposed after due process and in the case of most serious crimes only". It has also emphasised that the "death penalty cannot be imposed on an individual below the age of 18."

On the contrary, only last week, requests were forwarded by jail authorities to issue the execution warrants for a juvenile named Muhammad Iqbal. In just 1 year after the moratorium on capital punishment was lifted, Pakistan became the 3rd most copius executioner in the world.

Execution warrants for the mentally ill (Imdad Ali, Khizar Hayat), physically disabled (Abdul Basit) and juvenile offenders (Aftab Bahadur) have been issued. More and more cases of wrongful executions have come to light.

In October last year, the Supreme Court acquitted 2 brothers in Bahawalpur after they spent 11 years on death row, only to find out they had already been executed the year before, reports the JPP.

Another prisoner was found innocent a year after he had been found dead in his cell. There are likely many more cases like this, considering a condemned prisoner will spend an average of 11.41 years on death row.

The JPP has submitted a shadow report evaluating Pakistan's compliance to the ICCPR, and their findings unveil Pakistan's violation of the Covenant, and how the most vulnerable members of our society, like the poor, juvenile offenders and mentally ill are the most likely to be hanged.

In 2017 alone, Pakistan has had to and will have to answer for its use of the death penalty and the manner in which it executes before 3 UN treaty bodies as well as undergo its Universal Periodic Review.

The ICCPR review is the second of these reviews for Pakistan, the 1st being the Convention Against Torture Review in April.

The HRC will also be making recommendations aimed at promoting and protecting human rights in the country on 28 July.

ICJ stays Jadhav's hanging till it makes final ruling

"Pakistan has previously committed to reducing the scope of the death penalty, as the ICCPR commits them to do so. Last year, death sentences went up by 300 %, and we saw some very troubling execution warrants being issued," JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said.

"We hope that this review provokes some much needed introspection about the dire need for reform in our criminal justice system, particularly when institutional flaws have led to wrongful executions," she added.

(source: The Express Tribune)


ngapore to execute Malaysian man for trafficking 22g of diamorphine

Despite claiming he was an unknowing driver and condemnation of the case by rights groups, the defendant is scheduled to be killed this week

Singapore will execute Malaysian national Prabagaran Srivijayan on Friday for attempting to smuggle 22.24g of diamorphine into the city-state, the latest high-profile incident spotlighting the country's draconian drug laws.

The 29-year-old was sentenced to the death penalty in 2012 for trying to bring drugs, a medical version of heroin, into the country hidden in the armrest of a borrowed car.

Srivijayan has consistently maintained that he was unaware the drugs were there - a claim he says could be supported by 2 witnesses that authorities have refused to call upon.

However, under Singaporean law, unlawful substances found in a vehicle are automatically presumed to be in the possession of the driver at that time. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the defendant, which rights group Amnesty International says violates the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.

"The death penalty is always a violation of the human right to life, and the circumstances around this case make the Singaporean authorities' eagerness to go ahead with the execution even more disturbing," Amnesty's director for South East Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said in a press statement.

"Not only has Prabagaran Srivijayan's legal team highlighted serious flaws in his trial, there is also an appeal on his case pending in Malaysia. Singapore would be flaunting [sic] international law if this execution is carried out."

In July 2014, Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, were hanged for trafficking heroin in the first 2 executions carried out in the city-state since 2012. Their deaths marked the end of a moratorium on the death sentence that had been established in July 2012 to give parliament time to review the country's death penalty laws.

Despite enacting an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act in November 2012 that allows Singaporean judges to spare someone of the death sentence if they offer "substantive cooperation to the authorities" and are proven to have only acted as a courier, the country has executed at least 10 others since the moratorium ended, with a further 38 still on death row as of 2016.



Urgent Action


The family of Prabagaran Srivijayan, a Malaysian national, have been informed that his execution has been scheduled in Singapore for 14 July 2017. Against international law and standards, he was convicted of and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2012 for drug-related offences. He has an appeal pending before the courts of Malaysia.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Urge the authorities of Singapore to immediately halt plans to execute Prabagaran Srivijayan and grant him clemency, while reminding them that international safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty unequivocally state that the death penalty must not be carried out while appeals are pending, and that litigation in his case is still ongoing in Malaysia, his country of origin;

* Call on the authorities to immediately re-impose an official moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and commute all existing death sentences;

* Recall that drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law, and that the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment is also prohibited.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 14 July, 2017:

President of Singapore

His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam

Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore

Orchard Road

238823 Singapore

Fax: +65 6735 3135


Twitter: @govsingapore

Salutation: Your Excellency

Ambassador HE Ashok Kumar Mirpuri

Embassy of Singapore

3501 International Place NW

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 537 0876

Phone: 1 202 537 3100


Twitter: @SingaporeEmbDC

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

JULY 10, 2017:


Death penalty sought against man in woman's beating death

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty against a New York man charged in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend and the related robbery of her mother's York County home earlier this year.

Authorities allege that 18-year-old Edia Lawrence killed Ahshantianna Johnson early on March 25 outside her Mount Wolf home because he believed she had stolen money he earned dealing drugs.

Prosecutors say the fact that Johnson was killed during the robbery and that they allege the crime was drug-related would justify capital punishment if Lawrence is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon said he was surprised by the decision because of his client's age, and he plans to challenge a voice identification of his client as 1 of 3 masked intruders.

(source: Associated Press)


Trial begins Monday for man charged with killing Granville County couple in 2015

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in the trial of a Texas man charged with killing a Granville County couple in 2015.

Eric Alexander Campbell, 23, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with 1st-degree burglary, 2nd-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and 2 counts of cruelty to animals in the New Year's Day 2015 deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.

Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into the Faulkners' home, robbed them, set fire to the house and killed them before fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV.

Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the father and son later that day following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.

Edward Campbell killed himself in March 2015 at Raleigh's Central Prison, where he was being held.

Eric Campbell's defense attorney has argued that Edward Campbell carried out the crime spree and that his son was an unwilling participant.

"There is no affirmative evidence that Eric Campbell actually committed any of the acts resulting in death or that he wanted them to occur," defense attorney Will Durham told Superior Court Judge Henry Hight during a December 2016 hearing.

If convicted, Eric Campbell could face the death penalty.

(source: WRAL news)


Legal Battle To Move Quickly As Execution Looms

With Gov. Rick Scott setting an Aug. 24 execution date for Death Row inmate Mark James Asay, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday directed that all legal proceedings in the case should be "expedited."

Scott on Monday scheduled the execution of Asay, who was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. The execution would be the 1st in Florida since a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the state's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional. That ruling touched off a series of other court rulings and legislative actions, effectively putting the death penalty on hold.

Asay's lawyers are likely to make a series of legal attempts to prevent the execution. In a document issued Friday, the Supreme Court set a timeline that included a July 28 deadline for finishing circuit-court proceedings and deadlines of Aug. 2, Aug. 3 and Aug. 7 for filing briefs at the Supreme Court.

The document said oral arguments at the Supreme Court would be scheduled later, if necessary.

(source: WLRN news)


New law puts death penalty cases under review----Hundreds of cases could be up for review

Several local death penalty cases are now under review as a result of a new state law that requires juries in death penalty cases to be unanimous.

The new law not only affects cases that have already been adjudicated, but future ones.

In the past, juries in death penalty cases didn't have to be unanimous when it came to sentencing someone to death, and a judge could go against the jury's decision. But under the new law, all the jurors have to be on the same page, and they alone have the power to recommend death.

The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence for Robert Peterson, who was convicted in 2009 of murdering his stepfather, Roy Andrews, a retired officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Another man who had his death penalty overturned was Paul Durousseau. There will be a hearing Monday in which a new sentencing hearing could be scheduled.

Hundreds of death penalty cases that have not finished going through appeals as of 2002 could be now be up for review thanks to the new law that requires a unanimous jury decision.

"Anybody from 2002 until now who received a death sentence without a unanimous number -- like 10-2 -- they're going to get a chance, according to the most recent opinions of the Supreme Court to come back, and say I deserve a new sentencing hearing," attorney Gene Nichols said.

That is expected open a floodgate of hundreds of cases across the state that could be up for review.

"You can expect that anybody sitting on death row now, and (if) their case has been handled only within the last 10-15 years, are most likely going to be coming back in order to have a new sentencing hearing," Nichols said.

Nichols said this creates problems for prosecutors who have to not only find witnesses from cases decades old, but also have to deal with grieving families. That's not to mention the problem finding a jury that doesn't know about the case or conviction.

"A juror who sits on a new sentencing hearing is already going to have that information," Nichols said. "You're not going to walk into one of these cases and say, 'I don't know anything about this, and I don't have any other opinions.' They're going to have an opinion, because they darn well know that individual has already been convicted and sentenced to death once."

In all 6 cases in which the death penalties have been overturned, the convictions were upheld. The next question is, what will their new sentences be?



Ashley Moody enters Florida attorney general race

A former Tampa Bay area judge has joined a small field of candidates running to become Florida's next attorney general.

After 11 years as a Hillsborough County Judge, Republican Ashley Moody wants to be the state's next top law enforcement official. If she wins, Moody would become the state's 2nd female attorney general.

In the wake of the recent change of 2 Florida laws, we wanted to know what she would do if she was the current attorney general.

First, News Channel 8 asked her about the stand your ground law and the burden of proof shifting to prosecutors. Moody said challenging it would not be for her to decide.

"Those are going to rest with the legislature, certainly, and the courts are going to decide this," she said.

We also asked if she would challenge Florida's death penalty law.

"I'll represent the interests of the legislature and the people and what they decide," Moody said.

Earlier this year, State Attorney Aramis Ayala refused to seek the death penalty not only in the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Lloyd, but all other cases as well.

"That's where the criticism comes in," Moody said. "She wasn't using the discretion given to her on a case by case. She was just making a blanket policy and that's not what her job was to be."

(source: WFLA news)


Bills in General Assembly would spare the seriously mentally ill from execution

A man convicted last month of killing a Columbus police officer might not have been eligible for death-penalty consideration if a proposal in the state legislature had been in effect.

A Franklin County jury decided that death wasn't the appropriate penalty for Lincoln S. Rutledge after hearing testimony about his mental illness. The jurors recommended life in prison without parole after the defense called a parade of witnesses, including a psychologist who said Rutledge was suffering from a delusional disorder at the time of the crime.

"Delusional disorder" is listed as 1 of 5 mental-health conditions that could make a defendant ineligible for the death penalty under proposals pending in the Ohio House and Senate.

"It just seems like a natural progression," said Jefferson Liston, one of Rutledge's attorneys. "We already protect children and the developmentally disabled from being executed. It makes perfect sense that we would progress to the mentally ill."

Rutledge fatally shot Officer Steven Smith during a standoff at a Clintonville apartment building on April 10, 2016.

No state has banned capital punishment for those with a serious mental illness. But Ohio is 1 of 7 states considering such a prohibition, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, a co-sponsor of the House bill, has been a proponent of the idea since serving on the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force. In 2014, the 22-member group issued a series of recommendations that included a ban on executing the seriously mentally ill.

"I hate serving on a multi-year task force, only to see our recommendations gather dust on a shelf," Seitz said of his sponsorship of the bill. He was a member of the Senate when he first introduced the proposal in 2015. After that legislation languished and he won a seat in the House last year, he helped create a House version of the bill.

Seitz said he is optimistic that the House and Senate will vote on identical bills during the fall session.

The American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio are among the organizations that support the ban.

Opposition has come from "1 place, and 1 place only," Seitz said. "The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association."

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who also served on the task force, said prosecutors favor the concept of not executing the seriously mentally ill, "but the devil is in the details."

Prosecutors are concerned about what they think are overly broad definitions in the bill that "set the bar too low" for establishing a serious mental illness, he said.

The proposal also would apply to those on death row, and the association assumes that most of those condemned inmates would apply to have their cases reopened, O'Brien said. Ohio has 139 inmates on death row, according to the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

O'Brien was 1 of 3 task-force members who issued a dissenting report that took issue with several recommendations, including the ban on executing the seriously mentally ill.

"The proposal would prohibit the execution of murderers who fully understand the crimes they committed," the dissenters wrote.

Ohio allows for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity by those whose mental illness is so severe that they don't understand the wrongfulness of their actions. For those who are shown to know the difference between right and wrong, mental illness can't be used as a defense under Ohio law.

Unlike a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the legislation wouldn't prevent a mentally ill person from being punished for a crime, its supporters stress.

"It's not a question of not holding people accountable for their actions," Dunham said. "The exemption would not excuse the person from criminal liability. They would still face life in prison without parole."

The exemption would apply to those who are charged with aggravated murder and are diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder.

It would be up to a judge to decide whether the condition "significantly impaired" the person's ability to, among other things, "exercise rational judgment in relation to the person's conduct " or "conform the person's conduct to the requirements of law."

If the judge rejects such a motion, it could become a question for a jury to decide at trial.

A 2014 poll by Public Policy Polling found that Americans oppose the death penalty for the mentally ill by a ratio of 2-to-1.

"This is an area where the public is far ahead of the legislatures," Dunham said. "Most people think the death penalty should not be applied to those who are severely mentally ill."

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Penalty Phase Starts Over in Death of Girl Padlocked in Box

Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Monday over whether an Arizona woman should get life in prison or be sentenced to death for her part in the death of her 10-year-old cousin who was padlocked inside a plastic storage box for 6 hours.

Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen was previously convicted on 1st-degree murder and child abuse charges in the 2011 death of Ame Deal.

Authorities say Allen and her husband are responsible for making Deal get into the box the night before as punishment for having stolen an ice pop and had fallen asleep without letting her out.

Allen's husband, John Michael Allen, is scheduled to be tried Oct. 9 on child abuse and murder charges.

He has pleaded not guilty.

(source: Associated Press)


Sanctity of life applies to the condemned

Bryan Stevenson is an inspirational figure who founded and leads the "Equal Justice Initiative." The mission statement of his organization reads: "Ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society."

The nuts and bolts of that sweeping statement is this: Stevenson defends those wrongly or unfairly convicted, especially those who are on death row. Troubling, recent studies reveal that since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, for every 10 Americans put to death, one death row inmate is exonerated and released.

Stevenson has been instrumental in many of these exonerations, advocating for those convicted without proper representation; those condemned in spite of suffering mental illness; and those sent to death row for crimes committed while they were juveniles. He keeps taking the hardest cases because he believes in justice and mercy - for all people - and because of his moral convictions.

Stevenson says, "The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned." This echoes the words of Jesus from Matthew 25, where he made clear that our spiritual destiny will be determined by how we respond to the "least of these" among us, those who are "hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, sick, and imprisoned."

In the ongoing debate about the death penalty, I know axes are finely ground and wielded with point and counterpoint made, yet one must ask some basic questions: Does the death penalty actually work as a deterrent for crime? No. Is it fair in its application against African-Americans and the poor? No. Can every person wrongly convicted be guaranteed an exoneration? No. Does the state's execution of an offender relieve the survivors’ pain? No.

These are all soul-searching questions, but I am thankful that Stevenson brings his argument back to one of morality, character, spirituality, and yes, life. Christians use a phrase that is typically confined to arguments about the unborn: "The Sanctity of Life," it is called.

"As beings made in the image of God, all life is inherently sacred and should be protected and respected at all times," is the argument. Why not make this apply in the courtroom, not just the delivery room? A "consistent ethical concept of life" would demand as much.

Maybe President Ronald Reagan said it best. Speaking of his evolving opinion on the "Sanctity of Life," he said, "If there is a question as to whether there is life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life." I think that is the exact, moral stance for which Stevenson and his organization so tirelessly work and advocate.

And in a society filled with systematic injustice, retaliation, and death, those who seek life - even for "the least of these" - provide a moral example for us all; and hopefully, show us the way to a more merciful world.

(source: Ronnie McBrayer, The Detroit News)


Singapore sets execution of Malaysian man: Prabagaran Srivijayan

The family of Prabagaran Srivijayan, a Malaysian national, have been informed that his execution has been scheduled in Singapore for 14 July 2017. Against international law and standards, he was convicted of and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2012 for drug-related offences. He has an appeal pending before the courts of Malaysia.

(source: Amnesty International)


Prisoner Hanged on Drug Charges

A prisoner was reportedly executed at Arak Central Prison on drug related charges. According to close sources, the execution was carried out on the morning of Sunday July 9.

Close sources have identified the prisoner as Vali Abedi, sentenced to death on the charge of possession of ten kilograms of heroin.

Iranian authorities are carrying out death sentences for drug related charges at the same time that a bill is being reviewed by the Judicial Commission of the Iranian Parliament calling for the death sentences for many prisoners charged with drug trafficking to be called off. Iranian parliament members had requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least five thousand prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced Vali Abedi's execution.


4 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Charges----4 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Charges

On Sunday July 9, four prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions.

According to close sources, one of the prisoners is held at Mahabad Prison and was sentenced to death on drug related charges. This prisoner has been identified as Sheikh Morad Ebrahimi.

"Sheikh Morad was arrested five years ago on the charge of possession and trafficking of 2 kilograms of morphine. He was sentenced to death even though he had no criminal record. He is the father of a seven-year-old girl with acute autism," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

The other three prisoners are held at Hamadan Central Prison on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights is aware of the identity of one of the prisoners: Masoud Joodaki, charged with 10 kilograms of crystal meth.

These prisoners are in imminent danger of execution for drug related charges at the same time that members of the Iranian parliament's judicial commission are reviewing a bill requesting the death sentences for many prisoners with drug trafficking charges to be called off. Previously, parliament members had requested from the Judiciary to not carry out the death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges until the bill has been reviewed and concluded.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

JULY 9, 2017:


Convicted pedophile, serial killer is set to die by lethal injection in Texas----October execution date scheduled for 'Tourniquet Killer,' Anthony Allen Shore.

Anthony Allen Shore, age 55, is scheduled to die on October 18. Maria T. Jackson, Criminal District Court Judge, Harris, TX, set the date for his execution on Thursday. Shore has been dubbed the "Tourniquet Killer." Between the 1980s and the 1990s, Houston's Hispanic females were strangled with handmade tourniquets.

For almost 2 decades, gruesome murders he committed went unsolved. Shore's unraveling happened when he sexually assaulted 2 girls, who were his relatives. He was arrested. For sexually assaulting his 2 relatives, he accepted a plea bargain arrangement that entailed giving up DNA and being placed on probation.

DNA collected, tested provided path to solving serial murder cold cases

That DNA collected and tested provided a much-needed break in solving the cold cases. He was 41-years-old when he was arrested in 2003 and eventually confessed to having committed the following murders:

1986, Laurie Tremblay, 14-years-old

1992, Maria del Carmen Estrada, 21-years-old

August 1994, Diana Rebollar, 9-years-old, and

July 1995, Dana Sanchez, 16-years-old

1 victim survived serial murderer following assault

The strength of the DNA test results tying him to the killing of Estrada led to prosecutors take him to trial on the merits of the compelling DNA evidence. He was tried and convicted of capital murder in the state's case against him. It was the only murder committed by Shore that prosecutors sought and saw a capital murder charge decided against him.

He was sentenced to death by a jury on October 21, 2004.

In addition to the assaults against 2 relatives and the serial murders, Shore additionally sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who survived the attack. According to court records, Shore wore ill-fitting or loose clothing, sunglasses, and surgical gloves. He masked his face with a bandana. Though he used duct tape binding her hands and also wrapping her head, investigators said escaped.

It was 2 years later, August 1994, when Shore kidnapped Rebollar not even a block away from her house.

Houston victim advocate, Andy Kahan stated that there is a reason for having the death penalty in Texas. He said Shore is a "poster child for why," according to the Houston Chronicle.

Killer appeals to U.S. Supreme Court on basis of 'brain damage'

Shore's attorney, K. Knox Nunnally, said there is an appeal, it is his killer client's "last chance" plea before the United States Supreme Court. Though he believes that there is the strength to his client's argument, he also acknowledged that the "odds" are not favorable to Shore.

The appeal is premised on a traumatic brain injury, according to Nunnally, who asserts his client's brain damage was sustained before Shore targeted and murdered Hispanic females. He further stated that the injury might have altered the killer's ability to distinguish between "right or wrong."

Kim Ogg is currently the Harris County District Attorney. Once Shore's execution date was scheduled she described him as a "true" serial killer who deserves capital punishment. She said he was predatory, his acts were brutal, and the execution is "appropriate."


GEORGIA----female Mexican national may face death penalty

Ga. mother appears in court day after allegedly stabbing husband, 4 kids to death

The day after she allegedly stabbed to death her husband and 4 of their children, a Gwinnett County mother smiled for cameras, flashed the thumbs-up sign, and told a judge she doesn't want a lawyer.

"I don't need an attorney," Isabel Martinez said Friday through an interpreter. "My attorney is the people that we are fighting for ... It does not matter what color you are because God loves us all."

But whether or not she has an attorney may not be up to Martinez.

Though her mental health has not been discussed publicly by law enforcement or the court, the 33-year-old woman's bizarre behavior in court - and the very nature of her alleged crimes - raises questions about whether she will be deemed competent to stand trial, according to legal experts.

That's a determination to be made by forensic psychiatrists - the likely next step in what is sure to be a long, complex process, attorneys observing the case said Friday.

Martinez is accused of killing the 4 children and their father early Thursday morning at the family's home in Loganville. A 5th child, a daughter, was also attacked but survived and is now awake and talking in a hospital. Martinez was taken into custody, interviewed and arrested later Thursday, charged with 5 counts of malice murder, 5 counts of murder and 6 charges of aggravated assault.

Police have not released details about a possible motive or whether Martinez confessed to the killings.

Her behavior in court Friday was erratic. She put her hands together as if she was praying and had a smirk on her face, never appearing remorseful.

"I'm going to caution you to cut off the display for the cameras," Judge Michael Thorpe told Martinez. "It's really not a good idea. Probably not to your benefit. I can't physically stop you from doing it, but it ain't a good idea."

The judge also advised Martinez against not obtaining an attorney, but she adamantly shook her head. Her words that followed made little sense.

"It's just that for me, the hope are always going to be the people and my faith ... those are my friends, that's why I'm here," Martinez said. "It doesn't matter here, anything else. I'm here representing the people (that are) humble and hardworking. The people that suffer. The people that have a lot of charges so that they understand that everything is possible with God."

Thorpe told Martinez her next court appearance will be July 20. Meanwhile, she was being held without bond late Friday at the Gwinnett jail.

"We are concluded with you," the judge said. "You probably need to stop talking."

Martinez has the right to represent herself, but only if she's competent to make that decision, said Bob Rubin, a criminal defense attorney not involved with the case.

"If she waives the right to counsel, the judge really has to explore whether she's capable of making a knowing and voluntary waiver of (that) right," Rubin said.

Based on the accusations against her and her behavior in court, former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said he would be surprised if the case goes to trial.

"For a mother to kill her child is almost in itself criminally insane," said Morgan, now a criminal defense lawyer. "I think it's very unlikely she stands trial."

Determining whether she is mentally fit for trial is handled separately, in civil court, Morgan said.

"If she's not competent to stand trial, (the state) will try very hard to make her competent," said Marietta defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, a former Cobb County prosecutor.

Ultimately, it will come down to whether Martinez could tell the difference between right and wrong, Merchant said.

Her legal status could also impact how she is prosecuted.

Immigration officials said Friday that Martinez illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico. But because it was her 1st encounter with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it was unknown how long she has been in the country, said Bryan Cox, a spokesman for the agency. Martinez told police her husband was also in the U.S. illegally, Cox said.

Mexico could also get involved, especially if Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter decides to pursue the death penalty, which Mexico opposes. A spokesman for the Mexican consulate in Atlanta did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The victims have been identified as Martin Romero, 33, and the 4 siblings killed were 2-year-old Axel, 4-year-old Dillan, 7-year-old Dacota and 10-year-old Isabela Martinez.

The children and their father were already dead when police arrived at the family's mobile home on Emory Lane around 5 a.m. Thursday. Martinez had called 911 at 4:47 a.m. requesting help.

9-year-old Diana Romero was also stabbed and flown by helicopter to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, where she underwent emergency surgery and is expected to remain for 2 or 3 weeks, according to a GoFundMe page set up by family members. She was awake and talking Friday, police posted on Twitter.

"She is surrounded by loving family members who are helping care for her," police said.

In recent weeks, Martinez had been distraught over the death of her father in Mexico, according to neighbors in the mobile home community.

On Thursday evening, neighbors gathered in front of the Martinez-Romero home to pray. They lit candles, rested a wooden cross against the house, left pink and blue teddy bears, and wrote notes on a large poster board.

"There are no words to express how much you and the kids will be missed. Even though you are not here, you all will always be in our hearts!"

Funeral arrangements for the family had not been announced late Friday. Donations from the online fundraising page will be used toward burial costs and medical bills for the surviving child, a family member posted.



Cursed by violence': St. Tammany double-murder suspect's brother on death row for killing wife, son

When Jason M. Magee III, known to his family as Matt, was arrested last month in the shooting deaths of his ex-wife and her boyfriend at her home near Pearl River, the double homicide created a troubling sense of deja vu in St. Tammany Parish's criminal justice community.

10 years earlier, his older brother, Jamie Magee, killed his estranged wife and their youngest child, a 5-year-old boy, in a grisly crime that sent shock waves through Mandeville's Tall Timbers subdivision.

The elder brother crashed repeatedly into Adrienne Magee's vehicle as she was driving their 3 young children to ball practice on a late April afternoon in 2007, forcing her to plow through a fence and hit a tree as the children screamed, according to a court transcript.

He shot his wife at point-blank range in the left temple with a 12-gauge shotgun, according to the transcript, ignoring her plea, "Not in front of the kids."

Then, when Zach tried to run away, he fired again, striking the little boy 1st in the shoulder and then fatally in the head before firing into the vehicle and wounding 1 of their 2 daughters, who were 7 and 8.

Jamie Magee, 40, is now on death row. A St. Tammany Parish jury that found him guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in 2009 decided he should get the death penalty for both murders in the last capital murder case to be tried in the 22nd Judicial District.

Matt Magee, 37, is being held without bail at the St. Tammany Parish Jail, where he was booked June 20 on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder after eluding law enforcement for most of the day. He was arrested while walking along Interstate 59 in the rain. "I'm the guy," he told officers.

Magee's ex-wife, 32-year-old Jennifer Magee, a registered nurse who divorced her husband a year ago, was found dead of a gunshot wound with her boyfriend, Donald Gros, a phlebotomist and EKG technician she had met while working at Tulane Medical Center.

His mother, Donna Thiebaud, said the 2 had begun dating in October and "glowed" when they were together.

Jennifer and her ex-husband, who worked for the St. Tammany Parish Public Works Department, had 2 children, a girl and a boy. The children were not at their mother's home when the shootings took place.

The parallels in the lives of the 2 brothers go beyond the fact that both were accused of double homicides. The same year that Adrienne and Zach Magee died on the street in Tall Timbers, Matt Magee was convicted of domestic abuse battery for an incident involving a girlfriend, a fact that was mentioned in the death penalty phase of his brother's trial.

The gun used to kill Adrienne and Zach came from Matt Magee's house, according to testimony by the brothers' stepfather, Tommy Cooper.

And then there is the Magee family history, replete with incidents of abuse and homicide.

Cooper described the 2 boys as having bad tempers, and their mother, Bonnie Cooper, testified they had witnessed their father, James Magee Sr., choking her. Jamie Magee, who lived with his father after the parents divorced, witnessed more domestic violence in his father's 2nd marriage.

His defense attorney pointed to their father's behavior as a factor in Jamie Magee's murderous rampage, citing a time that James Magee Sr. "lost it" because he suspected his second wife of infidelity.

"On one occasion, he lost it. Very much as his son did," defense attorney William Alford told the jury. "He did not kill anybody. He was lucky."

Alford also speculated about the root cause of the violence: "I'm a redneck. I'm Scotch Irish. We Scotch Irish are mean people. ... I don't know if it's in our genes or not."

But violence in the family didn't begin with James Magee Sr. According to testimony, the boys' grandmother went to jail for killing her brother-in-law; an uncle served time for a homicide. And their mother witnessed her own sister shot to death by an estranged husband who then turned the weapon on himself.

"It seems that your family has been cursed by violence," Alford said to the brothers' father on the witness stand.

"Yes sir," he replied.

"Do you have any idea why?"

"No sir," he said.

Bonnie Cooper agreed there was a "pattern of violence" in the family but was also at a loss to explain it. "It just happened," she testified. "I don't know."

She declined to comment on her younger son's arrest.

But the idea that exposure to violence as a child can lead to similar behavior years later is one that domestic violence experts say has merit.

Kim Kirby, executive director of Safe Harbor, a St. Tammany shelter for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse, called domestic violence a learned behavior. Children raised in abusive homes are four times more likely to become perpetrators themselves, she said.

In the shelter, Kirby said, she's seen signs of problems with little boys who've witnessed their fathers abuse their mothers. They'll pull their mother's hair, slap her or not allow her to sleep. In homes with domestic violence, she said, 70 % of children are either abused or neglected, in some cases because their mother is focused on her own survival.

Louisiana is 2nd only to Alaska for incidents of domestic homicide, Kirby said. Mariah Wineski, of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that St. Tammany's rate of domestic violence is on par with other parishes of similar populations. For example, the 2-year average for 2015-16 was 0.82 incidents of violence per 100,000 residents in St. Tammany, compared with 0.86 for Lafayette Parish.

But, she said, Louisiana's domestic homicide rate is twice as high as the national average.

"So although St. Tammany is on par with the rest of the state, the state as a whole is not on par with the rest of the nation," she said in an email.

Domestic violence becomes more frequent and severe over time, Kirby said. But the most dangerous time for victims is when they leave their abuser - 75 % of domestic violence homicides happen at that point.

That was true for Adrienne Magee. She had left her husband 4 months before he killed her, and in the lead-up to Jamie Magee's violent assault, he left messages on her phone saying, "You die" and "Face the music, bitch," according to the court transcript. He stalked her at the preschool where she worked as a teacher and told one of his co-workers while drinking at a bar that he wanted to "kill them all."

He told police he was angry because Magee wouldn't return his phone calls, according to the court transcript. But others said he believed she had started seeing someone else.

Adrienne Magee's cousin, with whom she and the children were living at the time, declined to comment for this story, saying only that her family's concern is for the surviving daughters; they are fearful that the latest eruption in the Magee family will bring everything up again.

The family mourning Donald Gros wants to talk about their loved one's life, not the Magees or the crime. Thiebaud described her son, Donald, as a teaser and practical joker who loved animals and especially reptiles.

His 2 sons, ages 14 and 9, were the center of his world, she said. He had an affinity for kids, she said, and although he was 6 feet 7 inches tall, he was more than willing to sit on the floor and play tea-party with a 3-year-old niece.

"He would do anything for anybody," Thiebaud said.

Jennifer Magee's brother referred a request for comment to their father, who did not return a call.

Jennifer Magee graduated from nursing school in May 2015. She was an honor graduate of Delgado Community College, according to her obituary, and worked for Southeast Louisiana Home Health.

"She was the pearl of her family, a loving friend, a devoted mother, and a caring registered nurse," the obituary said. "Known as a foodie and a trivia master, Jennifer was a sweet and smart person taken too soon."

Jennifer Magee married her ex-husband in August 2008, the same year he was convicted of domestic abuse. She left him 3 months after she graduated from nursing school.

Her Facebook page has no postings past 2016, but earlier years include a picture of her in cap and gown. "This has been the best day," she posted. "Pinning this morning, nice award in recognition of my hard work," and an email about a job interview at Tulane.

A post on her 6th wedding anniversary in 2014 said she was looking forward to an evening "with the man who makes our wonderful life possible." The following year, she posted a picture of Matt Magee painting their daughter's fingernails pink. "Best daddy ever," Jennifer Magee posted.

"Yes he is!" Bonnie Cooper replied.

(source: New Orleans Advocate)


William Martin, prosecutor in Richard Speck murder case, dies at 80

William Martin, the lead prosecutor of Chicago mass murderer Richard Speck, has died at 80, according to his family.

The Speck case launched Martin - who continued to practice law in west suburban Oak Park until he recently took ill - to prominence.

In 1966, the 24-year-old Speck fatally stabbed and strangled 8 nurses in a South Side townhouse. Martin, an assistant Cook County state's attorney and graduate of Fenwick High School, took the lead in the prosecution.

"In a way, it was the end of innocence," Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1991. "In this case, 8 women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night."

2 days after the murders, Speck tried to commit suicide by cutting his wrists in a seedy flophouse in the 600 block of West Madison - then Skid Row. Police said the then-unidentified killer had a tattoo on his arm that read "Born To Raise Hell." A Cook County Hospital surgeon recognized it when the bloodied Speck was brought in on a gurney.

Martin secured a guilty verdict, aided by the testimony of the 1 nurse who survived the attack, after less than an hour of jury deliberation.

Speck was sentenced to death, though the Illinois Supreme Court ultimately overturned the sentence, leaving Speck with a life sentence. He died of a heart attack in Joliet's Stateville Prison in 1991.

According to his son, Martin was personally against the death penalty. In Speck's case, though, he thought the sentence was fitting.

"He told me that, in that situation, he supported the death penalty," his son, Cook County Judge Marc Martin, told the Sun-Times Saturday. "We had long conversations about it over the years, and I don't think [the death sentence] tormented him in that case."

William Martin would eventually co-author a book about the case titled "The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation."

Though he was comfortable with Speck's initial sentence, Marc Martin said his father "was really a liberal at heart."

"My dad got into the practice of law because he wanted to help people," he said. "He'd tell me about feeling guilty for prosecuting someone for stealing a loaf of bread."

William Martin left the state's attorney's office in 1969 to join the faculty at Northwestern University's Law School.

For a short period of time in the early 1970s he went into private practice. Until his death, he was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law.

William Martin lived in Oak Park for most of his life but was a resident of Riverside at the time of his death.

Marc Martin - 1 of the attorneys who represented Richard "R.J." Vanecko after he was charged with manslaughter in the 2004 death of David Koschman - said his father played a large role in his decision to pursue a law career.

"They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," he said.

Funeral arrangements for William Martin are pending.

(source: Chicago Sun Times)


Should Criminals With Mental Illness Face the Death Penalty?

On July 6, the state of Virginia executed William Morva. A convicted murderer, he was diagnosed with delusional disorder after his trial.

But Morva's attorneys and mental health advocates say Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe should have spared him.

Morva killed a hospital security guard and sheriff's deputy in 2005. He'd escaped custody while waiting for a trial for attempted robbery.

After his trial, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with delusional disorder, a more severe mental illness akin to schizophrenia that made him falsely believe, among other things, that he had life-threatening gastrointestinal issues and that a former presidential administration conspired with police to imprison him, his attorneys said.

His lawyers argued that Morva escaped and killed the men because he was under the delusion that he was going to die in jail.

Those who argued for Mova's clemency include 2 United Nations experts in human rights and the slain sheriff deputy's daughter.

Criminals with severe mental illness don't usually get lenience when it comes to the death penalty.

As The New York Times notes, they have to fit a narrow legal definition of insanity, where they're "unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it." Not only do insanity defenses rarely work, but the standard excludes most people with severe mental illness.

8 states were pushing laws to prohibit this group from facing execution earlier this year.

It's important to avoid making blanket statements about people with mental illnesses overall. About 1 in 5 Americans experiences mental illness, which describes a range of diagnoses that our society often demonizes.

And people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than to perpetrate it. Furthermore, the 2 million people with mental illnesses booked into jail every year are more likely to be nonviolent offenders, rather than violent ones.

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness notes, "In a mental health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police than get medical help."

Sadly, the death penalty appears to be this system's most logical end.

(source: Opinion, Emily Zak; care2com.)


Arguments close penalty phase of inmate's guard-slaying case

A federal prosecutor wants a jury to impose the death penalty against an imprisoned gang murderer who killed a guard at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.

But the defense attorney for 40-year-old inmate Jessie Con-ui says his client is not a "monster" but a human being who will spend the rest of his life in prison if the federal court jury in Scranton spares his life.

That jury heard closing arguments Thursday. They're scheduled to return Monday to begin deliberating.

Prosecutors say Con-ui stabbed 34-year-old guard Eric Williams more than 200 times because he felt "disrespected" by a search of his cell at the federal prison in Waymart in February 2013.

Con-ui was already serving time for a gang initiation killing and has a history of drug trafficking, assaults and dangerous threats.

(source: Associated Press)


Ibrahim Halawa's trial in Egypt is further postponed----Dublin man who was arrested in Cairo in 2013 faces potential death penalty over protests

There has been yet another postponement in the trial of Dubliner Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in jail in Egypt for almost 4 years.

Mr Halawa's sister, Somaia, said the hearing that was to take place on Suday has not happened and that it was her understanding that the court would sit either next Sunday or on July 19th.

The family, she said, was "very disappointed."

Mr Halawa was 17 when he was arrested and imprisoned in 2013 while attending a protest in Cairo along with his 3 sisters.

Mr Halawa's sisters were released but he has remained in prison and his trial has been adjourned 26 times.

Amnesty International Ireland has highlighted the case and Irish Government observers are watching the trial. There have been repeated expressions of concern for the young man's health and his family has said he has suffered ill-treatment and torture.

Mr Halawa is 1 of 494 men who were arrested and charged with offences that carry the death penalty during anti-government demonstrations. He was not among 203 youth prisoners who were released last March.

The presiding judge had said 5 further witnesses were to be called as part of the prosecution case, and the prosecution case would be concluded at the next hearing, which was to have been on Sunday. However that sitting has not now gone ahead.

Somaia Halawa said it was her understanding that the prosecution case is now complete and the defence case will begin when the court next sits.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it had yet to receive an update from Cairo.



4 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

4r prisoners were reportedly hanged at Urmia's central prison on drug related charges. According to close sources, the prisoners were executed on the morning of Saturday July 8.

Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of the prisoners: Khalil Mousavi Kousi, Mir-Jan Abdi, Kheiroldin Mashmoul and Soufi Koloukzadeh Gangchin. These prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions.

Iranian parliament members had formerly requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5,000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced these 4 executions.

(source: Iran Human Righs)


Death penalty by hanging challenged in PHC

A prisoner on death row has challenged the implementation of death penalty by hanging in the Peshawar High Court seeking the introduction of a less painful mode of execution in accordance with modern scientific developments.

Kept at the Haripur Central Prison, Jan Bahadur filed the petition requesting the high court to declare the mode of hanging to death un-Islamic and unconstitutional insisting it is painful and against human values.

He said Section 368 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stated, "When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead."

The petitioner requested the court to issue orders for ending the execution of death row prisoners by hanging declaring it cruel, painful, un-Islamic and inhuman.

He added that the court should issue directives for the adoption of the mode of execution, which was not painful.

Jan Bahadur, whose lawyer is Mohammad Khursheed Khan, said he was sentenced to death by an additional district and sessions judge on Apr 7, 2000, in Takht Bhai in connection with a 1993 murder case.

He added that the judgment was upheld by the high court in 2002 and by the Supreme Court afterwards.

The petitioner said his review petition and clemency petition were also rejected.

The respondents in the petition are the provincial home secretary, superintendent of Haripur Central Prison, provincial law secretary, secretary to the Council of Islamic Ideology and Mardan district and sessions judge.

The petitioner said there were 9 modes of carrying out death penalties, including death by through firing squad, gas chamber and electric chair, by hanging, shooting in the head, lethal injection, beheading, stoning and pushing from unspecified height.

The petitioner claimed that in the past, in all the states of USA the mode of execution was through hanging.

He added that the use of electric chair was devised, which was considered less painful.

The petitioner however said in 1921, the State of Nevada introduced gas chamber for carrying out death penalty.

He said in over 30 US states, the mode of execution is now through lethal injection, which was considered more humane and less painful.

The petitioner said that through that mode 3 injections are administered to a death row prisoner, the 1st injection turned a prisoner unconscious, the 2nd made his body paralysed and the 3rd stopped his heart from functioning.

He claimed that prisoners were executed through firing squad in 28 countries, whereas prisoners were killed by shooting in their heads in 22 countries.

The petitioner claimed that some western researchers had declared death by hanging atrocious for different reasons.

He added that the colonial rulers had introduced death by hanging through the CrPC in 1898 and after the creation of Pakistan, the same mode was adopted.



Hijackers will get death for loss of life----A bill to repeal 1982's Anti-Hijacking Act was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on December 17, 2014.

India's new anti-hijacking law, which provides for the death penalty for hijackers in the event of loss of life, has come into force following a government notification.

The 2016 Anti-Hijacking Act replaces a 1982-vintage law. Other punishments under the new law are life-imprisonment, besides confiscation of movable and immovable properties.

The new law, which has come into effect after its notification on July 5, includes several acts within the definition of hijacking, including making a threat as well as attempts or abatement to commit the offence.

According to news agency reports, those who organise or direct others to commit such offence will also be considered to have committed the offence of hijacking.

The new law mandates the central government to confer powers of investigation, arrest and prosecution on any officer of the central government or National Investigation Agency.

A bill to repeal 1982's Anti-Hijacking Act was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on December 17, 2014. After a few days, it was referred to a parliamentary panel which gave a report on it in March 2015.

The Bill was passed on May 4, 2016, in the Upper House, and on May 9, 2016 in the Lok Sabha.



SC rejects review plea of Hoshiarpur boy's killers----The convicts had kidnapped the victim, son of goldsmith Ravi Verma, on February 14, 2005, and murdered him.

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a review petition filed by death row convicts - Vikram Singh, alias Vicky, and Jasbir Singh - for the kidnap and murder of 16-year-old Abhi Verma, aka Harry, a student of Hoshiarpur's DAV School, in February 2005.

A 3-judge bench headed by justice Dipak Misra held that it has not found any "error apparent on the record" in the apex court's January 25, 2010, verdict by which the death sentence awarded by the trial court and affirmed by the Punjab and Haryana high court was maintained.

The bench, also comprising justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan, observed that scope, ambit and parameters of review jurisdiction were well defined, and normally in a criminal proceeding, review applications cannot be entertained except on the ground of error apparent on the face of the record.

"Further, the power given to this court under Article 137 is wider and in an appropriate case can be exercised to mitigate a manifest injustice. By review application, an applicant cannot be allowed to reargue the appeal on the grounds which were urged at the time of the hearing of the criminal appeal," the bench said.

The convicts had kidnapped the victim, son of goldsmith Ravi Verma, on February 14, 2005, and murdered him. The apex court's order came on the review petitions filed by the convicts, whose death penalty was upheld by the top court.

Discussing the scope of review jurisdiction, the apex court said: "Even if the applicant succeeds in establishing that there may be another view possible on the conviction or sentence of the accused that is not a sufficient ground for review".

"This court shall exercise its jurisdiction to review only when a glaring omission or patent mistake has crept in earlier decision due to judicial fallibility. There has to be error apparent on the face of the record leading miscarriage of justice to exercise the review jurisdiction....," it said.

The convicts had filed pleas for re-opening the review petition on the basis of a judgment passed by a constitution bench of the apex court which had granted liberty to those whose pleas seeking review of verdict confirming death sentence were rejected by circulation but death sentences were not executed.

The trial court had convicted Vikram, Jasvir and his wife Sonia in connection with the case and had awarded them death sentence. The trial court judgment was later confirmed by the high court.

Meanwhile, the apex court passed a judgment in 2010 in which it had dismissed the appeals of Vikram and Jasvir. The top court, however, had converted the death penalty awarded to Sonia into life imprisonment.

Thereafter, both the death row convicts had filed a review petition in the apex court which was dismissed through an order of April 2011 by the two-judge bench which had heard the appeals on the ground of delay as well as on merits.

(source: Hindustan Times)

JULY 8, 2017:


US appeals court to review case of Argentine on death row in Texas

A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine who is on death row in Texas for a 1995 killing.

The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals said last week it will examine whether Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to death years after the initial trial.

Saldano, who was in the US illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing of 46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and shot.

His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who has met at least twice with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.

Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly testified that Saldano's "Hispanic background" made him likely to be a future danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.

In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behaviour around the time the punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for Saldana's behaviour, including his isolation on death row and that he was faking his condition to get drugs.

Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a competency hearing.

The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of any examinations of Saldano. Defence attorneys never requested a competency hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was legally incompetent," the Fifth Circuit wrote.

Defence lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who came up with the idea to commit the crime.

Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.

(source: Buenos Aires Herald)


Death penalty sought in Mount Wolf woman's homicide

An 18-year old Bronx man who attended Northeastern High School is facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering Ahshantianna Johnson outside her Mount Wolf home.

Edia Antonio Lawrence, who goes by "Richie," was in York County Court Friday morning for his formal court arraignment on charges of 1st-degree murder, conspiracy to commit that offense, 2nd-degree murder, robbery, burglary, theft, simple assault and receiving stolen property.

Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said the York County District Attorney's Office is citing 2 aggravating factors to argue for the death penalty.

First, he said, Johnson was killed during the course of another felony - specifically, robbery. The 2nd is that the slaying occurred as part of a drug-delivery operation, Maisch said.

Lawrence's alleged accomplices in the homicide remain at large, the prosecutor confirmed.

'A little surprised': Philadelphia-based defense attorney Jack McMahon said he intends to defend the case vigorously.

"We were a little surprised they're seeking the death penalty. He's only an 18-year-old young man," he said.

McMahon noted that the only identification of Lawrence being involved is a voice identification.

"I think that's a bit suspect," he said. "We think the defendant did not do this."

McMahon said it's a sad case.

"But just because it's sad doesn't mean he's guilty," the attorney said.

Prosecutors consulted with Johnson's family and Northeastern Regional Police before deciding to seek the death penalty, according to Maisch, who said Johnson's family supports the decision.

Lawrence's 1st pretrial conference is scheduled for Oct. 16.

The background: 3 armed, masked men, allegedly including Lawrence, fatally beat the 19-year-old Johnson at her Second Street home because Lawrence believed she'd stolen his drug money and vowed to "take care of it," according to charging documents.

About 2:15 a.m. March 25, the trio barged into the home Johnson shared with her mother, Noemi Capo, and started stealing property, documents state.

One of the men threatened Capo with a metal baseball bat and a knife, demanding she call her daughter and have her come home, police said.

E Capo eventually reached Johnson by phone and told her she needed to come home because there was a family emergency, documents state.

While awaiting Johnson's return home, Lawrence instructed 1 of his accomplices to move Lawrence's car - a 2011 BMW 328x1 - from where it was parked behind the home, explaining that Johnson would recognize his car, charging documents allege.

He also allegedly instructed 1 of the accomplices to get the duct tape from his car, documents state. While threatening Capo, Lawrence spoke about killing her sons, charging documents allege.

'Beady' eyes: Capo later told investigators she recognized "Richie's" voice and "beady eyes," documents state. Capo, who didn't know Lawrence's real name, told investigators that Johnson had been dating "Richie," whom she knew from Northeastern High School, police said.

Capo escaped from the trio while they were distracted; she ran to a neighbor's house and called 911, police said.

That's the same time Johnson returned home and was fatally attacked in her yard, according to police.

Northeastern Regional Detective Brian O'Melko tracked down witnesses who told him Lawrence was selling drugs to other drug dealers and that Johnson had collected money from at least 2 of those dealers on Lawrence's behalf, documents allege.

'Took care' of it? But Lawrence believed Johnson was skimming money from him and told a witness "he would take care of it," according to charging documents. After the attack, Lawrence told the same witness he "took care of" the problem, police allege.

Johnson and Lawrence had broken up a few months before she was killed, but she apparently was still working for him, Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo said.

Whether Johnson was stealing from Lawrence or not doesn't make her death less of a tragedy, according to the chief.

"She was just trying to make her way through the world," Rizzo said. "Unfortunately, she got hooked up with the wrong person ... and paid for it with her life. It's a tragedy to have such a young life full of promise get mixed up with the wrong crowd."

Captured in NYC: Lawrence was arrested in New York City on a warrant filed by Northern York County Regional Police, who allege he tried to shoot a man when a drug deal went bad.

Lawrence, of Torrey Avenue in the Bronx, remains in York County Prison without bail. Police said that, for a time, he lived on Matthews Drive in Conewago Township with his aunt.

Northeastern Regional Police are asking for the public's help in identifying and arresting the other masked men who attacked and killed Johnson.

Anyone with any information about the case is asked to call them at (717) 266-6195, ext. 105. Tipsters can remain anonymous, police said.

(source: York Dispatch)


Defense allowed to hire experts for second suspect in Wood case

A judge on Friday allowed lawyers for one of the men facing capital murder charges in the death of Lynchburg teenager Raymond Wood to hire two experts to help the defense team.

Lisandro Posada-Vazquez, 24, faces the possibility of the death penalty in the murder case of Wood, 17, whose body was found in March on Roaring Run Road in Goode.

The attorneys got authorization from Bedford Circuit Court to hire a mental health expert at $350 per hour to aid in the defense, as well as a mitigation expert to prepare social history reports on the defendant at $115 per hour.

Information gathered by the experts may be used by the defense if Posada-Vazquez is convicted to make arguments against capital punishment.

Circuit Judge James Updike Jr. also agreed to move Posada-Vazquez from custody in the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center to the Western Virginia Regional Jail in Salem, which is closer to his defense lawyers.

The pre-trial motions by his defense team were similar to several recently filed by lawyers for a co-defendant, Jose Coreas-Ventura, 20, who also faces a capital murder charge.

Along with the capital murder defendants, Victor Rodas, 19, is accused of 1st-degree murder. All 3 are charged with several other felonies in the case.

Defense attorneys for Posada-Vazquez also sought to have an interpreter solely for their client as opposed to sharing the same one as his co-defendant Coreas-Ventura, and the judge agreed.

Prosecutors for the most part did not object to the cluster of defense motions, though Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance noted regional jail officials "are concerned about cost" in the inmate's transfer to the Salem jail.

2 remaining issues before the trial of Posada-Vazquez are the parameters for evidence discovery and the actual trial date. A mutually agreed-upon motion on discovery rules is expected in the next week.

A trial date could be set during a Nov. 7 docket call in Circuit Court.



Pathologist says Ricky Gray's autopsy suggests problems with Virginia's execution procedure

Lawyers for William C. Morva unsuccessfully sought to delay his execution Thursday night following the reported concerns from an expert about Ricky Gray's execution by injection in January.

An article published in The Guardian on Wednesday cited a review of Gray's autopsy report by Dr. Mark Edgar, associate director of bone and soft tissue pathology at the Emory University School of Medicine. Edgar concluded that something appears to have gone wrong under Virginia's 3-drug method.

Edgar said a frothy liquid found in Gray's upper airways indicated that he suffered an acute pulmonary edema and that blood found on his lips indicated that blood entered Gray's lungs while he was still breathing. The Guardian reported that Edgar could not be certain about the cause of the edema, but said it would be similar to drowning.

Reached Friday, Edgar told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "I cannot know how the executioners intended or expected the drugs to work. If they expected them to cause rapid and uncomplicated death ... without the possibility of a lingering sense of panic and terror, then they did not get what they expected.

"The anatomic changes described in Ricky Gray's lungs are more often seen in the aftermath of a sarin gas attack than in a routine hospital autopsy. This is of concern especially given the fact that midazolam is not an anesthetic, but a sedative often used for medical procedures requiring conscious sedation and the issue that the compounded drugs used in this case may have lacked potency or been impure," he said.

Gray's family obtained the official post-execution autopsy, reported The Guardian. Virginia's medical examiner's office conducts autopsies of executed inmates.

"This way of dying is intolerable. You can't control your breathing - it is terrible," Edgar said, according to The Guardian. "When it is this severe you can experience panic and terror, and if the individual was in any way aware of what was happening to them it would be unbearable."

Because of the unavailability of manufactured drugs for executions, Virginia uses compounded midazolam and compounded potassium chloride - made by an undisclosed Virginia pharmacy or pharmacies - as the 1st and 3rd drugs in executions. According to lawyers for Gray and Morva, Virginia is the only state to use a combination of 2 compounded chemicals in lethal injections.

State law bars the disclosure of the pharmacies making the drugs.

The 1st drug is intended to render the inmate unconscious, the 2nd to stop breathing and the 3rd to stop the heart.

Rob Lee, one of Morva's lawyers, said McAuliffe was asked for a temporary reprieve at 5 p.m. Thursday, less than t3 hours after the governor turned down Morva's bid for clemency.

"The reprieve was requested after new information came to light raising concerns that Virginia's lethal injection protocol did not act as intended, and therefore had resulted in a lingering and tortuous death," said Lee in a prepared statement.

He added, "We believed a reprieve was appropriate to allow time for further investigation to ensure that the Commonwealth carries out future executions - including Mr. Morva's - in a manner that avoids unnecessary pain and suffering."

A McAuliffe spokeman confirmed Friday that the governor denied the request for a temporary reprieve.

"Earlier in the day he had stated his intention to allow the execution to proceed without his intervention. That statement was based on his review of the case as well as his confidence in the protocol the Department of Corrections used to carry out this sentence," said Brian Coy, the spokesman.

The Department of Corrections and other state officials have said they are confident in the purity and efficacy of the periodically-tested chemicals used in executions.

Morva's 9 p.m. execution Thursday, according to the Department of Corrections, was carried out without complications and he was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m.

After the midazolam was administered Thursday, Morva made a loud noise which sounded similar to a hiccup and there were several sharp contractions of his abdomen.

The department said Gray's execution in January was complicated by difficulties in placing IV lines. The procedure, which usually takes a few minutes, took more than half an hour.

Morva was executed for killing 2 people during an escape in Montgomery County in 2006. Gray, who murdered 7 people in 7 days in Richmond in 2006, was executed for the capital murders of 2 young sisters.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


William Morva killed 2 men. His execution shows no death penalty case is easy.

Last night, Virginia executed William Morva for the 2006 murders of a sheriff's deputy and a hospital security guard. Morva killed his victims while serving time in a county jail for attempted armed robbery. He had premeditated his escape.

Few people wrote about the case in the weeks leading up to Morva's execution. I suspect that's because as death penalty cases go, this one at first blush seems pretty sound. There's no doubt that Morva killed 2 men. And there's little doubt that he is a potential threat to public safety.

But there is no such thing as a routine execution. A criminal-justice system built and run by flawed human beings will always be flawed. Because an execution is the ultimate punishment, and because it's irreversible, every state killing presents some profound moral quandaries. This one is no different.

Mental illness Morva suffered from severe mental illness. In his statement denying Morva clemency, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) pointed out that while the three mental health professionals who evaluated Morva at trial found signs of mental illness, all 3 found that "he did not suffer from any condition that would have prevented him from committing these acts consciously and fully understanding their consequences." But as Liliana Segura reported for the Intercept, it appears that those evaluations were based on incomplete reviews of Morva's history. (Disclosure: Segura is my wife.) In interviews with Morva's friends and family, along with reviews of letters he has written over the years, Segura paints a portrait of a man who was spiraling into delusional behavior well before he committed his crimes.

According to friends who new him well, Morva began acting strangely in his late teens. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for example, Morva told friends that he was on a special team of people tasked with saving the world. There's evidence that Morva was abused, at least psychologically. His father apparently made him wear dresses to school to "toughen" him up. A man who described himself as Morva's best friend told Segura that when they were roommates, Morva would spend hours in the bathroom, a strange ritual that eventually caused the friend to ask Morva to move out. Morva said all the time in the bathroom was necessary to his digestive issues. He began a bizarre diet of pine cones, raw meat, and cheese. His 1st arrest came after he was found on the floor, pants-less, in a Virginia Tech campus bathroom.

When his father died, Morva showed up at the funeral barefoot. The Post's Ann Marimow reported Friday, Morva often "went barefoot in winter, sometimes slept in the woods and told people he had special powers and was in training to fight in the wild on behalf of Native Americans." This was all before Morva had committed any serious crime. Which is to say this was not feigned behavior aimed at escaping the death penalty. Yet the jurors who sentenced Morva to die heard almost none of it.

Morva's arrest for attempted armed robbery came in 2005, when he and another man tried to rob a convenience store, apparently due to Morva's delusional belief that his mother was destitute after his father's death. The effort was laughably inept. The men gave up on the heist when they couldn't get the door open. Morva didn't steal a single item and didn't point his gun at anyone. Morva was then kept in a crowded county jail for more than a year. His mental illness went diagnosed and untreated. As 1 of Morva's friends told Segura, "We were like, 'Look, Will is not mentally stable . . . If you guys throw him in the middle of this institution, it's like a time bomb." And it was. After a year in jail, Morva attempted escape, which resulted in the 2 murders for which he was executed.

Since then, other mental health professionals have told Morva's attorneys and the courts that he suffered from severe delusional disorder and that his illness played a direct role in his crimes. Morva believed that if he stayed in jail, he would eventually die. That particular delusion turned out to be prophetic.

The U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of "mentally retarded" people, but has been much less clear about those with mentally illness. Morva's case seems particularly tragic, because his time in a crowded jail almost certainly exacerbated his untreated illness, and it likely contributed to the desperation that motivated his crimes.


Back in 1992, another southern, Democratic governor with national political ambitions signed off on the execution of a mentally ill man. Ricky Ray Rector had effectively lobotomized himself during a suicide attempt. His mental state was such that during his last meal, he refused to eat a slice of pecan pie, telling corrections officials he was "saving it for later."

The parallels between Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe are striking, not least because the 2 are longtime friends, and McAuliffe has raised millions of dollars for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Morva's execution also comes just as former Clinton strategist Mark Penn co-wrote a widely disparaged op-ed in the New York Times praising Clinton's law-and-order credentials and urging Democrats to take a tougher position on crime.)

There are some key differences. Clinton was an outspoken death-penalty supporter, and he made a point to leave his presidential campaign to oversee Rector's execution, a shameless display of political grandstanding. McAuliffe hasn't yet decided to run for president, and he claims to be opposed to capital punishment.

But the fact that McAuliffe didn't exploit Morva's death the way Clinton exploited Rector's doesn't make Morva any less dead, and it doesn't make McAuliffe's decision any less political. In Virginia, there are no clemency boards or panels in death penalty cases. The decision to commute a death sentence is solely the governor's, which of course makes it makes that decision inescapably political.

If you're morally opposed to the death penalty, it's hard to see how you could look at Morva's deterioration - and the state's role in abetting that deterioration - and determine that this is the sort of cold-blooded killer for whom the death penalty was designed. Morva's prosecutor has dismissed the more thorough evaluations of his mental condition as little more than the opinions of doctors hired by a desperate defense team. But Morva's trial jury never heard the stories of Morva's decline that his friends and family described to both Segura and Morva's new legal team. At the very least, it would seem that his jury was asked to sentence him without being given a complete picture of what had happened to him. One would think an opponent of the death penalty such as McAuliffe would be troubled by this.

And yet Morva killed a security guard and a police officer. In a political climate where law enforcement groups and conservative law-and-order types continue to push a "war on cops" narrative, granting clemency to Morva would have taken some real political courage - courage McAuliffe apparently lacks.

The decision to execute ought to be insulated from politics as much as it possibly can be. The Virginia system virtually guarantee that politics will drive the governor's actions.


Virginia is 1 of 3 states that executes the condemned with a 3-drug cocktail that includes the drug midazolam, a sedative in the benzodiazepine family of drugs that was never intended to be used in executions. Defenders of the cocktail say midazolam renders the inmate unconscious and blocks him or her from feeling pain as the 2 other drugs are administered to stop the heart and to stop breathing. The problem is that there's no way of knowing if midazolam actually blocks the pain of those procedures or simply renders the inmate paralyzed and unable to show signs of suffering. Critics say the drug is a sedative, not an anesthetic. (The FDA does not approve use of the drug as anesthetic.) A series of horrific botched executions, most notably Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, provided growing evidence that the critics were right.

In 2015, the Supreme Court gave its okay to the drug in the Richard Glossip case out of Oklahoma. In the majority opinion, Samuel Alito wrote that the Eighth Amendment does not require a pain-free death, and that it was up to a prisoner to demonstrate that a method of execution would cause excessive pain. (The majority also concluded that Glossip didn't succeed in doing so.) Perversely, Alito also ruled that it is up to the prisoners themselves to suggest less painful methods of execution.

As Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, Alito's opinion also relied on the opinions of an expert witness for the state of Oklahoma whose only citations to back up his argument that midazolam sufficiently anesthetized the condemned was a fact sheet from the drug's manufacturer and a printout from the website - and even those didn't really back up his claims. It would also later be revealed that the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office made false claims about the drug's suppliers in its briefs to the court. (The Oklahoma AG at the time was Scott Pruitt, now the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.)

To insist that the use of midazolam is "humane" despite not knowing whether the drug truly anesthetizes the condemned or merely renders them unable to indicate that they're being tortured to death is a good indication that for death penalty supporters, "humaneness" is not about the experience of the people we execute but the experience of those who witness and participate in executions. The methods of execution that would cause the least amount of pain and suffering for the condemned - such as decapitation or firing squad - are dismissed as barbaric because they actually look like executions, and that can be traumatic for witnesses and executioners. Instead, nearly all states employ a method that could easily be mistaken for a medical procedure. It sanitizes the event for the living. Never mind that it may well subject the executed to unimaginable pain.


Many death penalty states have responded to criticism of the lethal injection and how it's administered by making the entire process less transparent. Virginia, along with several other states, has passed laws or enacted policies shielding the suppliers of execution drugs from open records laws. These states have argued that such laws are necessary to protect suppliers from possibly violent retaliation from death penalty opponents. FBI documents obtained by BuzzFeed last year show that there's little evidence for those claims.

But isn't just about the drug suppliers. After Virginia delayed the execution of Ricky Gray this year, apparently due to difficulty inserting an IV, the state changed its execution protocols. A curtain now prevents witnesses and media from seeing the inmate until he is fully strapped to the gurney and the IVs are in place. The window in the witness room is also closest to the inmate's feet, making it more difficult to see his face.

Victims' Rights

Death penalty supporters often argue that all of this focus on the suffering of the condemned distracts from the suffering of the victims and their families. But state officials often only want to hear from victims' families when it supports the cause of capital punishment. In Morva's case, for example, the daughter of 1 of his victims is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, and pleaded with McAuliffe to spare Morva's life.

Of course, prosecutors bring cases on behalf of the community, not on behalf of victims (though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise). Yet while politicians and prosecutors are eager to give victims' families the spotlight when they're demanding death, when they advocate mercy they're often denied a platform. Back in 2014, a Colorado prosecutor sought to block the parents of a murdered man from testifying in the killer's sentencing phase because they planned to plead with the jury to spare the defendant's life. Just this month, the mother of a murder victim wrote a column for a Florida newspaper about her frustration in trying to persuade the prosecutor to avoid the death penalty, not just to show mercy for the killer, but also to spare her unnecessary grief.

I didn't want the death penalty back in 2006 when the murder occurred. I knew what lay ahead for my family if a death sentence was handed down. No one listened to me, though. The prosecutor stubbornly pushed forward with the death penalty. All the pain and uncertainty I predicted with the death penalty sadly has come true.

Still, no one is listening to me. If he wanted, the State Attorney for Brevard County, Phil Archer, could decide to accept a life without parole sentence, and this 11-year nightmare for my family would be over. So far, though, he is determined to seek the death penalty, despite my and other family members' wishes to the contrary. I also hear Florida's Gov. Rick Scott praising the death penalty, calling it "justice" for murder victims' families. I have called his office to share my story, but he ignores surviving family members like myself opposed to the death penalty.

In the end, if you just happened to gaze at the broad strokes in the Morva case, you could be forgiven for not paying it further attention. After all, this was about a man who killed a guard and a deputy while trying to escape his incarceration for an attempted armed robbery. But when you're handing down the punishment of state-sanctioned killing, there are very few easy cases. If there's 1 thing we can say for certain about the death penalty, it’s that it's reserved for the most culpable, the most brutal, and against whom there is the most incriminating evidence - the worst of the worst, and the slam dunk cases. More typically, it's administered to those who didn't accept a plea to implicate the more culpable parties, those who weren't provided with an adequate defense, those who happen to live in a jurisdiction with an aggressive DA, or those who, like William Morva, suffered from an untreated mental illness.

Some cases are harder than others. But there are just too many problems, contradictions and injustices endemic to the death penalty for there to ever be any easy ones.

(source: Opinion; Radley Balko, Washington Post)


2nd teen charged in fatal Raleigh McDonald's shooting could face death penalty

A 2nd teen charged in a fatal 4th of July shooting at a Raleigh McDonald's was denied bond during his 1st court appearance Friday and told he could face the death penalty if convicted.

Curtis Hart Rainey, 18, was arrested Thursday afternoon on Gorman Street in Raleigh and charged with murder in the death of Raheem Khary Lawrence McAllister.

McAllister was shot at about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday at a McDonald's near the downtown Raleigh fireworks show. Authorities said it was unclear if any of the people involved attended the event.

McAllister was taken to WakeMed, where he died as a result of his injuries.

On Friday, a judge gave Rainey a court-appointed attorney and told him the death penalty is an option if he is convicted because of his age.

Kenneth Edward Watts, 16, was charged Wednesday with murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the shooting.

Watts, during his 1st court appearance Thursday afternoon, was denied bond.

Raleigh police have not said if more arrests are expected in the case.

(source: WRAL news)


Alleged Bloods gang member makes court appearance in Tatemville slaying

An alleged Savannah gang member on Friday appeared in court as prosecutors continue to restart their death penalty cases against 4 men in the alleged gang revenge slaying of Dominique Powell in Tatemville.

Artez Strain, 22, appeared before Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Jr. as Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon restated the state's intention to seek the death penalty.

Arraignment for Strain is scheduled for Aug. 11.

He is charged in an indictment for murder and violations of the Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act as an alleged member of the nationally affiliated Bloods gang. He is charged in connection to the shooting death of Powell, 24, who was killed Sept. 12, 2016 - 5 days after defending himself during an armed robbery.

A second co-defendant, Tyriek Walker, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Thursday.

Alleged mastermind Arthur Newton and alleged triggerman Timothy Coleman Jr. are scheduled for arraignments in the case next month.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap is seeking the death penalty for all 4 - her 1st such effort as prosecutor.

Because the death penalty is involved, Morse must handle each trial as well as all pre-trial matters separately.

All 4 were re-indicted on June 7 in what Heap described as a "cosmetic" cleanup of the original Nov. 16 indictment. But the new indictment is forcing Morse to begin pretrial matters anew.

And because the state is seeking the death penalty, attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender's office are handling the defense under the state's Unified Appeal Procedure for death penalty cases.

It is unclear in what order the defendants will eventually be tried.

Savannah-Chatham police responded on Sept. 12, 2016, in the 900 block of Garey Avenue in Tatemville, where they found Powell suffering from a fatal gunshot wound outside a residence.

Powell was the victim of an armed robbery on Sept. 7 in the neighborhood. During the robbery, Powell exchanged gunfire with would-be robbers Antwan Drayton and Newton, police said. Investigators concluded that Powell shot Drayton and Newton in self-defense during the robbery.

After being arrested, Newton ordered the death of Powell, police said. Strain, Coleman and Walker carried out those orders and participated in Powell's death, police said.

According to the indictments, Coleman caused Powell's death by shooting him on Sept. 12.

(sourceL Savannah Morning News)


Legal battle to move quickly as execution looms

With Gov. Rick Scott setting an Aug. 24 execution date for death row inmate Mark James Asay, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday directed that all legal proceedings in the case should be "expedited."

Scott on Monday scheduled the execution of Asay, who was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville.

The execution would be the 1st in Florida since a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the state's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional.

That ruling touched off a series of other court rulings and legislative actions, effectively putting the death penalty on hold.

Asay's lawyers are likely to make a series of legal attempts to prevent the execution.

In a document issued Friday, the Supreme Court set a timeline that included a July 28 deadline for finishing circuit-court proceedings and deadlines of Aug. 2, Aug. 3 and Aug. 7 for filing briefs at the Supreme Court.

The document said oral arguments at the Supreme Court would be scheduled later, if necessary.



Hess: We will 'absolutely' seek death penalty for Kight’s killer

Of a 12-member jury in 2007, 11 believed the murder was justification for the death penalty for Robert Bailey.

Citing the lone juror who voted against the death penalty for the man who killed Panama City Beach Police Sgt. Kevin Kight, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday sent Robert Bailey's case back to circuit court for a new sentencing.

Glenn Hess, state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit, said he "absolutely" will seek the death penalty for Bailey through a 2nd penalty phase rather than settle for a life sentence.

Until Wednesday, Bailey, 34, had been sentenced to die for fatally shooting Kight twice during a routine traffic stop in 2005 over an expired license. According to the arrest affidavit, Bailey - a gang member with a history of both crime and mental illness - told a passenger in the car, "I'm not going back to prison, even if I have to pop this cop."

Of a 12-member jury, 11 believed the murder was justification for the death penalty.

The one no vote had nothing to do with the facts of the case, juror Russell Gillingham recalled Thursday. The juror who voted no, he said, had a family member who had been convicted for murder "but he never believed his relative did it, so he didn't want to go through with the death penalty."

It was that one "no" vote that led the Supreme Court to vacate the decision Thursday, the latest in a string of Florida death penalty cases to have its sentence tossed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the state's process for imposing the death penalty was unconstitutional.

"In this case, due to the jury's nonunanimous vote of 11-1 to recommend a sentence of death, this court cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury unanimously found that the aggravating factors were sufficient to impose a sentence of death or that the aggravation outweighed the mitigation," the decision reads.

The decision was a disappointment to Kight's family.

"We are deeply saddened by the ruling by the Florida Supreme Court to grant a new sentencing hearing for Kevin's killer," according to a statement sent by Ken McVay on behalf of Kight's former wife, Christina Kight-McVay; son, Brandon; and the Kight family. "However, we are confident that the State Attorney's Office and the judicial system will see that justice is served in this case. Please keep all of our family in your prayers in this difficult time."

As the court continues to overturn death penalty sentences - the court decision cited several other vacated decisions in 11-1 cases as precedent - many are protesting that a unanimous decision is too high of a threshold. Hess had advocated for a 10-2 decision to be the threshold when he submitted an amendment to the state last year, noting not even serial killer Ted Bundy was unanimously sentence.

Gillingham, hearing the decision to move forward with the death penalty had been vacated, agreed.

"I understand that you have to have a majority, but that 1 person can have that much power - that's the part I have a problem with," said Gillingham, who argued in favor of the death penalty during deliberations. "There was no question he did it. ... Bailey gets to get up and smell the coffee and eat the eggs every day; the person he murdered will never get to do that again. ... How is that just?"

Kight is remembered at the Sgt. Kevin Kight Memorial Bike Parade, a semi-annual event held during each of the Thunder Beach bike rallies. His friends have described him as a "rare guy" who would help anyone.

A date for Bailey's resentencing has not been set.

(source: Panama City News Herald)


Court Orders New Sentencing Order for Death Row Inmate

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has directed a judge to redo the sentencing order for a man sentenced to die for killing his ex-girlfriend in 2011.

Appellate judges on Friday ruled that Cedric Jerome Floyd should get a new sentencing order. The court ruled that the judge who sentenced Floyd to the death penalty failed to adequately explain the finding, as required by law, that the crime was particularly heinous and warranted a death sentence.

Floyd was convicted of killing Tina Jones in 2011. The jury in the case recommended a death sentence by an 11-1 vote.

The appellate court upheld the conviction. The decision did not remove the prospect of a death sentence, but said the judge needed to better explain the decision.

(source: Associated Pres)


Mississippi may execute two inmates in 2017----Drug used to perform lethal injections draws controversy

It's been 5 years since Mississippi executed a death row inmate. In an exclusive interview with 16 WAPT News, Attorney General Jim Hood said he's expecting 2 executions in 2017.

The state executed 6 death row inmates in 2012 by way of lethal injection.

"Then the anti-death penalty folks decided they would attack the drug manufacturers and go after the people who supply the drugs," Hood said.

Hood has been defending the state of Mississippi against lawsuits from death row inmates since the last execution 5 years ago. 2 condemned inmates, Richard Jordan and Ricky Chase, filed state and federal lawsuits. Charles Crawford filed a similar lawsuit in Hinds County.

"These prisoners were sentenced to death. They were not sentenced to be tortured to death," said attorney Jim Craig, co-director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans.

Craig, who represents Jordan, Chase and Crawford, said that Mississippi's execution method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

"And that involves when there is a substantial risk of severe pain that can be avoided b using other methods of execution," Craig said.

There is a 3-step protocol to execute death row inmates at the state prison at Parchman. The 1st drug is an anesthetic which puts the prisoner to sleep. The 2nd drug paralyzes the inmate. The 3rd drug is potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Hood said the legal battle surrounds the 1st drug, the anesthetic. For years, the state used sodium pentothal, but after lawsuits, drug manufacturers stopped making it.

"We checked with every other state. No other state could get it," Hood said. "We've written letters to the drug manufacturers. They sent us a letter back basically waving at us and they didn't use all their fingers."

Mississippi adopted a new drug, midazolam, as the 1st injection in the 3-step protocol, which Hood said is approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Craig said midazolam is not strong enough to keep a prisoner unconscious. Because of that, he claimed that the 2nd drug can shock them back into a form of consciousness.

"You're, in fact, being suffocated to death. If you happen to survive that, then the 3rd drug, which is potassium chloride, if injected while the prisoner is conscious in any extent, will cause extensive chemical burning," Craig said.

Craig said Mississippi should be using pentobarbital as the 1st, or only, drug in the lethal injection series. He said it causes a barbiturate overdose that puts the prisoner to sleep and stops the heart. But Hood said the U.S. Supreme Court has already cleared the way for Mississippi executions to resume.

"In a couple of weeks, we hope to get this motion filed to get the federal court case dismissed, and also at the same time, file a motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court to set an execution date, hopefully sometime this fall," Hood said.

"I do beg to differ with him," Craig said. "I don't think the courts will allow execution dates to be set in 2 weeks, or even anytime this year."

"I anticipate a couple of executions between now and the end of the year" Hood said.

Hood said the 2 inmates up for execution are Richard Jordan and Thomas Loden. Jordan is 1 of the inmates suing Mississippi, and is the longest-serving inmate on death row, with 39 years.

Craig said the legal battle over lethal injections in Mississippi is far from over.

"This is not about whether or not the prisoners will be executed. It's not about whether they have done the crimes they're charged with. It's about whether we as people, we in Mississippi and we in America are going to torture people to death," said Craig.

(source: WAPT news)

OHIO----impending execution

Executions court-approved to resume this month for Ohio's death row inmates----Condemned child killer Ronald Phillips has a date slated with the death chamber

Ronald Phillips, age 43, has his third date with death. He is, now, scheduled for execution by lethal injection on July 26. On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit gave the state of Ohio thumbs-up for its lethal injection protocol. The state can resume executing inmates on death row with a 3-drug injection mixture. Phillips is slated to die for having raped and murdered his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, OH.

The court's July 5 opinion - an 8-6 conservative-liberal split - overrides the preliminary injunction that was rendered in January by Judge Michael Merz. As well, the decision reverses an April 3-judge appellate panel determination that upheld the injunction.

Prior death injection drug cocktail stirred court challenges

Using midazolam in the recipe for delivering death led to the higher court's decision-making and eventual opinion early this week. Judge Merz, in Dayton, opined that the drug, only 1 of 3, poses the substantial risk of "serious harm." In countering the lower court's contention, Judge Raymond Kethledge penned the majority opinion for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He states that "some" risk of pain goes hand-in-hand with "any" execution protocol, regardless of how humane. He additionally noted that the anti-death penalty advocate-plaintiffs did not definitely meet the criterion whether the drug cocktail does or is "very likely" to cause serious pain.

Not since January 2014 has Ohio delivered death to condemned inmates on the state's death row.

The last to die when the death sentence was carried out was Dennis McGuire. Witnesses alleged that McGuire snorted, gasped, and seemed to make snorting sounds when the midazolam cocktail was administered.

The effect of McGuire's execution reportedly going haywire led to a legal challenge presented on Phillips' behalf, as well as for death row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte. In response, the state ceased performing executions, like McGuire's, that were administered with a previously "unused" drug cocktail protocol.

Ohio introduced new lethal combo to overcome court setbacks

Not to be dissuaded from exacting the death sentence on the condemned, Ohio created a new drug recipe which it proposed in response to legal challenges. The new and, it is hoped, improved protocol delivers a heart-stopping, paralytic combination: midazolam along with potassium chloride.

With the higher court's ruling this week, Ohio is going over its mandated checklist in preparation for Phillips' upcoming death date.

While the state declined to release checklist documents to The Associated Press, it did verify that the state is compliant with all the required steps for the execution protocol.

Target for execution uses age appealing for mercy

July 26 will mark Phillips' 3rd time in 2017 that he received an appointment with the death chamber. He received previous reprieves while legal arguments central to the injection protocol were decided In the lower courts.

Most probably, attorneys will appeal Wednesday's court opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court for its determination that will affect life or death in Ohio for Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte. Apart from the additional duo of death row inmates, Phillips has an appeal pending that draws his age into the picture for the court to consider.

Though now age 43, he endeavors to have his age at the time of his crime weighed on whether his life should be spared. His appeal states that he should be a candidate for mercy since he was 19-years-old when he murdered his, then, girlfriend's toddler. Previously, the nation's highest court has banned executions of people under age 18.

Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is steadfast in its resolve to carry out court-mandated executions in a "dignified manner," according to its spokeswoman.



Lawyers to assess Griffen, justices

Independent attorneys have been hired to look into cross complaints against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen and the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced late Friday.

The attorneys, Rachel Michel of Mississippi and J. Brent Standridge of Benton, were chosen by the 9-member commission after both of the agency's full-time lawyers recused from the cases in May.

The cases assigned to the independent counsel revolve around competing complaints filed by both Griffen and the high court against each other in April, when Griffen was sanctioned from hearing any cases involving the death penalty in response to his outspokenness on the subject.

Griffen has defended his actions, saying they are examples of freedom of speech and the exercise of religion, even as they coincided with his unsuccessful judicial order to halt a series of planned executions.

In his own complaint against the 7 justices of the Supreme Court, Griffen alleges he was not given a chance to respond to allegations before being sanctioned by the court.

Michel and Standridge will each take on one side of the complaints, according to Commission Counsel Marie-Bernarde Miller, but it hasn't been decided yet who will take on which side.

According to a news release issued Friday, Michel is a senior staff attorney for the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, which Miller likened to the Arkansas commission's counterpart in the Magnolia State.

Standridge formerly served as the chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, according to the news release. He also has been appointed three times to serve as a special associate justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Both attorneys were asked and agreed to work pro bono, Miller said. The commission agreed to provide 1 of its attorneys to Mississippi should a similar conflict in the state require outside counsel in the future, she added.

In May, David Sachar, the executive director of the Arkansas commission, and Deputy Director Emily White both recused after former Supreme Court Chief Justice Howard Brill advised in a letter that their participation in the cases would likely present a conflict of interest.

Brill noted that as chief justice, he was a part of frequent communication with the commission regarding active cases involving state judges, and that Griffen's complaint named the entire Supreme Court bench.

The former top judge is now a law professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville specializing in legal ethics.

"It is my belief that both of you are caught in an unacceptable dilemma with these allegations," Brill wrote in his 3-page letter.

While Michel and Standridge will not be paid for their work, they will each have access to a $4,000 stipend to use to investigate or prosecute their cases, Miller said.

They will have 18 months to gather facts, conduct interviews and conclude their investigations, Miller said.

Following their investigation, either attorney can dismiss the case, negotiate an agreement or recommend charges be brought before the 9-member commission for a trial.

Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have already expressed a desire to see Griffen impeached if they find the commission does not impose an acceptable punishment.

The ire of lawmakers reached a peak shortly after Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty protest in April, the same day he issued his order blocking the state from using 1 of its execution drugs.

Griffen's order was later reversed by the state Supreme Court, and Arkansas ended up carrying out 4 of 8 planned executions.

Griffen also has continued to push back against the Legislature, attending a rally organized to defend him on the steps of the state Capitol last month.



Brad Scott Compher back in court for case status----Compher charged with 2004 murder of Nori Jones

The man charged with killing a Pocatello woman in 2004 was back in court Friday for a status update on the case.

Brad Scott Compher is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Nori Jones.

Jones was found dead in her home on Pole Line Road in Sept. 2004. She had been stabbed dozens of times and had several defensive wounds.

Compher was originally named as a suspect in 2004 but it was when advanced DNA technology came about that Compher was arrested. He was arrested and charged in Sept. 2014, very near the ten-year anniversary of Jones' death.

In Compher's original preliminary hearing, details emerged showing that Compher's fingerprints were found on a back doorknob of Jones' house, as well as on a window sill. That window screen had been sliced open and that is where police determined Jones' killer had entered the house. Prosecutors also said Compher's DNA was found on multiple parts of Jones' body.

Compher was first scheduled to go to trial in April 2016. That trial was pushed back three times for various delays.

Prosecutor for the case, Zachary Parris, said the biggest delay in the case has been with how much discovery, or evidence, comes into play for the case. He said the evidence is pretty much all scientific, no eyewitness accounts. Science takes a long time to prove or to argue.

In court Friday, a motion was discussed that is currently on the table. The defense is asking the court to reconsider certain DNA evidence. Parris said because it is an open case, he cannot comment on the specifics of that. But in court, the defense did say that motion is waiting on a decision from the Idaho Attorney General's Office, which could take some time.

The defense also requested more time to gather its expert witnesses for trial, including DNA experts. Judge Stephen Dunn said he wants to get this case moving forward and get Jones justice. But he understands the need to be extremely prepared and thorough, especially in a death penalty case. However, he did give the defense 90 days to gather their expert opinions and send those to the State. The State would then be given sufficient time to gather its own experts to argue the case at trial.

There is another status conference scheduled for October. Right now, it does not seem likely that Compher will face a jury until 2018.

Another previous delay in getting the case to trial was finding another judge. In Nov. 2016, the judge assigned to the case, Judge David Nye, disqualified himself. He had just been nominated for Idaho's U.S. District Court.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Compher. He is charged with 1 count of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of enhancement with a deadly weapon. He is being held at the Bannock County Jail.

(source: KIDK news)


Let's Save Lives, Not End Them

Stigma. Discrimination. Civil Rights. Human Rights. These are all terms we use in the mental health advocacy community to describe the challenges we face and the goals we strive for. Today, in the wake of the state of Virginia's execution of William Morva, a man with a long history of mental illness, we talk about human rights.

There is so much we don't understand about disorders of the brain, and our gravest mistake is pretending we know what we don't know. In Mr. Morva's case, questions about his mental health history were raised over and over again, and reports from various experts continuously contradicted one another. What we do know is that this man struggled with severe symptoms of mental illness for many decades. The evidence of this was strong enough that two experts from the United Nations urged Governor McAuliffe not to execute Morva, more than 34,000 people signed petitions backing clemency, and 28 state legislators and 3 members of Congress expressed support for clemency. So how and why did this happen? Especially in this state where our broken mental health system has led to such such tragedy in recent years - from a senator's son dying from mental illness due to inability to access care, to the Virginia Tech shooting - where is the awareness? Where are the solutions?

In what other area of medicine do we have this type of massive disagreement and ambiguity? Ideally, we'd have a test that could have definitively determined Morva's brain health. This raises a much broader issue: our failure to prioritize and fund brain research, which is due, at least in part, to the stigma around mental health. This stigma is evident everywhere - so much so that we often fail to see it at all.

Just this past week mental health was used, in a very public way, as the basis for name-calling and personal attacks, when Donald Trump called Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe, "Psycho Joe." I think we can all agree this type of name-calling is not what we'd hope for from our Commander-in-Chief, but for a person in President Trump's position to be using such discriminatory language sets a particularly bad example.

His language is somewhat ironic, given that many are asking questions about Donald Trump's own mental health and its influence on his fitness to hold the highest office of the United States. Where is the science? Where are the tests to determine competency to hold, arguably, the most powerful position in the world? And in the horrific tragedy of this week, to determine life or death for a man who had decades of symptoms of serious mental illness?

Until we start changing attitudes we won't see the hope that's possible and lives will continue to be lost. We recently spoke with Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, a thought leader in psychology who just came out with a book with the goal of more educated awareness around mental health. Another Kind of Madness blends his early experiences of being completely shielded from his father's serious mental disorder with commentary on the need to change attitudes and enhance access to care. He explained it this way: stigma is when prejudice and negative stereotypes leads to the dehumanization of certain groups. As long as we live in a culture in which barely an eyebrow is raised when the President of the United States throws around terms like "nut job" and "psycho" when describing the mental health of his colleagues we'll keep failing to take our individual brain health seriously and we'll continue to deprioritize brain research and dehumanize those with these challenges.

And this brings us back to Mr. Morva, a case of dehumanization to the end. This chilling Facebook Live video of the press conference after his execution speaks volumes. Does revenge really help anybody? Does it advance the cause? Does it stop the violence? As Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking says, the death penalty is more about us than anything else. This case makes it clear: we as a society view mental illness as a moral failure, and this misguided belief is what allows us to justify punishing people who have a health condition.

Stigma, discrimination, and stereotypes persist, blocking us from pursuing preventative care, keeping individuals in need from getting treatment, and keeping much-needed funds out of brain research. The debate over President Trump's mental health and our inability to test it, the President's own consistent use of language that stereotypes and dehumanizes, and the execution of a man who showed clear signs of a severe brain disorder: it's all connected. In many ways, we remain in the dark ages when it comes to brain health, in our attitudes as well as our understanding of brain disorders and their impact on human behavior and cognitive functioning.

Tragic cases like William Morva's need to serve as impetus to take action now. Despite heroic efforts, his life wasn't able to be spared. Let's work to make sure that we as a society are never in the position of deciding someone's fate ever again. Let's leave saving lives to the medical community - they're best equipped for that responsibility. The responsibility of ending them, however, belongs to none of us.

(source: Commentary; Janine Francolini, Contributor Founder of the Flawless Foundation, Huffington Post)


19 States Have Outlawed the Death Penalty

Capital punishment is currently illegal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia.

During Election 2016, voters in 3 states showed support for the death penalty:

California. Voters rejected Proposition 62, which would have repealed the state's death penalty. This was the 2nd time in 4 years that California voters decided to keep the death penalty on the books.

In Nebraska, voters overturned an earlier decision by the state legislature to abolish capital punishment. Referendum 426 preserved the death penalty by repealing the legislature's 2015 motion to abolish capital punishment.

In Oklahoma, where capital punishment was already legal, voters approved State Question 776, which constitutionalized the death penalty.

Michigan was the 1st state to outlaw the death penalty, and they did so back in 1846. By 1911, only 3 other states had followed suit (Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). No other states abolished the practice until 1957.

Since that time, there have been 3 waves of state bans on capital punishment. 5 states acted between 1957 and 1965 (Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Iowa, and West Virginia), 3 more states plus the District of Columbia followed suit between 1973 and 1984 (North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island), and 7 more joined the list in the past decade (New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware). The Delaware Supreme Court struck down capital punishment as unconstitutional in August 2016.

4 states technically allow the death penalty, but their governors have imposed a moratorium on the practice (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington).

Scott Rasmussen's Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen's Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

(source: Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King's College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American


The persistence of the death penalty in Egypt: why courts insist on 'an eye for an eye'

Given the rise of death sentences issued by Egyptian courts over the past 4 years - typically for members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and criminals proven to have perpetrated offensive crimes - many politicians and both local and international human rights organizations have echoed the necessity to suspend the death penalty in Egypt, and replace it with a life imprisonment sentence.

However, other politicians, such members of the Parliament, have refused to suspend the death penalty, as they consider it a deterrent for criminals who threaten people's lives and state national security.

The History of the Death Penalty in Egypt

The death penalty in Egypt stems from Islamic Sharia law - a main source of legislation for the Egyptian constitution.

As there is no documentation indicating the introduction of the death penalty to Egyptian courts, it is hard to specify exactly when the 1st application of that penalty took place; however several human rights organizations' data trace the death penalty in Egypt as far back as 1906.

According to the aforementioned data, Egyptian courts have executed more than 1,500 death sentences since 1906, 1,168 of which were issued by criminal courts for murder crimes, while 182 verdicts were issued for political crimes such as espionage, assassination and establishing outlawed secret organizations.

The Parliament's Stance

International human rights organizations have urged Egypt to reconsider suspending the implementation of the death penalty, to which the head of the Parliament's Human Rights Committee, Alaa Abed, issued a statement in response showing clear refusal, arguing that Islamic Sharia law dictates it.

"The death penalty is only sentenced to those who kill innocent people," Abed said in the statement.

'"If we suspended it, victims' rights would suffer."

"Given that the death penalty comes from Sharia law and Quranic verses, there is no one - no matter their position in the state - has the power to suspend it," Professor of Al-Azhar University Bakr Zaki told Egypt Independent.

However, Bakr noted that Islam regards human life more than any human rights organization could, and hence grants the victim's family the right to pardon the killer or receive financial compensation.

Conversely, he claims that sentencing murderers to death is only "fair", claiming that, "Islam dictates that anyone who kills an innocent person should also be killed. Why do human rights organizations want us to take into consideration the killer's psychological status and ignore the victim's and their family's rights to seek justice?"

Implementation of death verdicts in Egypt

The issuance of the death penalty in Egypt passes several stages before being accredited as a judicial verdict. According to the constitution, the judge who issued the verdict should first seek advice from the Egypt's Mufti on the sanction. The Mufti - a 'Grand Muslim Cleric' - is to assert that the verdict is consistent with the rules of Islam, and that the convicted person has the right to appeal against it.

However, death sentences issued by military courts affiliated with the army do not give the convicted person the right to appeal.

The verdict is then referred to the president for ratification; however, the president may grant a lighter sanction, such as a life sentence, or even pardon the defendant.

If the the verdict is ratified, a written order from Egypt's general prosecutor is issued in order to proceed with the execution, as stipulated by article number 470 of the criminal measures code.

On implementation day, the convicted is brought to the place of the execution, and the verdict document is narrated in the presence of a prosecutor, a doctor from the prison and the prison director.

The execution differs for those sentenced by a military court, and those who received the sentence from civil court. According to the rules of military courts, those who are sentenced to death are to be shot with machine guns, whereas sentenced by the civil court are to be hung.

(source: Egypt Independent)


Court Sentences Three Alleged Al-Shabab Members to Death in Puntland

A military court in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday sentenced 3 alleged Al-Shabab members to death for planning to carry a terror plot in Puntland. According to the Bosasso-based Military Court chief Awil Ahmed Farah, among the 3 was a Bosasso-resident businessman whose truck was caught with explosives-making material on May 30, 2017. The 2 others were the driver of the truck and a 2nd man detained from Galkayo and charged with terrorism.

The lorry from Southern Somalia regions and transporting explosives-making material, military fatigue and communication devices hidden under fruits was seized in a police checkpoint in Bosasso.

3 other suspected members of ISIS (Daesh) militant group were sentenced to life prison, while the court postponed the hearing of a case against 3 defendants brought to the court for charges related to terrorism as their case needed more preparation enough to be charged.

"After the court saw testimonies and evidences brought against the three defendants, it was clear enough how the terror plot they involved was dangerous enough. They are sentenced to death penalty." the judge Farah said after the court sitting ended.

Thursday's court proceedings conducted under closed door session and there were no members of the press allowed to witness the proceedings.

Puntland military court executed 7 Al-Shabab members on June 30, after they were convicted a week earlier.



2 Prisoners Hanged on Murder Charges

2 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Maragheh Prison (East Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran) on murder charges.

Close sources say the executions were carried out on the morning of Wednesday July 5. Iran Human Rights has obtained the identities of these prisoners: Hojat Imani, 34 years of age, and Jafar Seyed Rasouli, 36 years of age.

These two prisoners were reportedly among a group of four who transferred to solitary confinement on Monday July 3 in preparation for their executions. The other 2 prisoners, Ali Siadat and Soleiman Shahsavari, were reportedly returned to their cells after their execution sentences were postponed by the complainants in their cases.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced these 2 executions.


MPs Urge Judiciary to Halt Executions for Minor Drug Convictions Until Death Penalty Law is Amended

The Iranian Parliament's Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee is calling on the judiciary to halt executions of prisoners convicted of petty drug offenses until a pending amendment to the law that could save thousands of prisoners on death row is passed.

"We expect the amendment to the Law Against Drug Trafficking will pass with a high number of votes because the majority of MPs are in favor of it," said the committee's Deputy Chairman Mohammad Kazemi during an interview with Shargh newspaper on July 5, 2017.

"Until the amendment's final ratification, the lives of some prisoners will be in the balance," he added. "Their lives could be spared when the [new] law is applied retroactively. For this reason, we have requested the judicial branch to halt these executions."

Iran has one of the highest per-capita execution rates in the world. At least 567 people were executed in 2016, down 42 % from the 977 who were in executed in 2015. The vast majority of executions were for petty drug-trafficking crimes, including for carry small amounts of illegal drugs.

A proposal that could dramatically reduce execution rates for drug-related crimes has been floating in Iran's legislature since 2015. A final vote scheduled on June 7, 2017 was postponed until after the summer recess in mid-July after anonymous "security and government agencies" requested a delay.

If approved by Parliament and the Guardian Council, the revised law could save the lives of up to 5,000 prisoners on death row in Iran for drug-trafficking and related crimes. The new law would make the death penalty only applicable for "organized drug lords," "armed traffickers," "repeat offenders" and "bulk drug distributors."

According to Deputy Chairman Kazemi, the Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee is currently working on last minute changes in response to complaints from the judiciary that the amendment should be clearer on what quantity of drugs constitutes trafficking.

Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar, another member of the committee, told Shargh he was certain the amendment would be passed, but until then, "it needs to be hammered out a bit."

Many judicial authorities have opposed limits on the death penalty, claiming such an action would weaken Iran's resolve in the fight against the country's growing drug crisis.

The latest opposition came from the head of the prosecutor's office in Khorasan Razavi Province, Ali Mozaffari, who accused Parliament of trying to appease Western governments that have criticized Iran's high rate of executions.

"The Western governments will not stop their animosity towards the Islamic Republic of Iran even if you make a thousand changes to the law," said Mozaffari at a drug enforcement conference in Mashhad on July 5.

"The death penalty for drug crimes is on the basis of punishments for 'Corruption on Earth' commanded by the Quran and Islamic law," he added. "It is in the interest of human society."

General Mohammad Masoud Zahedian, the head of the Anti-Drug Police Force, also told the conference he was opposed to the proposed amendment.

"Eliminating the death penalty for drug criminals is not going to be beneficial," he said. "It will cause some problems."

Some of the amendment's supporters responded that the death penalty will not be completely eliminated as an option in the fight against drug trafficking.

"The proposal does not remove capital punishment entirely," said MP Pourmokhtar. "Instead our emphasis is on eliminating excessive punishments that victimize small-time dealers rather than major traffickers."

Some conservatives have conceded that the death penalty has failed as a preventative measure against drug trafficking.

"We are looking to see what punishments can replace executions with greater effectiveness for certain criminals," said Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi on October 29, 2016.

"Of course, the death penalty will still be enforced, but not to the extent we have today," he added.

On the other hand, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani has not only opposed reducing the death penalty for drug crimes, he has also asked judges to expedite execution orders.

"We don't think that the laws concerning drug trafficking are revelations from God," said Larijani on September 29, 2016. "They are man-made laws that have not had perfect results. But it's wrong to say that executions have had no effect."

"If the judiciary had not been strict, we would have been in a far worse situation," he added.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Facebook Meets With Pakistani Officials Over Blasphemy Death Sentence

A senior Facebook official met with Pakistan's interior minister on Friday to discuss a demand that the company prevent blasphemous content or be blocked.

The meeting comes after a Pakistani counter-terrorism court sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for making blasphemous comments on Facebook, part of a wider crack-down.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of public policy, met Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who offered to approve a Facebook office in Pakistan, which has 33 million users of the network.

Khan said Pakistan believes in freedom of expression, but that does not include insulting Islam or stoking religious tensions.

"We cannot allow anyone to misuse social media for hurting religious sentiments," Khan said.

Facebook (fb, +1.76%) called the meeting "constructive".

"Facebook met with Pakistan officials to express the company's deep commitment to protecting the rights of the people who use its service, and to enabling people to express themselves freely and safely," the company said in an email.

"It was an important and constructive meeting in which we raised our concerns over the recent court cases and made it clear we apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions."

Pakistan's social media crack-down is officially aimed at weeding out blasphemy and shutting down accounts promoting terrorism, but civil rights activists say it has also swept up writers and bloggers who criticize the government or military.

1 of 5 prominent writers and activists who disappeared for nearly 3 weeks this year later told a U.N. human rights event in March that Pakistan's intelligence agencies had kidnapped him and tortured him in custody.

Others' families said right-wing and Islamist parties had filed blasphemy accusations against them to punish them for critical writings.

Anything deemed insulting to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad carries a death penalty in Pakistan, and sometimes a mere allegation can lead to mob violence and lynchings. Right groups say the law is frequently abused to settle personal scores.

In April, a Pakistani university student, Mashal Khan, was beaten to death by a mob after being accused of blasphemous content on Facebook. Police arrested 57 people accused in the attack and said they had found no evidence Khan committed blasphemy.

(source: Reuters)


Pakistan is using death penalty as a political tool, says report----The Justice Project Pakistan document said Islamabad had executed 44 people in 2017 so far.

A human rights group has ranked Pakistan the "5th most prolific executioner" in the world, AP reported. Islamabad has awarded death sentences to 464 prisoners since it reinstated capital punishment after a Taliban attack on a school in 2014.

Justice Project Pakistan said the country followed China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq on the list of nations that executed the most number of people. The document said Islamabad had executed 44 people in 2017 so far and that 8,200 people were on death row. The province of Punjab had the highest number of executions, Dawn reported.

"Pakistan's troubling and continued use of the death penalty has continuously fallen short of meeting its international human rights commitments and fair trial standards, as well as our own domestic laws," JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal told PTI.

Demands from rights groups had prompted Pakistan to stop executions in 2008. "The use of the death penalty has failed to curb crime, including terrorism, but it is exceedingly used as a political tool, sometimes even as a jail overcrowding solution,' the report said.

It said the government has cited lifting the moratorium on the death sentence as a deterrent to "terrorist threats", PTI reported.

On May 18, the ICJ had ordered Pakistan not to executed Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.



Officials divided as calls to reinstate death penalty grow

The murder of 24-year-old university student Roy Hamoush on his birthday on June 7 sparked a new wave of calls from politicians and Lebanese to reinstate the death penalty. 3 days later, 17 families of murder victims in Lebanon that made headlines in local media took to Martyrs' Square in Downtown Beirut to demand justice for their lost relatives; some were adamant about bringing back the death penalty.

Among the most vocal was the family of George al-Rif, who was beaten and stabbed in Beirut's Gemmayzeh neighborhood in broad daylight 2 years ago. During a demonstration in July 2015, his wife and children demanded that the man who killed him, Tarek Yatim, be sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has been the most senior politician to voice support for the death penalty following the murder of Hamoush. He told Hamoush's father after paying his respects to his family that he hopes "that the death penalty is implemented again and that it becomes a lesson to all others."

Machnouk told the media following the visit that he would discuss the matter with President Michel Aoun, and that he knows Prime Minister Saad Hariri's view on the matter.

Nicholas Sehnaoui, a former telecommunications minister and current vice president of the Free Patriotic Movement, echoed Machnouk's words on his Twitter account.

"In light of all the crimes happening around us, we must ask the judiciary to speed prosecutions and intensify punishments, leading to returning the implementation of the death penalty," he said.

The death penalty, while legal in Lebanon, has been under a moratorium since 2004.

Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, also of the Free Patriotic Movement, have not expressed their views on the matter.

Other Lebanese politicians have looked to the death penalty as a way to deter crime.

"I think it [the death penalty] is a deterrent," Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya MP Imad Hout told The Daily Star. "I am all for it, but with lots of regulations and conditions to make sure it is [effective] as a deterrent."

Future Movement MP Ammar Houri refused to comment on the matter when The Daily Star reached out to him.

However, an adviser to MP Bahia Hariri said that the Sidon MP does support the death penalty, though the Future Movement as a whole does not have a position on the issue yet.

"Bahia Hariri considers restoring the death penalty as a deterrent [to crime] ... to only be implemented in exceptional conditions," the adviser said, explaining that these cases must be "extreme" and that "the [nature of the] crimes should be taken into consideration."

"We want to solve the problems from the root," he added. "We don't want this to become a regularly implemented policy."

However, the adviser said that once the Future Movement takes an official stance on the matter, Hariri will endorse the party's position.

The last public execution that took place in Lebanon was in 1998 in the public square of the coastal town of Tabarja, north of Beirut. Wisam al-Nabhan and Hasan Abu Jabal were hung for the murder of 2 siblings.

A video of the execution shows that it was botched.

The executioner tried to push both men off the platform simultaneously - 1 with each hand - only to lose control of 1 man who stumbled, choking before he was finally pushed from the platform.

A sister of the 2 murder victims told Death Penalty Lebanon in the video, "Believe me, I was disturbed the way I was disturbed before, when they [her siblings] [died]."

"The way my siblings [died], I saw it again with my own eyes," she said. "I saw how they were in pain, and felt the same feelings [watching the execution]."

Some politicians remain firm on their opposition to the death penalty, despite the surge in reported crimes, including the head of Parliament's Human Rights Committee, MP Michel Musa.

"There is a security problem - there are many murders - and the general public sees this as a huge issue," the Liberation and Development bloc MP said. "All studies show worldwide that execution has not prevented murder.

"There is information that needs to be revisited in schools, politics and the community," he said. "The judiciary needs to provide a harsh punishment for those who murder - for example a life sentence, as it's within the law."

Musa added that his position on the death penalty is his personal view, and does not represent Parliament's Human Rights Committee or the Liberation and Development bloc, which is headed by Speaker Nabih Berri.

"Nobody on the Human Rights Committee should be supportive of the death penalty," Musa said.

Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra also expressed his disdain for the death penalty.

"God gives life, and he takes it," Zahra said. "It's not up to us, regardless of the crime."

"People react quickly [to crimes] and call for hanging the perpetrators, but who said that hanging people will deter crime?" he added.

Zahra said that his position, along with that of the Lebanese Forces, is to "prevent crime through implementing the law and mobilizing the judiciary."

"We can't talk about how modern we [Lebanese] are if we take steps back like reinstating the death penalty," he said. "Perhaps security forces and the Lebanese Army are prioritizing counterterrorism - and rightly so - but this is perhaps a sign that we need to also focus on organized crime, drug dealing and so on."

Human rights organizations in Lebanon have been outspoken in expressing their concern over calls to reinstate the death penalty, especially from Machnouk.

George Ghali, programs manager of local human rights organization Alef, said that calls for the death penalty are tied to the public's frustration due to "corruption and lack of the rule of law."

"If the death penalty would really solve the issue of crime, then crime would have ended in ancient Mesopotamia under Hammurabi," he said.

Ghali said that "proper investigations need to take place after a crime" and that crime prevention will happen once people see a proactive security apparatus that holds both criminals and law enforcement personnel accountable for their actions under the law."

He also called on prosecutors to be more proactive, adding that he takes politicians' positions with a grain of salt because they have an agenda based on their respective constituencies and political parties.

Human Rights Watch Lebanon researcher Bassam Khawaja urged Lebanon to not "tarnish" its human rights record by reinstating the death penalty.

"It's understandable that people may feel that the death penalty could be a magical solution to end crime, but evidence proves otherwise," Khawaja said.

"If people don't trust the government and courts to hold people accountable, then why would we trust the same body to accurately decide who should live and who should die?"

"In a more sophisticated court system, such as in the United States, [there are] over 150 cases of people sentenced to death [who were] then later found not guilty and removed from death row," he added. "There are suspicions that innocent people have been executed."

In June, Machnouk said that he expects backlash from opponents of the death penalty, but is not fazed by the criticism.

"I know we would have European, Western or even international opposition," the interior minister said. "But we have a situation of deranged people carrying weapons."

(source: The Daily Star)